It was a near perfect spring day as she watched them lower her parents into the ground. She wore a dress her mother would have killed to see her in. Her sister sat in a chair directly in front of her; the sound of Quinn's hitching breath did more to invoke an emotional response from her than the sight of matching coffins disappearing into the earth. : They aren't there anymore; whatever made them my parents disappeared in that fire. : Daria felt Quinn reach up and clasp her hand where she rested on Quinn's near perfect shoulder. She ached for her best friend but Jane hadn't been able to get free to come down, she had sent her brother to represent the Lane family today. Daria didn't know where Trent had found the suit but the effort was appreciated.
Daria could hear the words from the Priest but understanding them was beyond her at the moment. She knew he had stopped speaking but it wasn't until she felt Trent's hands turning her toward the parking lot that she realized the service was offer. Quinn walked next to her unspeaking. She was so quiet, as if afraid her own voice would start the tears that came so often now.
"Lets get you two home." Trent said gently and Daria just nodded in response. The ride back to the house was in complete silence; Trent seemed to be taking at least some enjoyment in driving a car that didn't have pieces falling off it. Quinn just sat in the backseat staring out the window; at that moment, Daria would have moved Heaven and Earth to ease her sister's pain and her inability stabbed deeply into her heart. : I’m just not ready for this. :
After changing her clothes, Daria rejoined her sister and Trent in the living room. Quinn had changed into pajamas even though it was hours until the sun would set. No one said anything for several long minutes. "Now what?" Quinn asked. The family that had stayed with them for the last week was gone; some were already planning to return, to help the girls later in the week. Daria tried not to think about the almost complete lack of family from her mother's side that had visited or even attended the funeral. They had sent flowers and cards but neither of her Aunts nor Grandmother showed up to say goodbye.
Daria had to ponder this question briefly before answering. "I don't know."
"You just have to give it some time." Trent said, striking a nerve inside Daria. : Time isn't going to make sure Quinn's taken care of, or the house or my school bills. :
Quinn had returned to staring at the blank TV screen. Daria caught a smart-alecky comment about the younger girl forgetting how the magic box worked, before it escaped. With each passing moment, her concern for Quinn grew.
"Do you want to move to Boston or finish out the school year here?" Daria said, she wasn't sure where the question came from but it was something. Quinn jerked at the sudden sound; she looked around confused so Daria asked the question again.
"I have a choice." Quinn said looking surprised.
"I took a heavy semester and I have enough credits to be considered a sophomore next school year so no reason I can't take some time off." Daria said gently. "I'm going to need to be here for the wills and to handle the life insurance, no reason to travel back and forth for the next six months. We'll figure out what to do next while we're working on that."
Quinn just nodded but her face and in fact everything from her posture to eyes, all seemed somehow more vibrant, like a weight had been lifted from her.
"If you need any help just let me or Janey know." Trent said and Daria was able to forgive his earlier time comment.
The next morning, Daria was awakened by a loud banging on the front door. After quickly checking on Quinn she hurried down the stairs annoyed at the interruption. She opened the door and discovered the last person she expected on her doorstep at 7 AM, her Aunt Rita.
"Hi Aunt Rita." She swallowed the sarcastic comment as she stepped to the side and waved her Aunt into the house. "We missed you at the funeral."
"I sent some flowers, and I'm truly sorry to have missed it, my flight got delayed." Rita said as she hugged her niece stiffly.
"Well it's still nice of you to come by." Daria said not believing the older woman for some reason.
"Well the reading of Helen's will is tomorrow so I decided to go ahead and come up today." Rita said as she looked around the room.
"Oh, the lawyer didn't mention he contacted you."
"He hasn't, you told me about the will when you called on Friday." Rita said after moving next to a painting and bending slightly to exam it.
"Ok." Daria said starting to feel more and more confused. "I'm going to go upstairs and get dressed."
"Is there coffee? We have a busy day ahead of us."
"I wasn't up, but feel free to start some." Daria said turning toward the stairs, she turned back after reaching the bottom landing. "Busy doing what?"
"Inventorying the house."
Daria took a step back in the direction of her Aunt. "Why?"
"For the sale of course."
"The estate sale, you can't sell the house without clearing it out first."
"We're not selling the house." Daria said as she tried to slow the onslaught within her mind.
"Of course we are, it's the only way to split the assets evenly." Rita had started to speak slower, as if to a child who couldn't get the message.
"What are you talking about?"
Rita moved closer to Daria, looking amused. "My sister, your mother passed away, now her assets have to be divided."
"That's what the will is for."
"It doesn't matter what the will says, you have to take account her wishes."
“I’m sorry.” Daria tried to wake herself from this dream.
“You don’t think I’m going to let you take my share, do you?”
"Get out." Daria said, her voice stressed and shaking. : This has to be a nightmare. :
"I said get out, how dare you." Daria was shaking now as she stomped to the door and flung it open. "You show up here the day after the funeral and start talking about money. Get out."
"You can't throw me out. I own a third of this house."
"Do you really think Mom left you anything, you must be crazy?" Daria laughed.
Rita's eyes narrowed slightly. "My sister wouldn't have forgotten about her family."
"I guess we'll find out tomorrow at the reading, get out." Daria said forcefully.
Rita straightened up and smiled nicely. "Fine, but be prepared to pack, after the reading I'm going to want both of you out. It isn't right to have two people living in a house we're selling."
"Get out." Daria said advancing on Rita.
"I'm leaving." Rita said sickly sweet as she walked out the door.
Daria slammed the door after her and slid down to the floor with her back against it. She wiped away the tears that ran down her cheeks. : I'll burn the place to the ground before I let her get anything. : Quinn found Daria still sitting on the floor when she got up an hour later. Quinn joined her on the floor, Daria smiled weakly. "Rita came over."
That evening the two girls were trying to figure out where dinner had gone horribly wrong. Daria looked at what had been pork chops but now resembled shoe leather. Quinn poked a piece gingerly with a fork. "I think it's dead."
