More Real Than Real (Daria/Amber)
Disclaimer: Copyrights on Daria and related characters are, of course, held by MTV; not that they have a clue of how to use them well. Copyrights on Amber and related characters should be held by the estate of Roger Zelazny, but probably the publishers hold them. "Shadows of My Home" is copyright ME, and I expressly deny permission to record the song without my separate written consent. "Black Knight's Work" is probably copyright to Adam Stemple.
Synopsis: Not long after the Morgendorffer's arrive, a new student comes to Lawndale. She's more than she seems to be.
Backstory: Jalura is a character I developed for playing the Amber Diceless Role Playing Game, some ten years ago. The name is even older, a tribe name from the game Ysgarth -- I didn't play the game, but someone who did borrowed it for a character name in an AD&D campaign, and I played the character. The personality evolved from the AD&D character. In the Amber game universe, Jalura is the daughter of Caine and heir to the throne of Gaiga, one of the Golden Circle kingdoms. She has walked the Pattern, and is a sorceress, shape shifter, and Trump artist. In the Amber game universe, she is quite formidable; although this story is set a fair bit earlier in her 'life.' Any versions of the Chronicles mentioned in this story or references to Amber may be different in ways subtle and substantive, at this author's discretion and plot needs, from those available in the bookstores of our world.
Prologue: An apartment near Stanford, CA, April 28, local calendar.
A young woman, maybe sixteen years old, is sitting on a couch watching television. If she were standing, she'd be about 5'8". An attractive long oval face, with perhaps a touch of olive in her complexion, blue eyes and an aquiline nose. She is slender, but with an athletic build. She has straight brown hair with red highlights, past shoulder length and held back with a clip whose design is the shape of a Penrose Dart. She is wearing a blue blouse with silver highlights and matching grey slacks, accented by black leather boots and hip pouch that somehow go with the other clothes. Definitely not a typical teenager, despite being parked in front of a television.
The front door opens, and a tall, handsome, college-aged man enters. Seeing the teenager sitting on his couch and idly watching MTV, he frowns.
"J, we need to talk."
The girl looks up, sees his face and recognizes the solemnity. "About what?"
"You have to leave, tomorrow."
"Because you have enough problems already. You don't need to get messed up in mine."
"Friday is the 30th."
"So, you don't do anything special to celebrate Walpurgisnacht."
"True, I do not. But someone around here does. Said person's preferred party game is to try to kill me."
"I assume so. I just don't know which side. Or why."
"Oh." She frowns. "Damn, Martin will be out of contact for at least another week. The only other relative I can trust."
"I know. But I can't have you here being an extra target."
"I don't know where to go."
"I know. That's how you and I met in the first place, remember."
"Yeah, and how Martin found me."
"Our family isn't easy. Especially when people want you dead just for being in it."
"No, the 'especially' is when said people are also in that family."
"Yeah." Long pause. "Why don't I fix some dinner and we can go through my 'travel kit' afterward?" as he heads into the kitchen.
From the couch, an unenthusiastic, "Okay, Merle, if you think it will help."
From the television, "...la-la LA la la..." Twenty-eight minutes of 'College Bored' later, a Mona Lisa smile appears on Jalura's face and a decision is made.
Part One: Day 1 at Lawndale High School
Location: Ms. Li's office.
The principal, Ms. Li, puts down a manila folder and faces her newest student. "Of course, even with a transcript like yours, we can't waive any of the formalities."
"That person was a complete waste of my time. She knows nothing about psychology or psychiatry."
Ms. Li visibly fumes at this, and starts to reach into her suit's blazer for her tape recorder to make a note to herself about this, but the new student notices the motion.
In an ice cold voice, "Whatever you are about to reach for had better not be a weapon."
Ms. Li's hand freezes. The two stare at each other for almost thirty seconds. It is Ms. Li who flinches, for one of the few times in her life actually intimidated by someone.
Ms. Li's gaze focuses on the jacket being worn by the new student. A black leather jacket with the word "Hellriders" in small red letters in an arc on the left sleeve.
"I don't tolerate gang activity at <reverent>Lawndale High</reverent>, and have full authority to --"
"This isn't a gang jacket. This is the jacket for my cousin's band. I'm an honorary roadie."
Ms. Li is still trying to regain the upper hand in the conversation.
"It looks like a gang jacket, and as I --" but she is again cut short.
"Ms. Li. In my family, trust and respect and affection are rare and precious commodities. My cousin Martin has all three from me. He plays saxophone in a band, two actually. He is a good man, who has endured more pain and hurt and hate from our family than most people in this town have ever had to face. Despite that, when I needed a refuge from that same family to which we reluctantly acknowledge our membership, he unhesitatingly provided that refuge. Do not judge what you do not know." The new student rises, and heads toward the door. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I believe I have to find Mr. DiMartino's freshman American History class. You wouldn't want me to be late for my first class at <mock reverent>Lawndale High.</mock reverent>" And leaves.
Ms. Li finally manages to write a note for the file, consisting of one word: "Trouble."
Location: Mr. DiMartino's classroom.
The bell rings, and the class slowly quiets, except for four girls near the back. The Lawndale High School Fashion Club appears to be having an emergency meeting on the subject of nail polish coordination.
"Gee, Quinn, that is such a good idea." Sandi Griffin's voice is resonant, and Mr. DiMartino hears it quite clearly.
"I'm CERTAIN that it is, Ms. Griffin, but unless YOU want detention, you should try learning SOMETHING from the teacher. That is what I get PAID for; if you call the PITTANCE Ms. Li pays me a SALARY.... Class, we have a new STUDENT joining us today. Please welcome Jalura Duquesne. Jalura, raise your hand, please."
Jalura raises her hand. Her jacket has apparently been deposited in her locker as it is not with her.
"WELL, Jalura!" As long as you have your hand raised ... (chuckles evilly). Last week we began a unit on the causes of the American Revolution. Perhaps you feel it's UNFAIR to be asked a question on your first day of class."
Jalura's frown deepens. "I'm getting used to Lawndale."
Mr. DiMartino pauses for a moment at that response. "Well, um. Jalura, please concisely and unemotionally sum up the doctrine of 'no taxation without representation.'"
Jalura sighs, and then begins, “'No taxation without representation' was a slogan popular in the late 1760s and through the revolutionary period among the thirteen 'American' colonies, particularly those in New England. It was used by people who were upset at the lack of direct representation in the British Parliament following a series of tax acts that raised the average colonist's taxes from approximately 4% to 7.5% while raising the average British Isles subject's tax from 7% to 13%. These tax increases were used to pay for the British expenses, mostly in the form of loans, incurred in the Seven Years' War, called the French and Indian War -- the war in which much of the so-called Northwest Territories transferred 'possession' from the French to the British -- in the colonies where the slogan was popular. The complaint of the colonists was in regard to a lack of designated seats in Parliament. The slogan was also a rejection of Sir Edmund Burke's argument that the colonists had 'virtual representation' in Parliament. The same slogan was used, with lesser effect, after American independence, during Shays' Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion. These discussions of tax equity did not include women. It also occasionally is used in current debates on tax 'rollback' referenda, although such use misses the point of representation -- direct, virtual or otherwise."
Mr. DiMartino is slow to respond. "Very good, Jalura. Almost ... dangerously good. Since you've also answered about FOUR other questions I had PLANNED to ask today, I suppose I'll have to forsake the quiz I WAS going to give at the end of the class."
Numerous appreciative sounds are made from the class.
Mr. DiMartino continues, "So, INSTEAD, everyone will have to write a four page paper on the causes of the Revolutionary War, due tomorrow."
The appreciative sounds turn hostile. An anonymous voice from the back of the room taunts, "Way to go, brain."
Jalura's frown deepens even further.
Location: The Lawndale High School cafeteria.
"But, Sandi, you heard that answer she gave. She's a brain!"
"Gee, Quinn, maybe you only heard her answer to some stupid question. _I_ saw the silk blouse she was wearing and the hand-tooled Italian boots she was wearing."
"And I think her hip pouch is genuine Prada."
"Good eye, Stacy. I _was_ going to mention that."
Stacy Rowe cringes at the criticism-disguised-as-a-compliment, but knows in her mind that Sandi Griffin had not noticed the purse at all, despite being worn on Jalura's belt instead of carried on the shoulder. Stacy also knows the real reason Quinn doesn't want this new girl in the Fashion Club; if the new girl is a brain, she'll probably become friends with Daria Morgendorffer, and Quinn will have to finally admit she's been lying for weeks about the biological relationship between Quinn and her 'cousin.' Stacy gives 2/3 that Sandi knows the truth and is waiting for an opportunity to use it to undermine Quinn's position in the Fashion Club, and 99/100 that Quinn realizes that.
The fourth member of the Fashion Club, Tiffany Blum-Deckler, speaks up, "If she has clothes like that ... she probably has a lot of money. Maybe ... she could be ... treasurer."
Sandi smiles, knowing that she can count on Tiffany's support ... whenever Sandi is around. "That is just what I was thinking, Tiffany. Now, let us put it to a formal vote. All in favor of offering membership in the Fashion Club to Jalura Duquesne, raise your hands." Three hands are quickly raised, and Quinn's more slowly joins the others. "That is settled. We shall speak with her at the end of the school day."
Location: Ms. Morris' gym class. Volleyball.
Daria Morgendorffer and Jalura stand next to each other. Of other characters yet introduced, only Stacy Rowe is present, and on the opposite team.
Ms. Morris throws a volleyball at Jalura, hard. "Alright, Duquesne, let's see if you can serve."
Jalura easily catches the ball with one hand, much to Ms. Morris' annoyance, and replies, in Daria's general direction, "Service with a smile."
Jalura turns, faces the other team, and steps behind the base line. She tosses the ball about one foot above her head and punches the ball with her left hand as it falls. The ball collects a wicked sidespin from the punch and cleanly passes in a left-curving arc between the opposing lines and hits the court for a point. Stacy chases the ball down and rolls it back to Jalura for the next service. This process is repeated, with variations only in where the ball lands and thus who has to chase the ball, for the rest of the period.
After changing back into street clothes at the end of class, Jalura finally gets to speak to Daria as they are walking back to the main (not gym) lockers at the end of the day, "Sorry about hogging all the glory, I'm sure you're a killer defense player."
Neither notices Stacy following at a semi-discreet distance.
Daria notices the smile on Jalura's face, and despite some surprise at actually being spoken to by someone, can't resist the invitation, "Sorry, I'm a pacifist. Besides, that volleyball never did anything to hurt me."
"Volleyballs don't hurt people, people hurt people? By the way, my name is Jalura Duquesne."
"Daria Morgendorffer. Yeah, something like that, especially when Ms. Morris is the one throwing the volleyball at your head with intent."
"Ummm, yeah. Let me ask you a question about this place."
"Is it just me, or are the teachers here ... lacking in the teaching spirit?"
"That depends. Who do you have for your classes?"
"That part of my day started with Mr. DiMartino, who had me raise my hand when he introduced me, then asked me a question since my hand was raised."
"Yes, he pulled that trick on me on my first day of class seven weeks ago. Then he accused me of showing off when I raised my hand again to avoid extra homework."
"Hrmph, I should have been so lucky. I inadvertently answered several of the questions he was going to ask in a quiz, so everyone has to write a four-page paper. I'm gonna be Miss Popularity around here." A Mona Lisa smile crosses both of their faces, as a frown develops on the face of the eavesdropping Stacy Rowe. This means that Stacy doesn't notice Jane Lane coming out of a restroom behind Stacy. Jane, curious as to whom Daria is talking, and why Stacy is following the two, gets in step two paces behind Stacy. Jalura continues, "Then Ms. Barch, who doesn't realize that her misandristic behavior --"
Wait, did you just say 'misandristic?'"
"Yeah, as in the opposite of --"
"I know what it means; I'm just amazed to have heard it spoken by anyone in this building, or this state. Please continue." Both Stacy and Jane hear the word, but neither knows what it means.
"Okay, so Ms. Barch is just perpetuating the cycle of gender bias by teaching a new generation of men to fear and hate women and said men will grow up to mistreat women who will, in turn, become like Ms. Barch and ...."
"Interesting hypothesis. Next on 'America's Top Forty?'"
Jalura catches the reference and returns it easily, "More like 'America's Most Wanted.' Anyway, I then had an hour of Mr. O'Neill projecting his opinions and emotional responses onto a room full of kids who don't know any better rather than acknowledge the thoughts as his own, followed by Bennett's economics class that featured a chart more convoluted than my family tree."
Daria makes a mental note about the reference to a convoluted family tree, but decides to say nothing until Jalura brings up the subject by itself. "Yeah, that's those two, boiled down to their essences."
"Don't tempt me. Actually, I'll reserve that honor for the <sarcasm>honored</sarcasm> principal of <mock reverent>Lawndale High.</mock reverent> And that pop psychobabbler Manson."
"Ah, yes, Principal Li. If she weren't Korean, she'd be a Nazi."
"Oh, I think that Ms. Li would fit in well in Kim Il Sung's 'worker's paradise'. But, after lunch I did have art class with Ms. Defoe. The class is pretty pedestrian, and she still seems to care, but I figure about another ten years and she'll be as borderline psychotic as Mr. DiMartino."
"No, I think she'll quit for the sake of her sanity before that happens."
"I hope so. And as for Math class --"
Just at that moment, the rest of the Fashion Club comes around a corner and right in the path of the parade. Sandi notices Stacy and says, "There you are, Stacy. We've been looking for you so that we could talk to Jalura here."
At Sandi's comment, Daria and Jalura stop and look behind them to see Stacy and Jane. Eyebrows rise on Daria's and Jalura's faces, while Stacy tries to become invisible.
Jalura smirks, and thinks to herself, "I could teach you how REALLY to become invisible, girl" but says, "Hail, hail, the gang's all here. What can I do for you, ...?”
"I am Sandi Griffin, President of the Lawndale High School Fashion Club, and ..." Sandi notices Daria and Jane. "Ummm, Quinn's cousin, or whatever, this is a meeting of the Fashion Club and is reserved for members and guests."
Daria's annoyance carries into her voice, but only Jane, Quinn, and Jalura hear it as Daria says, "Oh by all means, I wouldn't wish to interrupt the sanctity of the Fashion Club, but as it is meeting at my locker, I believe I have a prior reservation for this meeting facility." And with that, Daria opens her locker and begins to gather her things for the walk to Jane's house that follows most days.
Jalura puts Daria's annoyance into a more overt form. "Oh, yes. Sandi Griffin, the fool who doesn't know when to shut up at the start of a class. I'm sure that your nail polish matches whatever it was it was supposed to go with. What _do_ you want? Hopefully you weren't going to offer me a membership in your worthless little clique of trite trend worshippers who wouldn't know fashion if it stepped up and beheaded you."
Everyone in that little circle is surprised, Daria and Jane pleasantly so. Sandi, Stacy and Tiffany are shocked and just a smidgeon frightened, and Quinn is unsure whether to feel good that Sandi is being taken down a peg in public, disappointed that Quinn wasn't the one to do it, or dismay that Jalura is obviously getting along with Daria.
Several seconds pass before Sandi manages, "Uh, um, ah, urp." And walks away with the Fashion Club in tow. As they depart, both Quinn and Stacy think to themselves, "Wow."
Tiffany, however, doesn't quite realize what has happened, and asks, "But Sandi, aren't we ... going to make her ... the treasurer?"
"Shut up, Tiffany!" and they round the corner.
Jane steps up and says, "Well, I'm damned impressed."
Jalura smiles and cocks an eyebrow, and it is fully loaded, "Well, Damned, pleased to meet you. I'm Jalura Duquesne."
Jane pauses, hearing the commas in Jalura's remark, but sees the smile, and returns it sheepishly.
Daria's face almost makes it to a full smile, almost. "Actually, this is my friend Jane Lane."
"Hello, Jane. I still go by Jalura, but I understand keeping an alias or two handy."
