Diana's Life Tips #77: "Denial" is the Best River to Swim In

Submitted into Contest #81 in response to: Write about two people reconnecting after a rough patch in their relationship.... view prompt

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Funny Fantasy Romance

Author’s note: This is part of the “Diana’s Life Tips” series where there’s an overarching plot, but each story is stand-alone with relevant information.

Relevant information: Daemon is a demon Diana accidentally summoned. Diana accidentally stole a copy of a demon invasion plan. If they don’t stop it, Daemon could get drafted into a demon war and the human world could face serious repercussions.

***

“Diana, are you in here?” Daemon asked?

Shrieking answered Daemon and it wasn’t Diana’s.

At least five girls chucked their backpacks with heavy textbooks inside at the demon as he opened the door to the girls’ bathroom on the second floor of Saint Richards High School.

“Get out of here, you perv!”

“This is the girls’ bathroom. You’re not a girl!”

With a scoff, Daemon replied, “You know how gender is a spectrum? Well, put that spectrum on a color wheel and attach it to a spinning pin. Then spin it hard enough to send it flying. That’s my gender. I go where I want.”

“And yet, you use he/him pronouns,” Diana called from the corner sink she sat on. She slid off in a swift movement, the soles of her shoes clicking against the monotone white tile floor. Black bags dragged down her tired eyes. She had a hard time not looking at the floor as she spoke. Raising a hand to ruffle her unwashed brown hair, Diana added to the bird’s nest of locks. It went from robin to emu. She looked like a normal high school student, not the fancy future reporter she always carried herself as with sharp make-up and clean haircuts. “What do you want, Daemon?”

“I’ve been trying to find you all day, only to find you’ve holed up here. What happened to you? You look terrible.”

The tip of Diana’s lip lifted a little in humor. “You really know how to make a girl feel special, don’t ya?”

“Diana, I’m serious.”

“Hi serious, I’m Diana,” she said lazily.

Daemon gasped. “A dad joke? I know what’s wrong with you—you’ve become a father! The newborn must be tiring you out beyond belief so you’ve come here to hide from it. Well, drop that baby at a sitter and let’s go. We’ve got a demon invasion to stop.”

Diana’s eyes sharpened with alarm as Daemon casually mentioned the demon invasion in a room full of teenage girls. Turning to them, she said, “What he means is—”

A girl with curls thicker than her arm and eyebrow thinner than a toothpick deadpanned, “We already know he’s crazy, girl. You don’t need to defend him.”

Diana exhaled in relief. “Okay, good.”

“What, I’m not crazy—the demon invasion is happening.” He pointed at them accusingly. “And all of y’all should be preparing. How much toilet paper have you stocked up on?”

In response, someone in a stall threw a roll at him over the door. “Enough. Get out.”

“Not until I speak to Diana,” Daemon said.

“You’ve spoken. Mentioned a demon invasion and accused me of being a father—wrong by the way,” Diana replied as she lifted herself back onto the sink counter and into the guardian bathroom gargoyle position she was in before he arrived. “Conversation over.”

Moving forward, Daemon grabbed her wrist. “No, it’s not. We need to talk about our plan for the invasion.”

Or we never talk about it. What’s a demon invasion? Sounds like a weird cologne.”

“Is that why you’re hiding out in the bathroom? You’re running from your problems? It’s not normal to disregard your problems like this.”

Diana yanked her wrist back. “Wrong. It’s completely normal to ignore your problems. What’s not normal is expecting a teenage girl to prevent a demon invasion. Now, if you excuse me, I have other business to attend to.”

Daemon snorted. “Like what?”

Before she could answer, a girl in a jean skirt with twin black mascara waterfalls falling from her eyes bursted into the bathroom. Snuffling sobs, she hunched over the only open sink—the one next to Diana—and splashed some cold water on her face.

“That,” Diana said as she hopped off the sink. Speaking softly to the crying girl, she asked in her sweetened voice, “What’s wrong, sweetie?”

