“BFFs,” Amy repeated. “Is that some kind of code for something?”
“Best friends forever, or best fucking friend, something like that,” Elizabeth said. “But that’s not relevant to the accusations that have been made against Mr. Patman.”
“So you’re fucking?” Amy asked, looking down at her notes and nodding.
“No!” Elizabeth cried. “I mean, yes, but it’s not just sex — there’s more to it than that.”
“So you are having an inappropriate relationship,” Amy confirmed. “Tell me, Ms. Wakefield, how did you get the job at Patman Canning? My sources have told me that as recently as two weeks ago, you were working at the Sweet Valley News, now known as SweetValleyNews.com.”
“That’s correct,” Elizabeth said. “But that bitch Penny Ayala laid me off when they went to an online-only edition, and then Bruce — Mr. Patman — offered me a job. Because he’s my best friend forever.”
“Uh huh,” Amy said.
“It’s true,” Elizabeth said passionately.
“How did you really get the job, Ms. Wakefield?” Amy asked.
“I blew him,” Elizabeth said, looking down.
“Excuse me, Ms. Wakefield, but are you crying?” Amy said.
Elizabeth sniffed and tried to blink back her tears. “A little bit,” she admitted.
“Are you crying because you know Mr. Patman will possibly be sentenced to death for his crimes?” Amy fired at her.
“No!” Elizabeth said, looking back up at Amy, startled. “I’m crying because he was so enthusiastic about that particular blow job. You don’t know what it’s like to finally date someone who’s actually into women.”
“Yeah, I’ve never had that particular problem,” Amy said, a little too quickly.
“What about Tom McKay?” Elizabeth asked, cocking her head to one side.
“Let’s not discuss that right now,” Amy said through gritted teeth. “One more question for you, Ms. Wakefield: If you’re screwing Bruce Patman, how can we believe anything you say about his innocence?”
“Fine, then, don’t believe me,” Elizabeth said, holding her head up high and wiping the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand. “But I fully believe in our justice system. And with my father, Ned Wakefield, as Mr. Patman’s counsel, I am confident Mr. Patman will be acquitted of all charges — date rape and otherwise.”
“There you have it,” Amy said, turning to face the camera head-on. “Ms. Elizabeth Wakefield, spokeswoman for Patman Canning — who is also boning Bruce Patman — says Mr. Patman is not the Sweet Valley date rapist. We’ll keep you informed as more develops. For Sweet Valley Action News, I’m Amy Sutton.”
The interview finally over, Elizabeth ran over to the patrol car, which was slowly pulling out of the parking lot. She grasped for the window to get Bruce’s attention. He turned toward her, a sad look in his eyes.
“I’ll do everything I can to get you out of there!” she cried, hoping he could hear her through the rolled-up window. “I won’t let anything happen to you, Bruce!”
* * *
Ned Wakefield took off his reading glasses and rubbed his eyes, sitting back in his chair. “Bruce Patman, Elizabeth? I don’t know about this one,” he said.
“Please, dad?” Elizabeth implored, clasping her hands together in her lap. “This is really important to me, and Bruce has always been such a good friend.”
“Elizabeth, everyone in town knows he did it,” Ned responded. “I’m going to have a very hard time convincing a jury that he’s innocent.”
“Please?” Elizabeth begged again. “You did such a good job getting me off of those vehicular manslaughter charges, remember? We pinned it on some random guy who confessed at the last minute, when really the whole thing was Jessica’s fault in the first place because of some silly little prom prank. And then we all went home and had a good laugh about the whole thing, remember?”
“I remember,” Ned said thoughtfully. “Those were good times, weren’t they?”
“They sure were,” Elizabeth confirmed. “Dad, you’re the best lawyer in town. You’re the only chance Bruce has to get anyone to believe the truth.”
“You really think he didn’t do it?” Ned asked. With his left hand, he tapped out a rhythm in the table, apparently lost in thought.
“Dad, I’m sure he didn’t do it,” Elizabeth said firmly. “He hasn’t tried anything nonconsensual with me since at least 1984.”
“I guess it’s possible one could grow out of being a date rapist,” Ned mused. “But we’ll have to work very hard to show that Bruce is now an upstanding member of the Sweet Valley community. … Elizabeth, why are you crying?”
“It’s just that you — you said the words ‘Bruce’ and ‘upstanding member’ in the same sentence and I got all hot and bothered,” Elizabeth said through her tears.
