Trent was surprised when, in response to Mr DeMartino asking if any of them could summarise the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, someone in the class actually raised their hand.
"Ah, Miss Daria Morgendorffer," Mr DeMartino said with a pleased, if slightly ferocious grin as he tapped his fingers together. "Our new transfer student from Texas. You can summarise the doctrine of Manifest Destiny?"
The girl lowered her hand. "Yeah," she agreed.
Trent sat up and took notice. Or parts of him did. She had a nice voice. He was sitting behind her, and she had a lot of thick auburn hair, so he couldn't really see much of her, but still.
She didn't say anything else though, which Trent thought was odd.
"Then please do so," Mr DeMartino instructed.
"Oh," the girl said. "I thought you were only asking if we could, not if we would."
Trent smirked and reversed the way he was slumped in his chair, so that now he was sitting back rather than sprawling over the attached desk. This chick didn't just have a nice voice, she was funny too.
"Alright then," she continued. "Manifest Destiny is an ideal of the eighteen-forties that put forth the idea that it was God's will to expand the U.S all the way to the Pacific, and re-make the whole world in the image of America. This concept is, to an extent, still with us today, and while back then it wasn't all that popular with Mexicans, these days it's mostly countries we don't share borders with that dislike the idea."
"Very good Daria," Mr DeMartino praised. "Almost, suspiciously good."
Trent, for his part, was wondering if he'd be able to write a song for his band based on Manifest Destiny. Okay, so his band was really just him and his best friend, but if he could have some cool songs ready for when they eventually found a drummer and a bassist, then that would be a step in the right direction.
Another part of him stored away what the chick had said, and he was sure that when Mr DeMartino tested them on this, he'd hear those words, in her voice, echoing between his ears.
What was her name again? Damn, he hadn't actually been listening then, and while he knew he'd heard her name, he'd already forgotten in. Damn.
"Alright! Who's going to tell me which war Manifest Destiny was used to justify?" DeMartino demanded, and narrowed his eyes at the class.
"You're the teacher," Tommy Sherman scoffed from a few rows over. "You tell us!"
Trent watched as his favourite teacher in the whole miserable school grit his teeth and turned his eyes skyward in a moment of prayer – begging God to give him patience with fools, no doubt.
"Tommy, the process here is that I, the teacher, pose questions to the class. When I get answers from the class, then I know that at least some of you have learned something!" DeMartino informed the thick-skulled footballer tensely before he turned away from him to the rest of the class. "If I don't get an answer, then you're all leaving with double homework and I'll have a quiz for you tomorrow."
"Does it have to be the right answer?" Jesse, Trent's best friend, asked dully.
Trent closed his eyes in quiet lament. Really, the only thing he and Jesse had in common was a love of loud music and pizza. The title 'best' before 'friend' could just as accurately be represented as 'only'.
"Yes!" Mr DeMartino roared back. "Yes, Mr Morino, it has to be the right answer! Can you provide that answer?"
"Uh... no," Jesse admitted after a moment of thought. "Sorry sir."
A couple of seats over, Monique (Trent's ex-girlfriend as of the previous day, but it was their second break up, and he'd been the one to initiate it this time, so he didn't feel so bad) raised her hand.
"Miss Reed," DeMartino acknowledged. "You know which war we fought over Manifest Destiny?" he asked, hopefully.
"The war of eighteen-twelve," Monique answered with confidence.
DeMartino visibly flinched, and seemed to be a hair away from slamming his head into his desk, just to end it all.
For his part, Trent wondered about the effect that hair dye seemed to have had on Monique's brain, since he'd clearly heard the chick with the auburn hair and the nice voice say that it was an ideal from the eighteen-forties. How could it then justify a war in eighteen-twelve?
"Miss Morgendorffer? Are you able to illuminate your classmates as to the correct answer?" the teacher half-way begged.
"Manifest Desitiny was specifically used to justify the U.S.-Mexican War, that went from eighteen-forty-six to eighteen-forty-eight," the new chick answered. "It has also subliminally fuelled just about every conflict that America has been a part of since."
