WHEN LILA MET STACEY: A Sweet Valley/ Babysitter’s Club Crossover

Before The OC, before Gossip Girl, before we logged onto facebook, and cared or even knew who Paris Hilton was, we had the wonder of Young Adult Serial Fiction. Millions of pages of whacked out plots, unrealistic friendships and tales of dopplegangers, mysteries, pervy teachers, crazed orderlies, falling fridges, sudden cardiac deaths and ageless teens.

These books were an escape, a fantasy, an idealistic high school experience in the awkward darkness of adolescence.  For me, the Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High were there. On every rainy Saturday, every lonely afternoon in the library, every time you weren’t in the clique, or your hair was too fuzzy or you were too skinny, to fat, too good at maths, too outspoken.

Later, they became a fodder for online snark, and for an obsessive bid to collect these remnants of my childhood [457 books and counting.]

This parody is for women who grew up reading these series, those who stood outside the glass doors of A&R’s on the thirteenth of each month, with their $2.85 to secure a copy of “Stacey’s Emergency”, or “The Twins Take Paris.”

At risk of sounding perfectly ancient, I have to say: They don’t make books like this anymore. So I hope that this little parody, full of snark but with just a hint of nostalgia, will recapture some of the old magic. So dust off your slam books and say hello to your friends!

[*The instalments are posted weekly on the home page, but this is the full “series” to date.]

Chapter 1

STONEYBROOK, or “Leaving Home”

Elizabeth Wakefield glanced at the silver wristwatch on her left hand and sighed. It was four minutes past five o’clock, and the end of another exhausting day at the Stoneybrook News. Four minutes past five and already the Stoneybrook Fountain was casting long shadows over Belairs in the centre of the mall.

She pushed her chair back and sighed. It was days like this she missed her hometown of Sweet Valley, California: missed the lingering sunshine and barefoot nights spent spinning to the strains of the Droids at the Beach Disco. She missed her long-time companion, Enid Rollins, and despised swapping her post as editor-in-chief of the SV Tribune for feel-good stories about diabetic mathematicians graudating from SMS. But most of all, she missed Jessica. Her twin, her other half, created in her own size-six, sun-streaked blonde-haired likness. Her best friend.

But the thought of her handsome boyfriend Todd Wilkins, with his warm, coffee-coloured eyes brought her back. An electric shock ran through her slim body as she thought of his chiseled jaw and generous biceps and the way they gave her such comfort. She knew his job offer as head basketball coach for SMS had been too good to turn down, and she had been almost as excited as he was when he’d announced the move. So excited, in fact, that she’d handed in her resignation at the Tribune that very day. And now, here she was, 6000 miles away, replacing the Box Tree Café and Palomar House with cheap take-out from Uncle Ed’s.

This is my life now, she thought with steely resolve. I have to make it.

Elizabeth pushed back her chair. At Sweet Valley she wouldn’t even be contemplating leaving the office yet – not until she’d gotten the scoop on the latest breaking tragedy in her neighbourhood, or listened to environmental editor Dawn Schafer rabbiting on about the pollution at Secca Lake. In other words, not till midnight. But now, she couldn’t wait to rush back to the two bedroom townhouse on Bradford Court she and Todd had been renting, to the solace of her own room, and curl up with her favourite Amanda Howard mystery.

“Bye, Mallory,” she called to the chirpy intern, who was frantically bent over the photocopier.

“See ya, Lizzie!” breathed Mallory, her frizzy red hair flapping about her face.

“You seem flustered,” murmured Elizabeth, resisting the urge to pat the junior’s shoulder over her oversized cream crochet sweater. “Is anything wrong?” A look of concern crossed her face.

“The usual.” said Mallory blankly, making a face. “I told Kristy I’d be at her place by six. She said something about having an awesome idea. It’s all over twitter.”

She slid her thick glasses up her nose.

“Oh and Liz – could you review the work experience applications from these kids from SHS? They’re in 9th grade – maybe we could put them to work.”

* * *

At 6:59pm, Todd’s black BMW crunched up the gravel driveway.
“You’re late,” Elizabeth said, flatly as he waltzed into the kitchen. She snatched his keys impatiently, and threw then down on the Spanish-tiled bench-top.

A look of regret flashed across Todd’s tanned face. “I’m sorry,” he murmured, engulfing her in a hug. “I was helping Laine mark her fourth grader’s geography project. It’s about anti-whaling.”

“She’s a qualified teacher,” Elizabeth snapped bitterly. “I’m sure she can handle it – besides, who cares about saving the whales?”

Todd did, but he let the comment slide.

“And that’s not all,” she continued. “You were late last night as well, and the night before that you and Ken were positively drunk at the Basher’s baseball final. I moved here for you, Todd Wilkins! Its time you started pulling your weight.” She slammed his casserole, now luke-warm, down on the table.

Todd sighed as he watched her sashay into her bedroom, probably to rearrange her desk-top or categorize her life plans for the next month. His girlfriend was having major adjustment problems. He opened up a copy of Sports Illustrated and sat down on the trundle bed he slept on downstairs. He’d been stupid to assume that once they’d moved in together Liz would be over her loss-of-virginity-phobia. Still, it didn’t really seem like the night to bring it up, somehow.

He loved Liz, he did, and he had for at least ten years. Fourteen, actually – since that first night he’d kissed her at a bowling alley in the sixth grade. He’d been there for her – through countless fights with her sister, the earthquake, two kidnappings and an evil doppelganger coming to SV and trying to steal her life. He’d forgiven her the fifteen times she’d cheated on him in their high-school junior year – with Bruce Patman, two Frenchmen, a werewolf and a psychotic face-transplanter nonetheless. And so he knew he’d just have to suck it up and get over her clingy separation anxiety for awhile. Before he did something he’d regret.

* * *

The Tower Clock was just striking nine as Elizabeth breezed through her first assignment of the day. “Local Girl Wins Nobel Prize in Mathematics.” It was about a dowdy looking Japanese girl called Janine Kishi. Elizabeth doubted she would be any better than Winston Egbert, Sweet Valley’s resident math whiz.

Elizabeth peered over her desk to the mousy brunette answering the phones. Mary-Anne, she’d heard someone call her. Elizabeth watched with a mixture of curiosity and pity as the girl hitched up her white knee-high socks and flicked an imaginary speck of dust off her patent leather flats. She didn’t look a day older than twenty.

“What’s her story?” she whispered to Mallory, pointing a perfectly manicured nail at the secretary.

“Oh, you mean Mary-Anne Spier,” chirped Mallory. “I’ve known her since we were kids. Her father is a lawyer – he practices all kinds of law, like your dad I think – and her step-mom is this total scatterbrain. Probably all the pot. Her real mum died when she was a baby – which probably means she inhabits the railroad underneath the place where they all live now on Burnt Hill Road. It was built in 1794, you know…”

Elizabeth shook her head. Poor Mary-Anne! Not only was she from a completely anuclear family, but a house without Spanish tiling was not at all conducive to a successful life. No wonder this girl was only a secretary.

She turned back to Mallory, who was still prattling

“- Oh and her father still forbids her to date. She’s still seeing Logan though, he brings her lunch sometimes and they go ice-skating, or they visit the Prezziosos..Forbidden love! Isn’t it romantic?” Mallory let out a long sigh.

Elizabeth was saved by a phone call at her desk. It was Mary-Anne.

“Hi,” whispered the receptionist shyly. “The SHS students are here for their orientation. I knew you’d be happy to take care of them. Also, one of them is Mallory’s sister.” Elizabeth exhaled slowly. Probably the most words this girl had ever uttered – and she’d spoken them to Elizabeth! She thought back to Lynne Henry, a pathologically bashful introvert from Sweet Valley High School, whom Elizabeth with all her patience had managed to unshell. She’d even landed the girl a boyfriend. Project time!

“Shannon,” she called to the office’s resident job-filler. “Finish proof-reading my piece while I show the students around.” Elizabeth stepped out into the main lobby, gawking at Mary-Anne as she passed the front desk.

Outside stood a pair of high school girls. The taller, a raven-haired teen, was looking at the floor. The other, a petite blonde wearing oversized, purple-rimmed glasses, stuck out her hand. Elizabeth resisted a smirk as she watched the fifteen year old skittering on a too-large pair of court shoes, practically swimming in a black blazer.

“My name is Karen Brewer,” she announced. “Grand-daughter of the famous ghost, Ben Brewer, and step-sister of Kristy- she’s running for the local council. She lent me this outfit she bought in New York, from Bloomingdales.” She whipped out a navy blue pocketbook. “These are my numbers. Most days you can catch me on this number, but every second weekend I’m at the big house. I’m a two-two.”

Elizabeth smiled and turned her attention to the other ninth-grader, and gasped. An involuntary shudder ran down her spine. The face that stared back at her was so like her own – from the smooth tanned skin to the dimple in her left cheek. Elizabeth took a step back, and the girl’s eyes bored into hers like a glittering knife.

“I’m Margo,” rasped the girl. “Margo Pike.”

* * *

Elizabeth tossed and turned that night, unable to sleep. She was missing Jessica terribly, and she couldn’t stop thinking about the strange new student. But most of all, her thoughts were occupied by the poor receptionist from the News. Fancy growing up without a mother – and with a hippie stepmother at that! Elizabeth felt a pang of yearning for her hometown as she thought of the soothing arms of her own mother, Alice, an interior designer, who was more like a big sister than a parent. Finally she tossed off her baby blue comforter. She wished Todd was awake – she could really use an ear right now.

* * *

On Thursday at noon, Todd drove up to the Stoneybrook News Building, just a ten minute drive through the quiet neighbourhood from the school where he worked. He had an hour’s lunch break with no playground duty, and was determined to take Elizabeth out for lunch at Burger Bite. He’d even bought a bouquet of yellow daisies, her favourite.

He sauntered into the small office, the acrid smell of fresh ink mingling with the bitter fumes of instant coffee.

“Elizabeth Wakefield?” he asked the mousy receptionist. The brunette looked up from the fax machine she was hunched over and managed a small smile.

“You must be Todd,” she stated, blushing. She motioned toward Liz’s office with a small smile.

“Todd!” cried his girlfriend as he entered the room. She flung her arms around his neck. Well, this was a nice surprise. A bit more of the old Liz and less of this uptight prude he’d been living with. Oh, wait.

“I’m glad you’re here,” she continued, without taking a breath. “I’ve invited Mary-Anne out for lunch with us. Her boyfriend, Logan, is coming too.”

“But Liz,” he whined, “I thought it was just going to be us!” He’d been looking forward to sharing a salty-chocolate kiss with her over French fries.

“Todd!” she cajoled him, “Mary-Anne needs us – she’s not only super shy, but she has a stepmum. C’mon.” She whisked him away, and collected Mary-Anne at the desk.

“Bye Elizabeth,” someone chirped. She couldn’t decide if it was Mallory or Karen Brewer. She didn’t care – Todd was back under the thumb, she had a new project friend, and the office staff were definitely starting to warm to her. Stoneybrook wasn’t looking so bad after all.

Elizabeth almost skipped into the parking lot – but something made her turn around. She stopped short and scanned the concrete exterior of the newspaper office. And then she saw her – the raven-haired girl with the piercing blue eyes was staring at her from behind the bathroom window, her breath creating misty shapes across the frosted pane. Margo, Elizabeth breathed. The girl raised one hand in a mock wave. Elizabeth shuddered and clutched Todd’s tanned arm. She wasn’t in Sweet Valley anymore.

While Logan and MaryAnne were as loved-up as ever, the cracks in Elizabeth and Todd's relationship were starting to show

CHAPTER 2

NEW YORK or, “Jessica Takes Manhattan”

“I’ll have a vodka, lime and soda thanks. And can you make sure it’s a real lime, not cordial? – I have type I diabetes.”

Jessica Wakefield caught Lila Fowler’s gaze across the table and rolled her eyes. She’d been trying to snag the attention of the cute waiter for the past two hours, and now their new friend, Stacey McGill, was babbling on about her diabetes again. The trio was at New York’s hip new bar, Xenon, planning Lila’s upcoming 26th birthday bash and hunting for some eligible men. For the city that never sleeps, mused Jessica, there’s certainly a shortage of guys worth staying awake for.

“And you ladies?” The waiter turned his attention to Lila, who was picking at an imaginary thread on her YSL blazer. “The usual,” she sniffed indignantly, arching a perfectly tweezed brow.

A smile played on the waiter’s lips. “I don’t know what you’re used to, honey, but this is New York City. Your order?”

“Two cosmos,” Jessica cut in, flashing the waiter her most dazzling smile. He barely glanced at her. Her eyes narrowed as she slumped back on the bar stool. How she’d gone from one of LA’s most sought after socialites to a desperate wannabee-New-Yorker was beyond her. Back in Sweet Valley, Jessica Wakefield was hot property. Guys would be practically falling over each other to get a glimpse inside her mauve-walled bedroom on Calico drive, or to take her for a spin at the Beach Disco. She’d never have dreamed of going stag to the Plaza Cinema, and was rarely short on offers for Saturday night rendezvous at La Maison Jaques, or some of Sweet Valley’s other classy establishments.

But things had taken a turn for the worse when Jessica had hooked up with Jason Gorman, the brother of one of her high-school boyfriends, Christian. They’d met at a service marking the tenth anniversary of Christians’ tragic death in a school-yard fight, and Jessica had been swept away by his kindness and his warm blue eyes, so much like those that had melted her heart a decade ago. But their bond was based on a memory – two weeks into their affair she’d realized that it was the free-loving surfer Christian she wanted, not the shadow that was his brother. She was in love with a ghost. Jessica fought back a tear as the painful memory crashed over her. She’d managed to bounce back from the death of seven boyfriends in her short life, but now the anguish was beginning to take its toll.

Her identical twin, Elizabeth, had left for Stoneybrook, Conneticut just days before, and Jessica knew she needed a fresh start, away from suffocating Sweet Valley and the torment of its memories. So the next morning, a rainy Wednesday, Jessica had packed her twenty-six years into a D&G suitcase and taken the next flight to NYC. There she’d found herself hauled up in the back of a taxi crawling down Fourth Avenue. And that was where she’d met Stacey McGill, a stylish local with a high-paying accounting job at a prestigious firm.

It was Stacey who’d taken her in until she’d secured a poky apartment in downtown Manhattan. Stacey who’d stifled a giggle when she’d ordered a fill-it-mig-num at the Hard Rock Café, who’d shown her everything from the lights of Broadway to the Central Park carousel. And it was Stacey who’d been there that day she’d taken the plunge, applied for an ABN and set up her own business in the vacant upstairs of a seedy Italian café: “Wakefield Designs.”

Making the break from Sweet Valley had been tough, though it had nothing on convincing Lila to leave the sheltered opulence of Fowler Crest and join her fledgling company. But somehow, the wealthy heiress had found it in her heart to whip over to NYC in a heartbeat, and fund Jessica’s latest bright idea.

With Stacey managing the finances, and a kid called Marilyn Arnold answering the phones, Wakefield Designs was enjoying moderate success.

“Jessica!” A warm, familiar voice jolted her from her reverie.

She turned toward the voice and her eyes lit up.

“Steven!” she gasped.

Before her stood her older brother – still as handsomely chiseled as ever, though the dark circles under his eyes and slight recession of his hairline suggested that his recent divorce from childhood sweetheart Billie Winkler was taking its toll.

He reached over and playfully ruffled his younger sister’s sun-streaked hair. “What’s up kiddo?”

It was nice to see Steven out having fun for a change – since he’d taken over the New York branch of his father’s law firm, Steven had done nothing but work. Jessica marveled at how anyone, let alone her gorgeous brother, could spend 60 plus hours a week in a stuffy office, doing whatever it was that lawyers did. It was little wonder that Billie had up and left the Big Apple to return to Sweet Valley. Jessica had been as surprised as everyone, though, that a couple as perfect as Steven and Billie would end up like this –  Billie wanting kids, and Steven relentlessly pursuing his career. And now Jessica would never be an Aunt!

Stacey wriggled over to let Steven have a seat. “Cocktail?” she asked pleasantly, raising her voice to be heard above the blaring techno music.

Steven cleared his throat and glanced awkwardly at his sister. “Actually, I’m uh, meeting someone over by the bar in five.”

“A date?’ That got Lila’s attention. She and Steven had enjoyed a brief fling during her junior year at SVH, after a pyromaniac called John Pfeifer had burned down a wing of Fowler Crest.

“I guess you could call it that,” mumbled Steven.

Jessica grinned. Maybe this was just what her brother needed to get out of the dumps. Playing the field had always worked well for Jessica, who couldn’t see the sense in restricting herself to one guy when there were billions out there – but Steven had always considered himself something of a monogamist. However, just as the thought crossed her scheming mind, a tall, busty brunette with a shock of red lipstick wandered over and pecked Steven on the cheek. She looked pretty enough, thought Jessica, but her cleavage left little to the imagination, and her black patent slingbacks were totally passé.

“Are these your friends, Steve?” cooed the girl, perching on his lap. She looked at Jessica and screwed up her face in a fake smile. She couldn’t be a day over twenty. “I’m Charlotte.”

“Charlotte?” repeated Stacey, surprised. “Oh my gosh -Charlotte Johannsen?” She leaned forward in her seat.

The brunette stared blankly back at her. “Do I know you?” Her voice was pleasant but vacant.

“I’m Stacey – Stacey McGill – I babysat for you in Stoneybrook when you were a kid! I barely recognized you!”

Charlotte smiled back at her. “Of course. Lovely to see you Stacey.” She turned her attention back to Steven. “Betsy and Cokie are waiting for us by the main bar – shall we join them?”
Stacey reclined back on the hard stool, feeling dejected. That was it? All those middle-school parties and dances she’d given up to hang out with a bunch of eight-year-olds and this was how her favorite sitting charge remembered her? Stacey thought back to the hours she’d spent with the shy, intelligent kid from Stoneybrook elementary – reading Little Women and trawling through the kid-kit while her mother was too busy screwing consultants at Stoneybrook hospital to pay her any attention. She fought back a tear as she watched Charlotte link arms with Jessica’s brother and glide into Xenon’s loud main bar. She’d be barely nineteen years old, even now – did Dr J know, or care, that her only daughter was slutting around NYC underage? And with a guy of nearly 30, at that!

Stacey turned to her new friends and made a face. Suddenly, she didn’t feel like that extra cocktail. All that glucose was messing up her insulin levels, anyhow. Jessica was glowering in her brother’s direction and shaking her head. Stacey knew what she was thinking – a miserable Steven definitely beat a Steven who was tapping that jailbait.

“I thought your love life had hid the skids, Jess,” smirked Lila, “but your cradle-snatching brother has taken the cake.”

Jessica snatched her leather purse off the table and downed the last of her cosmopolitan. She was about to make a snappy remark to her friend when suddenly, an overwhelming sense of dread overcame her. She shuddered involuntarily as a chill settled in her chest like a steely knife. She knew this feeling – it was the one she’d had that fatal night of the junior prom, when a drunken Elizabeth had gotten in the car with her boyfriend, Sam Woodruff. It was the feeling that had overcome her when Liz had been trapped in a hovel by a crazed orderly from Fowler Memorial Hospital, and when a cruel look-a-like had come to Sweet Valley and tried to usurp her place in the Wakefield family. Jessica gasped and reached for her keys. Her twin was in trouble.

“You ok, Jess?” Stacey squeezed her hand. “I’m sure your brother’s just on the rebound. Give it a week.” An only child herself, Stacey would never know the psychic bond identical twins shared, even when they were on opposite sides of the country. Jessica pulled out her Blackberry and punched in the number she knew so well. “Pick up, Lizzie,” she pleaded.

“You’ve reached Elizabeth Wakefield’s mobile,” said the unflappable voice on the other end. “I can’t take your call right now but please leave me a voicemail.”

“Lizzie it’s me, pick up!” Jessica cried. She hit redial and heard a rustle on the other end. “Lizzie?”

She was met by a harsh, mocking laugh that sent conniptions down her spine. “Lizzie isn’t in,” cackled the voice. “You’ve reached Margo.”

***

Twenty-six year old Elizabeth Wakefield hummed the latest Colleen Dunstan song as she dropped her opinion piece on the editor’s desk. She was in high spirits that night, looking forward to heading out on a double date with her new friends, Mary-Anne and Logan.

“Thank-you, Elizabeth,” said Tina, the editor. She smiled warmly. “I’m looking forward to reading this – keep up the great work.”

Elizabeth’s heart soared. Although things had been difficult for her since her move to Stoneybrook, all her hard work was finally paying off.

“Oh and Elizabeth – ” called Tina, “It’s almost eight. Why don’t you knock off for the night? I don’t want to see you burning yourself out.”

Elizabeth wandered back to her desk and stifled a yawn. She had to pick herself up before she headed off to Burger Bite with Todd and their friends.

She rustled up the contents of her desk. Handbag. Check. Journal. Check. Secret Diary. Check. Now where the hell was her phone?

Outside, Todd’s black BMW pulled into a parking space. She could hear the Beach Boys blaring from the car stereo. He beeped impatiently. “I’m coming!” she yelled out the open window.

“That’s what she said!” a voice called from the other room. It was Shannon Kilbourne, the office’s fill-in, and a regular crack-up.
Elizabeth grabbed her sensible black cardigan off the filing cabinet. “Bye all!” She called to the nearly-deserted office as she hurried down the fire escape stairs. Todd was getting seriously impatient lately. She slid into the passenger seat and gave her boyfriend a quick peck on the cheek, and he smiled wearily at her. Elizabeth melted as she glanced at Todd’s handsome side profile, and the lean forearms that gripped the steering wheel. He smelled differently tonight – a combination of his regular cologne and something Elizabeth couldn’t quite put her finger on. She yawned and tried to relax as they headed towards Stoneybrook Mall, thinking of all the conversations she would have with Mary-Anne. The night was young.

***

Karen Brewer smiled nervously as Seth dropped her off at the Pikes’ split-level home.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to come in, sweetie?” said her stepfather.

“N..No,” she stammered. “I’ll be fine.” She wriggled on her hot pink backpack and slid out of the car. She was beginning to doubt whether hanging out with the popular kids was such a good idea. Since trading in Hannie and Nancy for Margo Pike and her band of followers, Karen had begun to miss spending Friday nights in playing My Little Pony and Let’s All Come In. Still, this was probably the only available route remaining for her to get the attention of Ricky Torres.