Daria adds another note to herself for future consideration, but still makes conscious a decision that she realizes she had already made. She has another friend. "Hey, what say we continue this at the Pizza King?"
Jalura's eyebrow is still cocked and loaded, "Sure, I got tired watching that dazzling display of athletic prowess you put on today."
Jane misses the ironic reference, having not been in gym class with them, but nonetheless enters the banter, "Oh, yeah, well, you should see her fencing. Her blade is even sharper than her tongue."
Jalura's tone changes to one of genuine enthusiasm, "Really? Hey, that's great, someone to practice with. What is your blade preference, and which techniques do you like?"
Daria makes a third mental note, while Jane pipes in, "Just kidding, she doesn't really mess with swords."
For the first time, Jalura realizes she's said a bit more than necessary. Sounding a great deal like Stacy after one of Sandi's faux compliments, Jalura says simply, "Oh."
Location: Pizza King.
The Three Musketresses are sharing a pizza and discussing Lawndale High. Somewhere along the way, Jalura has reclaimed her jacket from her locker.
"Yeah, Ms. Morris hates me. Thinks my whole family is nothing but a bunch of slackers."
Jalura shakes her head, "Well, Jane, just because you don't define yourself by her terms is no reason for her to think ill of you. You are an artist; you do what matters to you. She should respect that. I do."
Daria is about to agree when she notices a slightly-built male walking toward them. "Upchuck alert."
Jane grimaces, and Jalura looks at Daria, thinking the latter was responding to the compliment.
"Hello, lovely ladies. And who is this divine creature? A new sylph to grace the halls of Lawndale High? Allow me to introduce myself, Charles Ruttheimer, the Third."
Jalura's look of disgust is plainly visible to all but Upchuck. Jalura looks at Daria and Jane and says, "So much for the third time being the charm."
"Rrrrrrr, feisty." Upchuck attempts to enter the booth but Jalura's hand pushes him backward. Upchuck sails back a good two meters before his feet retouch the ground, whereupon the sudden shift in his moment of inertia induces a rather graceless fall and butt-slide that causes him to wind up sitting on the floor in front of a highly amused Andrea. She gets up from her chair near the window, pours her soft drink on Upchuck's head, throws some cash on the table and leaves, giving Jalura a thumbs-up on the way out the door. Upchuck half-crawls to the restroom.
Daria thinks to herself, "If I wind up with too many more of these mental notes, I'm going to have to put a cork board in my head." But what comes out of her mouth is a simple, "Wow."
The commotion gathers the attention of Kevin Thompson, quarterback of the Lawndale High Lions football team, who -- like the immortal Brian Dowling or more like his Doonesbury-esque incarnation -- wears a uniform at almost all times so that people will know that Kevin is the quarterback. It also gathers the attention of Brittany Taylor, cheerleader and Kevin's girlfriend even if she is no Barbara Ann Boopstein, Michael Jordan MacKenzie, the captain of the football team but without uniform at this time, and Jodie Landon -- and this story is already long enough without putting her curriculum vitae into it. The four approach.
"Wow, that was some pretty impressive blocking, huh, Mack Daddy?"
"Don't call me that!"
Jalura looks to Daria for introductions. Of course, from the one episode of the show she saw in Merlin's apartment, Jalura already knows these four, and is glad for the familiarity following a day of unpleasant surprises about this world.
Daria, however, doesn't see the look from Jalura as the former is still staring at Upchuck's landing spot. "Yeah, it was pretty impressive." Turning fully to face Jalura, Daria asks, "How did you do that?"
Jalura, again aware that she's a bit too open, demurs, "Martial arts training. Moments of inertia and such."
Daria clearly is suspicious, but before she can even pretend to accept the answer, Kevin again chimes in, "Hey, could you teach that to our offensive line? They could push the other team right out of the way and we'd win all our games, right Mack Daddy?"
Michael knows that he's just going to have to tolerate Kevin for the rest of the conversation. "I think the technique is illegal. Unsportsmanlike conduct."
Kevin frowns. "Oh. That's too bad."
Michael faces Jalura, "Hi, I'm Michael MacKenzie, and" just because he has to tolerate, does not mean he must do so without comment "I don't like being called 'Mack Daddy.'"
Jalura smiles. "So I heard, Michael. Besides, MickMack would be a much more fitting nickname. I am Jalura Duquesne."
She extends her hand, and Michael shakes it somewhat tentatively, while pondering her idea.
Jodie looks oddly at the gesture and Michael's reaction. "I'm Jodie Landon, Mike's girlfriend."
Jalura looks at Jodie with intent. "Jodie, aren't you more than just that?" Then smiles.
Jodie's discomfort shifts from one of budding jealousy to one of something else as she tries to match Jalura's gaze and fails.
"I'm Kevin Thompson, I'm the QB." Brittany elbows Kevin in the side, at which he adds, "And this is my girlfriend, Brittany."
Jalura winks at Jodie, who realizes Kevin's inadvertent play into Jalura's word game and finally smiles at Jalura.
Jalura turns to Kevin and Brittany and sees their respective uniforms. "I see that. Is there a game this afternoon?"
"No, games are Friday nights."
"Then why are you wearing a uniform today? Michael isn't wearing a uniform."
Daria's mental note board gets another page, but it is immediately taken back off as she realizes that Kevin had referenced the football team to Michael in the first person plural possessive, not that Kevin would have any understanding of grammar.
Kevin is undaunted. "I'm the QB so I've got to maintain an image for the team."
"Hmmm." Jalura looks at Kevin. "And what image is that? That your little football is the only thing that matters in your life?"
Kevin, obviously pleased that Jalura 'understands,' replies, "Of course, what else is t--." Brittany, feeling taken for granted at Kevin's words, stomps on his cleated foot and storms off. "Ow! What was that for, babe? Babe? Hey, wait up! What?" Kevin follows her out the door, leaving the others shaking their heads and chuckling.
Jodie is the first to recover. "I heard what happened in the hall this afternoon. The Fashion Club has a lot of sway in popularity here. You might not have wanted to offend Sandi."
Jalura laughs heartily. "I don't need to be popular." Gestures to the four others. "I've made friends here."
Daria looks uncomfortable, and both Jalura and Jane notice. Jane tries to cover for Daria with a mocking, "Now don't go trying to use any of that logic stuff to get out of this trouble, young lady. Being popular is all-important."
Jalura asks, "Then why do Stacy and Quinn hang out with such an obvious loser like Sandi?"
No one has an answer to that one, although Daria thinks to herself, "As far as those two are concerned, Jane is right. To them, being popular _is_ all-important."
Jane looks up at the wall clock. "Oh, shoot. I've got to go meet Trent at the Zen." Looks at Daria with a smirk, "Do you want to come with?"
"No. I've got to get home. That lasagna isn't getting any less pre-packaged and I'm probably going to have to do some spin control on this afternoon."
Michael and Jodie take the cue that things are breaking up, and Michael says, "Yeah, we've got to get going, too. It was nice meeting you, Jalura. I'll see you around."
Jodie again looks uncomfortable, but says, "Yeah. Bye, everyone." Jane, and Mike and Jodie leave.
Daria and Jalura head out and appear to be heading in the same direction.
Location: A street near Daria's house.
The two are walking in silence, each wrapped in their thoughts about the day.
Finally, Jalura breaks the silence. "So, are you going to ask, or just continue to speculate?"
Startled, Daria stops.
Jalura, having taken an extra step before realizing that Daria had stopped, turns to face Daria. Jalura's look is expectant; Daria has to struggle to maintain her stoic mask.
After about ten seconds, Daria's expression shifts to one of determination. "Alright. You offered, so I'll ask. One: Convoluted family tree? Two: Aliases? Three: Swords? Four: You were sitting, how did you get enough leverage to shove Upchuck further than Mike could have with a running block? Five: Why do you seem to be able to read every person you encounter down to their essence, like you did to Jodie, as if you could see straight into their soul? Six: Given five, how do keep your sanity while staring into the void?"
Jalura smiles at the last question. "Mene, mene tekel, ujalura? I am but a pale Shadow, dwelling in Shadow among Shadows."
Daria's look intensifies, something impressive to behold, and lesser people would be frightened by it. "And you make even more obscurantist references than I do, and catch all of mine."
Jalura gives Daria a half-smile, and starts nodding. "You're good. But tell me this. Have you become so accustomed to having your emotional needs unfulfilled by your family that you not only have to shield yourself against disappointment by unsuccessfully trying to not have emotional needs but also by rejecting the people around you who would fill that void if you'd let them?"
Daria's demeanor changes completely. She now looks as if she's about to pass out. Her determination broken, she is now a very vulnerable teenage girl. "Get out of my soul ... please."
"No can do, girl. You chose to consider me as a friend, and I accept that responsibility."
"Um, I have to go." Those who've seen the episode, 'Dye! Dye! My Darling' will have a sense of deja vu at the words, and the tone of voice in which they are said. Daria runs the block to her home. Jalura shakes her head as she watches Daria go.
Location: A grey house not far from the Morgendorffer's. Chez Duquesne. Interior.
A middle-aged man, who bears a striking resemblance to one Vincent Lane, is speaking to Jalura.
"A Dr. Manson called. She expressed concern that you have 'low self-esteem' and suggested you take a class. I laughed at her and told her you had no need of such, but that she would probably benefit from some professional training."
"You did exactly right, Trinsch. Thank you. You'll probably have to speak to the principal, Ms. Li, soon."
"You're welcome. I see. The 'embassy speech?' So, how is this Lawndale?"
"Yes, please." A long pause, then, "So many details that I left uncovered."
"Shall we adjust to a Shadow more what you had in mind?"
Jalura thinks about this, but shakes her head. "No. If I learned anything from Martin, it is that you don't run from your mistakes. You face them, and you do your best to fix them. It is the assassins from whom you run, until you find a place from which to eliminate them."
"And is this a spot from which to eliminate those who seek your death?"
"No. This is a place through which I'm running until I can reach Martin."
"I see. And are the locals expendable?"
"Not unless is comes to them-or-me. I won't knowingly use them as shields."
"Very good, Your Grace."
Location: The Morgendorffer's house. The dinner table.
"And she totally humiliated Sandi in front of the rest of us."
Daria, still shaken by her last conversation with Jalura, says, "Um, Quinn. Her insult actually was directed at all of you, though I agree that she seems to have a special dislike for Sandi."
Helen notices Daria's lack of barb. "Honey, what do you think of this new girl?"
Helen's attempt at being super-mom finally snaps Daria back into stoic defense mode. "I think she'll go insane slowly like the rest of us in the asylum."
Helen hears the edge return to Daria's voice. "You know, it wasn't all that long ago that you were new here. Maybe we should invite her and her family over for dinner to help make her feel welcome in Lawndale."
"Hey, honey, that's a great idea! I can try out that new pesto recipe."
Helen looks at Jake as if about to erupt, but realizes that he has backed up Helen and she relents. "Jake, as much as we all love your cooking experiments, wouldn't it be better to stick with something tried-and-true for their first meeting with us?"
"But, Helen, I ..." seeing her look, Jake deflates. "Sure, honey."
Helen, now looking triumphant, says, "Well, that's settled. How about Thursday night?"
"Muh-omm. I just told you. She embarrassed Sandi. We _can't_ have her over, or I'll get thrown out of the Fashion Club!"
Daria's barb feels a need to atone for a moment of as close to sisterly as she normally gets with Quinn, and has a heavy feeling in the pit of her stomach that 'normal' isn't going to apply much anymore. "And how would that be a bad thing?"
Before Quinn can utter a reply, Helen intercedes. "Yes, Quinn, how would that be a bad thing? Despite your protestations of friendship, you and Sandi get along even less well than her mother and I do."
Daria, deciding to take advantage of Helen's surprising honesty, asks, "And just why do you and Linda Griffin get along so poorly?"
Helen again is about to erupt, but Jake, knowing _this_ topic all too well and not wanting to spend the night on the couch, and knowing that Eric from Helen's law firm would pick this one night not to call Helen during dinner, jumps in. "That's none of your business, kiddo. Finish your dinner, and then go call your friend and invite her over for Thursday dinner."
Everyone at the table is shocked at Jake's decisive handling of the argument. Helen visibly deflates.
Daria, sounding more unenthusiastic than her normal, replies, "Ummm. I don't know her phone number. I'll have to do it tomorrow in school."
Part 2: The Next Day
Location: Ms. Li's office.
"Miss Duquesne. I am very troubled by the reports I'm hearing about your behavior. Insulting a member of the faculty in my office yesterday was bad enough, but Ms. Morris said you were very aggressive in Phys. Ed. class. And don't think I didn't hear about the incident with Mr. Ruttheimer at the restaurant."
"Ms. Li. I warned you yesterday not to judge what you do not understand. You dislike me because I do not view you as having authority over me and make no secret of that to you. Your petty control issues are no concern of mine unless they interfere with me. Do not cross me again. As for Charles Manson's twin sister, she is in far greater need of self-esteem help than I. The other Charles sexually harassed Daria Morgendorffer, Jane Lane and I, and was gently chastised for it. Ms. Morris threw a volleyball at me, as Daria put it, with intent. Be grateful that I do not file charges for that. Do not waste more of my time." Rises. "I have to go put up with Mr. DiMartino's outbursts for a while." Jalura switches to Korean and says, "Little earthworm, despite your dreams, you are no dragon," as she exits.
She doesn't notice Ms. Li blanch at the words in her parents' tongue. When she finally recovers, she opens Jalura's file, which has been sitting on Ms. Li's desk, and inserts the word "Royal" before the 'Trouble' that is already there.
Location: Ms. Defoe's art class.
Jalura finishes the required sketch of a still life set in minutes and is working on a smallish, but well-detailed drawing of Daria on a sheet of heavy parchment as Ms. Defoe comes up behind her.
Ms. Defoe sees the still-life and is about to offer the usual bland praise when she notices the work in progress. "Jalura, that is exquisite. You seem to be drawing Daria's emotions onto the paper."
Jalura looks annoyed at having her work noticed, but remembers her view of Ms. Defoe, and changes to a neutral pose. "That is the point."
"Most artists put their own emotions onto the canvas and the person being drawn. You pull the emotions to you from the person through the canvas."
Jalura's mind hears the echoes of a conversation with her great-grandfather as he makes a sketch of the young girl. He tells his young student, "The secret? Oh, so many secrets. But this one I'll tell you. You pull the emotions to you from the person through the trump. The person, if they will, will follow through the image."
Coming back to the here and now, Jalura smiles warmly, with a touch of sharing an inside joke. "Of course. How else can one communicate to another through art?"
Ms. Defoe, hearing only the surface of the answer, nods. "You really should talk to Jane Lane. I think she prefers abstract work because it gives her freedom to express her own emotions in art."
"We've met. And I'm looking forward to seeing her work."
Ms. Defoe, now speaking to a fellow artist and not to a student, a tone usually only heard in this building when Ms. Defoe is speaking to Jane, "You can probably learn more from each other than either can from me."
The tone shift is not lost on Jalura. "I'll keep that in mind. Thank you."
The conversation also is not lost on Daria Morgendorffer, who is wandering past the Art Room on her way to the library.
Location: The Lawndale High Library
Daria is acknowledged by the librarian, who is used to seeing Daria in the afternoon. Daria goes to the card catalog, opens the bottom right drawer and riffs through the cards for a moment before closing the drawer and heading toward the stacks. The librarian, assuming that Daria is looking for Emile Zola, sighs, anticipating Daria's disappointment that the only Zola is one that Daria has already read. The librarian is surprised, however, when Daria returns quickly with a stack of small books, but nevertheless checks them out to Daria.
Daria purposefully puts the books into her bag, then leaves.
Location: Lawndale High Gym
Today, Tiffany is also present. But, after yesterday's performance, there are no volleyball nets set up.
Ms. Morris has a particularly angry glint in her eye. "Today, girls, we run."
As the girls all begin to trudge toward the track adjacent to the gym, Ms. Morris steps in front of Jalura. "How fast can you run, girl?"
