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A Slice of College

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The first time they went for pizza in Boston, they met at the Uno's in Kenmore Square. They'd only been away a week, but it had been weird not seeing Jane every day, and something in Daria relaxed once they were in the same place again. Not that she would ever say anything that cheesy out loud.

"So I think BFAC's not going to suck."

"Don't sound so surprised."

"You know me: fount of eternal optimism."

Daria snorted.

"Seriously, though. There are some decent artists in my 101, and the pretentiousness level is surprisingly low."

"Raft's not so bad either. It's not Lawndale, for starters�'—"

"An obvious point in its favor," Jane interjected.

"--Right. We've got our share of idiots, but the ratio of morons to actual human beings is pretty good."

"And no room-mate?"

"Thank God." Her room wasn't much bigger than a shoebox, but at least she didn't have to share.

Jane, it turned out, had a room-mate named Teri who sported multiple tattoos and piercings and played bass in a band. "Like Trent, only female."

"And with a modicum of motivation, if she got into BFAC."

Jane raised an eyebrow. "You think I'm motivated?"

"You're here," Daria pointed out.

Jane drained the end of her first Coke. "You nudged me, Morgendorfer. What was I supposed to do, live with your bitching the rest of my life?"

She got up to refill her glass and Daria smiled into her deep-dish single-serving margherita pizza. College wasn't going to be so bad.


The second time she and Jane went for pizza, they tried a Bertucci's. The Uno's, they'd agreed, had good food, but felt too much like a restaurant: the waitstaff were too polite, the wood-paneling too dark. It was too fancy to serve their regular pizza needs.

"Heard from Tom?"

Daria nodded. "He emailed this morning. Bromwell seems to be treating him�'—"

"Well?" Jane filled in.

"Yeah." Daria thought about their college visit, and repressed a shudder. "God, I'm glad I didn't wind up there."

"A little too propah for geeks like us."

"Sing it, sister."

It was good to talk to Tom. She still missed being his girlfriend sometimes. But some relationships just worked better this way: friends, with a frisson of desire you both knew you weren't going to indulge.

Their pizza arrived, putting an end to her reverie. They talked about other things.


If it was a collegiate cliche, Daria resisted it. She had no intention of putting on the Freshman Fifteen, walking misty-eyed through piles of autumn leaves, attending her freshman entry's tailgate parties at Raft football games, or attending a cappella concerts. Period.

Okay, so fall was actually really pretty. But she wasn't going to get caught gawking at it.

Parents' weekend came, and with it came the Morgendorfers. Unsurprisingly, they hadn't changed in the six weeks she'd been gone, although she felt like she had, in ways they probably wouldn't notice or understand.

Her father kept up a running monologue ("Daria, this place is great! Just great! Listen, kiddo, I can't tell you how glad I am that you ditched that crazy military-school idea...") and her mother fielded work calls on the cellphone all day ("Nooooo, Eric, of course you're not interrupting") and, thank God for small blessings, Quinn had manipulated them into letting her stay home for a weekend with the former Fashion Club. Who apparently weren't a club anymore, but still spent every waking moment talking about hemlines and eyelash curlers anyway.

Friday night they ate in a dining hall, because her dad thought it would be fun and Daria took a perverse pleasure in acquiescing and then dropping comments like, "Wow, Dad, you're really a good sport about eating squirrel" and watching him yelp and jump out of his seat. Her mother just rolled her eyes.

They had a room in a hotel a few miles from campus, but they walked her to her dorm after dinner. "You're sure you don't want to stay with me?" Daria asked again, knowing they would say no.

"Hey! Helen, we could camp out in a common room, it'd be fun, just like when we were�'—"

"Jake." Firmly. "Thank you, Daria, but our hotel isn't far, and we don't want to impose. Besides, you might want to have some fun with some of the other kids tonight!" Her mother winked elaborately. "We wouldn't want to cramp your style."

Daria hoped nobody from her hall was near enough to overhear this stuff. They said their goodnights and her parents wandered off in search of wherever they'd parked the car.

They were knocking on her dorm room door before eight the next morning. "Daria, honey? Our schedule says there's a roundtable discussion for freshmen and their parents in fifteen minutes!"

Daria groaned and turned on her illicit coffeepot. By noon she was twitchy. She pleaded workload, sent them off to walk the Freedom Trail, and called Jane. They met for pizza.


Later that month, Jane invited her to a dance at BFAC.

"Who are you, where is your pod, and what have you done with Jane?"

"Come on, Daria," Jane began.

"Did you mean to dial some other number?"

"It's the Queer Bash. The BGLTU throws it. Good costumes. Drag show. C'mon," Jane wheedled.

"I don't dance," Daria reminded her.

"You don't have to! It's supposed to be the weirdest party on campus, I want you to come."