“Karen’s here!” she heard a voice groan. It sounded like Pamela Harding.

“Bring her in,” someone else slurred, probably Margo. There were muffled snickers as the front door was whisked open. Karen straightened her denim overalls and smiled.

“Hey guys!” She chirped. “Mind if I put down my bag? I have Oreos in there.” She plunked it down on the oriental rug, suddenly very aware of the Bratz doll on the front of it.

She glanced around the living room, which was lined with empty beer cans and cigarette butts. Eight girls from her ninth-grade class were sprawled on the carpet, and an R-rated DVD was playing on the Pike’s widescreen. Margo scowled at her and took a swig from a suspicious looking bottle. Vintage 1983, it read. Karen gasped. Alcohol.

“So now that Karen’s here,” began Margo, “I vote that we start a game of truth or dare.”

“Hell Yeah!” echoed Myriah Perkins, taking a sip of her bourbon and coke.

Margo glared at her. “Settle, ‘Riah.” She turned her attention toward the other girls, now forming a circle around the living room. “And yes, I finished my dare from last week.”

“You got it?” Pamela asked, surprised.  “You actually stole the phone from that judgmental blonde virgin from your office?” Murmurs of approval sounded around the room.

“Yep,” said Margo, proudly. “Idiot left her door open. That’s the last time she asks me to photocopy her monthly schedule.”

Karen looked positively pale. Getting into the Pike’s stash was bad enough but stealing someone else’s property? That was a crime!

“What’s a’matter, Brewer?” sneered Margo. “Afraid of a dare?” She winked at Amanda Delaney behind Karen’s back.

Karen sighed. She liked Elizabeth Wakefield. A lot in fact. With good looks, a job at the News and a dreamy boyfriend, Elizabeth was someone Karen totally wanted to emulate. Karen tugged at the golden lavaliere around her neck. But tonight was not the night to admit that – tonight was about the new Karen Brewer.

“Okay,” she said finally. “I’ll go first.” What was the worst they could do? Send her over to the Spier’s place on Burnt Hill Road with all the underground ghosts? Karen wasn’t afraid of ghosts. In fact, some of them were her friends.

Amanda and Margo exchanged knowing smiles. “You have to scull this glass of Jack Daniels. Now.”

Karen looked horrified. She looked at the foul brown liquid in horror and tried not to breathe as Margo shoved the full glass under her nose. What would Kristy do? Karen took the glass, shaking, and held it to her lips. She downed it in one go, and a wave of nausea crashed over her. She swallowed, hard, and suppressed a hiccup. The girls started to chant, and she felt a friendly shove on the back. “Brewer! Brewer! Brewer!” Karen relaxed for the first time that night. She had one foot through the door!

The stolen Iphone let out a dull ring, but the girls ignored it.

“Alright Karen,” it was Margo. She was spinning around in front of her. In fact, so was the entire room. “Give someone a dare.”

“Myriah,” said Karen. “I want you to go over the road and knock on Morbidda Destiny’s door.”

“Morbidda fucking who?” Amanda cracked up.
Myriah broke into a giggle. “Clothed?” she asked in a hushed voice.

The phone rang again, and this time Margo picked it up. “Lizzie isn’t in,” she rasped. “You’ve reached Margo.” She hung up, and the girls rolled around the floor, laughing. Even Karen started to giggle. This Margo chick was pretty cool – her creepy voice would give even Morbidda a run for her money. Karen took a sip from a half-empty can of beer and settled in on the floor. If only Ricky Torres could see her now.

CHAPTER 3: JESSICA AND THE

BAD LUCK MYSTERY

At 9am on Monday morning, there was a knock on the door of Elizabeth’s office.

“Come in,” she said shortly. It was Karen Brewer.

“Um,” said the fifteen-year-old, “I found this on the weekend. Is it yours?” She timidly handed over Elizabeth’s black Iphone.

“Oh thank-you!” said Elizabeth gratefully, her spirits lifting. “I’ve looked everywhere for this – stupid old absent-minded me!”

Karen was positively radiating from the praise. Elizabeth caught her eye and she looked quickly at the floor, blushing.

“Well, see you then,” mumbled the petite blonde, teetering out of the room on her navy pumps. That was gigundoly close – she hoped her face hadn’t given anything away.

How strange, thought Elizabeth, gazing after the little girl. She picked up her phone and instantly typed in Jessica’s number. Without a landline and with Todd out all weekend, she’d been completely isolated! Jessica answered on the first ring:

“Lizzie? Oh Lizzie I thought you were dead! I nearly got on the first train to Stoneybrook on Friday but Lila wouldn’t let me! Oh Lizzie – have you heard the terrible news?”

Elizabeth smiled to hear the familiar hysterics. “Settle, drama queen,” she commanded. “What’s going on?”

“M..Margo,” said Jessica. “The Evil twin – she answered your phone on Friday!”

Elizabeth went stark white. “It can’t be – Margo was shot by her identical twin sister, Nora in your very bedroom, nine Christmases ago!”

“That didn’t stop her before!” retorted Jessica. “You know she’s already survived a carotid artery laceration! We thought she was dead that New Years when she was pushed through the Fowler’s glass house – but she still managed to hijack the ambulance and kill the paramedics, only to come back and try to murder us the following Christmas. I heard that voice Lizzie! It was her!”

“Sh…” whispered Eizabeth. Being four minutes older, it was her job to provide the voice of reason. “I think I know what happened – there’s a Margo doing work experience at the News. She probably found the phone after I lost it last week. No harm done!”

She could hear Jessica breathing on the other end. “I don’t know, Lizzie…” she thought it over, sounding unconvinced. “I’m just glad you’re alive.”

“What else is going on?” Liz pressed. “I don’t mean to rush you, but I promised Tina I’d have my “Eyes and Ears” column done by 5.”

“Steven’s sleeping with a nineteen-year-old,” Jess replied glumly.  “My life sucks. I have a dead-end job, I can barely make rent, I haven’t had a date in 137 days, I have only three friends in this world and one of them can’t even be bothered to speak to me!” She hung up the phone, in tears.

Elizabeth sighed and dropped her phone on the tidy desk. Although she missed her sister’s vibrant personality, Jessica’s theatrics were one thing she could go without on a Monday morning. She read over her “Eyes and Ears” piece, just three short lines creating a blip on the otherwise blank screen:

Local mayor candidate spotted smooching Basher’s batting coach – is it a home run or just a political pitch?

Road toll hits 11 this week – red-headed serial pest dubbed “The Walking Disaster” thought to be behind the latest casualty.

Barrett mother loses custody, Richard Spier apologizes after client’s case notes turn up in freezer

Elizabeth dropped her head in her hands. This was stupid – she could’ve done a better job on her sixth grade paper! Although she was impressing Tina, the fluffy articles were professionally unsatisfying. Why was it that just when things were picking up, they always took a turn for the worse?

An eerie feeling crept over her, as though she were being watched. Elizabeth shivered and reached for her jacket. She’d have to speak to Shannon about changing the default air con settings. The cold settled on her skin like a blanket. Her worries were far from over.

* * *

Margo peered over her desk through to the adjoining room, a glint in her dark eyes. Elizabeth was tapping away at the keyboard, her posture erect and her blonde hair pulled neatly back in a pair of beige barettes. Margo chewed on a black fingernail, watching intently as her senior reached for a cropped black cardi and pulled it on, her eyes still glued to the screen.

Everything about Elizabeth Wakefield was irritatingly in place – from her perfect little beige chinos to her coral blouse, to the way her aqua eyes widened when she was listening to the voice on the other end of the phone. Margo was no stranger to opposition- she’d taken down Natalie Springer earlier this year when the dweeb had blabbed about her having a pack of smokes. And it was thanks to Margo that the whole middle school thought Suzi Barrett was a slut. Margo fixed her steely gaze on Elizabeth Wakefield, a plan forming in her mind. “It ain’t over, Wakefield,” she whispered.

* * *

At lunch time, Elizabeth strolled down High Street alone. Mallory was working on her novel, Mary-Anne had mumbled some excuse about not being allowed out at lunch and Todd hadn’t visited her today. She assumed he was holed up at that awful middle school, helping out that ditzy teacher, Laine with something. It always amazed Elizabeth how some people made it through university.

She wandered past Dr Johannsen’s clinic, feeling sorry for the poor, sick people. Once an esteemed candy striper at Fowler Memorial Hospital, she knew all about disease.

“Liz!” she heard someone say, “Elizabeth Wakefield!” She turned toward the voice. There, at the waiting room door stood a tall young man in a white lab coat. A black stethoscope was slung around his neck, and his dark eyes were framed by a pair of OPSM glasses. Ten years had filled out his jeans and given him a decent set of biceps, but the whimsical smile and unaffected way he ran down the steps to greet her were unmistakable.

“Winston!” cried Elizabeth. She threw her arms around her old friend. “Or is that Dr Egbert?”

Winston smiled warmly. “I’m finishing off my physician training at Stoneybrook hospital, and I help out Dr J at her clinic on Mondays. But what in god’s name brought you to Connecticut? Are you the only Wakefield making the move?” It was a well-known fact that Winston had been in love with Jessica through school.

“I am,” Elizabeth replied. “Todd and I would love to see you sometime – when are you around?”

Winston ran a hand through his thick, wavy hair. “Actually, I’m off to Switzerland at the end of the week.”

“Switzerland?” Elizabeth looked impressed

“It’s on the cutting edge of medicine at the moment,” Winston informed her. “I mean, they’ve been doing bionic ear implants for over a decade.” He bowed his head respectfully, and Elizabeth knew he was thinking of their deceased friend, Regina Morrow.

“And they have a miracle cure for temporary paralysis, especially when induced by jumping off a balcony after a puff of a PCP-laced cigarette. They can cure MS there, too. And I think Mandy Miller went there to get her cancer fixed.”

Elizabeth smiled and squeezed Winston’s hand. It was nice to see things working out so well for her old friend. She glanced down at his left hand, noticing the plain gold band on his ring finger.

“Denise?” she asked expectantly.

“Yeah,” he told her. “Married her the day after graduation. Of course, you were too busy slumming it in London to show.”

Elizabeth looked apologetic.

“It’s ok.” He rested a hand on her shoulder. “Anyway – gotta fly: a guy who was temporarily blinded after a car crash is coming in. Apparently he saw the sun set yesterday, though, so fingers crossed. Take care, Liz.” He dashed up the steps, nearly tripping over his size-11 feet. Elizabeth sighed and trudged back toward her office. It was nice to know that some things never changed.

***

Jessica straightened the hem of her olive-green leather skirt and grabbed the coffees off the Starbuck’s counter – a regular cappuccino for her, and a skim decaf latte, sugar-free, for Stacey. The blonde barrista winked at her.

“Bad day?” he asked sympathetically. Jessica absently brushed her skirt, which was covered in bits of red cotton. Working for a living was definitely harder than it looked, especially when Lila had decided to jet off to Mauritius for the week.

“I’ll say,” she grumbled.

The barrista smiled. His blue eyes were warm and gentle, and flecked with gold, and his sandy blonde hair set off his tan. “This is going to sound like a weird question,” he said, “But is there any chance you’re from California?”

Jessica looked surprised. What had given it away – her smooth, even tan or her toned, slender figure? “Yes, from Sweet Valley!” she replied, excitedly. She calmed herself down – Jessica Wakefield always played hard to get. Even when a total babe was clearly trying to pick her up.

“Me too,” he grinned at her, flashing his brilliant white teeth. “And I know a fellow Californian when I see one. Which is why I took it upon myself to make your coffee on skim. We Californians have to keep up the health of the nation, now, don’t we?”

Jessica grinned at his rhetorical question, suddenly remembering what it felt like to be wanted. “I’m Jessica,” she said extending a hand.

“Jessica,” he repeated, his gaze unwavering. He took her hand with mock chivalry. “I’m Travis. Say, would a nice Californian girl like you appreciate a meal at the Russian Tea Room tomorrow night?”

“I think I could slip it into the schedule,” Jessica purred.

“Great,” he said with a grin. “I’ll pick you up at 8.”

* * *

Moments later, Jessica rejoined Stacey on the sidewalk, a new spring in her strut. A glimmer of the old Jessica was returning, and she hoped this time it was for good!

“Good coffee?” Stacey teased. “You haven’t stopped smiling since you handed over the $8.40.”

“Just another Californian in New York,” said Jessica, beaming. “He’s taking me out for dinner tomorrow.”

Stacey looked concerned. She knew she’d seen the barrista before but couldn’t for the life of her remember where. “Just be careful, Jess,” she warned. “New York guys are different.”  Something about the guy’s perfect tan and cheesy grin was bothering her.

“Stop being such a downer, McGill,” ordered Jessica. She swatted her friend with the serviette.

“I just have a bad feeling Jess – but you can do what you want. So long as you–”

“­–Have fun and be careful!” they chimed in unison.

* * *

Travis whistled as he wiped off the milk frother, tossing the teatowel over his shoulder. Jesus, that had been easy. And blondie was every bit as dumb as she’d looked when he’d seen through the window the other day, jamming up her overlocker in “Wakefield Designs.” How she’d thought he could pick her as a Californian on first look was pretty amusing. Of course, he’d already done a quick google search and found her archived in the “Miss Teen Sweet Valley” website. And then there was that newspaper article from ten years ago about her spiking her twin’s drink and letting her cop some murder charge, not to mention a very sultry picture of her with that ex-soapie star, Brandon someone.

He tossed back his head and laughed. In his fourteen years of womanizing, Travis was yet to put a foot wrong. Blondie would be putty in his hands.

What will Jessica’s newest flirtation bring?

What is Margo Pike hiding?

And where has Trusty Boyfriend Todd REALLY been?

Find out in next weeks installment of When Lila Met Stacey, Chapter 4 “Beware the Babysitter”

CHAPTER 4: “Beware the Babysitter” or “Karen’s Goldfish”

“Whaddya think?” Margo held up a pair of black hoops against her ear. It was Thursday afternoon, and she and Karen were at Stoneybrook mall’s “Merry-Go-Round” enjoying a well-earned break from their work experience at Stoneybrook News.

“I prefer these,” Karen picked up a pair of gaudy pink chandelier earrings. Margo rolled her eyes. God, she was such a kid.

Margo sauntered over to the far wall, and stood with her back turned. What was she doing? wondered Karen. The young red-haired sales assistant was looking at them suspiciously.

Margo turned quickly and whisked Karen away. “Quick!” she breathed, tugging Karen’s arm insistently. They hurried out onto the sidewalk. And then Karen saw it, poking out of Margo’s wallet – a black beaded necklace with a skull and crossbones pendant – and a $30 price-tag still attached!

“You stole that, Margo Pike. I saw you!” Karen raged, pointing a finger at the raven-haired girl.

Margo flashed her a contorted smile. “I think you’re seeing things, four-eyes.” She stepped right up under Karen’s nose and peered squarely at her. “You’ll want to watch saying things like that if you want to keep hanging out with me.”

But Karen was on a roll – “I’m going to go straight home and tell Seth and Mommy and they’ll tell Kristy and you’ll be in big trouble- -”

“Can it, Brewer,” Margo commanded, her dark eyes narrowed. “Why don’t you look in your own schoolbag.” Karen swung the lumbersome backpack around and opened the front pocket. She took a step back and gasped – inside were the dangly pink earrings!

She looked at the other girl, shocked.

Margo’s face changed, her bitter sneer transforming into a pleasant smile. “It’s a present, Karen – from a friend. You’ll learn to be gracious in time.”

Karen calmed down. “Gee, thanks Margo. That’s really nice. I’m sorry I jumped to conclusions.”

Margo squeezed her hand. “It’s okay, Karen. Just remember who I am. Now, wasn’t that a bit fun?” She turned and started toward the bustop. “Let’s go to your house.”

“Alright.” Karen followed reluctantly. The earrings were gigundoly nice. And they were on sale. And keeping Margo happy meant that Ricky Torres would start to notice her, right? She smiled dreamily. He had said hi to her in the cafeteria the other day, which wouldn’t have happened if she’d been with Hannie Papidakis. So what if it was Pamela Harding he was talking to?  Karen had been there, right? That was a step in the right direction. She hurried to catch up with Margo. And that was her ticket.

* * *

Elizabeth smiled wanly and tried to relax as Todd half-heartedly spun her around on the dance floor on Thursday night. They were at the tri-annual Stoneybrook Council Ball, welcoming their new mayor, Kristy Thomas. The last time Elizabeth had been to a ‘do like this was when Peter [or was it Frank?] Santelli had been welcomed to the post of Sweet Valley Mayor in the wake of her father’s resignation.

But her heart wasn’t in it tonight. Todd was a million miles away, and the proposal she’d once thought was imminent didn’t even seem to be in the realms of possibility. Why bother? she thought dismally. It was common knowledge that 50% of marriages in the USA ended in divorce, and in Stoneybrook, that figure was more like 80%. It seemed like relationships were doomed in this place.

She glanced up at the kindly face she’d grown so accustomed to and a tear formed in the corner of her eye. Handsome, trustworthy Todd. Todd who she just couldn’t reach anymore. She followed his gaze over to his teacher friend, Laine, standing alone at the bar with a glass of red. And then she caught it – a glint in Todd’s coffee-coloured eyes that could mean only one thing. She watched his eyes sparkle as he gazed over the stylish brunette in her black lame minidress. That look said it all.

He hadn’t looked at her like that for years – probably since college, or on the odd occasion when he’d tried to get past first base in the kitchen. She recalled the way Todd had tenderly put a hand on Laine’s arm when they’d greeted her earlier that evening. Elizbaeth sucked in a gasp of air. How had she been so blind? Todd was in love – with Laine Cummings!

Elizabeth broke away from Todd as Kristy Thomas stood up on the podium, calling the formal part of the evening to order. She barely heard as the mayor babbled on about an autistic school and saving the trees and not putting a road through Stoneybrook Park. She tried to fight the tear trickling down her dimpled cheek. This was going to get embarrassing – and fast. Kristy was just tackling air pollution as she made a hasty exit by the back door and into the night. In Sweet Valley she might have walked home, but who knew what one might come across in Connecticut? She practically jumped into the next cab and directed him the only place she knew where to go: “193 Burnt Hill Road,” she choked out. MaryAnne would be a shoulder to cry on.

* * *

Margo lounged on Karen’s purple bedspread, loudly chewing a wad of Bazooka gum.

“Mommy doesn’t let me chew that in here,” Karen said nervously. Margo pretended not to hear her. She blew a pink bubble and popped in Karen’s gigantic glasses. God the kid could be annoying.

Margo stared at the orange goldfish on Karen’s desk. It looked so calm, so tranquil, swimming around in that fake blue-green ocean. She turned her head sideways and peered through narrowed eyes. The water, so mesmerizing – like the colour of Elizabeth’s eyes…She absently dropped a hand in the glass, letting the cool water sift through it like blood.

Karen finished peeling the gum off her lenses [the pink ones, for reading] and looked at the other girl, aghast. “What are you doing, Margo?”

Margo could stand it no longer. She picked up the damned fish and threw it against the wall, watching its slippery tail beat about frantically. And then it was still.

Karen burst into tears. “That was Crystal Light the tenth, Margo!” She glared at her so-called friend. “You have to leave. NOW!” She shoved her off the bed.

Margo shrugged. No biggie. She’d head over to Pamela’s place for a smoke. Maybe even stop off at the Shady Lady on the way home. She stepped outside the door of the little house, not bothering to acknowledge Karen’s pathetic stepfather. She felt calmer now.

Margo ambled along the sidewalk, watching the late afternoon sun cast crazed shadows across the pavers. Home, she thought. What a funny concept. Her mind drifted to her family, her stupid Catholic parents and their 20-something year-old offspring, hangers-on who would never leave Stoneybrook and the comfort of home. Stupid fat Nicky, and the triplets, and Vanessa the poetic recluse and daydreaming Mallory – all of them “family” but all of them to busy to even notice her. She shut her eyes tightly, trying to block out the image that kept coming back to her, a red-rimmed flash across her field of vision. The one that haunted her dreams, her restless nights and her waking hours, an eternal reminder of what she was:

Claire. Claire the cute one. Claire silly-billy-goo-goo. Claire who didn’t get carsick on short trips, who could do ballet, who didn’t do stupid things like peel bananas with her feet and sing “The House that Jack built.” Claire who got the first piggy-back ride, and the last granola bar, and the one-on-one time with Mallory. She saw Claire, an innocent child sleeping softly beside her, her chest rising and falling gently with each breath. There was Claire on the swings at Stoneybrook park: “Look at me Margo – look how high I can fly!”  Then the painful image flashed before her, of that last day, the sweet little nine-year old in blue denim overalls, with her arms outstretched, her pale blue eyes fixed open and blood spurting from her neck.

It was the babysitter, Margo had said. No-one paid her any attention when she was telling the truth, so how would they pick a lie? I was in the attic, she’d told them, her voice steady and her hands still. Abby was with her in the kitchen…

Abby Stevenson had been convicted, and was now serving a life sentence in Long Island Jail. “Beware the Babysitters!” The citizens of Stoneybrook had campaigned.  Mallory’s stupid little club had disbanded. And Margo had run free – free from everything, that was, except that glimmer of conscience, stirring deep within its dark exterior.

* * *

Jessica meandered along Fourth Avenue, hand in hand with Travis. It was their second date – their first during daylight hours – and she couldn’t stop smiling. Travis was a total stud – not to mention incredibly talented! Over lunch he’d told her about his football prowess, his year of college at Cornell, his tennis skills and the apartment he owned on Madison Avenue.

Jessica couldn’t remember the last time she’d had so much fun talking about someone else! She certainly didn’t feel like going back to work, not when things were going so well.

She glanced down critically at her turquoise jumpsuit. Travis had said earlier that pink would suit her skin tone more. She frowned, thoughtfully – he was probably right. After all, he could barely take his eyes off her!

They turned the corner opposite Wakefield designs.

“Well, this is it,” she said hopefully.

“Not even,” countered Travis. “Tomorrow’s Friday, which means you’ll be coming out for drinks with me. I’ll meet you at eight.”

Jessica furrowed her brow. She wasn’t used to guys making plans for her. Still, he was really gorgeous. Not to mention really into her. She melted at the expectant look in his light blue eyes. “Drinks at Xenon?” she purred.