The ice cold voice returns, "Far faster than anything you could send after me, mortal."
Ms. Morris senses that she is outmatched, and steps aside.
Daria mutters to herself as she walks past a confused Ms. Morris. "Damn corkboard."
Location: The track
Jalura runs at an even pace, literally lapping the other girls. By the end of forty-five minutes, Jalura makes eleven full loops around the one-mile track, where no one else, even members of the track team, makes more than seven. Jalura looks less tired than most of the other girls.
Ms. Morris again steps in front of Jalura as the girls head toward the showers. "Impressive. You should try out for the track team."
"Are you the coach?"
"No thanks. I don't like your attitude." And Jalura walks back into the building, leaving Ms. Morris standing again stunned.
Location: The locker room.
Daria, clearly uncomfortable, approaches Jalura.
"Daria. Hey, I'm sorry for prying yesterday."
"Ummm. I guess I kind of asked for it with my own questions."
The two leave the building and start down the street.
Jalura shrugs. "So what's up?"
Daria is not as relieved at the offer to change the subject as Jalura thinks the former would be. Daria hesitates, and then says, "My mother thought it would be nice to welcome you and your family to Lawndale. I think it is as much that she wants to check out my new friend as anything else. If you and your family aren't doing anything Thursday night ... um ..."
"I'd love to come to dinner Thursday. There's just one catch. It'll only be me. I live here with a housekeeper/chaperone/bodyguard. My father is ... well, we're all pretty sure he's dead this time. My mother is ... back home."
The explanation poses more questions than it answered. "Eight: bodyguard? Nine: dead 'this time?'"
"What happened to seven?"
"Obscurantist references, remember. And don't try to change the subject."
Jalura stops and faces Daria. "I will answer your questions, if they are still questions in your mind, when you answer the one I put to you."
Daria freezes, and would probably utter a Brittany-esque "Eep" except that Jalura raises her hand in a 'halt' gesture and speaks again. "I know it isn't easy to confront yourself and your fears and your pain. But you'll have to do it sometime or those fears and pains will destroy you. I've seen it happen, and I've seen people," fingers the lettering on her jacket tenderly, "become strong by facing those fears. I want to help you. And I'm willing to wait until you are ready."
"If you start into a chorus of 'Dulcinea,' I will hit you, not that I think it would do any good."
Jalura smiles, "I think you're more the Don Quixote type than I; much more likely to go tilting at windmills, and giving woe to the wicked." Points down the street. "Speaking of Sancho Panza, though, I'm headed to Jane's. She's going to show me some of her art. Join us?"
"No. I've got some stuff to do."
Jalura decides not to push further than she already has. "Okay. See you tomorrow. And I'm looking forward to Thursday." And heads down the street.
Daria turns toward home, and mutters to herself, "Where do they grow cork trees?"
Location: La Casa Lane
Jalura rings the doorbell and Jane opens it.
"Come on in."
Jalura enters, and Jane stands at the door for a moment.
"Daria said she had some stuff to do."
Before Jane can comment further or even close the door, the resonant tones of a Mystik Spiral rehearsal hammer their way through the floor from the basement.
Jalura frowns at the sound, and asks, "Who is torturing that guitar, and why?"
Jane smiles, "That is my brother Trent and his band. They're not bad."
"No, they're worse." And with that, Jalura strides unerringly to the basement door and heads downstairs. Jane closes the door and follows, curious.
As Jalura comes to the bottom of the stairs, she sees the band. The final chords of a still-rough version of "Icebox Woman" assault the senses as Jalura approaches.
She looks at Trent sternly, places one hand across the neck of the guitar and removes it from Trent before he can say anything.
Jalura says, in a soft tone, to the guitar, "It's alright; I won't let him hurt you anymore." Then with a calm hand, adjusts the settings on the amp, dropping the volume, evening the bass, and touching down the tremolo. Next, Jalura makes slight adjustments to the tuning on the guitar.
Jalura then begins to play, and what happens then would be question ten for Daria, had she been there. If one could picture Andres Segovia and Eric Clapton having a child who inherited and synthesized the full measure of musical ability from the two, Jalura's playing would be the result. For fifteen full minutes a melodic European rhythm dances serenely among jazz, blues, rock and occasional touches of raga influences to weave a tapestry of music never before heard on this plane of Shadow. When she finally stops, silence reigns until...
<reverent>"Whoa."</reverent> from Trent.
<reverent>"Yeah."</reverent> from Jane and Jesse simultaneously.
Jalura gently puts the guitar on its stand and turns that soul-reading look on Trent.
"What angers you the most is that there is so little else that fuels your anger. You seek pain for power, but that is not your path. You come closer than most to true harmony and peace with the world around you. Revel in that peace and echo that harmony; do not rebel against it by casting it aside."
Jane may not have spent as much time with Jalura as has Daria, but neither do the encounters with people at the Pizza King and elsewhere past Jane. She is mentally fitting herself for her own mental cork memo board as she says, "Trent, she-who-sees-your-soul-and-doesn't-laugh is Jalura Duquesne. Jalura, this is my brother, Trent. The others are Jesse, Nick, and Max."
"Great stuff," say the three other members of Mystik Spiral in greeting.
Trent just continues to stare at Jalura as the words she spoke sink in.
"Yo, Trent. You aren't sleeping standing up again, are you bro?"
Trent finally returns to the here and now, with, "Huh, no Janey."
Jane turns to Jalura and says, "You seem to have quite an emotional effect on people. Upchuck excepted, of course."
"You assume he's human?" As the eyebrow re-cocks and loads.
"Don't go using that twisty-turny rhetoric on me. But yeah. He's more like a force of nature."
"A whiny obnoxious little force of nature." Jalura turns back to Trent and places a hand on his arm. "Trent, you have talent. Play what is in your soul, and the people will listen. If you find anger, explore it, but trust your peace unless you find that anger." Jalura takes Jane by the arm and starts up the stairs, "Come on, let's go see what images your soul produces."
As the two reach the top of the stairs, the faint sounds of Trent playing "The Sounds of Silence" can be heard by Jane.
In her head, Jane hears herself saying <reverent>"Whoa."</reverent>
The two make their way up to Jane's room.
Jane, in her best tour guide mode, says, "Ta da. Here recreated solely for this exhibit is the studio of Jane Lane. It was in a small bedroom much like this one where the world-renowned artiste created many of her early works. Some of which are even on display here in the room."
Jalura, however, is silent as she glares at the rampant lion on the wall near Jane's bed. Involuntarily, she pulls her Hellriders jacket tightly about her.
"So, what do you want to see first? Figure studies, landscapes, abstracts?"
Jalura snaps out of her reverie. "Ummmm. Ms. Defoe recommended your abstracts. Let's see those, and save people for last so that we can compare styles."
"Righty-oh." And in Jane's head, "And don't think I didn't see your face when you saw that poster, missy. This is the first I've seen you not completely dominate your surroundings. And I want to know why."
Location: Morgendorffer's house, Daria's room.
Daria enters after another dinner of pre-packaged lasagna and Eric interrupting with some pointless nonsense and Quinn going on about her pending date. Daria is grateful that her parents didn't pry after telling them that Jalura would come, but that her parents couldn't. A small wicked thought crosses Daria's mind to have Helen question Jalura about the latter's parents, a thought that doesn't get dismissed as quickly as Daria thinks it ought. She is about to pick up one of the paperbacks from her bag when the phone rings.
"Hi Jane. How did Jalura like your art?"
"She liked it. Definitely prefers life study to abstract, but to each one's own."
"Actually, I wanted to talk to you about her."
"Okay, first, that stunt with Upchuck."
"I can top that with stuff from gym class."
"Jane, how many miles can you run in an hour?"
"With a good warm-up, nine, maybe a little more. Why?"
"With no warm-up, Jalura did eleven times around the track in gym period."
" ... "
"I'm here; I'm just trying to picture that."
"The comment you heard Monday was after Jalura spent the whole period serving in volleyball."
"So, her team won a lot of points. That --"
"No. Not one of Jalura's serves was returned. Not one was even touched. _And_, Jalura caught the ball one-handed when Ms. Morris threw it at Jalura; threw it hard like Ms. Morris was trying to bean Jalura."
"Okay. She's damn good at everything she does, and snubs the Fashion Club and she likes us. She's perfect. She's more real than real life. So, why am I vaguely and progressively nervous around her?"
"I don't know. Did she hit you with that soul-read thing of hers?"
"Not me. Trent."
" ... "
"I'm here. I'm just trying to picture that."
"Seems she didn't like the way Trent was playing. She took his guitar and played it. She's damn good. Softer style, I couldn't begin to tell you what all was in it, but it was damn good. Then she hit Trent with that soul thing and what she told him locked him up tighter than you get when you're around him."
Testily, "We're talking about Jalura."
"So we are. She picked the wrong town to come to since she doesn't like lions."
"What do you mean?"
"You know that English soccer poster on my wall, the one with the lion?"
"She just about froze when she saw it. Spooked her bad."
"Okay. Anything else?"
"Next, is her own art work."
"Let me guess. Extraordinarily detailed miniature portraits. You feel as if you are falling into them when you look at them too long."
"You've seen them?"
"No. But," glances at the unopened paperback, "I've been reading about them."
"What do you mean? Has her work been shown somewhere?"
"I don't think so. Look, this doesn't make any sense. Well, except in one impossible way. I'll talk to her tomorrow."
"Oh, Daria, one more thing you should know before you talk to her ...."
"Her most recent work is a picture of you. When I look at it, I understand why this country's indigenous people thought photographs of them stole their souls."
"Damn. So much for a rational explanation of everything. Impossibility it is."
"Never mind. Just be careful around her until I've talked to her. A thing forward toward which I am _not_ looking."
Location: Chez Duquesne
Jalura walks in. Trinsch does not look happy.
"Thank goodness you're home safe. I nearly called you."
Jalura is instantly alert. "What is it?"
"Tracker rat breached the ten Shadow perimeter. It didn't penetrate the five Shadow line."
"Did it detect the sensors?"
"I don't think so. Not unless he's gotten a lot subtler."
"Alright. After dinner, I need to make some calls."
"Of course, though Martin's schedule doesn't have him back in range for another six days local frame."
"I also need to call Dworkin."
"I strongly advise against that, your Grace. I know everyone considers him stable now, but ...."
"The alternative is Corwin, who, as of the last we've heard, had disappeared."
Trinsch recognizes the tone in Jalura's voice. "As you wish, Your Grace."
Part 3: Wednesday
Location: Mr. O'Neill's English Class
" ... So you see, class, what Shakespeare is trying to tell us is that Hamlet is confronted by doubt as to what he must do in regard to the ghost's message."
"If it is really a ghost of his father, and not Satan trying to trick Hamlet into doing evil by appearing in the guise of the ghost of his father."
"Yes, exactly, Jalura. Please continue." Mr. O'Neill's ability to remember names would seem to be in direct proportion to the student's knowledge of the subject.
But before Jalura can continue, Stacy Rowe interrupts. "Wait. Why would Hamlet think Satan was involved?"
Jalura half-turns in her seat, recognizes Stacy and is about to berate her when Jalura notices that Sandi is glaring at Stacy. "An excellent question, Stacy. Though Christian, the Danes were also influenced by the Teutonic and Norse mythoi, so the concept of Loki/Trickster was well known to them as a shape shifter. In the Christian sense, Trickster is evil, though that is a gross oversimplification of a complex process among avatar deities. Suffice it to say that Hamlet's upbringing would lead him to suspect evil from his uncle, which is apparently what he wants to hear from the ghost, but his honor makes him doubt his desire. He" and Jalura casts a sharp glance at Mr. O'Neill, who flinches under her stare and words "fears that he projects his desires unto the ghost, and thus fears that it is Trickster/Satan telling Hamlet what he wants to hear to goad him to action that would be dishonorable. If the ghost is Satan, then the ghost is lying and killing Claudius would be evil. If the ghost is Hamlet's father, then the ghost is telling the truth, and killing Claudius is just and proper vengeance."
"But couldn't the ghost lie if it is the ghost of Hamlet's father?"
Jalura shakes her head, "No, Stacy, it would serve no purpose for the ghost."
Stacy does not cringe, as there is no malice in Jalura's voice. Sandi continues to glare, but her focus is now on Jalura, who meets the glare with a small, Mona Lisa smile before turning back to the front.
Location: The cafeteria.
Upchuck is carrying a fairly heavily-laden tray toward a table. He sees Jalura, drops the tray and runs from the room.
Jalura offers a Mona Lisa smile at his retreating back and continues to slice her banana into very small pieces.
Location: Outside Ms. Li's office.
Sandi is waiting to talk to Ms. Li about Jalura, and overhears a surprising conversation.
"I quite sympathize, Ms. Morris, but there is nothing I can do. The embassy called this morning and was quite clear that we are to accept some unusual behavior from Jalura."
"She refused to join the track team, but she's the fastest long-distance runner I've ever seen. If she could keep the pace she ran in gym yesterday, she could break two hours in the marathon. And her volleyball skills.... Ms. Li, you've got to talk to her. She could be a one-woman sports team. Think of what those titles and trophies would mean to Lawndale."
"As much as I would like to, I can't. The embassy was quite clear that <mock reverent>Her Grace</mock reverent> could not be in such a high-profile position. And you know that I seek every opportunity to enhance the honor of <reverent>Lawndale High</reverent> but they were quite clear that legal action would follow if we, and I quote, pressured Princess Jalura or further annoyed her."
Sandi's mind may not move quickly on some subjects, but she understands royalty quite well.
Sandi rises, and heads back to class. "This calls for an emergency meeting of the Fashion Club." she mutters to herself as she walks away.
Location: The Gym. Today it is basketball.
A somewhat subdued Ms. Morris curtly, but politely, asks Jalura if she's good at basketball. Jalura looks at her, recognizing the still-present malice as well as the leash holding it at bay, and decides to give the teacher a break. "I've never played. I've only seen the game once on television. Ummmm, it isn't played where I come from."
Inside Daria's mind, "Ten. Oh, hell, infinity."
Ms. Morris looks suddenly relaxed; she has something over this girl at last. "Well, why don't you just sit and watch today. You won't get participation points, but that's better than hurting yourself or others by not knowing what you're doing."
To both Ms. Morris' and Daria's surprise, Jalura agrees, and sits down. Daria looks as if she's about to join her, when she hears her name called to be on a team. Daria's next surprise comes at the realization of not being picked last as there are still two more people to be chosen after her.
The game begins, and Daria stands near a corner. Every so often the ball is passed to her, and she dutifully passes it to another person. After about ten minutes, Stacy jumps for a rebound, but lands awkwardly and begins limping.
"Rowe. Sit out. I don't want you getting hurt worse than you just made yourself."
Stacy looks at Ms. Morris, and obeys her. Stacy hobbles over to the bleachers and sits next to Jalura.
"Hi. Thanks for not yelling at me this morning. I know it was a stupid question."
"No, Stacy, it wasn't a stupid question at all."
"But I saw your face before you started to speak."
Jalura thinks to herself, "There's more to this girl than at first appears," and says, "Well, you are in the Fashion Club, and I was just reacting. When I thought about your question, I realized that you really were paying attention to the discussion."
"Still, it was ... kindofnicetobetakenseriouslyforachange."
"You don't get much of that, being taken seriously?"
Stacy looks down at her shoes for a long while before answering. "No. I guess I bring it on myself."
"Well, only because you try so hard to be liked that you rarely do the things that make you worthy of being taken seriously."
"Look. In class today, you asked a question that maybe six students in this school would have asked, the others being people like Daria, Jodie Landon, or Michael MacKenzie before they studied the play. You have intelligence. Don't be afraid of it. Look at Jodie; she's so popular she's got to turn down activities because there aren't enough hours in the day for her to do everything. Look at Daria; the teachers like her and, except for the Fashion Club, all the popular people talk to her and consider her some level of friend, and Daria goes out of her way to distance herself from most people. Why do you suppose that is?"
