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Post-coital Tristesse — Word Count: 8,450

Winston acted as if he hadn’t heard Bruce’s tirade. “Have you heard the new Droids album?” he asked.

“It’s pretty good,” Bruce admitted.

Winston laughed. “Talk about a joke!” he said. “Their earlier stuff was so much better.”

“They did hit their peak around 1995,” Bruce agreed.

Winston took a heavy drag on his cigarette. “1995? More like 1983,” he said, snorting.

“What’s your point, Egbert?” Bruce snarled, clearly annoyed.

Winston just shrugged.

“I don’t pay you to talk about the latest bullshit indie album,” Bruce snapped. “I pay you to fucking entertain.”

“You remember Maria, right?” Winston suddenly asked, stubbing out his cigarette on the wooden arm of the chair.

“The black one?” Bruce asked, confused about where Winston was leading the conversation.

“No — no, the other Maria,” Winston said, leaning forward. “The cheerleader.”

“I don’t know, I guess so,” Bruce said, annoyed. “What is with you and Roger today, bringing up all these old chicks from high school?”

“Why, who was Roger talking about?” Winston asked.

“That bitch who always wore those long skirts and shit,” Bruce said.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, the one who got trapped under a fridge!” Winston said, snapping his fingers as he suddenly remembered. “God, I haven’t thought about her in years!”

“Do we have a reunion or something coming up?” Bruce asked.

“God, I hope not,” Winston said, pulling a fresh pack of Winstons out of his pocket and hitting it against the palm of his hand to pack down the cigarettes. “If we do, I’m not fucking going.”

“No one would show up to a Sweet Valley High reunion,” Bruce scoffed. “Maybe Elizabeth Wakefield. She’d plan the whole fucking thing.”

Winston nodded in agreement. “It would be just like one of our many proms all over again.”

Roger burst into Bruce’s office, looking wild-eyed and disheveled. His hair was sticking up in several different directions and his blue cotton shirt was untucked and rumpled, its bottom button undone. He shut the door behind him and leaned against it heavily. “We have a full-on riot situation out there,” he said, out of breath. “They’re calling for Patman blood if they don’t get a decent health care plan within the next five minutes.”

“Why don’t you call Liz Wakefield,” Winston suggested with a smirk. “I hear she’s really good at solving all kinds of problems. I also hear she cries immediately afterward.”

Roger laughed and exchanged a high five with Winston.

“You know, for once one of you actually came up with a decent idea,” Bruce said. He picked up his phone to dial, but before he could, it rang. The caller ID lit up with the name he wanted most to see at that moment: Elizabeth Wakefield.

* * *

Lila strained as hard as she could to pull Marshall’s wheelchair up the front steps of their home, a lavish estate she had appropriately named Lila Crest.

For an 82 pound man, he’s awfully heavy, Lila thought as she grunted with the effort. A small bead of perspiration formed on her upper lip. Just great. Now my makeup is going to wear off.

“Forget it,” Lila said out loud, letting go of the wheelchair and letting Marshall roll down the three steps she’d pulled him up. His wheelchair ran into the base of a tall palm tree and stopped.

“This is what you get when you’re nice enough to give the servants the day off,” Lila grumbled, sitting down on the step and fanning herself with one perfectly manicured hand. She turned her face up to the sun and closed her eyes, letting its cancerous rays soak into her skin.

I might as well make the most of the situation, Lila reasoned. I’ll just sit and tan while I wait for someone to stop by and help me.

Hours later, no one had even so much as driven a car past Lila Crest. I know it’s a cul-de-sac, but come on! Lila thought angrily. I at least expected Jessica to stop by and bitch about that awful Courtney Kane and sit out by the pool with me.

Marshall was still leaned up against the tree. He appeared to be passed out in a deep, peaceful sleep. Or dead! Lila thought, her eyes lighting up. She jumped up from the step and hurried over to check his pulse through his papery skin. It was faint, but still there.

“Damn it!” she cried, dropping his arm. It landed with a thud against the side of his wheelchair. “This is turning out to be the worst day ever!”

Lila slumped against the palm tree, crossing her arms over her chest and hoping that if she pouted hard enough, a savior would appear.

A few minutes later, two cars pulled into the driveway: the Wakefield twins’ shared Jeep, and a long black limousine that could only belong to one person in the world — Marshall Stanton V.

* * *

“Come on, man, you need to cheer up,” Ken Matthews said, passing the basketball to Todd. “At least Elizabeth is still alive.”

“That’s true,” Todd said. He caught the ball and tried to sink it in the basket, but it sailed through the air in a sad little arc, hit the cinder-block wall underneath the basket and bounced away down the court. “I think I need to take a little rest and catch my breath.”

“All right,” Ken called over his shoulder as he ran after the basketball. “But we’re definitely going to need to work on your stamina. If you want to impress Elizabeth by playing rec league basketball, you’re going to have to be able to play for more than a few minutes at a time.”

Todd nodded, doubling over to quell the cramp in his side as he wheezed for air. “Thanks a lot, Ken. If anyone can help me get back into shape, it’s Sweet Valley High’s star quarterback.”

“I can get you steroids, too, if you need them,” Ken said, jogging back with the ball. “Tony Esteban’s got the hook up.”

Todd looked down at his gut. “Yeah, sounds good.”

