The year had not let up, the winter and spring had limped along, staggering with terrible heat that left an airless feeling hidden behind every building. The rain trickled into the back of her thin drab rain coat and made her shiver, it wasn't cold, it felt like a wretched sweat, the burn of the summer was unbearable, even with the wetness. The ground squelched under her flooded tennis shoes, her socks grew wet and dank as she made her way to the parking lot.
She noticed the wet rain dripped down each window pane and collected like lakes on the rubber of the car.
“Lawndale, ho.” Jane's eyes twinkled at her.
Daria huffed and slid, with a squeak, into the passenger side.
“Now calm down, no heart attacks in the car. Might hurt the retail value.” Jane patted the dashboard, Daria rolled her eyes.
The car was held together with duct tape and a prayer.
“I'll try to contain myself, couldn't live if somehow I took the value down to 5 dollars over the the 10 it should get.”
“Hey now, it's at least worth 50, I mean, the back seat is intact and hey we have a doughnut back there.”
“It doesn't count if it's an empty Entenmann's box.”
The dark haired girl snorted, “As if, I am in an Arts college, I couldn't afford something as fancy as that.”
“Sorry to rub your face in my wealth.”
“You're making me want some doughnuts.” Daria could feel Jane eye her but kept her own eyes on the drops racing down the front window. She hoped the one on the left would win. It seemed staggered and little.
The left drop limped slowly along. “Nothing. Just super excited about this long gloomy summer.”
The poor drop slide into another and stopped moving. “It's got nothing to do with him.”
The drop that was on the right side reached the bottom and it was gone too.
Winning was losing.
“Is it your parents?”
Then maybe loosing was just winning faster and better.
“No, really it's nothing. Have you ever seen me happy for anything?”
“I can read and speak Daria rather fluently at this point and I have to say, you're on the depressing side right now.”
“You need a refresher course, maybe consult that translation guide.”
The rain kept coming down and she didn't let her eyes leave the path the drops were. There were new ones now, the rain was harder and it sounded like Max's drumming, off rhythm. It made her throat itch.
“Trent's pretty excited.”
“How could you tell?”
“He took the day and night off. No gig.”
“And no nap? He must have really missed you. His bed might try to kill you for coming between them, at this point I'm sure they're common law married.”
Jane was quiet for a minute. “He's not that bad anymore.”
Daria felt her throat close, she could hear David in her head, why so cruel, don't you know when to just not- She shook her head.
She always kept going.
“It's been a long time since I saw him you know. I mean I've avoided Lawndale for two years now.”
“Well just be prepared, it's changed a lot.”
But it hadn't.
Even the outskirts of the town were the same.
Same floppy wet grass.
Even the air smelled the same, choking and small.
Daria sighed and closed her eyes again. She pressed her knees into the glove compartment, she wanted to open the door and run.
Everything in her skin told her that she was going to regret coming here.
“Home sweet home.”
“Could be sweeter.” Her voice waved.
“A couple hour car ride, and still so- Really, what is it?”
“I don't think I should have come.” Daria licked her lips.
“Is it really that bad with your parents? I know that you've had some trouble with-”
“It's not them, or I don't know, maybe it is. Just a gut feeling.” She blinked long again. “It feels like a step backwards or I- like something terrible is waiting for me. You know me, I don't subscribe to the generality of feelings. But- I- I think there's something in the air. Like a bad thing.” She shook her head again.
Daria finally looked at Jane, who kept glancing between Daria and the road. “Like are you afraid you're going to die? Like that kind of bad.”
Daria rolled her eyes, “No. Like I can taste the change in the air.”
“So change, you're afraid something is changing?”
Daria felt silly all the sudden. Like she was standing exposed. “Forget it.”
“No, I want to understand.”
“It's the writer in me.”
“Really? Because you write political intrigue and things about revolution. Not a lot about feelings.”
The town tumbled along the window and Daria tried to swallow down the shivers.
“I'm not making fun of you. I mean- I usually do, it's fun to wind you up, but I can tell, something is really bothering you. Has been for awhile, since David-” Jane stopped talking and her fingers drummed the steering wheel.
“You can say his name without me freaking out. It's over and I'm fine.”
“You never said what happened.”
“It's over.” She used her stern voice. The one that said there was nothing else to say. The road was shimmering and the unsteady rain plopped around them.
“I know.” Jane's voice was quiet, barely reached over the radio, “but, I meant how, I thought he was on the brink of marriage not divorce.”
There were over-sized puddles surrounding the drains, there was no where for anything to go.
“I'm a lot to handle.” Daria shrugged.
The smile didn't reach Daria's eyes. But it was there.
“And you know I can't handle weakness.” She said it with a low monotone. But it lifted something off her shoulders. And outside the rain kept going, filling the ditches and the drains and drowning the grass.
Summer was just starting but it felt like it was dying.
They arrived at Jane's almost 10 minutes later.
The driveway was cracked and weeds spring like arms from them, even in the rain, they seemed stronger and more alive then the rest of the city.
The thought of it gave Daria pause. It sucked the air from her lungs. She stared at it from the window for too long.
“Daria?” Daria opened the door and stood in the rain. It soaked through her hair and dripped into her shoes.
“Sorry, Jane. Just was thinking.” Daria made way to the trunk as she spoke, but her mind kept picturing the weeds, the winding crack.
“About?” Jane asked as she fiddled with the keys.
Like a garden of the unwanted. Those weeds, those horrible cracks. “Gardens.” It came out like a cough, sudden and without thinking.
“You. Are. So. Weird.” But Daria could hear the laughter in her voice.
“Hey Daria.” She turned quickly and her fogged glasses made a halo around him.
“Trent.” He reached for her, his arms snaked around her for hug.
She stiffened and he paused.
“Sorry.” He grinned. “Forgot you aren't into being touched.”
She nodded but hugged him briefly. “It's been awhile.” She remembered the last time she had seen him, it had been at a show, so long ago. He'd looked down at her from the stage, smiled slightly and then nothing. She'd gone home before the second set. She'd left while he'd been sleeping. The crush was gone and over but still he made something in her sieze. Maybe because he was so different from her. Something she envied. He could live without structure. Without the future beating him.
She couldn't move without thinking about how it would effect everything. She played chess with life. And Trent was off playing nothing, there was never a game from, nothing to win at. Nothing to lose at either and it made her jealous in an odd sort of way.
She glanced up at him again while they got soaked and his arms still pulled at her.
But she didn't see him as he was at the moment. She saw him ages ago, with the goatee, the slumped back. Staring at her from the stage.
Like he had answers for questions she hadn't thought of yet.
“What about a sister?”
He laughed, let Daria go and was to Jane in a few steps. They crashed into each other and Daria wondered what it would be like to look forward to seeing a family member. She froze thinking of calling her parents. They'd be angry she wasn't coming to stay with them. She have to hear the disappointment.
“Missed you, Brother.”
“You too, Janey.”
“Well let's get inside, Daria's got a garden to plan.”
He raised an eyebrow at her but she ignored it in favor of grabbing her bags from the trunk.
“Let me help.”
“I'm not going to turn down help with manual labor.” She shoved a bag at him and he picked up three of Jane's bags along with hers.
She watched as he scuttled along to the house.
The cracks seemed like canyons.
He jumped over a puddle and landed on the stretching weeds.
“Are you coming? Or waiting to drown?”
Drown. She thought. Let me drown.
She shrugged instead. “Sorry-”
“The gardens?” Jane grabbed the sleeve of Daria's jacket and dragged her long.
There was a shadow of life where once stood a weed.