"I'm suddenly in the mood for pizza." Daria said, the smell coming from the rice was almost enough to cause a gag reflex.
"Anything but this." Quinn agreed.
Sudden knocking at the front door caused both of them to jerk and Daria's face clouded over as she moved toward the door. Quinn hung back almost hoping it would be Rita again. : I don't know what she did earlier but Daria could use the chance to smack her around, ... so could I. : Quinn thought as she moved to the living room to give herself an unobstructed view of the oncoming carnage. Daria opened the door only to be enveloped in a monstrous hug of brown sweater and auburn hair. "Aunt Amy." Daria said in clear relief.
Amy released Daria and moved swiftly to Quinn and hugged her, Quinn held still but enjoyed the honest gesture. "Hi."
"First, I'm not here to loot the place. You need to get a lawyer fast."
"Rita's already been here." Daria said with a sigh.
"Damn her. She's convinced she's getting a big chunk of whatever Helen and Jake had and she's already decided to contest the will if she doesn't." Amy said tossing her purse on the couch.
"What?" Quinn gasped looking over at Daria for confirmation, her sister just nodded.
"Any chance you've already got a lawyer." Amy said hopefully.
"Mom had a small law office across town handling her will." Daria said looking disgusted.
"Not her work?"
"No, something about a conflict of interest." Daria shrugged.
"Alright, I have some pizza in car, I'll get it and we'll find a way to smack some sense into Rita." Amy said heading to the door.
The three women sat around the kitchen table eating pizza and talking. "I'm sorry I couldn't make it to the funeral, I just got back into the states today. First thing I find on my answering machine was the message from you that they died. The last one was Rita wanting me to join in the possible contestment. Did you really throw her out?"
"She showed up and started talking about selling the house and dividing assets."
"Can she do this?" Quinn said not looking up from her mission to remove the cheese from her current slice of pizza.
"All she has to do is try to prove that Helen would have left her something or that someone tampered with the physical will." Amy said with a groan. "It all depends on how old the will is or if it was changed recently. After that a judge has to decide how much if any Helen might have left her sister."
"I can't believe Mom wouldn't have made a pretty tight will, I'm sure she would of considered contestment." Daria said looking thoughtful.
"And that's my hope, I can't see any judge taking away an inheritance from a child to give to an adult sibling but stranger things have happened." Amy said honestly.
"Doesn't she get enough money from Grandma Barksdale?" Quinn said, her voice dripping with venom.
Amy looked slightly embarrassed before answering. "It's almost gone, everything would be fine if Rita took her hands out of Mom's wallet but as it stands, maybe a year or two before the money is at critical levels." Amy paused to let the surprised look fall off the younger girl's faces. "Currently Mom is paying for a house for Erin and a high end apartment for Rita. Add that to the gifts and the money has just been slipping away. Rita is fighting to keep mother from being declared unfit."
"Why?" Daria was pretty sure she knew the answer.
"Then the state has to appoint a guardian and they would stop the bleeding at once."
"Why hasn't Rita just had herself declared the guardian?" Daria said, again already knowing the answer. "Because then she would have to take care of mother. She wants the money and that's it." Amy said.
"So now she is looking for another meal ticket." Daria said understanding almost everything now. "But this is our home." Quinn said looking frightened.
"She honestly thinks she's entitled to some of Helen's assets." Amy reached out and rubbed the youngest girl’s arm. "A third." Daria said with a sigh.
"She wants a third." Amy laughed out. "That's Rita's ego for you."
"What do you mean?"
"Well if her case had merit then that would mean that I would have a claim, as well as Jake's sister so the best she could get is a fifth." Amy suddenly looked pleased with herself. "That might be a way to fight this. I don't know Jake's sister very well but I don't think she'd be out to steal anything away from you two."
"Aunt Becky is going to be here the day after tomorrow to help pack up Mom and Dad's stuff to give to Goodwill. She was here for a few days before the funeral with Grandma Ruth." Daria said.
"Good, if Rita actually pushes this through a judge then we can counter it. I don't have a lot of money saved up but it should be enough to pay off her share of the house." Amy said still thinking. "We would pay you back." Daria said immediately. "I know you would." Amy said with a smile.
"This isn't fair." Quinn said hitting the table. "Why is she doing this?"
"Because she is a spoiled rotten little bitch." Amy answered.
Daria pushed her chair back before walking around the table to hug Quinn and whisper. "I'm not going to let her get away with this; I'm going to fight whatever she tries to do."
Daria flipped through stations as she sat alone in the living room after getting off the phone with Jane. Her friend was already offering to come down for moral support but Daria knew that Jane couldn't afford to take any hits on her grades. : Ok, my parents are dead and I have decided to drop out of school to take care of my not so little sister. Oh and now I have one Aunt trying to help fight off another Aunt who wants to take the house. Sorry Amy I know you have the best intentions but this is just another chapter in the Barksdale wars for you. I'm going crazy, where did Dad keep the good stuff. : Daria thought deciding to try her hand at getting drunk.
Continue Part 2
Francis Mull sighed as he walked into the meeting room; it was perhaps the least favorite part of his job. This family seemed ready to explode into a street fight at any second. It seemed to be all women but he knew from past experiences that if a fight started it would be anything but sexy. : No time like the present. : He thought as he walked to the front of the room. "I'm glad to see everyone here."
"It would have been nice to have been informed of the date and time." Rita said as she moved toward the front of the room.
Francis decided to not address this comment yet. "We are gathered to hear the last will and testament of Helen Morgendorffer. Now before I begin are there any questions?"
"I have a few." Rita said loudly. "When was this will created?"
"It was first filed with me three years ago and since then has been updated twice." Francis said with a nod.
"When was the last update done?" Rita said letting her voice get the sickly sweet sound that Daria was growing to hate.
"Ten months ago."
"And does it differ greatly from the previous version?"
Francis looked surprised by this question. "I can't discuss that, previous versions of the will are not applicable to today."
