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» Double Penetration

Double Penetration

One

It was yet another perfect day in Sweet Valley, California. The sun was shining, its rays glinting off the waters of the Pacific Ocean. A group of wholesome, all-American teenagers were frolicking on the beach. And at the center of it all were Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield.

The two were identical, from their shoulder-length, sun-streaked blonde hair to their blue-green eyes, which were the exact same shade as the Pacific Ocean. The two even wore matching gold lavalieres around their necks, a present from their parents to each of them on their sixteenth birthday. But that’s where the similarities ended. Elizabeth preserved her perfect, size-six figure through anorexia, while Jessica preferred bulimia.

Elizabeth was the more practical of the two, reserved, studious and kind of boring, while Jessica was fun-loving, impulsive and slutty. Elizabeth was four minutes older than her twin, and as the Wakefield family inside joke went, the four minutes may as well have been four years. Elizabeth’s dream was to one day become a serious writer, but with the shitty gossip column she wrote for The Oracle, Sweet Valley High’s school newspaper, it wasn’t likely to happen. Jessica’s interests skewed toward the more vapid: cheerleading, dances and boys.

Jessica stretched out on her beach towel and adjusted her bikini top. “I’m so bored,” she complained. “I’ve dated practically every guy there is to date in Sweet Valley, and I’ve even killed off a few.”

Elizabeth smiled. Her twin was always looking for the next big adventure, and today seemed to be no exception. “Well, we could always go to the Dairi Burger, or the Beach Disco, or the Box Tree Café – you know, the only three places in town to hang out.”

“Come on, Lizzie, you know that’s not true,” Jessica said. “There’s that pizza place with the stereotypical name, Guido’s, and then that shady bar that all the town drunks go to.”

“You mean Kelly’s?” Elizabeth asked, shuddering. Once, Jessica had fallen in love with Rick Andover, the first in a long line of bad boys with a fast car and a drinking problem. After the two had broken up, Rick had drunkenly jumped into the twins’ red Fiat at a stoplight and had ended up taking the two of them to Kelly’s, where Todd Wilkins, Elizabeth’s on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again boyfriend, had saved them. Of course, it was just one of many scrapes Jessica had gotten the two of them into, and Elizabeth loved thinking about every one of Jessica’s schemes, because it made for compelling backstory.

“Yeah, whatever,” Jessica said, shading her eyes and looking down the beach. “Hey, there’s Lila!”

Lila Fowler walked down the beach toward the twins. She was Jessica’s best friend, even though the two were fiercely competitive and fought constantly. Elizabeth was pretty sure the only reason Jessica was friends with her was because Lila came from one of the richest families in town. Her father, George Fowler, was the head of a company that made some mysterious and, by now, outdated, computer technology.

“Ugh, I am so over the beach,” Lila sighed, throwing down her beach towel next to Jessica with disgust and slipping on her sunglasses.

“Come on, Lila, it’s a beautiful day,” Elizabeth said, smiling up at her.

“You are so boring, Elizabeth Wakefield,” Lila said, rolling her eyes.

Jessica giggled, sitting up on her beach towel. “She is, but not as boring as that drip Enid Rollins.”

Elizabeth frowned. Enid was her best friend in the whole wide world, and she hated to hear Jessica speak badly of her, which she did often. “That’s not nice, Jessica.”

Lila rolled out her beach towel and sat down next to Jessica. “What I think we need is a party.”

Jessica grinned. Lila’s parties were always the biggest and best in Sweet Valley. She always had the best bands, the best food, and all the nonalcoholic beverages a bunch of sixteen-year-olds could ever want. “What will the party be in honor of this time, Lila?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Lila sighed. “Maybe it will be in honor of a Tuesday night. Or to celebrate the fact that we have sororities in high school. Or it could be…” she trailed off.

“What?” Jessica asked excitedly.

“I might know a couple of twins who are celebrating their seventeenth birthdays for the twenty-fourth time,” Lila said.

“This is going to be so much fun!” Jessica squealed.

Elizabeth smiled weakly. A big party at Lila Fowler’s house wasn’t exactly her idea of a good time, but she knew her twin would be all over the idea. And, as usual, Elizabeth would put aside her own feelings so Jessica could get what she wanted. “Sounds great,” she said.

“There’s so much to do!” Jessica said. “Lizzie, do you have a pen and paper around here anywhere? We have to make a list.”

Elizabeth reached into her cleavage, nicely accentuated by her navy blue tank suit, and pulled out the small notebook and pen she always kept with her.

“Thank God you’re a writer,” Jessica said, grabbing the notebook and pen from her sister. “Okay, first things first – do we want a band, or a DJ?”

“Band, of course,” Lila said, sounding bored. “Who wants a crappy DJ?”

“Do you think The Droids will play?” Jessica asked Elizabeth. The Droids were the coolest – and only – band at Sweet Valley High.

“I’m sure if you ask them, they will,” Elizabeth said. “They’ll play just about any event for a buck.”

“We’ll have to get new outfits,” Jessica said excitedly, scribbling in the notebook. “And we’ll have to make a list of who to invite. All the coolest kids, of course. And then there’s the food – what kind of food do we want?”

“Calm down, Jess,” Elizabeth said, laughing melodically. “We have plenty of time to figure everything out.”

“Plenty of time?” Jessica asked. “Our birthday is a week from Saturday!”

Lila’s gaze had shifted down the beach. “Hey who’s that?” she asked, shading her eyes from the sun with her hand and squinting at a group of people.

“I don’t know,” Elizabeth said. “It’s not Ken Matthews with them, is it?” Ken Matthews was Sweet Valley High’s star quarterback, who had been temporarily blinded following a car accident which had wrongly been called “fatal.”

Jessica looked up from her list. “No,” she said. “I’ve never seen any of them before in my life.”

There were three guys and a girl, all dressed in jeans and some sort of matching T-shirts. As they headed toward Jessica, Elizabeth and Lila, Elizabeth was able to make out the lettering on their shirts.

“‘Skanks Gone Stupid,’” Elizabeth read slowly. She wasn’t quite sure what it meant – and she had a bigger vocabulary than the other two girls. But something seemed amiss.

Jessica stared at one of the boys, transfixed. He was the most gorgeous guy she had seen in her life. Well, the most gorgeous guy she had seen since last week. He was tall and muscular, with wavy blond hair and piercing blue eyes.

“Stare much, Jessica?” Lila asked snottily.

“Who is he?” Jessica breathed.

“I’m not sure, Jess, but they look like trouble to me,” Elizabeth said, shaking her head.

Jessica rolled her eyes at her overly cautious twin. “Those men are absolutely gorgeous,” she said.

Lila stood up and dusted the sand off her ass cheeks, which stuck out from either side of her designer thong bikini. “Well, maybe we should give them a proper welcome.”

Jessica quickly scrambled to her feet. She wasn’t about to let Lila Fowler, of all people, steal her thunder!

“Wait,” Elizabeth said, reaching up and grabbing Jessica’s wrist. “Does anybody know what a skank is?”

“Well, I’m about to find out,” Lila said, pulling her designer sunglasses further down her possibly rhinoplastic nose so she could get a better look. One of the guys in the group had set down a blue duffel bag he had been carrying, and he was beginning to unpack what appeared to be camera equipment.

“Oh my God,” Jessica said, her voice low. “I think they’re big-time movie directors!”

“What would movie directors be doing here?” Elizabeth asked. “I know everything there is to know, and I would have known if movie directors were coming to Sweet Valley!”

“Oh, that’s right,” Lila said absentmindedly, still staring at the group. “You probably would have included it in your little ‘Eyes and Ears’ column.”

Elizabeth stood up and picked up her beach towel, scowling. “If the two of you want to stand here all day, be my guest. I’ll be at the Dairi Burger, writing my latest little ‘Eyes and Ears’ column and possibly meddling in someone else’s affairs!”

“Someone’s a little PMS-y,” Jessica observed, her hands on her hips.

Elizabeth sighed. “You’re right, Jess. I’m sorry for snapping at you, even though you probably deserve it, after all the stunts you’ve pulled that have landed me in trouble, not to mention all the boyfriends you’ve tried to steal from me.”

Jessica smiled sweetly. It was an expression she had perfected, as it usually got her out of any kind of trouble with Elizabeth – and with everyone else in Sweet Valley, as well. “Now run along home, Lizzie, and later on I’ll give you all the details about the starring role I’m sure to land in whatever movie they’re shooting,” she said, practically pushing her twin down the beach. After all, the last thing Jessica needed was competition from someone who was as perfect as she.

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go investigate,” Lila said, flashing Jessica a fake smile and heading down the beach.

That makes two of us, Lila Fowler, Jessica thought, hurrying to catch up. That makes two of us.

***

“Hurry up, Jess! We’ll be late for school!” Elizabeth called from the bottom of the stairs. Jessica was putting the finishing touches on her outfit – a teal blue oversized sweater and hot pink leggings, which she was accessorizing with a yellow bow in her hair.

“It takes time to look this fabulous,” Jessica answered as she emerged from her room, posing at the top of the stairs.

Elizabeth laughed. She usually dressed more sensibly than her twin, but she had to admit, Jessica looked great. “What’s the special occasion?”

“No special occasion,” Jessica said, flipping her hair as best she could in spite of the bow.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were up to something, Jess,” Elizabeth said, grabbing her book bag and the keys to the Fiat.

“Me? Up to something?” Jessica shook her head. “I can’t believe you don’t know your own twin better than that!”

“Come on,” Elizabeth said, checking her watch. That was another difference between the twins; Elizabeth always wore a watch, and Jessica didn’t. Not that anyone cared, but if their classmates were having a particularly difficult time distinguishing between the prude and the whore, they knew they could always look for the watch.

“Okay, okay,” Jessica grumbled, adjusting her bow one last time in the hall mirror before hurrying out the door. “Hey, how come I don’t get to drive today?”

“We’re on a strict schedule, Jess. You know that,” Elizabeth said. “Besides, you’re liable to get us killed while checking out your reflection in the rearview mirror.”

“Fine,” Jessica said, sighing, as she settled into the passenger seat of the Fiat. “Hey, are you and Todd going to the dance on Friday?”

Elizabeth cautiously backed out of the driveway, stopping, as she always did, in the street for a second to admire the Wakefields’ attractive, split-level ranch. “There’s another dance on Friday?”

“It’s only the most important event of the year! Besides our birthday, that is,” Jessica said. “I mean, our birthday is practically a national holiday.”

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far, Jess,” Elizabeth said, smiling at her twin.

Jessica sighed. “I still don’t know who I’m going to take to the dance, though. Or to our party.”

Elizabeth had a feeling Jessica did know who she was going to take to the dance – and that it involved the mysterious group of people from the beach. “No idea, huh?”

“Well…” Jessica said, trailing off. “I did sort of meet someone yesterday.”

“Oh, no, Jess. Not one of those ‘Skanks Gone Stupid’ guys,” Elizabeth said, shaking her head. “We don’t even know what a skank is!”

“Jayden said he’d teach me all about it,” Jessica said, dismissing Elizabeth with a wave of her hand. “He’s so dreamy. And, he’s older. I’m sick of these high school boys.”

Elizabeth frowned. “These high school boys were just fine with you last week,” she said.

“Lizzie, you know I’m mature for my age,” Jessica said, turning the rearview mirror toward herself and smoothing the green eyeshadow on her right eyelid. “Besides, Jayden is a big-time film director! And he said Lila and I have what it takes to be stars!”

Elizabeth didn’t like the sound of it, not one bit. “I don’t know, Jessica,” she said, shaking her head. “You barely know this guy.”

“And when has that ever stopped me? I go off with guys I barely know all the time,” Jessica said. “And everything has always worked out just fine.”

Elizabeth had to admit it was true. There was the one time Jessica had wandered off with Scott Daniels, a college boy with a porn star ‘stache, and he had attempted to date rape her in a boathouse. Because Jessica was such a cock tease, Scott left her stranded in the boathouse, and it took her all night long to find her way back. Elizabeth had had to pretend she was Jessica, and, boy, was she pissed – for all of about five seconds.

“Just be careful, Jessica,” Elizabeth warned as she pulled the red Fiat into a parking space at Sweet Valley High and turned off the ignition.

Jessica laughed. “I’ll be fine, Lizzie,” she said, opening the door and hopping out. “I’ll see you later.”

“Bye,” Elizabeth said weakly. She watched her twin walk off toward the Romanesque clock at the front of the school. Elizabeth wasn’t quite sure how a Romanesque clock fit in with the architecture of a public high school in a retro California town, but it served as an instantly recognizable and convenient meeting spot for the students of Sweet Valley High. Jessica met up with Lila and her other best friend, Cara Walker, and the three of them walked side-by-side into the school.

Elizabeth sighed. Something was telling her Jayden wasn’t who he said he was. And it came down to her, as a mere staff writer for The Oracle, to get to the bottom of things!

Two

Jessica picked at her salad. She wasn’t even sure why she’d ordered a salad, anyway. It would just end up in the toilet about fifteen minutes after the lunch period ended. Besides, listening to Lila drone on and on about how she was going to become famous was getting old. Jessica hated when the attention shifted off her.

“So Jayden and his crew are driving all over California, looking for new talent,” Lila was saying. “And when they discovered Sweet Valley, they knew they had hit the jackpot!”

“That’s so exciting!” squealed Caroline Pearce, who used to be the school gossip, but changed following one of Elizabeth Wakefield’s famous interventions. “Lila’s going to be a star!”

“Ugh, stop screeching,” Jessica said, throwing down her fork. “You’re giving me a headache.”

“What’s wrong with you?” Cara asked. She used to be a gossip as well, another convert through Elizabeth’s twelve-step program.

“She’s just jealous,” Lila said haughtily.

“Jealous?” Jessica spat. “I’m not jealous.”

Lila smiled. “Well, you will be. It just so happens that I’ve got a date with Jayden tonight.”

Normally, this was the point at which Caroline or Cara would have made an exit in order to deliver the news to the rest of Sweet Valley High, but not this time. The students would have to find out on their own.

“How’s it going?” Elizabeth asked, setting her lunch tray down on the table and motioning for Jessica to scoot over so she and Enid could sit down.

“Just great,” Jessica muttered.

“So, is everyone excited for the dance on Friday?” Elizabeth said. “I hear it’s going to be a fundraiser of some sort.”

“Yes,” Cara said excitedly. “Pi Beta Alpha is raising money for makeovers for underprivileged teenage girls.”

Jessica shot Elizabeth a venomous look. “As a member of Pi Beta Alpha, you should already know all about this, Liz.”

Elizabeth had only joined the sorority because Jessica had practically begged her to. Determined not to let some silly high school sorority come between them, Elizabeth and Enid had pledged, although the two of them were Pi Beta Alpha members in name only.

“I’ve been so busy with my Eyes and Ears column lately,” Elizabeth said apologetically. “And I did spend some time in a coma, and then I was kidnapped by some creepy hospital orderly who caressed my hair a lot. So I’ve been a little tied up, okay?”

Everyone stared at Elizabeth. “Jesus Christ, that pun was bad, Elizabeth,” Enid said slowly. “Even for you.”

“On that note, I’m out of here,” Jessica said, picking up her tray and heading toward the trash can. She couldn’t believe the nerve of Lila Fowler! Planning a date with Jayden before Jessica could get to him! Lost in her angry reverie, she nearly knocked down Winston Egbert, the obligatory class clown, on her way out of the cafeteria.

“Hi, Jessica,” Winston stammered. In true delusional nerd fashion, he had had a massive crush on Jessica Wakefield for as long as he could remember.

But Jessica didn’t answer. First of all, speaking to Winston was pretty much beneath her, and secondly, if she didn’t puke in the next five minutes, she could just kiss her perfect size-six figure – and Jayden – goodbye!

***

Elizabeth put down her red pen. She had been copy editing the latest edition of The Oracle for two hours now. Why did she always seem to be the only one in The Oracle office after school every day? Sure, they had an editor-in-chief, an arts editor and they did have a sports editor – before he got crazy, tried to date rape Lila and then ended up blowing himself up – but it seemed Elizabeth single-handedly put out every edition of the school newspaper.

She wondered why there were so many would-be date rapists in Sweet Valley and made a mental note to write an investigative piece on the phenomenon. But first, she needed to put this edition of The Oracle to bed – and she needed to investigate the “Skanks Gone Stupid” crew.

Mr.Collins, the faculty advisor for The Oracle, entered the office and peered over Elizabeth’s shoulder. “What are you working on there, Elizabeth?”

Elizabeth practically jumped out of her seat. “Goodness, Mr. Collins,” she said. “You just about scared me half to death.”

“Relax, Elizabeth,” he said, placing a firm hand on her shoulder. “It’s just me. And you. Alone. In this secluded office. Two hours after school has ended.”

Everyone at Sweet Valley High loved Roger Collins. Only in his twenties, the English teacher was tall and handsome, with movie-star good looks. In fact, he closely resembled Robert Redford, back when this was considered a compliment. Elizabeth often confided in Mr. Collins, and he, in turn, often overstepped his professional boundaries in giving advice to young, hot sixteen-year-old girls.

Of course, there had been the time that Suzanne Devlin, a snotty socialite from New York, had come to visit and had accused Mr. Collins of raping her. Everyone believed the story – because who in Sweet Valley didn’t have their own creepy story about an encounter with Mr. Collins? – but he was later vindicated when Elizabeth showed everyone that Suzanne was a liar. Suzanne later came back to Sweet Valley to apologize after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis had led her to change her ways, but as it turned out, all she had was mononucleosis.

“Mr. Collins, can I ask you for some advice?” Elizabeth said, turning her chair around to face him.

“Sure, Elizabeth,” Mr. Collins said, leaning against his desk. “You can ask me for anything. Anytime. You can even come over to my house, if you want.”

“Well, you see, there’s this group of people who are new to town,” Elizabeth began, “and I just have this funny feeling that they’re trouble.”

Mr. Collins crossed his arms. “What makes you think that, Elizabeth?”

“I don’t really know,” she said slowly, shaking her head.

“Elizabeth,” Mr. Collins said softly, reaching down and taking her hand in his, “Does it really matter?”

“I guess not,” she said, sighing. “I’m just worried about Jessica.”

“Jessica?” Mr. Collins asked, his brow furrowed. “Do you think she’s up for a bit of ménage a trois action?”

“Mr. Collins, you know I don’t speak French fluently,” Elizabeth said. “I know you’re dating Nora Dalton, the French teacher, but I’m not sure I understand all of what you’re saying.”

Mr. Collins cleared his throat. “Sorry, Elizabeth. I was just asking, uh, if you think Jessica’s in trouble.”

“Well, that’s the thing,” Elizabeth said. “If she’s interested, it must be trouble. But I don’t have any solid proof that these people aren’t who they seem.”

“Sometimes, we have a hard time dealing with outsiders,” Mr. Collins said. “I think what you need to do, Elizabeth, is to give them a chance.”

Elizabeth jumped up and hugged him. “Thanks, Mr. Collins. You’re the best!” She grabbed her book bag and raced out of The Oracle office. Elizabeth was determined to find her twin as soon as possible and tell Jessica that it was fine by her if she wanted to date Jayden. Maybe Elizabeth would even suggest the two of them make the dance a double date. Talking to Mr. Collins always made everything better!

***

It wasn’t fair, Jessica thought jealously, watching Lila drive off in her lime green Triumph with Jayden in the passenger seat. He had agreed to meet Lila in the parking lot of the school after the Pi Beta Alpha meeting that afternoon. Jessica was on the verge of throwing a temper tantrum right there in the parking lot, but instead she managed to compose herself. Now, her brain was working overtime to come up with a deliciously dastardly scheme to steal Jayden from right under Lila’s nose. She’d come up with so many before, so it shouldn’t be too hard, Jessica assured herself.

“Jessica! Jessica!” Elizabeth called, running across the parking lot. “I’ve just had a revelation, thanks to Mr. Collins.”

Jessica yawned. “Elizabeth, you know better than to use such big words around me.”

“Okay, okay,” Elizabeth said, setting her book bag down at Jessica’s feet and stopping to catch her breath. “What I mean to say is, Mr. Collins helped me figure something out.”

“Not now, Lizzie,” Jessica said distractedly, dismissing her twin with a wave of her hand. “I’m trying to scheme here.”

Elizabeth put her hands on her hips, slightly annoyed. It seemed she was always slightly annoyed with her twin, but, as usual, she was able to shake off the feeling. “You can scheme later,” she said. “This is important.”

“So is the plan I’m trying to form here,” Jessica said. “I’ve got to steal Jayden from Lila, and I’ve got to find a way to get into one of his films. I’ll be famous, Elizabeth.”

“I know, I know,” Elizabeth said wryly. “Whatever Jessica wants, Jessica gets.” She paused for effect. “Even if someone gets hurt.”

“Especially if someone gets hurt,” Jessica said. “That’s the whole point, isn’t it? Besides, no one in Sweet Valley ever truly gets hurt. Everything always works out fine in the end.”

Once again, Elizabeth had to hand it to her sister; Jessica’s schemes were rarely so bad that someone ended up hurt. Well, except for the Jungle Prom debacle. The Wakefield twins had been competing against each other for the title of prom queen, and Jessica had spiked Elizabeth’s drink in an attempt to humiliate her sister and make sure she took home the crown. Jessica had won the title, but her plan had backfired when Elizabeth left the dance with Jessica’s boyfriend, Sam Woodruff, killing him in a fiery car accident. So, yeah, one of Jessica’s plans has totally contributed to someone’s death, Elizabeth thought. But who’s counting?

“Anyway,” Jessica continued, interrupting Elizabeth’s thoughts, “I’ve just come up with a plan. And, as usual, I need your help.”

Elizabeth groaned. “What now, Jess?” She wasn’t sure she was up for one of Jessica’s schemes, but, as usual, she went along anyway. She just didn’t have the balls to stand up to her twin.

“You’ll see, Lizzie,” Jessica said, flashing her sister the smile that seemed to make everyone forget what a total bitch she was. “You’ll see.”

***

Elizabeth peered through the window of the Dairi Burger. “Yes, Jessica, they’re still in there,” she said.

“Good,” Jessica said, leaning against the corner of the building and examining her fingernails. “What are they doing now?”

“They’re still eating their burgers, Jessica,” Elizabeth said. “Exactly what they were doing two minutes ago when you last checked with me. And how come I have to keep sneaking peeks into the window? Why can’t you do it?”

Jessica looked up from her manicure, horrified. “And have Jayden think I’m a total stalker? I think not!”

Elizabeth sighed. “We’re identical twins, remember? He probably thinks I’m you, anyway.”

“Of course I remember,” Jessica snapped. “That’s an important part of my plan.”

“Well, let’s set this plan in motion, then,” Elizabeth said, checking her watch. “I have to finish up my English paper for Mr. Collins tonight.”

“Fine,” Jessica said, straightening her back, tossing her hair, and plastering her most winning smile on her face. “You ready?”

“I’m ready,” Elizabeth said, sighing. She couldn’t believe she kept letting her twin talk her into these ridiculous schemes.

Jessica opened the door of the Dairi Burger in a grand gesture and struck a pose in the doorway. As always, all eyes in the room turned to her. She made her way to the counter, Elizabeth following in her footsteps. Jessica felt an electric tingle run down her spine. She knew, without looking, that Jayden was staring at her – and she knew Lila was as well.

“Hi,” Jessica said to the unknown server behind the counter. He was a teenager, but was either a freshman or high school dropout, so Jessica didn’t give a shit about him. “Can I get a double cheeseburger, a large order of fries, and a giant Tab?” She turned to Elizabeth. “What do you want, Liz?”

“Just an ice water,” Elizabeth said, looking around nervously. “Oh, with a lemon wedge. A small lemon wedge.” She made a mental note to jot down the two calories from the lemon wedge in the notebook nestled between her breasts.

The sever rang up their orders, and Jessica leaned her back against the counter, surveying the scene. Almost everyone from Sweet Valley High was in the restaurant, chattering excitedly with one another. Jayden caught Jessica’s eye and gave her a sly smile. Lila, on the other hand, didn’t look pleased.

Elizabeth picked up their tray and followed Jessica to Jayden and Lila’s booth.

“Why, Lila, I didn’t notice you were here!” Jessica exclaimed, stopping just past the table. “Be a darling and scoot over so Liz can sit next to you.”

Lila shot Jessica an evil look, but obliged. After all, it was heresy to go against the wishes of one of the Wakefield twins.

“Thanks, Lila,” Elizabeth said, putting the tray down and slipping into the booth.

Jessica smiled sweetly at Jayden, who had practically set the vinyl seat on fire sliding over to make room for her. Jessica sat next to him, making sure to gently brush his thigh with hers. “So, how’s it going?” she asked Jayden, picking up her cheeseburger and taking a big bite.

“Pretty good,” Jayden answered. “Lila and I were just talking about some of my upcoming film projects.”

“I adore fine films,” Jessica gushed. “Did I tell you I’m very active in theater at Sweet Valley High?”

“No,” Jayden said, grinning. “But you’re just the type of girl I’m looking to cast.”

“Really?” Jessica asked, fascinated. She could feel Lila’s eyes burning into her.

“So you’re a twin,” Jayden said. “You know, I could really use twins for my next project.”

Elizabeth smiled weakly, sipping her water.

“Oh, Liz isn’t really actress material,” Jessica said. She dumped her fries out onto the tray. “Excuse me, Lila dear, could you pass the ketchup?”

Lila practically threw the bottle of ketchup at Jessica.

“Well, there’s not really much, uh, acting experience necessary for my films,” Jayden said. He played with the straw in his chocolate milkshake, stirring the thick, creamy concoction that made the Dairi Burger famous throughout Sweet Valley. “It’s more of a reality project.”

“That sounds so interesting,” Jessica said, dipping a fistful of greasy french fries into a pile of ketchup.

“Lila’s totally on board,” Jayden continued. “I’m hoping I can get you involved as well, Jessica.”

Jessica narrowed her eyes at Lila, careful to do it for only a split second so Jayden wouldn’t notice. “Well, I’m sure I can set aside some time to assist you with your project,” Jessica said. She reached down under the table and lightly brushed Jayden’s thigh with her hand. “Of course, I’ve been so busy lately, what with cheerleading, and helping Lila plan our seventeenth birthday party, and then there’s the Pi Beta Alpha dance I’m co-chairing…”

“It won’t take much time,” Jayden promised. “We’re taping Lila’s part later tonight.”

Lila shot Jessica a triumphant look. “Daddy’s out of town, so we have Fowler Crest all to ourselves,” Lila said. “Jayden, don’t you think the poolhouse would make an excellent setting?”

Jayden nodded enthusiastically. “Lila, that sounds exactly like what I had in mind,” he said.

“So are you still interested in taping the most terrific twins in Sweet Valley?” Jessica interrupted.

“You’re the only twins in Sweet Valley,” Lila shot back.

“I’m definitely interested in taping the most terrific – and most gorgeous – twins in Sweet Valley,” Jayden said, leaning in toward Jessica. She felt a delicious shiver go down her spine at his compliment.

“I’ll tell you what,” Jessica said. “I think we can work out a deal.”

“Oh?” Jayden said raising an eyebrow. “What kind of deal do you have in mind?”

Jessica tossed back her hair. “How about you go to the Pi Beta Alpha charity dance with me on Friday?”

Jayden nodded, considering Jessica’s offer. “It’s a deal,” he said.

Elizabeth gulped down the last of her water. The absolute last thing she wanted to do was star in a film, but if it was what made Jessica happy, well, then, she’d do it.

“Great,” Jessica said, standing up. “I’ll see you on Friday, then.”

Elizabeth collected Jessica’s trash onto the tray. “It was nice to meet you, Jayden,” she said.

“Oh yeah, nice to meet you as well,” Jayden returned, eyeing Elizabeth’s ample cleavage as she stood up. “Although you were so quiet, I barely even noticed you were here.”

Elizabeth smiled. “Yeah, I’m sort of the quiet one.”

Jayden laughed. “Nice and naughty, eh? This will definitely work for my film,” he said. “See you girls later.”

“Bye,” Jessica said, turning and sauntering away, swaying her hips for extra effect. “Hurry up and throw away that trash, Elizabeth,” Jessica said to her twin in a voice so low Jayden and Lila couldn’t hear her. “We’ve got to get home right away so I can use the restroom.”

“Jessica!” Elizabeth shushed her twin as she dumped the trash into the garbage can just inside the Dairi Burger door. She held the door open for her twin so Jessica could exit the Dairi Burger unimpeded.

“What?” Jessica complained. “I have a double cheeseburger and about a hundred and thirty seven fries just sitting in my stomach. I feel so gross.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t eat that much,” Elizabeth snapped.

“You know, Liz, I’m getting really tired of your attitude,” Jessica said as Elizabeth unlocked the passenger-side door of the Fiat and held the door open for her twin. “It’s really unbecoming.”

“Unbecoming?” Elizabeth fumed as she slid into the driver’s seat. “Can we just talk about the fact that now I’m going to be starring in a film that I don’t even want to be part of?”

“Elizabeth, if you ever talk back to me again, so help me God, I’ll totally kill Todd Wilkins and place the blame on you,” Jessica said, her blue-green eyes flashing.

Elizabeth gasped. “You wouldn’t!”

“I’ve framed you once before, and I’ll do it again,” Jessica said grimly.

“Fine, I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said, backing down as she always did. “Let’s just get home.”

“And step on it,” Jessica said, clutching her stomach. “I’m so totally going to throw up as soon as we get there.”

“You’re joking, right?” Elizabeth said, glancing in the rearview mirror as she backed out of the parking space.

“Well, normally it would be a joke, Liz,” Jessica lied. “But I think I might have to purge this Dairi Burger meal to maintain my figure. I hear the camera adds ten pounds, you know.” She blew up her cheeks. “I don’t want to end up looking like Robin Wilson, pre-diet.”

Robin was a Sweet Valley High student who had been huge. Morbidly obese, even. Like, size eight fat. So fat that even Elizabeth, who always gave everyone a chance, had entertained bad thoughts about her – thoughts like If you didn’t eat all those chocolate bars, maybe you wouldn’t be so fat and ugly and unpopular. But thanks to a starvation diet and compulsive exercise, Robin had lost the weight and joined the cheerleading squad as Jessica’s co-captain.

Elizabeth laughed at Jessica’s puffed up cheeks. “You look nothing like Robin Wilson, pre-diet,” she promised. “You’re much more attractive.”

Jessica exhaled, letting the air out of her cheeks. “I can’t wait until Friday,” she said. “I totally beat Lila to asking Jayden to the dance!”

Elizabeth knew Mr. Collins had said to give Jayden a chance and – although he hadn’t come out and said so explicitly – to trust Jessica’s judgment. But Elizabeth still couldn’t dismiss the uneasy feeling that had settled into the pit of her stomach. There was something about Jayden that set her on edge. She just hoped he wouldn’t let her twin down.

Three

Lila checked her makeup in the bathroom mirror. The bell for homeroom had just rang, and she was the only student in the bathroom. I can’t face anyone today, she thought to herself. I just can’t.

Her eyes were reddened from crying, but she was determined not to let anyone at Sweet Valley High see that she was so upset – especially Jessica Wakefield. If Jessica wanted Jayden Jacobs, the famous director, well, then, she could have him!

Lila applied more mascara and waited a few minutes. Her eyes were slowly beginning to return to normal. She would make it to French class next period, and she would act as if she didn’t have a care in the world. She would pretend she had had a great time with Jayden, she would pretend she was well on her way to being a famous movie star, and then she’d let Jessica fall right into Jayden’s trap. Lila shuddered, thinking about the night before. She’d never felt so violated in her whole life, not even when that douchebag John Pfeiffer had tried to date rape her!

“Okay,” Lila said out loud to her reflection, trying to calm her nerves. “It’s going to be okay.” She gave herself a shaky smile, but her heart wasn’t in it.

A little voice in her head told her she needed to warn Jessica, but then she thought better of it. All the times Jessica had screwed her over, all the times her so-called best friend had acted like a total bitch – well, it was payback time. The only thing that nagged at Lila was Elizabeth. Poor Elizabeth, Lila thought. So sweet. So trusting. She really doesn’t deserve what Jayden is about to dish out.

But it was too late now. Lila was determined to see Jessica get her comeuppance – at any cost.

***

“Hi, Lila,” Jessica said sweetly, waving at her friend from the back of the classroom.

Lila flashed Jessica a bright smile as she made her way to the desk beside Jessica’s. “How’s it going today, Jessica?”

“Great,” Jessica said through clenched teeth. “Did you and Jayden film your part for the movie last night?”

“We did,” Lila said, plastering a fake smile on her face. “We had such a fabulous time.”

Jessica leaned toward Lila, propping her chin on her hand. “Tell me all about it, Lila,” she said. “I’m just dying to know all the details.”

Just then, Ms. Dalton entered the room. Tall and pretty, Ms. Dalton was a favorite of most of the students at Sweet Valley High, although Lila had once spread some pretty nasty rumors about her. It all started when Ms. Dalton began dating Lila’s father. Lila had said Ms. Dalton was screwing Ken Matthews and, as a result, Ms. Dalton had nearly resigned from her job at Sweet Valley High. But that was all water under the bridge now.

“Bonjour, classe,” Ms. Dalton said, setting her lesson plans down on her desk.

“Bonjour, madame,” the students answered in unison.

“I’ll tell you all about it at lunch,” Lila whispered to Jessica. She smiled to herself. Jessica had no idea what she was in for – and Lila intended to keep it that way.