Between heart-wrenching sobs, she answered, “My boyfriend… just dumped me… out of nowhere.”

Diana rubbed the girl’s backs as she nodded sympathetically. “That’s awful.”

I know,” the girl whined.

“What’s your name?”

“Kathy.”

“Well, Kathy, I’m Diana, and I’m going to help you with your love life.”

Kathy stopped crying long enough to look at Diana with blurry eyes. “What?” A tiny bit of hope crawled into her miserable voice. “You are?”

Diana flashed a sincere smile. “Absolutely.”

“One second,” Daemon said as he pulled Diana to the side. “What are you doing?” He whispered. “What about the demon invasion? We have to stop it—I don’t want to get drafted!”

“That sounds like a you problem.”

“It’s a ‘you problem’ for you, too.”

“Calm down there, Dr. Seuss.”

“You wanted to make it your scoop for your big break to get a better position at the school paper from Ratty Katherine.”

“Rachael Kim,” Diana corrected.

“Close enough.”

“I can’t exactly write about a demon invasion to the world, can I? Either I look unhinged and lose all credibility or everyone freaks out because it’s a freaking demon invasion.” As she brushed a lock of chestnut brown hair to the side, she glanced at Kathy. “Besides, I have a new idea to raise about the ‘Life Tips’ column: a romance column.”

She walked back over to Kathy. “Hey, girl. Say, once I help you get your love of your life back, think you could do me a favor and let me write about it for the school paper? I think everyone would love to hear about this romantic tale.” Diana waved her hand through the air like she was presenting a huge title. “Love Resurrected. Quite inspiring, right? So, what do you think?”

Kathy nodded.

Eagerly, Diana clapped her hands together. “Fantastic. Let’s get started shall we? What’s your ex-boyfriend’s name? If I talk to him, then I can get his side of the story and piece this all together. Once we establish where everything went wrong, we can fix it. Sound good?”

“Sure.”

“Alright, let’s head out.”

As the new duo headed to the door, a group of girls shoved Daemon’s body towards them. “If you’re leaving, take your perverted friend with you!”

Outside the bathroom door, the trio exchanged glances. “Well, Daemon, if you want to come with us, you’re gonna have to help us,” Diana declared.

“I didn’t choose to get shoved out the girls’ bathroom,” Daemon said.

“You signed up for that the moment you entered it. Here’s the plan: I’ll take Kathy somewhere calm to record her side of the story—and maybe fix her make-up.” After reaching into her book bag, Diana handed Daemon a small pocket recorder. “You go to the ex-boyfriend—”

“Anthony Filips,” Kathy filled in. “He’s the quarterback.”

Diana whistled. “Damn, I’ve seen him. Nice work.”

Kathy blushed.

“I’ve seen him, too,” Daemon said. “Can’t believe he would go out with a girl that looks like she just crept out of someone’s mirror to kill them.”

The girls shot him a duel look that said “say something like that again, and we’ll crawl out of your mirror to kill you”. Daemon took a defensive step back and muttered half a dozen apologies until they cooled down.

Diana took a deep breath. “As I was saying before Daemon proved himself a douche, he’ll go and record Anthony’s side of the story.” While pointing to the respective buttons, Diana gave Daemon a quick tutorial on how to work the human technology. “The four of us will meet in the cafeteria at four. Any questions?”

“How did I get roped into this again?” Daemon asked.

“You’re dimwitted.”

“Just not holding back anymore, huh?”

“After that mirror comment? You’re lucky it wasn’t something worse.”

***

Bruting, Daemon shoved his hands into his pockets as he walked towards the sweat-infused, testosterone-filled weight room. A crowd of huffy girls in workout clothes kicked the door outside. “You can’t keep locking us out,” one yelled through the glass door.

A football player inside smirked, then replied, “It’s the team’s time now. You’ll get your time later, ladies. For now, enjoy the show!”