“Pfft..” he said. “We won’t be going near that circus. How about you, and me, and Pastis down in the Village? Its my favourite place to drink.” And to seduce tacky bimbos like you, he added silently.

Jessica smiled brightly. “Sure!” she agreed. She walked through the glass door into the messy interior of her store.

“Oh and babe,” Travis called after her. “Ditch the one-shouldered dress in the window – it’s a little last-season, don’t you agree?”

Jessica waved him away. He was so helpful! And so involved with her work. She was falling for Travis Simpson!

The rustling of polyester jolted Jessica from her daydream. A customer was already in there, browsing around her designs. Lila must have let her in.

“Hi there,” said Jessica. “Can I help with anything?”

“Just browsing,” the girl said. She looked very funky, in a hot pink mini with a black form-fitting blazer. Her name tag, from a business Jessica didn’t recognize, read “Cokie Mason.”

“This jacket is interesting,” said Cokie in a husky voice. “I love the detailing on the lapels. Mind if I photograph it?”

“Sure,” answered Jessica. “I’ve made a copy in purple, too. It’s my fave colour.”

“Purple?” Cokie looked interested. She snapped the black one on her mobile. “It would look fantastic with that leather skirt.” She picked up the item and held it against her slender hips.

“Want to try them on?” asked Jessica. “The dressing room needs fixing, but we’ve strung up a curtain out the back.”

“That’s okay,” the girl said. “I’d better get going.” She grabbed a business card off the counter and sauntered out without another word.

Weird, thought Jessica as the watched the girl take a photograph of the window display.

She turned to her sewing machine. Her black strapless pantsuit was almost complete, ready to debut tomorrow night with Travis. She almost squealed with anticipation. She knew she should try to slow things down – at least until date number four – but it was going to be impossible to resist. Jessica had thought this a few times in the past, but two broken engagements, a failed marriage and seven dead boyfriends later she was certain: Travis was THE ONE.

CHAPTER 5 Mary Anne and the

Trouble With Twins

Get excited….everyone’s fave character is making an entrance!

Logan Bruno had just switched off Mary Anne’s night light when he heard the soft crunching of tyres over the gravel driveway.

“Shit!” he yelped, jumping off the wooden bed. He fumbled around in the dark for his shirt, almost tripping over the frilly pink bedspread. Surely Richard and Sharon couldn’t be home already?!

“What’s up, babe?” drawled Mary Anne. She rolled over and pulled the sheet up to cover herself. Logan leaped over to the window, frantically zipping up his Wranglers, and a yellow taxi came into view.

Out jumped a slender blonde in a fuchsia evening gown. Logan let out a low whistle. This was better than he’d anticipated. Had Mary Anne phoned a friend?. He knew what a tigger* tiger  she could be when the lights went down, but this was almost too good to be true. The girl turned to face the upstairs window, the midnight shadows flickering across her dimpled cheeks. Her eyes were red and puffy and smudges of mascara were running down her cheeks, but the aqua eyes and tanned skin were unmistakable.

“Elizabeth!” Logan groaned.

“Jesus Christ!” cursed Mary Anne. Trust Elizabeth to show up again and turn an Almost Perfect Date Night into a Disaster of Alan Gray Proportions. Kristy barging in with great ideas was bad enough. But the hide of this Californian chick was unbearable – she’d somehow gotten it into her judgmental head that Mary Anne had no friends, no brain and no life. Mary Anne sighed. She had plenty of friends, and even a step-sister, Dawn, who’d actually worked with Miss Priss back in Sweet Valley. She’d be damned if Elizabeth found out about that connection. Mary Anne couldn’t count the number of excuses she’d made to avoid hanging out with Elizabeth and boring-as-butter Todd since their awful date at the Burger Bite. She’d even faked stomach craps that night to avoid going bowling with them. Mary Anne smiled at the memory, recalling the look of shock on Elizabeth’s face when she’d mentioned period pain- apparently they didn’t menstruate in Sweet Valley. The expected knock sounded at the door.

Mary Anne looked at Logan quizzically, as if to say, “Should we leave it?” The knock repeated itself, louder this time, followed by a tearful sob,

“Let me in, Mary Anne.”

“It’s open,” called Logan wearily. He suddenly wished bratty Jenny Prezzioso was still here so Elizabeth would have another mission before she got to the stairs.

“Mary Anne!” called Elizabeth. “Can you hear me?”

Mary Anne huffily threw on a pink terry-toweling robe and gave Logan A Look. Just because she was shy in public didn’t mean she had to be a pushover. Especially after nine on a weeknight. She trudged downstairs to greet the emotional journalist, trying to replace her expression of annoyance with one of concern. She held out her hand with a sigh, and Elizabeth it gratefully, still gasping for breath.

“Is it Todd?” asked Mary Anne, her brow furrowed.

“Y-yes,” Elizabeth choked on the words. “He’s in love with Laine.”

Mary Anne exhaled. So the rumours were true! She looked at her colleagues’ anguished face and instantly her expression softened. She knew what it felt like to come off second best – like the time Logan had cheated on her with Cokie Mason in the 9th grade. Although Elizabeth was finally getting her come-uppance, nobody deserved to be trampled on like that. Especially by Laine Cummings, ex-New York super-snob. It probably couldn’t hurt to let Elizabeth stay the night, Mary Anne reasoned. It was just one time, after all. She stole a look at the clock: it was 1220 already, and Elizabeth was most likely an early riser. She could put her in Dawn’s old bed in the guest room for the time being. Her dad probably wouldn’t mind – he’d mellowed a fair bit lately under Sharon’s hydroponic influence.

“Honey,” she called to Logan, whose inside-out t-shirt was shielded by the shadows on the staircase. “Will you fetch some linen from the pantry?” Mary Anne turned to Elizabeth. “You can have the guest room,” she said warmly. “Now, how about some hot cocoa so you can get some rest?”

***

Jessica passed a wholemeal bagel to Lila and a grapefruit to Stacey, who were standing next to her on the subway. It was a sunny Saturday morning in New York, and she was hitting the shops with her two best friends. Jessica sighed and stole a sideways glance at Stacey, who looked incredible, as usual, in a purple shirtwaist top over flowered leggings, her cowboy [Cowgirl? Cow-woman?] boots, a purple hair ornament made from shoelaces, and long dangly silver earrings. Jessica felt ordinary by comparison, in an oversized white shirt of Travis’ he’d left the night before, teamed with a pair of ruched leather tights and silver ankle boots.

“Where’s Travis?” Lila piped up, with the hard-hitting questions as always.

“He said he was meeting his friend Tom for brunch,” followed Jessica’s curt reply. Although she hated to admit it, Travis’ hasty exit from her apartment this morning had left her feeling more than a little rejected. He could have at least stayed for some of her blueberry pancakes, especially given what they’d gotten up to the night before.

“Tom..or Tina?” Lila said haughtily, and Stacey giggled. Jessica rolled her eyes. It was no news to her that her friends neither trusted nor approved of her latest fling, but they could at least try being a little more supportive.

“So where should we go first?” Jessica said brightly, trying to change the conversation. “Bloomingdales?”

“Oh please, Jess,” Lila sniffed. “That minefield? And on a Saturday? We should head down to the boutique strip on 4th.”

Stacey nodded in agreement, rustling around in her Guess chain bag for her phone, which was giving off a noisy polyphonic tone . Lila and Jessica groaned in unison at the familiar alarm.

“Stacey!” scolded Lila. “When are you going to learn its NOT okay to do you 10am insulin injections on a train?! You look like a fricking junkie.” Stacey ignored her and slid the needle into her flat stomach with a grin. Lila reminded her so much of her friend Laine it wasn’t even funny. The train rolled into the underground station and Lila grabbed Jessica’s hand.

“C’mon,” she urged. Jessica was so out of it today. Five minutes later, the trio was strolling down Fourth Avenue, when Jessica stopped suddenly, her face aghast. “Earth to Jessica!” Lila waved a manicured hand in front of her friend, who was staring into a ritzy-looking shop-front.

“Style Masons,” read Stacey slowly. “I’ve heard of that! The owner is this bitch called Cokie Mason who I went to school with!”

Jessica pointed a shaky finger at the mannequin in the window. Her face was white. “That’s my jacket!” She raged. “And my leather body con skirt!” She marched into the store before Lila and Stacey could restrain her. “I want the manager, now!”

“Here I am,” came a saccharine voice from behind her. “How can I be of assistance?” Jessica recognized her instantly – it was the woman who’d let herself into the shop last Thursday. Cokie.

“You stole my outfits, you whore!” Screamed Jessica. “You were the one taking pictures in my shop the other day! How dare you!”

Cokie smiled. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, sweetie,” she took a pause. “ I don’t even recognize you, not that I’m used to taking fashion advice from people dressed like penguins.”

Lila snorted.

“It’s a copyright issue!” Jessica’s nostrils were flaring as she continued to yell at Cokie. “My dad does copyright law and he can sue your ass! That is my jacket and my skirt!” She motioned toward the window.

Cokie sneered and stuck out her bottom lip. “Those items in the window are seasonal basics. Maybe if you were more creative you’d come up with something less than mediocre.” The insult stuck in Jessica’s ribs like a knife. Mediocre? She looked at her friends imploringly, a tear forming in the recesses of her blue-green eyes. Stacey bit her lip. Security would be on them like Annie Whitman before long. She clutched her friend’s slim arm and guided her out, glaring at her middle-school enemy over her shoulder.

“It’s okay, Jess,” Lila was saying. “I’ll get Daddy to send over some designs from Milan.” Jessica shook her head. Lila would never understand. Here was the one thing she was good at, the one time where she could outdo perfect, over-achieving Elizabeth and now she’d been completely shot down. For once, she didn’t want the easy way out. Well she would prove them wrong – Jessica Wakefield never shied away from a challenge. She threw her Prada bag over her shoulder and fixed her gaze ahead. This meant war.

* * *

Todd Wilkins shoved a stack of paper into the staffroom photocopier on Monday morning. What a weekend! Since Elizabeth had disappeared on him like that on Thursday night, he’d barely had a wink of sleep. He’d tried her mobile, her parent’s house, Jessica, and even Enid Rollins, but so far nobody knew where she’d taken off to.

“Todd?” it was Laine, poking her head around the door of the deputy’s office. Man, she had to stop looking so good on a Monday morning. “Andrew Brewer’s giving me shit again. Can you watch him while I do playground duty?” She flashed him that brilliant smile, and confidently strode away. She was unbelievably attractive, he thought, admiring the way the pencil skirt accentuated her slim hips. He shook his head violently, instantly regretting the disloyal thought. What was he thinking? Elizabeth could be anywhere and he was having these inappropriate fantasies about the geography teacher. On the photocopier.

“Aargh! Stop it!” He hollered aloud. He heard a snicker behind him. He turned slowly, a blush creeping at his cheeks. It was Andrew Brewer, 7th grade horror. “Sit down and keep quiet!” he ordered. Geez those kids from divorced Stoneybrookites could be shockers..

“Mr Wilkins and Miss Cummings,” sang Andrew softly, under his breath. He cracked up. Todd marched out of the staffroom, slamming the wooden door behind him. Then something made him turn, and catch his breath. There she was, in the courtyard, bent over one of the picnic tables to scold a group of eight graders. Laine, he breathed. Elizabeth had until Friday to make her return, or else – it was on.

* * *

Stacey flicked over to NYC news on Saturday afternoon. She couldn’t stop thinking about that slut, Cokie Mason, or her poor friend Jessica. There must be something she could do! She’d been trying to come up with a plan all afternoon, a super idea like the ones her friend Kristy used to have. Her head was fuzzy – hopefully it wasn’t another hypoglycemic attack coming on. She needed an assistant…. someone who was stylish yet original, who could work as part of a team but who didn’t have the brains to lead. Someone who’d be sitting at home doing nothing on the average weekday. Stacey’s ice-blue eyes lit up. Perfect! She grabbed her cordless phone and punched in the numbers. “Pick up, pick uuuup!” she pleaded. “Hello?” came the familiar voice on the other end. Stacey thought she could hear a baby wailing in the background. “Claud?”

“Oh my god, Stacey! Can you hold for a tick?” The phone clattered about and there were muffled voices in the background followed by a bellowing “Honey!”

“Stace? I cant believe you rang, this is awesome! What’s up?” She was chomping on ring dings or something.

“Claudia,” Stacey exhaled slowly. “I really need your help with something.”

* * *

On a humid Saturday evening, on a plane bound for Sweet Valley, a raven-haired sixteen-year-old flicked through a stack of printed pages, too tired to sleep. She felt a momentary twinge of guilt at nicking off with her parent’s frequent flyer’s to score a seat in business class, but then remembered her sister’s nonchalant “See ya” when she’d told them she’d be disappearing for a day or so. Like they cared. She shuffled to the next page, printed straight from her latest google search. Thank god for Elizabeth’s high profile nation-wide, she thought – it was making this job a walk in the park. A motorcycle accident and subsequent seven-week coma. A kidnapping by some crazy hospital orderly who apparently didn’t lay a hand on her. Busting crime with the Sweet Valley News. Busting crime with the London Times. Being attacked by a werewolf. Being held at knifepoint by a guy called John Marin whom her father had sentenced. Saving lives in an earthquake. A DUI after killing her sister’s boyfriend. Margo flipped over the page. There was a model-esque picture of Elizabeth with her identical twin, Jessica, every bit as beautiful and sought after. Half of a whole, she mused aloud. There were pictures of her parents, too, a lawyer and an interior designer known as Ned and Alice. Not to mention her total hunk of a brother. All of them wealthy, attractive and popular. And all of them totally within reach. Her thoughts turned to Karen Brewer, bound and gagged in the storeroom at the news. Sure, she’d been a pretty loyal follower of late, but that didn’t mean she could be trusted to keep her big mouth shut.

“This seat taken?” Margo looked up. A 6-foot, muscular Adonis was standing before her, looking incredibly slick in a tweed jacket and black, well-fitting trousers. His dark hair was well-cut away from his handsome face, and his mouth was curved into something between a flirtatious smile and a sneer. He would’ve been in his late twenties, but had the air of someone who’d seen the world a million times over and had it completely figured out. Someone Margo would like to have as an accomplice. The man extended a lean, tanned forearm as he slipped into the adjoining seat. “I’m Bruce,” he drawled. “Bruce Patman.”

*Freudian slip

When Lila Met Stacey, Chapter 6

“The New Jessica,” or, “Karen’s Tattletale”

“Jess! Jess! Open up!” 26-year-old Jessica Wakefield rolled over and settled back into her peaceful dream. She was at the Ivy, with Travis, sipping a margarita and pretending not to notice the swarms of hot guys checking her out. She seductively swung her hips and turned to stand on the edge of the enormous pool, aware that everyone around was admiring her…

“Jessica!” Who the hell was calling her name? She stretched out her long, slender arms to begin her graceful dive and hit..the sewing machine?!

“Ow!” Jessica awoke with a start, and rubbed her throbbing elbow. She yawned, peeling open her bleary eyes, and realized that her bed had been replaced by a desk, and her plush purple comforter was nowhere in sight. The scrap of gold sequined lame stuck to her forehead confirmed it – Jessica Wakefield had actually slept at work.

Jessica groaned. Since she’d discovered on Friday that a wench called Cokie Mason had stolen her designs, Jessica had worked the entire weekend trying to revamp her collection. She remembered the way Cokie had sneered at her pieces – products of hours of labour – and the familiar anger rose in her chest like bile.

She looked around the room, which was strewn with pieces of brightly coloured fabric and flimsy threads, and the voice sounded at the door again: “Jess!?”

“Alright, alright!” Jessica yelled back.

“I’m turning into Elizabeth,” she muttered, stumbling over a pile of silver lycra on her way to the door. Lila would not be happy – this place was chaos.

She flung open the shop door. Stacey was outside in the crisp, Manhattan air, bouncing around on her gladiator heels like a pony. Some people had far too much energy on a Monday morning.

“Jessica – there’s someone I want you to meet. She’d love to work for you, if you’ll have her. This is Claudia Kishi-Lee.”

Jessica took a step back, and her mouth dropped open. Before her stood one of the funkiest women she had ever seen. She was wearing layers – a yellow tunic over a purple turtleneck, and a scarf with pink and black shapes printed on it. Over the tunic was a wide, low slung silver belt, and she’d finished off the outfit with hot pink tights tucked into a pair of grey ankle boots. She looked Chinese, or Thai maybe, with silky, jet-black hair, a creamy complexion, and almond shaped eyes.

“Wow!” Jessica breathed. Looking at Claudia she felt a combination of awe, excitement and jealousy. If someone could bring Wakefield Designs out of oblivion, it was this girl.

Jessica recovered. “It’s great to meet you!” She enthused. “Come on in!”

Claudia smiled back. “There’s just one catch,” she warned Jessica.

“Don’t worry Claud, Jessica cant spell either,” Stacey piped up.

“No it’s not that – I have a baby.” Claudia spun around, and sure enough, there was a lime green bum-bag slung obliquely around her shoulders, with a head of dark hair poking out. “This is Jade.”

“No sweat!” Jessica grinned. She’d had plenty of experience with babies – like the time she’d worked as a counselor with her sister at Camp Echo Mountain. Sure, she’d snuck off every night to see hunky Paul Mathis, but the kids had all left camp in one piece.

Stacey ruffled Jade’s dark hair and the baby squirmed. So this was where Claudia had been for the last two years!

“I knew you two would hit it off!” Stacey chirped, positively beaming. “I’ll call you after work, Jess.” She picked up her briefcase and hurried out to hail the next cab.

The two women sized each other up. Claudia grinned.

“Ring ding?” she offered, digging into the pocket of her bright tunic.

Jessica took it gladly. She couldn’t wait for Lila to get here and see this.

“Let’s get to work!”

* * *

Margo Pike strolled out the door of “Little Darlings” day care centre on Monday morning, relishing the warm Californian sun on her skin. That had been beyond easy! Mrs Pervis had given her a job in about 50 seconds flat – no criminal record check, no working with children declaration, and no ID required. Margo drew her lips into a thin smile and her eyes narrowed. The woman was a total suck – just like that stupid Mrs Newton, who’d regularly left her baby with a bunch of 11-year-olds while she went off to lunch with the Stoneybrook ladies.

With this new job in hand, Margo could afford to rent on Calico drive and see about getting herself a vehicle. Not that that should be a problem – she almost had Bruce Patman wrapped around her finger since they’d met on the plane last Friday night. He might be all alpha male, but Margo thought she could detect a weakness beyond his sex-money-power exterior. A soft centre that she could melt. If she could just push the right buttons, he’d be sure to open up about his past, about Sweet Valley High and more importantly – his friendship with the Wakefield twins.

“Free inside information,” she mused aloud.

Margo glanced at her watch – it was midday already! Bruce was picking her up from Kelly’s in half an hour! She shuddered, thinking of her awful, dingy room there, the chipped, shadowy mirror and stained, off-white walls. She recalled the din of the raucous crowd downstairs that seeped through the rickety floorboards and into her restless sleep. Two nights there had felt like a year. Then again, time was skewed in Sweet Valley.

“Looking good!” Margo was jolted from her reverie by a wolf whistle. She turned, and sure enough, a slick, black Porsche, with plates that read 1BRUCE1 was pulling over on the road next to her. Margo lowered her eyes seductively. It was Bruce Patman!

“Jump in!” he called, and the locks shot down in unison.

Margo grinned broadly and swung open the shiny door, plonking herself down on the plush, leather passenger seat.

“Just don’t touch anything,” he warned in his husky voice, flicking the Droids CD to another track as they sped along..

Margo ignored him and flung open the glovebox. Inside was a black and white photograph, framed in gold. It was a portrait of beautiful girl with a long, dark tousle of curls, a slender arm resting on her chin. Her hair was tucked behind her ear on one side, revealing a small hearing aid. A name was scrawled across the girl’s shaded tank top.

“Regina,” Margo read, aloud.

Bruce slammed on the brakes and sucked in his breath. “I said, don’t touch anything! Get outta my car. NOW!”

Whoa, thought Margo. She’d hit a nerve. An ex, maybe? She stole a look at his eyes, which were flashing not with anger but with melancholy. A dead ex, she confirmed to herself.

Margo knew how to play this. She put a hand on Bruce’s muscular forearm. “I’m sorry,” she said softly. “I can tell you really loved her,”

“Yeah,” muttered Bruce. “She was everything to me.”

Margo sighed. “I had a friend once, who was deaf. He was the greatest guy I’ve known. Matthew Braddock was his name,” Bruce glanced at her, intrigued.

“But he moved away. My brother, Nicky, cried for weeks, but nobody knows how alone I’ve felt ever since.”

Margo tried not to guffaw at her sob story. So what if she’d left out the part about tying him to the tree-house at the back of the Pike’s place? And burning his stupid book about sign language?

Bruce’s expression softened. He squeezed her hand.

“I guess we know each other better than we think, Margo,” he whispered.

Margo grinned. Time for a change of subject.

“To the Dairi Burger?” they chimed in unison.

* * *

At 4:30pm on Monday, Travis slung open the door of Wakefield Designs and was greeted by a smiling Jessica. Theoretically, she looked incredible in a white linen minidress with a yellow neck tie, but Travis felt confused. At first all he’d wanted was to sleep with her, just for kicks, but now that that was happening with incredible ease all her wanted to do was.. improve her. Travis sighed – for some reason, this happened with all the girls he dated – ever since he’d gone after Dawn Schafer in the tenth grade.

He pulled Jessica aside and opened up the bag he’d bought for her. Inside was a brand new outfit from Saks on 4th.

“Put this on,” he urged, “And meet me at Pastis at 8.”

Jessica took the bag reluctantly and peered inside. Travis was being far too generous of late.

“Jessica,” he whispered. He stepped close to her and her heart began to pound. “This would look amazing with a short, dark bob. Just so you know.”

A feeling of uneasiness crept over Jessica. Her blonde hair was her pride and joy, and with her tan gradually fading in the Manhattan rain, it was her last remnant of Sweet Valley.

“I don’t know, Trav,” she murmured, and his face fell.

“I guess I’ll get going, then,” he replied curtly, dropping her hand.

Guilt washed over Jessica. She couldn’t disappoint him now –  not after that mind-blowing gift.