Trent would remember that too. He was really going to have to look up this Manifest Destiny when class let out. It was really sounding like it had the potential to fuel a lot of songs.
The mandatory psychiatric evaluations were a new thing. In previous years (though Trent only had one year of personal experience at Lawndale High to call upon) the only thing the teachers had handed out in the first home-room class of the year had been class schedules. This year, they'd also handed out a time for students to meet with Mrs Manson, the school's rather pitiful psychologist.
He was pretty sure that if Ms Li had tried this before, then Summer, Wind or Penny would have said something. For that matter, he was pretty sure he'd have had to put up with sitting in Mrs Manson's office and taking a dumb, pointless test last year. Which he hadn't. So, this was new.
"Now Trent, what do you see in this picture?"
Trent raised an eyebrow at the woman. Was she serious? It wasn't even a decent, proper, amorphous ink-blot. It was clearly two people. Not a lot of room for imagination in that one.
"Well, I suppose if I turn my head sideways and squint real hard, they could be flags," he offered, and even turned his head at a painful angle and squinted. "Yeah," he confirmed. "Those weird flags that split into two points."
"They're not flags," Mrs Manson said firmly.
Trent straightened up in his chair and un-squinted his eyes to look at her blankly.
"They're two people," Mrs Manson continued. "You're supposed to tell me what they're discussing."
"Ma'am, why did you even ask what I saw in the picture then?" Trent asked logically. "Or were you testing my eyesight as well?"
"Just... tell me what they're talking about," Mrs Manson requested.
Trent shrugged. "Nothing," he said. "They're shapes on a page. They can't talk."
"Imagine that they're a couple of real people," Mrs Manson implored.
"Well, then I wouldn't eavesdrop," Trent stated. "That's not polite."
"And what if they were people on a TV show that you were watching?" the woman tried. "Then what might they be talking about?"
"Hm, probably Live Aid," Trent mused thoughtfully. "First ever world-wide concert, and it was big."
Mrs Manson slumped a little in her chair gave up on that test in frustration. Time to move on.
The new girl, the one with the auburn hair that he'd sat behind in Mr DeMartino's history class, was walking the same way as he was when school let out. Now that they weren't trapped in chairs, he could more clearly see that she was wearing a thick green jacket, a short black skirt, and massive black boots.
It wasn't a dark or grungy look, as such, but it was definitely a powerful look. Even if her clothes and figure were kind of dwarfed by how much hair she had. In the space between the skirt and the boots, Trent could see that this girl had nice legs at least.
He didn't know how long they'd both be walking the same way though, so he decided he'd better try initiating conversation before either one of them had to make a turn that the other one didn't.
"Hey," he greeted. "Morgendorffer, right?" he asked when she didn't respond.
She whipped around to face him in surprise, and Trent saw the face-hiding glasses she wore – and he also saw the sweet mouth and smooth skin and the pretty eyes that were framed so simply by those round black hoops she wore across her nose.
"I'm Trent," he offered, and held out a hand to shake.
"Daria," the girl answered, and Trent could see she looked confused, even as she accepted his hand to shake.
"Cool," Trent said with a smile. "Mind if I ask why you didn't answer before?"
The girl, Daria, shrugged. "I didn't think I was the one being talked to," she answered simply.
"Mind if I walk with you a while? I'm heading the same way, by the looks of things."
"If you're heading for the primary school," Daria allowed. "I'm not going to stop you."
Trent nodded. "Yeah," he replied. "I got a little sister, eight years old."
"Mine's seven," Daria offered with a smirk.
"Yeah? Cool," Trent said with a smile, and for a little while, they walked in silence. "So," Trent tried. "Uh, you know about Manifest Destiny?"
"Covered it last year," Daria admitted with a shrug. "It's a bit more relevant to a Texas history class than a Delaware history class, what with Texas having been some of the land that the U.S. wanted at the time."
Trent chuckled. "Fair enough," he allowed with a lazy grin. "Think it would be an interesting subject for a song?" he asked, a little tentatively. His ability as a songwriter was something that he was somewhat dubious about. O'Neill had yet to give him anything over a C-minus for his creative essays. One part of him just raged 'down with the man!', but another part of him couldn't help but recognise that, however much of an idiot O'Neill was, he was also still the person that taught creative writing – and songs were, to an extent, creative writing.