The wheels begin to turn in Stacy's mind. "Well, they're both brains."
"Uh-huh, so why are they popular?"
"Well, Jodie's on a sports team, and she's dating Mack, and she's attractive."
"Ummm. I don't know."
"Actually, Daria is quite attractive. She dresses and acts in ways that hide it, but the truth is there for those who can see it. But that still isn't why she's popular, or why Jodie or Michael is popular."
"Then I don't get it."
Jalura offers Stacy an indulgent smile. "They have principles. They have standards. They know who they are, and won't compromise that for others. Jodie's probably a little more flexible about situational morality, but that isn't a bad thing."
"Y-you mean, they're popular because they don't try to be popular?"
"Sort of. Theirs is a different sort of popular. It is based on respect, not clothes or looks or money. People like Jodie and Daria and Michael are popular because those three command the respect of those around them. They're the ones who'll make it in this world ... because they get to define their goals and achievements."
"No 'buts.' They define their worlds. I can see it in their eyes. Quinn could learn to do it, and probably already would be doing it if she didn't have to see Daria succeeding easily at it where it is still a struggle for Quinn. You could do it, too. If you can find the courage to stand up to Sandi. Because once you can stand up to her, then you can confront your parents."
"No. You don't know what you're talking about." Stacy looks like she is about to get up.
"Yes, sir." The automatic reply leaves Stacy's mouth before she is even conscious of it, and freezes on the bench with a look in her eyes that would make a deer caught in headlights seem confrontational by comparison.
Hearing those two words, Jalura turns the full force of her soul-reading on Stacy. So much pain, so much broken trust, so much hiding from herself so that she could hide the hurt from others. Finally, Jalura speaks with the voice of ice, one word. "No." Jalura reaches out, hugs Stacy, and then speaks much more softly. "It will be alright. Stacy, I had no idea how bad it was. Forget about Sandi, we have more important work to do." Yells, "Ms. Morris."
Ms. Morris trots over, "What is it, is her ankle getting worse?"
Jalura looks at Stacy, "No, but we do need to go to your office _right now_. Stacy has something to tell you."
Location: Street outside Lawndale High.
Daria and Jane watch as two police cars pull up. The officers go inside.
"All I know is that Jalura and Stacy spoke for about fifteen minutes. Jalura did the soul-read thing, called Ms. Morris over; they left and didn't come back."
"How do you know she did the soul-read?"
"That's the frightening part. It is almost like I can feel it even though I didn't actually see it happen. Heck, I was so distracted I actually shot a basket today."
"Daria Morgendorffer actively participates in a sporting event? Sweet god, that is the third sign of the apocalypse. Warn me if you hear of any Americans understanding cricket. That's the next sign, you know."
"And the final sign is Jane Lane knowing when to keep her mouth shut."
"Well, then. We can all rest easy, 'cause that'll never happen.... You really 'felt' it happen?"
"Yes. I don't know what is in Stacy's soul, but it is painful.... The Fashion Club might be like an anesthetic, to numb her so she can function."
"Okay Daria, I was joking about the sports, but now you _are_ starting to freak me out."
"That's good. I'd hate to be there alone."
Just then, Jalura comes out of the gym doors, and the other three members of the Fashion Club come out the side doors of the school.
"Titanic and iceberg on collision course, Captain Lord."
Jane looks at Daria, only partially comprehending her remark. Then Jane sees Jalura and Sandi approaching and gets most of the joke.
Jalura sees the Fashion Club before they can see her. Jalura stops, and waits.
The Fashion Club walks up to Jane and Daria, and Sandi slowly speaks. "Um, Quinn's cousin?"
"I have a name, Fashion Club President Jerk."
"Oh, um. Quinn just always refers to you as her cousin."
Daria shoots an angry glance at Quinn, "My name is Daria."
"Okay, Daria. We want to talk to you about Jalura."
Daria and Jane each barely succeed at not looking in Jalura's direction. Jane speaks, in a passable imitation of Jalura's voice, "What _do_ you want?"
Sandi shudders at the repetition of those words that humiliated her two days ago. But royalty must be appeased, even if it means speaking to these losers. "We wanted to, uh .... Quinn, help me here."
Quinn rolls her eyes, and thinks, "Arthur Fonzarelli's got nothing on Sandi, here." But says, "Daria, we know we got off to a bad start with Jalura, but we really think she'd be a valuable asset to the Fashion Club. We want to apologize and offer Jalura membership in the Fashion Club."
Daria notices the eye roll, and wonders what is going through the Fashion Club's little mind. "And you want me to talk to her?"
Three heads nod, and Jane is suddenly inspired to do a mobile of those little dogs whose heads bob up and down because the heads are mounted on springs, only to replace the heads with the heads of Barbie dolls, making one to look like each member of the Fashion Club.
"Well, have you spoken with Stacy?"
Sandi can deal with this. "No, we haven't seen her all afternoon."
"I'm not surprised. Ever since she spoke with Jalura this afternoon, she's been in the gym office with Ms. Morris. The police just arrived and I don't think those two statements are unrelated."
Sandi ponders this ... Sandi tries to understand this ... Sandi has no idea how to interpret this. "What do you mean?"
"I'm not sure what it means. Maybe you should ask Jalura. Here she comes, now." Daria yells, "Jalura, the Fashion Club wants to speak to you."
Jane thinks to herself, "I gotta go to the same college as Daria when we get out of here. She's just gonna get better with age."
Jalura walks up. "Um. Sandi, Quinn, Tiffany. We need to talk." Turns to Daria and Jane. "I'm sorry. This has to be done privately. I'll come by and explain it to you later."
Location: Street in Lawndale, near Jane's house.
Jalura is about to reach the corner of the lawn for La Casa Lane when she feels a pressure at the back of her neck. It is Trinsch.
Jalura speaks sotto voce, "This isn't a good time. It had better be important."
"Yes, ma'am. Something penetrated the five Shadow line. Fast enough that I couldn't get a good read on it. It just crossed the one Shadow wall. I think it is a fire angel."
"I need you to buy me one-half hour. I have something I have to do here."
"No, I'm not running. It ... it's personal."
"I shall do my best."
"Of course." And Jalura breaks the contact.
Jalura resumes walking and reaches the door of Jane and Trent's house. She rings the bell. The door opens.
"Hello, Trent. Are Daria and Jane here?"
"Yeah, they said you'd be stopping by and to send you up to Janey's room."
"Thanks." Jalura enters and heads up the stairs.
Even though the door is open and both Daria and Jane see Jalura, Jane asks, "Who's there?" in a mocking tone.
Daria, however, is deadly serious. "Yes. Who are you, Jalura? What are you? And what is going on?"
Jalura stops for a moment. "Ah, ah, ah, Daria. You know my price for the first two answers." Those remarks draw a quizzical look from Jane, cast in Daria's general direction. "As for the last ...." Jalura closes the door and sits on the floor in front of her friends.
"I talked to Stacy today."
Daria's anger seeps through her voice. "Yes, I know. Next time you do that soul-read thing, be far away from me."
"You mean you felt it? What did you perceive?"
"Pain. Betrayal. Fear. The usual."
"Well, you only got the surface, then. Stacy regularly is being abused sexually by her father. Has been since she entered puberty."
Both Jane and Daria gasp audibly.
Daria struggles, finally finding words. "Oh, my god. I had no idea. Will she be alright? What did you do?"
Jalura's voice is cold ice. "I didn't kill him. I didn't even go near him for fear that I would. Stacy was my priority, and once she started talking to Ms. Morris, just about everything came out. Ms. Morris called the police first, Ms. Li second. Stacy's in protective custody and a bench warrant has been issued for her father."
Jane finds her voice, "And the Fashion Club?"
"I needed to ask them if any of them had been molested by Stacy's father. I believe Quinn and Tiffany's denials, but am not sure about Sandi's."
Daria looks down at the floor. "I should, um, probably go home and make sure Quinn is okay. I think she actually likes Stacy, so she'll be taking this pretty hard."
Jane is astonished to see her best friend actually care about Quinn, who treats Daria like dirt. But Jane knows she'd do the same for any of her siblings, no matter how screwed up they are. Plus, Jane has an ulterior motive for speaking to Jalura alone. "Umm, yeah. That's probably a good idea."
As soon as Daria's boots can no longer be heard on the stairs, "Alright, missy. You may have some bargain with Daria that keeps her from demanding answers, but you don't with me. Who are you?"
"Jane, you wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Maybe later. I've got to go now to take care of some other business." Jalura rises, and heads toward the door.
Jane gets up, to try to stop her, but Jalura is moving quickly, and gets out of the room.
Jane continues to follow Jalura.
When Jalura gets to the front door, she turns and tells Jane, "Don't you ever follow me again. You only have one life. If you value it, stay home." And heads out the door.
"Whoa. What was that all about, Janey?"
Jane looks at Trent. "I don't know, but I'm going to find out."
Jane reaches the door and opens it. She runs up to the street, but Jalura is nowhere to be seen.
Location: The Morgendorffer's house. Quinn's bedroom.
Daria knocks tentatively. "May I come in?"
Daria is shocked for not the first time today. Quinn is wearing an oversized sweatshirt and baggy jeans and has removed all her makeup. As Daria enters, Quinn is removing the nail polish from her toenails.
"Are you ... okay?"
Quinn looks as if she is about to cry. "No."
Daria doesn't blame her one bit. "Do you ... want to talk about it?" Daria is a little bit surprised that she is doing this, and then realizes that she has to do this.
Unbeknownst to either of the girls, Helen has arrived home, for once having left the office right at 5:00 PM. She hears most of the conversation. 'Hears' is a euphemism for 'eavesdrops on.'
Quinn is amazed that Daria is reaching out to her sister when Quinn needs someone. And the realization that it is Daria comforting her, and not anyone from the Fashion Club, becomes note number one on Quinn's mental cork message board. "You don't mind, after the way I've treated you?"
Daria looks at her sister and tries to be gentle. "Quinn, you've never treated me well, but aside from the 'only child' bit, you've never actually hurt me. You're my sister, even though we rarely act like it, and that's all that matters right now."
Quinn fiercely hugs Daria, who stiffens, then relaxes and slowly returns the hug.
Quinn begins to cry. "How could he ... (sob) ... do that ... (sniffle) his own daughter ... Stacy ... (shudder) ... she's so young ... ewwww."
"I don't know why he did it. You're right, though, about the 'ewwww' aspect of it."
"My god, Daria, I've ... (shudder) ... slept ... in that house. What if he ... (sob) ...."
"Quinn, I'm very glad that neither of us has much knowledge about this subject, but I think that he would be too afraid of witnesses to do anything when the whole Fashion Club was there."
In the hallway, Dawn Breaks Over Marblehead as Helen realizes exactly what her daughters are discussing. Helen's shudder measures on the Richter scale, but is unnoticed by her daughters.
"But ... Jalura ... (whimper) ... when she ... Sandi ...."
"I know. Jalura told me that she isn't sure if anything happened to Sandi. But remember that Sandi has lived here her whole life. Tiffany has only been here a couple of years, and we've only been here ... not even two months."
"But ... his own daughter?"
"Quinn, there are some truly evil people in the world. There are also people who define right and wrong very differently than we would. I don't claim to know which type Stacy's father is, but either way, he is sick. It might be the kind of sick that a just world would deem so dangerous as to need to be eradicated, or he might be sick in a way that can be treated. I just don't know which."
"But, b-b-b ... (sob)"
Daria knows that the big question is coming, and she hopes she has an answer for it that won't hurt Quinn.
Quinn finally speaks. "Is the Fashion Club responsible? Did we make Stacy be too attractive? Did we make him do this?"
Helen thinks to herself, "If Daria pulls this answer off well, there will be Daria's choice of a late-model used car in the driveway or a brand new computer on the desk for Daria's birthday next month, and to hell with the budget."
Daria struggles, and then finally speaks. The stoic mask is completely gone from her face as she tenderly strokes Quinn's hair, not that Quinn notices with her face still buried in Daria's shoulder. "No. This started before Stacy was in the Fashion Club. From what I can tell and from what Jalura said, Stacy loves being in the Fashion Club because it lets her pretend to be normal for a little while, whatever the hell normal is. But that feeling gives her the energy to survive one more night of abuse. It has kept her alive until someone could see what was happening and intervene. And, she does see you as her true friend. It will take a long time, but she will be okay if you remain that for her."
Helen thinks to herself. "That may just merit both the car and the computer. Well, Daria does still have to pass her driving test. Better have Maryanne start shopping for ... No, Damnit. I will do this myself."
Back in the room, Quinn is still crying. "Oh, Daria. Why didn't _I_ see it? Stacy really is my friend. Why didn't I see it?"
"Quinn. Stacy has had years of practice hiding it. You would have figured it out eventually. Jalura has ... some special skills and experience at reading people. She truly had the outsider's perspective on the situation. She was just a little faster than you at it, that's all."
Helen realizes that she has seriously underestimated her elder daughter's emotional maturity, and vows that she will pay much more attention to Daria in the future.
Quinn finally unburies herself from Daria's shoulder. "Daria, I ..."
"No. Let me say this. I don't always treat you with the respect you deserve. Probably in a few weeks, I'll start ignoring you again. But, for once, I am going to tell you to your face that I am proud to have you for my sister."
"Ummm. Thanks, Quinn. Now, before Mom and Dad get home," Helen takes her cue, and wonders if it is a cue as she heads downstairs to make a more audible entrance, "you need to put your makeup back on and wear normal-for-you clothes. Being popular and attractive didn't make what happened happen. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but there is nothing wrong with being popular or attractive, so long as there's something more in your life. Right now, the most important thing you can be is Stacy's friend. Maybe after dinner, you ... we could talk to Mom about offering to let Stacy stay in our guest room for a while until things settle down for her."
"Daria, you'd be willing to put up with a near-constant Fashion Club meeting for Stacy?"
"No, I'd spend as much time as possible at Jane's. But Stacy's going to need you and I can put up with a lot in light of her situation."
Downstairs, Helen audibly 'comes home.'
Daria gets up, pauses at the door. Both, simultaneously, "We never had this conversation." Daria adds, "Except the part about talking to Mom after dinner. Now get some makeup on. You almost look like me without my glasses on, and that scares me."
Quinn smiles at her sister, and reaches for her mirror.
Daria closes the door behind her, softly, and mutters. "Damn conscience. Damn emotions. Damn that Jalura; she owes me big for this."
Location: the woods at the north edge of Lawndale
Trinsch is fighting a desperate battle against a fire angel. For those of you who haven't read Zelazny's second Chronicles of Amber, a fire angel is a rather large fire demon with wings and multiple hearts. A fearsome fighter, and a very programmable assassin, usually works in pairs.
Trinsch is employing a rather interesting combination of ice, silicon dust and fury against the demon and Trinsch appears to have doused the flame of its right wing and arm.
Jalura appears behind Trinsch, her hand appearing on his shoulder.
"Not bad, handling a trump 'port in mid-battle."
"I do my job."
"And you do it well. Now stand back."
Trinsch gladly steps aside. Even though he is Jalura's bodyguard, he knows that he is no match for her in blade, spell or trump combat.
Jalura begins to hum, something sounding vaguely Musogorsky-ish. The fire angel lunges from the left side, and is about to strike Jalura in the head when it suddenly disappears, leaving a trail of charred earth for the forty or so meters before it is destroyed.
"Rhapsody in Relative Inertia. I owe Lore one for that spell."
Trinsch is impressed with the rapid dispatch of the fire angel. "How does the spell work?"
"Basically, it places the subject at rest with regard to the universe. Unfortunately for the subject, the rest of the universe keeps on moving. Few beings can survive long against a planet-load of inertia, heat, friction, etc [pronounced by Jalura as 'et-k']."
"An impressive spell."
"And to think I got it from one of Brand's sons. You know, if it weren't for that, I'd probably trust him."
"And the fact that he's homosexual?"
"Remember, I have a touch of shape shifting ability. Gender becomes ... less relevant at that point."