Travis sauntered out of the shop, and for the first time she noticed how unnatural the swing of his hips appeared. She shook herself free of the thought and ran upstairs to the bathroom they shared with the other offices in the building, grabbing a pair of fabric scissors on the way.

She forced open the top drawer, and took out the sachet of Nice’n’Easy. Lila had been known to touch up her roots here on the odd occasion, when Toni&Guy was booked out.

Jessica looked at herself in the mirror, fondly touching her soft, sun-streaked mane for the last time. Travis was right. If her clothing line was getting a revamp, so should its owner.

She squeezed her eyes shut and hacked off two inches of blonde from the circumference of her head. She tried to stop the tears rolling down as she reached for the brown dye.

“Look out world,” she forced herself to say through gritted teeth. In just half an hour, the new Jessica would be revealed for the world to see.

* * *

“It should be tweed, and tailored around the waist,” Lila was saying.

“No, we need the parrot print, with loose sleeves,” Claudia disagreed.

“Ahem,” Jessica coughed, appearing on the landing outside the bathroom. The girls abruptly fell into a stunned silence.

“Jessica!?” Lila bellowed, aghast.

Now that she was beginning to get used to her new image, Jessica had to admit that she looked sensational. Her hair was very short, in dark, choppy layers, and a few tendrils curled in wisps at her cheeks. Her eyes were darkened with lavish makeup – definitely sultrier than her usual look. White powder helped achieve the ethereal, pale effect she was striving for. And her outfit! Everything she had on was from Travis. Jessica was wearing an olive green leather skirt with a slit up the back. The skirt was so straight it was hard to walk. Matching hose with a lacy pattern and three-inch heels made Jessica’s legs look longer and slimmer than usual. She felt very tall and elegant, and the silky, oversize blouse and green leather belt worn on her hips made her feel incredibly glamorous. Ordinarily, Jessica didn’t wear much jewellery – just her lavaliere necklace. Now, of course, the lavaliere had been removed.

[*actual outfit from Fran-Pasc]


Jessica held her head high, and slid out of the shop on her heels. Her friends could think whatever they wanted- so long as Travis approved of the new Jessica.

Epilogue:

Karen Brewer clutched her aching hands as she struggled out of the thick cord bound to her ankles. The last chunk of rope slipped off, leaving large, red welts on her skinny shins. She spat out the last of the cotton gag she’d been chewing for the past 48 hours and shimmied out of the dark storeroom cupboard. Gosh, those fisherman knots had been gigundoly tight! Thank goodness she’d spent a summer as a girl scout with Nancy Dawes. And it was lucky she’d had a couple of Oreos stashed in he pocket of her overalls. Karen wondered where Margo had gotten to, but didn’t care. She was going straight over to Stoneybrook High School to report her to the teachers. Mr Collins would still be there, on detention duty. He would understand.

Karen wandered out of the Stoneybrook News headquarters, glancing at the Tower Clock as she stepped outside. It was 4:59. She’d catch him if she hurried. Karen truly admired Mr Collins, much like she did Elizabeth Wakefield. She loved how he listened, with a wise, knowing smile, and he way he rested both hands on her shoulders, with his eyes crinkling up at the corners. The way followed her anywhere she wanted to talk – even the girl’s bathroom. Yes, Mr Collins would help her get back at Margo for this. Her stomach growled. Now, if only she could find her glasses….

Will Jessica impress the Older Boy?

How much damage WILL Margo do in Sweet Valley?

And just where has Elizabeth been hiding?

Find out in Chapter 7 of “When Lila Met Stacey”, “Mary-Anne Saves the Day,”

CHAPTER 7

“ELIZABETH’S HEARTBREAK”, OR, “MARY-ANNE SAVES THE DAY”

“Last point wins!” Margo Pike purred, smoothing out the pleated skirt of her white tennis dress. She was at Bruce Patman’s family estate, spending Saturday morning with the handsome heir. She’d known Bruce for just over a week, but already they were getting on like a house on fire. And fire was just the right word, she thought, remembering back to their intense make-out session the night before. Bruce sure knew how to show a girl a good time – even if she had to let him win at tennis.

Bruce served up an ace, and Margo smiled. The game was over – now she could go inside and do some serious investigating! Bruce wandered over to her side of the court, a cocky grin on his handsome face.

“Moet?” he offered gallantly. How far they’d advanced from the warm wine in a paper cup he’d offered her just the other night!

Ten minutes later, the pair were sipping champagne on the deck with Bruce’s high school yearbook open.

“I still don’t know why you need to see this,” he was saying.

“No special reason,” said Margo, flicking through the pages. There was a Wakefield on every page! Where would she possibly start?

“Let me see that,” Bruce snatched the book from her and flipped to the sports section. “This is me winning the rowing tournament against Lovett.” He displayed the full-page spread proudly. “And me at the field championships.” And buying out Tony Alimenti so he’d let me win that one, he added silently.

Margo snatched the book back. “I wasn’t finished,” she snapped. She turned to the literature section. There was Elizabeth winning “Oracle staffer of the Year.” Elizabeth holding up a newspaper article she’d apparently penned for the London Times. Elizabeth and a dowdy looking girl outside the Sweet Valley News: “Elizabeth Wakefield and Penny Ayala,” the caption read. Elizabeth with her twin at Flair magazine, sporting matching blonde bobs. How much journalism could someone possibly do in a year? wondered Margo.

Margo glared at the wholesome face that smiled back at her, the sun-streaked hair and blue-green eyes that said, “I’m better than you, and I know it.”

“Earth to Margo!” it was Bruce. “I’m meeting Hank at the gentleman’s club. I’d let you come too, but it’s a guy thing. Why don’t you start on some dinner and I’ll be back in a few hours?”

Margo tried to look disappointed, but inside she was beaming. This was just the break she needed!

“Bye then,” she pecked him on the cheek as he grabbed his tweed jacket off the chair. “I’ll be waiting.”

Patman was putty in her hands.

* * *

“Mary-Anne, how much longer is this going to last?” Richard Spier demanded on Saturday morning. He was standing outside the guest room, where Mary-Anne’s friend Elizabeth had been sleeping for the past week and a half.

“I know Daddy, but it’s only for one more night,” Mary Anne countered. She had to agree – she was quickly getting over her work-mate inhabiting her home. Not only was Elizabeth moping around like Stacey McGill over Sam Thomas, but every time the blonde had caught Mary Anne and Logan in the act, she’d looked at her with pity! Mary Anne sighed. She was no stranger to conservatives – take her father, for one, not to mention the Catholic Pikes and Mrs Prezzioso. But Elizabeth was condescending beyond belief, and Mary Anne had had to bite her tongue on several occasions to avoid reminding Elizabeth that perhaps her prudishness was the reason Todd had strayed.

Elizabeth had barely left the house in the past week – the one time the journalist had ventured out to Stoneybrook mall, she’d apparently run into Todd and Laine sharing a milkshake at Burger Bite.

Mary-Anne tiptoed into the guest room where her step-sister Dawn had once resided. How she wished Dawn were here now in place of this patronizing bitch who’d totally outstayed her welcome!

“Liz,” she whispered softly. “I’m really sorry, but my Dad’s home again. He and Sharon really want you to leave.”

“They’ll go out again,” sobbed Elizabeth, “And get stoned, and forget about me. Why do you want to get rid of me, Mary Anne?”

“Shhh,” Mary-Anne soothed. “You know I don’t, but you have to snap out of this funk. Why don’t you come into work on Monday, and we’ll see if Karen Brewer can take you in for a while? There’s lots of space at the Big House – you can have Kristy’s old room.”

Elizabeth thought it over. A mansion would be nice. And Watson Brewer sounded a lot like Hank Patman – plus there probably wouldn’t be too many unmarried people copulating under the roof.

“Okay,” she sniffed feebly. “I’ll ask Karen on Monday.” She dropped back on the bed. “But just leave me in peace until then.”

Karma, baby, Karma

* * *

Jessica hummed along to the now familiar whir of the sewing machine, admiring the umbrella-print miniskirt she had almost completed. With the help of Lila Fowler and Claudia Kishi-Lee, her business had been totally revolutionized in the space of a week! In fact, it was no longer known by the boring old name of  “Wakefield Designs” but as the hip, new underground boutique, “Magenta Galaxy.”

It had been tough going, though – she’d had to act as mediator a few times when Li and Claud had come to blows – Lila was all about tweed and tailoring, while Claudia preferred an eclectic blend of textures and shapes. And Jade had definitely taken away a few productive work hours – babies could be so rude and demanding! Jessica glanced across the table at her new colleague, admiring her chic but thrown-together approach to fashion. Like today, for instance, she wore a blue-and-white striped body-suit over a grey jumper-thing. She was wearing hot pink stockings with her pink-and-black checkered push-down socks. Around her middle was a wide black belt with a buckle in the shape of a shield. And on her feet were black ballet slippers.

Jessica glanced down at her own trendy ensemble and touched a hand to her hair. She still wasn’t used to the short, choppy layers, not to mention the darker colour. She hadn’t had the heart yet to tell her identical twin. Travis had been impressed though, and for now, that was enough for Jessica.

She was interrupted by the high-pitched tone of her cell-phone, which of course set off Jade in the pram next to her. She recognized the number immediately –

“Steven?”

* * *

Steven Wakefield lounged in his booth at Nobu, an arm around each of his dates – identical twins Marilyn and Carolyn Arnold. He’d dumped Charlotte Johannsen like hot coal once he’d met these ladies – after all, Steven had long had a fascination with identical twins. Although they looked the same, he’d been surprised to find out that they were actually rather different. One was shy and artistic, and the other was wild and sporty, though right now he couldn’t remember which was which. He was tempted to slyly swipe one with a texta so he could stop stuffing up their names – it was getting a little embarrassing. At almost 30, he was also struggling to match their energy levels.

Steven wriggled his arm free and took a forkful of salad. He turned his gaze outside, eyeing the hip New Yorkers wandering past. He felt a sudden pang of yearning for Billie Winkler, and the Saturdays they used to spend together looking over their veggie patch in their modest home in Sweet Valley. But those days were through.

Marilyn [or was it Carolyn?] took a sip of her Stony Peak and giggled. She pointed outside, where a pair of blonde guys were strutting past, hand in hand. One had on tight jeans with a puffy black vest, and the other wore a pink polo shirt and a too-cheesy grin. They must have had 137 piercings between them.

Steven instantly recognized pink-shirt as Jessica’s new fling – he’d run into them at Starbucks last week! And the guy he was with looked vaguely familiar. Was he from Sweet Valley? From college? Then it dawned on him.

“Tom McKay!” he cried, remembering the guy from his sisters’ junior year, who Jessica had casually dated many a time. Steven slid his hand into his trouser pocket and took out his Blackberry. Jessica would feel totally duped that she’d hooked up with not one but TWO gay guys, but hearing the news from her brother might make it more bearable.


“Steven?” Jessica asked again. “What’s up?” She didn’t like the nervous tone of her brother’s voice.

“It’s Travis,” he blurted.

“Travis?” she wondered. “What about him?”

“He’s…” Steven stumbled on the words. “He’s gay.”

“GAY?!” Jessica shook her head in disbelief. “He can’t be, if he was we wouldn’t have…”

Slowly the pieces drifted together, forming an unmistakable shape. The skim milk…the clothes and hair advice…the strut…the keen input into her designs… It hadn’t sat particularly well with Jessica that a guy would want to change her – after all, she was a Wakefield. And Wakefields were perfect! But now it all made sense. She hung up the phone and dropped her head in her hands.

Claudia spoke first, draping an arm around Jessica’s shoulder.

“I maybe should’ve said something, Jess,” she began, “because he did the same thing with one of my hippy friends when were in middle school. He made her cut her hair and bought her earrings. Stacey said her gaydar was going through the roof, but nobody else understood what she meant. I’m really sorry.”

Jessica looked up, and the girls were surprised to see that he eyes were dry, and full of the old Wakefield sparkle.

“You’re ok?” Lila looked up from her copy of Vogue.

“More than,” Jessica declared. “How does this sound: Magenta Galaxy, with fashion advisor Travis Simpson!?”

How will the Wakefields mend their bleeding hearts?

Which old flame will make their long-awaited return?

And What will Karen do next?

Find out in Chapter 8 of “When Lila Met Stacey,” “Karen’s Teacher”.

Margo is rising!

Chapter 8 “Teacher Crush” or, “Karen’s

Teacher” [Smelly old Mr Collins]


Twenty-six-year-old Elizabeth Wakefield dawdled into the Stoneybrook News headquarters on Monday morning and caught a look at herself in the tinted window. Her face was pale and drawn, and her coral cardigan was hanging off her emaciated body – a week with no appetite can do wonders for a size six, she thought grimly. Elizabeth touched a hand to her ragged blonde hair, which hadn’t seen a brush for days, and she knew her brows had more than a few stray hairs begging to be tweezed. The puffy red eyes framed by dark circles were the final tell-tale sign that Elizabeth Wakefield was nursing a broken heart.

“Hey stranger,” a warm, friendly voice called her attention. Behind her was an athletic-looking blonde man, carrying what appeared to be some high-tech photography gear.

Elizabeth groaned inwardly. “Jeffery French,” she responded flatly.

What was this? Another guy from her past? And on the one day she’d dragged herself out of bed and was looking like a drowned rat! She silently cursed the universe.

“Why are you here?” It was as if the world wanted to punish her. But for what!? Elizabeth looked up into the pale blue eyes that had once given her so much love and comfort. He was practically albino! Why had she not noticed this before?

“I’m the new photographer for the News,” he said, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “We recently moved here from Oregon and I’m meeting with Tina this morning. Will you show me in?”

Elizabeth sighed. She certainly hoped Jeffery didn’t want to rekindle their old flame here in Stoneybrook. She had practically cried herself numb already – it was unlikely there was a single fibre left in her heart capable of forming any attachment. She motioned listlessly up the stairs toward the main offices. Things couldn’t possibly get any more complicated.

Poor Jeffery!

Jeffery French grinned to himself as he wandered up the stairs. God, ten years on and Elizabeth was still complicating everything! Nothing had changed at all – she was still so self-absorbed, still convinced that everything happened either because of her or to spite her. She probably assumed he still wanted her! Jeffery glanced down at the wedding band on his left ring-finger. He’d have to tell Suzanne about the hide of his high-school ex, the girl who’d screwed him over not once but twice – for Todd Wilkins and Conor McDermott at that! He walked into Tina’s office and took a deep breath. Jeffery French, photographer of the stars was about to make his mark on Connecticut.

* * *

Knock knock. Jessica Wakefield rapped on Travis Simpson’s door on Monday morning. She glanced down at her knuckles, white with apprehension. Her palms were practically dripping with sweat.

“Who’s there?” grunted Travis. Jessica thought she could hear another male muttering in the background.

“It’s Jessica,” she responded, hoping her voice sounded less shaky than it felt.

“Gimme a tick.”

Jessica pressed her ear to the door. She could hear muffled voices and an audible, “Cupboard – now!”

Jessica took a step back and drew in her breath as the door opened. Travis stepped out to greet her, a towel wrapped around his narrow waist. Jessica allowed herself one last admiring glance at his sculpted torso.

“Jessica, I-”

“Don’t,” she held up a hand to silence him. “I know about Tom, and I’m okay with it.” Travis visibly relaxed.

“I want to ask if…if you’ll do me the honour of being my senior fashion consultant?” The words tumbled out and she glanced up, hopefully.

“Jessie,” he took a step into the morning light and grasped both her hands in his own. “You know we’ve had some fun, but your little shop is just not really my thing.”

“No?” Jessica responded defiantly. “So why did you spend every minute of the last month trying to fix it?”

“Its not fixable,” he retorted. “And that’s why Tom here has asked me to join his latest venture. We’re going to be Simpson-McKay Hairstyles.”

Tom McKay joined Travis on the doorstep, sliding an arm around his waist. “Jessica,” he greeted her formally, bowing his head.

Jessica’s mouth was gaping wide open. “What? Why?”

Tom ran a hand through Jessica’s shaggy bob. “Let’s face it, Jess – your little shop might be doing ok, but you could definitely do worse than a session with us.”

He looked at Travis and they giggled, sharing a private joke.

Jessica turned on her heel, infuriated. Not only was Travis ditching their relationship but he was totally dissing her work! And with Tom, of all people – the once popular jock who’d had Amy Sutton, Jeannie West and Sandra Bacon after him simultaneously! Jessica marched toward the sidewalk, positively steaming. Could this day get any worse?

She didn’t want this life any more! What happened to the Jessica Wakefield who was wanted, successful and loved, the queen bee of Sweet Valley? She craved the beach, and Secca Lake, and Miller’s Point! She missed the cool comfort of her Spanish-tiled kitchen, her bedroom with its purple walls and the suburban tranquility of Calico Drive. She wanted Dana Larson, and Ken Matthews, and even Winston Egbert. But most of all, she wanted Elizabeth

* * *

Elizabeth swung round in her chair and stared blankly at the screen. She could really use that Margo kid right now to give her a hand. The words spilled out of her hands and meshed together, a pastiche of useless catch phrases.

Teen dubbed “The Walking Disaster” still on the run. Sources claim he was sighted overnight at the Underground Railroad.
Local talent Jessi Ramsey crashes and burns with the Bolshoi ballet.
Diabetes epidemic at an all-time high: Dr Johanssen says no end in sight.

Elizabeth threw up her hand in despair. She hated this life! She wanted La Maison Jaques, and Palomar House, and the Box Tree Café. Hell, she’d take Guido’s, or Casey’s, or the Dairi Burger right now! She felt a pang of yearning for the Beach Disco, and Fowler pool parties, and she’d give her right arm to be in the bleachers at a Gladiators Game. She missed Enid Rollins, and Penny Ayala, and even Heather Mallone. But most of all, she missed Jessica. Elizabeth reached into her purse for her phone. Her twin answered on the first ring.

“Lizzie! Oh Lizzie you won’t believe how terrible it’s been!”

“No – I think this time I have some idea!”

The twins began blabbering at once, about Laine Cummings, and gay exes and promiscuous secretaries and Cokie Mason until finally, each slumped silently in her seat – Jessica in the cab and Elizabeth at her desk.

It was Elizabeth who spoke next. Four minutes older, it was her job to provide the voice of reason, to provide some ray of hope in their melancholy existence.

“Let’s go home, Jess,” she whispered.

* * *

Margo Pike smacked her lips together and spun around in front of her mirror, admiring the way her strapless pink dress kicked out around her thighs. Bruce wouldn’t be able to keep his hands off her! She grabbed some frangipani perfume – Elizabeth’s favourite – off her bedside table and sprayed it at the nape of her neck. She glanced at the clock – there were still 20 minutes left before Bruce’s limo would arrive. 20 minutes to cram in some more study on the obsession that was taking over her life.

She looked across the road at the Wakefield’s pristine, split-level house, still chuffed that a place so close-by had popped up on the rental market.

Margo wondered fleetingly if her parents had noticed her absence? Nah, she thought spitefully. They’d be too busy fawning over the triplets, or braniac Mallory. She peered into the Spanish-tiled kitchen across the road. Ned and Alice would notice, she thought. She watched Mrs Wakefield, thin and strikingly beautiful in a linen pantsuit, busily stirring a pot on the stove. Mr Wakefield wandered round behind his wife, giving her a gentle hug and cheekily digging a finger into the evening meal to sample it. He was a total spunk, Margo decided, admiring his broad shoulders and chiseled jaw. Even the hint of grey hair and slight wrinkling around his eyes lent him a handsome, mature quality. Margo sighed longingly, raising a hand to the cool glass. “My family,” she rasped. “Someday very soon.”

Margo turned. But that day had not arrived. She had to be patient…and diligent. She glanced at the case notes strewn across her desk and picked up the paper on top. “Elizabeth Wakefield,” she read. “Birthday, June 13th. Four minutes older than her twin, Jessica. Likes root beer and cannoli. Enjoys Chinese food although her father is allergic. Favourite singer, Colleen Dunstan. Dislikes Johnny Buck and Cam Geary. Favorite activities include hiking, swimming and Amanda Howard mysteries. Wears Nars blush in naked and Loreal lipstick in nude. Virgin. Kisses like a dead jellyfish.” [Bruce had filled her in on the last two.]

Beep! She hurried over toward the window. Bruce was here and he did not like to be kept waiting.

Margo hurried out the door, grabbing her black glow-mesh clutch on the way. The night was young!

* * *

Karen Brewer hesitated at Mr Collins door. Maybe she shouldn’t have worn red? Were the flowers a bit too much? She skittered nervously on her heels, wishing she’d gone to the bathroom at the Big House. But she’d been too busy going through the bags that Elizabeth had left when she’d gone home to Sweet Valley for the weekend. Karen smiled to herself. It had been a gigundoly hard week, but having Elizabeth around had made everything okay. Now that Margo was gone, nobody even wanted to know her. Amanda Delaney and Myriah Perkins ignored her in the cafeteria. Pamela Harding was just downright rude. And Ricky Torres hadn’t looked her way once! But Karen had one last trick up her sleeve, something Kristy had told her about a long time ago, when she’d pretended to be a lesbian to win over Basher Bart: the jealousy maneuver.

Karen drew in a deep breath and pressed the doorbell. She hoped Mr Collins’ son, Teddy, wouldn’t be home. That would be downright embarrassing! She was just adjusting her boobs  – almost an A-cup tonight – as the door opened.

“Karen,” Mr Collins said kindly. “Come on in.”

“Thanks, Mr Collins.” It was more of a high-pitched squeak than the sultry drawl she was after.

Her teacher chuckled and patted her on the back. “Call me Roger.”

* * *

Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield stood in front of the mirror, in the bathroom adjoining their old bedrooms. They were wearing matching blue baby-doll dresses and just a hint of makeup on their fresh faces. Jessica grinned and pinned a barette in her blonde wig, the same as Elizabeth’s. Trust her twin to come up with such an ingenious idea. All their old friends would be so amused!

Elizabeth finished applying mascara to her bottom lashes. She was feeling much better now, after being reunited with her twin. They’d spent today at the Secca Lake and the mall, and tonight they’d be meeting up with some old friends at the Beach Disco.

“Like old times,” she pondered.

“But with new people,” Jessica reminded her. Claudia and Stacey would be joining them tonight.

Elizabeth reached over and squeezed Jessica’s hand. The night was young!

