The last bell rang. Daria didn't move from her desk, in no hurry to go anywhere. She just continued to read her novel. She expected no interruptions. Most people ignored her even when she wasn't giving off a don't-talk-to-me-this-book-is-far-more-important-to-me-than-you-are aura. Most days, she would be right in her expectations. Not today.
Brittany waited until the room cleared, then came over and sat facing backwards in the seat in front of Daria. She didn't say a word or make a noise, just sat there, staring. At first, Daria ignored her and hoped she would just go away, but as time went on, it became apparent that that wasn't going to happen. Brittany was obviously waiting to talk to Daria, and she was being her thoughtful, if somewhat airheaded, self in waiting for Daria to finish reading first. If it were anyone else (well, anyone else other than Jane), Daria would've simply continued to ignore until the end of time, but every time she was slightly cruel to Brittany, her conscience bothered her. It was like kicking a dog. A particularly stupid, but very sweet dog.
She put her book down. "Yes?"
"Oh, did you finish reading? I didn't want to interrupt." Brittany squeaked.
"I'm done for now." Daria replied, not bothering to say that she had been at a very interesting part that she would've never chosen to stop at normally. "What do you need?"
"Well," said Brittney, fidgeting. "I need some advice."
Daria nodded. That was expected. Most people would go to one of their friends for advice, but Brittany did not. Her friends were shallow and stupid a best, and vicious, selfish, stuck-up typical popular crowd mean girls at worst. Brittany was not the sharpest tool in the shed, but she was smart enough not to go to any of them for what would surely be disastrous advice. Somewhere along the way, she had figured out that Daria and Jane were both much smarter than even their grades would tell, and she had made it her habit to come to them for advice, so Daria was somewhat used to this already. "What is it this time?"
"I broke up with Kevin."
"Oh, is it already Wednesday? I didn't realize. And it was your turn this week. So, you guys'll hook back up tomorrow, then?"
"No." Brittany shook her head sadly. "We won't. It's for reals this time. See, the thing is, I started liking someone else. It was actually kind of a long time ago, but I just kept dating Kevin anyway because he's sweet and nice and stupid like me, and we just kind of get along together, and I didn't think this other person would like me, but then I was thinking the other day, and I was like, no, I can't keep dating Kevin and liking someone else, cause that's like, deception, or whatever. I mean, it's just leading him on, cause what if he thinks this relationship is going somewhere, when I know I'm not going to be with him forever, and that's just not fair. So I had to break up with him, and it was really sad, and now I'm sad."
Daria blinked, trying make sense of the nonstop verbal rapid-fire her ears had just been assaulted with. "Okay. So you broke up with Kevin and now you're going to date someone else?"
"That's the part I need advice on." Brittany sighed. "See, I don't think I'm this person's type. I need help so I won't be rejected. Cause I'm really, really afraid of rejection. Especially this time. Like, I don't remember ever being this freaked out by anything ever before."
"So...you need dating advice, and you come to me?" Daria said incredulously. There couldn't possibly be another person at the school less qualified to give dating advice. She'd never been on a date, she didn't really interact much with people in general, let alone with guys in a romantic sense, and the one time she had a crush, she couldn't even spit out two words in front of the guy.
"Yes! I was like, this person is super smart, how would I appeal to a smart person? And then I was like, ask a smart person, of course! Brittany, you're a genius! Not really though, cause if I was really a genius I'd just ask myself. Actually, I wouldn't even have to ask myself, because I'd already be a smart person instead of a dumb person trying to appeal to a smart person, which would solve the whole problem. But yeah, once I figured out that I could just ask a smart person, I was like, who's the smartest person I know? Daria! So I came to you."
Daria shook her head slowly. "That's not how it works. Being smart in general doesn't make someone a love expert. I don't think I can help you out with this one."
Brittany looked even sadder than before. "Well, I guess I'm stuck then. You were my only hope."
"Why don't you ask your other friends? They're all dating experts."
"No, they can only give me advice like 'show off the goods!' and 'use this makeup!'. Maybe that would be good enough usually, but I'm pretty sure it's not going to work this time." Her face lit up. "That makes me happy though."
"What's that?" Daria asked curiously.
"You said 'other friends'. That means we're friends."
Daria started at that. She hadn't even realized it. She had never called Brittany her friend, not even in her own head, before. Daria was one to keep her circle of friends very, very small. Just Jane, really. She was a cynical person, quick to see the worst in everyone and point it out, a person who just doesn't like people in general. But she had to admit, it took a very special person to stand uncorrupted at the top of the high school totem pole, maintaining innocence in a toxic atmosphere of scandals and gossip, one-upmanship, sex, drugs, and the rest of the worst humanity was capable of. Possibly the only person who could was sitting right in front of her. A very rare, gentle smile crossed Daria's face. "Yes, Brittany, we're friends."