"I've had a long day. I want nothing more than a long hot bath, dinner and sleep."
"Of course, Your Grace."
Location: Chez Duquesne
Daria rings the doorbell.
After a minute, the door opens. Trinsch has a large bandage on his left arm, a reminder of the afternoon's battle. "Yes?"
"I want to talk to Jalura. Now."
"I am afraid that she is unavailable for the remainder of the evening. May I tell her who has called?"
From inside the house, "Wait. That's Daria. Let her in, please."
Trinsch steps aside, allowing Daria to enter.
"Damn you, Jalura."
"Nice to see you, too. Leave us, Trinsch."
"Yes, ma'am." Trinsch leaves.
"To what do I owe the emotional outburst?"
"You made it happen. You forced me to face my emotions and now I can feel them almost as strongly as you can. That's how I could sense your soul-read of Stacy and even feel part of what she felt. And why I had to go to Quinn this afternoon and start putting Humpty Dumpty back together again by talking Mom into having Stacy live with us for a while." Daria pauses, then continues, "The answer to your damn question is this: No, I never did. I just got let down so often that I temporarily lost the ability to rise as high as I was before each fall. I had to keep my emotions in check to keep my sanity. The pain was so great that I couldn't face it. Then you had to find the one person in Lawndale whose pain was worse than mine, and force me to see it, just to drive me to my own epiphany. But, you just wanted to hear me say that. Now answer my questions, damn you."
"Please sit down. I think you'll need it."
Daria is still angry, but sits down. "I'm waiting."
"First, Stacy is not the only person whose pain is worse than yours."
Daria's anger melts, rather like one of Jake's deflations. "I know that. I'm a little rusty at emotions."
Jalura looks at her and nods. "All right. Second, I didn't need to hear you say it. I needed you to hear yourself say it."
Weakly, "Damn you to Hell."
"If you wish, but first let me answer the questions about me." Jalura looks at Daria, who nods weakly.
"Have you read much science fiction?"
"I've lately read a lot of Zelazny."
The reference goes completely past Jalura, and Daria senses that fact with considerable confusion.
Jalura offers a faint smile. "I was thinking more of Douglas Adams. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
"What does that have to do with this?"
"Have you read it?"
"All four books of the trilogy."
Jalura smiles, knowing the joke well. "Do you remember the spot where Zaphod is put in the Total Perspective Vortex, a device that shows him exactly where in the universe he is?"
"Yeah, but the powers that be created a pocket universe just for Zaphod so that when he entered the chamber, he was the center of a universe created just for him."
"Yes. Exactly." Pointedly, "Zaphod Morgendorffer."
"This whole world exists so that you have a place to be real."
The look of non-comprehension on Daria's face is overwhelming. "Thank you. For my birthday, would you kindly give me a world that doesn't suck?"
"Daria, I am serious."
"I can tell. I just don't understand. I know there's no rational explanation for everything that's happened since you got here. I was sure that, even if you aren't mentioned in the Chronicles, you were from Amber."
Jalura rises, "How the Hell do you know about Amber?"
"Zelazny. I told you I'd read it."
"What do you mean?"
"Roger Zelazny. The Chronicles of Amber. Part One: The Chronicle of Corwin. Part Two: The Chronicle of Merlin. Granted only the first book of the second part has come out. But Zelazny promises four more."
The look of horror on Jalura's face is frightening. "Oh, no. No! I couldn't have missed something like that." Now talking to herself, "This has to be some little joke spell that Merlin put on me. No, not Merlin. The tracker rat. Of course. Dalt hit me with that energy weapon in the Star Trek: Next Generation Shadow. If it also had Magick in it, there could have been a latent spell. I didn't scan for Magick after I got up. I was too busy chasing Dalt. Damn."
Trinsch re-enters on hearing Jalura's raised voice. "Your Grace?"
Jalura regains her composure. "Trinsch, we have a problem."
A raised eyebrow awaits elaboration.
Jalura sighs, and then speaks. "When I was in the Next Generation Shadow, just before I met Merlin, I fought Dalt."
"Yes, ma'am. I know that."
"He hit me with an energy weapon."
"You mentioned that. He appeared annoyed that you survived, and fled. You gave chase, but he lost you in a nest of Shadow-spanning black hole nebulae. That's where Merlin found you."
Daria joins in the discussion by pulling six paperbacks from her bag. She offers them to Trinsch, and says, "According to Jalura, the weapon also put a tracking spell on her. This Dalt person probably figured she would lead him to a lot more members of the royal family of Amber. Apparently, the spell manifests itself by causing these to appear in the Shadow where she is."
Trinsch frowns as he scans the back covers. "Oh. Then this afternoon was just a warm-up. A test of his locating abilities. He has become much more subtle."
Daria says, without a trace of smile, "Lions, unicorns and Amber, oh my."
Jalura frowns, but nods. "Yes, Dalt has two symbols. One is the rampant lion. That is for his homeland. The other is the rampant lion rending an inverted unicorn. That is his personal symbol."
"That explains the reaction to Jane's soccer poster. Now, about the jacket?"
"Trinsch, if you would please."
Trinsch wordlessly goes to the closet and brings out his own Hellriders jacket. He puts it on and speaks slowly. "His Majesty, Prince Martin, heir to the thrones of Rebma and Amber, has bestowed these jackets upon members of his band, the Hellriders. Though they convey no special powers, they are highly prized throughout Shadow, and are symbols of his personal aegis."
Jalura continues. "Trinsch was Martin's drummer and bodyguard for nearly ten years. He is now my bodyguard. My jacket is because Martin named me an honorary roadie for the band. Martin and Merlin are the only two members of the royal family that I trust."
"I see. This Dalt. What is his beef with Amber?"
"He is a son of Oberon. A son by rape." Jalura pauses to let the impact of that statement flow into Daria following the events of the day, those at least of which Daria is aware. "Oberon later killed his mother in battle after she began desecrating unicorn shrines."
"And his beef against you?"
"I am a member of the royal family of Amber and of the Golden Circle kingdom of Gaiga, with whom Dalt's most recent employer, Kashfa, has been at war. Those facts make me a likely first target."
"And your connection to the royal family of Amber?"
"I am the daughter of Caine."
"'Du' Caine. I get it. Boy, the Golden Circle must be a breeding stable for the royal family."
Jalura stiffens. "Do not repeat that statement in my, or any member of the royal family's, presence if you wish to live."
Daria blanches, believing Jalura to be fully capable of, and willing to be, carrying out that threat. Daria tries to shift the subject. "Why here? Why me?"
"I took temporary refuge with Merlin after the battle I mentioned. He has his own difficulties with the family."
"So I read."
"Yes, I don't suppose the book identifies his would-be assassin?"
"No, it doesn't. Doesn't mention Dalt either. The bookstore says the next book is due out in about six weeks."
"Damn. Anyway, Merlin sent me away, to keep me from being, as he put it, an extra target a few days ago. I would have gone to Martin, but he is on a diplomatic mission to the Courts of Chaos, and beyond, and I cannot reach him there. But I digress. While in Merlin's apartment, I was watching television."
"Nasty habit that. My favorite vice."
Jalura smiles, much to Daria's relief, and continues. "And that's where I saw you. Or, at least, Merlin's Shadow's television's MTV's version of you."
"I watched you go through some sort of college weekend. You looked like the kind of person I'd consider a friend. I needed a place, and a friend. I rode until I got ... here. Then set up Trinsch and this house."
"But what about all the background crap. Where are the silver towers, fallen or otherwise?"
Jalura smiles indulgently. "Unfortunately, I skipped a lot of details. My goal was to create you, the you that I saw on television. The other things, apparently, were the necessary and sufficient conditions to create you."
Daria stares, trying to absorb the fact that someone created a world just for her. To Daria, that knowledge seems far more maddening than to be seen as truly insignificant.
"More real than real."
Jalura looks at Daria quizzically.
Daria sees the look and explains. "More real than real. That was Jane's description of you. It fits far better than she realized."
"Yes, I guess it does. At least by the standards of Shadow."
Daria, still trying to grasp the new definition of reality with which she is confronted, asks, "So now what?"
Jalura looks away. "I don't know. I ... like it here, despite its flaws. I meant what I told Michael and Jodie about having found friends here."
"Friends you created whole cloth out of your desire."
"No, I didn't make you like me. My goal was to create you as I saw you, and the rest I left to fate."
"Which heavily favors the powerful. Like Hamlet's wish that his father's ghost be telling the truth, your desire to find a friend shaped this place and this me as much as your desire to find this place."
Daria's allusion stuns Jalura; the very image Jalura had used to chastise Mr. O'Neill that very morning is now thrown in her very own face. Fate indeed.
Jalura's eyes close. "I'm sorry."
"Hey, I'm not complaining. It actually doesn't matter that much to me whether I like you from free will or from structural compulsion. You are a good person, doing your best under ... exceptionally difficult circumstances. I just want you to realize that I probably am as you made me. I want our friendship to be as honest as it can be."
Jalura opens her eyes, literally and metaphorically. "Thank you. I'm not sure I deserve that friendship."
Daria gives Jalura a Mona Lisa smile. "Someone recently told me: 'You chose to consider me as a friend, and I accept that responsibility.'"
Jalura's smile exactly matches Daria's.
Part 4: Thursday
Location: The Morgendorffer's
"So, the Social Services Officer will pick Stacy up after school, take her to her house to get some clothing and bring her here around five."
"Okay, Helen. Five. Should I come home early?"
Helen ponders Jake's question. "Mmm, no dear. This might be better if she had a smaller reception committee."
"If you think that's best. I just wish you'd tell me why Stacy is going to be living with us for a while."
"Jake, I told you that that is none of your business."
"Actually, Mom, I kind of agree with Dad on this one. If he knows what is going on he's less likely to accidentally say something that will upset her."
"Well, that's true Daria, but ...,” and Helen looks at Jake. There's no easy way to say it. "What worries me is that knowing, your father will try so hard to avoid saying anything that he'll actually wind up talking about it constantly."
Jake looks upset, "You know, Helen, I am in the room."
"Yes, dear, I know. And after as long as we've been together, I think I know you well enough to know how you'll react."
Daria's emotions are still raw from the events of yesterday, and school suddenly sounds like an island of relative sanity. "You two carry on without me, I've got to go to school."
Jake's mood swing is dizzying to all but him. "Okay, kiddo. Have a great day. And dinner'll be ready at five when your friend gets here."
As Daria walks out of the room, she corrects him. "Stacy, Quinn's friend, arrives at five _tomorrow_. Tonight, dinner with my friend, Jalura, is at _six_."
"So what kind of name is Jalura, anyway?"
Location: Mr. DiMartino's freshman History class
Stacy's empty seat seems to be the focal point of the room. Everyone casts furtive glances at the vacant spot.
Mr. DiMartino is no exception. "Class, I suppose by now everyone is aware of Ms. Rowe's situation. I'm not very good with emotional discussions, but for once I'd say you all have a legitimate reason for not being able to participate in a class discussion. Since I'm not willing to discuss Ms. Rowe, why don't you all just view today as an extended study hall."
A few general murmurs of appreciation are made, but silence quickly takes over the room.
Location: Mr. O'Neill's classroom
"Class, perhaps we should talk about how poor Stacy's --"
Jalura is in no mood to put up with this nonsense. "Perhaps I didn't make myself clear yesterday. Don't project your emotions onto these people. They don't understand in general and they sure as hell don't understand this. Get out."
"Oh, my. I know --"
"Shut up." Jalura storms out, slamming the door behind her.
Several students, led by Andrea, get up and leave behind Jalura.
Mr. O'Neill begins to cry.
Location: Ms. Barch's classroom
"So, you see, class, even though women get cancer just as often as men, the male-dominated health industry devotes more than ten times the research money to studying cancers in men compared to cancers in women."
Despite being surprised and grateful that Ms. Barch isn't sermonizing about Stacy, Jalura can't abide the bias Ms. Barch is displaying. "Ms. Barch, those statistics are a little bit out of date."
"Well, Ms. Duquesne, I didn't think _you_ would be an apologist for the male health industry."
Jalura's frown intensifies. "I'm not apologizing for them. I hold them every bit as responsible for their bias in priorities as I do you in your bias in reporting."
"Maybe you should read the editorial by Catherine DeAngelis and Margaret Winter in the current review issue of JAMA."
"What's JAMA, some teenage pajama party guide book?"
"No, JAMA is the acronym for 'Journal of the American Medical Association.' The current review issue focuses on women's health, including some large-scale studies on cancers in women, and an editorial on how much the study of women's health has improved in just the last decade." Jalura reaches into her bag, and tosses a journal to a stunned Ms. Barch.
Ms. Barch catches the journal, and opens it to the page bookmarked with a post-it note. Ms. Barch's frown deepens as she reads, flipping pages slowly.
No one is going to risk the wrath of Barch by saying anything. Finally the bell rings, and the students flee more eagerly than they usually do.
Location: Mr. DiMartino's sophomore History class
"Well, you're still alive. What's the story with Jalura?"
"Jane, you wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Ha ha ha, Daria. Those were her exact words to me when I confronted her after you left yesterday. Right before she quoted almost word for word Connor MacLeod's lines from the alley scene after the junkyard fight in 'Highlander' and right before she pulled a disappearing act that would make Doug Henning proud."
"Alright, I'll tell you at lunch, but not in the cafeteria."
Location: The roof of Lawndale High
"Let me get this straight .... You're telling me that some near-omnipotent being decided that something she saw on a cartoon in another dimension would make a cool friend, and we exist because of that."
"Both Jalura and I told you that you wouldn't believe it."
"Okay, fine, joke over. Now, what's the real story?"
Daria's mask is gone, and Jane can not long look at her friend's face without feeling some of Daria's emotions.
Jane finally finds words, "More real than real, huh?"
"And the more time we spend with her, the more real we become."
"Unless this Dalt guy catches us with her."
"Just wear your poster, and you'll be safe enough."
"I think that's why she gave the trump of me to Trinsch. His job is to get me to safety if things go bad."
"But he's her bodyguard."
"Apparently, sword-wielding speed bump is a more accurate descriptor. He's there to slow down whatever comes her way long enough for Jalura to choose her mode of combat and get the first shot ready."
"And I thought being a teenager sucked."
"Yeah, but he gets to wear a cool leather jacket."
"Oh, well. That makes all the difference, then." The two rise and start to head back down into the building. "By the way, what the hell does 'misandristic' mean? I've been meaning to ask you that since I heard Jalura say it on Monday."
Location: Helen's office
"Eric, let me make this clear to you. I am leaving for the rest of the week. My cellular phone, as you can see, is on my desk. If you call my home before I come back into the office Monday, my first action on arrival at the office will be to castrate you. Do you understand that I am not to be disturbed under any circumstances prior to my return on Monday?"
Eric looks non-plussed. "Helen you know that this is a very important case and --"
"Eric, don't make me carry out my threat just to prove to you that I don't make idle threats." Helen walks out of the office.
Eric watches her retreating back, and says half to himself, "She's going to make a great partner here just as soon as enough letters die off of the letterhead to make room for her."
Location: Pizza King
"But, Babe, I don't get it."
Michael knows this conversation won't end well. "What don't you understand, Kevin?"
"He's, like, old enough to be her father."
Brittany, Michael and Jodie just bow their heads in wonder at the depths of Kevin's ignorance.
Location: The Morgendorffer's
"So, Jalura. Where exactly in Europe do you come from?"
"Well, Mrs. Morgendorffer, there are a number of small principalities adjacent to one or more of the major nations of medieval Europe. Sort of real-world versions of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, where some soldiers got lost in a war, found a friendly village, conquered it, and no one realized it until years after the war was over, and just left them in charge. Those, like my homeland, that do not issue postage stamps or belong to any of the UN agencies, are rarely depicted on world maps. I've even seen some encyclopediae that don't list it."
"I see. Wait, I thought all nations were members of the UPU."
