Bruce glanced nervously over his shoulder at the twins. It was the most worried Elizabeth had ever seen him. He looks even more worried than that time we saw a hummingbird hovering outside of his office window at Patman Canning, Elizabeth thought. I think he seriously thought it was going to bust through the glass and peck our eyes out!
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Ned continued, “I ask you: Would a man afraid of birds be capable of date rape? By the end of this trial, I’m confident you will come to the same conclusion that I have: No, a man afraid of birds doesn’t have the balls to commit date rape.”
Wow, it’s almost like Dad read my mind, Elizabeth thought. That’s kind of creepy.
Jessica giggled a little bit louder and shifted in her seat as their father took his seat back at the defense table. “Birds!” she repeated, laughing. “I lied: This is the funniest shit I’ve heard all week.”
“Jessica!” Elizabeth hissed. “We’re going to get kicked out of here. People are staring!”
Jessica rolled her eyes. “No one else is paying attention,” she complained. “Look, Winston is texting.”
“I don’t care what Winston is doing,” Elizabeth whispered back. “You need to behave yourself!”
“God, get the stick out of your ass, Liz,” Jessica said. Her facial expression turned from boredom to horror when she realized she’d set off her twin crying again. “Oh, seriously? You’re into anal?”
“It was just that one time,” Elizabeth sniffled. “With Todd.”
Jessica shuddered. “Even I think that’s dirty,” she said, grunting in disgust. “And they say I’m the slutty twin.”
Elizabeth shrugged. “Let’s not discuss this right now,” she pleaded, gulping back her tears.
“Fine,” Jessica shot back. “But we will be discussing this later. I just might need some tips on working it into my dancing repertoire.”
The trial droned on and on, Elizabeth’s attention punctured by giggling outbursts from Jessica and the occasional chime that sounded when Winston received a new text message. By the time they broke for lunch, Elizabeth was stiff from sitting on the hard bench for so long. She stood up and stretched her arms over her head.
“You want to hit the Unicorn Club for lunch?” Jessica asked as everyone filed out of the courtroom. “I get a 20 percent employee discount.”
Elizabeth felt her stomach go queasy at the thought of the Unicorn Club. “Jessica, I never want to set foot in that awful place again,” she said.
Jessica regarded her sister with skepticism. “You looked like you were enjoying that lap dance from Courtney Kane — I mean, Candy Kane,” she said.
Elizabeth’s hand flew up to cover her mouth. “That was Courtney Kane?” she asked with a shudder. “God, she has not aged well.”
“It’s the cocaine,” Jessica said, pushing open the courthouse door. The two of them blinked in the sunlight, and Jessica reached into her handbag for a pair of red-framed sunglasses. “She looks beat down.”
“She really does,” Elizabeth agreed. “I never would have guessed that was her.”
“Well, if you won’t go to the Unicorn Club, do you want to just hit the Dairi Burger, then?” Jessica asked. “Are you sure you don’t want to go to the Unicorn Club? Mr. Collins will be there…”
“I’m sure,” Elizabeth said firmly as they reached the Jeep. “The Dairi Burger is fine with me. I’m really not that hungry.”
“I’m starving,” Jessica said, starting up the car. “I could really go for one of those huge cheeseburgers with fries right now — and a large strawberry shake.”
Elizabeth looked out the window as they passed through Sweet Valley’s cute little downtown area. “What if they convict Bruce?” she wondered aloud.
Jessica shrugged. “So what if they do? Bruce has always been kind of an asshole,” she said. “You should see some of the stunts he’s pulled in the Unicorn Club over the years. He has horrible strip club etiquette.”
“Even so, that doesn’t make him a date rapist,” Elizabeth pointed out.
“Whatever, Liz,” Jessica said as she guided the car into the Dairi Burger parking lot. “You seem to forget about him grabbing your breast that one time in high school.”
“That was different,” Elizabeth insisted. “I was acting like you then.”
She hopped out of the Jeep and swung her purse over her shoulder. The Dairi Burger parking lot was packed. It looked like almost everyone who had been at the trial had decided to head there for lunch as well.
“Hey, there’s Lila,” Jessica said, waving to her friend, who was seated at a booth near the back of the restaurant with Stan next to her and Marshall’s wheelchair awkwardly positioned at the end of the table. “Let’s sit with her.”
“All right,” Elizabeth agreed, although she wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of spending her lunch break with Lila Fowler.
“Isn’t this trial just so boring?” Jessica asked Lila, flopping into the booth across from her friend. She then gave Stan a seductive look. “And how are you, my little Marshall the fifth?”
“Fine,” Stan replied icily. Jessica and Lila exchanged meaningful glances.
“It really is boring,” Lila agreed, sipping on her chocolate milkshake. “I mean, DNA evidence? Like I want to hear about Bruce’s sperm. Yuck.”
“Lila, shh!” Jessica scolded. “I don’t want this one to start crying again.”
“Oh, sorry,” Lila said sheepishly. “I forgot.”
Elizabeth bit her lip and looked away as tears formed in her eyes.