"How about we let the nice man read the will before you start tearing it apart." Amy said, throwing daggers at her sister from where she stood next to Quinn and Daria.
Francis cleared his throat and brought up a piece of paper then started to read from it. "If I am survived by my husband Jake then I bequeath all my belongings to him. If not then the following are my wishes. First, I leave all physical assets to my eldest daughter Daria Maria Morgendorffer provided she shares them with her sister. All financial assets will be divided equally between both my daughters, Daria Maria Morgendorffer and Quinn Ann Morgendorffer with the following exceptions." He continued in this vein for several minutes but Daria was watching Rita fuming in her seat. "To my sisters Amy and Rita, I leave you both with my love and apologies for not telling you that enough, as well to Amy I leave my signed copy of Great Expectations and to Rita I leave our Grandmother's broach. I know you always loved it."
"A broach." Rita said coldly. "That house is worth over two hundred thousand and I get a broach."
"Is that everything?" Amy asked grinning like a loon.
"The only thing left is her life insurance policies but they go to the parties named." Francis said.
"Who is the beneficiary?"
"Daria and Quinn."
"So we're done here?" Daria said standing up.
"Your father's will had a request to not be read until one month after the funeral."
"I'm contesting this will." Rita stood up looking pleased with herself.
"I'll contact you right before then to remind you." He said handing paperwork to Daria and then some to Quinn. He walked over to Rita and held out a small form, she snatched it away. "I said I'm contesting this will."
"That's certainly your choice." He said hoping to avoid an argument.
"I want the house and money seized to prevent them from making everything disappear." Rita grinned over at the two girls.
"Um." Francis said confused at why she was telling him this.
"So can we access the bank accounts now?" Daria said, Quinn tried not to laugh at this deliberate poke.
"Yes, the insurance company has already been informed. You should be receiving the payment in a few weeks." Francis said with a nod.
"I'm not going to let these two little brats take what’s mine. Helen was my sister." Rita said raising her voice.
"I'm sorry but the will is quite clear."
"But I'm telling you I intend to contest but you're still handing them the money."
"If you want to contest the will, you will need to get an attorney and file a lawsuit." Francis said as he realized that she expected him to stop carrying out the will on her request alone.
"Fine!" Rita said as she rushed out of the office furiously.
Francis watched her go and sighed. "Just so you're aware, your mother arranged to have both myself and her law firm defend against any contesting of her or Jake's wills."
"See Helen was ready for anything." Amy said happily, but she looked far from it. "Now I do want my book." She added as they started out of the office. "Charles Dickens is one of my favorite authors."
Quinn sighed as Daria and Amy oh-ed and ah-ed at the old book, she was going through the various paperwork. "Daria did you know you own a time share in Florida now, two weeks in summer and another two in January."
"WE own." Daria said back to her.
"I don't think so; you can have all the responsibilities." Daria just shook her head in amusement at her sister's retort.
"Your Aunt Becky is going to be down tomorrow right?" Amy asked.
"She called and confirmed earlier."
"Good." Amy said with a smile. "I'm betting Rita can't touch the life insurance and that's the bulk of your inheritance so all we have to do is keep her from clouding the waters too much."
For the third time in two days Daria and Quinn both jumped when a loud knocking echoed through the house. Amy smirked slightly. "Stop reading Poe's Raven at night." She walked to the door leaving the two girls standing there blushing as she opened the door. She backed away as two police officers walked inside the house. "We have a report that someone is breaking into this house."
"THIS IS OUR HOME." Quinn exploded and seemed ready to go off even more until Daria gently hushed her. "I own this house." Daria said and scooped up the paperwork from the lawyer. Shuffling through it, she found the transfer of deed. She held out the paper work so the office could take it. He scanned the paper gently. "This has today's date on it."
"My parents just died, the funeral was yesterday and my mother's will was read today." Daria said having to force the last few words out. Her chest suddenly felt like it was being crushed in a vise. The officer groaned loudly and his partner just started shaking his head and cursing quietly. "Someone is not happy about the will, I take it." The first officer said.
"My Aunt Rita."
"Have a nice day Miss. Sorry we disturbed you." He said placing the paper on the end table before turning and walking out the door with his partner in tow.
Amy stood next to the door speechless as they listened to the car start up and drive away. "She called the police." Her voice was stunned and shaky,
"If that's the worst she does, I'm ok with it." Daria said with a smile. "She just created a police record."
"It's not the smartest move in the world." Amy agreed.
Daria spent the next hour calming Quinn down, her sister was now advocating sending a group of her man slaves to where ever Rita was and beating her into a bloody pulp. Daria was tempted but common sense won out.
Daria and Amy dropped Quinn off at Lawndale high, her first day back since her parents death. According to Quinn with everything that was occurring she was thinking it would be more relaxing in school than with them. They first thing they did was start shuffling around the bank accounts into ones in Quinn's and Daria's name. It went quickly but Daria realized something a few hours into the day. She looked over at Amy as she built up the nerve to voice her newest concern. "Amy, by any chance do you know what Mom and Dad arranged for Quinn?"
"I'm not following you." Amy said as she parked at the courthouse, they needed to file several forms for everything from the cars to the house to register the transfer of ownership to Daria.
"Well she's still a minor for another four months."
Amy started cursing under her breath. "Damn, damn."
"Please tell me they wouldn't have picked Rita." Daria couldn't contain the shudder that ran down her spine.
"No, I can't see Helen ever doing that."
"Then what's the problem."
"You need to file for custody of her." Amy said with a sigh. "Otherwise it could get problematic."
Daria sighed and asked for directions from a security guard. Once they were in the elevator she groaned. "I'll call the lawyer once we get out of here. Maybe he knows or can help me file."
"It's going to be ok."
"I'm scared Rita is going to try something with Quinn now. If she can't get the money one way she'll try another."
"Quinn's 17, no judge is going to give custody without speaking with her unless she's in danger." Amy tried to reassure her niece.
"Right now I wouldn't put it past Rita to do anything."