"No. Andorra, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia are not members of the UPU despite being members of the UN. And, then there are odd little places like Sealand with passports and postage stamps and no permanent populations."
Quinn and Jake aren't even trying to follow this part of the conversation.
"Alright, I remember hearing about Sealand, something about Britain periodically invading it just to annoy the man who owns it. But that doesn't explain where you come from."
Daria thinks to herself, "There are times when it is fun to have a lawyer for a parent."
"Basically between Austria and Switzerland and Italy."
"So your country ceased to exist during WWII?"
"No, no one bothered. We were that far out of the way."
"And so English isn't your native language?"
"Correct; my native tongue is Friulian."
"No, Friulian. Do not again confuse me with those unwashed German peasants."
"I'm sorry, I'd never heard of Friulian."
"Few have. It is spoken by fewer than 30,000 people in the whole world."
Daria decides to get her dig in, "I thought your native tongue was called Thari?"
Jalura's lack of reaction impresses Daria considerably, as Jalura replies, "No, that is for an adjacent land. I'm ... related to their royal family, though very far down the line of succession. Well, actually, the languages do have a common origin."
Quinn perks up at the word 'royal' and joins the conversation, "So you're really a princess?"
Jalura chuckles, "Yes, Quinn. A real princess. Let me tell you something, though. Being royalty sucks," and casts a quick glance at Daria as she says that. "Coming here has relieved me of a tremendous number of duties."
"What? You _can't_ be serious. Being a real princess would be a dream come true. Men dripping at your feet, balls every night. Servants." Quinn says the last word in very much the way Homer Simpson says the word 'donuts.' Quinn is almost glowing at the mere thought.
"No, Quinn, it isn't like that at all. More like a perpetual detention in Mr. DiMartino's class, with regular exams. As for balls, I usually spend four hours dancing with uncles and great-uncles and cousins, and not a one under fifty. Which should tell you about the alleged 'men dripping at my feet.' And as for servants, they serve the government and residence, not us; rulers come and go, but the bureaucracy is eternal."
"But, all the shows about Princess Diana made her life seem so wonderful. Well, not the paparazzi, but other than that ..." she stops as she sees Jalura shaking her head.
Jalura offers Quinn an indulgent smile. "Quinn, Diana hated that life. The constant performance, no privacy, the expectations, the judgment of every action. It may sound like fun, and parts of it might even be fun for a little while, but the constant pressures were too much for her; they'd be too much for anyone. And I say that as someone who has been raised to cope with that kind of pressure, albeit on a lesser scale."
"No 'buts.' It isn't a fairy tale. It can be a nightmare, but most of the time it is a job."
Jake finally joins the conversation, "But you get to live in a castle, right?"
Helen and Daria roll their eyes. Jalura looks at Jake, "Technically, yes. It is probably about 3 1/2 times the size of this house. There are houses in this town larger than the castle. Heat comes from fireplaces. There is indoor plumbing, on the first floor. Historic landmarks are very hard to keep to standard Swiss housing codes."
Helen reclaims control of the conversation, "So, what do you think of America?"
"It is nice. I got to spend a couple of weeks with a cousin in San Francisco before coming here."
"That's nice. But, why here?"
Daria is looking forward to hearing the answer to that question.
Jalura frowns, "I cannot fully explain that to you at this time. Suffice for now to say that my country does have some industry and trade."
A predatory glint appears in Helen's eyes. "I see."
"And the embassy has already retained legal counsel here."
Helen, much less enthusiastically, replies, "I see. What about your parents? Daria said they aren't living here with you?"
"Yes. My father ... is dead. Mother has to stay home and be figurehead for the country."
Location: The front step to Chez Duquesne
As Jalura turns up her walk, she is surprised to see Jodie Landon waiting for her.
"Hello. I've been waiting for you."
"Didn't Trinsch let you in?"
"He offered, but I wanted to wait here."
"I don't understand."
"What's up with you and Michael?"
"Ah, now I understand." Jalura sits down on the walk in front of Jodie.
"Don't get me wrong, he's very attractive. Under many circumstances, I'd be interested in dating him. But not these circumstances."
"And what is it about these circumstances that should make me feel better?"
"First and foremost, the fact that he loves you."
"That wouldn't stop a lot of girls here."
"But it does stop me. I have a firm rule that I will not knowingly interfere in any non-abusive relationship."
Jodie doesn't look fully convinced.
Jalura continues, "Second, putting aside the fact of his feelings toward you, I really don't know how long I'll be able to stay here. It wouldn't be fair to him, or to me, to start a relationship with someone and have to pack up and move."
"Well, I guess I agree with that."
"Jodie, I'm not trying to take Michael from you." Jalura pauses, "Has he given any indication that he is interested in me?"
"Well, not really, but ..."
"He likes the nickname you gave him."
"Well, you've got to agree that 'MickMack' is better than 'Mack Daddy.'"
"That isn't the point."
"Then tell me what the point is."
"_I_ should be making nicknames for him."
"I see. Well, what nickname would you give him?"
Jodie looks down, "Umm, it’s kind of personal."
Jalura's eyebrow cocks and loads, "And would it be in reference to a non-obvious physical attribute of his?"
"Jalura!" But Jodie smiles as she exclaims.
"That's better; you're finally smiling."
"Did you say that just to get me to smile?"
"In part. I have to admit to some curiosity."
Jodie's eyebrow finally matches Jalura's "Well, you'll never pry the answer out of me. No matter what you do."
"Even if I set you up on a date with Charles Ruttheimer, the Third?"
Jodie deliberately makes a Brittany-esque "Eep" and laughs. "No, not that. Anything but that! I'll talk, I'll tell you everything!"
"Ve have vays uv makink you tahk .... And I didn't even have to tickle you."
"Oh, no. Not that. Do you have any idea how ticklish I am?"
"Jodie, that is not a very wise thing to say to someone who has already threatened torture."
Both laugh for almost a minute.
Jodie finally recovers, "One more thing. That look you gave me in the pizza place. It was like you could see into me."
"I could. You need more laughter, more time with Michael, and less pressure from your parents in your life."
"Then you also know how impossible it is for me to get those."
"Yeah. I meant what I said about Michael, both about me not trying to take him from you and how much you need him to help you keep your sanity with everything being dumped on you."
"I'm really glad we had this talk, Jalura."
"So am I. Now, before you go home, go see Michael. Give him a great, big, sloppy wet kiss ... from you."
Jodie smiles broadly as she rises, "Yes, ma'am," and salutes as she heads down the walk.
Jalura shakes her head as she opens the door, "If only all my problems could be solved that easily. I wonder what nickname Jodie would give Michael."
Part 5: Friday
Location: Mr. DiMartino's class
Stacy is in her usual seat, the furtive glances cast at her are an exact replica of the pattern of glances at her empty seat yesterday.
"Ms. Rowe. I was told you'd be out for several days."
Stacy is clearly uncomfortable at being the center of attention. "I ... couldn't stand it anymore. I needed to come to school."
Mr. DiMartino looks at her, and slowly nods his head. "See me briefly after class, I'll tell you what you missed yesterday .... And, Stacy?"
Everyone, including Stacy, notices that Mr. DiMartino called Stacy by her first name. "Yes, Mr. DiMartino?"
His expression is very much removed from his normal eye-about-to-pop-out-of-its-socket-scowl and conveys depths of understanding few would expect, "Welcome back."
A small, Mona Lisa smile crosses Jalura's face.
Location: the hall outside Mr. DiMartino's class
Jalura grabs Sandi by the arm. In the voice of ice, "One harsh word, one dig, one smirk, and I break your jaw. Get it?"
"Do you think that I --"
"Yes, that's why I'm giving you warning. If I didn't think you were intelligent enough to heed it, I'd simply kill you here and now."
Sandi blanches, realizing that Jalura is being deadly serious, and just plain deadly, "Got it."
Location: Mr. O'Neill's classroom
Jalura closes the door behind her as she enters. The glare she gives Andrea before entering makes it clear that Jalura is not to be disturbed.
Mr. O'Neill trembles slightly as he sees the expression on Jalura's face. "Yes, Ms. Duquesne?"
"I don't care what is on the syllabus. We are not exploring Ophelia's motivations and actions today."
"No 'buts.' Stacy has come back to school today and I don't want you giving her any ideas about suicide. Get it?" She leans into the desk, and uses just the smallest touch of shape shifting to make her irises literally red for a moment.
"Good. Now, write me a hall pass so I won't be tardy for Ms. Barch's class."
Location: Ms. Barch's class
Jalura arrives before the bell rings, and will keep Mr. O'Neill's _undated_ hall pass for ... future reference.
Stacy arrives just behind Jalura.
Ms. Barch stares at Stacy.
The bell rings.
Location: Ms. Barch's classroom, class has just ended
Ms. Barch watches Stacy leave.
Jalura watches Ms. Barch, then approaches. "Some women are strong enough to cope with anything. You could learn a lot from Stacy's example."
"What? What happened to her is a perfect example of everything I've been saying about men!"
"No. What happened to her is a perfect example of one sick man. What happened to you is your own damn fault. You can't blame all men for either. And what you are doing to the men in this classroom is teaching them to repeat endlessly the cycle of power. You want women to be treated equal to men; you treat men with scrupulous equality. That is the only way to break the cycle. Besides, that perpetual scowl you wear makes you look ten years older than you are."
"How dare you talk to me that way?"
"How dare I not? You want to blame men for Stacy, fine. Be ignorant. But know that you're creating the next Mr. Rowe by the way you treat the men here."
The two stare at each other for a full minute. Ms. Barch finally drops the gaze.
"But, how could I be responsible for him leaving me."
"By being a selfish bitch on the one hand, and being a stereotypical '50s housewife on the other. Neither of those was a partner."
"Do I have to treat men equally?"
"If it's any consolation, you can continue to treat Ruttheimer like the worthless ball of excrement that he is."
Location: the Morgendorffer's house
"No, Linda, I'm not implying anything of the sort."
Helen doodles as she listens to Linda Griffin on the phone.
"Linda, I really am not in a mood to pretend to put up with you today. And I don't care what Sandi said, there will not be a Fashion Club meeting here today. Stacy needs a chance to settle in."
Helen scratches out one doodle and begins another.
"Linda, we don't get along. We both know why we don't get along. Quinn and Daria both approached me about having Stacy stay with us, so this isn't our daughters fighting our battle for us."
The new doodle is a bull's-eye drawn over a reasonable likeness of Linda Griffin.
"This is about what's best for Stacy," Helen yells into the phone, "As far as I'm concerned, you and your stupid daughter can both rot in Hell." Helen slams the phone back onto the cradle, glad that she wasn't on the cordless for that call.
"Think calm thoughts, think calm thoughts. Get it together, Morgendorffer."
After a long moment, Helen is calm. She looks at the clock, which reads 1:30.
Helen sighs, and heads toward the guest room to check it for the fourth time today.
Once satisfied, she returns to the kitchen to check on the dinner that is cooking in the oven.
"This is the last time I ever take a three-and-a-half day weekend," Helen says to the roast as she bastes it.
Location: The Gym.
"Hi, Stacy. How are holding up with being in the spotlight all day?"
"I hate it. Still.... It's better than sitting at County Social Services all day. Daria, I can't thank you enough for what your family is doing, letting me stay with you."
Daria smiles, "If you want to pay _me_, beat up Sandi."
Stacy slowly returns the smile, "She's not _that_ bad."
"Could have fooled me on that point."
"Okay, she's a little self-centered, but in her own way, she's a ... not-bad person."
"Alright, so she thinks anyone who doesn't care about fashion has a mental illness. She is right, though, that you'd be really pretty, maybe as pretty as Quinn, if you'd just try."
Daria makes sure that Stacy can see the smile on Daria's face before replying, "I thought you wanted to stay at our house."
Stacy does see the smile, "Okay. I promise we won't try to give you a makeover while I'm staying at your house."
"Since when did you have that kind of power over Sandi?"
Stacy's smile broadens, "Who said anything about Sandi?" and adds a look of innocence, "I was just referring to Quinn and myself."
Daria thinks to herself, "There's more to this girl than at first appears."
"Besides, if you were suddenly competing with Quinn on 'her' turf, it might inspire her do better in classes."
Daria turns to Jalura, who has just joined the conversation, and Daria replies, "And just whose side are you on?"
Stacy looks worshipfully at Jalura.
Jalura tries not to frown on seeing Stacy's expression, and says to Daria, "Well, mine, of course. Didn't our conversation Wednesday night make that clear?"
Daria isn't sure whether Jalura is joking or serious, but before Daria can say anything, the bell rings and Ms. Morris begins class.
"Today, we run. Rowe, how's the ankle? Better than Wednesday?"
"Yes, ma'am, much better."
"Okay, then out you go with the rest of them. Duquesne, hold up a moment."
The majority of the girls head out, as Jalura wonders what Ms. Morris wants.
"Yes, Ms. Morris?"
Ms. Morris waits until Stacy is out the door, then turns to Jalura and asks, "Will she be okay?"
"Once I figure out how to cure her of the hero worship she's developed in regard to me."
"Maybe Daria's sister can help you with that."
"Before you came along, Quinn was Stacy's hero. Mostly because Quinn could hold her own with Sandi."
"Actually, I'm hoping that Daria will help with that."
"Daria? She's smart and all, but not really hero material."
"Exactly. Stacy doesn't need heroes, she needs friends. And, Daria could use a few more friends herself, especially if they're in the 'in' crowd."
"Landon and MacKenzie are her friends, and I think one of these breakups between Kevin and Brittany, the big moron will ask Daria out."
"She'd kill him inside of twenty minutes."
"And how would that be a bad thing?" Ms. Morris smiles at Jalura.
Jalura chuckles, "Okay, you've got me there."
"Alright, go lap the other girls."
"Yes, ma'am," and Jalura heads toward the door.
Ms. Morris calls to Jalura's back, "And while you're doing that, please reconsider the track team."
Location: the Morgendorffer's house
The County Social Services officer drops Stacy off and departs once Stacy is safely inside.
"Mrs. Morgendorffer, I can't thank you enough for this. You and Quinn and Daria have been so nice to me."
"Stacy, I know that this is a very confusing time for you. We're just glad that we've got a place for you to sort things out."
"Stop thanking me. After a couple of days, you're going to have to eat one of my husband's cooking experiments. If you still feel grateful to us after that, you'll be just fine," and smiles at Stacy.
"Quinn warned me about Mr. Morgendorffer's cooking, but what I can smell from the kitchen smells really good."
"That's because I'm cooking tonight's dinner. Although Jalura seemed just fine with Jake's cooking last night."
"Jalura was here? Oh, wow."
Helen notices the look of reverence on Stacy's face. Mentally shrugging, and thinking that a little bit of worship is only natural given that Jalura got Stacy out of her situation, "Yes, she has an interesting story for one so young."
"I want to hear it, but from her ... if that's okay."
Helen smiles indulgently, "It is perfectly alright. I probably wouldn't do the story justice anyway. Now, let's get you unpacked."
Helen leads Stacy to the guest room. The two unpack Stacy's suitcases, and Helen wonders if this is a reverse-image of what it will be like to pack Quinn off to college ... if she can get into a decent school with her current grades.
"My, you've brought a lot of stuff."
"I hope that's okay. I wasn't sure how long I'd be here, and --"
"Of course its okay. You'll need a lot of clothes and makeup to keep up with Quinn," Helen is glad to see the look of relief on Stacy's face at Helen's reply. "Ummm, Stacy?"
"Yes, Mrs. Morgendorffer?"
"Linda Griffin called today."
Stacy's smile disappears.
"Mrs. Morgendorffer, can I be honest with you?"
"Of course you can, dear," turns to face Stacy, and says, "Lawyer-client confidentiality rules are in effect."
Stacy doesn't understand the joke, or the fact that Helen actually isn't joking as she hopes to prosecute Stacy's father once he's caught. Stacy continues, "I don't like her. She's mean and bossy and thinks she's better than everyone else in the world and she's not."
"I know, dear. I don't like her, either."