“Ugh, I wish I could forget,” Jessica said, rolling her eyes. “This bitch cries every two seconds these days.”
“Well, at least one of us is getting some,” Lila said, resting her chin in her hand and casting a sideways glance at Marshall. “Sometimes I wish Bruce was giving it to me as much as he’s giving it to you, Elizabeth.”
Jessica ordered a double cheeseburger with extra fries to complement her strawberry milkshake. Elizabeth asked for an ice water, no lemon.
“I hope the food comes soon,” Jessica moaned, clutching at her stomach. “I’m starving.”
“Do you really think Bruce will go to jail?” Lila said, a note of worry sounding in her voice. “They don’t send rich people to jail, do they?”
“It depends,” Elizabeth said thoughtfully. “How much has he contributed to his congressman this year?”
“Not enough, probably,” Jessica said. “He can barely pull out a five-dollar bill to tip after a fantastic lap dance.”
“Jessica, he was making it rain the other night,” Elizabeth pointed out.
Jessica snorted and sucked loudly on her straw. “That was for your benefit, Liz,” she said. “It was obvious he was just trying to impress you.”
Lila sat back in the booth and crossed her arms over her chest, narrowing her eyes at Elizabeth. “He never tried to impress me like that,” she said snidely.
“Lila, the two of you hate each other,” Jessica pointed out. “Besides, he kisses like a dead jellyfish.”
“Not anymore,” Elizabeth said, crying. Jessica and Lila tried to ignore the loud sounds coming from Elizabeth’s mouth as her body was wracked with sobs.
“True, I don’t really like Bruce,” Lila conceded. “But if we got together, think of how much money and power we’d have. It would be more than I could get from either one of these two.” She jerked her thumb toward Marshall and Stan.
“Patman Canning is a pretty lucrative business,” Stan agreed. “I’m sure Bruce makes more in a year than I have in my bank account right now.”
“Really?” Jessica said. “Maybe I should have been going after Bruce all this time…”
“Is that it, Elizabeth? Is that why you don’t love me?” Stan pleaded.
“No!” Elizabeth cried, taken aback. “This isn’t about money for me. Don’t any of you understand?”
“Elizabeth,” Jessica said witheringly, “when have Lila or I ever understood anything about you?”
“She has a point,” Lila said, moving aside her chocolate shake as the waitress set a huge garden salad down in front of her. Lila slathered it in ranch dressing. “We don’t speak nerd.”
“I am not a nerd,” Elizabeth said angrily.
“Calm down,” Jessica said around a mouthful of cheeseburger. “You’re nerdier than us, that’s for sure.”
“Yeah, and even Winston Egbert is less nerdy than you these days,” Lila pointed out. “Have you seen his ironic facial hair lately? So hilarious!”
“Much better than those tired old jokes he used to tell,” Jessica agreed. “And those impersonations he used to do? So awful!”
“Plus, he has, like, insane pop culture knowledge,” Lila said. “You know how at parties, we’re all wrecked and then he’s like ‘Hey, guys’ and makes a reference to Tony Sargent or something? None of us would remember that shit!”
Jessica giggled and scooped up some more fries. “Oh my god, yeah, totally,” she said enthusiastically.
“There’s Winston now,” Lila said, waving him over. “Stan, go find somewhere else to sit.”
Stan reluctantly got up and shuffled off to a table by the restrooms while Winston came over and sat down.
“Hey, ladies,” Winston said, casually pulling out his phone and checking his text messages.
“Who are you texting?” Jessica demanded. She shoveled a fistful of fries into her mouth and continued to talk around them.
“Ah, no one,” Winston said, locking his phone and putting it back in his jacket pocket. “Just some chick I met at Kelly’s the other night.”
“Just some chick,” Lila repeated with a grin on her face. “Right.”
“Anyone we know?” Jessica pressed.
Winston smiled wryly. “You and I don’t run in the same circles, Jessica,” he said.
“Oh, come on,” Jessica pleaded. “You know I hit up Kelly’s every once in a while.”
Winston laughed. “Right, when you’re not in picking up frat boy douchebags in those sorry excuses for bars you like to frequent,” he teased.
“They are clubs,” Lila said haughtily. “Night clubs.”
“Yeah, Kelly’s is a total dive,” Jessica piped up, grinning.
“Like the Unicorn Club isn’t,” Winston retorted.
“Ouch,” Jessica said, pretending to be hurt. “Winston, you’re so hilarious.”
“I used to be the unofficial class clown,” he said, grabbing a menu from the middle of the table and cracking it open. “Didn’t you know?”
Lila delicately speared some ranch-covered lettuce. “So what do you think of this whole Sweet Valley date rapist thing?” she demanded of Winston. “Do you think Bruce did it?”
“I don’t know,” Winston said, shrugging. “I have a hard time believing he did it, but it sure seems like he did. God, I wish this place had its liquor license.”
“Me, too,” Lila echoed. “I’d kill for a glass of pinot grigio right now.”
I might need a drink to get through the rest of this trial, Elizabeth thought grimly. Things weren’t looking good for Bruce at all.
* * *