Ken idly dribbled the ball, looking lost in thought. But Todd knew the couldn’t have been lost in thought; Ken was just about the dumbest jock he’d ever met. And the most handsome, Todd thought. But that was a long time ago.

A slow blush crept across Todd’s face as he remembered his brief fling with Ken in high school. It had been so magical, Todd had even written about it in his secret diary.

“All right, let’s do this thing!” Ken suddenly exclaimed, throwing the ball at Todd.

Unprepared, Todd looked up — right as the basketball was coming for his face. He tried to throw his hands up to shield himself from the oncoming ball, but it was too late. It hit him square in the mouth, knocking him off balance and sending him tumbling to the ground.

“Fuck!” Todd yelled, clutching at his face. He could feel blood seeping out of his split lower lip.

Ken rushed over, crouching by his side. “I’m so sorry, bro,” he said, tenderly brushing aside a few strands of Todd’s comb-over that had come undone. “Are you all right?”

Todd looked deep into Ken’s eyes. “I’m fine,” he said in a daze. “It’s been a while since I’ve taken a ball to the face.”

Ken smiled. “It’s been a while for me, too. Since I’ve given a ball to the face, I mean. Not since Olivia…” he trailed off, a far away look in his eyes.

Todd hung his head. Of course Ken’s not interested in me, he thought sadly. He’s still in love with his dead girlfriend. And I’m still in love with Elizabeth.

* * *

Enid was passed out on the couch, a smoldering cigarette dangling from her fingers. She had drifted off into a wonderful, drug-fueled dream about Elizabeth Wakefield. In the dream, Elizabeth and Enid were walking hand in hand down the beach, gazing into each other’s eyes as the sun set in a fiery blaze over the ocean. Elizabeth’s golden hair glowed nearly orange in the light, and her blue-green eyes sparkled. Enid was once again her youthful, boring self — no track marks, no c-section scar, no black eye from her latest boyfriend.

Elizabeth moved closer to her, and Enid’s breath caught in her throat in anticipation. But suddenly, her whole world was shaking. The water in the ocean receded quickly; the sun tilted wildly in the sky. Elizabeth looked at Enid in horror. “It’s an earthquake!” she cried.

“It’s OK,” Enid said, trying to reassure her friend. “We’ve been through worse ones, right?”

But it wasn’t an earthquake. In the distance, Enid could see a giant Todd Wilkins walking toward them, crushing everything in his path. And he was coming for Elizabeth, she realized…

“Mommy? Mommy, wake up!”

Someone was shaking her. Groggily, Enid cracked open one eye to find her youngest daughter, Brandi, shaking her awake. Enid jumped and flailed her arm, her cigarette accidentally burning the child’s hand.

Brandi didn’t seem to notice the pain of what would become the latest scar in her collection. “Mommy, one of the ladies just left her house!”

Through her fuzzy brain, Enid remembered telling the girls to keep watch at the window. “Are you sure it was Elizabeth?”

“She had a ponytail,” said Nevaeh, still keeping her post at the window. “Mom, we thought you weren’t going to wake up, just like that other time.”

“Of course I was going to wake up,” Enid snapped, sitting up. “Do you know where she went?” Nevaeh shook her head. “Goddamn it, girls. I ask you to do one thing — one thing — and you screw it up.”

Enid shakily pulled herself up off the couch and grabbed her keys off the table in front of her. She looked around briefly for some shoes, but there was no time to search for them.

“Mommy? We’re hungry,” Brandi whined.

Enid grabbed a bag of stale Doritos from the counter and tossed them to her child. “If you want something else, eat those hot dogs in the fridge,” she said as she walked out the door.

“But Mom, I don’t know how to use the microwave!” Nevaeh complained.

“Eat them cold,” Enid shot back, locking the door behind her. She hurried down the front steps, looking around the courtyard for any sign of Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was walking quickly along the sidewalk, clutching her purse tightly, as if she were afraid someone would come along and snatch it out of her hands. That’s impossible, Enid thought, a smile playing on her lips. There’s practically no crime in Sweet Valley!

Enid followed her silently, making sure to keep her distance. Jessica must have taken the Jeep, Enid realized angrily. What a selfish fucking bitch! Now Elizabeth is going to have to take the bus like the rest of us crazy crackies!

As Elizabeth reached the bus stop at the end of the street, Enid ducked behind a bush, stepping on a broken Mad Dog 20/20 bottle in the process. “Oh, fuck,” Enid swore under her breath. Elizabeth briefly glanced in her direction, looking startled.

A car slowed down to a stop, pulling over in front of Elizabeth. Enid peered out from behind the leaves. A vintage 1983 black Porsche! Enid thought. It looks familiar, but where have I seen that car before?

Elizabeth looked surprised to see the Porsche, but she laughed, relaxing the death grip on her purse and leaned into the open passenger-side window.

“I didn’t expect to see you here!” she said, smiling sweetly at whoever was driving. “I told you I would take the bus.”

Enid couldn’t hear the driver’s reply. She gritted her teeth, as much out of frustration as meth withdrawal.

Elizabeth opened the door. “Well, thank you for coming to pick me up. I really appreciate it,” she said as she got in.

The car sped off, its tires squealing as the driver ignored a red light and swerved around a school bus full of children, nearly causing an accident.

I feel like I know who that was, Enid thought, her mind lost in a fog. Who is Elizabeth’s mystery man — or woman?

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11 2010

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