Ned threw up his hands and waved them as if to clear that particular bit of information out of his mind. “Elizabeth, I know you’re an adult and you can do whatever you want with whomever you want, but I’m really not comfortable knowing all this,” he said. “It’s bad enough that I’ve had the image of his father fucking your mother rolling around in my head since some ambiguous time in the late 1960s, so I really don’t need to add one of you and Bruce.”
“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said, wiping away her tears. “So will you help him?”
Ned sighed. “Elizabeth, against my better judgment, I’ll take the case,” he said slowly. “I just hope your trust in Bruce isn’t misplaced.”
Elizabeth walked into the courtroom, glancing nervously at the throngs of people who had shown up for the trial. Journalists were seated all over the courtroom; Elizabeth noticed Penny and Amy both taking notes in preparation for their reports.
Behind Elizabeth, Jessica hurried her sister along, prodding Elizabeth in the back every few seconds.
“Calm down, Jess,” Elizabeth whispered over her shoulder. “I’m trying to find us a seat.”
“Get one down by the front,” Jessica hissed. “Preferably behind Bruce. I want to maximize my chances of photobombing one of the news shots of him.”
“All right, all right,” Elizabeth muttered under her breath. She squeezed into one of the last few available seats directly behind Bruce. As Jessica sat down beside her, Bruce turned to give both of them a shaky smile.
Elizabeth smiled back. “Everything’s going to be just fine,” she whispered.
“I hope so,” Bruce whispered back. “I’m not sure your dad knows what he’s doing, though.”
Jessica waved her hand dismissively. “If he could get that one off on those vehicular manslaughter charges, surely he can get you off,” she said.
“A dude is not going to get me off,” Bruce said harshly. “Who do you think I am — Tom McKay?”
“I have wondered once or twice,” Jessica whispered back. “Weren’t you on the tennis team with him?”
“Shut up, Wakefield,” Bruce growled.
The judge entered the courtroom. Elizabeth stood up as the bailiff asked them to do so; Jessica, who was examining her nails, remained in her seat. Elizabeth took her sister’s arm and pulled her to her feet.
“What the fuck was that for?” Jessica whispered, annoyed.
“We’re all supposed to stand,” Elizabeth whispered back. “Pay attention!”
“Ugh, this is so boring,” Jessica complained. “Why do I have to be here?”
“We’re showing our support for Bruce,” Elizabeth said. “He needs us right now, Jessica.”
“Fine,” Jessica said, sighing. She rolled her eyes.
The judge sat down and regarded the courtroom with steely eyes. “You may be seated,” he said, settling back into his chair.
Elizabeth held her breath as the prosecutor made his opening arguments. He seems so convinced that Bruce did it, she thought worriedly. What if he convinces the jury that Bruce is guilty, as well?
Jessica sighed loudly and snapped the piece of gum she’d been chewing. Elizabeth elbowed her.
“Jessica, pay attention,” she hissed. “This is the judicial system in action. Isn’t it exciting?”
“Yeah, if you’re a big ol’ nerd,” Jessica said, letting out another deep sigh.
Elizabeth tried to return to listening to the opening arguments, but instead she found her own attention wandering. She glanced around the courtroom. It seemed the whole town of Sweet Valley had come out for Bruce’s trial.
This all seems so familiar, she mused. Just like the last unlikely trial we had in this town.
Mr. Collins was sitting across the aisle from the twins. He appeared to be visibly nervous, sweat beading up on his forehead. He grabbed the knot of his necktie and pulled on it to loosen it a bit. Finally noticing Elizabeth watching him, he smiled her way and made a crude gesture with his tongue. Elizabeth smiled back warmly.
Looking over to her left, Elizabeth spotted Lila, Marshall and Stan two rows behind the twins. Marshall was slumped against the courtroom wall, a puddle of drool visible on his suit jacket. Stan’s eyes were closed, and he was snoring softly. Lila, whose hair was pulled back into an elegant chignon, had a look of pure misery on her face.
In front of Lila, Winston had his phone out and appeared to be texting. Every now and then he would thoughtfully stroke the ironic mustache he had grown over the past week before returning to his texting activities.
Even Todd and Ken had shown up, Elizabeth noticed. The two of them were paying the utmost attention to the trial, their arms clasped around each other.
Elizabeth snapped back to attention as her father stood up. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” he began, “I know it may be hard to believe, but Bruce Patman is not a date rapist.”
Beside her, Elizabeth felt Jessica shaking with silent laughter. “Stop it,” Elizabeth said in an angry whisper, elbowing her sister.
“Well, come on, Liz,” Jessica said, giggling. She had tears of laughter in her eyes. “Bruce — not a date rapist? That’s the funniest shit I’ve heard all week!”