Waking up in Penny's room was different, the small window spread only the thinnest rays of light, they barely reached the bed that sat like a couch where it was hunkered and low and seemed to squat against the corner.
But it was still so warm. The rain had waned sometime in the night but the clouds hung low and weary in the sky, like a threat, like they were just waiting for the right moment to open up.
She'd slept in a pair of short pajamas but had at some point kicked them off in a fit of sweaty rage. The covers laid dropped and careless on the floor.
And the sweat gathered at every nook of her body. She could smell the moist clinging scent rolling off of her.
The room was stale and she had to remind herself to take deep breaths. All this time she was wishing for the rain to end when she should have been thinking of a wind or of some movement of air.
She pulled herself up and looked around for her bag. Jane had cleaned out some of the drawers for her but she couldn't make herself unpack.
She still dreamed of running.
Making that fast get away.
She still had time before the Lane household would be up. As it was barely 7 am on a Wednesday. But it was already burning. The fan behind her sputtered and started again on it's turn around the room.
She sighed and clicked the door behind her. The bathroom light was on but the door was wide open.
“Is the anyone there?” She stayed back from the door just in case.
“It's me.” Trent's voice was low and cracked.
“Sorry.” She spun back around.
“Hey, you don't have to go.”
“Well, unless something has radically changed from just a few hours ago, I don't think your bathroom suddenly grew multiple shower stalls.”
“Well no, but I am done. I was just drying off.”
“With the door open?”
She heard his laugh, throaty, no cough. She blushed, but she wasn't really sure why.
“Yeah, it's just so hot and there's no window. Can't stand it, even with only the cold water going. Should have figured you'd be up. Not use to other people here. I mean Janey but she doesn't count.”
She nodded even though no one could see her.
“I couldn't sleep.”
“I know it's just to fucking hot. I have the fan going in my room but even not moving, I wake up covered in sweat.”
“I know, I kept hoping it would stop raining and now that is has, well I should have been wishing for a freak snow storm. I always preferred cold to hot.”
He stood in front her then, his grin wide and kind.
“Yeah, you can always layer it up but you can only take so much off.”
She snorted. “Yeah, if it keeps this up, I'm joining a nudist colony. My parents know some crazy hippies. It's time to disappoint the family.”
His grin widened. There was a look in his eyes that made her fingers flex.
“Sounds like a solid plan.”
“Saved any cold water?'
“Yeah it's all yours.”
She brushed past him. The walls were still damp and she felt a rush of something knowing that he was here just moments ago.
He had breakfast waiting when she made her way downstairs.
It was a bowl of her favorite sugary cereal.
“To hot to make anything. Hope that's okay.”
“Perfect. To hot to eat something hot.”
“What are you up to today?”
She shrugged. She should look for some part time work. Or visit with her family. Fiance number two was hanging out with Quinn.
“Lounge. Maybe pull out the kiddie pool and find a shady place. What about you?”
“Work, then you know we have a gig tonight.”
“Where are you working now?” She pushed the bits of cereal deeper into the milk. Fooled around with them, watched them drown.
“Axl's.” He smirked at her and took a large dripping bite.
“Piercing?” His laugh was hearty but he shook his head.
“I book appointments and sometimes I work at The Low Down. The music store beside Axl's.”
“All grown up now, working for the man.” Her voice sounded soft and strange. Not her at all. Daria shook her head. The heat was just to much.
Trent's voice broke through her thoughts. “Yeah, if you get hungry enough, you start rethinking the whole concept of a regular paycheck.”
She really didn't know what to say. It was responsible of him, but somehow it still seemed wrong.
“So is the gig at The Zon?”
Trent shook his head. “Nah, we actually have something out of town in Oakwood.” He bowed his head and looked embarrassed. It made her bit her lip.
“Nothing wrong with Oakwood. I mean besides the fact that they have an even worse football team than Lawndale.”
“I don't know. Just seems silly. I mean by now I thought we'd be going some place.”
“You are, to Oakdale.”
He laughed but it was hollow. “I thought it be further than 30 miles south.”
“Well, to get anywhere you have to reach the 30 mile mark somewhere.”
Trent's hand reached across the table and closed over hers. “Thanks, for keeping things in perspective.”
“Well, you know me.”
His fingers squeezed. “About the phone call.”
“Forget it. I was upset-”
“Just, what David-”
“It's nothing okay.” She grabbed her bowl and chucked it into the sink. “It was the heat and the storm. It's done.”
“Look, I'm here, you know if you want to talk.”
“There's nothing to talk about and if there was I've got Jane. I don't need anyone else especially someone who doesn't have any direction in his own life.”
He jerked back as if she hit him. And there was David's voice in her head, clear and real. She was so fucking cruel, pouncing and striking everyone who just wanted to get close to her.
“No, I'm sorry, Daria. I don't really have any right to your business. We aren't even really friends. We're just-” His bowel joined hers and he was walking out. “nothing. Tell Janey, I'll call her when I get to the gig.”
Daria slumped against the counter.
She was exactly what David believed she was.
“You're not upset are you?”
Daria shook her head.
“It's just Tom and I thought-”
“I'm not upset.” And she wasn't at least not about that. She kept thinking of Trent. Of this morning. There was his face, pinched and tight in her mind.
She pushed back the sigh and wiped her brow of the sweat. They were sitting outside, spread out in lawn chairs that had seen better days.
There were angry clouds looming ahead but it didn't stop the heat and the shadows didn't provide any comfort.
“You could come you know.”