"Yay." She was far more subdued than her usual energetic self, but she was clearly happy, almost tearfully so. "So, friend, are you sure you can't help me out?"
"Well," Daria gave in. "Maybe if you describe the person a little?" She didn't bother asking who it was. Daria didn't bother learning people's names, usually. At this school, she knew Kevin, and...Kevin. Oh yes, and then there were those guys that want to date her sister, the three J's, that's all she knew them by. And Upchuck. She was 99% certain it wasn't going to be one of those guys, so it wasn't someone she knew.
"Sure!" Said Brittany enthusiastically. "Smart, really really smart, quiet, kind, kind of, I don't know, that thing where you say stuff but you really mean the opposite?"
"Yeah, that! Sarchastic. And a little gloomy, I guess."
"What about good looking?" Daria had expected that to top the list.
"You know, I didn't used to think so, but ever since I started crushing it's like, yeah! Really, really good looking. But I don't think other people really think so as much. Kind of like me, before. I don't really get it anymore. What was I thinking?"
"I've heard love can do that to you."
Brittany's eyes went wide as saucers. "Love?" She reached the very top of her very high vocal range. "You think I'm in love?"
"Well, as I said, I'm no expert, but you're giving off all the signs."
She buried her face in her hands. "Oh no, this is really bad. Now I'm even more scared than before. What if this person is my one true love and I get rejected cause I'm so stupid?"
"Uhhh." Daria was totally unprepared for this situation. To begin with, she never expected anyone to come to her for relationship advice. And now the virtual queen of the school, the most beautiful, popular girl in town, needed her help with a lack of self-confidence. Oh, the irony. On the other hand, this should be a relatively easy fix. "Brittany, listen to me. You're not that d- I mean, you're kind of sm- I mean, smart people don't always date people as smart as them. If you're pretty and nice, and you are, sometimes that's enough. And...you're probably not as dumb as you and most other people think you are, either." She felt she could safely say at least that much.
"Really?" Brittany sniffed, raising her head to look at Daria.
"Really. There's no one in this whole school that would reject you. You can probably just say, 'here's the time and place', and you'll have your date."
"Can you guarantee me that, Daria?" Brittney's face suddenly became very intense.
"What, guarantee? Well, I don't know about that." Brittany continued to stare at her with pleading eyes. Daria began to feel herself cave once more. "But what would my guarantee be worth anyway? It's just my opinion, it doesn't mean anything."
"It does to me. I respect your opinion the most, Daria."
Well, there's a load of pressure dropped in her lap. She sighed and rubbed her temples. She tried visualizing it, imagining Brittany walking up and asking out various guys at the school. She tried to imagine them turning her down. The visions became unrealistic, like an overacted comedy. It was a laughable, and impossible, situation. There was just no way. "Okay, sure Brittany. I guarantee it. No one at this school will reject you."
"AAAAAHHHH! Yay, I'm so happy!" Brittany grabbed Daria around the neck and pulled her into a long, deep kiss. "So I'll pick you up at 7:00 on Friday, then!" She got up and danced around a little. "I'm so excited! Oh, I need to shop, I don't have a thing to wear! See you Friday, my love-muffin!" She bounced out of the room.
Daria hadn't moved a muscle since being kissed. She just continued to stare straight ahead. Her book lay forgotten on her desk. A few minutes later, Jane walked into the classroom.
"Oh, there you are, Daria. I was wondering where you got to. Ready to walk home?"
Daria didn't respond.
"Hello, earth to Daria." Jane looked at what held Daria's attention. "That must be a really interesting wall, there. But seriously, we need to go home at some point today. Don't really feel like staying the night here. Daria?"
She waved her hand in front of Daria's face. Nothing.
"Well, I see that Daria's brain has left the building. I guess I'll just...go too?" She walked slowly toward the exit, repeatedly glancing back expectantly at her friend, until she was out of sight. Daria just continued to stare.
People walked by the room, sometimes pointing and laughing at the immobile girl at the desk. The janitor came in and cleaned the room, working around Daria like she wasn't there, though occasionally giving her a curious glance. When he finished and left, Daria was alone for hours, staring into nothing. Night fell. As the room began to darken around her, Daria suddenly jerked hard in reaction. "Wait a second. Did I just get suckered...by Brittany?!"