***

“So, I can’t wait to film my part in the movie,” Jessica said, narrowing her eyes at Lila across the table.

“You’ll have so much fun,” Lila said enthusiastically, sticking a straw into her carton of chocolate milk. “Jayden is so amazing.”

“That’s what I hear,” Jessica said. “You know ,you probably shouldn’t be drinking chocolate milk. It’s full of calories. I don’t want you to get fat before those big movie premieres!” She flashed Lila her most dazzling smile.

Lila pushed the carton away from her. “Anyway, Jayden said it’s going to be a while before the film is out on the market. He said it’s going straight to DVD, whatever that means.”

Jessica shrugged. “Maybe it’s some type of award. Or foreign film academy,” she said, her eyes shining.

Somehow, I doubt it! Lila thought.

Suddenly, the two of them noticed a loud ripple of conversation had seemed to wind its way through the crowd of students in the cafeteria. Jessica and Lila looked at each other, puzzled.

“I wonder what’s going on?” Lila asked, scanning the crowd.

“Here comes Cara,” Jessica said. “Maybe she can tell us what’s going on.” Jessica caught Cara by the arm. “What is everyone talking about?”

Cara gave the two of them a furtive glance. “Well,” she began, settling down next to Jessica, “I probably shouldn’t say anything, but what the hell.”

“Spit it out, Cara,” Lila said frostily. “We don’t have all day.”

“Okay, okay,” Cara said, tucking a stray lock of her dark hair behind her ear. “So your famous movie director has recruited half of Sweet Valley High’s girls for his upcoming project!”

Lila shuddered involuntarily, but luckily, neither Cara nor Jessica seemed to notice. Oh, no! she thought. I have to stop this before it goes too far! But is it too late?

“Half of Sweet Valley High’s girls?” Jessica screeched. “I was supposed to be the star!”

“You and Elizabeth,” Lila pointed out. And me, she thought glumly.

“Well, now we’re all going to be stars,” Cara said. “All the prettiest and most popular girls at Sweet Valley High are going to be famous!”

Lila managed to flash Jessica a big smile. “Isn’t it great?”

“Yeah, just great,” Jessica muttered.

“Well, Jessica, you’ll still be the star,” Cara said soothingly, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Apparently, you and Elizabeth are going to be the centerpiece of the film.”

Jessica perked up. “The centerpiece?”

“Well, that might not be so bad,” Lila said with a smirk. “At least you’ll get to share top billing with your sister.”

“You know, Lila, you have total bitchface right now,” she shot back.

“Whatever,” Lila spat as she stood up. “I hope you have fun in your starring role!”

Jessica and Cara watched as Lila walked out of the cafeteria, slamming the door behind her.

“She is so totally jealous of you,” Cara said.

“I know,” Jessica said thoughtfully. “Everyone in Sweet Valley is.” She looked around the cafeteria. Everyone was still chattering away excitedly.

“Well, one thing’s for sure,” Cara said. “This will definitely put Sweet Valley on the map!”

***

It was another beautiful day, so Elizabeth and Enid were enjoying a leisurely lunch outside.

“I have a story idea for The Oracle,” Elizabeth said, taking a tiny bite of her grilled chicken sandwich. She’d barely made a dent in it, and already she was feeling ill.

“What’s it about?” Enid asked. Elizabeth’s stories always fascinated her, probably because she rarely had any of her own.

Elizabeth swallowed. “Well, it could be kind of controversial,” she said. “But Mr. Collins thinks it will be an excellent piece. He even volunteered to help me research the topic.”

“I’m sure it’s going to be terrific,” Enid told her friend warmly. She laughed. “But you still haven’t told me what it’s going to be about!”

“Enid, have you ever noticed that we seem to have an awful lot of attempted date rape in Sweet Valley?” Elizabeth asked.

Enid hadn’t noticed, but that could have been because she was kind of fugly and no one had attempted to date rape her. She shrugged. “I guess not,” she said.

“It even happened to me, Enid,” Elizabeth said, casting her eyes down at the grass. “You remember the time I was in a coma, then woke up and thought I was Jessica?”

Enid nodded. She did remember. Elizabeth and Todd had been heading back from Enid’s birthday party on Todd’s motorcycle, even thought Elizabeth had promised her parents she’d never ride a motorcycle. They had gotten into an accident, and Elizabeth had gone into a coma. After she woke up, she was acting like a total whore – Jessica.

“I remember, Elizabeth,” Enid said slowly. “But what does that have to do with date rape?”

“Attempted date rape,” Elizabeth corrected her. “No one ever actually gets date raped in Sweet Valley.”

“Okay, then,” Enid said, slightly annoyed. “What does that have to do with attempted date rape?”

“Bruce Patman … he,” Elizabeth paused dramatically. “He touched my breast!”

“Well, I’ve heard he is a boob-grabber,” Enid said. “Didn’t he untie Jessica’s bikini top?”

“Yep, but she was totally asking for it. He’d already given me enough wine to get me shitfaced, so it wasn’t really my fault,” Elizabeth said, dropping her voice to a low whisper. “Do you know he keeps a bottle of wine and paper cups behind the passenger seat in his Porsche?”

“A bottle of wine and paper cups?” Enid leaned back, horrified. “You’d think the richest senior in school would use proper wine glasses!”

“I know,” Elizabeth said. “I couldn’t believe it myself. Thank God I fell off his bed, hit my head and returned to my normal self before he could touch the other breast!”

Enid looked up. “Well, speaking of Bruce Patman…” she said, her eyes on a sleek black Porsche turning into the school parking lot. It was Bruce’s car – there was no mistaking it. He was enough of a tool to have a personalized license plate that read “1BRUCE1”.

Bruce parked the car and called to Elizabeth and Enid.

“Hey, Wakefield! Heard you’re going to be a movie star!”

Enid looked at Elizabeth, an expression of surprise on her face. “A movie star?” she asked.

“Oh, God,” Elizabeth said under her breath. “How does he know about that?” She gave Bruce a small wave as he sauntered over.

Bruce gave Enid a look of concern. “Sorry you didn’t make the cut,” he said.

“Bruce, what are you talking about?” Enid asked. “Elizabeth’s not interested in being in some silly movie.”

He laughed. “Good one.”

Elizabeth sighed. “I sorta, kinda promised Jessica I’d tape this film with her,” she said slowly.

“That’s not all,” Bruce said. “Come on, Elizabeth, don’t be so modest. Elizabeth and Jessica are going to be the biggest stars in the film. And apparently, all the hottest girls at Sweet Valley High are going to be in it as well.”

“All the hottest girls at Sweet Valley High,” Enid repeated dully.

“Yeah, you know – all the girls I’ve attempted to date rape,” Bruce said. “If I haven’t tried to slip a roofie in your drink and take advantage of you, then you haven’t got what it takes to be a major film star!”

Enid had heard quite enough. She knew she was kind of ugly and boring, but to see her best friend participating in something like this was completely ridiculous. She stood up. “I have to go study before Mr. Collins’ class,” she said, clutching her books to her chest. “See you around.”

“Oh, Bruce, speaking of date rape, I’m writing an article for The Oracle, and I wanted to interview you,” Elizabeth said.

“Sure thing, Liz,” Bruce said, flashing Elizabeth a thumbs-up sign. “Is after school okay?”

“Yeah,” Elizabeth said, grabbing her books and standing up. “I’ll meet you at The Oracle office at three o’clock.”

“Can I walk you to class?” Bruce asked.

“Why not?” Elizabeth asked. “After all, you’ve changed your ways and are a perfect gentleman now, right?”

Bruce laughed huskily. “For the most part, Liz.”

Loving Regina Morrow had softened Bruce’s black heart. Regina, a rich girl who was born deaf after her vain mother had cracked out on diet pills during pregnancy, had moved to Sweet Valley some time before. Despite the fact that she had to lip-read his sexual advances, the two of them had fallen in love. Regina’s family then discovered a miracle cure for her deafness – one that involved a long-term move to Switzerland. Regina returned to Sweet Valley, able to hear, but held hostage by a disgruntled former employee of her father. In the end, Bruce, Elizabeth, Jessica and Regina’s brother, Nicholas, had saved Regina, and Bruce and Regina’s love had only grown stronger. That is, until they broke up, she started hanging with a bad crowd, tried cocaine once – and died! Slowly, though, Bruce was returning to his normal asshole self.

“How are things going with you?” Elizabeth asked, her voice full of concern. “I know it’s been hard for you since Regina died.”

“Okay, I guess,” he said, shrugging. “It sounds like this movie is going to be the biggest thing to hit Sweet Valley in a long time.”

Elizabeth put an arm around Bruce’s shoulder. “Maybe it’s just what you need to take your mind off everything,” she said.

“Maybe,” Bruce said thoughtfully. “But I can’t help but thinking that if Regina were here, she’d be starring in this movie as well.”

“Oh, Bruce, I’m sure she would,” Elizabeth said warmly. “She was pretty hot.”

Neither Bruce nor Elizabeth was aware they were being watched. From one of the classroom windows, Todd Wilkins was staring at his girlfriend – and she looked as if she was getting very close to another man!

Four

“Why, Todd Wilkins, what on earth are you doing sneaking around outside The Oracle office?” Jessica teased, coming up behind Todd.

He jumped back, startled. “Hi – hi, Jessica,” he stammered.

“Are you waiting for Elizabeth?” Jessica demanded. “I need a ride home, so I hope you’re not planning on bumming a ride off my sister.”

“No, of course not,” Todd said. “I was just trying to find Liz. I needed to talk to her about something.”

“Fascinating,” Jessica said snottily, pulling open the door to The Oracle office. “Elizabeth! And Bruce!”

Todd shrunk back from the door. It was worse than he’d thought!

“She’s in here, Todd,” Jessica called, but he didn’t follow. “Todd?” she asked, poking her head out the door. But Todd was nowhere to be found.

Oh, well, Jessica thought. Bruce is much better looking than Todd – not to mention richer and with a better personality! I guess it doesn’t matter that we went out for about a week and he controlled me to the point that I picked up his dry cleaning, purchased him a few cassette tapes, made out with him on the ground in the woods and let him untie my bikini top. And then he did cheat on me. Go, Elizabeth!

“Is Todd out there, Jessica?” Elizabeth asked, looking up from her notebook.

“Not anymore,” Jessica said with a sly smile. “So, Bruce, what’s going on? Or should I say, what’s going on between you and my sister?”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Knock it off, Jessica. I’m interviewing Bruce for an article on date rape.”

“I’m the most notorious potential date rapist in Sweet Valley!” Bruce exclaimed. “And the richest.”

“Is that so, Bruce Patman?” Jessica purred, leaning against Elizabeth’s desk. “Are you going after Elizabeth now?”

Bruce shook his head. “I never hit the same girl twice,” he said.

Elizabeth sighed in exasperation. “Is there anything I can do for you, Jessica? I’m trying to conduct a serious investigative interview here!”

Jessica’s eyes flashed. “Remember what I told you about your little attitude?”

Bruce shifted in his seat. A catfight was pretty hot, but a catfight between two identical twins with perfect size-six figures, long blond hair and blue-green eyes? He may as well have died and gone to heaven.

“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said.

“Good,” Jessica said, sinking into a chair. “Now, can you wrap this up? I need a ride home. Well, to the mall first, then home.”

“Sure,” Elizabeth said, looking down at her notes. “I think we’re all set here, Bruce. I’ll give you a call if I think of any more questions.”

“Sounds good,” Bruce said, standing up. “I’ll see you ladies later.”

Jessica scarcely waited until Bruce had left the room before she started complaining. “Did you hear all this crap about all the other girls at school starring in my movie?”

“Bruce did mention something about it,” Elizabeth said, closing her notebook and tucking it back into her cleavage. “And I have to say, I’m still not thrilled about any of this.”

“You’re not thrilled about fame? Fortune?” Jessica shook her head. “What about all the guys who will be lining up to date us?”

Elizabeth laughed. “Guys are already lining up to date us,” she pointed out. “Well, you, anyway.”

“I don’t know, Liz,” Jessica said, a teasing note in her voice. “You and Bruce looked awfully cozy in here.”

Elizabeth blushed. “We were just talking, Jessica.”

“Well, Todd seemed to think otherwise,” Jessica replied.

Elizabeth’s face darkened. “What do you mean?” she asked, her voice tight.

“Oh, nothing,” Jessica said, twirling a strand of hair. “I’m sure it was nothing.”

“You’d better tell me,” Elizabeth said, leaning in toward Jessica.

Jessica continued to play with her hair. “It’s just that Todd was waiting outside the door just now, and when he saw you and Bruce, he took off down the hall,” she said. “He practically sprinted out of here! But I’m sure he was just in a hurry to get to football practice or something,” she added soothingly.

“He plays basketball,” Elizabeth said. “Come on. We’ve got to go find him!”

Jessica stood up reluctantly. “Can you drop me off at the mall first?”

***

Elizabeth turned the red Fiat into the driveway. She had searched every square inch of Sweet Valley, but Todd was nowhere to be found. It was as if he’d just disappeared! If only there was some way to reach someone by telephone, no matter where they were, Elizabeth thought, tears pricking her eyes. Then I wouldn’t have had to drive all over, and we could have resolved this right away!

But it wasn’t as if she and Todd had never had a fight before, Elizabeth reminded herself. There was the time she cheated on him. Well, many times, Elizabeth had to admit. But each time, it was totally out of character for me!

Miserable, Elizabeth wiped at her eyes. She couldn’t go in the house looking like this! She collected her belongings and entered the Wakefields’ attractive, split-level ranch.

“Hi, Elizabeth,” her mother said cheerily. With her honey blond hair and trim figure, Alice Wakefield was often mistaken for the twins’ older sister. And it didn’t hurt that she was only fourteen years old when she’d gotten knocked up with the twins.

“Hi, mom,” Elizabeth said with a sigh. She set her book bag down on the floor of the Wakefields’ Spanish-tiled kitchen.

Alice ruffled Elizabeth’s hair affectionately. “What’s wrong with you?”

“It’s Todd,” Elizabeth said. “I think we broke up!”

“Oh, sweetheart, I’m sorry,” Alice said, giving her daughter a hug. “But look at it this way – you and Todd made it through Tuesday this time. That’s much better than last week.”

Elizabeth sniffled, trying to hold back her tears. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“The two of you will be back together by Thursday,” her mother predicted. “And then there’s the dance to look forward to on Friday – and your birthday party on Saturday!”

The kitchen door burst open and Jessica, as usual, made her grand entrance.

“Hi, mom, Elizabeth,” she said brightly, throwing her shopping bags down on the floor. Jessica peered at Elizabeth. “What’s wrong with you, Lizzie?” she asked. “You look wretched.”

“Jessica,” her mother said warningly.

“What?” Jessica asked, grabbing a banana out of the fruit bowl, peeling it and putting it in her mouth suggestively.

“First of all, you can quit eating the banana like a whore,” Alice said. “And secondly, don’t talk to your sister that way.”

“Is she upset because Todd dumped her?” Jessica asked around a mouthful of banana.

“Todd did not dump me!” Elizabeth cried.

Jessica shrugged. “Not that I blame him. You were totally running around on him with Bruce Patman.”

“I was not!” Elizabeth looked desperately at her mother. “I’ve never cheated on Todd!”

Jessica snorted. “Right, Lizzie,” she said.

Even Alice started to laugh. “You have to admit, you are kind of a slut,” she said, her sides heaving with laughter.

“What’s going on here?” the twins’ father, Ned Wakefield, asked, entering the kitchen.

“We’re all having a laugh at Elizabeth’s expense,” Jessica said, wiping a tear from her eye. “Look – I’m laughing so hard, I’m crying!”

This is terrible! Elizabeth thought. If my own family doesn’t believe me, how can I ever convince Todd that I’m in love with him and not Bruce?

“Don’t look so glum, Elizabeth,” Alice said, her laughter dying down. “You two are just in time to help me set the table.”

“I don’t feel much like eating,” Elizabeth said, bursting into tears and running from the room.

“Elizabeth doesn’t seem to be eating much these days,” her father remarked. Years of running a successful law firm had honed Ned Wakefield’s observational skills.

“Yes, I have noticed that,” Alice mused. “If she keeps it up, she’ll be a size four in no time.”

“I will be so jealous if Elizabeth becomes a size four,” Jessica said vehemently. She picked up a tangled mess of forks and knives and started arranging them on the table.

“Who’s becoming a size four?” a male voice asked from behind Jessica.

She whirled around. “Steven!” she said, giving her older brother a hug. “What are you doing home from college?”

Tall, dark and handsome, Steven was the spitting image of Ned Wakefield. He was a pre-law student at nearby Sweet Valley University, and although it was only five minutes down the road, every one of Steven’s visits was a special occasion.

“I come home from college whenever I hear one of you is having a bad day,” Steven said, smiling at his sister. “And it sounds like Liz is down in the dumps!”

“More like she’s been dumped,” Jessica retorted. “Anyway, can we talk about me for a second?”

Ned Wakefield looked at his watch. “Well, it has been about three minutes since we’ve talked about you.”

Alice brought a steaming platter over to the table. An interior designer, she still had time to cook fabulous meals and keep her household in tip-top shape, feminism be damned. “Let’s discuss it over dinner,” she suggested.

“Well,” Jessica said, settling into her seat and piling her plate high with roast chicken and vegetables, “did I tell you the two of us will be starring in a movie?”

“You and Elizabeth?” her mother asked, confused. “That doesn’t sound like something Elizabeth would be interested in.”
“It’s not,” Jessica said. “But I needed her to go along so I could get this boy to go to the dance with me on Friday.”

“And what boy is this?” her father asked, amused.

“He’s the director of the film, daddy,” Jessica said. “His name is Jayden Jacobs. And he’s really super hot.”

“Jacobs…” Ned mused. “That name sounds familiar.”

“Well, he’s very famous,” Jessica said, shoveling a giant piece of chicken into her mouth. “You may have heard of some of his films.”

Steven nearly choked on a carrot.

“You okay, Steve?” his mother asked, concerned.

“I’m good,” Steven managed to croak. “I’m very certain I’ve never seen or heard of any of Jayden Jacobs’ films. That name doesn’t ring a bell with me. Not at all.”

Jessica sniffed. “Well, you really ought to watch some of them,” she said. “I hear they’re very good.” She cleaned her plate, then began heaping seconds onto it. If Lizzie won’t eat it, I will! Jessica thought to herself.

“I’m sure the two of you will make excellent actresses, dear,” Alice said, reaching over to pat Jessica’s hand.

“Yes, fine actresses,” Ned agreed.

Jessica finished her meal quickly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some important actress business to attend to,” she said, flashing her parents and Steven a smile.

“Sure thing, Jess,” Ned replied. “Your mother will be happy to clear the table and wash the dishes.”

Jessica threw down her napkin on the table and raced upstairs to the bathroom. Elizabeth wouldn’t reach size four before she did!

Five

Enid Rollins sat on the front lawn outside Sweet Valley High, observing the students as they arrived on Wednesday morning. Bruce is right, she thought glumly. All the girls at Sweet Valley High are prettier than I am!

Several more students had taped their parts for the film on Tuesday night, and Enid could hear them buzzing about it on their way in. Cara Walker, Caroline Pearce, Amy Sutton, Olivia Davidson and Penny Ayala had all attended the taping, and all of them couldn’t have looked more excited as they gathered with their respective friends to talk about it.

“Did Elizabeth dump you, too?” a familiar male voice asked. Enid looked up to see Todd’s warm, coffee-colored eyes staring down at her.

Enid shrugged, pulling at the grass. “She seems awfully busy lately,” she said. Too busy for her best friend or her boyfriend! Enid added silently.

“She sure does, what with the movie and Bruce Patman and all,” Todd agreed, digging the toe of his tennis shoe into the ground.

“I’m sorry,” Enid said, giving Todd a sympathetic look. “Did you ask her to the dance on Friday?”

Todd’s face darkened. “Patman’s probably already called dibs on her,” he said.

“I’m sure that’s not true, Todd,” Enid said.

Todd shook his head. He looked so worried, Enid felt sorry for him. “I’m not taking the chance,” he said. Then suddenly, passionately, he said, “Enid, do you have a date to the dance?”

“M- me?” she stammered, surprised. “But I’m kind of ugly and boring.”

“I’m kind of a tool and totally boring,” Todd said. “I think we’d make a really great pair.”

“I don’t know,” Enid said. I can’t say yes, can I? she asked herself. After all, Todd is my best friend’s boyfriend!

“Please, Enid,” Todd begged, his eyes boring into hers. “Even if it’s just as friends. No one in Sweet Valley goes to a dance – or even a party – without a date.”

It was true, Enid had to admit. “Okay,” she said slowly. “But on one condition.”

“It’s a deal, Enid Rollins!” Todd exclaimed, barely able to contain his excitement. “What’s the condition?”

“You have to talk to Elizabeth about it,” she said. “I just won’t feel right if we don’t clear the air with her first.”

“I’ll talk to Elizabeth about it,” Todd promised. I’ll talk to Elizabeth, all right, Todd thought, turning away from Enid and making his way into the school. I’ll tell that cheating bitch to go to hell!

***

Jessica was furious. She was the one who had schemed to make it into the film, and now it seemed like every two-bit whore in Sweet Valley would get her fifteen minutes of fame.

Drastic times call for drastic measures! Jessica thought as she slipped out the side door of Sweet Valley High. She didn’t usually skip class, but she had to go see Jayden. Good thing I swiped the keys to the Fiat from Elizabeth’s book bag!

Looking around to make sure she wasn’t being watched, Jessica sneaked across the parking lot to the car. “Elizabeth is so stupid,” she muttered to herself, grinning. She unlocked the car and leaned across to set her purse on the passenger seat, then pulled herself into the car.

“Now, where could Jayden be?” she asked herself out loud. “Where would a 30-something-year-old man be hiding in a town populated almost exclusively with high school students?”

Jessica was almost certain he’d be at the Dairi Burger. But when she stopped by, it was nearly empty. Same thing with the mall, the Beach Disco, and even Miller’s Point – a popular spot for Sweet Valley’s teenagers to park and not have sex with each other.

There was one place left to try, and it was the place where Jessica had first set eyes on Jayden – the beach. It was slightly cool and windy on the beach, the breeze whipping Jessica’s golden hair around her face. He’s here! Jessica thought, her heart beating wildly.

But he wasn’t alone. The two guys and the girl who had been with Jayden the first day Jessica and Lila spotted them on the beach were there, sitting on lounge chairs, talking and laughing. Jessica had been briefly introduced to them, but since they seemed like minor characters, she couldn’t even recall their names.

“Jayden!” Jessica called, approaching the group.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t one half of my superstar equation,” Jayden said, standing up and kissing Jessica on the cheek. “You remember Ava, Owen and Chase.”

Jessica nodded hello to the three of them.

“So,” Ava said, crossing her arms over her chest, “Jayden tells me you and your twin are really excited about our project.”

“So excited,” Jessica said, flashing Ava the smile that made everyone think she was perfect. Somehow, Jessica didn’t think Ava was buying it.

“You’re going to have so much fun,” Ava said. “The other girls seemed to.”

She was tall and super skinny, with a funky, spiked short haircut. I bet she’s a size four! Jessica thought venomously.

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” Jessica said, turning to Jayden and batting her eyelashes. How could any man resist her?

“Is there something in your eye, Jessica?” Jayden asked, looking down into her face with concern.

“It’s fine,” she said, turning on the charm even more. “Do you think we can talk some more – alone?” Jessica shot a pointed glance at Ava, Owen and Chase.

“I thought you’d never ask,” Jayden said, grinning at Jessica, then turning and giving his friends a wink. “Let’s take a walk down the beach.”

Jessica waited until they got out of earshot of the others before speaking. “Are you excited about the dance on Friday night?” she asked, dropping her hand down and reaching for his.

“Sure,” he said, laughing, “although it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a high school dance.”

“Sweet Valley High has the best dances – and the best parties,” Jessica said, enthusiastically.

“And the best girls,” Jayden said, stopping to tilt Jessica’s face up to his. He moved in closer, as if he were going to kiss her. Jessica felt a tingle run throughout her entire body.

But much to her surprise, he didn’t follow through with it. She brought her lips closer to his, but he moved back. “What’s wrong?” Jessica asked with a pout. “You’re not chickening out on me, are you, Jayden Jacobs?”

“Oh, Jessica,” he said, pulling her in for an embrace instead. “I shouldn’t be doing this. But I’m so attracted to you.”

“Shouldn’t be doing what?” Jessica asked, her voice slightly muffled by Jayden’s tight embrace.

“This,” he said softly. “You, me – it’s not right.”

Jessica gave a deep, throaty laugh. “It’s not as if you’re the first older man I’ve been with,” she said.

“I could tell as much,” he said. “But maybe we should keep our relationship strictly professional.”

“Strictly professional?” Jessica pulled back and stamped her foot. “Speaking of professional, maybe you can explain to me why suddenly every girl in Sweet Valley is part of your project!”

“They’re bit parts,” Jayden said, throwing up his hands in frustration. “You and Elizabeth will be the real stars. I promise.”

“Okay, Jayden,” Jessica purred, running her index finger down his broad, strong chest. “But I’m awfully competitive.”

“I could tell,” he said huskily, drawing her near again. “But, trust me, you don’t have anything to worry about.”

Jessica reached up and ran her fingers through Jayden’s hair. “Oh, I know that,” she laughed. “Everyone in Sweet Valley lets me get whatever I want. Every. Single. Time.”

“And what do you want now, Jessica?” he asked.

“I want you,” she said, lowering her voice and leaning up to kiss him. If he turns out to be a complete ass, I can always tell everyone he tried to take advantage of me, Jessica thought. It always works so well!

“I’ll tell you what,” Jayden murmured against her lips. “You can come over tonight and watch us film some of the other girls.”

“I might consider that,” Jessica said softly.

“The other girls may be pretty, but you and Elizabeth will sell the film,” Jayden said.

“You really think so?” Jessica asked, her eyes shining.

“I know so,” he answered.

***

Jayden and his friends were staying in a cheap motel about two blocks from the beach. With the exception of Lila’s scenes, Jayden explained, his project had been filmed entirely in the motel room. Jessica wasn’t quite sure she understood the setting. When she’d asked Jayden if he had a script or even an outline, he and his friends had just laughed.

“You want a beer, Jessica?” Jayden asked, fishing a six-pack out of the motel room’s mini fridge.

“No thanks,” Jessica said. “Half a beer in Sweet Valley gets you completely wasted. I’m not sure I could handle it.”

“Suit yourself,” Ava said, taking a can from Jayden and settling down on the bed next to Jessica. “I find it really helps me get into character.”

Is your character a drunk, like Betsy Martin’s father? Jessica thought viciously. Betsy Martin was the sister of Tricia Martin, Steven’s girlfriend who had died of leukemia. Betsy had had her share of trouble with drinking and drugs, an issue no doubt handed down to her by her father, the town drunk. Thanks to the Wakefields and the healing power of art, Betsy had turned her life around and was no longer a crack whore.

“So you star in Jayden’s films, too?” Jessica asked Ava, astounded. Ava was pretty and all, but Jessica had figured her for more of a behind-the-scenes person.

Ava laughed. “Of course,” she said. “Don’t tell me you haven’t even seen one of them!”

Jessica stuck her nose up in the air. “Don’t be silly,” she said. “Of course I’ve seen one of Jayden’s films.”

“Then you should know all about my talents,” Ava said, placing a hand on Jessica’s thigh. It was just the kind of move Jessica would use to manipulate a boy, but Ava was using it in an attempt to manipulate her, Jessica realized. With a start, she moved away from Ava’s grasp.

“What’s wrong?” Ava purred.

“N – nothing,” Jessica stammered, looking to Jayden for help.

“Ava,” he said warningly, “you know what we talked about.”

“Fine,” Ava said, pouting and taking a sip of her beer. “No molesting the talent off camera.”

“That’s right,” Jayden said. “The rules apply to all of us. And they’re there for a reason.”

“You’re no fun,” Ava said in a babyish voice. She gave Jayden another playful pout.

Jessica looked around nervously. Maybe I shouldn’t have come here, she thought. It seems like this Ava chick is a little too into other girls! Owen and Chase were pulling out camera equipment. Jayden was leafing through a small notebook. Jessica jumped up and looked over his shoulder. “What have you got there?” she asked brightly.

Jayden looked up. “It’s just a list of Sweet Valley High students we’re using in the film,” he said.

Jessica scanned the list of names. Sure enough, all the prettiest and most popular girls were on the list – Pi Beta Alpha members, cheerleaders, even some of the dull girls from The Oracle and the French club. There was check mark next to some of the names, indicating that they’d already filmed their part in the movie, Jessica guessed.

“You know,” Jessica began, hooking an arm around Jayden’s waist, “there’s something I have to tell you about Lila Fowler.”

“Oh? What’s that?” Jayden asked, continuing to look at the list.

“Well, it’s just that she’s awfully shy,” Jessica said. “She told me this morning that she wasn’t sure she could handle all the fame and responsibility that comes with being in a blockbuster film.”

“That’s funny,” Jayden said. “She wasn’t shy the other night!”

“Well, I don’t think she wants to be famous,” Jessica said quickly. “She told me so. In fact, I don’t think any of these girls want to. Not even my sister.”

“Jessica,” Jayden said firmly, “you know this film is nothing – nothing – without you and Elizabeth. Where else am I going to find two perfect size six, underage girls with long blond hair, tanned skin, blue-green eyes the color of the Pacific Ocean and gigantic racks?”

“Can you maybe cut some of the other girls out?” Jessica said, whining now. “Just a little? Like, a teeny, tiny bit?”

Jayden turned her face to his. “I know you want to make sure you’re on top. And you will be – soon enough,” he said. “Besides, Lila and the other girls already signed the release forms and everything.”

“Fine,” Jessica said, sighing. She could see she wouldn’t get her way just yet. But maybe after the dance, when they’d had a chance to hold each other in a long embrace while one of The Droids’ shitty slow songs droned in the background, he’d realize just how much he was in love with Jessica Wakefield and would do everything she said. Forever and ever.

“Hey, earth to Jessica Wakefield,” Jayden said with a laugh, snapping Jessica out of her reverie.

“What? What is it?” she asked, startled.

“I said, it’s almost time for Annie to get here. Do you still want to stay for the taping?” he asked.

“Annie? Annie Whitman?” Jessica asked.

Jayden nodded. Annie had held hands with an awful lot of boys in the past, leading her to be rightfully called a slut. When she had tried out for the cheerleading squad, Jessica and her friends had banded together to keep Annie off the squad – after all, they didn’t want Sweet Valley High’s cheerleaders to get a reputation for being easy – and Annie had overdosed on Advil, nearly dying. Thankfully, Jessica, who had a knack for bringing high school girls out of comas, made it to the hospital in time to talk Annie out of her coma. Jessica even gave her a spot on the cheerleading squad so she’d have something to live for.

“Annie’s not actress material,” Jessica said venomously. “She used to be kind of a slut! And she has suicidal tendencies!”

“Kind of slutty, borderline suicidal is what we need for this scene,” Jayden said reassuringly.

Suddenly, Jessica didn’t want to be around. The possibility that she might not be the most important, most looked-at girl in the room was too much for her. “I – I have to go,” she stammered, picking up her purse and the keys to the red Fiat.

Jayden watched her go. Taming Jessica Wakefield might be harder than I thought, he said to himself. But it will be well worth it!

“Jessica! Where on earth have you been?” Elizabeth demanded, her hands on her hips.

“Nowhere,” Jessica replied, setting the keys to the Fiat down on the kitchen counter.

“I had to take the bus home,” Elizabeth said sternly. “The bus!”

Jessica shrugged. “I didn’t even know Sweet Valley High had buses,” she said.

“Well, they do,” Elizabeth said. “You can’t just go running off like that, Jessica!”

“I bet the bus is filled with losers,” Jessica said. “Speaking of losers, Pi Beta Alpha hasn’t selected which loser we’re going to makeover with the proceeds from the dance. Do we have any fat girls left?”

“As the president of Pi Beta Alpha, you really should get on that,” Elizabeth said.

“I’m entirely too busy to worry about this dance,” Jessica said. “I have about a hundred and thirty seven other things to do!”

“Is Jayden one of them?” Elizabeth asked dryly.

Just then, the phone rang. “I’ll get it!” Jessica yelled, racing to the phone.

“Damn, Jess, I’m right next to you,” Elizabeth said, rubbing her ear. She sat down at the kitchen table and leafed through the newspaper. She could only hear Jessica’s side of the conversation, but if she had to guess, Jessica was on the phone with either Lila Fowler or Cara Walker.

“Oh my God,” Jessica was saying. “Really? Really? I’ve never heard of that… No, I didn’t know anything about it.”

Elizabeth tuned her sister out as the conversation droned on and on. She was mildly curious. Maybe it would turn out to be a lead for her Eyes and Ears column, which was getting a little stale lately. Mr. Collins had offered to help her fine-tune the column. He’d even invited her over to his house a few times to work on it, but she just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

“Lizzie, you will not believe this,” Jessica said, snapping Elizabeth back to reality.

“What, Jessica?” Elizabeth asked. “What is it?”

“Okay, I just got off the phone with Cara Walker,” Jessica began. “And did you know that something else comes after kissing?”

Elizabeth looked confused. “What are you talking about?” she asked.

Jessica sat down across from Elizabeth, her eyes shining. “Well, Cara had a date with Steven last night,” she said. “And things … happened.”