"I suppose it's got potential," Daria allowed, unaware of Trent's inner conflict. "You write songs?"
Trent smiled, relieved that the idea hadn't been shot down by the new girl who knew more about the subject than he did.
"Uh, yeah," he said when he realised she'd asked him a question. "Me and my friend Jesse, we want to start a band. My ex used to be in it with us, but we've broken up twice already, so... that wasn't so great for band-dynamic. We need a drummer. You into music?"
"I listen to it on occasion," Daria allowed. "But silence works just as well some days."
"Daria! Daria! Daria! Daria!" a high little voice yelled out in enthusiasm when the two teens reached the gate of the primary school, where all the little kids were waiting for whoever was collecting them. Then a small body in blue shorts and a yellow t-shirt, with a pink backpack, and topped with bright orange hair tied by two pink bobble ties into two tiny pigtails slammed into Daria's left leg and side. Two little arms wrapped tightly about Daria's waist, and a brightly smiling face beamed up at the solemn teen.
"Hello Quinn," Daria said to the bouncing small person that had attached itself to her hip so violently. "Did you have a good day at school?" she asked, her tone calm and measured in firm contradiction to the child's excitement.
"I did!" answered the small person, Quinn, with a bright smile. She was still bouncing. "I made lots of friends! And we coloured pictures! And did our seven-times tables! And we sang fun songs! And the teacher read us a story! And I learned how to spell four new words today Daria! They were big words! I learned how to spell 'consultant', 'corporate', 'relocated', and 'responsible'."
Daria patted the little head between its pigtails.
"Why did you have to learn all those words?" Trent asked the child.
The glowing, beaming face turned smoothly to stare at him.
"Who are you?" the child asked. "Oops! I'm not supposed to talk to strangers!" she said quickly, eyes big as she covered her mouth with one hand.
"Quinn, this is Trent," Daria introduced. "He's in some of my classes."
"Oh. Hi Trent! I'm Quinn!"
Trent chuckled. "Nice to meet you," he greeted.
"You didn't answer his question though Quinn," Daria reminded her little sister. "Why did you learn those words? I am impressed that you learned them though."
"The teacher asked everybody to write what they did over the summer vacation, so I wrote about how Mommy and Daddy and us moved here!" Quinn answered brightly, once more beaming up at her older sister.
A tugging came from the back of Trent's shirt then, and he smiled when he turned around and spotted his little sister standing there, with finger-paint stains all up her arms, splattered over her tie-dyed overalls (which had been treated so because of previous paint splashes), and even a few bright (new) spots on her sneakers.
"Hey Janey," Trent greeted, and picked her up to sit on his hip.
"Trent, I'm getting too big to get picked up like this," the black-haired girl declared firmly, though she happily wrapped her arms around his shoulders despite the declaration.
"Art class today?" Trent asked.
"Hi!" Quinn called out and waved up at Jane. "I'm Quinn!"
"I'm Jane," Jane answered. "And Trent is my big brother."
"Well... well... Daria is my big sister!" Quinn countered, and hugged Daria around the waist a little tighter.
"There's no need to get into a fight over the matter," Daria informed the two calmly, her words delivered at a measured pace again.
"Okay," Quinn agreed, and looked up at Jane. "Friends?" she asked.
Jane shrugged. "Okay," she answered. "But I'm older than you!"
"I could be wrong, but I think an evil alliance was just formed," Daria informed Trent softly as Jane climbed down from her brother's hold to take Quinn's hand.
"Trent, can we go for burgers?" Jane asked.
Trent nodded as he chuckled in agreement to Daria's earlier statement.
"Hey Daria, do you like music? Trent's trying to form a band!" Jane declared proudly as they walked.
"Well, I like Joan Jett," Daria answered. "She formed her own record label when no one would sign her. I guess I admire her for that."
"Yeah..." Trent said thoughtfully. "That is cool."