"I don't have anything to wear." She felt ridiculous even saying that, but if Jane noticed, she didn't let on.

"So come by my room early. I'll find you something."

"I'm going to regret this," Daria grumbled, but they both knew it was a formality.


"I feel stupid."

"Hold still." Jane finished pencilling around her right eye and stepped back to admire her handiwork. "I wish you'd let me streak your hair."

"What part of 'no hair dye' did you not understand?"

"Hey, at least I can paint a straight line."

Daria snorted. Jane's room-mate, lounging on her bed, looked from Jane to Daria and back again, obviously not getting it. Daria had no intention of explaining. She was just glad they could laugh about it now. It hadn't been very funny at the time.

Daria stood up and walked over to the mirror that leaned against the closet door. Borrowed fishnets, torn jean cutoffs, a sheer black shirt over a black bra, and makeup. "I don't look like myself."

"You look hot," Teri offered.

"See?"

"Won't kill you to look sexy for a few hours," Jane said, pulling on leather pants.

"How do you know?"

"Take a chance, Daria."

"Fine. But if I end up on a Pride float in leather chaps, you get to tell my mother it was all your fault."


In hindsight, it was obvious the punch had been spiked. Because Daria wasn't entirely sure how she wound up with women on either side of her, grinding in time with Madonna, with Jane nowhere in sight. Someone's thighs pressing against her butt, her own legs practically wrapped around someone else's thighs. The heat and sound were dizzying.

"Hey," came a shout from somewhere behind her and to the left. Jane's shout. Daria felt an absurd wave of relief.

"C'mon, let's get some air."

Daria extricated herself from the line of women, which closed seamlessly as though she'd never been there, and followed Jane out a side door onto a little balcony. Once the doors closed behind them the pounding of the music receded, and the cold crisp air was fantastic. Daria gulped it, thirsty.

"That was some dancing," Jane said, an eyebrow raised.

Daria opened her mouth to say something appropriately caustic, but what came out was, "I have no idea how that happened."

"That was kind of hot." Jane was studiously looking away, which Daria almost missed because her immediate inclination was to look away, too.

"You're certifiable," was the best she could come up with.

Jane raised both hands, defensive. "No one's ever argued otherwise."

The door opened with a blast of techno, and two boys spilled out, practically on top of each other. They had their hands in each others' pockets, and before Daria could blink they were kissing, leaning on the railing, almost knocking into her, oblivious.

"Um. It might be time to go home," she said.

"Yeah," Jane said, sounding distracted.

"I want my clothes back," Daria reminded her.

"This way," Jane said.


Teri had left a note scrawled on the white-erase board on their door: "Spending night with Andy, see you tomorrow."

"Hey, Teri's out, stay here," Jane said, letting them in and flipping on a desk lamp.

Daria eyed Teri's unmade bed warily.

"C'mon, Daria, there's nothing growing in it," Jane said. "Besides. It's after midnight. The T's about to stop running."

Daria thought about standing on the platform, watching rats scuttle around the coal-looking rocks between the railroad ties, and shuddered. "Fair."

Jane bent and unlaced her boots and started peeling her leather pants off.

Daria felt her face heating up, and turned away fast, clumsy fingers working at unbuttoning her borrowed shirt. She'd stayed over at Jane's more times than she could imagine counting, but it felt different to be sharing a dorm room. Not like the Lanes had ever kept an eye on them (or even been there, most of the time), but there was something different about being completely on their own. Where they could do whatever they wanted and nobody would know.

Not that there was anything they wanted. Certainly there was nothing Daria wanted. Nothing that --

"Daria?"

Jane's voice right behind her made her jump. "Aaa!"

"Relax, I just wondered if you needed some help."

"Getting undressed?" Daria's voice squeaked.

"You've been standing there for ages."

"I was thinking about something else." Daria tugged at the recalcitrant button and it popped off and rolled across the floor. "Shit. Sorry."

"Hey, no biggie, I never liked that shirt anyway." Jane tossed a flannel nightshirt at her.

"Be right back," she said, and headed out the door. The bathroom was down the hall: that had to be where she was going.

Daria changed fast, yanking the fishnets down her legs and letting them puddle on the floor, and had just pulled the nightshirt on when the door opened again. Struck by a sudden weird shyness, she dove for a bed and yanked the coverlet up over her legs.

"Um. Daria."

"Mm-hm?"

"That's my bed."

"Oh!" Color flooded her cheeks for the second time in ten minutes. "Sorry." She scooted out of the bed and moved across the room.

"You had more punch than I thought," Jane mused, reaching for the mug on her desk and sniffing its contents, then proffering it. "Here: have some water or you'll be sorry in the morning."