Cara had been dating Steven Wakefield for quite some time. Elizabeth wasn’t sure what exactly Jessica was getting at – and she wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to know.

“What kind of things?” Elizabeth asked, suspiciously.

Jessica leaned across the table and whispered something into Elizabeth’s ear. The color drained from Elizabeth’s face. How could this be? Elizabeth thought. Cara and Steven did that?

“No,” Elizabeth gasped. “Jessica, you shouldn’t say things like that. You know no one in Sweet Valley has real, working genitalia!”

Jessica giggled. “I think it’s all true, Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth’s face clouded over. “Jessica, we have to tell mom and dad.”

“What?” Jessica said, shaking her head. “We can’t.”

“Why not?” Elizabeth demanded. “I’m not entirely sure what all of this means, but I am certain that it is very, very bad!”

“Cara said it was actually quite fun,” Jessica said, giggling again.

Elizabeth crossed her arms. “Well, it doesn’t sound fun,” she said. “It sounds downright awful.”

“I don’t know,” Jessica mused. “If everyone else is doing it, I’m totally going to.”

“Oh, God! Jessica!” Elizabeth screeched. “Who on earth would you let do … that to you?”

Jessica shrugged. “Like it matters,” she said. “Whoever asks me first, I suppose.” A sly grin spread across her face. “Or I might do the asking. It depends.”

“Well,” Elizabeth said haughtily, “Todd will never ask me to do that.”

“Not now he won’t,” Jessica said. “Unless you got back together with him.”

Elizabeth shook her head sadly. “He’s been avoiding me all day,” she said. “Come to think of it, so had Enid. I feel like I don’t have a friend in the world.”

“Come on, Lizzie,” Jessica said, getting up and placing an arm around her sister. “I’m still your friend.”

Elizabeth gave her a look.

“Oh, who am I kidding? I’d totally steal your car, your clothes, and your boyfriend,” Jessica said honestly. “And I’d probably get him to do to me what Steven did to Cara.”

“I wonder how Steven knew about that,” Elizabeth mused. Another mystery to get to the bottom of! She vowed.

“Who knows,” Jessica said, suddenly sounding bored. “Although I am pretty pissed that Cara Walker, of all people, is the first girl we know who’s done it. It should have been me!”

“In all honesty, I’m kind of surprised it wasn’t,” Elizabeth said.

“I really have to give Lila a call,” Jessica said. “She’ll be dying to know all about this. And she’s going to be so jealous!”

“You really take pleasure in her misfortune, don’t you?” Elizabeth asked.

“Don’t be silly, Elizabeth,” Jessica said dismissively on her way out of the room. “I take pleasure in everyone’s misfortune!”

Six

Elizabeth sat at her typewriter, trying to put together her latest Eyes and Ears column. Usually, it was fun, and Elizabeth was known for cranking out snappy prose. But she was facing a dilemma. On one hand, the news about Steven and Cara was big – the biggest news to hit Sweet Valley in about two days. But on the other hand, it seemed awfully private.

Maybe she should call Mr. Collins. He always gave her good advice. And he did say I could call him anytime, Elizabeth remembered. She picked up the phone. Jessica was finally off the phone. She had been calling practically everyone in Sweet Valley, spreading the news and essentially rendering Elizabeth’s column useless.

“Hello?” Mr. Collins asked, picking up immediately after the first ring.

“Hi, Mr. Collins,” Elizabeth said. “It’s Elizabeth Wakefield. Are you busy?”

“Hi, Elizabeth,” Mr. Collins said brightly. “I’m not busy at all. What’s going on?”

“Well,” Elizabeth began, “as usual, I have a dilemma. And, as usual, I’m running to you for help.”

“I’ll be happy to help you out,” Mr. Collins said. “What’s the problem?”

“Well, you see, Mr. Collins, I heard this rumor today,” she said. “Well, it’s not really a rumor. Jessica heard it straight from the source. Anyway, it’s big news, and I want to include it in this week’s Eyes and Ears column, but I also think it sounds kind of private, so I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t put it in.”

“That is a dilemma,” Mr. Collins agreed. “Well, you have to weigh the consequences. May I ask what this rumor is?”

“I feel kind of funny telling you this,” Elizabeth said. “But you’re a trusted adult, so I guess it’s okay to tell you about it.” She dropped her voice to a whisper, covering the mouthpiece of the phone with her hand.

“My goodness!” Mr. Collins exclaimed. “So you guys finally found out about this?”

“What?” Elizabeth asked, confused.
“What are you wearing?”

“Huh?” Elizabeth said. She didn’t really see what any of this had to do with Cara and Steven or with the Eyes and Ears column.

“Nothing, uh, never mind,” Mr. Collins said quickly.

Elizabeth sighed. “So many things seem to be going wrong lately, Mr. Collins.” On the other end of the line, she could hear Mr. Collins clear his throat.

“Just keep talking, Elizabeth,” he said hoarsely. “I’m here to listen.”

“Well, there’s this whole thing with Steven and Cara,” Elizabeth said. “I mean, it’s my own brother! And then, I’m having so much trouble writing Eyes and Ears. It’s really lacking its usual punch.”

“Oh, yeah,” Mr. Collins said. “That’s right.”

It was an odd thing for him to say, Elizabeth thought for a split second, but then she continued on, happy for a rare moment in which, finally, the focus could be on her and her problems, instead of Jessica’s! “And then, there’s this whole weird thing with Todd. He and Enid are avoiding me like the plague. Apparently, he walked in on me interviewing Bruce Patman for the date rape article, and now he thinks there’s something going on between me and Bruce!” Elizabeth exclaimed. “And who knows what Enid is upset about – she won’t even tell me!”

“Yeah,” Mr. Collins said, his voice low. “Keep going.”

Elizabeth could hear a strange muffled sound in the background. “Is everything okay, Mr. Collins?”

“Fine,” he said, grunting. “Go on.”

“Anyway,” Elizabeth continued, twisting the telephone cord around her index finger, “there’s also this film thing. I know you said to give them a chance, but I’m just not interested in participating. It’s really Jessica’s thing, and not mine, but she’s depending on me. And I can’t let her dream die. I just can’t!”

There was a long pause and some heavy breathing from Mr. Collins.

“Mr. Collins?” Elizabeth finally asked. “Are you there?”

“Yeah!” he cried loudly, dragging out the word.

“Oh, okay, no need to shout, Mr. Collins,” Elizabeth said. “So, do you have any advice for me?”

“Listen, Elizabeth, I’ve got to go get cleaned up,” he said. “But you’re a smart girl. I’m sure you’ll figure everything out.”

“But, Mr. Collins—”

“Good night, Elizabeth,” he said quickly.

The dial tone echoed in Elizabeth’s ear. She gently set the receiver down in the cradle and sighed. Everyone’s turning against me! She thought. First Todd and Enid, then my parents and Mr. Collins!

Jessica emerged from her bedroom. “Why so sad, Lizzie?”

Elizabeth shook her head. “Oh, Jess!” she cried. “I feel like everything in my life is going wrong! Todd and Enid hate me, now Mr. Collins won’t even talk to me –”

“Listen, are you done with the phone?” Jessica interrupted. “Because I really need to talk to Amy Sutton.”

Tears stung Elizabeth’s eyes. Not you, too, Jess! She thought sadly. If I can’t depend on my own twin sister, who can I depend on?

***

It was dark when Elizabeth reached Bruce’s house. Well, mansion would have been the more appropriate term, she thought as she pulled up and parked the Fiat inside the gate. Bruce, unlike Lila, came from old money, and the Patmans and the Fowlers were often at odds with each other.

Elizabeth rang the doorbell. An extremely short, elderly man answered the door.

“Hello, sir,” Elizabeth said politely. “Is Bruce home?”

The man gave her a small smile and gestured for Elizabeth to come in. She stood just inside the imposing wooden doors as he man scurried down the hallway. He emerged minutes later, with Bruce at his side.

“Thank you, Jesus,” Bruce said, dismissing the man. He turned to Elizabeth. “My family illegally imports midgets from war-torn South American countries to work as servants,” he explained.

“Well, Jesus certainly seems very nice,” Elizabeth said.

“Eh, he’s okay,” Bruce said snidely. “I’ll tell you what, though, he makes an excellent margarita.” He snorted. “Damn illegal immigrants.”

“Now, Bruce,” Elizabeth said with a coy smile, “you know I don’t drink – not without being forced to, anyway.”

“Well, then,” Bruce said, drawing her close, his voice growing husky, “I guess I’m just going to have to force you.”

“Speaking of which, I actually just came to ask you a few more questions for my article on date rape,” Elizabeth said quickly, extracting herself from his grip. Bruce Patman certainly is handsome, she thought. And dangerous.

He laughed condescendingly. “So that’s really what you came for,” he said teasingly. “Come on, Liz. You and I both know you came here tonight for another reason.”

Elizabeth had to admit, he had her there. She sighed. “You saw right through me, Bruce,” she said unhappily.

He put an arm around her shoulders. “Why don’t we go sit down and talk about it, he said soothingly, guiding her into the living room.

Elizabeth stared at the high ceilings, the marble-tiled floors, the imposing fireplace. There was no doubt about it; Bruce Patman was wealthy.

“Okay,” she said, her voice small.

They sat on the couch facing the fireplace. Bruce picked up a small black box with a button on it, aimed it at the fireplace, and pressed the button. A warm, glowing fire started up in the fireplace. Elizabeth had never seen anything like it.

“That’s very impressive, Bruce,” she said, eyeing the fireplace.

“We’re the only family in Sweet Valley who has one,” Bruce boasted. He gently turned Elizabeth’s face toward his. “But enough about me. Let’s talk about you.”

Elizabeth furrowed her brow. This was certainly a side of Bruce she had never seen before. Sure, he could be kind of a horny sleazebag at times, but he seemed different now. He seems almost sensitive, Elizabeth thought to herself. Sensitive like Todd is. Well, like he usually is. I just don’t know what’s gotten into him lately.

“Well, it’s Todd,” she began brokenly. “It seems he saw us together in The Oracle office the other day, and, well, now he kind of thinks there’s something romantic going on between you and I.”

“Oh, is that why the two of you have broken up?” Bruce asked, reaching for Elizabeth’s hand.

Elizabeth pulled back, horrified. “Broken up?” she cried in anguish. “Where did you hear that?”

Bruce shrugged. “It’s going around school,” he said simply.

“Did you hear it from Todd?” Elizabeth said. “Is that what he’s telling everyone?”

His face filled with concern. “I didn’t want to say anything, but there’s something else Todd is telling everyone as well,” Bruce said.

“What is it?” Elizabeth said, gasping. She couldn’t imagine that things could get any worse. Her boyfriend had officially broken up with her; she had a slutbag twin sister who did nothing but cause trouble and treat her like shit; her favorite teacher and advisor was acting bizarre and wouldn’t even talk to her; her best friend was missing in action; some oddball film director was counting her to star in a movie she wasn’t even interested in; her brother and Cara Walker were engaging in some questionable activity; and to top it all off, she was pretty sure she was about twenty seconds away from another attempted date rape at the hands of Bruce Patman!

“Well, he’s saying that he’s going to the dance on Friday,” Bruce said, pausing dramatically, “with Enid Rollins!”

“Enid!” Elizabeth gasped. “But I’m so much prettier than she is!”

“I thought she was your best friend,” Bruce said, shaking his head.

“Well, she is,” Elizabeth said quickly. “But you know how sometimes, girls are only friends with other girls who are uglier than them? You know, so it makes you look even better by comparison?”

Bruce looked confused. He always knew Elizabeth was smart, but maybe she was more of an intellectual than he’d first thought. An intellectual with big boobs! he thought to himself.

“But you – and Jessica – are the most beautiful girls in Sweet Valley!” he exclaimed. “Anyway, I was referring to the fact that your best friend is going to the dance with your boyfriend – ex-boyfriend,” he added.

“Oh, that,” Elizabeth said, her face reddening with embarrassment. “Well, I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation,” she said. “I’m always willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.”

“That’s what I love about you,” he said softly. “Elizabeth, will you go to the dance with me on Friday?”

“I’d love to,” Elizabeth said. She felt marginally better – at least she wouldn’t be going to the dance alone – but how could she face Todd or Enid ever again?

***

“Hey, Lizzie,” Jessica said, bursting into Elizabeth’s room. “Where’d you go?”

“I went over to Bruce Patman’s house,” Elizabeth said defiantly.

“You mean Bruce Patman’s mansion,” Jessica said, settling down onto Elizabeth’s bed. Elizabeth’s room was as boring as she was, painted a bland, neutral shade of cream.

“Okay, okay,” Elizabeth said, laughing. She couldn’t stay mad with her sister for long, even though Jessica was a total bitch. “Bruce Patman’s mansion.”

“Well, do I have some gossip for you!” Jessica exclaimed in a singsong voice.

“Jess! Don’t you ever think about anyone but yourself!” Elizabeth cried, throwing up her hands in frustration.

“No, I don’t,” Jessica shot back nastily. “So do you want to hear this juicy gossip, or not?”

“Fine,” Elizabeth said, sighing. Fighting with Jessica was no use. Jessica would always win, because, as everyone in Sweet Valley knew, whatever Jessica wanted, Jessica got. And as her twin sister, Elizabeth knew it best.

“Okay, so you know that thing Cara and Steven did?” Jessica asked. Elizabeth nodded. “Well, they’re not the only ones who have done it!”

Elizabeth gasped. She felt as if she had been doing an awful lot of gasping lately. “Who else?” she asked weakly.

“Well, pretty much everyone in Pi Beta Alpha,” Jessica said. “And most of The Droids, although I heard that was kind of a group situation.”

“Group situation?” Elizabeth asked. “Never mind, Jess. I don’t think I want to know.”

Jessica shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

“This is awful!” Elizabeth cried. “Just awful!”

“I know!” Jessica complained. “I can’t believe all those losers have done it, and not me!”

“That’s not what I was talking about, Jess,” Elizabeth said. “This is worse than I first thought!”

“It’s not so bad,” Jessica said thoughtfully.

“Not so bad?” Elizabeth echoed. “This is worse than the time someone tried to steal mom’s face!”

“Or the time a girl who looked just like us but with brown hair tried to kill you and steal your identity.”

“Or the time her twin sister came back and tried to do the same thing.”

“Or the time amnesia turned you into a complete and total slut.”

“Or the time I had a sip of alcohol and killed your boyfriend in a DUI situation.”

“Or the time we mapped out our family trees and found out all about our family’s near-incestuous past.”

“In short, this is terrible,” Elizabeth moaned.

“I really need to figure out how to seduce Jayden beyond a hot and heavy makeout session,” Jessica said thoughtfully. “Maybe after the dance on Friday! Then, he’ll be madly in love with me, and he’ll have to cut all the other girls out of the film!”

“I don’t know, Jess,” Elizabeth said. “Isn’t it possible that Jayden is just taking advantage of you?”

“Nobody takes advantage of Jessica Wakefield!” Jessica exclaimed, her eyes flashing. “Jessica Wakefield takes advantage of everyone else!”

“No kidding,” Elizabeth said dryly, crossing her arms in front of her ample chest.

“Speaking of being taken advantage of, you’d better watch it with Bruce Patman,” Jessica warned. “He’ll probably make you clean his room or something.”

“No, he has Jesus to do that for him,” Elizabeth said dismissively.

“Jesus?” Jessica asked, confused.

“His South American midget servant,” Elizabeth explained. “Anyway, that’s not important. What is important, though, is that Todd asked Enid to the dance!”

“Todd and Enid?” Jessica asked. “But I thought your breakup was just temporary.”

“That’s what I thought, too,” Elizabeth said, her face darkening. “But if he’s asking another girl to the dance – my ugly best friend, no less – then I guess it’s worse than I thought.” She paused for dramatic effect. “So that’s why I’m going to the dance with Bruce,” she said simply.

“An excellent choice, Liz,” Jessica said approvingly. “He’s a senior, he’s hot and he’s rich.”

“Those aren’t the reasons I said yes to him,” Elizabeth said. “They’re the reasons you would say yes to him.”

“Um, correct me if I’m wrong, dear sister, but isn’t that about all Bruce Patman has going for him?” Jessica asked. “He’s kind of an ass, a potential date rapist, and he’s arrogant as hell. Also, he went out with a deaf girl. I mean, she was pretty and all, but what a loser! I’d never go out with somebody who had a disability.”

“Jessica, most of the boys you go out with have a learning disability,” Elizabeth shot back. “Also, Regina was a really nice girl! Too bad she had to be sacrificed to teach all of us a very special lesson about the dangers of teenage drug use.”

“Whatever,” Jessica said. “She was still deaf.”

“Oh my god, Jess!” Elizabeth said, raising her voice in frustration. “They fixed her hearing before she died! Her favorite band was The Droids! Well, their shitty music was the only music she ever heard, but still!”

“Well, thank god they fixed the bitch’s ears before she died,” Jessica said snidely, picking at a loose thread on Elizabeth’s comforter.

“Jessica!” Elizabeth said sharply. “That’s a horrible thing to say!”

“What?” Jessica said, pouting. “It’s true.” She stood up. “I’m out of here. If you need me, I’ll be on the phone, or doing leg lifts, or coming up with some new bitchy scheme to screw over you or one of my friends.”

“Fine!” Elizabeth yelled as Jessica slammed the door behind her. “If you need me, I’ll be writing my Eyes and Ears column!”

She sat down at her typewriter and began to pound furiously on the keys. Maybe it was time to give Jessica a taste of her own medicine. I can’t believe I haven’t thought of this before! she thought to herself. Then again, I’m not Jess. It took nearly three hours to write her five-inch column, but when it was finished, Elizabeth looked it over with satisfaction. They’ll all be sorry when this comes out!

Seven

Elizabeth looked around her in disbelief. She had never seen so many bare midriffs in her entire life – and certainly not in the hallway at school! It is way too early in the morning for this, Elizabeth thought, shaking her head.

“Enid!” Elizabeth called out as she spotted her friend. But Enid pretended not to hear. This is silly, Elizabeth thought. I’m sure if we talk it over, we’ll figure things out, and everything will be fine again. She hurried until she caught up with Enid.

“Hey,” Elizabeth said softly. “You seem to be in quite a hurry.”

Enid looked horrified at the prospect of having to speak with Elizabeth. “I – I’m going to be late to class,” she stammered, her eyes lowered.

“Enid,” Elizabeth said, catching her friend by the elbow. “Why won’t you talk to me?”

Enid pulled away. “I told you, I’m going to be late to class,” she snapped. “Just leave me alone, Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth stood in the hallway, tears filling her eyes. It seemed all she did lately was cry and feel sorry for herself. I have to fix things, she said. I have to make it all better. I’m the only person in all of Sweet Valley who can solve everyone’s problems! But deep down, Elizabeth was worried she wouldn’t even be able to solve her own problems.

Jessica Wakefield, as usual, was furious. She had spoken with half of the girls in Sweet Valley High on the phone the night before, and not one of them – not one – had mentioned they’d be attending school in their sluttiest outfits. It was enough to make Jessica seethe with rage. In her lime green halter top and the short acid-washed shorts that fully showed off her slim, tanned legs, she looked positively conservative next to the other girls!

“Elizabeth?” asked Penny Ayala, the editor of The Oracle, as she hurried up to Jessica. “Is your Eyes and Ears column ready yet? I have to rush everything over to the printer by noon today.”

Jessica crossed her arms. “I’m not Elizabeth,” she snapped. If there was one thing Jessica couldn’t stand, it was being mistaken for her twin.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Jessica,” Penny apologized. She gave a high-pitched little laugh. “In that outfit, I just assumed you were Elizabeth.”

Even Penny is dressed like a slut! Jessica thought, fuming. Penny was wearing a pink bra top, a black leather miniskirt, and thigh-high boots.

“No,” Jessica muttered. “Elizabeth will be the one dressed like a nun.”

“Sorry,” Penny apologized again before scurrying down the hall to find Elizabeth.

“Great,” Jessica muttered. “Just great.” She leaned against a locker and surveyed the scene. All around her, girls were dressed in next to nothing – and the boys were really appreciating it. For the first time in her whole life, Jessica Wakefield felt invisible.

Well, then, Jessica thought, it’s time to do something about it! She ducked into the women’s bathroom across the hall. Apart from one occupied stall, the bathroom was empty. Jessica stared at her reflection in the mirror. She still looked the same, she reasoned. Absolutely gorgeous! Her aquamarine eyes were sparkling like rays of sunlight glinting off the Pacific Ocean. Her skin was tanned, giving off a healthy golden glow. Her hair was even fluffed to perfection. But, yes, the outfit needed work, Jessica admitted to herself. She grabbed the bottom of the halter top and stretched the fabric as far as it could go. Then, with one talonlike, perfectly polished fingernail, she poked a hole in the fabric. “That’s better,” Jessica said, as she widened the hole enough to start a tear. The fabric gave way with a satisfying ripping noise, and Jessica tore off a strip around the bottom of the shirt. Now, it looked like scarcely more than a bra.

Jessica frowned at her reflection. The outfit was almost there, but it could use just a bit more work. The shorts would have to go, Jessica decided, slipping out of them. She was left in just a pair of white bikini briefs and the now-shortened lime-green halter top. “Much better!” she exclaimed, stuffing the shorts into her purse and hurrying out of the bathroom.

After a few minutes, Lila emerged from the bathroom stall. She couldn’t believe the transformation Sweet Valley High had undergone in the past few days. It was like they had all gone mad! And it’s all my fault, Lila thought grimly. If only I had told everyone the truth, then maybe it wouldn’t have gotten this far.

She shivered, even thought she was wearing a big, baggy sweatshirt. Normally, Lila would have been at the fashion forefront, wearing a new outfit she had used her father’s credit card to purchase from Foxy Mama, Sweet Valley’s most exclusive store for skimpy outfits. But today, she just didn’t feel like it.

Lila was sick of it all – the “Skanks Gone Stupid” film; the other students dressing like cheap call girls and doing god knows what with their boyfriends; the guilt and the shame; and, most of all, Jessica Wakefield!

But as tired as Lila was of the recent events in Sweet Valley, she still couldn’t bring herself to warn Jessica of the terrible danger she and Elizabeth were in. She knew that if she could just make herself tell Elizabeth the whole story, the nightmare would come to an end. Elizabeth would go back on her agreement to star in the film, and Lila knew that if one of the twins pulled out of the project, Jayden probably wouldn’t release the film. She knew that he was counting on the twins to sell the movie, and he’d even gone so far as to admit to Lila that without the Wakefield twins, there was no way his film would sell.

I just can’t let Jayden release the film, Lila thought glumly. It might ruin my chances of one day landing a very wealthy husband and living out my days as a trophy wife!

***

Roger Collins could scarcely believe his luck – and neither could the male portion of Sweet Valley High’s student body, judging by the looks on the faces of the boys in his first period English class. Nearly every single girl in the class was wearing an outfit that left little to the imagination.

It was difficult for him to concentrate on the day’s lecture. The junior class was reading John Donne’s “Song,” and he was having an especially difficult time, what with the mandrake root imagery and all.

“Okay,” Mr. Collins said, loosening his tie. “Can anyone tell me what this poem is about?”

Thirty blank faces – and fifteen pairs of supple young breasts – stared back at him. He could feel sweat starting to bead up on his forehead, and his face was hot.

“Anyone?” he asked, looking around the classroom. “Ken?”

Ken Matthews cleared his throat. He wasn’t much good at English, Mr. Collins knew. Once, when Ken had to bring up his English grade in order to play in the big Centennial football game, he had turned in one of Elizabeth Wakefield’s short stories as his own. The story was the most tired, cliché piece of shit Mr. Collins had ever read, but he let it slide – and even attempted to publish it in The Oracle – because the Centennial game was the biggest football game of the year, and the Sweet Valley High football team was nothing without star quarterback Ken Matthews! Hell, had Elizabeth turned it in under her own name, he would have let it slide then, too, because Elizabeth had giant boobs and was pretty hot.

“Um,” Ken said, embarrassed. He looked down at his book. “I think it’s about – nature?”

“Wrong!” Mr. Collins said loudly. “Anyone who’s not a complete idiot want to take a stab at it?”

“I will,” Elizabeth Wakefield said shyly, raising her hand.

Mr. Collins nodded. “Go ahead, Elizabeth,” he said. He barely heard a word Elizabeth said as she analyzed the poem – he was too busy wondering why the hell she was dressed in khaki pants and a button-down blouse.

“So, that’s what I think,” Elizabeth finished, letting out a slow breath.

Mr. Collins didn’t have a clue what she’d just said. “Excellent, Elizabeth,” he said warmly. “I can see you really put a lot of thought into this poem.”

Just then, the bell rang, and students jumped out of their seats. “Remember, your essays are due tomorrow,” Mr. Collins called after them. “Elizabeth,” he said, turning to her as she packed the last of her books into her book bag, “can I see you for a minute?”

“Sure, Mr. Collins,” she answered, making her way to his desk.

He waited until the last of the students had filed out of the room before shutting the door behind them. “I’d like to apologize to you, Elizabeth,” he said, sitting on the corner of his desk. “I know you called me for advice last night, and I’m afraid I was too distracted to really listen to you. But I want you to know that I’m here for you now, if you still need to talk.”

Elizabeth frowned slightly. “Well, thank you for the offer, Mr. Collins,” she said. “But I think I’ve figured everything out.” She pulled a neatly typewritten copy of her Eyes and Ears column out of her book bag. “I was having a bit of trouble writing my column last night, but I was able to come up with a solution.” She glanced at her watch. “I’m sorry, Mr. Collins, but I have to run. Would you mind giving that to Penny for me?”

“Not at all,” he said, taking the paper from Elizabeth.

“Thanks so much!” Elizabeth exclaimed, hurrying out of the classroom.

Mr. Collins looked down at the paper. “Sweet Valley High’s own Jessica Wakefield is going to star in a new movie by world-famous director Jayden Jacobs,” he read out loud. “Too bad she’s a bitch, a loser and a virgin!”

“Wait – Jessica’s a virgin?” Mr. Collins asked himself. “Wow, never would have guessed that.”

He continued to read the column. In it, Elizabeth continued to take jabs at Jessica, at Todd Wilkins, and even at Enid Rollins! It wasn’t Elizabeth’s usual happy-go-lucky, good-natured style, but it was the best column she’d written in a while. Mr. Collins couldn’t bring himself to tell Elizabeth, but her column had been stale as of late. But the new, improved, bitchier Elizabeth – well, that was a column he could get behind. What it lacked in grammar and punctuation, it made up for in pure snark alone. Plus, maybe she can get some of that pent-up frustration out in other ways, if you know what I mean! Mr. Collins thought to himself, a grin spreading across his face.

***

Penny frowned as she read Elizabeth’s Eyes and Ears column. “Are you sure you want to run this, Mr. Collins?” she asked. “It’s potentially libelous.”

“The whole entire Oracle is potentially libelous,” Mr. Collins said, a little meaner than he had intended to. It was just that Penny was an annoying know-it-all who really didn’t know shit, and on top of that, she was kind of fugly. Not to mention, the hooker outfit wasn’t exactly flattering on her.

Penny seemed taken aback. “Well, okay, Mr. Collins,” she said. “You’re the boss.”

“I’m sorry, Penny,” he said, closing his eyes and pressing the palm of his hand against his eyelids. “I’ve been really sexually frustrated as of late.”

“What?” Penny asked in disbelief.

“Uh, what I said was, I’ve been really tired lately,” Mr. Collins lied. “Anyway, we’ve got to get this edition out to the printer immediately. Just throw it up on the pasteboard and get it out of here.”

“Okay, okay,” Penny muttered. Secretly, she couldn’t stand Mr. Collins. He was creepy, and besides, he didn’t know anything about journalism. He also kissed Elizabeth Wakefield’s ass and let her write the stupidest column ever. She couldn’t wait until she was a big-time editor at the Sweet Valley News and making killer money.

Mr. Collins leafed through the pages of The Oracle. The paper was a rag, no doubt about it. The only reason he was involved with it in the first place was to spend a little more time getting to know some of the students a little bit better.

“Hi, everyone,” Elizabeth said, bursting through the door of The Oracle office. She was slightly out of breath, her bosoms heaving.

“Speak of the devil,” Penny said dryly. “Elizabeth, I’m just pasting up your column.”

“Oh, let me see,” Elizabeth said, hovering over Penny’s shoulder. “It looks great, Penny,” she said warmly.

“Oh, joy,” Penny said, a note of annoyance creeping into her voice. “I received some praise from one of the Wakefield twins.”

“Never mind her,” Mr. Collins said, shooting Penny a nasty look. “She’s just jealous of you.”

Elizabeth shrugged. “It’s okay, Mr. Collins,” she said. “I’m used to it. Anyway, I just stopped by to see if I could help you with anything.”

Penny smiled brightly. “Nope, I think I’m all set,” she said acidly.

“All right, then,” Elizabeth said. “I’ll see the two of you later.”

Elizabeth was lost in thought as she shut the door to The Oracle’s office behind her. She was used to putting together nearly the entire paper herself. I guess it’s just one more thing that’s going to be taken away from me, Elizabeth thought sadly. She was so lost in thought that she didn’t realize Todd was in front of her until she nearly bumped into him.

“Todd!” she exclaimed, stopping in her tracks.

“Hello, Elizabeth,” he said coldly.

“I’ve been wanting to talk to you,” she said softly.

“There’s nothing to say,” Todd said, his eyes cast down toward the floor.

“Oh, Todd,” Elizabeth cried. “Can’t you just hear me out?”

Todd crossed his arms over his chest. “Would Bruce hear you out?”

“Well, yes, as a matter of fact, he would!” Elizabeth said, her voice raising with anger. “And he wouldn’t have asked my best friend to the dance on Friday!”

“So I guess that’s why you’re going to the dance with him, then,” Todd said.

“Oh, just forget it, Todd Wilkins,” Elizabeth said stonily, her eyes flashing. “I don’t know what I ever saw in you in the first place!”

Todd watched her walk away. He wished things had been different. But they aren’t, he reminded himself. This time, his breakup with Elizabeth was for good.

***

“You know, Lila’s been acting really weird lately,” Cara said, scooping up a spoonful of her hot fudge sundae from the Dairi Burger.

“I’ll say,” Jessica said. “She seems to be missing in action. And there’s so much we have to do for the Pi Beta Alpha dance – and the birthday party!”

“Come to think of it, everyone’s been acting weird,” Cara mused.

“Well, I know what Lila’s problem is,” Jessica said haughtily. “She’s jealous of me. She’s always been jealous of me. She may have a fabulously wealthy father, a huge mansion with a buttload of servants, and a lime-green Triumph, but I have an upper-middle class family, an attractive, split-level ranch, and half a share in a red Fiat. And I’m way prettier than she is.”

“Jessica!” Cara said. “I thought Lila was your best friend.”

Jessica shrugged. “I just kind of keep her around for comparison purposes,” she said. “I’m hot, but I’m even hotter next to Lila. She does have brown hair, after all.”

“Jessica, I have brown hair,” Cara said witheringly.

“I know,” Jessica said smiling sweetly. “Now you know why I keep you around.”

Cara gave her a playful shove across the table. “Shut up,” she said, laughing. “So, are you excited about the dance tomorrow?”

Jessica nodded enthusiastically. “Jayden and I are going to have the most wonderful time,” she said dreamily.

“I hope so,” Cara said. “He seems really cool.”

“And tomorrow is going to be the night,” Jessica said, sighing with happiness.

“The night?” Cara asked, raising an eyebrow.

“You know,” Jessica said dismissively, “the night I finally graduate from making out with boys to dry-humping men.”

Cara laughed. “It’s a little more than that, Jess.”

“Well, I know that, Cara,” Jessica said snidely. “I may be the last holdout in Sweet Valley, but I’m not an idiot.”

“Sorry, Jessica,” Cara said. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Well, whatever,” Jessica said, stirring her chocolate milkshake with her straw. “But unlike the rest of you, I’m planning on taking my time.”

At least, that was the story Jessica was going to tell everyone else. In reality, she was still fuming that she was the last girl in all of Sweet Valley to take the next step. Lila Fowler had probably already made it that far. But Lila was nowhere to be found these days, so Jessica wasn’t one hundred percent sure. Still, Cara had beat her to it, and that was bad enough. How could this have happened to the most popular and most gorgeous girl in all of Sweet Valley? Jessica wondered.

“So you’re not going to sneak over to the motel to see Jayden and get it over with tonight?” Cara asked hopefully.

“On a random Thursday?” Jessica asked disdainfully. “That might have been good enough for the rest of you, but I’m going to go all out. Too bad prom isn’t this weekend,” she mused. “That would probably be the best time. But I guess a Pi Beta Alpha dance will have to do.”

“It’s not just any Pi Beta Alpha dance,” Cara pointed out. “It’s for a good cause.”

“My mind is a million miles away from good causes,” Jessica said with a dreamy sigh. Her mind was planted firmly on Jayden and the wonderful time they were sure to have at the dance – and afterward!

Jessica knocked on the door to Jayden’s motel room. She could hear muffled voices inside, but no one answered the door. She waited a moment, then knocked again.

“Jayden?” she called through the door. “It’s me, Jessica.”

The door opened a crack, and Jayden peered through the door, blocking Jessica’s view of the room with his body. “Hey, Jessica,” he said softly. “What’s up?”

“I wanted to come see you,” Jessica said with a pout. “Don’t you want to see me?”

“Of course I do,” he said. “But, listen, I’m kind of busy right now.” He shrugged his shoulders apologetically. “We’re filming a scene right now.”

