Post-coital Tristesse — Word Count: 15,560

The sun burned into Todd’s pasty, flabby skin. Through his sunglasses, he could discreetly check out Ken’s perfectly sculpted abs as the two of them lounged on their towels.

It’s Elizabeth I love, it’s Elizabeth I love, it’s Elizabeth I love, Todd repeated to himself over and over. Everything I’m doing — spying on her through her windows at night, getting in shape so I can impress her by joining a recreational basketball league, helping Ken get over the pain of losing Olivia sometime in the late 1990s — everything I’m doing is to win back Elizabeth.

But it was getting more and more difficult to convince himself, especially when Ken was lying just inches away from him in nothing but a tiny red bathing suit.

“Elizabeth is going to be so stoked when she sees you’re playing basketball again,” Ken said, turning to Todd and flashing him a dazzling grin. “Chicks really dig guys who play sports.”

“Yeah, chicks,” Todd said, deepening his voice in an effort to sound more manly.

Ken sighed, and Todd knew exactly what was on his mind.

“It’s Olivia, isn’t it?” Todd asked softly, letting his manly facade drop.

“I just miss her so much, man,” Ken said. “I thought the worst part of my life was going to be those five days where I went blind, but I was wrong.”

“Olivia was, uh … special,” Todd stammered.

“You remember how we met, don’t you?” Ken asked.

Todd nodded enthusiastically. “It was in the locker room, and you were wearing nothing but a towel—”

“No, not how you and I met,” Ken said, laughing. “How Olivia and I met.”

“Oh yeah, on Chatroulette or Craigslist or something,” Todd said. “I remember.”

“We were Quarter and Freeverse, man. I started out by asking her ASL and if she was into freaky shit; then we went on virtual dates and had tons of cybersex,” Ken said thoughtfully.

“It sounds great,” Todd said. I wish he’d met me online instead, he thought. How could he resist someone called trustyboyfriend69?

“Shouldn’t she be here by now?” Ken asked, his voice cutting into Todd’s thoughts.

“Olivia? I’m sorry, Ken, but she’s not … she’s not coming back,” Todd said softly.

“No, not Olivia,” Ken said softly. “I know she’s not coming back. I meant Elizabeth.”

“Oh, Elizabeth, right,” Todd said.

“I thought you said you heard she was coming to the beach,” Ken said

Todd nodded. “Yeah, I overheard — actually, Jessica told me they’d be here.”

Ken sat up and looked up and down the beach, shading his eyes with his hand. “I don’t see her, man.”

Todd sat up, accidentally brushing his leg against Ken’s thigh. Ken didn’t seem to feel the electricity that flowed through Todd’s body at their touch. All he could see was Enid bobbing along on the waves, a glassy look in her eye, and her two children, who looked miserable.

“What the fuck is Enid doing?” Ken asked. “Are those her kids?”

Todd shrugged. “I think so. She’s back on the bennies again, I think.”

“Shouldn’t Elizabeth have staged an intervention by now?” Ken asked. “I’m actually really surprised that she hasn’t. Enid was her best friend. And we all know how much Liz loves to get up in everybody’s business.”

“I think something weird happened between them,” Todd said, blushing slightly as he remembered what Elizabeth had once told them. “Enid, like, went gay for her.”

“Oh,” Ken said, his voice strangely flat. He stared out to sea, again looking like he was lost in thought, which Todd knew couldn’t be the case.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” Todd said quickly. “I mean, I think it’s OK to be gay. Tom McKay is a pretty cool guy, and he’s flaming.”

Ken nodded in agreement. And then, as the sun was setting over the beach and casting everything into a fiery glow, he took Todd’s hand in his, making Todd forget all about Elizabeth.

* * *

Lila sat behind the sand dune, frustrated. Jessica and Stan hadn’t shown up yet. And I even went out of my way to get that bitchy Courtney Kane in on the plan, she thought, fuming. Although Courtney hadn’t shown up yet, either. She’s probably passed out in a dumpster or a pile of coke somewhere.

“I should have known better than to trust Courtney,” Lila said, glancing over at Marshall. He was still face-down in the sand, the back of his neck reddened from hours in the sun.

A slow smile crept across Lila’s face as she realized what Jessica’s absence might mean. “Maybe she managed to fuck up her date all by herself!” Lila cried. Jessica had probably done something low-class, like drink red wine out of a white wine glass or wear a dress from the sale rack.

“Come on, Marshall,” she said, hauling him up out of the sand. “Let’s drop you off at home so I can hit the spa for a nice long massage.”

Sweet Valley

“Wasn’t that date just wonderful?” Jessica gushed as the twins were getting ready for bed that night. Elizabeth had finally stopped crying long enough to brush her teeth.