“God, those pigs have gotten so cocky,” a girl in neon yellow shorts said.

“Especially since that stupid quarterback got a full ride to Stanford. He thinks he owns the world or something.”

When he approached the door, the girls looked at Daemon with suspicious eyes. “Are you a new football player?”

One of the girls cracked her knuckles.

I’m in danger. “Um, not at all. I’m just here to interview one of them for the school paper.”

A girl with french braids kicked the door again. Daemon swore he saw the glass fracture just a little. With a pout, French Braids crossed her arms, “Good luck getting in. They lock everyone out every Tuesday and Thursday from two thirty to four. Jerks.”

Daemon jiggled the locked handle, smiled, then turned back to the girls. “Anyone of you ladies have a pair of bobby pins?”

In a matter of seconds, Daemon wiggled the bent bobby pins into the lock and unlocked it. Finally, someone appreciated his thieving skills as the girls giggled with joy and stormed the place.

Viva the revolution!

Gimme those dumbbells!

As half the team was forced off the equipment, a certain pissed off quarter back stomped over to Daemon. He towered over him for only a second before gripping Dameon’s T-shirt and lifting him a clean inch off the ground. “What’s your problem, man? That was our private weight room time.”

“From the looks of it…” Daemon glanced at the far, far away ground, “You don’t need it.”

Semi-flattered, Anthony lowered his guard and Daemon. “What do you want, man?”

Holding out the recorder, he said, “To interview you, actually.”

***

Since the girls took over the weight room, Anthony suddenly found some free time on his hands. He and Daemon found an empty bench outside the gymnasium to talk. “What’s this interview about anyway?” Anthony asked.

“Your breakup with Kathy.”

Anthony threw his head back and snorted. “Man, really? Did she put you up to this?”

“No, someone far more annoying did.”

“Anyway, there’s nothing to talk about.”

“Kathy claimed you dumped her out of the blue.”

Anthoy snorted again. Daemon wondered if there was any truth to when the girls called them pigs. “‘Of the blue’,” he mocked, “Of course she would think that. Man, she’s gotten so delusional about this whole thing.”

Daemon held the recorder closer to Anthony, feeling his reporter instincts kick in after spending so much time with Diana. “Go on. Let it all out.”

“First: it wasn’t out of the blue. This has been building up for a while but Kathy always refused to acknowledge that.”

“When did it start?”

“Months ago—when I got my acceptance letter to Stanford. Full ride. Obviously I’m going. Since it’s a sports scholarship, I have to leave as soon as my senior year ends for training camp in the summer. When I told Kathy, she got all mad about me leaving Florida and moving across the country while she’s stuck here still in high school—she’s a junior now. I tried to talk to her about it, but she shut me down every time. She went cold on me for about a week, never responding to my calls or texts, until suddenly we ran into each other at a party. Suddenly, she was all happy and laughing again, like it had never happened. Whenever I asked about it, she changed the conversation. She’s been in denial this entire time.”

Daemon’s eyes perked up. “Denial you say?” Sounds familiar.

“Yeah. Finally, I couldn’t take anymore of it. A relationship is nothing without communication, right? So, I broke up with her.” Looking at Daemon, he asked, “Are there any more questions?”

He switched off the recorder. “Nope. All that’s left is to meet up with the girls in the cafeteria. I think it’s gonna be a good meeting.”

***

Since school was over, the cafeteria was empty with plastic chairs stacked in the corner as a pair of janitors mopped the greasy floors. Dim lights flickered overhead as Daemon led Anthony inside where they saw the girls sitting with a mysterious stranger. Diana waved them over. “Glad you’re finally here,” she said. “This is Dr. Miller, a therapist, to help you through this rough patch. As much as I would have liked to do it myself…”

“She sucks at romance,” Kathy finished.

Diana’s upper half collapsed on the lunch table into a defeated limp. “Yup. Goodbye romance column, hello “Life Tips” until my grave.”

“Don’t be so down,” Kathy said. “I like your ‘Life Tips’ column.”