“Oh,” Jessica said, her voice laden with disappointment.

“I’ll tell you what,” Jayden said, glancing at his watch. “It’s almost time for a break. Meet me at the beach in fifteen minutes?”

“Okay,” Jessica said, her voice brightening. “I’ll see you soon.”

As she walked the two blocks to the beach, she thought about what it would be like to dance in Jayden’s arms. It would be wonderful. She’d be wearing the new dress she bought for the dance, a white strapless number that showed off her tan. And Jayden would bring her flowers and maybe even some expensive jewelry – the kind of romantic gestures that normally led up to such an encounter. And once it was all over and Jayden was hopelessly, madly in love with her, she could convince him to cut everyone else out of the film, and then the two of them would take Hollywood by storm! Imagine – famed director Jayden Jacobs and the fabulously talented and beautiful Jessica Wakefield! Jessica thought. We’d have everything we ever wanted!

She sat down on the beach, idly sifting handfuls of sand through her fingers while she waited for Jayden. It wouldn’t be too long before the sun would set, and Jessica hoped Jayden could make it to the beach before then. It was the most romantic time of the day, and Jessica wanted to spend it with him.

“Hey there,” said a masculine voice behind her.

“Hey there, yourself,” Jessica answered, patting the sand next to her. “Pull up a patch of beach.”

Jayden sat down close to Jessica. “The sun’s going to be going down in a few minutes,” he said. “Won’t you get cold in those clothes?”

Jessica looked down at her ripped up halter top and bikini briefs. “Well, if I do, will you promise to keep me warm?”

Jayden laughed. “You’re a real charmer, Jessica Wakefield.” He put an arm around her shoulders and drew her close.

Jessica looked out to sea. The darkening sky was closing in on the horizon. “Are we still on for tomorrow night?” she asked Jayden, snuggling into his broad chest.

“Of course,” he said, running his fingers through Jessica’s perfectly feathered hair. “You don’t think I’m going to stand you up, do you?”

“Not at all,” Jessica replied lightly. “It’s just that I have a feeling it’s going to be a very special night.”

“How so?” he asked, whispering in her ear.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Jessica said seductively. “Let’s just play it by ear and see what happens.”

“I have a feeling you are a very dangerous girl, Jessica,” Jayden said, his voice low. Jessica could feel his warm breath in her ear, and it sent a shiver of anticipation down her spine. “I like it.”

“You have no idea,” Jessica purred. “You really have no idea.”

“I think I do,” Jayden answered, tilting Jessica’s face toward his own and planting a light, lingering kiss on her lips.

“Come on,” Jessica murmured. “Surely you can do better than that.”

“Is that a challenge?” Jayden asked with a smirk.

Jessica drew back and smiled at him. “I thought a guy like you would love a challenge,” she said.

He answered Jessica with a long, lingering kiss that at times bordered on forceful and nearly sucked the breath right out of Jessica. She half expected him to push her to the sand, but, being the perfect gentleman he was, Jayden didn’t do it.

“Listen,” he said, pulling back. “I have to get back. We have a couple more scenes to shoot tonight, and everyone is waiting for me. But I’ll see you tomorrow, all right?”

“All right,” Jessica said, her voice low and throaty. “Pick me up at seven o’clock?”

“That sounds like a plan,” Jayden said, standing up and brushing the sand off his ass. A speck of it got in Jessica’s eye, but she didn’t complain. He started back toward his car.

“Do you need directions to my house?” Jessica asked, standing up.

Jayden turned around. “No, I think I know how to get there,” he said. “I’ve been stalking you for months.”

“What?” Jessica asked, confused.
“Nothing,” Jayden said quickly. “Listen, I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay,” Jessica echoed. Her stomach felt like it was doing somersaults. In less than twenty-four hours, she would be with Jayden for good. And it would be wonderful. I might not be the first girl in Sweet Valley to whore around for real, but I’ll definitely be the best! Jessica vowed. The absolute best!

Eight

Elizabeth rifled through her closet. She wasn’t entirely sure she owned a dress suitable enough for a date with the most wealthy boy in Sweet Valley. If only Jessica were here, Elizabeth thought. She would probably have something I could borrow.

One advantage to being a twin was the doubled wardrobe, which, in the Wakefield household, usually meant Jessica got all the clothes, while Elizabeth was left with the most boring and conservative outfits. But that was the way Elizabeth liked it. Long pants, button-down shirts and matching barrettes were all a vital part of Elizabeth’s wardrobe. Jessica’s clothing, on the other hand, ran the gamut from garish to truly hideous. Her wardrobe skewed toward bright colors, animal prints, and skimpy fabric. But she usually looked sensational. Elizabeth usually looked like a forty-five-year-old soccer mom.

Elizabeth looked toward the window. It was already dark outside, and Jessica still wasn’t home. That’s funny, Elizabeth thought to herself. Jessica didn’t mention she had plans for tonight.

She was probably off somewhere with Lila, Elizabeth reasoned. Lila had scarcely been seen around Sweet Valley High all week, and Elizabeth wasn’t necessarily missing her. Although Lila was Jessica’s best friend and biggest rival, Elizabeth didn’t much care for her. She found Lila an insufferable bore, not to mention stuck-up, pigheaded and arrogant.

It was what Elizabeth might have thought about Bruce Patman just a few short weeks ago. But after working on the date rape article with him and really getting to know him, Elizabeth felt confident that Bruce was a nice guy who had just gone through some tough times. Everyone deserves a second chance! Elizabeth thought. But it seemed that Bruce’s relationship with Regina had really turned things around for Bruce. And with losing her, it was possible he could slip back into his old ways. But maybe I can help him get over her and adjust to life as a normal, healthy adult male – one who doesn’t try to grab a boob every chance he gets! Elizabeth thought.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of feet running heavily up the stairs. It must be Jessica, Elizabeth thought. She heard her twin enter the bathroom they both shared, followed by the sound of gagging and vomiting. After a few minutes, Jessica opened the door and poked her head into Elizabeth’s room.

“What’s going on?” Jessica asked her twin.

Elizabeth sighed and settled onto the bed. “I’m just trying to decide what to wear to the dance tomorrow night, that’s all,” she said.

Jessica entered the room and began flipping through Elizabeth’s closet. “Boring, boring, fugly, too blue, too cream, boring, a dress with long sleeves and a turtleneck – a turtleneck? Really, Elizabeth? – too frilly, matronly, boring,” she said.

“But I like to dress like that,” Elizabeth said, hurt. “Besides, our dad runs his own successful law firm. We can’t afford new clothes every time we want them, Jess.”

“Well, we are poor,” Jessica said thoughtfully. “Hey, do you even know what kind of law dad practices? I’ve never been able to figure that one out.”

“Well, he deals with child custody, rezonings and real estate,” Elizabeth mused. “So who knows? Anyway, I know I never ask you to borrow anything, Jessica, but do you think you have anything I can wear to the dance?”

“Elizabeth, I don’t even have anything to wear to the dance,” Jessica complained, flopping down on the bed. “Have you seen the way everyone in Sweet Valley is dressing these days?”

Elizabeth had noticed the other girls’ clothes had seemed to be shrinking over the past few days, but she didn’t see what that had to do with anything. “Oh, come on, Jessica,” she said. “You have a ton of clothing. Surely, there’s something in there for both of us to wear tomorrow night.”

“Don’t you get it?” Jessica said with a long, drawn-out sigh. “We do not have clothing slutty enough to wear to the dance!”

Elizabeth looked shocked. “Why would we want to look slutty?”

“You know, Elizabeth Wakefield, you are supposed to be so smart, but really, you’re a complete moron!” Jessica said, fuming. “We want to look slutty because tomorrow night is the night!”

“I’m sorry, Jess, but I still don’t get it,” Elizabeth said.

“Must I spell it out for you?” Jessica asked. “That thing Steven and Cara did. Me, Jayden. You, Bruce. Tomorrow night.” She stood up and pointed a finger at her sister. “Be ready.”

“Wait!” Elizabeth cried. “I’m not doing that with Bruce!”

“Yes, you are,” Jessica said through clenched teeth. “Do you want everyone in Sweet Valley to think we’re frigid bitches?”

“Um, Jessica, I hate to break it to you, but we are frigid bitches,” Elizabeth said, crossing her arms over her chest.

“You may be a frigid bitch, Elizabeth Wakefield, but I certainly am not!” Jessica said, raising her voice until she was yelling.

There was a knock at Elizabeth’s bedroom door. “Girls, is everything all right?” their mother asked. “All I can hear is yelling about frigid bitches. It’s not very nice to use language like that.”

“Everything’s fine, mom,” Jessica said nastily. “Except for the fact that my sister is a stupid whore!”

“You’re the stupid whore,” Elizabeth retorted.

“Girls,” Alice Wakefield said, opening the door. “You know I don’t like for you to talk that way. Now, apologize to each other.”

“No way,” Jessica said, folding her arms over her chest and turning her back on Elizabeth.

Alice looked from one of her daughters to the other. They each had the same stubborn look on their faces, their jaws set in an angry line, their blue-green eyes flashing wildly. She couldn’t believe these two brats had sprung from her loins. Had she married Bruce Patman’s father, Hank, as she’d intended, she would have lived out the rest of her days in trophy-wife depression, but at least she wouldn’t have to put up with these two btiches, Alice thought.

“Maybe if you tell me what’s wrong, we can all work it out,” Alice said hopefully.

“There’s nothing to tell,” Elizabeth said, her eyes welling up with tears.

“It’s all right,” Alice said, crossing the room and patting Elizabeth on the back. “There’s no need to cry.”

“See?” Jessica said, spinning on her heel to face her mother and Elizabeth. “Elizabeth is nothing but a great big crybaby!”

“I am not!” Elizabeth exclaimed, sticking out her lower lip.

“You’re so, like, twelve years old,” Jessica said acidly.

“God, Jessica, just shut up! You’re not even good at math,” Elizabeth said.

“Elizabeth’s right, dear,” Alice pointed out. “Math isn’t exactly your strong suit. Neither is English … or French .. or history…”

“God, Elizabeth, get a clue,” Jessica mimicked. “I was being sarcastic. You’re both idiots.”

“Okay, well you want to know what’s going on, mom?” Elizabeth said. “I’ll tell you everything.”

“Don’t you dare!” Jessica screamed, lunging at her sister. Alice stepped in between them before Jessica could rip Elizabeth’s hair out.

“I will,” Elizabeth said, stepping back. “Mom, Jessica’s planning on—” Elizabeth stopped herself mid-sentence. “Oh, I can’t bring myself to say it,” she said.

“Ha!” Jessica said. “You’re too much of a prude to even say it!”

Elizabeth leaned over and whispered something into her mother’s ear. Alice gasped.

“Jessica, is this true?” the twins’ mother asked sternly.

“How can I tell you if what she said is true or not?” Jessica asked in exasperation. “I have no idea what she just told you.”

Alice whispered something into Jessica’s ear. Jessica gasped loudly in mock surprise.

“She’s a liar!” Jessica said, eyes flashing. “Where on earth would she get an idea like that? I didn’t even know that was possible!”

“See, Elizabeth?” Alice said, turning to Elizabeth. “I’m sure you just misunderstood. Jessica would never do something like that. A little above-the-waist action, maybe, but not that.”

Elizabeth sighed. It was no use. It seemed that Jessica’s powers of manipulation were too strong for her to overcome.

“In any case, if one of you ever does that with Bruce Patman, make sure you use protection,” Alice said. “I’m sure that boy’s got the herpes.” She left the room.

“Protection?” Jessica said. “What does she mean?”

Elizabeth shrugged.

“Well, you heard her,” Jessica said. “I hope you get the herpes!” And with that, she left Elizabeth’s room as well.

Great, Elizabeth thought sadly. Things just keep getting better and better.

***

Jessica wasn’t entirely sure, but she thought that maybe, possibly, everyone at Sweet Valley High was laughing at her as she walked down the hallway.

But that’s not possible! Jessica thought. Nobody has ever laughed at Jessica Wakefield!

She looked down at her outfit: a pink leather bustier and black hot pants, accented by black fishnet tights and low black leather boots with four-inch stiletto heels. She could barely walk, but she looked hot. It can’t be the outfit, she thought. I look perfect as usual. In fact, I look sensational! Better than ever!

It seemed that everyone who was whispering and pointing in her direction was reading a copy of The Oracle. Jessica snatched the top copy off a stack outside of the nearest classroom. She skimmed the front page. There was an article on the Pi Beta Alpha dance, the big football game, some sort of canned food drive no one gave a shit about, and even an article on Lila Fowler’s recent trip to Paris. Where’s the Jessica Wakefield news? Jessica thought, annoyed. She flipped to the inside pages. An article on The Droids’ upcoming shows, some stunt Winston Egbert was planning involving a giant cheeseburger, and Elizabeth’s Eyes and Ears column. Business as usual, Jessica thought. This paper is boring as hell.

Then, something caught her eye. Her name was in Elizabeth’s column. Great! Jessica thought, eyeing the column. I bet Lizzie included a tidbit about how utterly fabulous I am!

But Jessica’s face darkened when she read the text. “Sweet Valley High’s own Jessica Wakefield is going to star in a new movie by world-famous director Jayden Jacobs,” she read out loud. “Too bad she’s a bitch, a loser and a virgin!”

“A bitch, a loser and a virgin?” Jessica sputtered, outraged. Behind her, she heard some giggling. Jessica spun around.

“Wow, Jess, I didn’t know you were a virgin,” Lila said, laughing. “You certainly had us all fooled.”

“Oh, shut up, Lila,” Jessica said, her voice full of venom. “Up until two days ago, everyone in Sweet Valley was a virgin!”

By now, a crowd had gathered in the hallway. Well, this is just excellent, Jessica thought.

“Well, at least my twin sister didn’t sell me out,” Lila said. “It’s funny, but I didn’t know Elizabeth was the cool Wakefield twin.”

“Ha!” Jessica shot back. “Shows how much you know. Elizabeth has absolutely no interest in being cool.”

“I don’t know,” Lila countered, her voice trailing off. “Did you read the rest of her column?”

“No, I did not,” Jessica said, her voice clipped. “I stopped after the part about myself.”

“Well, that sounds about right,” Lila muttered. “Anyway, you’re not the only one Elizabeth went after in her column this week.”

Jessica tried to finish the column, but the rest of it was written above a third-grade reading level. “Lila, you know I’m functionally illiterate. Just tell me what the damn thing says!”

“It says Todd Wilkins is a serial date rapist,” Lila said. “And I can believe it, too. If anyone in Sweet Valley knows date rapists, it’s Elizabeth.” She sniffed. “And, it says Enid Rollins is an ugly-ass bitch, and the only reason Elizabeth was ever friends with her was to make herself look even better in comparison. A classic Jessica Wakefield move, if you ask me.”

Jessica was seething by now. “So what you’re saying is, the bitch is trying to steal my identity?”

“Not necessarily your identity, Jess,” Lila said slowly. “That’s been so done. But I would say that she’s trying to usurp your popularity.” She paused for dramatic effect. “And, quite possibly, she’s trying to take your part in the movie!”

“Usurp?” Jessica echoed, confused. “Honestly, Lila!”

“It means steal, you dumbass,” Lila said testily.

Jessica gasped. “Elizabeth can’t take my popularity!”

Lila shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said slowly. “She seems to be doing a pretty good job.”

“I’m going to find that bitch and rip her hair out!” Jessica vowed, stumbling down the hall in her stiletto heels. She turned to face the crowd. “All of you can just wait and see,” she said, her tone threatening and her eyes, as usual, flashing. “Only one Wakefield twin can come out on top, and you can be damn sure it will be me!”

Although her twin was all the way on the opposite side of the cafeteria, Elizabeth could tell she was pissed. So what else is new? Elizabeth thought with a sigh, taking a bite of her lunch – a Granny Smith apple – and turning the page of the poetry book she had been reading.

Jessica threw a copy of The Oracle down onto the table. “What is the meaning of this?” she spat.

Elizabeth shrugged. “I just report the truth, Jess,” she said.

“Did you have to make me the laughingstock of the entire school?” Jessica asked, her voice raising in anger.

“Don’t act all innocent with me, Jessica Wakefield,” Elizabeth said, standing up and putting her hands on the table to steady herself. “You would have pulled the same shit with me, if you would have thought of it first. And if you could write worth a damn.”

“Well, you may be right, Elizabeth Wakefield,” Jessica said, “but I am supposed to be the evil twin. Lila’s right. You are trying to use up my popularity, or whatever!”

“Use up your popularity? What the hell are you talking about?” Elizabeth asked. “Jessica, you’re not making any sense.”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” Jessica said, her eyes narrowed. “You are trying to make me look bad in front of Jayden and all of Sweet Valley so you can take over my role in the film and take over as the most popular Wakefield at Sweet Valley High!”

“Okay, first of all, I’m sure Jayden isn’t reading a shitty high school paper like The Oracle. Secondly, I’m not the one who has ambitions to star in a film, you are. Third, I don’t give a rat’s ass about popularity, as evidenced by the fact that I’m sitting here eating lunch by myself and reading a goddamn poetry book. And, finally, have you ever stopped to consider that over the last seventeen years, you have been such a heinous bitch to me, and maybe, one day, I would finally grow the balls to pay you back?” Elizabeth cried, her voice echoing in the cafeteria.

“You’re single-handedly ruining my life!” Jessica yelled. “I wish I wasn’t a twin! I wish you’d never been born four minutes before I was born!”

And with that, Jessica ran out of the cafeteria, hot, angry tears streaming down her face. The other students in the cafeteria were staring at Elizabeth, waiting for a reaction. Elizabeth slowly sank into her seat and picked up the Granny Smith apple.

“Way to go, Elizabeth,” Ken Matthews called.

“I always thought Jessica was a heinous bitch,” Amy Sutton said, clapping.

“Thank god you finally grew a pair,” Winston Egbert yelled.

Elizabeth smiled, embarrassed at the words of praise. There were, however, two people in the cafeteria who weren’t so happy – Todd and Enid. Elizabeth took one look at their anguished faces, and her heart sank. She had wanted to hurt them as they had hurt her, but now that she’d done it, why didn’t she feel any better?

***

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the Wakefield twin of the hour,” Bruce said, hurrying to catch up with Elizabeth in the parking lot after school.

“Oh, Bruce, this is terrible,” Elizabeth said, tears welling up in her eyes. “Just terrible.”

“Shh,” he said, pulling her close. “You know what will make you feel better?”

“What’s that?” Elizabeth asked, sniffling.

“The dance, of course,” Bruce said. “I know a Sweet Valley High dance always turns my frown upside down!”

“I guess you’re right,” Elizabeth said, sighing. “But I don’t feel much like going to a dance. Not with Jessica and Enid and Todd so mad at me.”

“Look,” Bruce said, “Jessica has always treated you like shit. We’ve all noticed it. And we’ve all wondered when you were going to stand up for yourself. And as for Enid and Todd, would real friends do that to you?”

“No, I guess not,” Elizabeth conceded. Bruce really has changed! she thought. He’s so wise and caring.

“So, let’s just go to the dance and have a good time,” Bruce said. “Should I pick you up at six?”

“Let’s make it seven,” Elizabeth said. “I need to go dress shopping after school.”

“Here, take my credit card,” Bruce said generously, digging into the back pocket of his jeans for his wallet.

“Oh, no, Bruce, I couldn’t,” Elizabeth said.

“Go on, take it,” he said, thrusting his American Express Black Card at her.

“Well,” Elizabeth said, eyeing the card, “okay, if you insist.”

“I insist,” Bruce said. “Buy yourself something really hot.” He placed the card in Elizabeth’s palm and closed her hand around it.

“Well, that’s awfully nice of you, Bruce,” she said. “Thank you.”

He kissed her on the cheek. “Anytime, Elizabeth,” he said, walking toward his Porsche. “Anytime.”

Elizabeth stared down at the credit card in her hand. What would Jessica buy? she thought. Normally, such a thought wouldn’t have crossed her mind, but it only seemed fitting to outdo Jessica now. She dug in her book bag for the keys to the Fiat. Maybe she would just skip her last class and head over to the mall right now. It seemed like the type of stunt Jessica would pull. Acting like a total irresponsible bitch is kind of fun! Elizabeth thought. I wonder why I’ve waited so long to try it out!

She stopped in the middle of the lawn and pulled her book bag around to her front so she could rummage in it further. So far, she hadn’t felt the keys to the Fiat. There was her French book, her poetry book, a plastic Ziploc bag containing half of the Granny Smith apple from lunch, but no car keys.

“That’s odd,” she said out loud. “I could have sworn they were in here.”

As she looked up toward the parking lot, her face darkened. The Fiat wasn’t where she had parked it that morning. In fact, it was nowhere to be seen!

“That bitch!” she exclaimed. She should have known. Now she would have to take the bus. The Sweet Valley Transit Authority buses were horrible. The only people who rode them were the two poor people in Sweet Valley – and Elizabeth when Jessica had stolen the keys to the Fiat. Elizabeth grumbled all the way up the hill to the bus stop. If only Bruce hadn’t already left – maybe he could have taken her to the mall.

When the bus finally did arrive, fifteen minutes later, it was nearly empty. The only other rider was Betsy Martin’s drunk father, and he was slumped over in one of the seats, mumbling something to himself. Elizabeth couldn’t make out what he was saying, but she was pretty sure it was racist.

Elizabeth sat down gingerly in one of the seats farthest away from Mr. Martin. She clutched her bag close to her ample chest. There was no doubt about it – these buses weren’t the safest places to be. She just hoped Mr. Martin wouldn’t wake up out of his drunken stupor and try to rob her!

When the bus dropped her off at the Sweet Valley Mall, Elizabeth was relieved. She hadn’t really been looking forward to the dance, but now she couldn’t wait to buy her dress, go to the dance and show Jessica up, and then be done with the whole thing.

Elizabeth walked the mall, peering in store after store. None of them seemed quite right. Just when she was about to give up, go home and raid her own – and maybe Jessica’s – closet again, Elizabeth spotted a new store that had opened up in the mall. It was full of the fashions the other students at Sweet Valley High had been wearing lately.

She wandered among the racks, unsure what to buy. Some of the dresses seemed so skimpy, and while Elizabeth was ready to make a change, she wasn’t sure she was ready to make an entirely drastic change.

“Excuse me, miss, can I help you?” a voice behind Elizabeth asked.

Elizabeth whirled around to find a sales clerk behind her. Before she could say anything, the older woman’s eyes widened.

“I’m sorry,” the woman said. “Were you unhappy with your dress?”

“My dress?” Elizabeth echoed.

“You know, the one you just bought,” she answered.

“Oh, no, you must mean my twin sister, Jessica,” Elizabeth said with a laugh. “She was in here earlier?”

The woman nodded. “About an hour ago,” she answered.

“Would you mind showing me which dress she bought?” Elizabeth said. “I wouldn’t want to show up at the big Pi Beta Alpha dance in the same dress.”

“Of course not, dear,” the woman said, leading Elizabeth to a display rack at the front of the store. “It was this one right here.”

She gestured toward a short red minidress with a low bustline and an even lower back. Elizabeth nodded. “Do you have anything a little more … conservative?” she asked slowly.

The saleswoman laughed. “Honey, conservative is so yesterday,” she said.

“Well, I’m just not sure I’m ready for something this revealing,” Elizabeth said.

“I think I may have just the thing for you,” the woman said. “Wait right here.”

The woman disappeared through a door at the back of the store. Elizabeth waited nervously for her to return. When she did come back, she was holding the most stunning dress Elizabeth had ever seen. It was black, hit just above the knee and was covered in sequins. The neckline was slightly lower than Elizabeth would have normally selected, but she knew it would look gorgeous on her.

“It’s perfect,” Elizabeth breathed. “I’ll take it.”

As the saleswoman wrapped up her purchase, Elizabeth looked around nervously. Why am I so apprehensive about this dress? she thought to herself. And about tonight?

“Is something the matter, dear?” the sales clerk asked.

“Oh, no, not at all,” Elizabeth stammered. “It’s just that this dress is slightly more revealing than I’m used to.”

The saleswoman laughed. “What you’re used to?” she echoed.

Elizabeth nodded. “Well, you know, ankle-length with long sleeves and a turtleneck,” she clarified.

“That sounds terrible!” the sales clerk exclaimed. “No, no, dear, you will look stunning in this. You have a perfect size-six figure. How on earth do you maintain it?”

“Oh, um, good genes, I guess,” Elizabeth said, her eyes shifting nervously to the floor. She gave a high-pitched little laugh. “I guess I don’t have to try hard at all.”

“Well, lucky you,” the saleswoman said. “Besides,” she added breezily, “the more revealing styles are all the rage these days. I mean, we just opened up this week, and I’m selling out of several items already!”

Elizabeth frowned. Why would such a store have opened up just this week? With all the strange goings-on in Sweet Valley, it seemed to be more than just mere coincidence.

“Well, thank you very much,” Elizabeth said graciously, taking the bag with her dress in it.

“You’re more than welcome, dear,” the saleswoman said. “Come back and see us anytime!”

Elizabeth made her way across the mall parking lot to the bus stop, deep in thought. It seemed that ever since the beginning of the week, things had gotten stranger and stranger. The “Skanks Gone Stupid” crew had shown up; Jessica had railroaded her into co-starring in a film she didn’t want to be in; an article on date rape and a misunderstanding with Todd had led Elizabeth straight into Bruce’s arms; Enid could barely look her in the eye these days; Mr. Collins was beginning to creep her out just slightly; all the girls in school had been acting and dressing weird; and Elizabeth had finally stood up to Jessica – after years of physical and verbal abuse at the hands of her twin sister. Could all of these events be connected? Elizabeth wondered.

It seemed to Elizabeth that everything had gone downhill since Jayden and the rest of the “Skanks Gone Stupid” crew had come to town.

“That’s it!” she exclaimed, snapping her fingers. It had to be something to do with them. After all, every time a newcomer showed up in Sweet Valley, things got turned upside down. Usually, it was just one or two odd things that would happen, but this time, everyone in Sweet Valley had gone completely crazy!

I have to come up with a plan, Elizabeth vowed. Maybe I can show everyone at the dance tonight just how screwed up things have become in Sweet Valley!

Nine

Enid stared at her reflection in the mirror glumly. Her dull green eyes stared back at her. Her hair hung limp around her shoulders. It was kind of frizzy, too. There was no doubt about it – she was quite possibly the ugliest girl in Sweet Valley.

It didn’t help being friends with one of the two most beautiful girls in all of Sweet Valley. Enid was tired of living in Elizabeth’s shadow. It was bad enough that Elizabeth was incredibly beautiful and smart, but did she have to go and follow Jessica’s orders and star in some crazy film? And then there was this whole business with Bruce. It was completely ridiculous! Elizabeth had never really liked Bruce!

Enid did feel a tiny bit guilty about going to the dance with Todd, but she quickly shook off the feeling. Elizabeth hadn’t been herself lately, and no one understood that better than Todd. In a way, they were helping each other through this tough time.

Enid brushed dark teal green eye shadow on her lids. It was the perfect shade to match her dress, a long sequined number with puffed-up sleeves and a small slit up the back topped by a big silk bow. It was a hand-me-down from her mother, who had once worn it to a cocktail party. Or was it a swingers party? Enid could never remember. In any case, she would get to wear this fabulous dress to the big Pi Beta Alpha dance.

Even though Enid typically didn’t care about her appearance, she took the time to pull her hair into a neat updo. It looked marginally better that way, she decided. Now, staring back at her was a sequined drag queen. Much better, Enid thought to herself. Todd will love it.

“Enid, honey, are you almost ready?” Enid’s mother asked through the door. “Todd’s here.”

“He’s here? Already?” Enid asked.

“Yes,” her mother answered. “I’ll tell him you’re just finishing up.”

“Thanks, mom,” Enid said. She dabbed some perfume on her wrists and smoothed her hair in the mirror one last time. She looked perfect. Absolutely perfect. For the first time in a long while, Enid felt beautiful. She gave her reflection a tiny smile. The dance was going to be fun, Enid convinced herself.

She descended the stairs. Todd stood at the bottom, looking dapper in his powder blue tuxedo and bow tie. He handed Enid a large pink wrist corsage.

“Thank you,” Enid said graciously, slipping the corsage over her wrist. The flower was big and bold, and it stood out brightly against the green of her dress.

“You’re welcome,” Todd said. “Gosh, Enid, you look fantastic.”

“Thanks,” Enid said. “So do you.”

“Hold still, you two,” Mrs. Rollins said, holding up her camera. “I want to take a photo of the two of you.”

“Is over here okay?” Todd asked, indicating toward the fireplace.

“Sure, that would be great,” Mrs. Rollins answered, snapping a few candid shots as Todd and Enid made their way to the fireplace.

The two of them struck a classic pose in front of the fireplace and mantel, Todd’s arm around Enid’s waist. Mrs. Rollins took a few more photos, the flash nearly blinding Enid and Todd each time it went off.

“Okay, mom, I think that’s enough,” Enid said, blinking. She was slightly embarrassed by now. No wonder I’m such a dork! Enid thought. My mom’s kind of a loser!

“Yes, we don’t want to be late to the dance,” Todd said, shaking Mrs. Rollins’ hand. “It was really nice to meet you.”

Mrs. Rollins laughed. “Well, aren’t you a charmer?” she asked. “Enid, hold onto this one!”

“God, mom, this is Elizabeth’s boyfriend,” Enid said testily. “We’re just going to the dance as friends.”

“Elizabeth’s boyfriend?” Mrs. Rollins asked. “Elizabeth Wakefield’s boyfriend?”

Enid nodded. Her mother laughed.

“Oh, honey, you just crack me up!” Mrs. Rollins exclaimed, guiding Todd and Enid to the front door. “You going to a dance with Elizabeth’s boyfriend. That’s a good one,” she chuckled to herself as she shut the door behind the two of them.

“I don’t think I’m much of anyone’s boyfriend these days,” Todd said to Enid as the two of them headed down the driveway to his car.

Enid put a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. “I know the feeling,” she said quietly. “But, hey, let’s try to have as much fun as we possibly can tonight, right?”

Todd smiled broadly, his coffee-colored eyes crinkling with happiness. “That’s right, Ms. Rollins,” he said, unlocking the passenger-side door and holding it open for Enid.

“Why, thank you, Mr. Wilkins,” she said, taking a seat. Todd closed the door behind her and crossed in front of the car to enter the driver’s side.

“I think this will be a night to remember,” Todd said.

“Definitely,” agreed Enid, looking out the window as Todd backed his car down the driveway. Knowing Sweet Valley, something will definitely happen to make this a night to remember!

***

Elizabeth was putting the finishing touches on her makeup when she heard the doorbell ring.

“Jessica,” Alice Wakefield called up the stairs. “Your friend Jayden is here!”

“Mom, you know I’ll need at least another twenty minutes,” Elizabeth heard Jessica hiss through the door.

“All right,” Alice said. “Your father and I will keep him entertained until you’re ready.”

Elizabeth scowled. This was typical Jessica behavior. She was too self-important to just be ready on time for her date. She was nearly ready, and Bruce wasn’t even here yet. Elizabeth put in her earrings and gave herself one final look in the mirror before leaving her room.

“Jessica!” Jayden exclaimed as Elizabeth walked down the stairs. Before Elizabeth could correct him, he grabbed her face and planted a kiss on her lips.

Elizabeth drew back quickly. “Oh, no, I’m Elizabeth,” she said apologetically.

Jayden’s face reddened. “I’m so sorry,” he said. Then he gave Elizabeth a sly wink. “Don’t tell your sister – or your boyfriend!”

From the living room, Elizabeth and Jayden could hear Ned Wakefield chuckle. “Don’t worry, son,” he called. “It’s not the first time someone has mixed the two of them up.”

Jayden laughed and stuck his head in the living room. “I bet it happens all the time,” he said.

“It sure does,” Mr. Wakefield said, gesturing toward one of the chairs in the room. “Why don’t you have a seat? Jessica can be notoriously slow when it comes to getting ready.”

“Sure,” Jayden said, settling down into a chair.

“So, Jessica tells me you direct films?” Mr. Wakefield said.

“That’s right, sir,” Jayden answered.

“What sort of films?” Mr. Wakefield asked.

“Oh, you know, kind of reality stuff,” Jayden said, scratching the back of his head absentmindedly.

“Documentaries, then?” Mr. Wakefield said.

Alice Wakefield emerged from the Wakefields’ Spanish-tiled kitchen holding a tray filled with glasses of lemonade. “Does anyone want anything to drink?”

Elizabeth stood by the front window, looking out for Bruce’s car. “Sure, mom,” she said, flashing her mother a smile. “That would be great.” Alice handed her a glass.

“Jayden?” Alice said, holding the tray out in front of him. “It’s fresh squeezed.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Wakefield,” Jayden said, taking a glass from the tray. “It’s not spiked, is it?” he joked.

“Young man, I hope you’re not intending on drinking and driving with my daughter in the car,” Ned Wakefield said sternly. “We’ve already learned a lesson about that in this household.”

“Oh, no, sir,” Jayden said quickly. “Although I am of age.”

“Of age? How old are you, son?” Mr. Wakefield asked.

“Oh, you know, thirty-four or so,” Jayden answered.

“Daddy, quit pestering Jayden with questions,” Jessica said sweetly, entering the room and striking a pose in the doorway. She looked beautiful. Elizabeth regarded her with jealousy.

Jayden’s jaw dropped. “Jessica! You look even better than Elizabeth,” Jayden said.