Stacy hugs Helen. "Oh, I'm so glad to hear that, and that I'm getting to stay here. Sandi tried to tell me to stay at her house after Quinn and Daria said that youofferedtoletmestayherebutIknowthatitwasjustaone-upsmanshipthingagainstQuinnand .... I'm babbling, aren't I?"
"A little, but I understand."
"Anyway, I forbade Sandi from having any Fashion Club meetings here this weekend. You and Quinn, and maybe Daria, are going to spend some quiet time here for a few days."
"Thank you, Mrs. Morgendorffer."
"Like I said, I understand. Now, let's go check on dinner. Quinn and Daria should be home any minute now, and Mr. Morgendorffer in about forty minutes."
Location: Outside of Pizza King
"You aren't welcome at our house until after Monday."
"_You_ aren't even in the Fashion Club, Quinn's cousin, so don't try to tell me when or where I can call a meeting."
"Then I'll tell you, Sandi. Don't come to our house this weekend. There are no Fashion Club meetings this weekend."
"Quinn, I don't recall you having been elected President of the Fashion Club, but if I'm in error --"
Daria interrupts, "Oh, you're in error all right. If you try to barge into our house, I'll beat the attitude right out of you, if Mom doesn't do it first. Besides, even if I'm not a member of your worthless little club, I know that Quinn would be a hell of a lot better at running it than you ... and that if you put leadership of the Club to a vote, you'd lose. So don't press your luck on either front. And, I'm the only person who could get Her Grace, Princess Jalura, to deign to join the Club, so don't give me any more of your lip, Sandi."
"I don't have to listen to a loser like you!"
"Maybe you'll listen to me, you stuck-up, worthless little snot!"
Sandi wheels around to see Jodie Landon in front of a dozen of their popular female classmates, including Brooke and Brittany. All look as if they are prepared to do serious business. Jodie continues, "We're all sick of you, and Daria just happened to be the one who won the lottery for who gets to beat the stuffing out of you if you get out of line one more time. _If_ you remember, I was made a standing offer to join the Fashion Club. If I exercised that offer right now, my first action would be to declare the presidency vacant, then I'd nominate Quinn for the position and she'd win four votes to one as Tiffany -- in her Machiavellian little way -- would vote with the majority. Then I'd move to expel you from the club, and since you wouldn't have a vote against your own expulsion, that motion would unanimously carry. Then you'd have nothing. Now, I believe Daria told you to stay the hell away from her house this weekend."
Sandi, realizing that she is outnumbered fifteen to one, runs away before anyone can see the tears forming in her eyes.
Quinn looks at Sandi's retreating back, shakes her head and sighs sadly, and says, "Come on, Sis. Let's go home. Stacy should be there by now."
"And we wouldn't want to leave her alone with Mom for too long."
Location: Lawndale Park
Sandi fights back the tears and curses her fate.
"It's all Quinn's fault. She's always wanted to take the Fashion Club away from me." Paces. "No, it is her _sister's_ fault. She hates everything the Fashion Club stands for, and is trying to tear it apart." More pacing. "No, she's just a loser pawn. <mock reverent>Her Grace</mock reverent> is behind all of this. I'll show her. I'll destroy her and show everyone that I, Sandi Griffin, am still the Queen of Lawndale!"
Location: Chez Duquesne
Sandi throws a Molotov cocktail through the front window and waits, pistol in hand, for Jalura to come out.
Sandi is very confused when the flames appear to extinguish after only a few seconds.
The front door opens and Jalura is framed in the doorway.
Sandi raises her father's pistol, and screams, "I rule this town, <mock reverent>Princess!</mock reverent>
Jalura gestures, almost casually, with one hand, and Sandi disappears.
Several gunshots are heard.
Jalura reverses her hand gesture, and Sandi reappears. Smoke is streaming from the barrel of the gun. Sandi is holding the trigger down, but no more bullets emerge.
"What the Hell did you do?"
"An object lesson. You aren't capable of harming me against my will. You are merely mortal. I am, to the best of your ability to understand, a goddess. Annoy me again, and you go to a place from which you don't come back, ever."
"I'll kill you!" and Sandi charges the door wielding the pistol as a blunt object.
Jalura gestures again, and Sandi again disappears. There is a faint sound of Sandi's final scream as she fades out.
"I warned you."
Jalura closes the door. A few seconds later, the window appears to repair itself.
Location: The Zen, a table near the side wall
"Dad, what are you doing here?"
"Excuse me, Miss?"
"Come on, Dad, what's with the joke? You've finally come to listen to Trent play? And Jalura, how did you find him?"
"Ummm, Jane, this is Trinsch."
Jane looks at Trinsch, her jaw literally drops.
"Miss Jane, why did you call me 'Dad?'"
"Well, Jethro, you look just like my Dad," as Jane reaches for her wallet to pull out a picture of her family.
"My name is Trinsch, not Jethro."
Jalura laughs, getting Jane's joke after a moment, "I'll explain later, Trinsch. Thank you, Jane; I needed a good laugh after this afternoon."
Jane finds the photo and offers it to Trinsch as she looks at Jalura, "What happened this afternoon?"
"How much did Daria tell you about me?"
The amusement is gone from Jane's face, "Amber."
"Okay, then." Jalura leans close to Jane, and whispers, "I had to put Sandi down this afternoon."
Jane whispers back, "'Put down,' as in publicly humiliate, or 'put down' as in dogs?"
"The latter. She tried to kill me this afternoon."
"I don't know and I don't care. She tried to burn my house down and shoot me with a pistol. Under current circumstances, I had neither the time, nor the patience, nor extra compassion to deal with her in a way that would leave her alive ... and I gave her a chance to walk away before it got to that level."
"Ding, dong; the witch is dead."
"Keep it to yourself for now. Let people think she ran away. Or maybe, I'll bring her body back and deposit it conveniently close to Mr. Rowe once he's been located. Let her death do some good and help put that sick man away for a long time."
"Jalura, I do look a great deal like her father," Trinsch says, as he hands the photo back to Jane. "This could have its advantages."
"We'll see. I have a feeling things are going to come to a head very quickly."
"I'm not sure if I want to agree with you."
"Understood." Jalura looks up at the stage, Mystik Spiral is about to begin.
Location: the Morgendorffer's house, Quinn's bedroom, after dinner
"I don't know, Stacy. I could just blackmail Quinn with the photo I took of her as she was waking up last Sunday morning, if she doesn't feel bound by your promise."
Quinn's eyes flare wide, "You wouldn't! Would you?"
"After this afternoon, no."
Stacy asks, "What happened this afternoon?"
"Quinn and I, and a baker's dozen of the popular people not in the Fashion Club had a little heart-to-heartless with Sandi."
"Daria, it was more like the Showdown at the O.K. Corral! And you were doing a mean Billie Holliday."
"That's Doc Holliday. And nobody died."
"Sandi sure looked like she wanted to, though."
"Tell me all about it! Ooh, I wish I could have been there to see it."
Daria relates the scene from the Pizza King with several interruptions from Quinn.
Location: The Zen
"Excuse me for a minute; I want to tell Trent how much I like the new sound. Also, I need to use the facilities."
Jane turns to Trinsch, "You know, you really could pass for my father. Maybe you could get me out of some classes next week."
"Miss Jane, that would involve me speaking to Ms. Li. Even if she hasn't already imprinted my voice from my berating her over the phone, I would consider talking to her in person hazardous duty, and my services don't come cheap."
"So how much do you get for being her bodyguard?"
"I'm giving Martin a very special rate on this service, but roughly fifty ounces of gold per day."
"Fifty 'ounces' of gold? Per day?"
"I told you my services don't come cheap."
"Well, Jethro, you were sure right about that."
"Since she hasn't explained, maybe you'd care to let me in on the joke?"
Location: Griffin residence
Laura Griffin looks at the phone, but decides not to call the Morgendorffer's after her verbal run-in with Helen.
"I knew Sandi would be able to force a meeting at the Morgendorffer's. I'd better start preparing the guest room for Stacy."
Location: the Morgendorffer's house, Quinn's bedroom
"So, don't you have a date tonight, Quinn?"
"Well, I kind of did, but I'd rather be here."
Stacy looks as if she's about to become uncomfortable as the center of attention. "You really didn't need to cancel any plans on my account, Quinn."
"Stacy, you're my friend. Think of this as an extended sleepover," as Quinn gestures dismissively with her hand.
"And as a bonus, a three day vacation from Sandi."
"Daria's right. We've earned it."
Stacy still doesn't look convinced.
"And what about you, Daria? Did you have any plans for this evening?"
"Not really. Trent's band is doing its usual Friday night gig at the Zen, but there's a finite limit to the number of times I can hear 'Icebox Woman' without running screaming into the night. I probably would have stayed home tonight and read or done homework."
"I've never been to the Zen. What's it like?"
"Grunge club with a grunge band. If you really want to, we can go there tomorrow night. Trent's band is playing again. Seems that one of The Harpies has herpes and doesn't want to be seen during an eruption."
Quinn and Stacy, in chorus, "Ewwwww, that's just gross, Daria."
Location: The Zen
"Hey, we're Mystik Spiral."
Various noises come from the crowd, with appreciative ones mildly beating out derisive ones.
"Before we do our second set, we want you to meet the person responsible for our new sound. Jalura, come on up here."
On seeing Jalura as she takes the stage, the appreciative noises, especially from the males, definitely overpower the derisive noises.
"Thank you. Trent has asked me to play a song. But I told him it'd be your choice whether or not I played."
The appreciative noises are all that can be heard now.
"Okay, I can take a hint." Jalura smiles, and picks up Trent's acoustic guitar, "Give me a second while I put this in an open-D tuning for this." Jalura adjusts the strings as if by sight alone, strums once, nods with an air of satisfaction. "Hey, Trinsch, bring me a barstool. I want to sit while I play."
Trinsch leaves Jane, taking his stool with him to the front.
As he reaches the stage, Jane notices a man with an odd complexion and an orange Mohawk and wearing a leather jacket standing near her. He seems out of place, although Jane can't quite put her finger on why.
Back on the stage, Jalura takes the stool and gets ready. "Alright. This is a song from where I come from. It is called, 'Shadows of My Home.'"
Jalura begins a long, slow introduction.
[Author’s note: In verse six, "All of" is elided as one syllable. The song is in 6/4 time, put a rest after the second line of each verse and after odd numbered lines on the chorus. The tonal line is ascent by thirds, alternating tones, heavy descent on the verses and half-step ascents, heavy descents on the chorus (even numbered lines in choruses and final lines in verses are played as triplets, with quarter notes on the other lines of the verses and eighth notes on the rest of the chorus).]
Where are all
Weren't they here
Not yet so long ago?
Where are all
I have had?
When did this
I never meant
Here, this way.
The road has
Shifted beneath my feet.
So, further on;
Yet to go,
The Shadows of my home.
I've been dreaming of
The Shadows of my home.
I have yet to find
The Shadows of my home.
Where could they have gone?
The Shadows of my home.
I see --
Might have been,
But never really there.
All of them are,
Who am I,
To see myself in here?
In my mind,
The dreams run.
The dreams that never come.
The Shadows of my home.
I've been dreaming of
The Shadows of my home.
I have yet to find
The Shadows of my home.
Where could they have gone?
The Shadows of my home.
The collective mental, and not small collection of verbal <reverent>Whoa</reverent> from the crowd delays its overall response. Finally, someone begins to applaud, and then everyone joins in enthusiastically.
Jane watches the Mohawk Man during the song; he seems to know the rhythm of the song, and maybe even its words.
She approaches him, curiosity overcoming common sense. "Hey."
"She's pretty good, huh?"
"Yeah, the lyrics remind me of Hungarian folk music, but the cadence is almost Languedoc French. Interesting blend."
"Wow, how'd you learn so much about music?"
"Doctoral candidate in Music Theory at the state university. I came down here because I'd heard some good things about the house band. Seems the rumors didn't catch the half of it."
"My brother is the lead guitarist and singer for the band."
"Well, then, "Mohawk Man smiles at Jane. "I'm really glad I said something nice about them." Looks at the stage, "I think they're talking her into another song."
"You blame them?"
"Not a bit."
Mohawk Man is correct. Trent, and the crowd, is convincing Jalura to sing another song. After a moment, she puts down the acoustic guitar and directs Trent to pick up his guitar. Once in position, Jalura gently grasps the arm of, and whispers something to, each band member in turn. Jalura then turns to the audience and steps up to the microphone. "Anyone here from Minnesota?"
No one responds in the affirmative.
"That's too bad, because there are a lot of great bands up there. One that has kind of broken up, even if most of its members are still in the music business, called Cats Laughing, recorded what we're about to play for you. It's called, 'Black Knight's Work.'
Jalura claps once, and the band begins to play, a rockin' little intro.
Black blood, and risky business;
High affairs that never see the sun.
Cold steel, and loaded pistols;
Someone's got to see the work gets done.
When the Black Knight moves,
You can taste the trouble in the air.
You can hear the city
Talking like it doesn't care.
Between the darkness and the light,
Somebody's will gets done tonight.
Before the Black Knight moves again,
You better not be there.
Back streets, and lonely faces;
Where you do the kind of things you do.
Black cloaks, and hidden faces;
When we gonna get a look at you?
When the Black Knight moves,
You can feel the darkness coming on.
You can hear the city
Hide itself away 'til dawn.
Between the knife edge and the skin,
Maybe you'll see the fix go in.
Before the Black Knight moves again,
You'd better be long gone.
[Long instrumental showcase for the members of the band]
No words, you keep your silence;
People talking whispers where you are.
I hear -- the sounds of violence;
Tell me, brother, where'd you get those scars?
When the Black Knight moves,
You can feel a chill across the board.
You can hear the city
Asking what he's looking for.
Between the living and the dead,
You just might see a flash of red.
Before the Black Knight moves again,
You'd better see no more.
You're a man who knows his business;
You can see the Master Plan.
When you play your own position,
You're the Instrumental Man.
When the whole world comes down crashing,
Would the high-born fall as well?
If you kick the table over,
Send the pieces all to He-e-e-e-e-ell.
[Second long instrumental showcase for the members of the band]
Dark deeds, and secret matters;
You can fix it but it doesn't last.
Bright flash; the mirror shatters:
Who's reflected in the broken glass?
When the Black Knight moves,
You can feel a hand disturb the game.
You can hear the city
Asking for the White Pawn's name.
When the Black Knight moves,
You can feel a hand disturb the game.
You can hear the city
Asking for the White Pawn's name.
Between the black squares and the white,
There's gonna be a sacrifice tonight.
Before the Black Knight moves again,
You'd better do the same.
This time, there is no delay to the audience's response. A thunderous applause erupts even as the last chord echoes through the bar.
Jane, however, is ignoring the crowd. Mohawk Man was signing along to the song.
The crowd gets its revenge on Jane by separating them before she can ask him about it. She loses sight of him as the people crowd the stage.
Location: the Morgendorffer's house, Daria's room
Daria is typing into the electronic copy of her journal.
"What a week it has been!
"I suddenly discover that I exist because a god needed a friend, and chose me. No longer will I be able to hide behind my glasses, my books or my attitude: she has challenged me to accept a guardian's role toward the human race, and I have accepted the challenge. As if that isn't shocking enough, I find that my sister may actually be my friend, as well. At the very least, we have found a common goal in helping a classmate, Stacy Rowe, through a very difficult time in her life, and a common enemy in Sandi Griffin. Don't disregard the previous entries on Stacy and Quinn, but accept that there'll probably be some significant updates in the near future.
"About this god, Jalura. She is more along the lines of one of the Greek gods than anything experiencing large-scale worship today. Flawed and far more human than either my father's Judaic monoform God or my mother's Episcopal triune Deity, Jalura is a god you actually can talk to ... and she's got a pretty good sense of humor, to boot. If she had an owl hanging around, the obvious comparison would be to Athena.