“Really, Tom isn't so bad-”
“Look,” Daria shifted in the seat again as she slid through the rubbery bands on the seat of the chair,” I love that you are looking out for me and trying to keep me in the loop this time around. But I honest to God, do not want anything to do with you and Tom and hanging out. It's not that I hate him. It's that when I am done with people, I'm done . I don't need that kind of rehash in my life.”
“Got it.” But Daria noticed that Jane's eyes didn't waiver from her own.
“What is it?”
“What happened between you and Trent this morning?”
“It didn't seem like nothing. Him and you, seem to have gotten close and then I get up this morning-
“It was almost 3 in the afternoon.”
“This morning for a Lane. And-”
This time she let the sigh escape her. “Nothing. He wasn't even in when you finally greeted daylight. And can I just ask how the hell you can sleep with it this hot.”
“The heat just makes me more tired.”
“Hmmm, I thought you told me the same thing about the cold.”
“Ahh, but the cold leads to extra blankets and warm spots, which makes heat. Which leads to sleep.” Jane punctuated her statement with a lift of her eyebrows over her sunglasses. “And don't try to change the subject. Trent's been different since we got in town and he seemed especially close to you.”
“It's been two days. Did you think we became best friends in that little of time.”
“It only took us one self esstem class.”
Daria got up with some embarrassing struggle. “You're different.”
“The tits didn't let you know?”
“I just mean, I don't-” She bit her lip and huffed. “Trent and I are- we- he. I-”
“Damn College Girl, ask for a refund, you have lost the ability to speak. And that was like your thing before you got there.”
“Trent and I aren't anything.”
Daria thought of Trent's parting words. They might have been once. But she was a cruel person.
“We're by proxy friends.”
“Because of our connection to you and that's it. He's nice to me because I'm your best friend. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“Something happened. And I will find out. And don't think I won't. Or that I forgot that you haven't explained anything about David.”
“You kept Tom from me until I found out myself.”
This time it was Jane who huffed. “I thought it didn't matter.”
“Tom doesn't but the not telling me does.” Daria's face pinched and suddenly she felt the loss of Trent. Of the way he just knew. It was Tom and it wasn't. It was David and her own faults. “But I get it. I do. Something you just have to play close to the chest till you're ready.”
“Like you and Trent.”
Daria refused to answer and stalked into the house slamming, as well as she could, the sliding door behind her.
“Let it go, Jane. No matter how much you think you know what's going on, you don't. Trent and I aren't going to end up together and we don't have some torrid affair going on behind your back. We didn't have some sort of fight, or some sort of closesness. Like I said, we ate breakfast at the same time and he said he had work and a gig and that he'd call you when he got there. The end. Nothing more.”
“He was so weirdly excited when he knew you were coming back with me. He cleaned up Penny's room. I asked him what was up.”
“And what did he say?' Daria had a feeling she already knew the answer.
“That he just missed how it was.” But Jane's mouth was thinned out and Daria knew she didn't want to say the last part. Jane did anyway. “That it was nothing.”
Daria nodded. “Because that's what it is. It was a big change for you and me to head off to Boston. And it was big for him too. To be here all by himself. I think he just missed something familiar. It wasn't some weird thing where he was going to admit to being in love with me. Or me throwing myself at him.”
“It could happen.”
Daria did laugh then. Just because it was so high school Jane to push for something so far fetched. “No, it couldn't. We're very different. And I think were both grown up enough to know that.”
“What does age have to do with matters of the heart.”
“Everything. At least with me. And besides, I don't think I'll ever be ready after David.”
“Was he really-”
“I'm not meant for relationships. I think Tom and Greg and David would agree with that.”
“I don't. We are a relationship and we work.”
Daria let a rare full smile claim her face. “Yeah and you're the only one. I think you can handle me better.”
“I don't have to handle you. There's nothing wrong with you. I mean more so than anyone else. No one's perfect.”
“Except me.” They said in unison. And everything felt better, if only for this moment.
“I just mean, if something were to happen with you and my brother, Trent that is, stay away from Wind I want you as part of the family but not at that cost, it wouldn't be the worst. You and him, there's something-”
“We are complete opposites.”
“Sort of. But not as much as you'd think. I mean yes, you are more sturdy in way. And he's more fly by your pants. But he stood by me when the rest of the family was, well you know. And you dropped everything to come here and you took that chance on Tom in high school.”
“That's not what I mean.”
“What more is there?”
“Besides the fact that we aren't interested in each other, try the fact that my life is in Boston, where I go to school and I live. And the fact that he lives here and I could never come back here.”
“It's not like he has to be here. When you want something, you can have it. There are ways.”
“There is the problem. You have to want it.”
“And you don't?”
Daria blanked on what to say. She didn't. She just wanted to be okay. She wanted to feel better. She wanted to be a better person that she felt like she was.
“Not like you mean.”
“But you want something.” Daria wanted to take back what she said. To go back to the unspoken feeling of being safe with him.
She wanted to be forgiven.
She wanted David to still love her.
Wanted her Dad to be less angry.
She sighed. The sweat rolled down her spine.
When Daria finally spoke it was low and soft and felt like a dead breeze on the air. “I want us to be friends.”
With Jane gone the house creaked and groaned.
It left her peering behind every closed door. Checking and rechecking windows.
It was to hot to walk before the sun set, so she laid sprawled on the basement floor. It was dark and dank and windowless.
She kept thinking about David and Trent and Jane and Tom.
She thought about Boston.
She thought about what it was she really wanted.
She thought about who it was she hoped to be.
Mostly she thought about the long terrible summer. The rain that wouldn't stop and then the gray warm skies that kept haunting her every day.