“Well, let’s not forget you are going out with the more attractive Wakefield twin,” Jessica said.

“It’s true,” Alice said, nodding in agreement.

“Oh, look, Bruce is here,” Elizabeth said, a slight note of annoyance at her sister creeping into her voice. She went to open the door for Bruce. “Come on in,” she said.

“Hey, Elizabeth,” Bruce said, handing Elizabeth a corsage. It was a large white rose, and Elizabeth knew he had spent a lot of money on it at one of the most exclusive florists in Sweet Valley.

“Thank you, Bruce,” Elizabeth said warmly. “This is beautiful.” Out of the corner of her eye, she sneaked a peek at Jessica, who was scowling jealously. Jayden hadn’t brought her a corsage, Elizabeth had noticed. Of course, he was so far from the days of high school dances, it didn’t surprise Elizabeth that he’d forgotten about a crucial part of the experience.

“Hi, everyone,” Bruce said, giving the Wakefields and Jayden a little wave.

Alice Wakefield smiled at him warmly. Bruce was handsome and looked a lot like his father, Alice noticed. Too bad the boy is jailbait, Alice thought.

“Jayden and I are leaving,” Jessica announced, taking Jayden by the hand.

Jayden stood up. “It was nice to meet both of you,” he said, shaking Ned Wakefield’s hand.

“Nice to meet you as well,” Alice said, momentarily taking her eyes off of Bruce.

“You kids have fun at the dance!” Ned Wakefield called as Jessica and Jayden walked out the front door.

“What a nice boy,” Alice said to her husband, looking after her daughter as she closed the door behind her.

“Well, are you ready?” Bruce asked Elizabeth.

“I think so,” Elizabeth said, grabbing her purse off the table in the hallway. She smiled at Bruce. “It’s going to be a fun night.”

***

Jayden placed a hand on Jessica’s leg. It sent a chill down her spine. They were on their way to the big Pi Beta Alpha dance, driving fast, the top down on his convertible sports car. It was kind of messing up her hair, but Jessica figured that tonight, it might be worth it.

He turned the car onto a side street, away from the high school. Jessica looked around, confused. “Where are we going?” she asked.

“Relax, Jessica,” Jayden said, a slight smile spreading across his lips. “Don’t you trust me?”

Jessica smiled back. “Of course I trust you,” she purred. “It’s just that I don’t want to be late to the dance. I am president of Pi Beta Alpha, after all.”

Jayden raised an eyebrow. “The dance, Pi Beta Alpha – isn’t that just kid stuff, Jess?” he asked.

“Well, yeah, of course,” Jessica said quickly. “But, I mean, it’s kind of my responsibility to make sure everything runs smoothly. And,” she added around a mouthful of hair that the wind had whipped into her face, “I’m dying to see what Lila’s wearing. I know I’m going to look so much better than her!”

“I don’t know, Jessica,” Jayden said thoughtfully. “You look pretty hot tonight, but Lila’s got a rockin’ bod.”

Jessica scowled. “Yeah, but she’s got brown hair,” she said.

“Some guys like girls with hot bodies and brown hair,” Jayden answered, shrugging.

“Jayden, are you trying to tell me you’d rather be at the dance with Lila freakin’ Fowler than with a Wakefield twin?” Jessica asked, her voice rising to a shriek and her eyes flashing. “Do you know how incredibly lucky you are to be dating one of us?”

“Dating you? It’s just a dance, Jessica,” Jayden said, laughing and turning to look at Jessica. “Oh my god, what the hell is wrong with your eyes?”

Jessica crossed her arms across her chest, pouted, and turned her gaze to look out at the night. “Take me home, Jayden,” she said stubbornly.

“Come on, Jessica,” he said, his voice growing husky. “We’ll go straight to the dance, okay? I had a surprise for you, but it can wait until later.” He pulled into a driveway and turned around.

A surprise? Shit, Jessica thought. I really blew that one with my tantrum. But I can’t back down now – I have to show him that I’m still in control!

“Fine,” Jessica said, unfolding her arms. “I’ll go to the stupid dance with you.”

“Stupid dance! That’s the spirit!” Jayden exclaimed, slapping Jessica lightly on the thigh. He moved his hand over to the center console in between the two seats and opened the lid. “You want a little of this, Jess?” he asked, pulling out a small flask of the cheapest whiskey Jessica had ever seen. Okay, so it’s the only whiskey I’ve ever seen, Jessica thought. But it still looks tacky-ass cheap.

“Oh, no, thanks,” Jessica stammered. “I don’t really drink.”

Jayden smirked. “You’re joking, right? The prettiest, most popular girl at Sweet Valley High doesn’t really drink?”

Jessica shook her head. “I told you that before, when we were in your motel room, remember?” she asked.

“Oh, that’s right,” Jayden said, shaking his head as if to clear it. “There have been so many Sweet Valley High girls in that hotel room, it’s hard to remember which ones drink and which ones don’t.”

Jessica narrowed her eyes. “So many girls?” she echoed.

“Well, you know, they were all filming their parts,” he explained. “Some of them needed a drink, and some of them didn’t.”

“What unprofessional actresses,” Jessica sniffed. “When Lizzie and I film our parts, we’ll be stone cold sober.”

“Uh huh,” Jayden said, a note of doubt making its way into his voice. “So, uh, are we going to film tonight? Like after the dance?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Jessica said, sliding closer to Jayden and tossing her hair over her shoulder, only to have it whip back into her face. She ran a finger along the top of his thigh. “I might have something else in mind.”

Jayden grabbed her hand, pinning it to his leg. “You’re going to have to stop teasing me sometime, Jess,” he said softly.

“You’re no fun,” Jessica said, trying to pull her hand away. It was getting warm and sweaty under his hand. Also, she was pretty sure she felt an odd lump in his pants. She wasn’t quite sure what it was, but Jayden was slowly guiding her hand toward it.

Jayden released his grip on her hand, and Jessica pulled back quickly. “What’s wrong, Jessica?” he asked, grinning. “You think you can play with the big boys, but when it comes down to it, you can’t handle it?”

“That’s not it at all,” Jessica said, hurt. “But on an unrelated note, you might want to get that growth on your leg checked out.”

Jayden laughed, long and hard. “A growth? Jessica, you’re hilarious!” he exclaimed, gasping for air.

“What’s so funny?” Jessica demanded. “I’m really concerned about you!” She wrinkled her nose. “It could be something really bad, like cancer or a wart or something.”

“You’re too much,” he said, giving her an affectionate tap on the nose. He pulled the car into one of the few remaining spots in the parking lot at Sweet Valley High. A dance was always a big deal at the school, and tonight was no exception. Practically the whole student body was there, judging from the amount of cars parked outside the gymnasium.

Jessica scowled as Jayden led her past Bruce Patman’s Porsche. It seemed his little detour had given Elizabeth and Bruce the chance to make their grand entrance before Jessica and Jayden could make theirs. It’s not fair! Jessica thought. She ruins everything!

Jessica gasped as she entered the gym. As president of Pi Beta Alpha, she really should have been involved with selecting the decorations, but she’d been too busy pursuing Jayden and fighting with Elizabeth that week to work on anything related to the dance. Instead, she’d delegated everything to the lesser members of Pi Beta Alpha: Sandra Bacon and Jeannie West.

Those two have really outdone themselves, Jessica thought, looking around the gym. Sandra and Jeannie had transformed the space with red, purple and yellow streamers and balloons.

“Jesus,” Jayden said, eyeing the decorations. “It looks like a clown exploded in here.” He took a long swig out of the flask of whiskey, which he’d carried in from the car, and placed it back into the pocket of his jacket.

“I know!” Jessica said, clasping her hands together. Her eyes sparkled. “It’s so … elegant.”

“Elegant isn’t exactly the word I had in mind,” Jayden said.

The gym was packed wall-to-wall with couples dancing dreamily in each other’s arms. Jessica caught sight of Elizabeth and Bruce, locked into a tight embrace. Across the room, Todd and Enid danced awkwardly, both of them shooting evil glances in Elizabeth’s direction. On stage, Dana Larson, the lead singer for The Droids, crooned a soft ballad. Backing up Dana were the remaining members of The Droids: Emily Mayer on the drums, Max Dellon on lead guitar, Dan Scott on bass guitar and Guy Chesney on the keyboard. Jessica didn’t know a whole lot about The Droids, except that Emily used to have some sort of domestic situation with her stepmother and was dating Dan, and that Guy was dating Lynne Henry, who had, at one time, been in desperate need of a makeover.

“Come on,” Jessica said, grabbing Jayden by the hand. “Let’s dance.”

He pulled her into his strong, muscular arms, his breath tickling Jessica’s ear. “You do look really hot tonight, Jessica,” he whispered.

“I know,” Jessica whispered back. “I know.”

She could feel the eyes of almost everyone at the dance staring at her butt cleavage as she and Jayden twirled around the floor in each other’s arms. Sure, the dress was cut low enough down there that you could see crack, but at least it let a cool breeze drift across her lower back. She felt Jayden’s hand slip down and rest just above the small of her back.

“You know what you need right here, Jessica?” Jayden asked, tapping her lower back.

“What?” Jessica asked, her voice low.

“A tattoo,” he said. “Like a rose or some sort of tribal design or something.”

Jessica closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of being pressed up against Jayden. Will it feel anything like this when we finally do it tonight? Jessica wondered to herself. It was strange to think that all of it was leading up to something more than this.

“A tattoo?” she echoed. “I don’t know about that.”

“It would be totally hot,” Jayden said. “Lila’s going to get one.”

Jessica’s eyes flew open. “Lila’s going to get a tattoo?” she asked testily.

“Well, yeah,” Jayden said. “At least, that’s what she told me. I was telling her about some guy I know that does real quality work.”

Jessica pulled away from Jayden. “I don’t want to hear any more about Lila tonight,” she snapped. “You’re at the dance with me, not with Lila.”

“I’m just trying to make conversation,” Jayden said, throwing up his hands in frustration. “Besides, I don’t think Lila’s even here.”

Jessica looked around the gym again. To her surprise, Lila Fowler was nowhere in sight. “I wonder where she could be?” Jessica murmured. “It’s not like Lila to miss out on a social opportunity.”

Jayden took Jessica by the hand and guided her over to a table piled high with food. “Do you want some punch or something?” he asked, surveying the table. “Well, it looks like that’s all there is to drink.”

“Sure,” Jessica said distractedly, her eyes still scanning the gym. She still couldn’t believe Lila wasn’t there yet. Maybe she’s planning on being fashionably late and showing me up, Jessica thought with distress.

Jayden handed Jessica a small paper cup filled with punch. “I’d spike it for you, but I’m not sure it would taste so good with whiskey,” he said with a laugh.

“Thank you,” Jessica said. She took a sip of the punch. It was an alluring combination of Hi-C, 7-Up and rainbow sherbet. “Aren’t you having any?” she asked Jayden.

“Oh no,” he said, patting the flask in his pocket. “I’ll stick with what I know. Hey, do you mind if I make a quick call?”

Jessica sighed, clearly annoyed at the prospect. “I guess so,” she said, pointing at the double doors that connected the gym to the rest of the school. “There’s a pay phone down the hallway.”

“Pay phone?” Jayden asked her, his brow furrowed. “I’ve got my cell phone right here.”

Jessica stamped her foot. “What the hell is a cell phone?” she demanded.

Jayden pulled a tiny rectangle out of his pocket and waved it in front of Jessica’s face. “One of these things,” he said. “You’re kidding me, right?”

Jessica’s face started to burn, but she acted quickly to hide her embarrassment. “Oh, no, I know what it is,” she said. “I bet all the important film directors and movie stars have them, right?”

“Yeah, and so does every thirteen-year-old in the United States,” Jayden said slowly, as if Jessica was a complete moron. He knew her IQ was probably pretty low, but he wasn’t prepared for her to be functionally retarded. Then he groaned. “Please don’t tell me you kids are into pagers. Pagers are for drug dealers and losers.” He punched some of the tiny buttons on the front of the rectangle and held it up to his ear. It was a tiny phone!

“Hey, man,” Jayden said into the phone. “What’s up? We still on for tonight?” He paused, waiting for a reply. “Nah, we’re at the high school. … Yeah, some dance thing. We’ll be along later, though. … Okay, bye.” He pressed one more button and then put the little phone back into his pocket.

“Who were you talking to?” Jessica demanded.

“It was just Chase,” Jayden said. “He, Owen and Ava want to hang out later on tonight.”

“Oh,” Jessica said, a note of disappointment creeping into her voice. “I thought it was just going to be you and me tonight.”

Jayden pulled her close and gave her a kiss on the forehead. “Don’t be so insecure, Jess,” he said softly. “We’ll be able to spend plenty of time together tonight.”

“I’m not insecure,” she mumbled into his chest. “A raging sociopath, maybe, but certainly not insecure.”

The music stopped, and everyone clapped. The Droids really are the most awesome band in Sweet Valley, Jessica thought to herself.

“Ugh, thank god they’re done,” Jayden said, refusing to clap.

Jessica pulled back and turned toward the stage. “Shh,” she said to Jayden. “I think they’re about to make an announcement.”

Dana Larson took a minute to catch her breath before taking the microphone again. “What’s happening, Sweet Valley?” she yelled into the microphone. A loud cheer erupted from the crowd. “Now, in just a few minutes, we’re going to announce the recipient of the Pi Beta Alpha makeover for the beautily-challenged. You still have time to vote on which one of Sweet Valley High’s female students most needs a makeover, so be sure to cast your ballot right here in front of the stage in the next few minutes.”

The crowd cheered again, and Dana laughed and gestured with her hands for them to settle down. “In the meantime, enjoy this song, written and performed by our guest artist and Guy Chesney’s girlfriend, Lynne Henry. She wrote it especially for tonight, and it’s called ‘I Was Once an Ugly Loser, but Then I Got a Makeover and a Boyfriend and Now I’m Totally Better Than You (Except for You, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, Because You’re Totally Cooler Than Me Still)’.” The crowd clapped as Lynne took the stage. “Enjoy, everyone!” Dana called. “And don’t forget to vote!”

Lynne dragged a barstool that had been at the back of the stage to the center of the stage and sat down on it, taking an acoustic guitar from Max and placing it on her lap. Guy took his position behind the keyboard, and the rest of The Droids left the stage to mingle with the Sweet Valley High crowd and cast their votes for the ugliest girl in school.

“An acoustic guitar and an ’80s synthesizer?” Jayden said, groaning. “This is going to be awesome.”

“She’s actually a really good singer,” Jessica admitted. “Lynne Henry may still be a tall, gangly girl with a vision problem, but through the magic of Lisette’s boutique and contact lenses, she gained enough confidence to share her talents with the world. Girls like Lynne are the whole entire reason we’re here tonight! We’re making a difference!”

“Trying to save the world one fugly-ass girl at a time?” Jayden asked, smiling and slipping an arm around her waist.

“Something like that,” Jessica murmured, fitting the curve of her body into his as Lynne closed her eyes and began to sing.

“I was once an ugly loser,

“But then I got a makeover

“And a boyfriend,” Lynne sang, her voice stretching out over the long, languid notes. She opened her eyes and gave Guy a little grin. He smiled back, mesmerized by Lynne. Before Lynne’s makeover, the two of them had become friends, bonding over their shared love of music, makeup and Linda Ronstadt. When The Droids announced a songwriting contest, Lynne had entered an anonymous tape, and Guy had fallen in love with the sultry voice on the tape, not knowing it was Lynne! Once Lynne realized Guy was looking for the anonymous chanteuse, she started dressing better, brushed her hair once in a while and got rid of her clunky glasses.

“And now I’m totally better than you,

“Totally better than you,

“And now I’m totally better than you

“Except for you, Jessica and

“Elizabeth Wakefield,” Lynne sang.

“Because you’re totally cooler than me,

“Totally cooler than me,

“Because you’re totally cooler than me,

“Still,” Lynne sang, her voice fading out slowly as she rocked out a blazing acoustic guitar solo.

“How exciting! She wrote a song about me!” Jessica exclaimed.

“And about Elizabeth, too,” Jayden said gently. Jessica’s face darkened as he pointed to Elizabeth and Bruce, who were up by the stage and looked completely absorbed in Lynne’s song. There was no doubt about it – the girl had a fantastic voice. Too bad her songwriting skills were so lame, Jayden thought. “This music’s nothing like I normally listen to,” he admitted.

“Oh, what kind of music do you like?” Jessica asked, her voice suddenly dripping with interest. Maybe he knew some cool rock stars he could introduce her to!

“You ever heard of this band called Limp Bizkit?” Jayden asked. Jessica shook her head no. “Of course not,” he said. “Anyway, they have this awesome song called ‘Nookie.’ It’s a songwriting tour de force! A lyrical masterpiece! They’d blow your ugly friend here right out of the water!”

“That sounds so interesting,” Jessica said. “You know all kinds of cool stuff, Jayden.”

“So,” Jayden said, nodding toward the stage area, “have you voted yet?”

Jessica shook her head. “No,” she said. “I guess I’d better go do that now.”

“I’ll just wait here,” Jayden said, releasing his grip on Jessica. He gave her an approving stare as she walked away from him, swinging her hips as she wound her way through the crowd. She would definitely translate well to film, Jayden thought. Well, his type of films, anyway.

Jessica pushed her way to the stage area. She knew she looked hot, but it was as if everyone in the place was ignoring her! None of them seemed to notice her as she passed by, and not one of them acknowledged her at all. Jessica looked around angrily.

In contrast, Elizabeth was surrounded by a crowd of Pi Beta Alphas, some moderately popular people and a whole host of losers. She looked fantastic in her dress, and she was wearing a positively radiant smile. I hate her, Jessica thought. And suddenly, a vile thought came to her.

She reached the table and picked up a pen and a slip of paper. Looking around to make sure no one was watching, she hastily scrawled a name on the piece of paper, folded it into a neat little square and popped it in the ballot box. An evil grin spread across her face.

“What are you smiling about?” Jayden asked Jessica when she reached him again.

“Oh, nothing,” Jessica said, twirling a strand of her hair around her finger. This is going to be utterly hilarious! she thought to herself.

***

“Are you having fun?” Bruce asked Elizabeth as they slow-danced in each other’s arms.

“Actually, I am,” Elizabeth said, smiling. “I wasn’t sure I’d have a good time, but everything seems to be going so well.”

It did seem like the perfect night. Elizabeth looked around her. Practically everyone who attended Sweet Valley High was there, and they all appeared to be having a good time. Elizabeth laughed as she spotted geeky Winston Egbert doing a crazy robot dance.

She pointed him out to Bruce. “Winston seems to be having a good time,” she said, smiling.

Bruce shrugged. “Whatever,” he said. “Winston is a first-class nerd, in case you haven’t noticed.”

“Bruce!” Elizabeth admonished, giggling. “He may be a nerd, but remember, I have to be nice to everyone.”

“Oh, that’s right,” he said, giving Elizabeth a grin. “I forgot about all that. And it’s what I love about you.”

Elizabeth snuggled closer to Bruce, leaning her head against his chest. He may have given someone like Winston Egbert wedgies in the locker room, but Bruce had really turned over a new leaf. In fact, he had impressed her so much, Elizabeth – the new and improved Elizabeth, anyway – was even considering Jessica’s original idea and taking her relationship with Bruce to a new level.

She looked longingly toward her twin. It seemed that just a short time ago, they had been so close. Elizabeth had always loved the special bond that came from being a twin, but it seemed that every time there was a big dance or big event in Sweet Valley, she and Jessica somehow always ended up fighting with each other.

Jessica’s body was tightly entwined with Jayden’s, and she was looking up at him with adoration. Jayden didn’t seem to be paying much attention to Jessica – instead, his eyes were scanning the crowd. She slowly brought her eyes to meet Elizabeth’s. Jessica started to give her a small smile, but then thought better of it, and her smile turned into a scowl. Elizabeth stared sadly at Jessica. Jessica’s eyes had darkened, the anger in them evident.

“Hey,” Bruce said softly, tilting Elizabeth’s face up to meet his. “What’s on your mind, Elizabeth?”

Elizabeth sighed. “It’s Jessica,” she said. “It just seems that lately, we’ve been at each other’s throats all the time.”

“You’re always at each other’s throats,” Bruce said. “I’m sure something profound will happen to make you both realize that you’re sisters and can’t live without each other, and everything will be forgiven. That’s how it always goes.”

“I know, but it’s even harder, now that I don’t have Todd or even Enid to talk to,” Elizabeth lamented.

“You have me,” Bruce said sincerely, giving Elizabeth a gentle kiss on the lips.

“I don’t know what I would have done without you,” she said, settling her head back on his shoulder. “You’ve really helped me make it through this week, Bruce.”

“And to think, you were just using me for your article on date rape,” he teased.

“Well, yeah,” she said, laughing. “But I have to say, Bruce, I’ve been really impressed with the changes you’ve made since Regina died.”

“Well, dating a girl with a disability who later dies of a random cocaine overdose will really do that to you,” Bruce said.

Elizabeth nodded. “In that case, I’m really glad Regina was deaf,” she said softly.

“So am I,” Bruce said, his voice growing husky. “Because it means that now, I get to date a Wakefield twin – without having to ply her with alcohol and gamma hydroxybutyric acid.”

Elizabeth giggled. “I think you picked the right Wakefield twin,” she said. “Jessica is a real bitch.”

“Well, yeah, but I thought for sure she’d put out before you would,” Bruce said. He eyed Elizabeth’s body appreciatively. “But in that dress, I’m not so sure you won’t.”

Elizabeth didn’t say anything. Her only answer was to snuggle closer to Bruce and close her eyes, swaying to the music.

“All right everybody,” Dana Larson called, taking the microphone. “Are we still rocking out, Sweet Valley?”

Everyone clapped and cheered, including Bruce and Elizabeth. With her short, spiky haircut and even shorter skirt, Dana looked every bit a rock star, Elizabeth thought. She was confident that with a little persistence and Dana’s willingness to sleep with a record producer or two, The Droids would make it onto the radio one day, if only to become a one-hit wonder.

“Okay,” Dana said, smiling out at the crowd. “It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for – we’re going to announce the Sweet Valley High student who will receive a makeover!” She paused, giving the crowd a chance to amp up their cheers and whistles. “But first, I’d like to take a moment to thank the members of Pi Beta Alpha for arranging this charity fundraiser. Thanks especially to Jessica Wakefield, Lila Fowler and Cara Walker for all their hard work!”

Jessica beamed and waved as all eyes turned to her.

“She didn’t do shit!” Elizabeth muttered under her breath to Bruce. He nodded sympathetically.

“Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the winner of the makeover!” Dana yelled. Mr. Collins, who was waiting by the stage and trying to get a glimpse up Dana’s skirt, handed her a small red envelope. Dana opened it dramatically, her eyes widening as she read the results. “Wow, this wasn’t even close!” she exclaimed. “There were 353 votes for Enid Rollins, who is this year’s winner of the Pi Beta Alpha makeover!” The gym erupted into loud cheers and shouts as Enid hugged Todd and hurried to the stage.

“And, uh, there was one vote for Elizabeth Wakefield,” Dana added, her voice showing her confusion.

The crowd hushed and all eyes turned to Elizabeth, who began blushing profusely. She was happy her friend had won – everyone knew Enid was in desperate need of an update to her bland looks – but who could have dared to write the name of a Wakefield twin onto the ballot for Sweet Valley High students in dire need of a makeover?

There’s only one person I can think of, Elizabeth thought grimly. And that someone is my very own twin!

Her eye caught Jessica’s, and it was then that Elizabeth knew for sure. Jessica was out to humiliate her! Elizabeth almost couldn’t believe it, but then again, it was such typical Jessica behavior.

“It was totally Jessica,” called a voice from the back of the gym. Nearly everyone in the crowd gasped when they saw who had spoken. It was Lila Fowler. She was standing in the doorway of the gym, looking stunning in a short white dress that set off her tan and long dark hair. She had her hands on her hips.

“Everyone knows Jessica is totally psycho and completely jealous of her sister,” Lila continued, striding confidently into the room and tossing her glossy hair over her shoulder. All around the room, there were murmurs of agreement.

“Lila’s right,” Winston Egbert said. “Everyone loves Elizabeth. Sure, she might be a meddling busybody and slightly condescending, but no one here would vote against her.”

“That’s right,” Caroline Pearce said, nodding in agreement. “Elizabeth has helped all of us out at one time or another. Remember when I was writing those fake love letters to myself because I wanted everyone to think I had a fabulous boyfriend out of town and Elizabeth helped save me from certain humiliation and gave me the confidence to confess to everyone in Sweet Valley that I had written all the letters to myself?”

“And then there was that time I tried out for the cheerleading squad, but Jessica wouldn’t let me because I liked to hold hands with an awful lot of boys,” Annie Whitman added thoughtfully. “If Elizabeth hadn’t dragged Jessica to the hospital to talk me out of the coma I ended up in after I tried to off myself after not making it onto the squad for being such a slut, I don’t know what I would have done!”

“Died, probably,” observed Cara Walker, squeezing Steven Wakefield’s hand. “And Elizabeth did help get Steven and I together by asking the sister of Steven’s dead girlfriend for her permission for Steven and I to date.”

“And, although Jessica is my best friend and I think Elizabeth is a bore and a huge waste of time, Elizabeth has even helped me out a time or two,” Lila said, sauntering over to Elizabeth and placing a hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder. “Remember that time I was shoplifting because I have major daddy issues, even thought I’m rich?”

“You bitch!” Jessica yelled, breaking free from Jayden’s grasp, running across the room and lunging at Lila. “I’ll rip that weave right out of your head!”

She grabbed a fistful of Lila’s hair and started pulling, dragging Lila to the ground.

“Ouch!” Lila screamed. “It’s not a weave, you moron! It’s my real fucking hair!”

Instead of breaking up the fray, Mr. Collins shirked his chaperone duties and instead watched with interest. There was a very good chance he would get a glimpse of Jessica or Lila’s thong, and he intended to keep an eye on their scuffle for as long as it lasted.

Jayden pulled Jessica off Lila, and a large clump of brown hair came with her. Bruce helped Lila up.

“It may have worked, Jessica,” Lila said, slightly out of breath. “But you forgot one tiny little detail.”

“What’s that?” Jessica snarled, struggling to try to break free of Jayden’s grasp.

Lila held a hand to her aching head. She was pretty sure there was a bald spot just above her left temple. “You forgot to switch all the other votes, Jess,” she said with a smirk. “It’s an amateur move, especially for someone as skilled at scheming as yourself.”

“Very good detective work, Lila Fowler,” Jessica spat. “And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”

“I can’t believe you, Jessica!” Elizabeth cried. “You are just determined to ruin my life, aren’t you?”

“I wouldn’t be trying to ruin my life if you weren’t always trying to ruin mine,” Jessica shot back, her voice full of venom.

“How do I try to ruin your life?” Elizabeth asked. “It’s not my fault that you’re such a sorry excuse for a carbon-based life form!”

“I’m not even sure what exactly that means, Elizabeth Wakefield, but I’m pissed!” Jessica yelled, and before Jayden knew what she was doing, she had escaped from his grasp.

As she swatted at Elizabeth, Bruce quickly stepped in between the two girls and grabbed Jessica by both wrists. She struggled, but she had to admit it was strangely erotic.

“Ouch! You’re hurting me” she said harshly. “Let go of me, Bruce Patman! You may be incredibly, insanely, fabulously wealthy, but you’re nothing but a common date rapist!”

“Let go of her,” Jayden said, stepping in and giving Bruce a shove. Bruce tumbled backward, releasing Jessica from his grasp and nearly knocking over Elizabeth as he hit the ground.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Bruce asked angrily, brushing himself off as he stood up. “Don’t you even know who I am?”

“All I know about you is that you’re a senior who hangs out with a bunch of juniors, and that makes you a loser,” Jayden snapped.

“I’m practically the only senior at Sweet Valley High!” Bruce yelled. “Who else am I supposed to hang out with?”

He shoved Jayden back, and the two of them started throwing punches at each other. Elizabeth and Jessica both started screaming.

“Kick his ass, Jayden!” Jessica cried. She took the opportunity to grab one of Elizabeth’s spaghetti straps and tug on it, snapping the strap and dragging Elizabeth to the floor in the process.

“Ouch!” Elizabeth cried, hitting her head on the floor.

Jayden looked in their direction. “Quit fighting, Jessica,” he said sternly. “I don’t want you and Elizabeth to have black eyes and cuts and bruises in the film.”

“Screw it,” Elizabeth cried. “I don’t want to be in your stupid film, anyway!”

“Jayden, look out!” Jessica cried as Bruce landed a punch square on Jayden’s jaw.

“Fuck!” Jayden cried, holding his jaw and elbowing Bruce in the face. There was an audible crack, and blood started flowing from Bruce’s nose onto his designer button-down shirt.

Elizabeth screamed. She wriggled out of Jessica’s grasp and struggled to get up off the floor while holding her dress up over her chest. A hand reached down to help her up, and Elizabeth found herself staring into a very familiar pair of chocolate-brown eyes.

“Todd,” she gasped as he pulled her up.

“Are you okay, Elizabeth?” he asked gently. She nodded. But before she could say anything else, a frustrated scream cut through the gym.

“You are all ruining my big moment!” Enid Rollins cried from the stage.

Ten

All activity in the gym paused, and everyone stared at Enid.

“That’s much better,” Enid said calmly, smoothing down her dress. Then she started laughing, her voice echoing loudly throughout the gym. Soon, she was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down her face.

Elizabeth and Todd exchanged glances. Oh my god, Elizabeth thought. Enid has really lost it!

“Can you believe how stupid we’ve all been acting lately?” Enid asked the crowd. “I mean, here we are, fighting! Fist fighting, people! At a high school dance!”

Elizabeth started to giggle. “It is kind of pathetic,” she said to Todd. He nodded.

“Let’s help Bruce and Jayden up off the floor,” he suggested. He gave Jayden a hand, while Elizabeth helped Bruce up.

“What about me?” Jessica wailed, pounding her fist on the floor.

“As far as I’m concerned, you can stay down there,” Todd said sternly. “I’ve never really liked you much anyway.”

“And I’ve never liked you, Todd Wilkins,” Jessica spat. “You’re even more dull than that other boyfriend Elizabeth had, Jeffrey French. Whatever happened to that guy, anyway?”

“Uh, guys, right here,” Jeffrey said, stepping forward out of the crowd and raising a hand.

“Oh, who cares?” Jessica cried in frustration. Jayden knelt down and gave her a hand. “I hate all of you,” Jessica said, her voice low and her eyes blazing as she scanned the crowd.

“Come on, Jessica, let’s go,” Jayden said gently, guiding Jessica out of the gym. She was still screaming about how much she hated everyone at Sweet Valley High as Jayden led her out the door.

Todd nodded toward Bruce, who was propped up in a folding chair. “You’d better go tend to your date,” he said softly.

Elizabeth nodded sadly. She didn’t want to leave Todd’s side, but she knew he was right. “Yes, I’ll go help Bruce,” she murmured.

Someone had given Bruce a paper towel, and he was using it to mop up the blood that had seeped from his nose.

“How are you feeling?” Elizabeth asked, kneeling in front of Bruce and taking the paper towel out of his hand.

He cracked a smile. “I’ve been better,” he said.

Elizabeth smiled back as she gently dabbed at his face with the paper towel. “I don’t think it’s broken,” she said finally. “But you’ve got one hell of a nosebleed. Here, tilt your head back.”

Bruce did as he was told. “Elizabeth?” he asked. “May I ask you something?”

“Of course, silly,” Elizabeth said, giggling. “What is it?”

“Do you think you and Todd are going to get back together?” he asked. “I saw the way he looked at you when he helped you up.”

Elizabeth followed Bruce’s gaze toward Todd, who was now standing by Enid next to the stage. “I’m not sure,” she said slowly.

Bruce sat straight up and eyed Elizabeth. “I think you need to go to him, Elizabeth,” he said. She looked at Bruce uncertainly. “Go,” he said, shooing her away with a smile.

“Will you be all right?” she asked.

“Of course I’ll be all right,” he said. “Now, get out of here.”

“Thank you, Bruce!” Elizabeth exclaimed, throwing her arms around him and giving him a tight hug. “You’re a really good friend.”

“Go on!” he said, giving her a playful push on her backside as she stood up.

Elizabeth cut through the crowd, her eyes on Todd and Enid. When she arrived at them, she gave her best friend an impulsive hug.

“Congratulations, Enid,” she said. “I always knew you needed a makeover – and I’m so glad you’re now going to get one!”

Enid pulled back from Elizabeth, tears of joy in her eyes. “Oh, Elizabeth,” she said, “I’ve been so awful to you lately. I want to apologize for my behavior.”

Elizabeth shook her head. “No, Enid, it’s me who should apologize. I haven’t really been acting much like myself lately,” she said.

“None of us have,” Todd observed, a wry smile on his face.

“I was really jealous of you,” Enid said. “You see, when nearly everyone at Sweet Valley High got into that movie except me, I felt really bad about it. And then to hear that you were going to be in it, and you didn’t even care, well, it really messed me up. And I started avoiding you. But now that I’m getting a makeover, I feel much more secure about myself!”

“Oh, Enid,” Elizabeth said happily, “I can’t wait until you’re marginally pretty!”

“Me, neither,” Enid squealed. “And, I also need to apologize for going to the dance with Todd. You’re my best friend, and that wasn’t cool.”