"But, she's also got enemies. Her pantheon is fractured and fractious. There is one of her kind who is actively out to kill her. And if she's not careful, he could succeed. Even if he fails, a fight here could cost a lot of lives. I don't call these beings gods without good reason; they are powerful enough to create whole worlds for their amusement or armament at a whim, and probably can destroy them as easily.
"Yes, I do care about people. If you've read this far, you know that I always have. I still think most of them are stupid too often, but maybe that's what makes them -- I mean, us -- human.
"I know these few words won't satisfy the curious reader, but I'm still getting used to openly expressing my emotions and need to sort through all of this before I can elaborate."
Location: The Zen, men's room
"Trinsch. Long time, no see."
"Hey, boss. Nice hair. Does Jalura know you're here?"
"No, and I'd like it to stay that way. She needs to fight this one herself if she's ever going to get over her hero worship of me."
"Understood. She's done pretty well so far."
"Here, take this," as Mohawk Man hands Trinsch a sketch of Jane Lane. Despite apparently only having moments to compose it, the work contains eight colors of ink, and the rather complete picture somehow puts Jane in front of an easel.
"Nice work. How'd you know she's an artist?"
Martin shrugs, "I can tell. With training, she could even make basic trumps."
"You don't say?"
"I was tempted to put the easel facing toward the viewer, but I didn't want to make this a recursive Trump."
"Huh. You know, Jalura called Dworkin asking about Mandelbrot Shadows the other day."
"Really? Twisted minds think alike, I guess. Has there been any trouble?"
"Dalt knows where she is. He managed to hit her with a latent tracking spell some time ago. She thinks it'll take a Pattern-walk to clear it."
"Good for what ails you. Any combat?"
"One fire angel."
"Ah, that would explain where the other one went. Its mate recently attacked Merlin and/or Rinaldo in an 'Alice in Wonderland' Shadow."
"Rinaldo? As in little Rinny, a.k.a. Prince Rinaldo of Kashfa?"
"And as in the son of Brand."
"Lore must be spitting fuchsia."
"He was, until he discovered that he's older than Rinaldo, independent of Shadow time."
"Interesting. So what brings Merlin and the stuck-up, worthless little snot together?"
"A long story, the full version of which I have not yet heard. Merlin didn't have a whole lot of time to talk to me. But apparently Rinaldo is no longer to be considered an enemy."
"We didn't think you'd be in contact for several days yet."
"Merlin's also got Chaos Trumps. He called in some favors in The Courts to get a message delivered to me. And things were done where I was, so I took a double-jump back, and then arrived here."
"How did you get through the security net?"
"There's a small glitch that I was able to exploit. I used raw Magick, rather than Trump or Shadow-shifting."
"I'll have to fix that fast."
"Then off you go. And tell Jalura's friend not to say anything."
Location: Griffin household
Linda Griffin heads up the stairs to get ready for bed.
She says to herself, "Take that, Helen Morgendorffer. Not only is Sandi at your house, she's made it a sleepover."
Location: The Zen
Jalura is still working her way back to Jane's table through a crowd of admirers.
"Don't tell Jalura about the man you spoke to."
"Why not? There's something about him --"
"Something regal, yet hidden?"
"Definitely a presence .... Oh."
"Jalura's been itching to talk to him. She should know."
"No. This fight is hers. She has to do it with no more than my help."
"Because if he fights Dalt for her, she'll never become independent."
"Could have fooled me on that point."
"You've not seen her around him."
"He made a Trump of you in case you're around when trouble comes."
"Can I see it?"
"Jalura's getting close. I don't want her asking questions."
"One more thing ...."
"Don't call me that."
Part 6: Saturday
Location: the Morgendorffer's house
"How did you sleep, Stacy?"
"Okay, I guess."
Helen looks at Stacy, who looks as if she hasn't slept for a week. "Really? I never could sleep well in a new place. Plus, I didn't exactly buy the most comfortable bed for that room," leans in and whispers to Stacy, "You see, I was always afraid that Jake's mother would try to stay for an extended visit and I wanted to subtly dissuade her by making the room as little to her liking as I could do."
"So that explains the closet."
"Well, no. It actually came that way. But that is why we made that room the guest room."
Stacy giggles. "The room is fine, Mrs. Morgendorffer. So when do Quinn and Daria usually get up?"
"Daria will probably be down soon. Quinn won't put in an appearance until she's put her face together."
"I've seen what she looks like before she can put it back together. And Daria's taken photos of it, though she says she won't use them for blackmail anymore."
"They didn't tell you about yesterday?"
"No, they didn't. What happened?"
"Quinn and I did a tag-team off-telling of Sandi ... with a little help from Jodie and everyone who's been kept out of the Fashion Club by Sandi's arrogance."
"Daria, I didn't hear you come down."
Daria, still in her sleepwear, goes to the refrigerator and pours a large glass of orange juice before speaking. "I came down to check on Stacy, only to find myself being talked about behind my back."
Stacy and Helen are both ready to apologize until they see the Mona Lisa smile on Daria's face. Daria continues as she puts two toaster pastries in the toaster, "But, as rumors have to go, this is one for which the spreading of it won't annoy me."
"So you and Quinn are working together, now? Does this mean I won't have to keep you on opposite sides of the table at dinner anymore?"
"And have you and Dad playing 'footsie' under the table? No way. We're keeping you two apart, not you keeping us apart."
"Now, Daria --"
"Mom, I still remember the time you _missed_ Dad's leg. Ewwwwww."
"Daria! We have a guest!"
Daria replies, deadpan, "Who's going to be with us for some time. She's going to get to see that probably every family is dysfunctional in one way or another," 'pop' goes the toaster and Daria gingerly picks up her breakfast and heads toward the table. "Or, at least, has its quirks."
Stacy can not believe the casual friendly teasing banter between Daria and Helen, and doesn't realize that it is something quite new, something that wouldn't have been present a week ago. Stacy decides to try her hand at entering the game, and puts on her best innocent look, "Thanks, Daria. I thought everyone but I lived in a perfect fairy-tale castle, but that image of your mother playing footsie has permanently shattered my childhood innocence."
Daria's eyebrow raises, then she covers her mouth with her hand as she starts to laugh.
Stacy immediately follows Daria into laughter.
Helen, momentarily distracted by the irony of Stacy's words given what she's been through, is slower to join in. But as she does, she thinks to herself, "Already she can make jokes about it. There's more to this girl than at first appears."
Location: a phone booth near the parking lot of a motel, some 200 miles from Lawndale.
The rear end of a brown sedan lowers a bit, as if a large weight has been added to the trunk.
"May you in death do more of good than you ever did in life. Let your soul's torments end, Alexandra Griffin."
Jalura looks out and gestures with her hand, and 'pop' goes the distributor cap as it breaks under the hood of the brown sedan. "Thanks, Merle, for the auto repair lesson."
Picking up the receiver, Jalura dials 911. "Police? Yes, it is an emergency." Holds for a moment, “Oh, thank you. Officer, I saw him. That horrible man from Lawndale, the one who was on TV last night.... Yes, that one.... He's at the Highwayman Inn on Route 6. You'd better hurry.... no, I'm safe here, but I can see his car in the parking lot.... No, that's not necessary. You just make him pay for what he did to that innocent little girl. That's all the reward I need." Jalura hangs up the phone and vanishes.
Location: the Griffin residence
"Tom, did Sandra call while I was out running?"
"No, where is she anyway?"
"At the Morgendorffer's. Helen and Quinn are trying to control poor Stacy's recovery. Sandi is making sure that Stacy will come here where things will be much better for the girl. Sandi had to stay there overnight to help Stacy figure out what is in her best interest."
Tom grunts, being unwilling to argue with his wife, but doubting that this house would be a good place to recover from anything ... including the hangover he is nursing at the moment.
Location: the woods at the north edge of Lawndale
Jalura and a man face each other from each edge of the scorch mark from the fire angel's demise. The man is has his sand-colored hair pulled back in a ponytail and he has on the tans and light browns of a man accustomed to the forest. It is clear that the two are related.
"Alright, Dalt. This ends now. You have one chance to walk away."
"Brave words from a foolish girl."
"Bravery and foolishness are the same actions taken heartbeats apart."
"Then prepare for your heart to beat its last."
"You know, Dalt, where we last fought ... there is a race of beings called Klingons. They have a saying, <Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam> which means, 'It is a good day to die.' Try saying it, because this is your one chance for it not to come true ... walk away now."
"Hah, you and what army?"
"I thought about an army, but I decided I don't need one to deal with you."
"Definitely foolish." Dalt draws a sword and takes a step forward. Then screams in agony as he disappears.
"You can get out of there eventually, Dalt. Bet those bullets hurt, though. When you do get out, don't ever come after me again. Next time I'll send you someplace from which you won't return, at least not alive." Jalura pulls out a match, lights it, and sets on fire the piece of origami work that she reveals to have been held in her left hand.
Dalt's fading screams are heard by no one as Jalura vanishes.
Location: the Griffin residence
Linda Griffin opens the door. She is surprised to find a police officer on her step.
"Yes, how may I help you?"
"May I come in, please?"
"What is this about?"
"Your daughter, ma'am. May I come in please?"
Linda steps aside to let the officer enter. "Has she done something wrong?"
Location: the Morgendorffer's house
Helen Morgendorffer opens the door. She is surprised to find a police officer on her step.
"Yes, how may I help you?"
"Is Stacy Rowe here?"
"May I come in, please?"
"Of course," turns toward the stairs as she makes room for the officer to enter, "Stacy, the police are here and need to talk to you."
"Okay, I'll be down in a second."
Stacy comes down the stairs, followed closely by Quinn and Daria.
"Ms. Rowe, I'm Detective Claire Davis. Please have a seat."
"What is it?" as Stacy sits on the couch.
"Your father is in custody. He's been found and apprehended."
Helen is the first to speak, "Oh, thank God."
Quinn puts her hand on Stacy's shoulder, "This'll soon be over."
Daria adds, "They probably need to make sure you'll be willing to testify against him."
"I'm afraid there's more to it than that. Are you two Quinn and Daria Morgendorffer?"
Quinn nods, and Daria becomes alert as she asks, "Why do you want to know?"
Detective Davis pauses, chews her lower lip, then says, "There's more to it than just having found Mr. Rowe. The body of a young woman was found in the trunk of his car when he was arrested, a Ms. Alexandra Griffin."
Stacy whimpers, and then begins to cry.
Quinn is the first to speak, "Oh, my God."
"Ms. Morgendorffer, and Ms. Morgendorffer, I understand that you had an altercation with Ms. Griffin yesterday."
Helen interrupts, "Just a minute, Officer. You can't just question my daughters like that."
"It is 'Detective,' ma'am. And they aren't suspects. We're quite certain that Mr. Rowe caused MS. Griffin's death, but we're trying to determine how Ms. Griffin came into contact with him."
"It's alright, Mom. Yes, Detective. Quinn and I had a verbal altercation with Sandi yesterday. You are, no doubt, aware of recent events involving Ms. Rowe, and Ms. Griffin was upset that Ms. Rowe was staying here rather than at the Griffin residence. Ms. Griffin, in her own self-centered way, was trying to help Stacy here with some semblance of normalcy by scheduling a meeting of the Lawndale High Fashion Club, in which Sandi, Stacy and Quinn are all members, at our home for last night. Our mother had expressly prohibited visitors until Monday, to give Stacy a chance to get settled in here. When Quinn and I heard about Sandi's intention, we confronted her and forbade her from coming to our house. During the discussion, several other students from Lawndale High expressed support for our position against Sandi. Sandi ran off, toward her house, and that's the last I time I saw her. Quinn, anything to add to that?"
"No, that was the last I saw of her, too. She didn't call over here last night, either."
"Okay, that sounds pretty much like the version of the story everyone has told so far. What the hell got into that girl?"
"I don't know, Detective," as Daria shakes her head. "Is there anything else?"
"Just one more question, if I may. I was told that a Ms. Jalura Duquesne had a verbal altercation with Ms. Griffin earlier in the week ... was Ms. Duquesne among those involved in yesterday's confrontation?"
"No, she wasn't. She was mentioned briefly during the discussion, but she wasn't there."
Detective Davis rises, and heads toward the door. "Thank you, you've been very cooperative. I don't think I'll need to do any follow up with either of you."
Four women watch the detective leave; no one says anything as the door closes.
Location: Chez Duquesne
Jalura opens the door. She is wearing a robe and has her hair in a towel; it looks as if she had recently stepped out of the shower. She appears surprised to find a police officer on her step.
"Ms. Jalura Duquesne?"
"Yes, how may I help you?"
"May I come in, please?"
"Of course," and Jalura shows Detective Davis to the sofa.
"Ms. Duquesne, Mr. Rowe has been apprehended this morning."
"Oh, that's great news. Does Stacy know?"
"Yes, Ms., I just came from the Morgendorffer residence."
"This will really help Stacy's recovery, not to have to live in fear of him anymore."
"I'm afraid there's more to the story."
"The body of a Ms. Alexandra Griffin was found in the trunk of Mr. Rowe's car."
"Oh, my. Body, as in ...?"
"Yes," Detective Davis chews her lip, "I need to ask you a couple of questions, please."
"Of course, officer."
"It's 'Detective,' actually. Ms. Duquesne, when was the last time you saw Ms. Griffin alive."
Jalura thinks for a moment, then says, "Economics class, just before lunch yesterday."
"And did she say anything to you, or you to her?"
"Not then, the last I spoke to her was just after first period."
"And what did you talk to her about?"
"Well, you see, none of us expected Stacy back in school so soon. Sandi ... there's no polite way to say it, is an arrogant little brat who treats Stacy like dirt. I told Sandi in no uncertain terms that I wasn't going to put up with any action by Sandi that would upset Stacy."
"And when you say 'no uncertain terms,' what do you mean?"
"Ummm, I kind of threatened to break her jaw."
"You do realize that, technically speaking, that is a crime?"
"Well, I'll just put down that you and Sandi exchanged words about how to deal with Stacy's presence."
"Don't mention it. I mean that literally."
"I think I understand. Does Stacy know about Sandi?"
"Yes, she was quite upset."
"Damn. I wish Helen hadn't forbidden visitors the whole weekend. Though maybe this is for the best."
"What do you mean by that?"
"You see, Stacy was showing a bit of hero worship toward me for being the person who set in motion what got her out of her situation. Maybe if I'm not there now, that worship won't intensify, and she'll be all right on her own a lot sooner than she otherwise would."
Detective Davis considers this, "That makes sense. I hope you're right."
"So do I."
"Well, your story runs with everyone else's so I think that's it as far as you need be concerned until Mr. Rowe's trial." Detective Davis rises.
"Thank you, Detective." Jalura rises and escorts the police officer to the door.
Location: Mr. DiMartino's freshman American History class
A few glances are cast toward Sandi's empty chair.
"All right, students. I know that many of you are upset about Ms. Griffin's passing, but this is a school and there are a finite number of times in a semester we can deviate from the syllabus. Ms. Rowe, based on the readings, what was Washington's primary military tactic against the British?"
"Ummm, tactical retreat to extend supply lines so that raids could deplete British supplies and morale?"
Mr. DiMartino and Jalura both offer Mona Lisa smiles.
Location: The hallway near Daria's locker
"So, what's the big deal with us going to dinner at Jalura's house?"
"I don't know, Jane. But she said we need to meet her here after class."
Jane leans in and whispers, "Daria, there's something I didn't tell you about Sandi."
Daria looks at her best friend and whispers back, "I know. Jalura told me about it earlier."
"Are you sure we can trust her?"
Jane pauses, then leans back and returns to normal voice, "Well, then, where is she? She's late."
"I am not; I just had to get my stuff." Daria and Jane turn to face Jalura, who walks up to them. "Ready to go?"
"Good, let's go, then."
The three head out of the building and down the street.
"So, I was asking Daria, what's the big deal about having dinner at your house?"
"Not my house, Jane. My home."
"Home? You mean ...."
"I mean. Hang on for the ride of your lives, ladies."