How far will Karen go to get Ricky Torres?
Will Margo’s murderous plot ruin the Wakefield twin’s night?
And what will Claudia and Stacey wear?
Find out in Chapter 9 of “When Lila Met Stacey”, “Too Good to be True,” or, “Dawn on the Coast”

CHAPTER 9: “TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE”, OR, “DAWN ON THE COAST”

Hold on to your love, girl

Hold on tight.

I’m telling you

I never knew

What love was babe, and now there’s you.

Hold on to your love, girl

Hold on tonight.

I’m telling you until I held you close to me

I never knew what joy could be.

And now there’s you….

And now there’s you…. *

*genuine Droids lyrics by Fran-Pasc and her team of ghostwriters

Elizabeth Wakefield smiled and tossed back her head as Dana Larson belted out the Droids latest hit single. It was a balmy Californian night and she was at the Beach Disco in Sweet Valley with her twin sister Jessica.

Contentment settled over her as she scanned the open-aired floor with her blue-green eyes. From Ken Matthews to Amy Sutton to Brooke Dennis, the familiar faces were making her feel alive again. Elizabeth caught her twin’s eye and winked. It was just like old times: while Jessica was spinning wildly on the dance floor with several good-looking guys, Elizabeth was chatting quietly in the corner to Penny Ayala and Randy Mason. They looked even more alike than usual tonight, in their matching blue baby-doll dresses and blonde wigs, but it was no secret that the Wakefield twins were as different as night and day. Elizabeth turned toward the Pacific Ocean. A bit more of this tranquil Sweet Valley air, she thought, and I’ll forget about Todd in no time. The thought of her handsome ex-boyfriend sent a searing pang through Elizabeth’s chest. She shook herself free of the painful image and settled back in her stool. Sweet Valley was her past and her present. But Todd Wilkins was history.

***

Margo peered over Bruce’s broad shoulder and scanned the gathering crowd. There she was, perched primly on one of the cane stools overlooking the beach, smiling and nodding at the nerd adjacent to her as she sipped her iced lemonade. Bitch, thought Margo. But at least she hadn’t been recognized. She turned back to her handsome date, whose hand was sliding further down her back every minute. They’d been knocking back tequila since 9pm, and Margo was definitely loosening up. Still, her eyes were focused squarely on the prize: a prize she was more than happy to toy with before she pounced – Elizabeth. She craned her neck to get a better look at Malibu Barbie, and Malibu Barbie’s twin who was slutting it up on the dance floor. Jessica was way more her kind of girl, she thought with a wry smile. But if I killed Jessica, she reasoned, I’d have to hang out with dull old Elizabeth.

She was interrupted by a low whisper in her ear. “She’s great, isn’t she?”

Margo spun her head around, surprised. A plain-looking auburn-haired girl was standing beside her.

“You know her?” Margo motioned toward Elizabeth with her head. cocked

“She was my best friend,” said the girl. “She was so wonderful at everything.” Margo watched, feeling uncomfortable as the girl gazed longingly at the attractive blonde.

Creepy, thought Margo. Still, anyone who knew Elizabeth could be VERY useful.

The girl let out a long sigh.

“Fuck off, Enid,” ordered Bruce.

Enid. Margo made a mental note to remember that name. Dweeb or not, that girl was her ticket.

* * *

“Lizzie! Lizzie!” Jessica ran over breathlessly and grabbed her twin’s arm. “Claud and Stace are here! Come say hi?”

“Excuse me,” Elizabeth smiled warmly at Randy, who was going on about how he’d helped design facebook or something. She linked arms with Jessica and wandered over to the double glass doors, where two attractive 20-somethings were standing.

“Nice to meet you, Elizabeth,” the taller girl – Stacey – smiled and fluffed her shoulder-length blonde hair. Her wavy perm was grown to that in-between stage, and Elizabeth had to admit it looked sensational. She cast her eyes over Stacey’s trendy ensemble. She was wearing pink lace leggings with matching ballet flats, and a black halter top that accentuated her slim shoulders. It rode up just enough to reveal a hint of flat midriff – and the tell-tale signs of intravenous drug use.

Junkie, Elizabeth thought, a look of panic crossing her attractive face. What kind of crowd had Jessica been mixing it with in the Big Apple?

She turned her attention to the other girl. “And you must be Claudia,” she affirmed with a thin smile.

The girl was wearing an oversized geometric print t-shirt that clashed with her red day-glo** tights. On her feet were purple slouch socks and orange converse hi-tops. Her shiny black hair was clasped into a loo-oo-ong side ponytail with a sequined purple barrette, revealing gigantic parrot clip-ons adorning each ear. Elizabeth decided she looked like the love-child of Mr Bowman and Olivia Davidson. Or maybe she was homeless…Jessica was sure making some interesting friends these days!

An unpleasant odour wafted over the room, followed by a noisy, “Claudia? Stacey?” Elizabeth turned.

Dawn Schafer, the hippie environmental editor for the Sweet Valley Tribune, was skipping [skipping!] toward them, her white-blonde dreadlocks flapping about her face. She squeezed through the gathering crowd, and shoved Elizabeth out of the way, her green skirt swishing at her waist. “Peace out, girls!”

Dawn’s date, Nicky Shepherd, sauntered over to the New Yorkers, and several Sweet Valley locals began to drift toward them like clove cigarette smoke.

All it takes is a bit of midriff to draw a crowd these days, Elizabeth reflected snidely, watching hunky Ken Matthews push a cosmo in Stacey’s hand. At least Claudia was married and off the market.

She instantly scolded herself for the disloyal thought. These girls were visitors to her hometown – she shouldn’t begrudge them having a nice welcome.

But as Aaron Dallas pushed past her to fill a small gap at Stacey’s side, she had to admit it: Claudia Kishi-Lee and Stacey McGill were certainly turning heads.

* * *

Claudia and Stacey are turning far too many heads, thought Jessica bitterly as she stood alone at the bar. Where were her free drinks? Where were the 137 guys who’d been clamouring over her just ten minutes before? I shouldn’t have invited those New Yorkers, she decided grudgingly, glaring at the girls and their stupid little reunion with that dirty looking hippie. It was kind of annoying the way everyone was fawning over the trio. She took a couple of steps closer, trying to gauge some of the conversation that was apparently so fascinating to all the attractive single men in the room. The hippie – Dawn, someone had called her – was rabbiting on about some kind of great sleepover they’d hosted way back when. Given that Dawn had cornsilk-coloured dreadlocks down to her waist and a hideous green tent dress made out of hemp, Jessica guessed they were referring to some kind of free love sit in, or maybe even an orgy. Why was she even bothering to eavesdrop? She wished Lila were here tonight. But stupid Lila had gone and gotten herself a date back in New York, with a guy called Alan Gray who apparently owned half of Microsoft. Sheesh, thought Jessica. If she didn’t have a flock of guys around her in the next minute, she was going to get hold of Liz and make for the Dairi Burger.

* * *

Margo gazed up at Bruce and batted her long, dark lashes. It was almost one am and the crowd was dissipating.

“Would you still want me if I dyed my hair, Brucey?” she purred.

“I’ve had my fair share of blondes,” he boasted, “And I like them loud and feisty, which pretty much sums you up, Margs.”

Margo grinned. He was definitely going to untie her bikini tonight – she knew it! Thank goodness she’d traded up her black maillot for the sexy red string two-piece she had on underneath. Bruce grabbed her waist, almost roughly. “Lets get outta here,” he whispered, commandingly.

They stumbled down the stairs to where Bruce’s limo was waiting, but something made Margo turn around.

The auburn haired girl was standing a few feet away, gazing at Margo intently. Enid, rasped Margo under her breath. She was planning on using that girl to her full advantage. But something about the girl’s dark eyes made Margo feel distinctly uncomfortable, and an involuntary shudder ran down her spine. Something told her there was more to this girl that met the eye.

What is Enid hiding?
Will the Wakefields find love and popularity again?
And where did Karen Brewer spend the night?
Find out in Chapter 10 of “When Lila Met Stacey”

CHAPTER 10 “Have you Heard About Elizabeth” or “Karen’s Big Weekend”

“Kristy! Kristy! Open up!” Karen shook the wire door vehemently, hoping the load clatter would wake up her step-sister. Unfortunately, Kristy could sleep through a hurricane. “Kristy?”

She hoped Bart wouldn’t open the door – Kristy had told her that the Basher’s coach often slept naked during the warmer months.

Finally there was a weary, “Hang on,” and about a minute later Kristy appeared, in her Cats sweatshirt and a pair of football socks that practically reached her thighs.

“Karen?” She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. “What are you doing here? It’s 2am for heaven’s sake! And what in God’s name are you wearing?”

She flung open the wire door, and Karen trampled in after her, adjusting the red spaghetti strap on her body-con minidress.

Kristy flicked on the hall light and turned to face her young sister, for the first time appreciating the rip in her side-seam and the mascara streaking down her face.

“Who did this to you?” She demanded, a mixture of concern and anger sweeping over her face. “And why are you wearing makeup?”

“M..Mr Collins,” she choked out. “He tried to get me drunk. And then he grabbed me.”

“Mr Collins?” Kristy shook her head in disbelief. “But he’s one of the most well-renowned teachers in Stoneybrook.”

“I know,” Karen sniffed, wiping her tear-stained glasses with her skirt. “That’s why I went to see him tonight.”

“You went to see him?” Kristy threw up her hands, exasperated. “Karen, you’re supposed to be at the Big House tonight, not skulking around the streets looking like a harlot. Why did you do that?”

Karen looked down sheepishly. If there was one thing she hated, it was getting admonished by Kristy. “I wanted to make Ricky Torres jealous.”

Kristy slammed her fist on the table. “And so you thought cracking onto your English teacher would help? I’m starting to think you deserve everything you’re getting, young lady.”

A tear trickled down Karen’s cheek. “Don’t be mad at me, Kristy,” she whispered. “I didn’t deserve this. I need your help.”

Kristy’s expression softened and she put an arm around her skinny step-sister. Karen could be very trying, but she did have a point. And as mayor of Stoneybrook, Kristy was in a position to help – mayors had all sorts of funny powers in these parts.

“I’ll see what I can do,” she muttered. She marched into the living room and tossed a blanket onto the sofa. “Now go get some sleep.”

* * *

Margo Pike trawled through Lisette’s boutique on Sunday morning, trying to ignore the Hangover From Hell that was gripping her temples. She hadn’t been too happy when Bruce had kicked her out at 9 to go to the country club with his cousin, but man, that had been a fun night. And seeing those Wakefield twins get shunted for Mallory’s friends was rather satisfying.

“Poor Lizzie,” she murmured, browsing through a rack of floral dresses. She held up a yellow-daisy print smock to her chin. Ugh – it was so prissy. So Elizabeth! It was also perfect for starting her job at “Little Darlings Day-Care” tomorrow.

“Hello, Margo,” she was jolted from her daze by a scratchy voice in her ear. It was that Enid weirdo! How did she manage to keep popping up all the time?

“Enid,” she answered pleasantly. “What are you doing here?” The girl was wearing far to much black eyeliner, she noted absently.

“Want to come over to my apartment?” asked Enid hopefully. “We can play some Iron Maiden CDs.”

Margo rolled her eyes. Bruce would be back at two to take her jet-skiing on Secca Lake, and spending the interim with Miss Desperate wasn’t exactly her idea of a good time. Still, any friend of Elizabeth’s was an ally of Margo’s.

“Sure, why not?” she returned brightly. Enid grabbed her hand and hurried off to her station wagon.

Fifteen minutes later, Enid was dragging her up the stairs of her apartment, on a busy street in Big Mesa. Margo yawned. Not only was Enid creepy, but she was also incredibly boring.

“Here it is!” Enid babbled excitedly. She flung open the off-white door. “This is my room!”

Margo’s eyes shot wide open. “Oh My Lord…” she trailed off. She was standing in the middle of a study, no, a shrine, dedicated to Elizabeth Wakefield. Photographs of the stunning blonde were plastered on every wall, along with clippings of “The Oracle” and various magazine shoots of that irritating dimpled smile.

A life-sized Elizabeth wax model was beside the window, and the bed was shoved against the wall to make way for a stack of Amanda Howard mysteries – Elizabeth’s favorite. Margo opened the wardrobe, and a torrent of clothes fell on top of her – all size six in various floral prints and pastel shades. Enid was pretty dumpy by comparison – at least a 14 – so she assumed these were not her clothes. Margo took in the framed swimwear shots on Enid’s nightstand, as a Colleen Dunstan CD fell off the top of the wardrobe and hit her squarely on the head.

“Ow,” she cursed, rubbing her already throbbing forehead. This was just too weird.

Enid was positively beaming as she flicked through a scrapbook of Elizabeth’s university achievements. “Do you like it?”

Everyone wants a Wakefield!

Margo was still reeling in shock. She stepped over to Enid purposefully and grabbed her black polo shirt by the collar. “What’s your game, Rollins?” she sneered.

Enid smiled back. “I’ve always had the motto, Margo,” she began, “That if you cant join ‘em, become them!” She thrust a business card into Margo’s hand. On the front was a hideous redhead. “This is Tatiana Mueller. She’s a transplant surgeon. She’s just escaped from jail, and is back running Paradise Spa. Tatty can take anyone’s face and implant it on anyone else’s – she’s been after Elizabeth’s mum’s face for years.

Margo plonked herself down on the bed, which was strewn with sunstreaked blonde wigs. “And?” She had a hunch about where this was going.

“She said she’d make me into Elizabeth,” Enid went on, her eyes flashing. “I’m going to become her! And she will get my face, and forevermore be known as plain old dorky Enid!”

Margo stood up, seething with anger. This was her plan, her dream, and she wasn’t going to let Enid-the-drip from Big Mesa take it away!

The race is on, she resolved.

“No!!!” cried another voice, deep within the dark recesses of her mind. “It’s too soon – nobody will fall for your act just yet.”

Margo knew the voice was right. She turned toward Enid, a plan forming in her mind. There was another way….

* * *

Jessica was just putting the finishing touches on her fuschia playsuit when Claudia bustled through the door of Magenta Galaxy.

“A little late, aren’t we?” she snapped. “Too busy reveling in our new popularity in California?”

“Sheesh, Kristy,” Claudia muttered under her breath. Lila had warned her about Jessica’s jealousy – apparently Geminis and Wakefields had to be the centre of attention at all times.

“We’ve got a lot of work to get through today,” Jessica went on. “We need to have the template for our fashion week show finished by the end of the week.”

“It’s okay, Jess,” Claudia mumbled, fishing around in her glo-mesh purse for some Gummi Bears. “Style Masons are gonna have nothing on our line. We’ll own that show, even if I have to model myself.”

“Fat chance,” Lila piped up, and Jessica snorted. A quarter century of junk food and a pregnancy were certainly taking their toll on Claudia’s frame. If she kept her appalling eating habits up, she’d be hot on Robin Wilson’s heels in the BMI stakes.

Claudia dropped onto a stool behind one of the industrial sewing machines. “Give it a rest, guys.” So what if she’d had a good time catching up with people in Sweet Valley on the weekend? It was such a small world – she’d met up with Dawn Schafer again, and she was pretty sure Mallory Pike’s kid sister had been there as well. If there was one thing Claudia knew from her days in the Babysitter’s Club it was that friends had to stick together to be successful! And she was determined that in the next four weeks, Magenta Galaxy would do just that, and make its mark on the fashion universe.

* * *

Kristy Thomas sat at her electoral desk on Monday afternoon, a sky-high stack of tabloid papers in front of her. Where would she start? Karen had managed to pinch about a decade’s worth of news from the Stoneybrook archives. But she wasn’t giving up – not until she’d found a lead. She scanned five of the papers splayed across the desk, and then she saw it:

“No way!” The headline hit her like a Great Idea. Kristy stared at the newspaper clipping in front of her in disbelief.

“Disgraced English Teacher Flees Sweet Valley.” She skimmed the article. It was about a girl called Caroline, who’d apparently been molested by Mr Collins while he was teaching at SVH. The anger rose in Kristy’s chest like bile. Apparently there’d been about 10 instances, some involving other students: Suzanne Devlin, Heather Mallone and Elizabeth Wakefield.

Elizabeth Wakefield…that name rang a bell. Kristy snapped her fingers. Of course! That journo chick who was staying at Watson’s! Maybe she would know something. Kristy hurried outside, ignoring the horns that blared at her as she sprinted across the road. She had a Super Special Mystery to solve!

Will Mr Collins finally face the music?
What will fashion week have in store for Magenta Galaxy?
And what will become of Enid Rollins?
Find out in Chapter 11, “Kristy and the Great Campaign”,  or “Elizabeth is Mine”

Chapter 11, “Kirsty and The Great Campaign,” or, “Elizabeth is Mine,”

“There she is,” Karen Brewer ignored the whispers and turned back to the mirror. She was in the bathroom at SHS, touching up the black eye she’d drawn on with some eyeliner at Mommy’s house. She’d had to sneak off early this morning, before Seth had noticed anything, and she’d even told him a fib about stopping in at the News office before school. Karen felt a pang of guilt – lying was definitely not her strong point. Karen put her nose in the air and marched out into the hallway. Collins had spent his first night behind bars last night, and Kristy was doing some super sleuthing to make sure he stayed in there for good. Although she’d been upset at first, Karen realized now that if she played on her victim status, Ricky Torres would come to her rescue in no time and the molestation would all be worth it.

Ricky. She drew in a deep breath. There he was, outside Pamela’s locker, running a comb through his slick black hair. He turned his head and took a few steps in her direction. Karen’s heart skipped a beat. It was really happening this time!

She puckered up her lips and leaned toward Ricky, closing her eyes. She hoped her glasses wouldn’t get in the way!

“Open your eyes, Brewer,” Ricky was right in front of her, and he did not look happy.

Oh well, she thought. She’d had fantasies about angry Ricky, too.

“You’re deplorable,” he spat. “Collins was the man, the man!” He slammed his fist against her locker. “Every guy in school hates you now, Karen. You’re a stupid, big-mouthed liar. I hope you’re happy.” He strode off, slinging his leather jacket over his shoulder.

Karen’s heart sank as she watched him disappear down the corridor. It was over. Over! She sank to her knees, trying to fight the tears spilling down her cheeks.

“Goodbye, Ricky,” she whispered softly.

* * *

“Hey Liz,” Sam Thomas wandered into the kitchen and poured himself a glass a milk.

“Hey,” she returned. It was nice to have some company at the Big House this week, now that Karen had gone back to her mom’s. She watched as Sam fixed himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and couldn’t help but think how cute he looked with his wavy brown hair. She didn’t know much about him – only that he was 27 years old and at Stamford University studying to be an actuary. She made a mental note to herself to thank Mary-Anne for this – obviously it had been her intention all along to find some new, intelligent male company for Elizabeth!

Sam flashed a lopsided grin at her. “Wanna watch the news with me?”

“Sure,” Elizabeth replied with a smile. She followed him into the living room and plonked herself down on the plush sofa. This place would sure give Fowler Crest a run for its money! She almost wished she didn’t have to spend the best part of the day in the News office, avoiding Jeffery French and churning out pathetic tabloid stories. She also knew that very soon she’d have to start looking for a place of her own. But for now, things seemed to be rolling along just fine.

The 7pm headlines flashed across the screen:

Bashers get crushed in baseball semi…Local ballet talent Ramsey in Russian cocaine bust…Stoneybrook teacher dubbed Pervy Collins locked up in Long Island jail.

“What?!” Elizabeth jumped out of her seat. “Mr Collins? Roger? No!!!” She’d always been close to the English teacher back in Sweet Valley, a little too close perhaps. But she’d always trusted him and put his affection down to the fact that she was a Wakefield – and Wakefields were irresistible. The circumstances surrounding his exodus from Sweet Valley had seemed a bit bizarre, but she never would have thought he’d be capable of a crime such as this!

Karen Brewer appeared on the screen, covered in black smudges of makeup.

“My stepsister!” Sam cried. They sat there, horrified, as Karen choked out her story.

Elizabeth shook her head in disbelief. Could this really be happening?

“Collins will be represented by Richard Spier and the trial will begin in Stoneybrook court next Monday,” concluded the journalist in a monotone.

Next Monday? So soon? Elizabeth grabbed her notebook off the dining room suite and took a pen out of her pocket. She was going to go back into the office right now to crack this case open! Tina hadn’t been too happy with her performance of late, but she was going to bring the truth to Stoneybrook and get her career back on track with this assignment. She’d have to stay calm, and impartial, because a good journalist always keeps her feelings out of it, as Mr Collins had always said.

Ironically, she would do him proud.

* * *

Beep beep. The familiar message tone alerted Steven into wakefulness. He rolled over and grabbed his Blackberry off the nightstand. Maybe this time it would be her?

He sighed. It was just Jessica, telling him she couldn’t make it back to Sweet Valley this weekend. Something about pulling all-nighters all week to get her Spring collection ready for a fashion show in New York. He’d already been woken up by his other sister earlier – she apparently had some big journalism assignment and wouldn’t be able to join him back home on Saturday.

Steven tossed off his comforter. He knew who he really wanted it to be. And why he really wanted to go back to California for the weekend.

Billie, he whispered, gazing at the photograph he kept under his pillow. It was a photo of simpler, happy times – of two newlyweds horseback riding in Maine. Billie’s hair was long and free, and Steven was a younger, healthier version of his current self. He slid the picture back into his pillowslip and ran a hand over his stubble. And what was he now? Just a miserable, workaholic shadow of the man he’d once been.

Steven glanced over at Vanessa, who was in a dream-filled sleep beside him. She was cute, and kind of quirky, he’d decided, but the Haiku poems in his briefcase every day was decidedly creepy. And her depressing monologues about her dead sister were getting old, fast.

Steven punched his pillow as his bedside radio clicked over to 4:00 am. The first light was almost upon them, the start of another tedious day.

* * *

Margo shoveled one last mound of soil onto the dank ground and released a contented sigh. El Carro graveyard had a new member tonight.

She threw down her spade, relishing the scent of the damp earth. She’d worked all night for this, but the victory had been surprisingly easy. Apparently Enid’s drug-taking days hadn’t been all behind her – one look at that GHB and she’d snatched it out of Margo’s hands like it was liquid gold. And gold it had been – within half an hour, Margo had finished her.