“It’s okay,” Elizabeth said, giving Enid and Todd a wink. “I’ll share him with you anytime.”

Todd put his arm around Elizabeth’s shoulders and gave her an affectionate squeeze. “There’s plenty of me to go around, ladies,” he said. “Let’s not get into another brawl.”

Elizabeth giggled. “I guess I should apologize to you as well, Todd,” she said, her voice growing serious. “I shouldn’t have been talking to another man without your permission.”

Todd nodded. “It’s just that you’ve cheated on me so many times, Elizabeth, I just can’t trust you,” he said soberly.

“Well, the funny thing is, it was just a big mix-up,” Elizabeth said. “Like it always is.”

“So you mean, you don’t really have feelings for Bruce?” Todd asked, surprised. Elizabeth shook her head no.

“Wow,” Todd mused. “I mean, Bruce is so rich and handsome. So … muscular and athletic.” He paused, letting his voice trail off. “I bet he has a huge—”

But Todd didn’t have time to finish his sentence. Elizabeth had silenced him with a gentle kiss.

He pulled back, his eyes probing Elizabeth’s. “Elizabeth,” he said slowly, “I think we need to have a little talk.”

Enid smiled at the couple. “I guess that’s my cue to get lost,” she said, grinning. She drifted over to Lila Fowler and Amy Sutton, who congratulated her on winning the makeover.

“Let’s go outside,” Todd suggested, taking Elizabeth by the hand and guiding her out of the gymnasium.

The air outside was fresh and crisp, cooling without being too chilly. Elizabeth gazed up at the full moon and the stars, pinpoints of light that shone over Sweet Valley.

“What is it, Todd?” Elizabeth asked. She couldn’t imagine the night could get any better. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately – more passionately than she ever had before. Elizabeth wasn’t quite sure what had gotten into her, but she was filled with a sudden, overwhelming desire to rip Todd’s shirt off and force him to the ground right then and there.

Todd pulled back with a sudden jerk. “Elizabeth, don’t,” he said quickly. She looked crestfallen.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“It’s just – it’s just that I need to talk to you first,” he said, stammering.

“Okay,” Elizabeth said, sitting down on a bench and patting the seat beside her. “Let’s talk.” With Todd back by her side, Elizabeth felt she could face anything.

Todd took a seat beside Elizabeth. She took his hand in hers as he turned to face her. “This is going to be really hard for me to say,” he began slowly.

“It’s all right,” Elizabeth said encouragingly. She gave his hand a little squeeze.

“Well, there’s really no good way to say it, so I’ll just – Elizabeth, I’m gay,” he said.

Elizabeth blinked. She was completely unprepared for Todd’s revelation. “But … but the only gays in Sweet Valley are minor characters,” she said in a daze, her voice barely above a whisper.

“I know,” Todd said, patting Elizabeth’s hand. “I know.”

“You know, maybe that’s why I cheated on you all those times,” Elizabeth said slowly. “I guess, deep down, I always knew I was your beard.”

She thought back to all those late-night basketball games Todd had played in, all the times she’d waited outside the locker room for him to “shower.”

She gave Todd an encouraging smile. Gay or not, the two of them would always be friends. “Do you have a special someone in your life?” she asked.

“Well, the only other gay male in Sweet Valley is Tom McKay,” Todd said. “But he’s a little too much of a twink for my taste.” He dropped his voice to a whisper. “I’m more into the jocks. Ken Matthews is an absolute stud!”

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, if you dismiss the borderline retard IQ,” she said, giggling.

Todd laughed. “It’s not his IQ I’m interested in, if you know what I mean,” he said.

Elizabeth and Todd stood up. Elizabeth gave him a hug. “I’m happy for you, Todd,” she said fondly. “I’m glad you were finally able to come out of the closet.”

“Me, too,” he said. “It’s really such a relief.” He cast a glance back at the gym doors. “Care to go back inside?”

Elizabeth nodded and linked her arm with his. Once inside, she let her gaze fall back on Bruce, who was still sitting in the corner.

Todd caught her looking at Bruce. “You really like him, don’t you?” he asked Elizabeth softly.

“Oh, Todd,” Elizabeth said, her eyes shining as she turned back to him. “I didn’t think I liked Bruce, but now I’m not so sure.”

“Girl, he’s got the money, the looks, the car, and probably a huge package,” Todd said. “You need to go over to him right now and molest him.”

Elizabeth giggled. “I have a feeling that around here, it’s Bruce who does the molesting,” she said.

“Either way, go get you a piece,” Todd said, releasing Elizabeth from his grasp. He winked at her as she walked away.

“Go get you a piece, as well,” Elizabeth said, nodding toward Ken Matthews, who was drooling on himself over by the punch bowl.

When she reached Bruce, he looked up at her, surprised.

“Hey, Elizabeth,” Bruce said. “I thought you were getting back together with Todd.”

“It didn’t really work out as planned,” Elizabeth said, taking a seat beside him.

“So you’re not back together?” he asked.

“No,” Elizabeth said, shaking her head.

“Very cool,” Bruce said, grinning.

“Bruce Patman, do you have any idea what I want to do to you right now?” Elizabeth asked. He shook his head, and she pressed up against him and seductively whispered something into his ear.

“Wow, Liz,” he said, clearly surprised. “That sounds great and all, but it’s not as much fun for me if you actually consent to it.”

“Well,” Elizabeth purred, “how about we go somewhere quiet with a six-pack and a roofie or two, and you can pretend I didn’t consent to anything.”

“That sounds awesome,” Bruce said, jumping up and grabbing Elizabeth by the hand. “Let’s go!”

He led her out to his Porsche, and the car squealed out of the parking lot, leaving a pair of skid marks on the otherwise unmarred asphalt of the Sweet Valley High parking lot.

When Bruce parked the car at Miller’s Point, there was already a familiar car parked there. He turned off the ignition and gestured toward the other car. “Hey, isn’t that Jessica and Jayden?” he asked.

Elizabeth giggled. The one beer she had drank had already given her a little bit of a buzz. “Where?” she asked, looking in the opposite direction from where Bruce was pointing.

“There,” he said, grabbing her head and gently turning it toward Jayden’s car.

“Oh, yeah,” she said, still giggling. Elizabeth rolled down the window and started yelling at the other car.

“Jes – Jessica,” she slurred. “What are you doing up here in this – at this place?”

“Shh,” Bruce cautioned Elizabeth, smiling. He leaned over her and rolled up the window.

“What are you doing, Bruce,” Elizabeth said slowly and deliberately. She went to swat at his hand but missed and instead lazily swatted her own thigh. “Let me do that.” She tried to roll the window down again. “Bruce, I can’t do it,” she said, struggling with the handle.

He pulled Elizabeth toward him and silenced her with a kiss. “Don’t mess with that anymore,” he said softly, pressing his lips against hers. “Just relax.”

“Relax?” Elizabeth asked, giggling. “Like this?” She tried to make the seat recline, but ended up just slamming her body against the back of it.

“Elizabeth, sweetie, please don’t damage my car,” Bruce said, a hint of annoyance creeping into his voice.

“I’m – I’m sorry,” she said, sliding a hand down his cheek. “It’s just that I don’t feel so good. I want to lay down.” She slumped against the seat back and closed her eyes.

“Please don’t throw up in my car,” Bruce begged. “You’re not going to throw up, are you?”

“No,” Elizabeth said, opening her eyes. “Can I drive your car?”

“No, Elizabeth,” Bruce said gently. “We’re not going anywhere, remember?”

“Why are we up here again?” Elizabeth slurred, leaning over Bruce and honking the horn.

“Elizabeth! What are you doing?” Bruce asked, tenderly pushing her back into her seat.

“I wanted to see where we were going,” she complained. She turned her head to look out the window. “Hey, it’s Jessica.”

Jessica was walking toward Bruce’s car, and she didn’t look happy. Bruce leaned over Elizabeth to roll down her window.

“Hey, Jess,” he said, peering up at her. “Sorry about that. Elizabeth’s a little—”

“I’m drunk,” Elizabeth slurred, hanging her head out of the window. “Completely, utterly, stinking drunk.”

Jessica raised an eyebrow. “I have to say, Lizzie, I’m impressed,” she said. Jessica gave Bruce a stern look. “What’s going on here?”

“Nothing,” Bruce said, flashing Jessica an apologetic smile. “In fact, I think we might be leaving pretty soon. Sorry to have disturbed you.”

“Bruce Patman,” Jessica said, a slow smile spreading across her face. “Were you planning on seducing my sister?”

“I’m planning on sed— sedu— whatever that word is – Bruce,” Elizabeth said slowly, her eyes half closed. “For your information.”

“Right, Lizzie,” Jessica said, grinning.

“Are we friends again?” Elizabeth asked. “I hate fighting with you.”

Jessica leaned down to hug Elizabeth through the open window, giving Jayden a good look at her barely-covered ass. “Of course we’re friends again,” Jessica said. “We’re twin sisters, remember?”

“Hey, evil twin,” Jayden called, rolling down his window. “You’d better get back in here, before you freeze that cute little ass of yours clean off!”

“Just a second,” Jessica said, shooting Jayden a seductive glance over her shoulder. “There’s something I have to take care of first.” She turned back to Elizabeth and grasped her hand through the window. “Elizabeth, will you change your mind and still be in the movie with me? Please?” She gave Elizabeth her best puppy-dog eyes.

Elizabeth laughed. She could never stay mad at her twin. “Of course, I’ll be in the movie with you,” she said.

“Did I hear that correctly?” Jayden called. “Both Wakefield twins are going to get top billing once again?”

Jessica and Elizabeth nodded happily. “We’re on,” Jessica called.

“In that case, I think this calls for a celebration,” Jayden said as Jessica walked back to the car. “Bruce, follow me.” Jayden started up his car and backed up.

“Damn,” Bruce said under his breath. “Cock blocked again!” He threw the Porsche into reverse and followed Jayden’s car.

“Where – where are we going?” Elizabeth asked, looking around. “I thought we were going to—”

“We will,” Bruce said reassuringly, patting Elizabeth on the leg. He let his hand travel up her thigh.

She giggled. “Bruce, that tickles,” she said.

“We’re going to celebrate something with Jessica and that sleazy guy she’s been hanging out with,” Bruce said. “I really hope we’re not going to the Dairi Burger for a hot fudge sundae or something.”

“Ice cream sounds so good,” Elizabeth slurred. “Can we get a hot fudge sundae? With whipped cream? And nuts? And one of those little cherries on top?”

Bruce kept his eyes on the road. “Maybe, if you’re good,” he teased. “But please stop with the nuts and the cherries and any other double entendres you may be thinking of using.”

“Okay,” Elizabeth said, looking out the window. “I’m so glad Jessica isn’t mad at me anymore.”

“See?” Bruce said. “I told you everything would work out.”

They followed Jayden until they ended up at a cheap motel just a few blocks from the beach. “Where the hell are they going?” Bruce asked under his breath as Jayden pulled his car into an empty parking spot. Bruce pulled the Porsche in beside Jayden.

Bruce cracked his door and called to Jayden. “Hey, do you think my car is going to be okay here?” he asked.

Jayden shrugged and opened Jessica’s door to let her out. “I don’t see why not,” Jayden said. “It’s not like there’s a ‘No parking’ sign or anything.”

“No, I mean, this doesn’t look like the safest area,” Bruce said, looking around nervously. “I don’t want my car to get stolen.”

Jayden laughed. “Are you kidding me, bro? There’s no way in hell your car will get stolen out here, even if it is a vintage Porsche. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I’ve been in Sweet Valley, it’s that there’s practically no crime in Sweet Valley.”

“I don’t know,” Bruce said. “Elizabeth here has been kidnapped and stalked.”

Jayden rolled his eyes. “Look, man, I know your car is your baby, but if you want to get some, you’ve got to leave it here and come with me,” he said.

“Well, all right,” Bruce said doubtfully. He pulled the keys out of the ignition and turned to Elizabeth. “Stay there,” he said. “I’ll come around and get you out of the car.”

“Okay,” Elizabeth murmured, leaning her head against the back of the seat and closing her eyes.

“Is she okay?” Jessica asked anxiously, looking at her sister. “She seems really out of it.”

“She just had one beer,” Bruce said as he walked around to the passenger side of the car. “And it was a Pabst Blue Ribbon. She can’t be that drunk.” He opened the door and unbuckled Elizabeth’s seat belt. “Come on, Elizabeth,” he said gently. “Lean on me, okay?”

“All right,” Elizabeth mumbled, hooking an arm around Bruce’s shoulder. As she did so, the side of her dress that was broken slid down, nearly exposing her nipple. As thrilled as Bruce was to get a glimpse of Elizabeth’s breast, he did the gentlemanly thing and pulled her dress up to cover her chest.

“Here, hold this up,” he said, placing her hand over her dress. “Can you hold this right here?”

“Mmm hmm,” Elizabeth said seriously, nodding her head. “I can.”

“Okay, hold onto me,” he said. “Here we go.” Bruce hoisted her up out of the car. As he had guessed, Elizabeth was not too steady on her feet. She stumbled into Bruce, clutching onto him. “You all right?”

“I’m okay,” Elizabeth said.

“All right, where are we going?” Bruce asked, looking at Jayden.

“Right over here,” Jayden said, leading the way to one of the motel rooms and unlocking the door. He led Jessica, Bruce and Elizabeth into the darkened room.

“You got any lights in here?” Bruce asked, setting Elizabeth down on the bed closest to the door. She flopped back onto the mattress.

“Hold on a second, man,” Jayden said, turning on a lamp in the middle of the room. “Is that better?”

Bruce looked around the room. There were several cameras, some sort of industrial-looking lighting arrangements and a giant microphone set up around the room.

“Like the setup?” Jayden asked, patting one of the cameras, which was aimed squarely at the other bed.

“Uh, yeah, it’s great,” Bruce said, eyeing the equipment and the motel room. The walls were paneled in a light wood veneer and covered in generic landscape artwork depicting mountains and evergreen trees. The bedspreads were checkered with a gold and green diamond pattern and suspiciously stained. He’d never been in such a low-class establishment before.

“I’ve done practically all the filming for my movie here,” Jayden bragged. “The only other location I’ve used is Lila Fowler’s mansion.”

At the mention of Lila Fowler’s name, Jessica scowled. She had been unusually quiet since they’d entered the motel room, and for the first time, Bruce found himself wondering whether she was nervous.

“I have a mansion too, you know,” Bruce said quickly.

“So I’ve heard,” Jayden said dryly, opening up the mini-fridge and handing Bruce a beer. “Jess, are you sure you don’t want one?”

“I’m sure,” Jessica said, shooting a glance at her sister, who was passed out on the bed next to her.

“How about something fruity and girly?” Jayden asked. “We’ve got liquor here. I can make you a Sex on the Beach or something.”

“Um, yeah, okay,” Jessica said slowly. Jayden opened some bottles and started mixing a drink in a paper cup. She looked at Elizabeth. “Do you think she’s okay?” Jessica asked, worried.

“She’s fine,” Bruce said, sitting on the bed next to Elizabeth. “She’s just passed out.”

Jayden handed Jessica her drink and sat down next to her. “Here’s to the film,” he said, clinking his beer bottle against Bruce’s.

Bruce tipped back the beer as Jessica sipped on her drink. Well, this is awkward, he thought to himself. And now that Elizabeth’s passed out and I’m spending my time drinking with Jessica and Jayden, I’m now one-hundred percent sure I’m not getting lucky tonight.

“Mind if I call my friends?” Jayden asked. “They said they’d like to come party with us.”

“No problem,” Bruce said weakly. This was going to be super lame.

Jessica shrugged and continued to sip on her drink. Before Jayden was finished with his phone call, she had downed the entire thing and was already acting kind of drunk. She tugged at his shirt sleeve.

“Make me another one,” she purred. “That was so good.”

“Hold on a sec, Jess,” Jayden whispered. “No, you guys can come over now,” he said into the phone. “Or later, if you want. I don’t care.” Bruce stared at his tiny phone jealously. Why didn’t he have one of those? He was the richest student at Sweet Valley High! “All right, bye,” Jayden said, pressing a button on the phone and slipping it back into his pocket.

Jayden looked at Jessica and smiled. “So you finished up already, huh?” he asked.

Jessica nodded deliberately. “Yes,” she said. “And I want another one.”

Jayden got up to mix Jessica another drink. “My friends will be over in a little bit,” he said. “It turns out they’ve got a fierce game of Scrabble going on.”

Scrabble? Bruce thought. These people must be nerds!

Jessica giggled. “That’s a funny word.” She accepted the drink Jayden handed her and downed it quickly. “This is so good, Jayden. What’s in it?”

“Fruit juice, vodka, whatever,” Jayden said, settling back down next to Jessica and kissing her on the cheek. “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.”

“Jayden, are we going to be in the movie now?” Jessica asked, slumping against him.

“If Elizabeth was awake, maybe,” Jayden said. “But since she’s already passed out and you’re about two seconds away from passing out, we’ll just wait until tomorrow.”

“But tomorrow’s our birthday,” Jessica slurred. “And Lila’s having a party for us, even though she did act like a total bitch at the dance tonight.”

With that, Jessica closed her eyes and leaned up against Jayden. Within minutes, she was fast asleep. Jayden gently laid her down on the bed.

“Well,” he said, looking at Bruce, “We’ve got two gorgeous, perfect size-six, underaged, passed-out blondes next to each of us.”

Bruce gave Jayden an uneasy smile. He knew what Jayden was getting at, but surely the man wasn’t serious. Bruce thought of date rape as a strictly solo proposition. He had to change the subject, and fast.

“So, uh, what kind of progress are you making on your movie?” Bruce asked Jayden.

“It’s going pretty well,” Jayden said. “There’s just these two left.” He indicated toward Jessica and Elizabeth. “And maybe that Enid Rollins chick, if her makeover goes particularly well.”

At the mention of Enid’s name, Bruce gave an involuntary shudder.

“I assume you’re familiar with my work?” Jayden continued.

“No, I don’t believe I am,” Bruce said, taking another sip of his beer.

“Oh, come on,” Jayden said. He laughed. “You haven’t seen the infomercials?”

“The what?” Bruce asked, confused.

“Those long commercials that are on late-night TV,” Jayden clarified.

Bruce shrugged. “No, I’ve never seen them.”

Jayden laughed. “You seriously mean to tell me you have no idea what ‘Skanks Gone Stupid’ is,” he said. “You’re kidding me, right, man?”

“I’m not kidding,” Bruce said, annoyed. “I have no clue what a skank is.”

Jayden’s laughter continued. “You’re too much, man,” he said. “Are you sure you’re not gay?”

“I’m not gay,” Bruce snapped.

“All right, all right,” Jayden said, throwing up his hands. “I think I have some DVDs around here somewhere.” He got up and started rummaging around in a duffel bag that was sitting by the TV. “Of course, there’s no DVD player here.”

“I’m not sure what a DVD is, either,” Bruce offered helpfully.

“Of course not,” Jayden said, continuing to dig through the bag. “Sweet Valley is in some sort of weird time warp.”

“What do you mean?” Bruce asked, setting down his beer on the nightstand as Jayden offered him several plastic cases. They looked like videotape cases, only they were thinner.

Bruce shuffled through the cases. “‘Skanks Gone Stupid: Spring Break,’ ‘Skanks Gone Stupid: South Beach,’ ‘Skanks Gone Stupid: College Girls,’” Bruce read out loud. On the front of each case were photos of girls lifting up their shirts to reveal supple – and sometimes lopsided – breasts. “Jayden, what is all this?”

Jayden laughed. “What does it look like, Bruce?” he asked. “It’s pornography.”

“Pornography,” Bruce repeated, mesmerized by the photos on the boxes. He had never seen anything so wonderful in his entire life.

“And you’ve been doing one of these films in Sweet Valley?” Bruce asked. Suddenly, everything made sense.

“Yeah,” Jayden said, settling down on the bed next to Jessica. “We were scouting new locations, and we stumbled upon Sweet Valley. The girls around here are super hot, bro!”

“Oh, I know,” Bruce said, his throat dry. He was still staring down at the DVD boxes he was holding in his hands.

“Imagine my surprise when I found out they were all virgins,” Jayden continued. “Especially the infamous Wakefield twins.”

“It’s not for lack of trying,” Bruce said. “I’ve personally tried to date rape both of them at least once.”

Jayden shook his head. “That’s not the way to do it, man,” he said. “You need to gain their trust, make them think there’s something in it for them, maybe get them a little drunk.” He paused and shook his head. “That’s one thing I’ve had a hard time with here,” he admitted. “These girls must not drink too often. It’s been hard to find the right balance between sober and completely passed out.”

“I’ve had that problem myself,” Bruce confided. “Something about this town gives most girls an awfully low tolerance for alcohol.”

“Once you strike the right balance, it’s easy,” Jayden said. “I’ve got hours and hours of footage from Sweet Valley.”

“Girls – girls I know?” Bruce asked.

“Oh yeah,” Jayden said, ticking the names off on his fingers. “Lila Fowler, Cara Walker, Olivia Davidson, Amy Sutton – who, by the way, is going to have a great porn star name, Amy Slutton – Annie Whitman, Penny Ayala, Caroline Pearce, Jeannie West, Sandra Bacon – those two did a hot girl-on-girl scene – Robin Wilson, Maria Santelli, Dana Larson – pretty much any girl you can think of at Sweet Valley High who is not an ugly mess.”

“Wait – did you say girl-on-girl scene?” Bruce asked.

“Oh, yeah,” Jayden said. “A very popular niche, as you can imagine.”

Bruce nodded slowly. Jayden had just about blown his mind. “You don’t happen to have any footage of this, do you?” he asked.

“Yeah, dude, let me just hook up this camera,” Jayden said, getting off the bed and pulling one of the cameras off its tripod. He ran a line from the camera to the TV and turned them both on. “Here we go,” he said, settling on the edge of the bed and messing around with some buttons on the camera.

Bruce glanced at Jessica and Elizabeth. The two of them were fast asleep, completely unaware of Bruce and Jayden’s presence or what they were up to. Jessica was even snoring softly and had rolled over onto her side.

The screen was fuzzy and filled with lines as Jayden fast forwarded through the tape. “Here it is,” he said, stopping the tape. On the screen, Jeannie West and Sandra Bacon appeared. They were sitting on the bed in the motel room, glancing at the camera nervously. Jeannie was twisting a thick strand of her hair around her index finger.

“So tell me a little bit about yourselves,” a voice on the tape said. It was Jayden’s voice, but he wasn’t in the frame.

“We’re members of Pi Beta Alpha,” Sandra said.

“It’s the most exclusive sorority at Sweet Valley High,” Jeannie added.

“They may be high school students, but they’re at least eighteen, right girls?” Jayden asked on the tape.

The girls giggled. “Uh, yeah, we’re at least eighteen,” Sandra said.

“So are you two best friends, or what?” Jayden prompted on the tape. Bruce could see that the two girls were drunk. They giggled nervously.

“We’re best friends,” Jeannie said. “We do practically everything together.”

“Everything?” Jayden asked. The two girls giggled again.

“Everything,” Jeannie confirmed.

“What about kissing?” Jayden asked.

Sandra and Jeannie looked at each other and broke down into hysterical laughter. “Kissing?” Sandra asked.

“Yeah, kissing,” Jayden asked.

Jeannie wrinkled her nose. “You mean kissing, like, each other?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Jayden said. “Girls can kiss each other.”

“No, we don’t do that,” Jeannie said. “But my ex-boyfriend, Tom McKay, he kisses other guys. He’s gay.”

On the tape, Jayden laughed. “I don’t want to hear about dudes kissing each other,” he said. “That’s not hot.”

“But girls kissing each other is hot?” Sandra asked doubtfully.

“Sure it is,” Jayden said. “Why don’t you try it?”

“Try it?” Jeannie asked. “I don’t know.”

“Just try it with each other,” Jayden persuaded.

Sandra shifted uncomfortably on the bed, and Jeannie twirled her hair even more furiously. “I don’t think so,” Sandra said finally.

“Oh, come on,” Jayden said soothingly. “Some of the other girls have already done it for the film.”

“Really?” Jeannie asked.

“Really,” Jayden said. “Just try it. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it anymore.”

“Okay,” Sandra said, glancing at Jeannie. “We’ll try it.”

The two girls leaned their faces together and gave each other a quick peck on the lips before pulling back, giggling.

“Oh, come on, girls,” Jayden prompted. “You can do better than that.”

Sandra gently grabbed Jeannie’s face and pulled her closer. This time, the two of them locked in a long, lingering kiss. The next thing Bruce knew, Sandra was pushing Jeannie down on the bed.

“Holy shit!” Bruce exclaimed. He was starting to feel kind of funny.

Jayden looked back at him and grinned. “Good stuff, huh?” he asked.

Bruce gulped. His throat had gone dry, and he wasn’t sure whether he’d be able to croak out any type of verbal response. He’d never before thought of Sandra or Jeannie as particularly attractive, but suddenly, Bruce was very interested in how this scene would play out. He nodded at Jayden, and then the both of them turned their attention back to the film.

Sandra had pulled Jeannie’s T-shirt off as well as her own, and now the two of them were wearing only their bras and skirts. Bruce was starting to feel stranger and stranger.

“Turn it off,” he managed to say, but it was too late.

“Oh, dude,” Jayden said. “Not cool.”

“I’m sorry,” Bruce said, embarrassed. His face turned bright red.

“No, man, it’s cool,” Jayden said. He jumped off the bed and grabbed a suitcase. “I think I have some shorts or something you can borrow.” He dug around in the suitcase until he found a pair of Hawaiian-print shorts. “Uh, here, you can just keep them.”

Bruce took the shorts into the bathroom and changed. He splashed some cold water on his face and stared at his reflection in the mirror. His face was burning hot. Nothing like that had ever happened to him before! And he certainly hadn’t expected it to happen while watching Sandra Bacon and Jeannie West, of all people!

Bruce tossed his designer pants in the trash. He could afford to buy another pair, he reasoned.

“You all right there, buddy?” Jayden asked with a grin when Bruce emerged from the bathroom.

“Yeah, I’m all right,” Bruce said.

“I guess we’ll just put this away,” Jayden said, unplugging the video camera and setting it back on the tripod.

Just then, someone knocked at the door. “It must be my friends,” Jayden said, striding over to the door and opening it.

“Hey, Jayden,” a girl said, striding into the room. She was followed by two men. Bruce stared at the girl. She was beautiful, and very thin – even thinner than the Wakefield twins, Bruce noticed. “Who’s this?” she asked, staring at Bruce.

“Oh, Ava, this is Bruce,” Jayden said. “Bruce, this is Ava.”

“Hey, Bruce,” Ava said seductively. “This is Owen and Chase.”

“Hi,” Bruce said, lifting a hand to wave.

“Damn, Jayden,” Ava said, looking at the passed-out Wakefield twins. “What have you done to these poor girls?”

“Nothing,” Bruce said. “They – they got drunk and passed out.”

“Same old story,” Ava said, sitting down on the bed next to Jessica and throwing her purse on the floor. She leaned over Jessica, revealing a flash of her underwear to Bruce. “Which one is this?”

“It’s Jessica,” Bruce said.

“Well, I do believe I can see some of Jessica’s areola,” Ava said, lifting up the neck of Jessica’s dress and peeking down it.

“Ava,” Jayden said warningly.

Ava rolled her eyes. “So, I thought we were going to get these two on camera tonight,” she said, “not sit around and watch them snore.”

“They have a really low tolerance for alcohol, all right?” Jayden said, running a hand through his hair. “Besides, you wouldn’t believe that high school dance.”

“Why?” Ava asked. “What happened?”

“There was a lot of fighting, hair-pulling, you name it,” Jayden said. He grinned at Bruce. “Bruce and I even got into a fistfight.”

“Jesus,” Ava said. “That sounds kind of white-trashy.” She turned to Bruce, who had settled back down on the bed Elizabeth was passed out on. “So, I take it you’re the other one’s boyfriend?”

“Elizabeth’s boyfriend? I guess you could say that,” Bruce said.

“Cool,” Ava said, nodding. “You’re not bad looking.”

She seemed to be rather flirtatious, and Bruce wasn’t sure how to react. He didn’t want to blow his chances with Elizabeth, but this girl was really attractive. Plus, she seemed way more worldly than Elizabeth – and would probably get with another girl, too.

“You’re not bad looking yourself,” Bruce replied, eyeing the girl.

“Tell me,” Ava said, crossing her long, tanned legs, “have you and Elizabeth been dating long?”

“Not really,” Bruce said nonchalantly.

“These girls really are gorgeous,” Ava said, winking at Bruce. “You’re lucky to get your hands on one of them.”

“They’re perfect,” Bruce agreed. “Shoulder-length blonde hair, sparkling blue-green eyes, perfect size-six figures—”

“Wait a minute,” Ava interrupted. “Size six? That’s so fat.”

“Fat?” Bruce asked, confused.

“Ugh, gross,” Ava said. “Size zero is perfect. Anything more than that is just gross.”

“Oh,” Bruce said. How could he be so stupid? He looked at Jessica and Elizabeth once again. Upon closer inspection, he could see a touch of cellulite on the top of Jessica’s thigh. And Elizabeth had kind of a fat roll on either side of her hips.

Ava laughed. She leaned over toward the bed Bruce and Elizabeth were on and pinched Elizabeth’s side. “This girl’s got a muffin top!” she exclaimed.

Bruce wasn’t quite sure what she was talking about, but he laughed anyway. Ava placed a hand on Bruce’s leg. He wanted to pull away from her, but it didn’t seem to be an option. Bruce was completely mesmerized by Ava. It was as if he was under some sort of spell.

Jayden wandered over to the two of them, ignoring Chase and Owen, who were fiddling with the camera setup. He placed a hand on Ava’s shoulder. “Ava here is one of my top girls,” he said. “She goes everywhere with me.”

“So she’s your girlfriend?” Bruce asked.

“No, not exactly,” Jayden said, casting a meaningful glance at Ava. “But she is very persuasive.”

“You see, Bruce,” Ava purred, moving her hand farther and farther up Bruce’s thigh, “I can get girls like this – girls just like the ones in Sweet Valley – to do anything I want.”

“Anything?” Bruce asked, gulping.

“Just about anything,” Ava said. “I bet I can get you to do anything I want.”

Jayden laughed. “You look rather uncomfortable, Bruce,” he said.

“Well, I don’t kiss guys, now,” Bruce said quickly, casting a sideways glance at Chase and Owen.

Jayden and Ava looked at each other and Ava wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Wow, I totally wasn’t going to ask you to kiss a guy,” she said. “But I mean, if you’re into that, more power to you.”

Bruce sighed, exasperated. “But I’m not into that!”

The whole experience had confused him. Why did they – and he, apparently – want to see two girls kissing, but not two guys? Wasn’t it just the same thing? Why was one considered better than the other? And what had just happened to him while he was watching Sandra and Jeannie’s performance in the movie?

“I – I think I have to go,” Bruce said, standing up. With all the thinking he’d done in the past twenty seconds, he was beginning to feel lightheaded.

“What about Jessica and Elizabeth?” Jayden asked.

“Oh, I guess I have to take them home,” Bruce said. “But I can only fit one of them in my Porsche.”

Jayden shrugged. “Even if you could fit both of them in the car, what would you do with them when you got there? Dump them off on the front porch of the attractive, split-level ranch?” he asked. “I’m sure Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield would just love that.”

“I’ve dumped passed-out girls on porches before,” Bruce said defensively. “How do you think every date with Regina Morrow ended?”

“I have no idea who you’re talking about, but what I think Jayden is trying to say is that you might as well leave Jessica and Elizabeth here,” Ava said. She gave Bruce a sly smile. “We’ll take very good care of them, won’t we, boys?”

Bruce felt kind of weird about leaving them there, but he wasn’t sure what else he could do. Besides, he reasoned, what’s the worst that could happen? Jayden and Ava could maybe persuade Jessica and Elizabeth to kiss each other on camera, and that wouldn’t be so bad. In fact, it might be really hot, Bruce thought.

“Well, okay,” Bruce said slowly. “Thanks a lot, man.” He shook Jayden’s hand. “See you later.”

Ava escorted Bruce to the door and locked it behind him. “He’s kind of cute,” she said to Jayden.

“Whatever,” Jayden said. “Come on, help me get these two into bed.”

Elizabeth’s head was pounding. She cracked one eye open. The room was dim, but a thin shaft of sunlight gave her just enough light to see by. She wasn’t in her own bedroom, that was for sure. Instead of the bland cream walls she was used to, she was facing a wood-paneled wall with a large window set in it. The curtains were a dingy gold color, and Elizabeth could make out a large stain on one of them. How on earth a stain got on a curtain, she would never know.

She opened the other eye and rolled over. Jessica was fast asleep next to her, snoring softly. Elizabeth wasn’t aware her twin snored, and she stifled a giggle so as not to wake Jessica. Elizabeth felt slightly cold, and then she realized half of the top of her dress was pulled down, exposing her breast. Her body ached all over from sleeping in the sequined gown.

Leaning up to peer over Jessica, she could faintly make out Jayden in the other bed, and on the other side of him, someone was snuggled under a pile of covers.

So we’re in a hotel room, Elizabeth thought. But how did we get here? The last thing I remember, Bruce and I were at Miller’s Point.

She shook her twin’s shoulder, but Jessica didn’t stir. “Jessica,” she hissed. “Wake up!”

Jessica moaned and rolled over, turning her back to Elizabeth. Elizabeth shook her again, harder this time. “Jess!” she whispered, louder than she had intended to. Elizabeth shot a glance over at the other bed, but Jayden hadn’t woken up.

