Someone was shaking her awake. Jessica sat up with a start, for one terrifying moment believing the Sweet Valley date rapist had broken into her home. She lashed out, slapping at the person in front of her.
“Ouch, Jess, stop it!” Elizabeth cried, flinching and pulling back.
Jessica’s eyes focused in the dim light and fixated on her twin. She noticed Elizabeth’s cheeks were wet with tears. “Oh, Liz, it’s just you,” she mumbled sleepily. “Can you make me a grilled cheese?”
“Of course,” Elizabeth said, patting her sister on the knee as she sat down on the couch. “But first, I have to tell you about my day. It was great! I really think I’m going to like working at Patman Canning. It was so nice to see Winston again, and Roger — and Bruce has been so helpful today.”
“Mmm, that’s great,” Jessica said with a huge yawn. She struggled to sit up. “Now will you make me a grilled cheese? I’m starving.”
“And I didn’t even tell you the best part yet,” Elizabeth said, getting up. At the door of the living room, she turned around, her eyes shining with excitement. “I think I’ve finally come up with a way to clear Bruce’s name!”
* * *
Todd sat in the darkness, drinking a beer and looking out of his bedroom window. Behind him, Ken was asleep, snoring softly.
It was three o’clock in the morning and he had just watched Elizabeth enter her condo. Under the streetlights, he could clearly see the post-coital flush that had crept up into her cheeks and that her eyes were reddened from crying.
What is she doing out this late? Todd wondered. It’s something I would expect from Jessica, not Elizabeth.
Ken mumbled something in his sleep that sounded like the name Olivia. What am I doing? Todd thought, running a hand through his comb-over. He set his beer bottle down on the windowsill. Through the open window, a soft night breeze carried the faint scent of the ocean. I’m torn between Elizabeth and Ken — but it sounds like Ken is torn between me and a dead chick.
Todd knew if he had just married Elizabeth, like everyone had predicted since their elementary school days, he wouldn’t be sitting up at night, wondering where his life had taken such a drastically wrong turn. It would be Elizabeth snoring softly on the bed behind him and mumbling the name Enid; maybe they would have even had a child or two by now, a child whose foundation would have been shaken to the core once Todd inevitably came out of the closet. He would be a basketball star; Elizabeth would be the editor-in-chief of the Sweet Valley News and do all the cooking, cleaning and laundry in between tracking down stories. The perfect life, Todd mused.
As much as he knew his romantic relationship with Elizabeth had been built on a foundation of lies, Todd couldn’t help but care for her as a friend and as a stalker. He may not have been able to give Elizabeth exactly what she wanted from him, but he could give her his friendship, couldn’t he? Wouldn’t that be what the Elizabeth he had known and loved would have wanted?
But where does that leave Ken? Todd asked himself. Will he be able to handle it if I make Elizabeth a part of my life again? Or will our relationship fade away?
Across the courtyard, the light came on in Elizabeth’s room. Todd couldn’t tear his eyes away.
* * *
Elizabeth finished brushing her hair and sat on the edge of her bed. She reached underneath her mattress and pulled out her journal, the only true friend she’d ever had. She unhooked the blue ballpoint pen that was attached to its cover, turned to a clean page and began writing.
Dear Diary: I never thought I’d be anything other than a journalist, but today I found out that crossing over to the dark side — public relations, that is — can be fun!
Speaking of crossing over to the dark side, I had sex with Bruce Patman four times today! Well, OK, if I’m being honest here — and this is the only place I can truly be honest — it was more like ten. I thought we were just friends, but I’m starting to think we’re meant to be together. It’s like I can read his mind. Granted, there’s not much to read — sex, sex, money, sex — but I feel like we’ve really connected on a deep personal level. I can’t believe I’m saying that, but it’s true.
Of course, that means I have to work extra hard to show everyone in Sweet Valley that he’s not the Sweet Valley date rapist! But I think I may have come up with the perfect plan. In between my fourth and fifth orgasms of the day, it hit me. But I’ll share my plan with Bruce tomorrow — there wasn’t any sense in bringing up such a sore topic of conversation mid-thrust!
On a side note, I haven’t thought about Todd in weeks. I can’t believe I ever let him talk me into a little backdoor action. I guess there’s a first time for everything!