"Thanks," Daria said, lamely, taking the mug. The water felt good going down: cool and penetrating. Some part of her brain was still making asinine arguments for why she didn't remotely, at all, wonder what it would be like to climb back over into bed with her best friend. She shivered.

Jane, thank God, didn't notice. She was turning out the desk light and sliding into her own bed.

"Hey," Jane's disembodied voice floated over, a few minutes later.

"Yeah?"

"Thanks for coming."

"It wasn't so bad."

"Where'd you learn to dance like that? You been holding out on me?"

Jane was teasing, obviously, but Daria felt a frisson run up her spine. Okay: the way to deal with this conversation was to end it. "Good night, Jane."

"'Night, John-Boy."


Back in her dorm room the next night, Daria couldn't sleep. Even reading Doestoevsky wasn't knocking her out.

She turned off the bedside lamp and stared at the ceiling.

After a while she reached for the small vibrator she kept in a shoebox under the bed.

She held it against herself and cast about for something sexy to think of. The buzz would get her off even if she were solving quadratic equations in her head, but it felt better when she was actually into it beforehand.

When she was dating Tom, she'd felt guilty sometimes. Not about masturbating, but about how she never thought of him while doing it. Kissing Tom was great; groping around with Tom was fun; but somehow it had never connected with this near-nightly ritual. What she did in her own bed with her own fingers was different. Her fantasies had nothing to do with her life: they were weird amalgamations of image and desire. Probably said all kinds of things about her twisted psyche, which she had absolutely no desire to probe, not least because she held a superstitious fear that the fantasies would lose their power to excite her if she thought about them too hard.

There were half a dozen she returned to regularly. Daria thumbed through them mentally, wondering which one would do it...

...when her mind filled itself, improbably, with the sensation of women's bodies surrounding hers. One sweaty pair of thighs behind her; another in front.

She shook her head and flipped the vibrator switch to "on." She didn't need a fantasy tonight. She would just melt into the sensation, the tickle of the buzz at just the right angle.

She wasn't thinking about palming her way up Jane's leather pants. She wasn't thinking about a glimpse of collarbone beneath Jane's flannel nightgown. She wasn't thinking about Jane at all.


The next time they went for pizza, Daria was nervous. She didn't want anything to be different. What if Jane knew?

But Jane showed up about a minute after she did, and as soon as they were in the same place again the butterflies left her stomach, because this was Jane, and they were cool. Daria let herself enjoy the feeling of relief.

"So hey," Jane said, in between slices of gooey cheese pizza. "I think I might be seeing somebody."

Great, Daria thought. So much for ever actually saying anything about being interested in you. Not like I was going to say anything anyway.

"Good for you," she said, automatically. "So who is he?"

Jane was fiddling with her napkin. "Um. Her name is Rowena. She models for my life drawing class."

Daria blinked. She wanted to make a snide comment about dating somebody who was nude when you met, but she bit it back.

Jane's mouth tightened. "Fine, don't say anything."

"Wait, I didn't�'—" Daria took a deep breath. "It's cool. I'm happy for you."

"You don't mean that. God, Daria, I never thought you'd be weird about bisexuality."

"I'm okay with it," Daria said. You don't know how okay. "I was just...surprised. Maybe a little jealous," she added, feeling brave.

"Guys at Raft just not turning your crank, huh?"

You don't know the half of it, Daria thought again, but she chickened out of saying anything about how or why. "Yeah, I guess."

The silence was awkward. When Jane changed the subject, her voice had brightened too far. Daria's heart sank.


They didn't have pizza the next week. Neither one of them called to make a date. Daria told herself midterms were the reason why.

She told herself she wasn't jealous of Rowena.

She stood outside the house where the Raft Queer Student Union met, listening to the people laughing and talking inside, but couldn't bring herself to go inside.

She thought about going to meet with a peer sexuality counselor during open hours, but every time she imagined the conversation and how it might go, she wanted to take up smoking or heroin or something less humiliating and painful than admitting I have a thing for my best friend and she's dating another girl.

Daria hung out more with other Raft people: the guy on her hall who spoke Elvish, Susan from her intro American Studies class, Hiromi and her comics collection. Every time she got back to her room and there was no blinking light on her answering machine, she wrapped her arms around herself and threw her bookbag on the bed. Every time the light flashed, and the message proved to be from someone other than Jane, she felt even worse.

But break was impending. The thought of two weeks in Lawndale was depressing. The thought of two weeks in Lawndale without being able to snark with Jane to moderate the misery was even worse.

The night before the term ended, she stayed up late drafting an email. "Hey," she finally wrote. "Sorry I haven't called. Can I buy you some za to make up for it? Call me at my parents' starting tomorrow.�'—Daria" She hit "send" and sat there, staring blankly at the suitcase she had yet to pack.