Shooting up, Diana asked, “Really?”

“... no. Sorry, I mean half of them don’t make any sense. ‘Diana’s Life Tip #52: Don’t Get in a Car with a Demon Driving’? What does that even mean?”

Diana and Daemon exchanged a look.

“Let’s just start the therapy session, alright?” Diana said as she excused herself to go wait with Daemon in the corner.

“How did you even get a therapist in such a short time?”

“I promised them ad space in a newspaper.”

“The school paper? And they agreed to that?”

“Well…” Diana twirled a lock of hair around her finger, “I didn’t exactly tell them it was a school paper. Just a paper.”

“Nice.”

“Let’s just move on.”

Every now and then, Diana stole a glance at the couple. “What do you think?”

He observed them, stroking his chin. “Mmhmm. Oh yes. Indeed. Very good.”

“You have no idea what’s going on, do you?”

“Nope. Hey, you’ll never guess what caused their break up in the first place.”

“What?”

Denial~” Daemon sang like it was honey.

Diana stiffened. “So?”

“So? So? Maybe it’s time you faced your denial.”

Shoving her hands in her pockets, she spun to face the windows. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Oof! In denial about being in denial. That’s rough.”

She didn’t respond.

Daemon leaned his head back, rubbing his neck. “Come on, Diana. Talk to me.” He opened his arms wide open. “Let me be your therapist.”

“Show me your degree first.”

“Let me be your unqualified scam of a therapist. Just tell me what’s wrong.”

“Nothing.”

“Diana…”

“No.”

Diana...”

“Fine!” She exploded. “You wanna know what’s wrong? You’re expecting me to stop a demon invasion just because I happened to accidentally steal the invasion plan. What am I supposed to do? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know so just leave me be.” Diana crouched and covered her ears as she squeezed her eyes shut. “Why do you expect me to do something? Why not someone else who actually knows what in the hell is going on?”

A warm hand landed on her shoulder in solidarity as Daemon squatted next to her. “Because I have no one else.”

Diana lowered her hands. “What?”

“I have no one else. As far as I can tell, you’re the only human who’s noticed Cerberus in school, so they’re not gonna be helpful. I can’t contact Christian hell for help or return until you sell your soul to me—which you’ve been clear is never going to happen. And any demons that are actually on earth are impossible to find or are too selfish to do anything. You’re all I’ve got.”

She opened her eyes. “I didn’t think of it like that. But... just because I’m your only option doesn’t make me a good one. I still don’t know what to do. I’m useless. I can’t even write a good freaking column for a crummy school paper.”

He rolled on his heels and laughed a little. “Oh my Satan, don’t worry about stopping the invasion much. Together, it’ll be easy. All we have to do is stop Satan’s ex-wife. We can drown her in a tub of holy water or lock her in a room full of crosses. Demons are surprisingly weak.” Daemon paused. “Not me though. I can do like… a thousand push-ups.”

Laughing, Diana teased, “Prove it. Do it now.”

“No.”

“Do it, coward.”

“No. See, I’m so strong I don’t even cave to peer pressure.”

Diana giggled. “Whatever.”

Turning to her, Daemon had nothing to offer but a warm smile and hand to get up. “So, are we in this together?”

She took his hand. “Yes.”

February 18, 2021 23:42

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3 comments

Joshua Trockel
20:07 Mar 04, 2021

I love the story! The witty dialogue made it so much fun to read—Diana has some quip! Picturing a demon singing "Denial" after having interviewed a high-school jock made laugh. Great piece!

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09:46 Mar 03, 2021

I love their dynamic. They way they bicker good-naturedly is so funny, and you are an expert at quippy dialogue. I really enjoyed the way that the subplot mirrored the larger over-arching plot as well, and it was really nice to take a step back from the high-stakes stuff for a much more minor altercation. Really good job :)

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Lily Kingston
13:18 Mar 04, 2021

thank you so much!!

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