It was strange to see Enid this morning, especially since she’s turned into such a crackhead. I know our relationship has been pretty rocky since I found all those creepy love notes she wrote to me and stashed under her bed — I swear I wasn’t being nosy when I found them, but you already know that, don’t you, diary? — but I really do care about Enid. It’s so weird that she says she went out on a date with Bruce last night. He didn’t mention anything about it, and I know he would have told me, because, really, who wouldn’t confide in me, Elizabeth Wakefield?
Well, diary, it’s getting late, and I really need to get some sleep. I have to rest up for my big day tomorrow: my second day of work! I’ll tell Bruce all about my plan, maybe over lunch. He said he was going to take me to this great place called the Unicorn Club. He says the steak is really good and that the view isn’t bad, either. I’m guessing it’s right on the beach, which may be a little romantic for a business lunch, but that’s OK. I can’t wait!
* * *
Enid had been all over town, tacking up posters with photos of her missing children. She had even remembered to include the correct phone number, but no one had called. I can’t believe this shit, she thought. I go on one bender and suddenly the kids are nowhere to be found.
She had even posted up a sign on a telephone pole that loomed over the street corner where she regularly met her dealer, but that one hadn’t even panned out. Walking the streets of Sweet Valley in a drug-induced haze, Enid stared into the face of every child she encountered, hoping she would come face-to-face with one of her girls but instead scaring random passersby with her cracked-out eyes.
After wandering for what seemed like days, Enid found herself in the dimly lit parking lot of Kelly’s Bar, almost as if she had been drawn to it by some power other than herself. “Yes, that’s it,” she said excitedly. “I need a drink! Just one or two to help me think better.”
Focused only on the prospect of getting her next fix — even if alcohol wasn’t really her drug of choice — Enid didn’t notice Amy Sutton and the Sweet Valley Action News team until they were blocking her way.
“Excuse me,” Amy said, thrusting a microphone into Enid’s face. “Is it true that you’re the biological mother of the so-called ‘Kelly’s Kids’?”
Enid blinked and threw an arm over her eyes, trying to shield herself from the bright light emanating from the television camera. “What are you talking about, bitch?”
“I’m Amy Sutton with Sweet Valley Action News,” Amy said, flashing a smile for the camera. “We just have a few questions for you concerning the two children found abandoned in a car here.”
“I know who you are,” Enid snapped. “You were one of those dumb bitches from high school I always hated.”
Amy wasn’t fazed by Enid’s insult. Instead, she pushed on with the interview, barking at Enid in clipped tones. “Sources are saying you are the mother of the two girls found last night in this parking lot. Is it true?”
“It depends,” Enid said, narrowing her eyes at Amy. “What do they look like? Any of ‘em got burn marks? I burned Brandi with a cigarette the other day.”
“You burned your child — with a cigarette?” Amy repeated, incredulous.
“It was an accident,” Enid said dismissively. She snorted with laughter. “You mean to tell me you never burned your kid with a cigarette by accident?”
“So you admit to abusing and neglecting your children, then,” Amy pressed. “Is that why you abandoned your children?”
“I didn’t abandon my kids,” Enid said hotly. “I just misplaced them.”
“And there you have it,” Amy said, turning to the camera. She fixed her gaze straight ahead, staring down the lens. “Enid Rollins, mother of the two abandoned children known as ‘Kelly’s Kids,’ admitting to abuse. The Sweet Valley Police Department has assured me that charges are forthcoming and that the children will be placed into foster care — the same system that failed Sally Larson. Jeffrey ‘Who the Fuck Cares About You Anymore?’ French, back to you.”
Enid winced as the light on top of the camera suddenly clicked off, plunging her into darkness and forcing her eyes to adjust. “What the fuck was that all about?” she demanded, squinting toward Amy. “Why would you ambush me with a live interview about some kids I don’t even know?”
Amy handed her microphone to Bill Chase and turned to face Enid. She crossed her arms over her chest. “Seriously, Enid? Is your little drug-addled brain too stupid to figure it out?”
“Maybe,” Enid said defensively. “If you want to question me, I demand a lawyer. Get Liz Wakefield out here.”
“Elizabeth Wakefield is not a lawyer,” Amy said snidely. “The only lawyer in town is Ned Wakefield. Everyone knows that.”