Daria insisted they pull Quinn out of school two hours early and Amy didn't even try to talk her out of it. It was on the way home when Daria got a call from the lawyer.
"Miss. Morgendorffer, I filed the request for custody and you were right to be concerned. Apparently someone else filed less than an hour after I did. I just got off the phone with the clerk of courts, there is going to be a hearing in a week. I couldn't get the name of the other party."
"I'll k..." Daria started but stopped at Amy's frantic waving.
"Just stay calm. My argument is that it doesn't make sense to remove a near adult from her home for 4 months." Francis said calmly.
"We're worried that Rita might be doing this to try to get her hands on Quinn's inheritance."
"Well what we can do is force Quinn's share into a trust that she won't get until she's 18." Francis said, clearly thinking better than she was.
Daria turned to Quinn who nodded and gave thumbs up. "Quinn and I think that's a great idea."
"I'll start the paper work."
The call ended and Daria leaned back in her seat. "I'm sorry Quinn; I swear I'm not doing this to keep you from what's yours."
Quinn rolled her eyes. "It's four months Daria, not four years. ... Aunt Becky!" Quinn said pointing toward their driveway.
"And the police." Daria said glancing over at Amy worriedly. There were two police cars parked against the curb in front of the house.
"Just relax. Don't stress until we have something to stress about."
The three women got out of the car and walked toward the front door that was standing open. A redheaded woman moved into the doorway before turning back into the house and saying loudly. "It's just my nieces and their other Aunt. Daria owns the house now."
Daria looked at her aunt strangely as she stepped back out of the way before pointing at four police officers in the living room. "I called them after I saw the broken door kiddo." Becky said indicating toward the kitchen.
"What?" Daria said as she made directly for the dining room and discovered the broken sliding glass door. "I found the key where you said it would be and let myself in." Becky said looking like she felt the need to explain herself. Quinn moved next to their aunt Becky and Daria was struck with the similarities between the two. She looked just like an older version of Quinn, enough that more than a few people made the assumption she was her mother. : Just like people do when I go out with Amy. : Daria thought.
"She called us and we searched the premises for any sign of an intruder. We'll need you to look around and see if there is anything missing." One of the officers said.
Daria nodded and Quinn looked over at her. "Check your room first, and then start down here, Ok."
"I'll go check Mom and Dad's room then Mom's office." Daria said moving back toward the stairs. Amy followed after her; a police officer went with them as well. The search of the house turned up nothing missing but it didn't surprise anyone when drawers filled with paperwork seemed to be the only things rifled through. "She was looking for something to contest the will with or to gain custody of Quinn." Amy said after the police left.
"What?" Becky said loudly. Daria kicked herself mentally for not filling her other Aunt in on the current events. "I'll make cocoa." Quinn said getting up.
Becky looked at her walk into the kitchen before turning back to Daria. "It's a long story." Daria said with a sigh.
Continue Part 3
Daria watched her Aunts talk in the living; they thought she had gone to bed. They reminded her so much of the good moments between her and Quinn. Their current topic was of considerable interest to her.
“This is crazy.” Becky said as she took a drink of wine.
“Believe me I know, Rita and Helen were always fighting, I was too. But I never expected her to do something like this.”
“Daria seems to be handling things but I’m pretty sure someone got into Jake’s booze last night and you don’t strike me as a Wild Turkey sort of girl.” Daria lifted the glass next to her and took a drink before setting it back down on the stairs next to her. The shadows hid her perfectly.
“Damn, she doesn’t need that kind of trouble. Helen is going to haunt me if I let Rita turn either of her daughters into broken down drunks.” Amy rubbed her head angrily.
: I’ll be careful, I promise. : Daria thought honestly. : I just need some extra help right now. :
“Quinn seems to be getting a little better; Daria is taking really good care of her. I always thought they were water and oil but hard times can show you who really cares. Not many people would put off their schooling to take care of family like that.”
“You and Quinn had a long talk.” Amy said clearly pressing for information.
“I offered her a place to stay with me if she wanted, I would have offered to move here but I can’t afford to give up my job right now.”
“You might want to tell Daria you did that.” Amy said understandingly.
“I did, she didn’t mind. I offered her a place too. I was sort of hoping to get to know Jake’s kids a bit but I can understand wanting to stick to someplace you know.”
“I’m hoping they’re going to be ok. I keep wanting to make the call and tell my boss I’m moving down here. I feel so selfish that I haven’t yet.”
“Quinn said something about you waiting six years to get the overseas museum gig.”
“They’re just kids.”
: Hey! : Daria thought feeling tipsy now.
“Don’t sell them to short; I’ve never been prouder of family than I am of those two. Jake made himself so good ones there.”
Daria felt tears running down her cheek and she sniffled loudly not noticing the voices stopped in the living room. She sat there trying not to start cry until she felt two sets of warm arms wrap around her. “It’s alright.” Someone she couldn’t see through the tears said.
They put her into bed and even moved her glass to her desk without commenting on it. Both of her Aunts sat on the foot of the bed watching her.
“I’m sorry; it just hit me all at once. I just keep wondering if I’m doing the right thing and if Mom and Dad would be proud of us, … of … me.”
“Jake was always proud of his girls, a letter or call didn’t go by he wasn’t regaling me with the adventures of Daria and Quinn.” Becky grinned back at her. Amy suddenly moved to the door and opened it up to find Quinn looking embarrassed for eavesdropping. “Get in here.” Amy said before dragging Quinn into the room.
“He thought the sun rose and set on you two. Quinn who could wrap the world around her finger and Daria who didn’t have a problem telling a saint they were wrong.” Becky smiled.
“Helen felt the same, she was so proud of you two. I know if there is anything beyond this life both of them are watching you and they have never been prouder.” Amy said with a tearful smile.
“It’s going to get easier right?” Quinn asked from where she was sitting on the floor next to the bed.
“No. Easier isn’t the right word for it Darlin, just more distant.” Becky said with a sad look.