Margo dusted off her hands. She would rent out Enid’s old apartment now, and use the cash to offset her place on Calico Drive. But that could be done another day: today she must lie low and regain her strength. Margo gathered up her tools and stole one last look at the grave she’d dug, just as a glimmer of morning light crept over the horizon. No-one would notice that Enid-the-drip was gone. Not even Elizabeth.

Bruce’s porsche was waiting for her outside the cemetery gates. She let out a wry smile. He didn’t even ask anymore – he just did her bidding.

“Farewell, Enid!” Margo cackled to the dawn sky. The night was over, but a new life was just beginning.

Will Elizabeth find love with Sam Thomas?
Will Mr Collins be put behind bars forever?
And what will Margo do next?
Find out  in WLMS Chapter 12, “Stacey and the Fashion Victim” or  “Big Brother’s in Love Again”
While she was burying Enid-the-drip in El Carro, Margo couldn’t get Karen Brewer’s face out of her mind

Chapter 12

“Stacey and the Fashion Victim” or  “Big Brother’s in Love Again”

“Ouch!” Jessica Wakefield cursed as the safety pin in her mouth pierced her lower lip. She bit down hard, trying to stop the trickle from oozing onto the white Grecian gown on her model.

“Jess!” Claudia yelled across the room. “This seems seams undone!”

“Lila!” Jessica hollered to be heard above the din. “Get off your ass and get the day glo girls in place. We’ve got ten minutes people!”

Jessica finished pinning the gold sash on the model.

“Thanks, Maria,” she said gratefully, glad that the former child actress and Elizabeth’s friend had come to her rescue at the eleventh hour.

Nine of her girls had come down with food poisoning overnight, which barely seemed a coincidence given that Cokie Mason had been masquerading as a barrista during their rehearsal yesterday.

“Cokie,” Jessica seethed as she squatted to push down one of the model’s yellow slouch socks. The creator of Style Masons had been trying to sabotage her Fashion Week show for the best part of a month.

The techno music blasted through the massive auditorium, and butterflies crept into Jessica’s stomach. If she could pull this off, Jessica Wakefield would prove once and for all that she was her own woman, and not some over-privileged twat who lived in her sister’s shadow and scabbed off her rich parents.

She craned her neck to get a glimpse of the audience. Stacey was out there, seated next to Anna Wintour. She looked fantastic, as usual, in a white linen minidress with a purple leather blazer. Pink slouch socks and a silver Tiffany’s necklace completed the trendy ensemble.

Kanye finished his dance and a loud voice boomed across the speakers.

“Presenting…Magenta Galaxy!”

The beat picked up and the audience applauded as Claudia’s neon bright range hit centre stage. Jessica watched with a grin as 13 slim, attractive girls sashayed down the runway, only feeling envious for a second that this time, she was behind the scenes.

The Greece inspired range was next, and Jessica was glad she had talked down Claudia’s idea of poodle skirts and neckties for white togas and lycra drapery.

Jessica held her breath as the last line of models made their way out, a jumble of colours, textures and shades. She liked the crimson teapot-print maxi the best.

All of a sudden, the audience broke into rapturous applause. “Magenta Galaxy, presented by Jessica Wakefield, Lila Fowler and Claudia Kishi-Lee!”

Jessica turned to Lila and grinned. Claudia ran up beside her and starting hugging her, jumping up and down.

“We done it! We done it!” she cried.

It was only then that Jessica fully appreciated Claudia’s outfit. She was wearing an oversized yellow sweatshirt, with a pair of lilac Unicorn-print tights. The stirrups were hooked over a pair of glittered jelly-flats, and hundreds of slim gold bangles adorned her wrists.

“You look great,” Jessica whispered, and she meant it. Having Claudia around had definitely made their show a success!

“Get on stage girls!” A cute-looking photographer rounded them up, and Jessica was all too happy to work it down the runway.

“Nice!” shouted the photographer in an Aussie accent. She squinted into the fluorescent lights, noting that the guy had curly red hair and a sprinkling of freckles.

“What’s your name?” yelled Jessica from the stage, exhilarated. She was so caught up in this moment, she didn’t care!

“I’m Ben!” he called “Ben Hobart!”

* * *

Roger Collins pressed his handsome face between the cold steel bars of his cell. “Elizabeth,” he whispered.

“I’m here, Roger,” she replied softly, “but unless you tell me something instead of repeating my name over and over, you’re not going to win this thing.”

Collins’ brow furrowed, and Elizabeth noticed that his eyes didn’t crinkle up at the corners like they used to. He ran a wrinkled hand through his hair, and Elizabeth realized that shades of grey had replaced the strawberry blonde. He looked more like an old Dennis Hopper than a young Robert Redford tonight, she thought wistfully.

“Elizabeth,” he said again, and she sighed.

He sank back on the concrete floor. There was silence for many minutes, until a voice leered from the cell behind her

“Hey blondie – whassa nice gal like you doin in here? Visiting sugar daddy?” Elizabeth didn’t turn around. She’d spent a night, ten years ago, in Sweet Valley jail, but even the criminals there had been more civilized than these horrid people in Stoneybrook!

“I’m going to go, Mr Collins,” she murmured. “I don’t think I can help you,”

“Of course you cant,” he snapped. “You’re a fricken journalist, not a lawyer.” Elizabeth’s face fell. What had happened to the man who had encouraged her, who’d been behind her [Winston: I’ll bet] all her high school years?

“Journalists solve crime, too!” She retorted, an indignant frown crossing her face. “What about when Jess and I solved crime for four consecutive summers when we were interns at the Sweet Valley News? And what about when we were summer interns at the London times and we caught a werewolf? We proved ourselves to be better detectives than the LAPD and the Scotland Yard!” She glared through the iron bars at the teacher she’d once adored and respected. He was fast asleep.

Elizabeth marched out of the jail with her head held high. After that insult, she wouldn’t have one nice thing to write about Mr Collins. He could suffer the consequences of his years of indecent behaviour toward minors.

“Heathens!” She screeched when she had reached the safety of outdoors. She hoped Richard Spier wouldn’t be too stoned for the trial, and that Sharon wouldn’t hide his briefcase in the oven again. Because she wanted Mr Collins to burn in hell- in Stoneybrook!

* * *

Margo Pike slumped over her chocolate milkshake at the Dairi Burger. She was going to have to start ordering it on skim – Elizabeth certainly didn’t have an inkling of a love-handle these days. That wasn’t always the case though, thought Margo snidely, pulling a photo out of her pocket – it was of Elizabeth in her freshman year at SVU, looking more than a little pudgy around the edges in a pink spaghetti-strap dress. Ha! Thought Margo. She took a bite of her Clam Special and sighed. Bruce was at a tennis tournament tonight, and Margo was exhausted from cleaning out Enid’s old apartment all day. She needed to find a suitable hide-out for the Elizabeth wax-model before the real estate agent brought clients through in a day’s time. She also needed to find herself a lavaliere.

“What the fuck is a lavaliere?” She wondered aloud.

“Need company?” A husky voice shook her from her lull. Margo looked up and gasped. Surely not! Standing above her booth, looking slightly thinner and older than he had on Facebook, was none other than Steven Wakefield.

He sat down anyway, and grinned at her, a flirtatious look in his eyes.

Margo shrank. If the reports were true, Steven was only getting laid by minors these days, most of them Stoneybrook ex-pats. She had to get out of here, and fast.

She glanced over at his wizened face and the five o’clock shadow sneaking across his jaw. She’d expected more decency from her future elder brother. Even if he is a total spunk, she thought with a sardonic smile.

Steven’s hand reached across the table, and Margo knew she had to act.

“I have to go..” stammered Margo. “I’ve got a bus to catch.”

She marched off without another word.

* * *

Weird, thought Steven, watching the girl disappear. He’d only wanted some Clam Special.

But something about the girl’s sharp eyes and dimpled cheeks had drawn him to her. She kind of reminded him of his sisters – maybe that was it!

Steven slurped the rest of the chocolate milkshake. He was hoping Joe Howell would stop by after work so they could hang out and have a chat, like old times. But Joe was busy looking after his pregnant wife, Maria Santelli.

Happy families, thought Steven bitterly. He’d driven past Billie Winkler’s parent’s place 137 times this afternoon, trying to pluck up the courage to go back in and beg for forgiveness from their only daughter. Steven hated to admit it, but he really needed Jessica right now.

* * *

Bruce Patman threw down his Swiss woven racket and mopped the sweat off his handsome brow.

“Nice work out there boy,” Hank appeared on the court beside him, striding to keep up with his brooding son. He reached out his hand to give the handsome heir a formal pat on the shoulder.

“Thank you father,” Bruce responded with grace. “Are we still on for Martinis at the Club?”

“Shaken not stirred,” replied Hank with a grin. “But I’ve just got to duck over to Calico Drive on the way.”

Calico Drive? Bruce wondered. Aside from Margo, the street was practically crawling with plebs. Still, it bought him an hour or so – he was getting mighty sick of Hank’s growing insistence that he get himself a wife. “Like one of those lovely Wakefields,” his father had taken to persuading him. Last week, Hank had even threatened cutting him out of the will if he hadn’t settled down by his thirtieth, which was nigh.

Bruce sighed and took a gulp of Evian. He needed a wife-type, alright, if for no other reason than to keep his opulent lifestyle. But he just couldn’t get Margo Pike out of his head!

* * *

Mary Anne glanced down at the white stick in her shaking hands. “Stay still,” she hissed at herself. One purple stripe had already appeared across the litmus strip. She looked away. This was unbearable.

The second line of purple was edging across the paper. “Please stop, please stop, please stop,” she begged to a god she didn’t believe in. It didn’t. Mary Anne glanced down fearfully. A double line.

Mary Anne’s bottom lip began to tremble. She bent over the toilet seat and promptly threw up.

“Logan!” she bellowed, wiping her face. “I’m pregnant!”


Will Elizabeth put the final nail in Teacher Collins’ coffin?

What will the following nine months bring for Mary-Anne?

And who will Steven ravage next?

Find out in Chapter 13 of “When Lila Met Stacey”

Chapter 13 “Slam Book Fever”, or “Fight Fire With Fire”

Jessica Wakefield bit into a forkful of mashed potato and threw her date, Australian Ben Hobart, a seductive smile.

Ben leaned over and flirtatiously wiped a crumb off her dimpled cheek, flashing her his lopsided grin. Jessica lounged back in their booth blissfully. Ben was everything she’d dreamed of – cute, funny and talented, with an adorable accent. They were such a perfect fit, she reflected, she being the muse to his photography prowess. And  he was the first redhead she’d dated since junior year! She stretched out her tanned arms contentedly and glanced across the table. Claudia’s husband, Pete, was shoving French fries into her mouth like they were going out of fashion. And Lila was practically foaming at the mouth as Microsoft magnate Alan Gray tousled her shiny dark hair. Stacey was at a Diabetes America conference in Chicago, which was probably a good thing given that she was the only single one in their circle. It was hard to keep dates around, thought Jessica, when you freaked them out on the first date by double-checking the glycemic index of everything you ordered. Apparently cooked carrots were a no-no, as Aaron Dallas had found out at their Box Tree Café soiree back in Sweet Valley.

Alan completed a foot-high sugar-cube statue and proceeded to blow it down – all over Lila’s placemat. Jessica snorted. But instead of The Look she was expecting from her uppity friend, Lila dissolved into giggles. Even Lila was mellowing, Jessica thought with a wry smile, although the WAG status that came with dating a millionaire computer mogul could have something to do with it. She caught Lila’s eye and winked. Could this day get any better?

* * *

“Lizzie,” whined Sam Thomas as he stuck his head out the driver’s side of the Junk Bucket. “Can’t you at least come out for lunch?”

“You know I’d love to,” she countered, “But I’ve got to get to the court-room by noon to cover the Collin’s case. You wouldn’t want your own stepsister’s voice not be heard now, would you?”

“No chance of that,” muttered Sam. Leave it to loud-mouthed Karen to come between him and the Californian blonde. He hadn’t had this much of a hard-on since Stacey MacGill back in the ninth grade.

Elizabeth slid out of the passenger side and slammed the door. “Bye Sam!” she called brightly. She had a case to crack!

Five minutes later, Elizabeth was seated in the Stoneybrook Courthouse. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Karen Brewer waving ecstatically at her, her gold lavaliere dangling around the collar of a too-large black power suit. Elizabeth suppressed a laugh. Karen had been skulking outside her bedroom door for the entire week she’d been staying at the Big House, and Elizabeth was fairly certain that the high-schooler’s increasingly regular visits had less to do with Seth being a bastard and more to do with a sister-like admiration.

The judge strode in, and Elizabeth joined the rest of the courthouse in standing. Mr Collins, the defendant, was checking out one of the young female jurors, she noticed. She scribbled down a description in her slam-book.

“Disgraced school teacher Roger Collins was a shadow of his former self on day one of his court hearing in Stoneybrook. He was pale and gaunt, and could barely raise his crinkly eyes to meet the judge’s. It appears his Robert Redford good looks and strawberry blonde hair are as much a memory as his once revered reputation.”

Elizabeth put down her pen as Richard Spier stepped up on the podium to cross-examine Karen Brewer, who’s just finished telling the entire court that she swore to tell the whole truth, or else she’d turn herself in to Morbidda Destiny. This was going to be a long afternoon.

* * *

Bruce tapped impatiently on Margo Pike’s dresser, his engraved cufflinks clinking against the laquered surface.

“Are you done yet?” he chastised her. She was still in the ensuite of her Calico drive townhouse, taking an unacceptable amount of time for a woman to get ready. He absently rifled through the contents of her desk. Blonde hair dye? Green contacts? Daisy perfume? A floral cardi?

Bruce sighed. After their date at Palomar House tonight, he was hoping to seal the deal. But his girlfriend was acting way more Liz Wakefield and way less Annie Whitman than he’d been hoping for. In fact, if he didn’t get more than just a bikini untie or a boob grope, he was going straight to the country club to bag one of the floozies his uncle was always pushing on him. Ordinarily Bruce Patman did not wait around this long for a chick – but Margo’s mysterious games and obsession with his past had drawn him in like a moth to a flame.

“I’m coming!” she yelled back, and Bruce grinned.

“That’s what she said,” he called.

Despite his initial distress at the woman speaking out of turn, Bruce had grown to love how Margo didn’t back down –  it was like a constant battle of the wills. The mature versus the youthful. The old money versus the nouveux riche. This was why he’d stuck around. He was becoming tired of the same old Californian harlots anyway – and Hank had made it pretty clear that if his only son didn’t have a wife by his thirtieth birthday, the Patman fortune would be directed elsewhere. Maybe Bruce could settle after all – and maybe it could be with Margo.

The bathroom door swung open, and Bruce gasped. Before him stood a sized-six, blue-eyed, blonde goddess, a flower-print maxi adorning her tanned body and matching barrettes in her flowing mane.

“Elizabeth?” he squinted. “How did you—”

“Hush,” the girl sauntered over to him and placed a finger to his lips. Bruce shook his head, confused. The husky voice was clearly Margo’s.

“I’m almost Elizabeth,” she whispered, a glint in her aqua-blue eyes. She toyed with the gold lavaliere around her neck seductively. “But tonight I’m all yours.”

Yeehaa! Thought Bruce. He’d thought his chances of having both Wakefield twins at once were all over, having groped them both on several occasions, but separately. First there was Jessica in Ken Matthew’s swimming pool, then a comatose Liz in his bedroom, then back to Jess in their Club X days, and then Liz in the kitchen after they’d discovered their parent’s secret affair. Bruce smiled at the memory, recalling the way that Pleb Wilkins had taken off like a girl when he’d caught his woman sucking face with the Patman. Yep, he’d had ‘em one at a time, but now there was a Wakefield doppelganger in Sweet Valley, anything was possible!

He held out his forearm with mock chivalry and Margo linked her slender one in his.

Bruce was no fool, Margo reasoned – and even he’d fallen for her new appearance. Now as soon as Elizabeth’s voice was mastered she was going over the road to work her charm on a certain Spanish-tiled split-level house. But first she had to consummate this thing – give Bruce a crack at the hottest soon-to-be-Wakefield yet.

“Let’s not bother with Palomar House,” she purred, fiddling with the top button of Bruce’s polo shirt. “I’m happy right where we are.”

* * *

“He made me drink water from the hose,” Karen was saying, “And then he grabbed me and tried to kiss me.”

A hush fell over the courtroom.

“I asked Ben Brewer – that’s my great-great grandfather’s ghost – to come and rescue me but he couldn’t. Mr Collins was too drunk and too strong.”

Elizabeth hurriedly scribbled down the last of the victim’s notes. She knew Collins had been a flirt, but now she was sure he’d totally crossed the line. He’d be locked up indefinitely, she just knew it.

“Court is adjourned,” said the judge, adjusting her blonde wig. “We will resume at 9am tomorrow.”

Gradually the voices picked up, and Elizabeth watched as Karen stumbled off the podium, running to give her stepsister Kristy a hug. Collins was slumped over his chair, despondent. Serves him right, thought Elizabeth, with no more than a twinge of pity.

“Elizabeth!” she turned. Her boss, Tina, was making her way towards the row of journalists.

“Tina!” Elizabeth smiled brightly. “We’re making great headway.”

“I know,” Tina smiled back. “I’m so proud of you for getting on track with this, Elizabeth. So much so, that I’m going to ask you to head to Sweet Valley to do some more research.” She waved her hands in front of her like she was having a vision splendid. “How’s this for a headline: The seedy past of Roger Collins: From Sweet Valley to Sodom. I’ll give you a fortnight.”

Elizabeth grinned. Two weeks in Sweet Valley? This would be a dream come true! Maybe her former colleagues at the Tribune would even let her have her old office back. Elizabeth tucked her black-and-white speckled slam book under her arm and shook Tina’s hand. “You’re on!”

* * *

Jessica, Lila and Claudia strolled back to their workshop, still on cloud nine after their romantic triple-lunch-date. Ben was so handsome! Thought Jessica dreamily. And she loved the way he said “Jessicah” with that ocker accent.

“What’s that strange smell?” Lila sniffed. “It’s like burnt feathers,”

“Burnt ring dings,” Claudia corrected her. “It reminds me of the time I left my GHD on the pillow and burnt my candy.”

A loud siren wailed nearby, and Jessica watched as a fire engine whizzed past them. Jessica’s heart jumped into her throat. She had a bad feeling about this. She quickened her pace, and the girls fell into step beside her.

A thick smog swirled around them, and Lila began to choke.

Jessica reached over and impulsively squeezed her friend’s hand. She knew Lila had a phobia of burning to death, ever since a pyromaniac had set fire to a wing of Fowler Crest in high school. Jessica hoped Lila would be over that before they went bushwalking in the Blue Mountains, Ben’s hometown. Then again, maybe her friend’s fear of bushwalking would prevail.

The trio rounded the corner, and Jessica gasped. The inferno was closer than she’d thought! A troop of ten or more fireman were struggling to control a blaze writhing over their very building like hundreds of hungry snakes. Where Magenta Galaxy had stood just hours before, a mass of smouldering debris remained, with pockets of flame leaping up among the piles of ash.

A crowd of New Yorkers was gathering around the rubble, shocked looks on their faces. Jessica could make out the faces of the Romano’s, whose Italian ristorante had once enjoyed moderate success from the top floor of the building.

“Outta my way!” Jessica shoved through the crowd, anger and disbelief searing through her sized-six body. Her craft, her handiwork, products of hours of labour had become just a heap of smoking rubble. Every stitch she’d sewn with her very hands, every idea she’d brought to life had combusted, burnt to a singe on the Manhattan sidewalk.

The tears streamed down Jessica’s face as she fought through the rubble, searching for a scrap of lycra, a pice of lame`, something to tell her that she’d achieved something, that she mattered. She glanced beside her. Claudia was pushing a gummi bear into Lila’s hands, but unlike hypoglycemic Stacey, Lila had fainted from the horror that Jessica now felt, like a stake in her chest. Jessica raised her head and shook the tears from her blue-green eyes. And then she saw her, from the corner of her eye, a triumphant grin on her heavily made-up face as she flicked her shiny dark hair over her shoulder and disappeared into the crowd.

“Cokie Mason,” seethed Jessica. “You will pay!”

Which famous Sweet Valley villain came back from the dead and started the fire?

Will Margo pull off a twin switch and fool Nalice?

And what is going on in Mary Anne’s womb?

Find out in Chapter 14, “Mary Anne and Too Many Babies” or “The Morning After”

From Sweet Valley to Stoneybrook, things are heating up…

When Lila Met Stacey Chapter 14 SUPER EDITION “Mary Anne and Too

Many Babies” or “The Morning After”

Claudia Kishi-Lee slumped across the wooden table, absently doodling in the margins of her sketch book. It was Day One of Mission: Rebuilding Magenta Galaxy, but her heart was still full of sorrow. She wished Mimi were here now, to make her a cup of green tea and tell her everything was going to be alright. But Mimi was gone, and everything was a schomozzle. shamozell. A Big Mess.

Claudia glanced down at her outfit. She’d dressed in dark colours for the somber occasion: Grey-and-white striped leggings underneath a black turtleneck, with flat patent leather boots and grey marle scarf slung across her shoulders. The tears weeping from her almond-shaped eyes were cleverly disguised by a pair of Jackie O sunglasses, and her favourite comfy knit beret sat atop her glossy black plait.

She grabbed a Hershey bar off the centre of the table and looked across at her friends. Jessica, normally the bubby leader of their company, looked haggard and pale, the dark circles under her eyes a testimony to the fact that she’d barely slept since Monday’s inferno. And Lila was thumbing through the latest Vogue, but even Claudia could tell she wasn’t reading it.

Claudia picked up the felt-tipped pen with a sigh. It was time to rally the troops.

Wear to Start, she wrote on top of a fresh page.

“W. H. E. R. E,” Lila spelled, without looking up.

“Where do we start?” Jessica mumbled, absently picking at an Oreo. “We have nothing.”

“We have something,” Lila said pointedly.

“What’s that?” Claudia looked dumbfounded.

“We have money. We’ve got Alan, Ben, my parents…”

“What’s the use of money,” argued Jessica, “When we don’t know how to use it?”

Claudia set down the pen. Jessica was right – after all, Lila’s finances were still controlled by her father, and Jessica couldn’t organize a budget if her life depended on it. And as for Claudia – her arithmetic skills were almost as bad as her spelling.