“What is it, Lizzie?” Jessica moaned. “Leave me alone. We don’t have school today.”

“I know that, you moron,” Elizabeth whispered. “But where the hell are we?”

“We’re sleeping,” Jessica whined, pulling the sheets over her head. “Go away.”

Elizabeth sat up and pulled the sheets back down, exposing Jessica to the air. “Come on,” she said, rubbing her forehead. “We need to leave.”

“Leave?” Jessica asked sleepily. “But I’m having such a good dream.”

Elizabeth dragged her twin into a sitting position. Jessica opened her eyes. “Ugh, stop it, Liz,” she said. “I feel like shit.”

“Jessica, do you remember anything about last night?” Elizabeth asked soberly.

“Um, I remember—” Jessica paused and put a hand over her eyes. “I remember driving to Miller’s Point, and Jayden and I were about to get busy when you and Bruce pulled up, and then I was furious, but Jayden made me smoke a joint so I would calm the fuck down, and then I did, and you were hanging out of Bruce’s car, really, really drunk, and then you sort of, kind of said you’d star in the movie with me again, and then we all came back here, and you fell asleep and I drank something fruity and fell asleep and then here we are.”

“Mom and Dad are going to kill us!” Elizabeth said, searching frantically on the floor for her shoes.

“Mom and Dad aren’t going to kill us,” Jessica said condescendingly. “I took care of it.”

“You took care of it?” Elizabeth asked skeptically.

“Sure,” Jessica said, yawning. “I figured you’d be spending the night with Bruce and I’d be spending the night with Jayden, so I told Mom and Dad there was an after-party at Lila’s and we’d be sleeping there.” She paused, a look of disgust passing over her pretty face. “I wasn’t planning on spending the night with you.”

Elizabeth could have kissed her twin. Jessica’s scheming had saved the both of them, for once! Instead, she threw her arms around Jessica in a big hug.

“Chill out, Lizzie,” Jessica mumbled. “Can we go get something to eat? I’m starving.”

Elizabeth laughed. “First, I think we need a ride, Jess,” she said.

“Call Bruce or something,” Jessica said. “Or I can wake Jayden.”

Elizabeth put a hand on her twin’s arm. “Wait,” she said. “He looks pretty tired. I’ll just call Bruce.”

“Okay, okay,” Jessica mumbled. She stretched her legs out and stood up. Jessica caught side of herself in the mirror above the TV. “I look terrible!” she complained. Her hair was flat on one side and stuck up on the other, and her ample eye makeup had migrated halfway down her cheeks.

“If you look terrible, I bet I look ten times worse!” Elizabeth said, giggling.

Jessica tore her eyes away from her own reflection long enough to give Elizabeth a sweeping up-and-down glance. “Actually, Lizzie, you don’t look half bad,” Jessica admitted. Usually, she was the first one to belittle her twin’s looks, but Jessica had to hand it to Elizabeth. Her sister’s minimalist style held up much better than her own after a night of hard-core drinking and catfighting. “I mean, sure, you’re kind of pale, but that’s about it.”

Elizabeth tugged at the torn half of her dress. “I can’t believe this is ripped already,” she said, frowning. “That’s what I get for not dressing sensibly, I guess.”

Jessica dismissed her with a wave of her hand. “Never mind,” she said. “Just call Bruce. We definitely need a ride to the Dairi Burger.”

“Does the Dairi Burger serve breakfast?” Elizabeth asked doubtfully.

“Who cares?” Jessica asked, fluffing her hair in front of the mirror. “I could totally go for a double cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate milkshake.”

“Gross,” Elizabeth said. “I can’t believe I had that one beer last night. Do you know how many calories are in a beer?”

“Too bad you didn’t puke it up, Liz,” Jessica replied. She turned to her sister. “So, are you calling Bruce, or not?”

“All right, I’ll call him,” Elizabeth said. She picked up the telephone and dialed Bruce’s number under the watchful eye of her sister.

“Hey, Bruce,” Elizabeth said when he answered. “How are you doing?”

“I’m good,” he said. “Did you and Jessica make it home all right?”

“Actually, we need a ride,” Elizabeth said. “Would you mind picking us up and taking us to the Dairi Burger? Jessica’s starving.”

“Well, Liz, I would, but, uh, I have a – a tennis tournament today, and I really can’t make it,” he said, stumbling over his words. “I’m really sorry, Liz,” he added.

“No, that’s okay,” she said. “Thanks anyway.”

“Hey, I’ll see you at the party tonight, though, right?” Bruce asked.

“Yeah,” Elizabeth answered. “See you tonight.”

She hung up the phone and turned to face Jessica, who had her hands on her hips.

“Well?” Jessica asked.

“He can’t pick us up,” Elizabeth said. “He’s got a tennis tournament.” But she had an uneasy feeling about Bruce’s tennis tournament. He had sounded strange on the phone. And he’d never mentioned a tennis tournament to her.

“Let’s just wake up Jayden, then,” Jessica said, throwing the covers off Jayden to reveal him stretched out in just a pair of boxer shorts. “Wake up, Jayden,” she said sweetly.

Elizabeth stood uncomfortably in the center of the room, holding up her broken dress.

“Hey, ladies,” Jayden said sleepily, opening his eyes.

Jessica sat down next to him on the bed. “Scoot over,” she commanded.

“Can’t,” Jayden mumbled. “Ava’s right here. Bitch is like a damn rock in her sleep. She won’t budge.”

“Ava’s in the bed with you?” Jessica shrieked, throwing back the sheets on Ava’s side of the bed.

“Oh god,” Elizabeth said, quickly turning her head. Ava wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothing.

“And she’s naked?” Jessica cried, giving Jayden an evil look.

“So?” Jayden asked. “It’s just Ava.”

Ava opened an eye. “Give me back the covers, Jess,” she said. “It’s fucking freezing in here.”

Jessica threw the sheets back over Ava in a fit of rage. “Here you go, slut,” she spat.

Jayden jumped up. “Jessica, honey, chill out,” he said, reaching out to grab Jessica’s wrist.

Jessica snatched her arm away from Jayden’s grasp. “I am not your honey, and I will not chill out!” she raged. “I cannot believe you!”

Elizabeth looked back and forth between the two of them. Jessica and Jayden were each filled with equal parts of fury and passion. And then, the unexpected happened.

Jayden grabbed Jessica by the shoulders and gave her a long, forceful kiss. Jessica relented and returned the kiss. The two of them practically knocked Elizabeth to the ground in their haste to get to the bed Jessica and Elizabeth had slept in.

“I love you, Jessica Wakefield,” Jayden said in between passionate kisses. “Even if you are a crazy, psychotic bitch.”

“And I love you,” Jessica breathed.

Elizabeth flopped down on the bed Ava was sleeping in. Jessica seemed to have forgotten the double cheeseburger, fries and chocolate milkshake she had been craving. While she waited for Jessica and Jayden to consummate their relationship, Elizabeth pulled her notebook out from her cleavage and began to write.

I can’t believe everything that’s happened in the past few days, Elizabeth wrote, chewing on the end of her pencil thoughtfully and trying not to look at Jessica and Jayden. I got into huge fights with my best friend, my twin sister and my boyfriend, and then I made up with them. I found out that there’s more to Bruce Patman than just date rape. And now I’m watching – oh, god, I think I’m going to throw up!

Elizabeth stopped writing and shoved the notebook and pencil back into her cleavage. She had to leave the motel room – and fast. The sights and sounds from the other bed were really grossing her out. Elizabeth stepped out into the bright sunlight and shut the door behind her. It was shaping up to be another perfect day in Sweet Valley.

It looked like Elizabeth wasn’t too far from the beach, so she headed toward it to kill some time. Maybe by the time she finished her walk on the beach, Jessica and Jayden would be through.

She stopped to slip off her shoes. They were killing her. Elizabeth walked barefoot the rest of the way to the beach, the asphalt hot on the soles of her feet. She was lost in thought. Elizabeth didn’t think she and Bruce had done that last night, but she couldn’t remember a thing, so she supposed it was possible. Maybe that’s why he was acting so weird on the phone, Elizabeth thought.

The beach was strangely deserted for a Saturday morning. Usually, it was packed with Sweet Valley High students, but no one was in sight. It was probably better that way, Elizabeth thought. She looked a mess. And she just wanted to be alone. She walked along the water, letting the waves break over her legs. Spray from the salt water misted her face and mixed with the tears she didn’t even realize were flowing.

Why am I crying? Elizabeth thought. Is it Jessica? Is it because I feel like she’s leaving me behind?

Elizabeth walked until she could hardly walk anymore. Up ahead, she could make out a figure sitting on a rock, staring out to the horizon. As she got closer, she could see that it was a boy – more specifically, it was Bruce Patman. When Elizabeth realized who it was, she nearly turned around, but something willed her forward.

“Hey, Bruce,” Elizabeth said softly, digging her foot into the wet sand.

“Hi, Elizabeth,” he answered.

“How was your tennis tournament?” she asked, careful to hide the suspicion in her voice.

Bruce smiled apologetically. “I guess by now you’ve figured out there’s no tennis tournament, huh?” he asked.

“I’m not stupid, Bruce,” Elizabeth said evenly. “But I’d like to know why you lied to me.”

He patted the rock beside him. “Do you want to have a seat?” he asked.

“No, thanks,” she replied, crossing her arms. “I’ll stand.”

He nodded. “I owe you an apology, Elizabeth,” he said. “Something weird happened last night, and the truth is, I was a little scared to face you again.”

Elizabeth gasped. “We didn’t – did we?” she asked.

Bruce shook his head sadly. “No, we didn’t,” he said. “I mean, we were going to, but we didn’t.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s good,” she said.

“But something else happened,” he said.

“What?” Elizabeth asked.

“Well, you and Jessica, you were passed out, and I – I didn’t even have the urge to date rape you,” Bruce said slowly. “I mean, it was the perfect opportunity. Just perfect – sleazy motel room; you, drunk out of your mind and passed out; Jayden’s film – which was totally hot, by the way—”

Elizabeth cut him off. “You mean you saw the film?”

Bruce nodded. “Well, yeah,” he said. “Part of it. It’s not finished yet or anything. But Jayden hooked up one of the cameras and let me watch some of it. Well, until I had an accident and he had to lend me some crazy Hawaiian-print shorts.”

“And what do you mean the film was totally hot?” Elizabeth asked. “What was in it?”

“Well, I only saw maybe about five minutes of it,” Bruce said. “But it was Sandra Bacon and Jeannie West, kissing.”

“Kissing Jayden?” Elizabeth asked, alarmed.

“No,” Bruce said, sighing in frustration. “Kissing each other!”

“Each other!” Elizabeth exclaimed.

“I know, right?” Bruce asked, laughing. “And they were taking their clothes off. I’m telling you, it was totally hot.”

“So that’s why everyone has been acting so weird!” Elizabeth cried. “Jayden’s film has driven them all crazy!”

“Well, now, I don’t know about that,” Bruce said. “I always thought there was something strange about Sandra and Jeannie. You never saw one with out the other. And, I mean, Jeannie was dating a gay guy – it was the perfect cover!”

“No, no, no,” Elizabeth said, shaking her head. “Don’t you see – no one dressed in skimpy clothes or even thought about doing … that … before Jayden came to town. It all started after he began filming here.”

“I don’t know about you, but I think it’s really added a lot to Sweet Valley,” Bruce said. “I’ve never been happier!”

“Your car isn’t too far from here, is it, Bruce?” Elizabeth asked. “We have to go stop Jessica!”

“Stop Jessica from what?” Bruce asked, fishing the keys to his Porsche out of his jeans pocket.

“Participating in that film!” Elizabeth cried with determination, grabbing Bruce’s hand and pulling him off the rock. “Let’s go!”

Eleven

Bruce pulled into the parking lot of the Sweet Valley Motel, his tires squealing. He stopped the car in a parking spot just outside Jayden’s room. Before he had even turned off the ignition, Elizabeth had jumped out the car and was heading for the door.

“Jessica!” she called, pounding on the door. “Jessica! Are you in there!”

But there was no answer. Bruce joined Elizabeth and knocked loudly on the door.

“Jessica!” Bruce yelled. “Open the door, Jessica!”

“What if she’s not here?” Elizabeth asked, worried. She turned to Bruce. “Can you see anything through the window?”

The curtains were drawn, but there was a small crack in between them, and Bruce tried to get a glimpse inside the room. “I can’t see anything,” he said, shading his eyes with his hand. “It’s really dark inside there.”

“Jessica! Open this door right now!” Elizabeth screamed, her voice rising in panic.

“Come on, Jess,” Bruce pleaded through the door.

“It’s no use,” Elizabeth said, sighing and slumping to the ground, her back against the door. She covered her face with her hands and began crying. “I’ve lost Jessica for good.”

Bruce knelt down to comfort Elizabeth. He pulled her close, taking care not to make the top of her dress slip down even farther as he did so.

“It’s okay,” he said, kissing the top of Elizabeth’s head. “We’ll find her.”

Someone stuck their head out of the door two doors down from the room Elizabeth and Bruce were trying to get into.

“Could you keep it down out there?” A female voice asked, annoyed. “We’re trying to film porn in here!”

The voice sounded strangely familiar. Elizabeth sniffed and wiped at her eyes with her hands. “Jess?” she asked, raising her head to look at the person who had spoken.

“Of course it’s me,” Jessica snapped. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Oh, Jessica,” Elizabeth cried, jumping up and running over to her twin. “I’m so glad we found you!”

Jessica stuck her head even farther out the door. “What is he doing here?” she asked, pointing at Bruce. “I thought he was off playing volleyball or something.”

“I was helping Elizabeth try to find you,” Bruce answered gently, slipping an arm around Elizabeth’s waist.

“Please don’t film the movie, Jess,” Elizabeth pleaded, her eyes imploring Jessica to listen to her. “It’s not what you think it is.”

Jessica shrunk back into the room. “I know exactly what it is,” she said, her voice even.

“Jessica, please,” Elizabeth begged, following her twin into the room. She gasped when she saw the inside of the room. Jessica was standing in front of her, wearing nothing but a towel. Ava was still in the bed she’d occupied earlier that morning, but she was sitting straight up, covered only by the white bedsheet, which clung to her body and perfectly outlined her figure. Bright lights illuminated the bed, and several cameras were pointed at Ava, a red light blinking on each one of them. Jayden stood over by the cameras, peering through the eyepiece on one of them.

“We’re in the middle of taping,” Jessica hissed. “You need to leave – now.”

Bruce followed Elizabeth into the room. “Wow,” he said, looking around.

Jayden looked up from the camera. “Oh, what now?” he asked, exasperated.

“Nothing, sweetie,” Jessica said through clenched teeth. She gave Elizabeth a shove toward the door. “Get out of there, right now!”

“So you’d rather film hot girl-on-girl action with – with a complete stranger?” Elizabeth sputtered. “Instead of your own twin sister?”

“Yes, I would!” Jessica yelled, crossing her arms over her chest. “At least Ava is a size zero!”

Elizabeth jumped back as if she’d been slapped. “That was low, Jess,” she said. “Even for you.”

“Well, it’s true,” Jessica said, pouting. “And you’re too much of a prude to do anything, anyway. You would make it the most boring girl-on-girl scene ever!”

“Oh, shut up,” Elizabeth snapped. “I’m so sick of you, Jessica! All you ever think about is yourself! We get into a fight and make up every five minutes, and I’m so over it! I’m through being twins with you!”

“Get a hold of yourself, Liz,” Jessica snapped, slapping her twin across the face.

“Ouch!” Elizabeth cried, holding her reddened cheek in shock. She pulled her hand back and smacked Jessica right back.

“You absolute bitch!” Jessica screamed, grabbing Elizabeth by the hair. She slammed Elizabeth onto the bed, narrowly missing Ava, who rolled out of the way just in time. As Jessica proceeded to choke Elizabeth, the towel slipped down, revealing a perfectly proportioned pair of Wakefield breasts to the camera.

Elizabeth struggled to get out of Jessica’s grasp. She reached up and clawed at Jessica’s back.

“Ouch!” Jessica cried, arching back and letting go of Elizabeth’s neck.

Seizing the opportunity, Elizabeth rolled on top of her twin and began to choke Jessica. “How do you like it, bitch?” she snarled, leaning down to get all up in Jessica’s face.

Jessica managed to bite Elizabeth on the chin. Elizabeth rolled off Jessica in pain, her dress falling down to reveal yet another perfectly proportioned pair of Wakefield breasts to the camera.

Ava and Bruce glanced at Jayden. He was getting everything on camera – and he looked super excited.

“I can’t believe you bit me on the fucking chin!” Elizabeth cried, holding her chin.

“Serves you right,” Jessica said, panting. “You shouldn’t have been choking me.”

“You choked me first,” Elizabeth said, coughing. “I bet I have a pair of perfect size six handprints on my neck.”

Jessica squinted at her twin. “Yeah, you do,” she said.

“Well, so do you,” Elizabeth observed. “So I guess we’re identical again.”

“Except for the bite mark on your chin,” Jessica said, laughing. “So I guess you’ll have to bite me back.”

Elizabeth giggled. “If you insist,” she said. She leaned down and gave her twin a sharp nip on the chin.

“Fuck!” Jessica cried in pain.

“You totally should have kissed her, Elizabeth,” Bruce interjected.

Elizabeth looked at Bruce doubtfully. “I don’t think so, Bruce,” she said. “I think the Wakefield motto is ‘Make war, not love.’”

“No, you really should have kissed her,” Jayden said. “It would have made the scene much more believable.”

“Believable?” Elizabeth asked. “Who in their right mind is going to believe a gorgeous pair of blonde-haired, blue-green-eyed, perfect size-six twins with giant boobs really exists?”

“I believe,” Bruce said, his voice trembling with emotion. “I believe.” He began to clap, slowly at first, as Ava and Jayden joined him in applauding the Wakefield twins.

“Oh, Bruce,” Elizabeth said, sitting up, her eyes misty with tears. “I fucking love you.”

“I love you, too, Elizabeth,” he said, throwing his arms around her and kissing her passionately on the lips. “You are a totally fine piece of ass.”

And as Jayden’s cameras continued to roll, Bruce Patman made his film debut as the first male student from Sweet Valley High to star in the “Skanks Gone Stupid” direct-to-DVD series.

Twelve

Elizabeth towel dried her hair, gazing at her reflection in the mirror as she did so. She was surprised, but she didn’t look any different, she decided.

“The same old Elizabeth,” she said to her reflection, grinning.

Jessica pounded on the door of the bathroom they both shared. “Are you done in there, Elizabeth?” she called. “I need to blow dry my hair.”

“I’ll be done in a minute,” Elizabeth called through the door. She carefully combed her hair and tightened the towel wrapped around her body.

Elizabeth cracked open the door to Jessica’s room. “I’m done, Jessica,” she said.

“Thanks,” Jessica said, hopping up off her bed and following Elizabeth into the bathroom. “What a day it’s been, huh, Lizzie?”

“Yeah,” Elizabeth said, pausing in the doorway to her own bedroom. “It has been quite a day.”

“Look at you,” Jessica said, smiling at her twin as she picked up a hairbrush. “You can barely wipe the smile off your face!”

“Stop, Jessica,” Elizabeth said, blushing and giggling.

“Not that I can blame you,” Jessica continued, her eyes darting up to look at Elizabeth in the mirror. “Bruce is very well-endowed.”

Elizabeth laughed. “You’re so shallow, Jess,” she said.

“Well, it’s true, isn’t it?” Jessica pressed.

“Yes, it’s true,” Elizabeth admitted. “But that’s not why I like him, Jessica.”

“I know, I know;” Jessica said, rolling her eyes. “It was the technique, right? I mean, Bruce seemed a little more attentive than Jayden. Jayden was just kind of in, out, in, out, in, out, done. You know?”

Elizabeth cleared her throat nervously. “Well, in any case, at least we’ve had the experience, right?” she asked.

“You know, Elizabeth, I was thinking,” Jessica began. “Do you remember when we were in middle school, and you got your first period, like, a week before I got mine?”

“I don’t really recall that,” Elizabeth said with disinterest. “I wasn’t obsessed with my menstrual cycle, unlike you.”

“Well, anyway, it really bothered me that you started your period before I did,” Jessica said. “But at least I got laid before you.”

“Yeah, only about fifteen minutes before!” Elizabeth shot back, laughing.

“And fifteen minutes was about all it took,” Jessica said dryly.

Elizabeth picked her watch up off the bathroom counter and looked at it. “If you don’t hurry up and get ready, we’re going to be late for our own birthday party,” she said to Jessica.

“All right, all right,” Jessica grumbled, turning on the hair dryer.

Elizabeth walked into her room and opened the closet door. As usual, her clothes were neatly hung and wrinkle-free. And, as usual, there wasn’t a thing in her closet to wear.

“Elizabeth,” her mother called, knocking at her bedroom door. “May I come in?”

“Sure, Mom,” Elizabeth answered, flipping through the clothes in her closet.

Alice Wakefield entered the room, a large box in her hands. It was neatly wrapped in pink floral paper and topped with a huge bow.

“Bruce Patman just dropped this off for you,” Alice said, setting the package down on the bed. “He said he’ll be by in an hour to pick you up for the party.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Elizabeth said, eyeing the package.

“You’re welcome, dear,” Alice said, giving her daughter a hug. “Happy birthday.”

“Thanks,” Elizabeth said, hugging her mom back.

As she pulled away, Alice gave her daughter a knowing smile. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say there’s something different about you,” she said.

Elizabeth laughed nervously. “Oh, no,” she said, her throat tight. “Nothing different at all.”

“Well, okay, if you say so,” Alice said, winking at her. “I’ll leave you alone to get ready.”

As she left the room, Elizabeth sat down on the bed and proceeded to unwrap the package. Inside, carefully wrapped in tissue paper, was a beautiful light blue dress. It was slim and sleek, with lace detail around the top that made it look like delicate lingerie. Elizabeth checked the tag.

“A perfect size six,” she whispered, pulling the dress out of the box and holding it up in front of her.

“What have you got there, Lizzie?” Jessica asked, bounding into Elizabeth’s room. “A birthday present?”

“It’s from Bruce,” Elizabeth said, eyeing her sister suspiciously as she regarded the dress.

“I want it,” Jessica said, making a grab for the dress. Elizabeth quickly snatched it out of Jessica’s reach.

“Well, you can’t have it,” Elizabeth said. “You have your own boyfriend. He can buy you a dress for the party.”

“No fair!” Jessica cried, flopping down on Elizabeth’s bed. She extended a tanned leg to gently kick her sister.

“Stop it,” Elizabeth said, giggling. “Or else I’m going to have to break out the pillows for a pillow fight!”

“That’s so juvenile,” Jessica said with disgust. “We are grown women now. We have blossomed. And until ‘Skanks Gone Stupid’ puts out a Wakefield Twins Pillow Fight edition, we will do no such thing.”

“I am not going to be in any more ‘Skanks Gone Stupid’ films,” Elizabeth said firmly. “One was more than enough.”

“Oh, come on,” Jessica said, a familiar whiny tone creeping into her voice. “No one wants to see just one naked Wakefield twin!”

“Well, that’s all they’re going to get from now on,” Elizabeth said, standing up. “My acting days – and my slutty days – are over.”

“You can’t be serious,” Jessica sniffed. “You mean to tell me you and Bruce won’t be getting it on ever again?”

“That’s exactly what I mean to tell you, Jessica,” Elizabeth said. “I thought you only had to do it once.”

Jessica gave a high-pitched little laugh. “Oh, Elizabeth, you are too much,” she said.

“What?” Elizabeth asked, hurt. “I have to do it again?”

“You do if you want to keep Bruce Patman,” Jessica said. “A guy like that doesn’t stay around for just one roll in the hay, if you know what I’m saying.”

Elizabeth gasped. “Do you really think so?” she asked.

“Jesus, Lizzie, how can you be so naïve?” Jessica asked, exasperated. “In order to keep a man – any man – you’ll have to put out for the rest of your life.”

It sounded so final, so horrible, Elizabeth thought. She had enjoyed herself earlier that day, but she could see how it all might become a huge pain in the ass over time. Jessica, on the other hand, seemed as if she couldn’t get enough, Elizabeth observed wryly.

“Don’t look so miserable,” Jessica said, laughing. “It’s not so bad. In fact, I thought it was pretty fun.”

“It was,” Elizabeth said slowly. “But I’m not so sure I want to do it, like, all the time.”

“You really are a nerd,” Jessica said. “I’m off to find something to wear to the party.” She stood up and stretched luxuriously before disappearing through the bathroom that connected both twins’ bedrooms.

Jessica couldn’t believe her twin. Leave it to Elizabeth to have second thoughts about losing her virginity after the fact! Jessica thought. I really hope she doesn’t become one of those born-again virgins or something. In all honesty, Jessica had expected getting laid to permanently remove the stick that had been firmly lodged up Elizabeth’s ass for the past twenty-five or so years. Instead, it looks like Bruce has just moved the stick from one orifice to another, Jessica thought grimly.

She dug through the pile of wrinkled and bunched-up clothes spilling out of her closet and onto the floor of her bedroom. Really, the way Elizabeth was acting was infuriating, Jessica thought as she picked up a strapless hot pink dress and sniffed it to make sure their dog, who was named after a penile piercing, hadn’t peed on it. I mean, the best thing that could have happened to her was losing her virginity to Bruce Patman, Jessica thought to herself. I mean, if she had left it up to Todd, she’d be wearing a strap-on and doing him up the butt right about now. And that’s totally not cool.

“Okay, so Prince Albert hasn’t peed on my dress,” Jessica said out loud, holding up the dress. She knew she’d look gorgeous in it. Didn’t Jessica Wakefield always look gorgeous, no matter what?

***

The ride over to Lila’s house was silent, except for the hum of Bruce’s Porsche on the open road. He looked over at Elizabeth. “Is everything all right?” he asked. “You’re kind of quiet tonight.”

Elizabeth flashed Bruce a quick smile. “I’m fine,” she assured him. “I’m just lost in thought, that’s all.”

“Hmm,” Bruce said, frowning. “Actually, Elizabeth, that reminds me of something I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Oh?” Elizabeth asked. “What’s that?”

“Well, it’s just that now that we’re bumpin’ uglies, this thinking thing has got to stop,” he said.

“This thinking thing?” Elizabeth echoed testily.

“Yeah,” Bruce said. “I like my women to be beautiful and a lot dumber than me. And, well, you’re kind of smart. Especially for a girl. So you need to take it down a notch.”

Elizabeth was taken aback. “Bruce, I don’t think that’s a good—”

“Shh,” Bruce said, placing a finger on Elizabeth’s lips to quiet her. “There’s no need for words right now.”

Elizabeth sat, looking out the window and fuming in silence. So this is what it’s like! she thought bitterly. Once you give it up to the boy of your dreams, he starts controlling you and telling you what to do! Well, I’ll show him! He won’t be getting any from me anytime soon, that’s for fucking sure!

Bruce pulled up to the gates at Fowler Crest. He gave Elizabeth a reassuring pat on the leg. “You’re doing great, honey,” he said. “Just try to act a little bit more vapid, and we’ll be all set.”

A valet opened the door for Elizabeth and then walked around the car to let Bruce out.

“Don’t scratch it,” Bruce said snottily, tossing the Porsche keys to the valet. He hooked a possessive arm around Elizabeth’s waist and guided her to the front door. Tiny white lights twinkled in all the trees lining either side of the driveway and the walkway to the mansion. Lila must have had the servants working overtime to do all this decorating! Elizabeth thought to herself.

Bruce caught Elizabeth looking around in awe. “Fowler Crest is okay,” he said, more than a hint of arrogance in his voice, “but the Patman mansion is much larger. Lila is so nouveau riche.”

“I doubt you even know what nouveau riche means,” Elizabeth muttered under her breath.

“What’s that?” Bruce asked. “I didn’t quite hear what you said.”

“Oh, it was nothing,” Elizabeth said demurely. “It’s not important.”

Bruce smiled and kissed her on the forehead. Elizabeth resisted the urge to back away from his grasp. After all, in order to get even with Bruce Patman, Elizabeth would have to take a decidedly Jessica Wakefield approach to things!

Lila threw open the door. “Elizabeth! Bruce!” she exclaimed, as if she were actually happy to see the two of them standing on her doorstep. “Come on in.”

“I’m surprised to see you answer your own front door, Lila,” Bruce sniffed. “At the Patman estate, we have servants to do that sort of thing for us.”

Lila narrowed her eyes at Bruce. “Whatever, douchebag,” she said. “Just get your ass in here, before I decide to uninvite you to my party.”

“You can’t uninvite me, Lila,” Bruce said. “I’m banging the guest of honor.”

“One of the guests of honor,” Lila reminded him. “I presume you’re not lucky enough to be exchanging bodily fluids with both of the Wakefield twins?”

“Lila, dear, no one in Sweet Valley is that lucky,” he said, flashing Elizabeth a sideways grin. “But I can’t say I haven’t thought about being the meat in a Wakefield twin sandwich, if you know what I mean.”

Elizabeth fought hard to repress the look of horror that was trying to manifest itself on her face. So this is what Bruce is really like, she thought sadly. I probably should have screwed Todd, even thought it probably would have been totally unsatisfying for both of us.

“You’re so gross, Bruce,” Lila said, guiding them into the living room. The party was in full swing. Todd and Ken were sucking face on the leather couch. Winston Egbert was flirting with Caroline Pearce. Enid was dancing by herself to the soothing sounds of The Droids.

“Excuse me for a moment, Bruce,” Elizabeth said. “I have to go talk to Enid.”

“All right,” Bruce said reluctantly. “But don’t go too far, okay?”

“I won’t,” Elizabeth purred, putting on her best Jessica voice. As she walked toward Enid, she swayed her hips exaggeratedly, hoping Bruce would get the hint.

“Enid!” Elizabeth cried, hugging her friend. “You look great!”

The makeover had really worked wonders for Enid. She looked happier than she had in ages. With the right makeup, haircut and clothes, Enid was a knockout.

“Thanks, Elizabeth,” Enid said warmly. “Now I don’t feel so inferior to you.”

“Oh, Enid,” Elizabeth sighed, folding her friend into yet another hug.

“Happy birthday, Liz,” Enid said, beaming.

“Thanks,” Elizabeth replied. She turned to see where Bruce was. He was drinking a glass of champagne and keeping a close eye on Elizabeth. She gave him a seductive smile and a little wink before blowing him a kiss and then licking her lips. She could see by the amorous glint in his eye that she was getting to him.

“What’s with you?” Enid teased, laughing. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were giving it to Bruce Patman, hardcore!”

Elizabeth blushed. “Already did this morning,” she admitted.

Enid squealed. “I always knew you would get laid before me, Liz!” she cried.

“Well, yeah, who didn’t?” Elizabeth asked, shrugging.

“So how was it?” Enid pressed.

Elizabeth nodded. “It was… it was okay,” she said slowly.

“Just okay?” Enid asked, her eyes wide. “You’ve got to give me more details than that, Elizabeth Wakefield!”

“All right, it was good,” Elizabeth said, closing her eyes and placing a hand on Enid’s shoulder to steady herself. “But now things are just weird, you know?”

“Weird how?” Enid asked, peering over Elizabeth’s shoulder at Bruce. “Weird like he wants to jump you all the time? Because he totally looks like he’s going to come over here and take you right here on the dance floor!”

“Well, there’s that and – and he wants me to start acting like a dumb whore,” Elizabeth said with a frown. “Like Jessica.”

“No!” Enid said, gasping. “But I heard that once you had sex, the guy thought you were perfect and he was completely and utterly in love with you, forever and ever!”

“Where did you hear that from?” Elizabeth asked, frowning. “None of us had ever even heard of sex until about three days ago.”

Enid looked around the room uncomfortably. “I used to hang with a wild crowd, Elizabeth,” Enid reminded her gently. “I’ve heard stories.”

“Oh, that’s right,” Elizabeth said dismissively. “You used to wear black leather and smoke candy cigarettes. I remember now.”

“I was on meth and nearly killed a child!” Enid cried, her voice thick with emotion. “Why do you never take me seriously?”

“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said. “I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately.”

“It’s okay,” Enid said, quick to forgive her friend. “Anyway, what are you going to do about Bruce?”

“I’ll keep him around for a while,” Elizabeth said in her best Jessica tone. “I’ll make him lust after me twenty-four/seven. And then, I won’t give it up to him ever again!” She threw back her head and laughed maniacally. Being the evil twin was kind of fun, she had to admit.

“That’s a great plan, Elizabeth,” Enid said. “You’re so smart.”

“If Bruce wanted stupid, he should have gotten in Jessica’s pants,” Elizabeth said, casting another glance over her shoulder. “Listen, Enid, Bruce is kind of starting to give me the evil eye, so I’d better get back to him. Have you seen Jessica, by any chance?”

Enid shook her head no. “She and Jayden aren’t here yet. They’re planning on making a big entrance, I’d imagine,” she said.

“That sounds about right,” Elizabeth said. “Thanks, Enid.”

By the time Elizabeth reached Bruce, she could practically see the giant bulge in his pants. “Hey, there,” she whispered in his ear. “I missed you.”

Bruce pulled Elizabeth close and gave her a long kiss, during which he tried to slip a hand up her shirt. Elizabeth pulled away, giggling. “Don’t, Bruce,” she said huskily. “Everyone’s watching.”