“Rita is going to keep causing trouble isn’t she?” Quinn said looking up at her Aunts and sister.
“For a while still, as long as she thinks she has a shot at some of the money.” Amy moved down to the floor next to the teenager.
“Tomorrow should be better, Rita has demanded money, broken into your house and is trying to get custody of Quinn. There can’t be much more that nut job can do.” Becky sound confident as she spoke but Daria couldn’t help but notice the worry in Amy’s eyes. Becky saw it as well so she added. “And if she does find something else to do we’ll be ready.”
“Right.” Amy agreed.
Daria held her head on her way to the bathroom the next morning. : So this is a hangover. : She thought annoyed as even the sounds made while showering and brushing her teeth sounded like someone setting off explosions next to her.
Quinn looked somewhat better; at least she didn’t seem to be in pain. “Hi Daria.” She said quietly as Daria arrived at the table. : But then she hasn’t decided to become an alcoholic. :
“The Aunts went to get something for breakfast. I just realized something when they left. Amy looks just like you and Becky looks like me.” Quinn said with a grin.
“Ya. Oh god I’m dying.” Daria groaned as she laid her head down on the cool table surface.
“You aren’t dying, an hour or so and you’ll be fine.” Quinn said nicely.
“Promise me you won’t start drinking.” Daria groaned.
“Ummmm, sure I won’t start drinking.” Quinn said looking amused.
“Or continue drinking or anything else.”
“Fine but you’re the one that’s supposed to be taking care of me; I don’t see how you’re going to do that hung over.”
Daria groaned. : Little brat has a valid point. : A voice inside her head said proudly.
: Shut up. : Another voice told the first one. : Both of you keep it down. : She thought to both voices.
“Ok maybe in retrospect getting drunk wasn’t a good idea.”
“You’re just dealing.” Quinn said sliding a cup of coffee over to her.
“There’s got to be a better way to deal.”
“Hating Aunt Rita is helping me a lot.” Quinn said taking a seat next to her sister. Daria had to grudgingly agree that her anger toward her Aunt was helping her hold some of the despair at bay.
Daria hesitated dropping Quinn off at school just a short while later until a call to the lawyer confirmed that until the hearing she had de facto custody as the related adult caring for Quinn. The absence of any documentation from her mother concerning Quinn’s and even her care kept Daria from relaxing to much. : Who would Mom have trusted to take care of us? Not Rita, that’s for sure and Amy travels to much. She would have told Becky so who. : Daria struggled through the day trying to figure out who might have the information she was missing as well the question concerning what paperwork did Rita break into the house to get and did she find it.
Daria showed her Aunts around Lawndale as they went from one appointment to another. When they met with her mother’s former boss, it was tense to say the least. Eric, as he insisted they call him seemed more concerned with hitting on her Aunts than answering her questions.
“To be honest I got the impression that Helen would have preferred the state step in before granting custody to her sister Rita and you traveled too much. To my knowledge, she never drew up any paperwork concerning child custody after she came here.” He said after Daria asked him for the tenth time.
“That doesn’t sound like my sister.” Amy shook her head in disbelief.
“She didn’t expect both of them to go at the same time.” Eric said as he continued to make eyes at Becky. He didn’t seem to notice that she had created and maintained a space bubble between them of around three feet.
“Alright, I think that was everything. Thank you for seeing us.” Daria said disappointed.
“It no trouble at all and if any of you ladies need anything, don’t hesitate to call.” He said sounding like an aging wannabe ladies man from television.
“I’m sure we will.” Amy said, it was clear she was shifting between the urge to slap him or laugh aloud.
“I guess we need to be going.” Becky said starting out of the office. She was gone before Eric could say a word.
“I guess we’ll see you later.” Daria said as she retreated as well, Amy followed shaking her head in annoyance.
As they climbed into the car, Amy let out a chuckle. “What’s wrong Becky, you don’t want to date a sleaze bag like him?”
“Hell no, did I mention hell no.” Becky said. “Your mother had to put up with that loser for three years, I’m impressed.”
Daria remembered the constant calls. “She really wanted to make partner.”
Amy looked over from the passenger seat then glanced back at Becky in the back. “She was going to quit, once Quinn was off at school. She was going to start her own firm.”
Daria jerked in surprise at this information. She slowed down the Lexus to improve her control. “She never said anything.”
“I think your Dad mentioned it once or twice, once you two were away at school, they were going to start it up. Jake would help with the business aspect and Helen would handle the legal matters.”
“Wow. They never said anything.”
“I guess they always thought they had more time.” Amy said. “I keep telling myself that about starting a family.”
“Bit of a reality check when my big brother dies. I’m thinking I need to start dating a more serious class of guys.” Becky nodded her agreement.
“Quinn babysits.” Was all Daria could think to say.
Both her Aunts broke into laughter.
Quinn restrained her impulse to swing at Sandi when she made the third comment about Quinn being an orphan. “I think it’s so nice that Quinn can spend a few more days with us before she gets taken away to live with some other family member.”
Quinn took a deep breath. “I told you, Daria is moving back to Lawndale so I’m not going anywhere.”
“That’s right, I forgot.”
“Again.” Quinn didn’t smile as she said it, instead she was looking directly at Sandi as if daring her to make another comment. Stacy paled and pointed out the first thing she saw. “Look that’s the girl that slept with Brad when he was supposed to be at the party with you Sandi.”
“A … blue … shirt … with … yellow … shoes. … Brrrrrrr.” Tiffany said with a shudder.
“Thank you for reminding me of a painful and embarrassing moment Stacy. Maybe next you would like to discuss something else personal around strangers.”
“Like … the … time … Bobby’s … Dad … caught … you … giving … .”
“Yes just like that.” Sandi said raising her voice.
: I love you guys. : Quinn thought smiling at Tiffany and Stacy as Sandi stomped away.
It was four in the morning when Daria heard the pounding on the front door. By the time she made it downstairs both her aunts were standing awake in the living room. “Go ahead.” She said almost hoping for a fight.