Just then, Claudia’s kitchen door swung open, and in burst Stacey, looking flustered yet striking in a pale yellow trench coat.

“I came as soon as I heard!” She cried. “And I brought someone with me.”

A tall, attractive man with a crop of dark hair and slate-blue eyes entered the kitchen.

“This is Nicholas Morrow.”

* * *

“Mary-Anne Spier?”

Mary-Anne tottered out of her seat in the waiting room of Dr Johannsen’s clinic, tossing her chocolate wrapper into the trashcan. She was certainly eating for more than one these days! Mary-Anne couldn’t believe that today she’d be seeing the first ultrasound images of her baby. She just hoped it was Logan’s and not a product of the one-night stand she’d had with AJ Morgan. If she gave birth to a ranga, she’d know.

“I’m Dr Egbert. Follow me,” commanded a lanky man in a white coat, smiling kindly at her.

Mary-Anne looked disappointed. She’d been hoping to see a female, preferably someone experienced like Dr Johanssen. But the woman was run off her feet practicing all kinds of medicine, much like her father’s contribution to the legal system. She entered the sterile room and let the man take her blood pressure.

“So you’re twelve weeks,” he began conversationally.

“Yup,” she replied nonchalantly. She lay down as the doctor put the cold jelly stuff over her ever-expanding tummy and moved the probe into place.

“Well that’s interesting,” he said with a lopsided grin.

“What?” she demanded. These hormones were making her so moody!

“I hope you’ve made some extra room in your house,” he giggled. “’Cause you’re having twins!”

“Twins?” Mary-Anne sat up, aghast. Twins…that was like Marilyn and Carolyn Arnold…Adam, Byron and Jordan Pike, the Shillabers, the Porters, the Stevensons, the goddam Wakefields!

“Noooooo!” groaned Mary-Anne, letting her head fall in her hands. This world was full of clones – and she was about to add another couple to the gene pool!

* * *

Margo ran up the steps of 93 Calico Drive and into the Spanish-tiled kitchen.

“Mom? Dad? Steven? I’m home!” She called in her best chirpy Elizabeth voice.

“Darling!” Alice Wakefield’s arms were around her in an instant.

“Elizabeth!” Ned wrapped his arms around his wife.

“Family hug!!” Yelled Steven, running into the kitchen to engulf the trio.

Margo allowed herself to revel just a moment in the familial warmth. She looked up at Alice and smiled softly.

“It’s good to be back, Mom.”

“Good to have you here, sweetie,” said Alice in a sing-song voice, as she turned back to the roast she was preparing.

Dumbass, thought Margo, suppressing a guffaw. She was now one hundred per cent convinced that Nalice were the worst parents in history. For starters, the birthmark on her left shoulder was just a henna tattoo. And her contacts were at least two shades off the twins’ blue-green eyes. This was going to be easier than she’d thought.

“Pancakes?” Offered Ned gallantly, and Margo graciously took a stack. His cologne smelled incredible, she mused. If Alice ever hooked up with Hanky Patman again, she’d be more than happy to have a crack at Ned.

“Nooo!” cried the voice of reason in her mind. “He’s about to become your father. Even if Steven is totally inappropriate with siblings, this relationship is sacred.”

Margo smiled and dug into the blueberry pancakes. Her current diet was torture, but she was more than happy to break it for an afternoon with her new family.

She grinned at Steven and he winked back. My new family, she thought, starting very, very soon.

* * *

Lila Fowler wrapped her pea-green coat around her and strode to keep up with Jessica as they made their way along the bleak Manhattan sidewalk. Since their meeting this morning, she was determined that nothing would to stop them getting to the bottom of the fire that had ruined Magenta Galaxy. With the help of Stacey, they’d drawn up a sensible four-week plan to get their business on track, and Nick Morrow had called in some family favours from his designer mother, Skye.

Lila puffed out a breath of frosty air.

“Can you believe Nicholas Morrow’s a diabetic?” Jessica was babbling. “It could explain why he rejected me in junior year. His family had such bizarre medical problems! He’s still such a stud though, and he really seems keen on Stacey. Fancy hooking up at a diabetic conference.”

“Shut up Jess,” admonished Lila. After twenty-six years, it still astounded her that in times of crisis Jessica continued to ogle men.

“I’m sorry,” Jessica whispered. “I know how hard this is for you. But we’ll get Cokie this time, we will.”

They rounded the corner outside Style Masons.

“You ready?” Jessica squeezed her best friend’s hand. She was glad they’d left the other two back at Claudia’s. Stacey especially seemed to back down during conflict. But Jessica and Lila were primed.

Lila took a deep breath and pushed open the door of Style Masons.

“Look out, Cokie,” she muttered under her breath.

But it wasn’t Cokie who greeted them that afternoon – no, the fashionista had gone lunching with a group of models and left her shop in the care of someone else. Someone Lila had thought she’d never see again.

But there he was, his feet propped up on the glass-topped counter, a cigar dangling out of his mouth as he casually toyed with the lighter in his hands.

“Hello Lila,” he said calmly, his dark eyes flashing. “I wondered when you’d come.”

Lila felt herself falling. She gripped Jessica’s skinny arm for support.

“John Pfeifer?” she choked, aghast

* * *

Bruce Patman flung his tweed jacket on the 20-seater dining room table and took a sip of whisky straight from the decanter. Margo had been gone all day and he was getting seriously frisky. The old Bruce would have swung by the Country Club on the way home and picked up some half-drunk Lovett whore, but lately, things had changed. He absently rifled through the mail that Mrs Pervis had brought in, debating whether to call Margo, or just wait for his father’s stripper to stop by at noon.

“Hey Buddy,” Bruce glanced up. Frank Santelli, his father’s laywer, was slyly traipsing through the dining room, awkwardly trying to conceal an A4 file behind his back.

“So…what are you doing?” Mr Santelli asked uncertainly, trying to turn the attention back to his client’s son.

“Your mum,” Bruce snapped. He had no time for Frank’s games. “What’s behind your back, anyway?” He craned his chiseled neck to get a better view.

Frank remained silent.

“Well?” Bruce challenged. He marched over to the grey-haired lawyer and snatched the document out of his hands.

“My Last Will and Testament, By Henry Wilson Patman the Third,” he read with a frown.

“Holy shit..” Bruce glanced up, a look of defiance spreading across his face. “Hank’s writing me out of the will? Impossible!” He slammed a fist down on the table, and the cutlery rattled ominously. “You bastard!” he raged, shaking a finger in the laywer’s face. “This is not on! I’m Bruce Patman!”

Frank smiled calmly. “And your father is Henry Wilson Patman. And what Hank wants, he gets – just ask Alice.”

Bruce lowered his voice. “It cant be too late,” he whispered menacingly. “Tell me what I need to do, and I’ll do it.”

Frank pointed to a clause, in fine typed print right at the end. He flashed Bruce a triumphant grin. “You need to marry a Wakefield.”

A dark furrow creased Bruce’s handsome brow. “Frank —“ he sighed imploringly.

“I’ve gotta run,” Mr Santelli cut him off. “There’s a rally at Secca Lake this arvo. You’ve got a year, Bruce. Just make it happen.”

And just like that, he was gone.

Bruce slumped back into the mahogany grandfather’s chair and grabbed his Blackberry. Without another thought, he punched in Margo’s number. She would know exactly what to do.

* * *

Elizabeth Wakefield ran up the steps of her parent’s place on Calico Drive, exhausted after her long plane ride and an afternoon spent interviewing Roger Collins’ ex, French teacher Nora Dalton.

“Liz?” her mother greeted her, a furrow crossing her elegant brow. “Weren’t you wearing a floral dress before?”

Elizabeth glanced down at her beige chinos. “Not unless an evil twin is in Sweet Valley trying to steal my life again,” she teased.

Ned entered the room with a smile. “Don’t worry, my dear,” he reasoned, placing a strong hand on Alice’s shoulder. “It must have been Jessica pulling a twin switch.”

“Of course,” replied Alice. She’d thought Jessica was busy in New York after her company had burnt down, but Jessica tended to pull strange tricks in times of trouble.

Elizabeth tried to smile, but something made her feel uneasy. She cast a glance outside at the perfectly trimmed hedges and an involuntary shudder ran down her spine. She could’ve sworn she’d seen a tanned, heart-shaped face, staring back at her with steely blue eyes.

What damage will pyromaniac Pfeifer do on his return from the dead?

Will Margo’s evil plot prevail?

And where will Bruce Patman turn when the shit hits the fan?

Find out in Chapter 15, “The Love Bet,” or, “Stacey’s Big Crush”

But now I’ll leave you with some Halloween cheer. Whether you’re going to the Halloween Hop with Trevor Sandborne, trick-or-treating with the Pikes, or just steering clear of Ben Brewer and Morbidda Destiny – who better to celebrate Halloween cheer with than the BSC? [they had, what, 13 goddam Halloweens in eigth grade]

Here’s hoping the wind changes…

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!


CHAPTER 15 “The Love Bet” or, “Stacey’s Big Crush”

“Interesting…” Twenty-six-year-old Elizabeth Wakefield tapped her pen on her bedroom desk as she rifled through the transcript of her latest interview, conducted over the phone with Cara Walker.

It turned out that Collins had made a play at the olive-skinned beauty after gym class that day. And there was Elizabeth thinking he’d just been the chaperone! She turned over the page. First Steven and then the English teacher? Cara had always had some serious Daddy issues, but this was just plain disgusting!

Elizabeth took a sip of her root beer. She was finally getting to the bottom of this. And she was certain that justice would be done. She glanced at her phone. Sam had rung only twice today – it was possible that he was losing interest. Or that he had something better to do than sit and wait around for Elizabeth Wakefield all day. She dismissed the thought with a laugh. Preposterous!

She was interrupted by a knock at the door.

“Sweetie?” Alice Wakefield poked her blonde pixie-cut hair through the doorframe. “I’m heading off to a conference in Chicago for a few days.”

“See ya,” responded Liz without looking up. Her mother sure had a lot of interstate responsibilities these days, she thought absently. It was a shame Ned was always too busy at Sweet Valley local court to join her.

“Oh and Liz? I might be out of reach. I think there was an earthquake and the phones are down over there.”

***

Margo Pike sprawled out on Bruce’s canopied king-bed, hoping she didn’t have panda eyes from last night. She rubbed her eyes, gritty and dry from sleeping in those dastardly aqua contact lenses.

“I bet Lizzie never sleeps in makeup,” taunted The Voice.

“Fuck off,” Margo grumbled. She slipped into a purple Lacoste shirt of her boyfriend’s and tiptoed into his adjoining bathroom. She peeled open her eyes and sighed. It was time to stop procrastinating. Today was the day.

Bruce appeared behind her, and started nuzzling her neck with vigor. She let herself revel in his warmth for just a second, and the familiar electric shock coursed through her body.

Margo turned to him, hoping that just the right amount of cleavage was poking out below the Peter Pan collar.

“Bruce,” she began. “There’s something I need to tell you.”

Here it comes, she thought. The deal-breaker or the deal-sealer. She took a deep breath.

“You remember when you told me that my life in Connecticut wasn’t the life I deserved, and that my rightful place was Sweet Valley?” Her eyes flashed gold as she waited for Bruce to meet her gaze.

“Well you were right. I am destined to be here, destined for wealth and power and popularity.” Bruce took a step back as she continued.

“And the reason I dressed like Elizabeth last night is because…because I want to become her.” She raised her head to the sky in defiance, and Bruce could just make out a hint of raven-haired re-growth.

“I will murder her, and become her, and take my rightful place in the Wakefield family,” she finished with a rasp.

There was silence and Bruce cracked up.

“You’re good, Margo,” he chuckled, giving her a playful shove.

“Don’t mess with me Bruce,” her face morphed into a contorted mask. She drew her hand from behind her back and produced a glittering knife.

“Holy shit, Margo!” Bruce backed into the door. “Please don’t kill me! I’m Bruce Patman!”

Margo relaxed. She had him on the back foot.

“I need your help, Bruce,” it was more a threat than an appeal. “I need you.” Or else I’ll bury you next to Enid-the-drip, she added silently.

“Margo, you’re nuts!” he yelped, his normal composure wavering.

“It’s me or Elizabeth,” she whispered with a sardonic smile. She held the knife perpendicular to his chiseled neck. “Do you really want her to live?”

Bruce was sweating now. He ran a hand through his dripping hair. Sure, he’d been pissed when the Wakefields had blue-balled him in the 11th grade, but muder? That seemed a little crazy.

“What’s in it for me, Margo?” he tried to meet her steely gaze with his own, but he knew it was faltering.

Margo plonked herself down on the bathroom sink, where they’d gone at it like Annie Whitman just hours before.

“You want your fortune, right,” she rasped in his ear. “The fortune you grew up with, that you’re entitled to.”

“I do,” he murmured, a feeling of defiance rising in his chest.

“And you wouldn’t want your father to snatch it away from you like that, simply because you weren’t married to a Wakefield.”

Bruce nodded. She was right.

“And if you kept me around, not only would you avoid my bad side, but you would live with a Wakefield —”

“Elizabeth Wakefield,” he finished for her with a grin.

This was genius! Losing his fortune would have been bad enough, but incurring the wrath of Margo was a fate worse than – or equal to – death.

“I love you, Margo,” he murmured, lifting her chin to his. She dropped the knife, and it richocheted off the bench, clattering across the Spanish tiles.

“I love you too Bruce,” she drawled. “More than you know.”

* * *

Steven Wakefield rapped on the Winkler’s door on Saturday morning. A wholesome Wakefield breakfast of blueberry pancakes and bacon had given him the strength and courage he needed to do this. He knocked again, impatiently, clutching the pink peonies between his white knuckles.

“Steven!?” Mrs Winkler greeted him like an old friend. He loved the way his former mother-in-law’s grey eyes crinkled up at the corners, and the slightly unkempt manner of her silver bun. She seemed more real somehow than his own perfect mother.

“Hi Mrs Winkler,” he allowed her to engulf him in a warm hug. He looked up hesitantly and his voice quietened. “Is Billie here?”

Mrs Winkler cleared her throat. “She’s in her room.” She cocked her head upstairs. “But Steven,” she warned him, “You will find her much altered.”

Steven took the stairs three at a time and pushed open the door of the room he knew so well, recalling in a flash those nights he’d stood outside, throwing pebbles at his sweetheart’s window.

But it wasn’t Billie who greeted him this time – at least, not the Billie he knew. In her place was a pale, overweight blimp wearing a grey tent dress and chowing down on a Hershey Bar.

“Billie!?” Steven gasped, clutching the door for support.

“Steven!” She giggled, her chins wobbling up and down like a turkey’s. “Want some?” Before he could say another word, she gobbled down the last of the chocolate, and tossed the wrapper on her bedside table with a satisfied belch. “I knew you’d come back, Steve!” She heaved her enormous frame off the double bed and hurried over toward the door.

Steven backed into the doorframe as Billie lumbered toward him, beads of perspiration on her saggy jaw.

“Just in time for the discomarathon, too!” she went on.

Steven couldn’t believe his eyes. Instead of the slim, attractive cello player he’d married so long ago, here was this horrid-looking gargantuan, stuffing her face with candy and wearing a shapeless thing that would make Tricia Martin roll over in her grave!

“Ste-eve!” She whined. “Say something!?”

It had always astounded Steven that whenever anyone in Sweet Valley gained a few pounds, they morphed into an annoying, desperate wannabee. Like that Robin Wilson chick who was always hanging off his sisters. Tubby Wilson, they’d called her. It was like the desperate threshold was BMI dependent.

“Steven?” she asked uncertainly. “Aren’t you gonna say something?”

Steven shielded his gaze. He couldn’t bear to look at what his wife had become.

“I uh, I can’t, it’s just that…”

“You want to go to Miller’s Point instead?” She flapped her chubby little hands excitedly.

“I’m not in love with you, Billie.” A stunned silence followed.

“Don’t blame yourself, Steven,” she snarled bitterly. “I became this despite you. Now get.”

She didn’t have to ask twice. Steven stumbled down the carpeted stairs and out the door, trying to shake the dreadful image from his memory. He needed jailbait. Now.

* * *

“Here – sip this,”

Lila Fowler lay on her plush purple sofa as Alan Gray pushed an Alka Seltzer into her hand.

“Go awaaaay,” she groaned sufferingly.

Alan exchanged a look with Stacey. “She hasn’t moved all afternoon,” he told her, a worried look on his face. “Jessica reckons that Pfeifer guy really shook her up.”

Lila lifted her head. “He’s dead….he’s dead..” she moaned deliriously.

Jessica crouched down to hold her friend’s hand. “Obviously the fire at that Gladiator’s game in high school didn’t kill him,” she said softly. “Maybe you were too busy hooking up with Steven that night to notice him escape?”

Lila sank back on the bed. “No!” she choked.

She forced herself to look at the concerned faces swirling around her head. Alan, Jessica, Ben, Claudia and her token husband… even Stacey and Nicholas Morrow had pulled apart for the moment – earlier in the day they’d disgusted Jessica by injecting each other with their 10am insulin.

Lila felt a tear trickle down her alabaster cheek. She felt so pathetic, so alone. George and Grace were in the Isle of Mann this week, and out of contact. But Lila knew she needed to pull herself together this time – to fight John Pfeifer and get back the Magenta Galaxy they’d all worked so hard for.

“Lila,” a husky voice roused her from her fitful unconscious. She glanced up expectantly as a familiar face drifted before her, a pair of warm, slate-grey eyes smiling kindly at her.

“Nicholas,” she whispered gratefully, clutching his outstretched arm. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Will Lila find the strength to overcome Lunatic Pfeifer?
Will Steven Wakefield love again?
And while Margo is rising, where has Alice Wakefield really been?
Find out in Chapter 16, The Wakefield Legacy: The Untold Story

Chapter 16, The Wakefield Legacy: The Untold Story

Margo Pike strolled onto the eastern deck of Sweet Valley Country Club on Sunday afternoon, relishing the warm Californian sun on her bare legs. It had been a bold move going out in public as Elizabeth today, but so far it had been worth it. It was her seventeenth birthday, after all, and Bruce was spoiling her rotten! She took a sip of her cosmopolitan and wondered for a second whether anyone in the Pike family had noticed her absence yet. It was getting on for a month, after all. Nah, she thought bitterly, a sardonic sneer momentarily crossing her attractive face. Margo turned her attention back to the court, where Bruce was servng his cousin an absolute walloping. She hoped that word of Bruce’s date with “Elizabeth” would reach Hank’s ears before too long. But he was apparently in Chicago on a business trip for a couple of weeks.

“Jessica! Jess!”

A whiny voice called her attention, and she turned to see a willowy blonde skipping toward her.

Amy Sutton, Margo groaned inwardly. She’d already pegged the girl as a slut from her yearbook shots and her facebook profile.

“Hi Amy – but I’m not Jess: I’m Liz,” she corrected the older girl.

Amy looked taken aback. “What, you avoiding your old friends now?” she demanded. “I saw Liz at the chemist this morning! I know its you, Jess. Besides, Liz’s skirts aren’t normally that short,” she added snidely.

Shit, Margo panicked. She knew. She racked her brain.

“It must have been Jess at the chemist,” she replied flatly. “Because I’m Elizabeth. And unless this is sixth grade, we’re not the best of friends.” She glared at Amy, who was now viewing her with a suspicious gaze.

“I work at project youth,” Amy went on. “And I can read people.” She stepped right up in Margo’s face, her grey eyes piercing Margo’s blue-green contact lenses.

“If that regrowth tells me correctly,” Amy continued icily, “You’re not a Wakefield at all – you’re a changeling.”

Margo composed herself. She knew what had to be done.

“Why don’t you come over to Calico Drive for a bit, Amy,” she whispered. “You can psychoanalyse me all you want. Bring Freud for all I care.”

She grabbed the girl’s skinny wrist and guided her into Bruce’s porsche. He’d understand, just this once, she reasoned. Although she had almost been carsick over the leather interior yesterday, which Bruce had warned her was a dealbreaker.

Amy’s eyes were shining with anticipation.

Idiot, thought Margo. This shouldn’t take long at all.

* * *

Twenty-six-year-old Lila Fowler glanced up from the magazine she was pretending to read and sipped her latte. She couldn’t believe she was actually in Starbucks. Still, it seemed safer to meet Pfeifer on neutral territory. Just as the thought crossed her mind her oppressor appeared at the mood-lit entrance, flanked by his wife, Cokie Mason. He paused and kissed the brunette roughly on the forehead, then turned his attention squarely toward the booth where Lila sat, his imposing frame and wild eyes dredging up those horrid memories from a decade ago.

First there had been the attempted rape – that frightening night at Miller’s Point when he’d smacked her head against the door of his car. Then there was the stalking, and then the pyromania. Lila shivered, recalling the fire at Fowler Crest, and Pfeifer’s crazed attempts to kill her in an inferno at a Sweet Valley High football game. John Pfeifer was declared dead that night, but like so many others in Sweet Valley, he’d escaped mortality.

The memory of the thick, ashen fog was so real it almost choked her, and the vision of the serpentine flames licking at the West Wing of Fowler Crest was as vivid as if it were yesterday.

Lila steadied her countenance as John threw his body into the seat across from her. She had to stay strong.

“So what made you beg me to come on this…date with you?” he leered, his slate grey eyes glowering.

“It’s not a date,” she said through gritted teeth.

Pfeifer absently trawled a finger through the candle in the centerpiece. He shot a look at Lila. “You know what they say about little girls who play with fire, don’t you?”

“My lawyers are working on this.” She replied frostily. “And they will prosecute you.”

“You can’t prove it, Lila,” he snarled, his eyes dancing crazily. He pushed his contorted face close to Lila’s. “Fires happen.”

Lila opened up her grey and white speckled slam book. “But I can prove this.” She took out a photograph – it was from a few months earlier, of John in a Phuket nightclub pushing a girl up against the wall. She couldn’t be a day over fourteen.

John’s mouth gaped open. “Where did you get that?”

Lila flashed him a triumphant grin. “I have my sources,” she snapped haughtily.

John held the photograph to the candle flame.

“Do what you want, Pfeifer,” she threatened. “It’s on my flash drive. And if you don’t give me exactly what I want, it will be all over facebook in an hour, and your marriage to that stupid little whore will be over.”

John dropped the picture onto the cover of the slam book and met Lila’s gaze. “And what would that be?”