Elizabeth shuddered, trying not to recall the details of their horrible day at the beach: Stan’s uncomfortable leer, Jessica’s over-the-top enthusiasm, Stan’s shriveled-up nether regions.

Jessica squealed with excitement and gave her sister a crushing hug, causing Elizabeth to choke on her toothbrush. “Before you know it, we’ll — OK, I’ll — be rich!”

Elizabeth frowned and spit into the sink. “Jess, you have a successful modeling career,” she said. “Why do you need some man to support you?”

“Is that why you broke up with Todd?” Jessica asked. “To pursue a career?”

“Todd and I were different,” Elizabeth said quietly.

“Don’t get me wrong — breaking up with Todd was the best thing you could have ever done,” Jessica said. “He’s so boring. Ugh, and have you seen him lately? He did not age well.”

“Jessica!” Elizabeth admonished her sister. “That’s not a very nice thing to say!”

“What? It’s true!” Jessica exclaimed.

“It may be true, but that’s not the reason Todd and I broke up,” Elizabeth said.

“So why did you and Todd break up?” Jessica asked, twirling around and leaning against the counter. She crossed her arms over her chest and looked down. “Do you think we need bigger boobs?”

“We don’t need bigger boobs,” Elizabeth said. She carefully rinsed off her toothbrush and placed it back in the holder at the side of the sink. “And I don’t want to talk about our breakup. That was years ago.”

“Are you sure we don’t need bigger boobs?” Jessica said, looking from breast to breast.

“Yes, I’m sure we don’t need bigger boobs,” Elizabeth said sternly. “They would look weird with our perfect size-six figures.”

“Do you think we need to lose weight?” Jessica pressed on. “Size six sounds so huge these days. Lila heard about this awesome diet where you do this cleanse for ten days. You shit out, like, everything.”

* * *

Amy was furious. That fucking Penny Ayala, she fumed, throwing down her BlackBerry in disgust.

“It looks like we’ve been scooped, guys,” she said grimly to her cameraman and her producer. “ has ID’d our serial date rapist.”

Amy hated the Internet. Not only had it quickly propagated her leaked sexting photos, but now Penny and her stupid little online newspaper had beaten Amy to the most important news story to hit Sweet Valley since a massive earthquake had completely destroyed the Wakefields’ attractive split-level ranch.

“John Pfiefer is the rapist, isn’t he?” asked Bill Chase, Amy’s cameraman and an avid surfer. “He’s come back from the dead. I knew it.”

“No, it’s not John Pfeifer,” Amy snapped. She closed her eyes and slowly counted to 10 in an effort to calm herself down. “But you won’t believe which one of Sweet Valley’s upstanding citizens is our date rapist.”

* * *

Elizabeth turned on the local news and curled up on the couch with her favorite blue Snuggie. She knew she ought to be getting her news from a more reputable source than television news, but her layoff from the Sweet Valley News had soured her on newspapers. Perky-breasted Amy Sutton will just have to do, Elizabeth thought.

“Good evening,” Amy said solemnly, her gray eyes boring directly into the camera. “I’m Amy Sutton, once again coming to you live from the scene of yet another date rape that police say may be connected to other recent date rapes that have rocked our community.”

Elizabeth gasped. “That’s awful!” she exclaimed.

“What’s awful?” Jessica asked, coming into the room and clutching a carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream and a spoon.

“This Sweet Valley date rapist,” Elizabeth said. Jessica sat on the opposite end of the couch, her eyes glued to the television screen.

“Date rape, big fucking deal,” Jessica mumbled around a mouthful of ice cream. “It’s happened to all of us in Sweet Valley at one time or another. Plus, that’s, like, an occupational hazard in my line of work.”

“I’m sure models do get taken advantage of quite frequently,” Elizabeth said, nodding sympathetically. “Especially by those sleazy photographers. Please be careful, Jess.”

On screen, Amy resumed talking, almost as if she’d paused to listen to the Wakefield twins’ conversation.

“The Sweet Valley Police Department has released this sketch of the suspect,” she said as a badly drawn sketch filled the screen.

Both girls gasped loudly. Jessica dropped her spoon, sending a large, bright green glob of mint chocolate chip ice cream sliding down the front of her t-shirt.

“It looks like a fucking anime character!” Jessica exclaimed.

“That really is the most awful police sketch I’ve ever seen,” Elizabeth agreed. “I can’t tell which way is up.”

“It’s really too bad Olivia Davidson was crushed by our old fridge,” Jessica said. “She was a total snooze, but at least she could have grown up to become a sketch artist or something.”

“Police have declined to discuss any possible suspects, but sources close to the investigation have named Bruce Patman, heir to the extensive Patman Canning empire, as the lead suspect in the case,” Amy reported.

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11 2010

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