Becky opened the door and shook her head in disgust as a police officer followed by Rita walked into the entranceway. “Can I help you?” Daria said taking a seat on the second to last step; she could hear Quinn in the dark hallway at the top.
“We have reports of a minor living alone here. You would be Daria Morgendorffer, correct.”
“Yes I am, I’m eighteen.” Daria said shaking her head in disbelief.
“And I understand you two are Becky Morgendorffer and Amy Barksdale, correct.”
Both of the older women nodded in the affirmative.
“It has been reported that none of you three currently reside in the home and that one Quinn Morgendorffer is now living here alone.”
“Does it look like she is alone?” Becky said, a Texas drawl creeping into her voice.
“And what’s poor Quinn going to do when you all leave?” Rita said with a smile.
“I’m not leaving, I’ve moved back, already called Raft and canceled my classes for the rest of the year.”
“Sure you aren’t.” Rita said in a tone that implied the exact opposite.
“Officer, my parents just died. I’ve moved back to take care of my sister and filed for custody of her. The hearing is on Friday.”
“She’s just trying to get her hands on Quinn’s money.” Rita spat out.
“Actually I’ve had Quinn’s inheritance placed into a trust until she turns 18. No one is getting any of her money.” Daria said smiling.
Rita seemed to be about ready to boil over so Daria added some fuel to the fire. “Did you find what you were looking for when you broke in?”
“That’s a lie.”
“Then I guess I’ll be suing the company that makes the security cameras Dad installed.” Daria grinned.
“You think you’re so smart don’t you. First you make up a fake will to steal what’s rightfully mine then you fake some video footage.”
“Rita.” Amy said shaking her head sadly.
“Shut up. Helen would have never left all her money to these two brats.”
“I think it’s time to go.” The police officer said taking Rita’s shoulder and directing her toward the door.
“You won’t get away with this.” Rita declared as she allowed herself to be taken outside. “Once the other wills get examined then the judge will see.”
“She’s a few peaches short of a fruit cup isn’t she?” Becky said looking amazed as Amy closed the door.
“You ok?” Amy asked looking worriedly at Daria.
“I’m fine but I need to go check on Quinn.” Daria said as she stood up and started up the stairs.
“I’m ok but there is no way I’m living with her, ever.” Quinn called from the hallway.
“Mrs. Chambers, I see that you are not only attempting to gain custody of the minor child but also be given power of attorney concerning her inheritance.” The judge said as he read through the various paperwork in front of him.
“I believe that her sister intends to steal what’s rightfully hers.”
“And you’re requesting child support to be paid from the estate.”
“Children are expensive, your honor.” Rita said calmly.
“Ten thousand seems excessive for four months.”
“That’s a month.” Daria said with a smirk.
The judge looked back down at the paperwork, quickly rereading it, then back at Rita. “Please tell me this is a misprint.”
“I don’t feel it’s an unreasonable amount.”
“I’m sure you don’t. Now Miss. Morgendorffer, you have requested custody as well I see.”
“My mother would want me to take care of her. I’m trying to do that, it’s giving us a chance to bond and help each other get past losing our parents.” Daria said honestly.
“I see you aren’t expecting anything extra for doing this.”
“Ok so we have two adults both willing to care for the minor. I want both of you to give me a short reason why you think staying with you is the best option.”
“Quinn needs an adult in her life to finish raising her, not a friend who’s going to let her do anything she wants. Daria has no respect or honestly, the only thing she could teach her sister is how to be a problem.”
“Ok. Daria.” The judge said looking over at her.
“Quinn turns eighteen in four months, I’m not going to try to say I am going to raise her, my parents did that but she deserves the right to not have to move away from her home to stay with someone she barely knows. I think Quinn should have some say in all this.” Daria said turning toward her sister with a smile.
“She’s just a teenager; she wouldn’t know what was best for her if it was shoved in her face.” Rita said with a snort.
“I’d still like to hear what she has to say. Please stand up and step forward.”
Quinn did as instructed. “I want to stay with Daria.”
“That was easy enough.” The judge chuckled. “My aunt Becky said if I need another place to stay I could go there as well. If I can’t stay with Daria I want to go live with her.” Quinn interrupted him.
“That wouldn’t be a problem.” Becky said lifting her hand to identify herself.
“Ok well that covers everything.” The judge said as he waved Quinn back.
“You can’t seriously be considering letting her stay with Daria!” Rita exclaimed.
“I’ll be back in thirty minutes with my decision.”
Daria sat down and let out a deep breath after the judge left the room. “I think it’s going to be ok.” Amy said patting her shoulder. “That judge didn’t swallow a bit of her bull.” Becky added.
“I hope not.” Daria said catching one of Quinn hands.
Quinn forced a smile on her face then said. “You talk different when you’re nervous.”
“Hush.” Becky smiled. “I’ve been in Texas longer than you’ve been alive.”
They didn’t see the judge reenter the courtroom until the order to ‘all rise’ was given out. The judge took a few moments to shuffle the papers on his desk.
“I see no reason to relocate Quinn at this point. With as short of time period as four months I can’t see forcing her to uproot her entire life. I do have doubts about an 18 year old taking on this level of responsibility on her own. To solve this I’ve contacted children’s services and they will be contacting you soon. They will do home inspections and check to make sure Quinn is being cared for correctly. I suggest both of you take advantage of their resources.”
“This is ridiculous. I hope you’ll be happy when Quinn gets knocked up or thrown in jail again.” Rita said striking the table in front of her.
“Control yourself.” The judge said beginning to look angry.
“Go to hell.” Rita said as she made to stomp out of the courtroom. The bailiff caught her before she even made it to the door. “That just cost you a night in jail, was it worth it?” The judge asked as he ordered the bailiff to remove her to a holding cell.
“I would suggest you leave quietly having chosen to take a higher path. … at least until you get outside.” He said to the four smiling women.
They decided that discretion was the better part of valor and took their victory as it came.