“I don’t care,” he said, forcing her back to him and kissing her hard on the lips. Elizabeth realized she liked it kind of rough, in spite of herself.

“Wait a little bit,” she whispered against his lips. “We’ll do more when we can go somewhere a little more … private.”

“Oh, so now you care about privacy,” Bruce whispered back. “You didn’t seem to need it this morning when you lost your virginity on camera.”

“That was this morning,” Elizabeth said. “I’ve gotten a little shy since then.”

“Playing hard to get, huh?” Bruce asked, his hands moving upward into groping territory again. “I like it.”

“Do you?” Elizabeth said, her voice breathy.

“I do,” Bruce said. “It’s very Jessica-like.”

Elizabeth felt as if she had been punched in the gut. So he’s really liked Jessica all along! she realized. I’ve been so stupid, thinking Bruce Patman liked me! Tears began to well up in her eyes. Maybe she couldn’t do this, after all. Maybe it was better to just break it off with Bruce Patman right then and there.

“What’s wrong?” Bruce asked gently as Elizabeth pulled away.

For a minute, Elizabeth was almost tricked into thinking the sweet, sensitive Bruce she had fallen in love with was still there. But that Bruce Patman didn’t exist.

Before Elizabeth could say anything, she was interrupted – by none other than her twin.

“I’m here!” Jessica announced, stepping into the room. She looked great in her wrinkled, not-peed-on, hot pink strapless dress. Jessica’s entourage – Jayden, Ava, Owen and Chase – followed.

Elizabeth peeked at Bruce to see if his eyes were transfixed on Jessica. But, to her surprise, she discovered that they weren’t. He was focused solely on her.

“What’s wrong, Elizabeth?” he asked again, his voice soft.

“Do you love me, Bruce?” Elizabeth asked solemnly. “I mean, really love me.”

Bruce looked around, uncomfortable. “Well, yeah,” he said. “I’m screwing you, aren’t I?”

“Then why would you say all these hurtful things to me?” she asked mournfully.

“What hurtful things?” Bruce asked stupidly. Elizabeth smiled. Bruce could be so dumb sometimes, but he did have a huge package, so it all evened out in the end, she figured.

“Things like I’m acting like Jessica and I should be more stupid,” Elizabeth said. “I’m not Jessica. And I’m not dumb, either.”

“No, you’re not,” Bruce admitted, sighing. “I’m sorry. It’s been such a weird day.” He paused, running a hand through his hair. “I guess I’ve just been so horny since we got it on, I’ve been acting like a real jerk. Can you ever forgive me?”

“Of course,” Elizabeth said softly. She leaned up and kissed him. “And maybe, if you play your cards right, you’ll get lucky again tonight.”

***

Jessica leaned her head dreamily on Jayden’s shoulder as they slow-danced. “This has been the best birthday ever,” she said, sighing with happiness.

“Jessica Wakefield,” Jayden said with astonishment, “do you mean to tell me that of the twenty-five previous seventeenth birthdays you and Elizabeth have celebrated, this one is the best?”

“The absolute best,” she said sincerely.

“Well, it’s about to get even better,” Jayden said, holding her close.

“I don’t know if that’s even possible!” Jessica declared.

“Oh, it’s possible,” Jayden said. “I have a surprise for you.”

Jessica stopped dancing with Jayden and stepped back, excited. Maybe he was going to give her some expensive jewelry! Diamonds, probably, Jessica thought with conviction. Or maybe he’s even going to buy me a new car! The Fiat is getting kind of dated and gross. I guess Lizzie can have it, though. I’m generous like that!

“What is it?” she squealed.

“Wait right here,” he said, making his way to the stage that was permanently erected in Lila’s living room. So far, The Droids were the only band that had ever played on it. He gave Dana Larson a wink, and she cut off the band in mid-song.

“I think our friend here wants to say something,” Dana said, a teasing tone in her voice. She leaned down and handed the microphone to Jayden, giving him a healthy flash of cleavage.

“Thanks, Dana,” Jayden said into the microphone. “As all of you know, my colleagues and I have been in Sweet Valley to film our newest direct-to-DVD release, ‘Skanks Gone Stupid: Sweet Valley High.’”

A thunderous round of applause greeted him. Ava even let out a shrill whistle.

Jayden grinned. “Settle down, settle down,” he said, holding up a hand. “I’d just like to take a minute to thank all of you for your hard work and contribution to our film, and also for signing our contract and our release forms under the influence of date-rape drugs and/or alcohol.”

“Woo hoo!” Bruce yelled, pumping his fist in the air. Elizabeth gave him a warning look, and he stopped.

Jessica caught sight of it and laughed. Damn, has my sister got Bruce Patman whipped! she thought to herself.

“I’ve never felt so welcome,” Jayden continued. “The whole town has been really supportive, and that’s a refreshing change for us – especially since we usually end up getting run out of town or arrested everywhere we go.”

“That’s because there are no cops in Sweet Valley!” Winston Egbert called, and everyone laughed.

“Seriously, though,” Jayden said, calming the crowd down. “I’d like to give special thanks to two very special girls. Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, come on up here!”

Jessica and Elizabeth made their way up to the stage. Jessica was beaming. Elizabeth, on the other hand, felt her face getting redder and redder with all the attention that was focused on her.

This is it! Jessica thought. He’s going to give me my diamond necklace, or the keys to a new car, or maybe even one of those adorable little phones!

She grinned as Jayden threw an arm around her and Elizabeth. “These two lovely ladies worked really hard to make a film we an all be proud of,” he said. “And, as the cover models for ‘Skanks Gone Stupid: Sweet Valley,’ they’ll be representing Sweet Valley’s chief export – hot bitches!”

Jessica smiled and waved at her classmates, who were cheering and clapping wildly. Her cheeks were starting to hurt from smiling so hard. When is he going to give me the damn keys – or the jewelry? Jessica wondered.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, had turned pale. She had agreed to be in the film for Jessica’s sake, but maybe it hadn’t been the best idea, after all. Cover models? she thought grimly. Jessica didn’t say anything about being cover models!

“And, as a special treat to say thanks for all your hard work and support, we’re going to debut ‘Skanks Gone Stupid: Sweet Valley’ right here – tonight!” Jayden continued.

Suddenly the lights dimmed, and an image projected on a screen on the wall behind Jayden. He guided Jessica and Elizabeth off the stage and over to the side of the room so they could watch it.

He slipped an arm around Jessica’s waist and kissed her on the forehead. “How do you like your surprise?” he whispered.

“My surprise?” Jessica echoed.

“It’s just a rough cut, so keep that in mind,” Jayden said apologetically. “The final cut will be better.”

This is it? Jessica thought, confused. She gave Jayden a small smile. “This is – this is great,” she said weakly.

Elizabeth peeked at the movie through her fingers. She wasn’t sure she could handle watching it.

“We’re not even in it – yet,” a male voice whispered into her ear.

Elizabeth uncovered her eyes and turned to find Bruce by her side. “I don’t have a very good feeling about this,” she said.

“Look,” Bruce said, pointing at the screen. “It’s Lila.”

On the screen, Lila was lounging by the pool in her best – and skimpiest – silver bikini. After about five minutes and some gentle coaxing from Jayden, Lila began to untie the bikini top, an innocently seductive look in her eyes.

The crowd was going crazy. Ken Matthews, ever the dumb jock, led them in yelling “Take it off! Take it off!”

Elizabeth turned around, looking for Lila. It took her a minute, but finally Elizabeth spotted her, all the way in the back of the room. Lila had her back pressed up against the wall, and there was a look of sheer terror on her face. For a split second, she and Elizabeth locked eyes.

Bruce nudged Elizabeth with his elbow. “We’re about to see boobs,” he said, his voice low.

“Bruce, I don’t think Lila—” Elizabeth began.

But she was cut off by the crowd’s collective gasp. Elizabeth’s eyes fixated on the screen. Suddenly, she knew why Lila was so terrified. The shot was an extreme close-up of Lila’s breasts, and there was something really, really fucked up about them.

Her nipples were inverted.

Bruce recoiled in horror. “What the hell is wrong with her boobs?” he said, a little louder than he had intended.

“Shh,” Elizabeth hissed. “The poor girl is probably embarrassed enough as it is.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” Bruce replied, somewhat testily, “but have you ever seen a pair of boobs that looked like they were topped with two innie belly buttons?”

“Bruce, up until yesterday, you’d never seen a breast in your life,” Elizabeth retorted.

“Yeah, but I’d attempted to squeeze a couple, and I was working on the assumption that nipples pointed outward,” he whispered.

Elizabeth shot a sympathetic look at Lila, who by now looked as if she were about to burst into tears.

“Lila,” Jessica managed to say, “what’s wrong with your nips?”

All eyes turned to Lila. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but nothing came out.

“We’re all different,” Elizabeth spoke up, her voice clear and strong. “Instead of wondering what the hell is wrong with Lila, we should be celebrating our differences!”

“Elizabeth’s right,” Cara Walker said.

“Even so, I still want an explanation,” Bruce said. “It’s a matter of simple curiosity at this point.”

Lila sighed. “I suppose I do owe all of you an explanation,” she said. “I was born with this horrible deformity. As a child, I was shuffled from plastic surgeon to plastic surgeon in an attempt to correct it, but no doctor in Sweet Valley would touch my breasts. Not a single doctor.” She paused, scanning the crowd. A hush had fallen over the room, and everyone was leaning forward, listening intently to Lila’s story.

“And so, I’ve had to live with the knowledge that, as wealthy as I may be, there’s one thing I can never have – besides my father’s affection – and that’s normal nipples,” she continued.

“Of course!” Jessica cried. “It all makes sense now. No wonder you’re such a bitch!”

“It’s only part of the reason I’m a bitch,” Lila said, turning to Jessica. “And I owe you a big apology.” Lila took a deep breath. “You see, after I filmed my part in the movie, I convinced myself that when Jayden taped you, he’d find a physical flaw, and I wanted him to exploit it so everyone would make fun of you as well.”

Jessica laughed. “Lila, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!”

“I know,” Lila said, smiling sheepishly. “You’re a Wakefield twin – surely you don’t have any physical flaws!”

“I don’t know what the hell you were thinking,” Jessica said, still giggling.

“Friends again?” Lila asked.

“Friends again,” Jessica said, giving Lila a huge hug.

“Now that we’ve witnessed that touching moment and figured out what’s wrong with Lila’s nips, let’s finish watching the movie,” Bruce suggested. The crowd clapped and cheered in response.

They all watched as Sandra Bacon and Jeannie West indulged in hot girl-on-girl action; as Dana Larson donned a strap-on; as Cara Walker did a seductive striptease; as Amy Sutton became a hot dominatrix; and as practically every girl at Sweet Valley High tried practically every kind of sex act imaginable, and even some that were unimaginable.

And then it was time for the Wakefield twins’ performances. Elizabeth watched with a mixture of pride and embarrassment as she and Jessica commanded the screen.

Bruce gave her an affectionate squeeze around the waist. “Your face is bright red,” he said, a teasing note in his voice.

“I know,” Elizabeth said, groaning and covering her face with her hands.

“Don’t worry,” Bruce said. “I think it’s cute.”

“Shh!” Jessica said, turning to Bruce with a warning glare. “I don’t want to miss this next part.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “It isn’t because the next part involves you, by any chance, is it?” she said.

“Elizabeth,” Jessica warned, her eyes flashing. “This is my biggest scene in the whole film!”

“All right, all right,” Elizabeth said, laughing. She grabbed Bruce by the hand. “Come on,” she whispered in his ear. “Let’s go outside and get some air.”

Outside, it was quiet and still. Elizabeth took a seat on one of the lounge chairs by the pool. “Sit down,” she said, patting the chair next to her.

“Uh, no thanks,” Bruce said, remaining standing. “One of those lounge chairs could have been the one Lila was rubbing her inverted nipples against.”

“Good point,” Elizabeth said, jumping up and dusting off her backside.

“So, were you trying to get me out here alone for any particular reason?” Bruce said huskily, drawing her close.

Elizabeth giggled. “Not exactly,” she replied.

“Aw, man, you mean I’m not getting any?” Bruce whined. “Then what did we come out here for?”

“God damn it, Bruce, you’ll get some at some point, okay?” Elizabeth snapped. “I wasn’t going to give it to you again, but then I changed my mind, but if you don’t quit whining about it, you’ll never get laid again – at least not by me!”

“At least you have a twin who looks just like you,” Bruce said, sighing with relief. “So whenever you won’t give it to me, I can always try Jessica.”

“Can we be serious for a moment, Bruce?” Elizabeth asked.

“Did you think I was joking?” he asked.

“I was hoping you were joking,” Elizabeth said. “Anyway, I’m actually kind of worried about this film.”

“What do you have to be worried about? Your performance was much better than any of those other girls,” Bruce declared. “I’d even put you up against Jessica.”

“Up against Jessica?” Elizabeth asked, flattered. She gave a nervous laugh. “Really?”

“Really,” Bruce said. He gave Elizabeth a little wink. “And I know from personal experience.”

“Well, that’s true,” Elizabeth said, pulling Bruce close and kissing him. He returned the kiss. It was as if they were the only two people in the world. And then, for the second time that day, and on the very lounge chair where Lila had bared her horribly disfigured breasts, Elizabeth and Bruce got it on.

***

“So, what did you think?” Jayden asked Jessica after the film was finished and the lights were brought back up. He took her hand and looked deep into her eyes.

“It was absolutely fabulous,” Jessica squealed. “You’re such a brilliant filmmaker. And I’m so incredibly hot – how could you have gone wrong?”

“We do make a good team, Jessica Wakefield,” Jayden said, giving her a soft punch on the arm.

It was as if she’d been knocked back into reality from her reverie of being ridiculously rich and famous. Jessica looked around for her twin. “Where’s Elizabeth?” she asked, sounding a little worried.

“I don’t know,” Jayden replied. “I was too busy watching pieces of hot young ass get it on to really pay attention to where she and Bruce went.”

Jessica caught Amy Sutton’s arm as she walked by. “Hey, Amy, have you seen Liz around anywhere?” she asked.

“No, I haven’t,” Amy said icily, her eyes flashing. She yanked her arm out of Jessica’s grasp and walked quickly toward the table piled high with refreshments.

Amy’s acting kind of weird, Jessica thought. I wonder what the hell her problem is?

“Forget your twin for a minute,” Jayden said, squeezing Jessica’s hand. “There’s something I need to talk to you about.”

“What is it?” Jessica asked, alarmed.

“Well, I’m going to be leaving tomorrow,” he said. “I’ve got all the footage I need, so I’m going back to L.A. so I can work on the final cut and we can get this thing packaged and sold.”

“Do you have to leave tomorrow?” Jessica asked, her eyes wide.

Jayden nodded. “It’s time to go back,” he said apologetically. “There’s so much to do – marketing, design, commercials—”

“Commercials?” Jessica repeated. “You mean, like, television commercials? I’m going to be on TV?”

“Well, yeah,” Jayden answered, laughing. “They’ll be airing late at night and there will be a giant censor bar over your naughty bits, but yes, you’ll be on TV.”

“That’s so cool!” Jessica squealed. “I’ve got to go tell Lila!”

She started to walk away, but Jayden caught her by the arm.

“What’s your hurry?” he asked softly. “We need to make the most of tonight while we can.”

“What do you have in mind?” Jessica asked coyly.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Jayden said, pretending to be lost in thought. “Do you think Lila has a spare bedroom available?”

Jessica snorted. “She has a whole spare wing available,” she said.

“Then come on, smart ass,” Jayden said teasingly, taking her by the hand and leading her from the living room.

On the way out, they nearly ran smack into Bruce and Elizabeth. Both of them looked flushed, and Elizabeth’s hair was kind of messed up – three hairs were out of place. Bruce’s shirt was buttoned up wrong.

“Where have you been?” Jessica demanded.

“Nowhere,” Elizabeth said nervously, clearing her throat.

Jessica looked from her twin to Bruce and back to Elizabeth again. “Look at you! You’re positively glowing!” she exclaimed. “What have you been up to?”

“Getting’ laid,” Bruce said with a grin. He flashed Jessica a thumbs up.

“Stop it!” Elizabeth said, letting out a giggle and giving Bruce a playful smack.

“I knew it!” Jessica cried. “You just have to upstage me, don’t you?”

Elizabeth groaned. “Not this argument again,” she said.

“It’s true!” Jessica cried, stamping her foot in indignation. “You’ve already done it twice, and I’ve only done it once!”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Don’t tell me we’re going to start competing over this now,” she said.

“Elizabeth,” Jessica said, a warning tone in her voice, “we compete over everything. Everything.”

Elizabeth shrugged. “Well, if I’m not mistaken, it looks like you were just on your way to make it number two,” she said.

“I was,” Jessica said, sticking out her tongue at her sister. “Also, I’m going to be in a commercial.”

“Good for you, Jess,” Elizabeth said warmly. “That’s so exciting!”

“It is, isn’t it?” Jessica asked. “Hopefully, I can convince Jayden to not put you or Lila in the commercial!”

Jayden shook his head, laughing. “Come on, Jess,” he implored. “Let’s go.”

“Maybe he should rename the movie ‘Skanks Gone Stupid: Jessica Wakefield,’” Elizabeth teased.

“He really should,” Jessica purred, hooking her arm through Jayden’s arm and giving him a mildly threatening look. “How does that sound, Jayden?”

“I’ll think about it,” Jayden promised, giving Jessica a kiss on the forehead. “Now can we go find that spare wing of the house we were talking about?”

“You have such a one-track mind,” Jessica said. She pinched Jayden’s cheek affectionately.

“All right, enough, you two,” Elizabeth said sternly. “Get a room!”

“That was kind of the plan,” Jessica said, rolling her eyes. “Duh.”

Elizabeth watched them walk away. She slipped her hand into Bruce’s and sighed with happiness. She surveyed the scene. It was a typical Sweet Valley High party, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Even Enid was having a good time. It seemed she had caught Owen’s attention, and the two of them were in the corner, involved in earnest conversation.

Todd and Ken were slow dancing to The Droids’ latest number. Elizabeth was happy that he’d finally found someone to have hot man-on-man action with, and although a part of her missed him and the wonderful, close relationship they’d had, she knew the two of them would always be special friends.

Sandra and Jeannie were suddenly all-out lesbians, Elizabeth realized as she saw the two of them groping each other on the couch. And Annie Whitman was now admired for being a chronic slut, instead of ostracized. Jade Wu, the token Asian in Sweet Valley with the token Asian name, was busy regaling Aaron Dallas and Bill Chase with tales of Japanese shit porn, even though she was Chinese.

Cara Walker and the twins’ brother, Steven, were laughing and joking as they twirled each other around on the dance floor. Elizabeth conveniently dismissed any disgusted thoughts she had about the potentially incestuous implications of her brother viewing the film she and Jessica were a part of. Also, Cara looked about a week pregnant, Elizabeth observed.

So much has happened lately, Elizabeth mused. Surely it won’t be hard to write my Eyes and Ears column this week! And why have I never before pondered the irony of myself advising all the incurable gossips in Sweet Valley to stop gossiping, while I myself enjoy writing a gossip column? She shrugged. Oh, well, I guess it gives me the advantage! I totally get to scoop them!

Also, I wonder what Mr. Collins is up to, Elizabeth thought. I hope he’s enjoying his Saturday night.

Had Elizabeth turned around at that very moment, she would have seen what Mr. Collins was up to – crouched down, without pants, in the perfectly manicured bushes outside the living room of Fowler Crest as he had been all night, spying on Elizabeth, Jessica and the rest of the Sweet Valley High crowd.

And over by the punch bowl, Amy Sutton was furiously ladling punch into a paper cup. I wonder if she’s okay, Elizabeth thought, throwing Amy one of her patented looks of condescension. Amy sure looks mad about something!

A loud series of bumps and moans starting coming from upstairs, causing the giant, cut-glass chandelier in the living room to sway. It glittered as it shook, scattering prismlike points of light across the room. Lila looked up at it nervously.

“Jesus, is that your sister?” Bruce asked, his eyes straying upward to the ceiling. His facial expression was a mixture of wonder, surprise and lust.

“You know Jessica!” Elizabeth exclaimed with a laugh. She shook her head. “She always has to be the center of attention.”

“Yeah, but does she have to do it all over my wing of the house?” Lila said, making a face. “I’m probably going to have to throw away a mattress or two. And if she breaks that chandelier, I’m going to murder her. Do you know how much that cost?”

Bruce rolled his eyes. “Lila, that tacky-ass light fixture is practically a thrift-store find,” he said condescendingly. “The chandelier at my house has been in the Patman family for centuries. In fact, it’s worth more than ten billion dollars today.”

“Well, this is worth … eleven billion,” Lila said quickly. Her face was growing redder by the minute.

“Oh, shut up, Lila,” Bruce sniffed. “You drive a lime-green Triumph, for god’s sake. That is the butt-ugliest car I’ve ever seen in my entire life!”

“You shut up, Bruce Patman,” Lila snapped back. “At least it’s unique. And it’s not as boring as a goddamn black Porsche.” She rolled her eyes. “So predictable. And that vanity plate? Ugh. How white trash.”

Elizabeth gave Bruce a nervous glance. It was one thing to talk shit about Bruce’s chandelier, but it was another matter to take on 1BRUCE1. Surely, Lila didn’t know who she was messing with!

“I wouldn’t talk, if I were you,” Bruce said, his voice a low growl. “You have inverted nips.”

Lila lunged at him. “I’m going to kill you, you bastard!” she screamed.

Bruce just laughed and ducked out of the way. “I’d like to see you try, Lila,” he said. “That would be fucking hilarious.”

As Sweet Valley’s resident busybody and peacemaker, Elizabeth knew it was up to her to defuse the situation and calm everyone down.

“Hey, come on, guys,” Elizabeth said, borrowing a Jessica technique – the pout. She stuck her lower lip out as far as she could and made her eyes look big and like they were about to start spewing tears at any moment. “It’s my birthday, and I can’t stand to see my two best friends fighting.”

“I’m not your best friend,” Lila shot back hotly. “Enid what’s-her-name over there is.” She pointed across the room. “I hang out with your sister, remember? She’s the one who looks just like you, but isn’t nearly as boring.”

“And I’m just your booty call,” Bruce said.

“Booty call?” Elizabeth repeated, dissolving into giggles.

“Yeah, what’s wrong with that?” Bruce asked, throwing his hands up in the air in mock disdain.

“Nothing,” Elizabeth said, her voice cracking with laughter. “It just sounds so funny. Booty call.”

Lila gave Bruce a meaningful glance. “Is she drunk?” she asked.

“No,” Bruce said. “Not unless you can get drunk on love.” He gave the girls a wink and a thumbs up.

Lila snorted. “Love? Anonymous backseat groping is more like it,” she said. “That’s so … high school.”

“Hey, now, that’s not fair,” Bruce said. “I love Elizabeth – as long as she continues to keep giving it up.”

“How charming,” Lila added, rolling her eyes at him. “You really are a prize, Bruce Patman. I can’t imagine why I haven’t tried to hit that.”

Elizabeth still hadn’t stopped giggling. It was getting kind of weird.

“What’s gotten into you?” Bruce asked affectionately, slipping an arm around Elizabeth and pulling her close.

“N- nothing,” Elizabeth said, hiccupping in between laughs. “It’s just- b- booty- booty call!”

Bruce looked around to see if anyone was watching. “Calm down, Liz,” he said, his voice quiet with embarrassment. “People are starting to stare.”

“Bruce, did you give her chlamidya or syphilis or gonorrhea or genital warts or whichever one it is that makes you go crazy?” Lila demanded.

“It’s syphilis, and no, I didn’t,” Bruce said, clearly offended. “Jesus, just because I have the herps doesn’t mean I have every sexually transmitted disease known to man!”

“If you didn’t have sex for the first time until this morning, how did you get herpes?” Lila asked.

“Herpes is a highly contagious disease, Lila,” Bruce said defensively. “You can catch it from near date rape, you know.”

“Ugh, so now you and Elizabeth have herpes?” Lila said, wrinkling her nose in disgust. “That’s so low class.”

“It’s the gift that keeps on giving,” Bruce said. “Besides, I haven’t had an outbreak in, like, six months since I’ve been taking those new meds. I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

Finally, Elizabeth calmed down, although her eyes were wet with tears and her sides and stomach ached intensely from laughing so hard. Then she heard a long, loud moan from upstairs, and it got her started all over again.

“Oh, god, here we go again,” Lila said with a groan.

“Jess- Jessica’s having a- a booty call!” Elizabeth said in between fits of laughter.

“Maybe we should go,” Bruce said, starting to guide Elizabeth to the door.

“No, no,” Elizabeth said, trying to calm down. “This party is so much fun. Let’s stay. Please, Bruce?” she asked, her eyes pleading. “I’ll try to calm down and not say b- booty c- call anymore.”

“All right, but if you start on another fit of laughter, I’m taking you home,” he warned.

“Okay, okay,” she said soberly. “I’ll be good.” She couldn’t help but crack a smile, though.

“That’s my girl,” Bruce said, patting her on the arm.

“I don’t know about this party being so much fun,” Lila said, crossing her arms over her horribly disfigured chest. “I’m getting kind of bored. You know what we need?” she asked, her eyes shining.

“A giant orgy?” Bruce asked, looking around hopefully.

“No,” Lila said, exasperated.

“Are you sure?” Bruce asked. “Because I think we’re only a few shots of tequila away from one. You got any tequila?”

“God, Bruce, you have such a one-track mind!” Lila said. “What we need are some college guys.”

“College guys?” Bruce asked. “Hell no. You have all the men you need right here. Me, and maybe Todd Wilkins over there, and those sissies from The Droids, and the ‘Skanks Gone Stupid’ guys – and they’re older than college guys.”

Lila rolled her eyes. “I’d hardly consider you manly, Bruce,” she retorted. “Or any of the rest of them, for that matter.”

Just then, Winston Egbert passed them, walking on his hands, his feet in the air.

Bruce nodded at Winston. “What about him?” he teased. “Manly enough for you?”

“Ugh,” Lila said, wrinkling her nose. “He’s such a nerd. In the classic sense.”

“Oh, come on, Lila,” Elizabeth admonished gently. “Nerds have feelings too.” The three of them watched as Winston made it to the other side of the room and turned right side up. “Besides, I think Winston is super-interested in you.”

“In his dreams!” Lila declared, tossing her glossy brown hair back over one shoulder. “I may have fucked-up nips, but even I wouldn’t stoop that low.”

“I don’t know,” Elizabeth said, looking after Winston fondly, as if he were a little boy or a puppy dog or someone with a developmental disability. “He’s a really good guy, Lila.”

“Really good guys are boring,” Lila sniffed. “Besides,” she said, smiling sweetly at Elizabeth, “you should know that better than anyone.”

“And just what is that supposed to mean?” Elizabeth asked, crossing her arms over her chest in a huff.

“It means you’ve finally put the really boring guys behind you,” Lila said. “Todd Wilkins and Jeffrey French? I mean, really, Elizabeth. At least now you’re going out with someone marginally interesting.”

Bruce looked slightly hurt at being called marginally interesting. But then Elizabeth realized he had no clue what the word marginally meant and that it wasn’t Lila’s comment that had wounded him. She followed his gaze. He was staring right at Amy Sutton, and he had a strange look on his face. It was the kind of look that caused Elizabeth to worry.

“What’s wrong?” Elizabeth asked, soothingly rubbing his back.

“Nothing,” Bruce stammered, shaking his head as if to wake from a dream. “It’s nothing. I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?” Elizabeth asked. “You look kind of upset.” She laughed nervously “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’ve just seen a ghost!”

Bruce smiled sadly. Elizabeth was so perceptive; there was no keeping anything from her. “It’s just that Amy looks, well, kind of special right now,” he said slowly. “And by special, I mean borderline retarded.” He paused and heaved a big sigh. “It just reminded me of Regina, that’s all.”

“Oh,” Elizabeth said weakly. Now it was her turn to look wounded. Could it be that Bruce really didn’t want to be with her after all? Was she just a poor substitute for his dead girlfriend? She was about to say more, but just then, she was interrupted by a high-pitched squeal coming from the doorway to the Fowlers’ plush living room.

Everyone in the room turned to look at Jessica, who had been the one to deliver the scream. She was jumping up and down excitedly. Jayden stood next to her, looking oddly pleased.

“What is she screaming about now?” Lila asked. Elizabeth shrugged.

“What’s going on?” Todd Wilkins called from the back of the room.

“What’s going on is that Elizabeth and I have been signed to a five-film deal!” Jessica screamed.

“What?” Elizabeth asked, the color draining from her face. She suddenly felt weak, as if she were going to be ill, and grabbed onto Bruce for support.

“We’re going to have our own series – it’s going to be called ‘Double Penetration’!” Jessica squealed, running over to hug her sister. “Isn’t it great? We’re going to be such big stars!”

“Our – our own series?” Elizabeth asked, her voice barely above a whisper. She caught Bruce’s eye. He looked shocked.

Jayden smiled. “It’s true, Elizabeth. I sent the Sweet Valley footage to my producer, and he said you’re both naturals,” he said.

“See, Lizzie?” Jessica said, clasping Elizabeth’s hands. “We’re both natural whores!”

“Great,” Elizabeth said weakly. She tried to feel her twin’s enthusiasm, but it just wasn’t happening. She had made her film debut, and that was enough for her. But from the look on Jessica’s face, just a taste of their brush with straight-to-DVD stardom was enough to have hooked her twin. And if it made Jessica happy, then Elizabeth was going to go along with it. As twins, they stuck together through thick and thin, Elizabeth reminded herself.

“Aren’t you just so excited, Lizzie?” Jessica continued, babbling on. “We’re going to get to travel the world, meeting all kinds of new people, screwing all kinds of new people…”

As Jessica droned on and on about the series and Jayden’s plans for the two of them, Elizabeth zoned out, lost in her own thoughts. But I like it here in Sweet Valley, she thought to herself. It’s the most perfect place in the world. And I like screwing Bruce. He can be kind of a dick sometimes, but I know how to handle him.

“So what do you think?” Jessica asked brightly, after about ten minutes of babbling.

“It sounds okay, I guess,” Elizabeth said.

“Just okay?” Jessica asked. “God, Liz, sometimes I can’t believe we’re even related, let alone identical twins!”

Bruce put an arm around Elizabeth. “It sounds like a really good opportunity for you,” he said sadly.

Elizabeth stared deep into his eyes, imploring him to forbid her from starring in any more films. But Elizabeth could tell by the stubborn look on his face that he was going to leave this decision up to her, even if it hurt him deeply.

“I guess,” she said.

Bruce silenced her with a firm kiss on the lips. When he drew back, he whispered, “I guess we’ll have to make the most of the time we have left.”

“I guess so,” Elizabeth said, throwing her arms around him and holding him tight. It seemed she might never let Bruce go.

After all the excitement of the night, the party started to wind down. Elizabeth watched with interest as Chase took Lila by the arm and led her away to a quiet corner. “You know, I think you’d do really well in the fetish market,” he said earnestly, linking his arm through hers.

“Do you really think so?” Lila asked, fascinated.

“Well, it certainly looks as if things have ended up pretty well for all of us,” Elizabeth mused.

“All of us except for one,” Jessica said, pointing across the room at Amy Sutton. “What’s her problem?”

Elizabeth shrugged. “She’s looked mad for the past hour or so,” she said.

“Maybe it was that horrible dominatrix routine,” Jessica said in a loud whisper. “She looked so awkward in all that black leather.”

“I thought she did an excellent job,” Elizabeth said, defending her former friend. She and Amy had been best friends in middle school, before Amy’s family moved to Connecticut. When the Suttons moved back to Sweet Valley earlier in the year, Elizabeth tried to rekindle their friendship, but quickly found that Amy had devolved into a vapid, boy-crazy slut instead of the intelligent tomboy she had once been.

“It was kind of hot,” Bruce agreed.

“Well, she’s no Wakefield twin, that’s for sure,” Jessica sniffed. “I don’t see her starring in her own five-film series.”

“Jessica, be nice,” Elizabeth admonished. “We can’t all be as incredibly perfect as the two of us.”

Jessica put an arm around her twin. The two of them were incredibly happy, even though they knew it would only last a few moments. There was never a dull moment in Sweet Valley, and the twins were sure to be back at each other’s throats over something or other as soon as they had the opportunity. It had been a week full of ups and downs and ups and downs and ups and downs – and a few ins and outs, as well.

Elizabeth and Jessica grinned at each other. “This has been the best birthday ever!” Jessica declared.

“It has, Jessica,” Elizabeth said, laughing. “It really has.”

***

Amy Sutton was fuming. She couldn’t stop looking at those little bitches from across the room. Jessica and Elizabeth had everything. All of Sweet Valley kisses their asses, and soon everyone else in the entire world will, as well! she thought grimly. I just can’t let that happen.

Amy had noticed the worry in Elizabeth’s face when Jayden had announced the new film series Jessica and Elizabeth were set to star in. That look of worry, which had passed so quickly over Elizabeth’s countenance, was the key to the Wakefield twins’ undoing, Amy reasoned. She had big plans to exploit Elizabeth’s doubts in order to turn the twins against each other – once and for all!

Will Amy Sutton succeed in turning Jessica and Elizabeth against each other for good? Will Bruce let the ghost of his past love haunt his newfound relationship with Elizabeth Wakefield? Will Jessica and Elizabeth turn into complete whores? Find out in Sweet Valley High No. 13,886, Jessica and Elizabeth Turn Into Complete Whores.

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