Jane's return email arrived within five minutes. "How's Saturday? Same Bat-place, same Bat-channel. See you.�'—J."


The pizza parlor was exactly the same, which was weird, somehow. Daria bought a large pepperoni pie and two sodas and waited.

Jane was ten minutes late, but she came.

Daria told herself she shouldn't be so pathetically relieved to see her, but she couldn't help herself.

They talked about random stuff�'—finals, the trip back to Lawndale�'—through their first slices of pizza.

Finally Daria screwed up her courage to just ask. "So how's Rowena?"

"We broke up."

Don't look gleeful, Daria told herself.

"We didn't have that much in common."

"Oh."

"Daria, look: I'm sorry I was such a bitch about it."

"What?"

"I got all in your face. I should have given you some time to get used to the idea. I was uncomfortable the first time I thought seriously about, you know, women with other women, too."

"Jane, no, you're�'—" Daria stopped and took a deep breath. "That's not why I was weird about it."

"So why, then?"

Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit, her brain supplied helpfully.

Jane just looked at her. As if she knew something important were about to come out of Daria's mouth.

"I think I'm bi too." Daria felt too-loud, too-big, like everyone in the room was listening, but plowed on before her nerve ran out. "I guess I kind of had a crush on you."

Jane didn't look furious: that had to be a good sign. Right? "Daria, you�'—"

"Daria! Jane!" It was Jodi. "It's so good to see you guys! How are you?"

Daria resisted the urge to scream.


Two minutes after Jodi, Mac showed up. Then Kevin and half of the football team. Then Quinn came in, and against all odds actually came over to say hi, which ordinarily would have given Daria a kind of grudging pleasure at seeing her sister actually grow into a person, but at this particular moment made her grit her teeth until her jaw hurt.

There was no prayer of finishing their conversation.

Jane looked as frustrated by that as Daria was, but Daria oscillated wildly on whether or not she thought that was a good thing. Maybe they wouldn't ever finish it. Maybe that was okay. Maybe she would commit seppuku in the women's room. No, it was dirty in there and she'd probably botch it and wind up with septicemia, guest-starring on "Sick, Sad World" as the girl who failed to kill herself with a dull plastic knife.

By the time they made their excuses and left the pizza shop, Daria's insides were tied in knots.


"You should have said something." They were walking towards the Morgendorfers' in the cold dark.

"When?"

"Whenever you figured it out!" Jane sounded exasperated.

"I was drunk the last time I saw you," Daria protested. "And then you were dating Rowena. What was I supposed to do, tell you to dump her and choose me instead?"

"YES!"

Jane's shout stopped her short. Jane stopped, too, and stood with her hands in her coat pockets, a foot away. "Jesus, Daria, you're my best friend."

"That doesn't mean you want to date me." Feeling stubborn. Not sure why she was trying to argue Jane out of it, but unable to stop herself.

"It might!"

"How was I supposed to know that?"

"You could have asked."

There was a silence. A car drove past.

"So now what?"

"Do you still�'—are you still interested?"

"Yeah," Daria admitted.

"Okay."

"Okay? Okay like you can deal with it but you secretly wish I'd never been born, or okay like�'—"

And then Jane's arm was sliding around her and Jane's mouth was on hers. Her lips were softer than Tom's had ever been, and they tasted like kiwifruit lip balm, and their bodies were pressed together, and Daria closed her eyes and bit Jane's lip and was startled when Jane gasped and pressed closer, her long thigh breaking the flow of Daria's coat.

When the kiss stopped Jane pulled back, but not far.

"Oh," Daria said, stupidly.

"Yeah," Jane echoed.

There was a pause. Daria's lips were wet in the cold air.

The second time, she initiated the kiss. It was warm and sweet and perfect.

"I can't believe I'm saying this," Jane murmured into the hair over her ear, "but somebody might see us, and this is Lawndale. Do we care?"

"They all thought we were dykes in high school anyway," Daria pointed out, feeling brazen.

"Good point."

Midway through the third kiss Jane's hand snaked its way under her coat and sweater and touched her bare back. It felt like an icicle.

"Hey!" Daria jerked away.

"Sorry."

"Cold, damn it."

"I said I was sorry."

"Uh-huh. C'mon," Daria said, starting towards home again. There was a silence. "Um. Now what?"

Jane grinned wickedly. "How soon do you think your parents would let you sleep over?"

"They're going to give me that whole song and dance about how I haven't been home in three months."

"Huh." Jane shrugged. "Okay, you'll have to invite me over, then."

"My parents will hear us!" Scandalized, but already imagining it anyway.

"Bite a pillow. Suck it up and deal."

"Me? Maybe you're the one who'll be noisy."

"Make me," Jane said.

Daria grinned at the dark winter sky. "I will."