They didn’t see their guest until making their way up walkway to the front door. A sleeping figure leaned against the brick wall with both legs stretched out across the door. Daria unlocked the door and let her sister and aunts in while trying not to start crying. Taking a deep breath, she kicked the figure in the butt. “Wake up, this isn’t a bus station.”
“Hey that’s mine!” Jane Lane said as she came awake suddenly. “Daria!”
“About damn time you made it down here.” Daria said as Jane quickly stood up. She felt her walls breaking and then her friend’s arms around her. “Sorry I couldn’t make it for the funeral.”
“It’s ok.” Daria cried.
“No it’s not.” Jane pushed her inside, and then closed the door.
It took almost an hour for Daria and her family to get Jane up to speed on the previous week. She sat through the details squeezing a pillow harder and harder as Rita’s constant harassment was listed.
“Look Trent knows people who know people and for a couple of bucks, they’ll kick the crap out of her.”
“That wouldn’t be a good idea.” Daria said with a sigh.
“No it’s a great idea. How much will you need?” Quinn asked.
“Girls this isn’t the time for revenge fantasies.” Amy stopped them by holding up both her hands. “As much as having Rita killed might make you feel better it’s not a good move.”
Daria snickered slightly in response to the scolding. Quinn and Becky gave almost identical raised eyebrows.
“We didn’t say anything about knocking her off, just beating her up. What exactly have you been thinking about?” Jane said in a teasing tone.
“I need therapy.” Amy sighed.
It only took another week for child protection to send someone out and Daria nervously showed her the house and answered the woman’s questions. The honest fear she felt was enough to convince her that despite years of outright war between them, living without her sister was a nightmare she didn’t want to face.
“And how many people live here?” The social worker asked after completing her first inspection tour of the house.
“Just Quinn and I. Aunt Becky and Aunt Amy are only here for another week and Jane is visiting for a few more days than she’ll be heading back to Boston.” Daria said as they walked back into the living room.
“Ok, well you’re keeping the home clean and stocked with food. Quinn seems to be doing well at school. I can’t find anything to correct here.” The woman said with a smile. “Now how’s everything going?”
“Fine.” Daria said but she knew the word came out to quickly.
The woman closed the folder she had been taking notes in and sighed gently before speaking. “Daria no one expects you to have it all together. Part of taking care of children is helping the people who are responsible for them. How are you doing?”
“It’s been hard.” Daria said, slightly nervous at admitting it.
“Quinn’s been great but I didn’t realize how scary anything could be. Every time she’s out with her friends I start worrying that something has happened to her. She’s started to sneak in to avoid the hugs.”
“That sounds normal. The first thought you’re going to have is to smother her, that’s a bad thing. Remember that the chances for something bad to happen haven’t changed since before your parents died.”
Daria nodded and gave a weak smile.
“It’s not going to be easy but just try to relax when she’s out and talking with her will be the biggest help to both of you.”
The woman said minutes later looking pleased which Daria had to admit lessened the load that seemed to sit on her shoulders constantly. : And I didn’t even have to lie or make anything up. She just wanted to get a real feel for how things are going. : Daria thought as she went into the kitchen and started pulling out ingredients for dinner. : Ok so how hard can meat loaf be. :
Jane stood by the sliding glass door fanning the smoke into the backyard. “It’s all right, a little smoke gives it flavor.”
“Daria it’s not anything to stress over.” Amy tried to cheer up the morose girl.
“Ya kiddo, I’ve set fire to the kitchen lots.” Becky added.
“I like meat loaf crunchy.” Quinn said poking her fork into the pan. Daria grabbed the pan and pulled it away. “Don’t eat that, are you crazy?”
“Take out?” Jane asked questioningly. “No. I’m making dinner.” Daria said fiercely.
Quinn looked up amused and waited. “How’s everyone feel about … ummmm … what do we have that’s quick?” Daria said as she searched the fridge.
“Anything will be fine.” Quinn said hoping to end the mad dash for dinner.
“Ummmm … how about … a salad … with … shrimp. How does a seafood salad sound to everyone?”
“Perfect, Great, Good, Hurry up I’m starved.” The four women around the table all said at once. Three of them turned and stared at Jane annoyed. “What?”
Daria took out the salad makings then pulled out the shrimp. “Well the shrimp is precooked so all I have to do is heat it up. I think I can handle that.”
“If I choose this moment to offer help I’m getting smacked aren’t I?” Jane said with a smirk.
“Of course not, you’ll just be sleeping in the back yard.”
“Daria just do me one favor and don’t try to get all creative in the kitchen until you get the basics down. I loved my brother but when he got the idea he could make these crazy meals before he could even make rice, it was bad.” Becky said shaking her head.
“Got it.” Daria said smiling. “Neither of them should have been allowed into the kitchen.”
“Remember when Mom burned the pan trying to boil hotdogs.” Quinn laughed slightly as she remembered.
“And kitchen sink stew.”
“Oh god and I was really hungry that night.” Quinn was laughing, her face alive the memories. “I really miss them.” The shift in mood was in blink of an eye quick.
“So do I. But I think Dad would really like it that we’re sitting here remembering him and his cooking.” Daria said sadly, a tiny smile on her face.
“He would indeed.” Becky reached out and patted Quinn’s hand gently.
“I used to like to listen to him go on about squirrels and his dad. He was always nice and always around. I think that’s a really nice trait in a dad.” Jane said with a grin. “Plus all the food you two wouldn’t eat made great leftovers for Trent and his band.”
“That explains their music.” Quinn said evilly.
Daria started up the stairs later that evening when her Aunts stopped her. “Why don’t you go get that battle of Old Grandda’s you stashed in your room earlier and bring it down here?” Amy said, her look unreadable.
Daria blushed then walked up the stairs silently to comply. When she returned she found both her aunts sitting on the couch and Amy pointed toward three empty glasses on the end-table. Daria looked at both of them in surprise. “If you’re going to drink, hiding it is the quickest way for problems to start.” Becky said wisely.
