Post-coital Tristesse — Word Count: 6,409

The club wasn’t very crowded. At a table to her left, Jessica spotted one of her regulars, Mr. Collins. He had been the twins’ English teacher at Sweet Valley High, and he’d popped Elizabeth’s cherry up at Miller’s Point one night. Elizabeth had come home crying uncontrollably, Jessica recalled.

Even though Mr. Collins kind of gave her the creeps, he was still one of her best-paying customers. Jessica worked her way over to his side of the stage, gyrating her hips and accepting dollar bills from A.J. Morgan and Claire Middleton as she did so.

“Hello, Mr. Collins,” Jessica said breathily, crouching down and holding out a hand for her usual tip. Inwardly, she shuddered in disgust, but in six years of dancing Jessica had become a pro at not letting her face betray her true feelings.

“Elizabeth,” Mr. Collins said warmly. “Do you need ‘advising’? Preferably in the champagne room?”

Oh, gross, Jessica thought. I hate it when he pretends I’m Liz.

“Now, Mr. Collins,” she purred, wagging a finger in his face playfully, “you know that’s not my name.”

“Don’t ruin the fantasy, Jessica,” Mr. Collins said through clenched teeth. “Do you think I couldn’t tell which one of you is the whore?”

Jessica’s eyes blazed with anger. No one calls Jessica Wakefield a whore and gets away with it! she thought, but Jessica managed to keep up her seductive duckface.

Mr. Collins held out a ten-dollar bill and Jessica snatched it up with a greedy hand. “Now, do we have an understanding?” he asked coldly.

“Fine,” Jessica said, her face just inches from his. “Let me finish this rotation first, and then I’ll meet you back in the VIP room.”

“I knew you’d come around, Elizabeth,” Mr. Collins said, a wide grin creeping across his face. “You always were a bright girl.”

Jessica slithered from side to side as she pulled herself into a standing position, then swung around the pole in the center of the stage to a loud round of applause from Mayor Santelli.

When the song finished, Jessica gathered up her g-string and bra and tottered off backstage, heading toward the dressing room to freshen herself up before her “date” with Mr. Collins.

In the dressing room, one of Jessica’s colleagues and old enemies, Courtney Kane, was snorting a line of coke.

“You’re so fucking gross,” Jessica said, wrinkling her nose at Courtney in disgust as the girl came up for air. “And you have a total coke booger.”

Courtney wiped at her nose. “And you have a total case of bitchiness.”

Jessica turned her back on Courtney and dabbed away a smudge of eyeshadow that had migrated to her lower lid. I should kick her in the fucking throat with my heel, Jessica thought, narrowing her eyes.

Instead, she said sweetly, “Remember what happened last week, Courtney?”

In the mirror, Jessica caught Courtney’s eye. “That was you?” Courtney snarled. “I should have known.”

Jessica shrugged. “Maybe I didn’t cut up your favorite thong,” she said, smirking. “Maybe it busted because you’ve just gotten too fat.”

In response, Courtney leaned down and frantically snorted another line.

“Candy Kane to the main stage,” the DJ boomed. “Candy Kane to the main stage.”

“Shit,” Courtney said, sniffling. “I’ve got to go.”

“See you later, you fat bitch,” Jessica said, laughing.

When she had left, Jessica pulled Courtney’s cocaine baggie from her unzipped purse and flushed it down the toilet for good measure.

“Ol’ Candy Kane’s going to flip her shit when she can’t find her stash,” Jessica said gleefully.

She gave herself one last look in the mirror. As always, she looked great. “But it needs something else.” Jessica pulled a ponytail elastic off the counter in front of her and pulled back her hair. “Perfect,” she whispered.

And she knew Mr. Collins would agree.

Sweet Valley

On TV, Amy Sutton was reporting live from the scene of a date rape — the Patman Estate — but Elizabeth could hardly pay attention.

“I can’t believe I don’t have a job,” she whispered out loud.

Only one thing could make her feel better — a call to her friend and mentor, Mr. Collins. He was always willing to lend a sympathetic ear, and there was no one better in Sweet Valley from whom to get advice — aside from herself, of course.

Elizabeth turned down the volume on the TV, then leaned over to pick up her phone from the coffee table and punched in Mr. Collins’ number.

“Hello?” Mr. Collins answered, his voice sounding strangely low.

“Hey, Mr. Collins,” Elizabeth said, feeling as if she would burst into tears at any moment. “It’s Elizabeth Wakefield.”

“Oh, yeah, Liz, work it!” Mr. Collins cried.

“That’s just the problem, Mr. Collins,” Elizabeth said, her voice cracking. “I can’t work it anymore. I got laid off today.”

“Elizabeth, do you remember the time we went up to Miller’s Point?” Mr. Collins asked.

“Yes, of course,” Elizabeth said, nodding even though he couldn’t see her.

“And that time in the Oracle office?” he asked. “Yeah, baby, get all up in it!”

“Uh huh,” Elizabeth replied.

“Oh, and that one time in Chrome Dome Cooper’s office — just to mix things up?” Mr. Collins asked, referring to the principal of Sweet Valley High and his former boss. “God, that guy was such a dick.”

“Yes, I remember,” Elizabeth said. “But what does that have to do with anything?”

“Nothing,” he said, a low growl in his voice. “I just wondered if you still remembered.”

“Yes I do, but—”

“Listen, Liz, I’ve gotta go,” Mr. Collins said quickly.

The dial tone buzzed in Elizabeth’s ear. She suddenly felt like she didn’t have a friend in the world.

* * *

Amy Sutton threw down her microphone the second her live feed went off the air.

“All right, see you guys tomorrow,” she said cheerfully, running a hand through her perfect blonde hair.

As she walked down the driveway of the Patman Estate, Amy briefly recalled all of the fun times she’d had there — all of Bruce’s extravagant parties and the time they’d killed that kid from Bridgewater or Palisades or wherever.

“I don’t even remember where that guy was from!” she said, smiling to herself. “Or even what his name was. Charlie? Chris?”

But that was high school, Amy thought as she unlocked her minivan parked at the bottom of the driveway. I’m so far past that now.

In the years since she’d graduated from Sweet Valley High, Amy had distanced herself from everyone she’d known back then — with the exception of one person.

Barry Rork, Amy thought, a smile playing on her lips. Barry had been her high school sweetheart, and now he was the father of at least two of her three kids.

But he’s most likely Melissa’s father, Amy reminded herself. She started up the minivan. It was just a drunken one-night stand after a silly little bachelorette party. I’m pretty sure Barry’s the father.

Yes, Amy decided, she had the perfect life. A great career as a broadcast journalist in one of the top 10 markets in the country, three adorable kids who had inherited their parents’ good looks and a husband who didn’t beat her — unlike Maria Santelli, who Amy ran into every now and then at charity functions.

Maria Santelli-Harris, Amy corrected herself. That sounds so much better than Maria Santelli-Egbert.

As her minivan sped toward the Sweet Valley Day Care Center, Amy decided she wouldn’t waste another second of her life thinking about all those losers from high school.

* * *

“God, Egbert, you’re such a loser!” Bruce cried. “Just get out there and make some fucking balloon animals or something.”

“I don’t do balloon animals,” Winston said, relaxing back into the cushy chair across from Bruce’s desk and blowing cigarette smoke in his face. “My specialty was — ‘was’ being the key word in this sentence — impersonations. And puns.”

Bruce shook his head, annoyed. “And another thing,” he said, a look of disdain on his face, “if you’re going to smoke in here, you’d better damn well smoke something that’s worth it. Like an imported cigar. Or pot.”

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11 2010

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