“We aren’t going to be here much longer.” Amy said with a sigh. “A drink to relax and unwind a little is one thing.”
“Sneaking a bottle of booze into bed with you is another. So sit yourself down and we’ll have ourselves a few drinks and talk a bit.”
“I’m only 19.” Daria started to say then shook her head in disbelief. “This is weird.”
“You’re an adult and maybe you aren’t 21 yet but I’m not your parent. I just don’t want it to turn into something that gets out of control.” Amy picked up a glass and held it out to be filled.
“I thought it would help me not to think about … everything.” Daria admitted.
“Didn’t work, did it?” Becky grinned.
“So sit down and have a drink with two old ladies.” Becky held out her glass.
Daria filled their glasses and one for herself. “I tried Dad’s gin but it tastes like aftershave.”
“Jake always said it was an acquired taste.” Becky chuckled. “But he did keep the good stuff around.” She held up her glass before taking a sip.
Daria took a small sip and let the burning ease its way down her throat.
“Maybe if we get her drunk enough, Amy will regal us with the story of … when was that?” Becky said with a teasing glint in her eye.
“She doesn’t want to hear about that.” Amy blushed. “I think I do.” Daria let her curiosity off its leash.
“It was 22 years ago and they weren’t married and nothing happened really, so tell her.” Becky took another drink.
“Oh my god.” Daria said getting the message.
“We didn’t sleep together.” Amy said quickly. “It was just a little makeout session after Helen dumped him for the evening. The next day he confessed and I confessed then Helen took him back and tossed me in the pool.”
“Remarkable fortitude.” Daria whispered.
“Don’t make it more than it was.” Amy shook her head in embarrassment.
“It made Helen realize what she almost threw away then she stopped playing games. They got serious after that.” Becky said without a grin.
“You kissed my dad.” Daria said in a deadpanned voice.
“Yes, it was years before you were born, more than a year before they were married.” Amy said pushing Becky roughly. “Hey!”
“I just didn’t expect that. You liked him didn’t you?”
“Yes I did.”
“I’m going to end up married to someone like him aren’t I?” Daria said.
“If you’re lucky.” Amy said with a smile. “Aren’t too many like him out there.” Becky said as she refilled her glass.
“So why the drinking party if you don’t want me to drink?” Daria asked.
“Drinking isn’t a problem, never has been. Losing control is the problem, abusing it is the problem. Drinking in some dark room, wallowing in self pity is going to head down a very bad path.” Becky said.
Daria nodded her understanding. “We wanted you to get an idea of what a non negative drinking moment was … before we left.” Amy wore her sad smile.
“We’ll be fine, … it won’t be easy but we’ll make it.” Daria said forcefully. “I wouldn’t be offended if anyone wanted to check on us.”
“Every week.” Becky said with a smile. “And you know my number.”
“Same here, I’ll be out of the country for three weeks after I leave but you have my work email and I check that every day.” Amy added.
“I’ll keep you updated, I wish you could stay after Dad’s will gets read.”
“What I wish, is that I spent more time with you girls before now. I was always busy when you lived in Texas. You both are almost strangers to me.” Becky said. “I know this sounds bad but getting to really know you two, has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
“That’s how I felt after the wedding. Then I get a job that takes me out of the country most of the time.” Amy said. “Isn’t that the way it always goes.”
“You can’t disappear after all this, I won’t let you.” Daria assured them. “We’re family.”
Both her aunts hugged her and nodded their agreement. “I think we’ll be around enough for you to get sick of us.” Becky said with a smile.
Jake Morgendorffer’s face filled the video screen and Daria felt a lump in her throat as he cleared his throat. Quinn tightened her grip on her sister’s hand. Their father’s voice started from the speakers.
“How are my girls doing? … That’s a stupid question. I’m sorry to leave you but I’m hoping you’re old enough to understand this happens. I’m aware of your mother’s will and hopefully she took care of all the important stuff that I’ve forgotten about. Mostly this is my chance to say goodbye and that I love.”
Daria and Quinn both smiled at this, the lawyer shook his head in amusement. “He made several tapes; this is the one he made in case both of them passed away.”
“A few things your mother might not have known about, just some stocks and a boat … and some family property. The lawyer has all the details. What I really want to talk to you about is either other. Daria … so smart and confident … in every area but one. Quinn, so quick to sell yourself short, never letting yourself grow away from the material side. The two of you defined yourselves at a young age … to young. I’ve watched my daughters carve out identities that are only half of who they really are.”
Daria felt Quinn’s grip tighten even more, her hand was starting to throb. “What I want to ask you both is to try to be a little bit like the other. Quinn you have so much more to offer than just your looks and Daria, you have looks to offer as well so both of you, stop hiding.”
Daria felt a smile then, a quick glance at Quinn showed one there to. : Of course I knew that by the sudden increase of blood flow to my hand. :
“Take care of each other and remember that when it all comes down, family is all you really have. Just in case there’s any leftover resentment toward anything I’ve ever done. I’m sorry, I love you both and Goodbye.”
The lawyer turned off the tape. “I have the paperwork for the items he mentioned. He left them to both of you equally. I am also pleased to inform you that your Aunt Rita’s contesting of the will was dismissed by the judge yesterday. I wouldn’t rule out a civil lawsuit but it’s doubtful she would be able to put forth a convincing argument for anything outside of small claims and my suggestion would be to show up and pay whatever token amount she wants. Let her have the win and just be done with her.”
: That’s all she really wants, to one up her sister one more time. : Daria thought with a frown.
Quinn went through the small stack of stocks and bonds after they returned to the house. “Dad bought into Google! Only a couple of thousand shares but still that was a pretty good move.” Quinn said as she used her mother’s laptop to check the stock prices. “OH MY GOD!”
“I just checked the prices on Google stock.”
“I assume you found something you like.”
“I want to go shopping.”
Daria walked to the table and read the numbers on the screen.
It didn’t take her sister too long to wake her up.