Lila set down a document before him and delivered the ultimatium.

“You give us one of Style Mason’s warehouses to take over,” she said simply, “And you leave us all alone from then on in.”

John sat back in his chair, stroking his angular jaw in consideration.

Finally he spoke. “You can have the one on Fourth Street,” he deliberated. “At a price.”

“Name it,” said Lila, drawing a check book out of the pocket of her Burberry trench.

John covered her small manicured hand with his rough one. “I don’t want you money, Lila,” he whispered. “I want you. Properly, this time.”

“I owe you nothing!” Lila was getting agitated. “And this is my blackmail, dammit!”

Pfeifer’s eyes flashed. “You can threaten all you want, Lila, but lets face it – I have the command of the most powerful force on earth. What match is your little photo when I can fight it with fire? He stood up and grabbed his sports coat off the back of the chair. “You have until Saturday to consider my proposal,” he warned menacingly. “Or else I burn down your house, and your little friends too.”

Sheer terror pervaded Lila as she watched him leave, bidding a charming goodbye to the barrista. She was frozen to the core. He’d gotten the upper hand alright – and now her life was in danger.

Backfire, she thought ironically.


* * *

Mary-Anne wolfed down the last of her Clam Chowder and belched loudly. Logan blushed, and looked apologetically at the other patrons at the Burger Garden.

A break at Sea City on the Jersey Shore was just what the doctor ordered, Mary Anne decided, as she reclined in their booth. She was feeling much more serene here, and Logan had commented that she even had that pregnancy glow. She glanced down at her ever-expanding abdomen. If by glow he means jelly-belly, he’s on the money, she thought with a wry smile.

They’d had breakfast with Dawn this morning, although her step-sister was still recovering from the ill-effects of whatever she’d put in her hookah the night before.

Dawn had insisted they stay for brownies, but they’d had to make an excuse when she’d tried to coerce them into a rally with her at Shadow Lake.

Mary-Anne grinned. She remembered coming here with the Pike kids many moons ago, before Abby Stevenson had murdered Claire. They didn’t seem so bad now, those Pike children, and even Margo had impressed her with her work at the Stoneybrook News. But that was before Mary-Anne had gone on maternity leave: She could barely fit the twins behind her desk these days! She was already five months along, and another four months seemed like a holiday now that her morning sickness had stopped. Shadow Lake…Hawaii….Camp Mowhawk….there was so much to do before the doppelgangers made their entrance! She gobbled down Logan’s remaining gelato. If only Claudia Kishi could see her now.

* * *

At 11:40pm, Bruce tiptoed upstairs in Margo’s Calico Drive flat.

“Babe,” he whispered. “Good news – I just got off the phone to Dad. Told him I’d taken Liz Wakefield out to the Country Club.” He pushed open the bedroom door.

“Margo?”

Margo opened her eyes. “How long was I out for?” She sat up. “Oh, hey Bruce.”

He reached over and tenderly tucked a lock of her blonde hair behind her ear. “Were you asleep?”

“I’m beat,” she muttered. “We’re really gonna have to start making use of the hitman who lives next to your dealer. I knifed Amy Sutton earlier.” She dropped back on the pillow.

Bruce glanced down wistfully. He’d always had a soft spot for Amy Sutton – whenever Annie Whitman wasn’t giving it up, he could always rely on the pretty blonde for a quickie in the bushes. Still, these things had to be done. And hearing the joy in his father’s voice made it all the more worthwhile.

“Sleep tight, angel.” He kissed Margo on the forehead. “You’ve got a big day ahead.”

Margo drifted into the blissful haze of her subconscious. The dreams troubled her less these days – everything was being restored to its rightful order

“Everything will be put right,” she rasped as she fell into a deep sleep.

* * *

Alice Wakefield snatched the penthouse room key from the Hilton bellhop and scurried into the elevator. So far so good, she thought nervously, pulling her spotted head scarf around her heart-shaped face. She hitched up her nylon stockings, held only in place by a flimsy garter belt. Alice Wakefield was dressed to kill, and she knew it.

The elevator grinded to a halt and she strode purposefully into the hall, seductively swiping the plastic card through its lock. The door whisked open, and the full lavishness of the penthouse suite was upon her.

Time to design this interior, she whispered.

Looking more like the twin’s sister than their mother sure has its advantages…
Will Lila give John what he really wants?
Who will Margo murder next?
And will Alice Wakefield return from her rendezvous before it’s too late?
Find out in Chapter 17, “Annie Whitman Strikes Back”

CHAPTER 17, ANNIE WHITMAN STRIKES BACK

Twenty-six year-old Jessica Wakefield chewed nervously on the phone cord as she waited for an answer.

“Pick up, pick up,” she prayed aloud. The ringing continued.

“C’mon, answer the phone, Easy Annie!”

“Easy Annie?” barked a voice on the other end. “Who is this?”

“Annie!” Jessica put on her sweetest voice. That had been way close! “It’s Jessica Wakefield. Listen I’m calling for a favour.”

“A favour?” There was a long silence.

“Y-yes,” Jessica hesitated.

“Lemme get this straight – ” Annie demanded incredulously, “You kicked me off the cheer-squad in junior year, told the entire school I was a slut – despite quadrupling my tally of conquests yourself – and then forced me to OD on Vidocin. And now you have the hide to call me after a decade FOR A FAVOUR!?”

Jessica took a deep breath and calmed herself. There was no point getting angry. “It’s been a long time—-“ she began.

“Unbelievable!” Annie interrupted. “You Wakefields think the world revolves around you, don’t you!?”

“Annie,” Jessica tried to calm her. “It’s for Lila, not me. She needs your help.”

“Lila Fowler?!” Annie screeched with rage. There was a loud clatter followed by the monotonous beep of a dead line. She’d hung up!

Jessica sighed and dropped the phone onto the receiver. It was no use trying to bargain with a tart, anyway.

It had seemed like a great idea – prostituting Easy Annie to John Pfeifer in Lila’s place. Sure, Annie wasn’t beautiful in the conventional way that Lila was, but with a clever disguise, surely the pyromaniac would fall for it. And then Lila would be off the hook, and Magenta Galaxy would have a new home.

Rumour has it that Courtney Cox posed
for this portrait of Easy Annie

“Jess?” Lila’s thin voice diffused into the room from her sofa. “Any luck?”

“She wouldn’t even let me ask!” Jessica called, shaking her head. “Like  an extra favour would’ve made a difference to her, anyway,” she grumbled, shaking her head.

She turned to Stacey MacGill and Nicholas Morrow, who were feeding each other diet peanut butter across the kitchen table.

“Would you guys get a room?”

Nicholas cleared his throat. “Uh, actually Jess, I was just about to offer to help you out.” He tenderly wiped a peanut fragment from Stacey’s cheek.

“Well?” Jessica demanded. “What could you possibly do?”

Nicholas smiled. He was used to Jessica getting in a huff when she didn’t get her own way.

“For starters, my mom called last night, and she’s offered you her old warehouse for Magenta Galaxy”.

Skye Morrow was an ex-Ingenue model and clothes designer.

Jessica crossed her arms, unable to resist a smile. This was good – very good. It still didn’t solve the problem of Pyromaniac Pfeifer, though.

“And John? How are you planning on taking him down?”

Nicholas flashed her a handsome smile. He was such a hunk, Jessica couldn’t help noticing.

“The old fashioned way,” he whispered, fixing his slate-gray eyes on Jessica. “A duel.”

* * *

Alice Wakefield tiptoed into the Spanish-tiled bathroom, wearing only a pale blue shirt of Hank’s and a pair of cotton socks. She gave herself a quick once over in the enormous mirror and popped a mint into her mouth. Her pixie-style cut had that rumpled, just-out-of-bed look, and she couldn’t help but think she looked more like the twins’ older sister than their mother. Especially Elizabeth – since that all-consuming assignment had come up at the ’News, her eldest daughter was looking positively haggard.

Alice sauntered back into the bedroom of the penthouse suite, admiring the off-white walls and art deco manchester. She felt a twinge of guilt about lying to Ned and her children once again, but she shook herself free of the thought. After all, it wasn’t exactly the first time these shenanigans had eventuated – she remembered with a lusty smile her “business trip” to Chicago one sweltering summer almost a decade ago. It was Ned’s fault, she reasoned, for being such a dumb-ass. How he’d believed that she and Hank – a businessman – could be co-workers on a design project was unbelievable. For a laywer, his sleuthing skills sucked. Maybe if he paid more attention to her instead of the ten kinds of law he practiced, she wouldn’t need a bit on the side with Henry Wilson Patman.

Alice sighed and glanced at Hank’s Rolex on the bedside table. She considered giving one of the twins a quick call back home – once when she’d gone on a trip like this, an evil doppelganger had come to Sweet Valley to steal Elizabeth’s identity.  Ned had been with her then, Alice recalled, so she’d had to sneak in a quickie with Hank in the conference room at lunch.

She dropped the watch back on the table and crawled into back into the four-postered king bed. The kids would be fine, she rationalized, flashing Hank a seductive smile. Absolutely fine.

* * *

Margo wandered up the steps of the Wakefields split-level house. Game time, she thought with an ironic smile.

She glanced down at her outfit one last time – a floral cap-sleeved tee, three-quarter length denim skirt and neutral ballet flats. Terrific. All she had to do was fool Steven, and the secret diary she’d been eyeing on Elizabeth’s desk from across the road was hers!

She rapped anxiously at the door, and heard footsteps trudging down the carpeted stairs. Should she start on volume one, two or three? she wondered absently.

The door sailed open, and on the steps stood…

“Steven!?” Margo’s jaw dropped. Instead of the handsome-looking Adonis she’d stalked on facebook, she was greeted by a bearded, gaunt-looking figure, his eyes red-rimmed and puffy.

 

.

“Liz,” he grunted, his eyes barely leaving the floor.

“Uh- hey,” she mumbled. She pushed past him and made for Liz’s bedroom, taking the stairs two at a time.

“Wait –” he called after her. “Weren’t you already…”

Margo froze in her tracks, her back to him. “What?” she snapped.

“Never mind.” She heard the swishing of denim on the leather couch, and the annoying blare of a TV informercial. She was off the hook!

Margo bounded into Elizabeth’s bedroom, and stopped still.

“Jess?” Elizabeth looked up from her desk, which was covered by piles of paper. Margo felt her heart quicken. Elizabeth was home?

“Uh, hey Liz.” Play along, play along, she urged herself.

“Wha-” Elizabeth looked bewildered. “Jessica’s in New York, with Lila and Stacey and the Morrows.” She stood up from her leather director’s chair.

Margo tried not to snicker – she was wearing Karen-Brewer style reading glasses! Focus, she warned herself.

“You’re not Jessica,” seethed Elizabeth, peering into Margo’s face.  Margo panicked. Time to fess up.

“No,” she whispered. “No, I’m Margo.”

“Margo,” Elizabeth whispered. Her eyes were filled with fear. She retreated back against the wall. “N….no,” she stammered.

Margo stopped still. Okay, so they looked mildly similar. But there were plenty of blondes in SoCal. What was her deal?

“Noooo!” wailed Elizabeth.

Margo rolled her eyes. What the fuck was wrong with her?

“ It’s Margo Pike, SHS student from the News,” she repeated herself. Ring a bell? She thought sarcastically.

“I’ve dyed my hair, that’s all.”

Elizabeth visibly relaxed. She held a hand to her chest. “Oh, just you,” she panted. “Jesus, you look like me.” She crashed onto the bed. “I’d never noticed.”

Margo smiled. “Probably your new glasses,” she suggested helpfully. “I was just in the neighbourhood and wanted to say hi.”

* * *

Margo, Elizabeth stared at the sixteen-year-old in her doorway. A thousand bitter memories flooded her mind…the Jungle Prom, the jeep crash, the bitter feud with her twin, and then the girl with the raven hair, her glittering knife slicing through the air…

She forced herself to stay calm. It’s Margo Pike, she reminded herself. Just an innocent school girl. The look-a-like thing was just a coincidence, she reasoned. It happened all the time here, like Tricia Martin and her three doppelgangers. There was only a small gene pool in Sweet Valley, after all.

“So, uh, what are you doing here?” she asked conversationally. Was it just her or was Margo looking around the room for something?

“Uh, business,” the girl responded.

See? Elizabeth reminded herself. The girl had her head screwed on. She hadn’t remembered giving Margo her address, though. Funny that.

“Well, see ya then,” Margo called. She hurried down the stairs.

“B—Bye!” Elizaebth called after her. That was just too weird.

She turned back to the pile of documents mounting on her desk. She had just two days before Tina needed this report. Her flights to Stoneybrook were booked, Karen had saved her a seat for the final week of the court case, and she was pretty sure that John Marin was keeping Collins’ cell warm. Now, if she could just pull something spectacular out of her hat, he’d be in the clink forever. Elizabeth shuddered involuntarily. She just hoped she’d make it out of Sweet Valley alive.

* * *

Margo clinked her champagne glass with Bruce’s as their private jet rolled off the runway.

“To New York!” she cheered.

“New York,” he echoed with a sexy grin. When Hank had found out about his son’s courtship with “Elizabeth Wakefield”, he’d been more than happy to loan the couple his apartment on the Upper East Side.

Elizabeth is toast, thought Margo, giggling at the memory of the idiot journalist. She was so easy to manipulate! Margo was grateful she’d inherited her mother’s skill of being able to look exactly like someone else and then like herself again. Liz been a cinch to fool, alright, but now they were off to New York to trick her better – and probably smarter – half. Jessica was the most important one to fool after all, given that twins shared some kind of pyschic bond. But this time, Margo would be playing the finest role of her life: Elizabeth.

“Whatcha thinking?” Bruce interrupted her thoughts with a sly hand inching up her tanned thigh.

“Just about our killer plan,” rasped Margo. With an emphasis on the “killer” , she added silently.

Bruce fumbled in his pocket for something.

“Killer is right,” he whispered. “Elizabeth.”

Margo grinned at her handsome soon-to-be-fiancee, admiring his chiseled jaw with her ocean-coloured eyes.

Enid and Amy were dead, and Elizabeth would be next. She hoped her doppelganger would find the little present she’d left in the driveway on her way out.

Margo stole a sideways glance at Bruce, who was looking uncharacteristically pale as he gnawed a fingernail.

“What’s up?” She whispered. “I won’t throw up until were at least 900 feet, I promise.”

“N…nothing.” He stammered. It’s just the..the gulls. I swear they’re after me.”*

“The birds?” Margo cackled. “Harden the fuck up, Bruce.”

Bruce squeezed his eyes shut and slumped back in his business class seat. Margo took out a sick bag and downed the last of her champagne with a sardonic smile.

“Margo Forever!” she cried as they soared into the clouds.

* * *

“Your duel begins…Now!” Jessica stepped forward and waved her yellow neck-tie in the air, her arms splayed out. She hoped she looked as cute as Cha Cha in Grease.

Nicholas Morrow cracked his knuckles and moved toward his opponent.

“I’m a get you, man,” he sneered at the pyromaniac.

“Oh yeah?” returned Pfeifer, stepping forward. “Get this!” He lunged in with the right hook.

Nicholas dodged it and karate kicked Pfeifer in the balls. “Score One!” He punched his fist in the air.

Little did they know that the mysterious “computer magnate” job he’d held in his teens involved 20 hours a week of martial arts training. Pfeifer was a goner.

“Go Nicholas!” screeched his diabetic girlfriend from the sides.

“Go Nick!” Lila bellowed, even louder.

He delivered an uppercut with precision to his opponent’s jaw, and followed it up with a swift knee in the groin.

“Had enough? Had enough?” Sneered Nicholas.

“Come on, baby!” It was that Cokie Mason whore, from across the alley.

“Nicholas – my hero!” Lila’s impassioned cry spurred him on. He punched Pfeifer squarely in the jaw and knocked him onto the concrete, two front teeth sticking hideously into his cheek.

“Ew!” cried Jessica.

“John!” Cokie rushed over frantically. He was out cold.

Jessica, Stacey, Claudia and Lila rushed over to Nicholas and hugged him, jumping up and down.

“Not even a scratch!” Stacey purred, pinching his handsome cheek. She flashed him a dazzling grin. “You are my hero!”

Nicholas glanced at Lila.

“Thank you,” she mouthed, sincere gratitude in her eyes. Nothing could have possessed her to sleep with Pfeifer, not after their dreadful past. But Nicholas had solved that problem, and his wealthy family had come good with a new office for Magenta Galaxy to operate from. And knowing the Morrows, it would be awesome – like Lila’s family, they spared no expense.

 


Lila watched jealously as Stacey linked a track-marked arm into Nick’s. He was smart, handsome, and incredibly rich  – and now he’d saved her life from this terrorist! She watched wistfully as the computer magnate pecked Stacey on the cheek. Why had she not noticed him before? Lila clutched her Burberry trench around her shoulder as they made their way toward Xenon. Lila Fowler knew what she wanted now, and when that happened, nobody would get in her way. Especially Stacey McGill.

How far will Lila go to get her man?
Will Jessica fall prey to Margo Pike?
And what will go down in the Collins case?
Find out in Chapter 18, Magna Edition
“The Boyfriend War” or “That Fatal Night”

* Check out SVT Super Ed  #7 re Bruce’s bird angst

CHAPTER 18: MAGNA EDITION “THE BOYFRIEND WAR,” OR, “THAT FATAL NIGHT”

26-year-old Elizabeth Wakefield tiptoed down the front steps of her parent’s house on Calico Drive, sneaking a glance at the silver wristwatch on her left arm.

6:58, it read. She would be in plenty of time for her flight back to Stoneybrook, to witness the final few days of court in what was widely dubbed, “The Collins Debacle”.

Her father, Ned, an esteemed lawyer in Southern California, had flown there a few days ago to give Richard Spier a few pointers on representing the defendant. But no matter which way she looked at it, Elizabeth realized that her former English teacher would be behind bars for a very long time. Elizabeth tucked her Macbook Pro under her arm, a feeling of pride surging through her chest as she thought of the brilliant piece of investigative journalism she’d written on the case. It would be front page of the Stoneybrook News, for sure! A small victory in light of the past few horrible months, she mused. She wheeled her suitcase along the gravel drive, and perched herself under her favourite oak tree to await the hire car that would deliver her to Sweet Valley airport.

A cool mist settled on her bare skin, and Elizabeth shivered, drawing her woolen cardigan around her shoulders. The sun was just peeking over the horizon, marking the first day of December. Sweet Valley was being bombarded with the usual Yuletide commercialism – everywhere from Lisettes to The Shady Lady was having a sale or a ham raffle. Even Dyan Sutton couldn’t resist playing “Deck the Halls” as she delivered her end-of-year sports wrap on WXSV. Elizabeth normally loved celebrating Christmas – but this year, her heart wasn’t in it. The festivities seemed removed from her, somehow. In just a few short months, she’d traded her hometown, her successful newspaper job and her family for a bunch of strangers in icy Connecticut. Her long-time boyfriend Todd had left her for the first harlot he’d laid eyes on outside of California, and she was lucky to see her identical twin, Jessica, once a month. Her trusty friend Enid was missing and feared dead, and her new fling, Sam Thomas, had barely called all week.

Elizabeth sighed, vowing to stop feeling sorry for herself. She drew her knees to her chin as another cool draught wafted over her. Elizabeth sniffed the air, suddenly aware of the overpowering odour of flesh. She fought back a wave of nausea as the smell infiltrated her nostrils. It was the smell of death. Elizabeth stood up quickly ran toward the garage. Then it caught her eye – a limp, lifeless carcass on a patch of grass in front of her.

“Prince Albert!” She yelped at the creature, which was showing about as many signs of life as Lois Waller’s hair. “Wake up! Prince Albert!”

The dog didn’t stir. Elizabeth bent down and threw her arms around the animal, her salty tears mingling with the blood draining from his neck.

She fiddled with its collar through blurry eyes, noticing a small piece of green and red cardboard attached to the leather. A gift tag. She turned it over, fearing the worst. In handwritten red scrawl on the back read the ominous warning: “Wreck the Halls With Bloody Bodies.”

Elizabeth stood suddenly, just as the Happy Cabbie pulled into the driveway. An involuntary shudder coursed through her body. Someone, something was out to get her and everyone she loved. She had to hightail it out of Sweet Valley, and fast. Elizabeth grabbed her luggage and lunged into the hire car, slamming the door.

She had a feeling the worst was yet to come.

* * *

“I gotta feelin’!” Margo Pike belted out, kicking a well-heeled leg out. She cracked up – who knew that a night on the town with Jessica and her friends could be this much fun. She grinned at Jessica as the beat picked up.

“Tonight’s gonna be a good night!” they chanted in unison, dissolving into giggles. It was one am, and they’d been dancing up a storm for a good few hours. Even Stacey was being less of a narc about her regular insulin. Then again, she was too busy canoodling with that Nick guy to remember anything!

Claudia shoved another tequila shot into the “twins’” hands. Margo gulped it down hungrily, relishing the burn in her throat. She chased it down with a lemon wedge, and chucked the skin at Jessica’s blonde head.

“Hey!” Jessica yelped, feigning annoyance. She twirled around seductively, allowing her blue lycra mini to kick out and flash everyone a glimpse of her black lingerie. Margo knew it was all for Ben Hobart’s benefit. She could sure learn a few things about men from her future sister!

“Wanna sit down?” Margo yelled above the din. “I need another drink!”

“Sure!” Jessica followed her through the crowd in Xenon’s packed main bar. “You haven’t been this much fun since senior year, Lizzie!”

Margo smiled benevolently. She’d always dreamed of having a sibling like this! She tried to imagine dorky Mallory, or poetic Vanessa getting on the drink in New York. Fat chance of that! She knew Jessica would be going home soon for Christmas, but she did not want this party to end!

Maybe it doesn’t have to, whispered the voice within her mind. Maybe you can go home for Christmas, too.

Margo pushed through the crowd to get to the bar, absently noting that her ex-babysitter, Stacey, had peeled herself off Nicholas Morrow and was staring intently at her.

“Haven’t you seen a twin before?” Margo snapped sarcastically. Oops. That was un-Elizabeth. She put on her brightest smile for the only child. “Cosmopolitan??”

* * *

Lila Fowler grabbed Nicholas Morrow’s lean forearm and steered him toward a quieter corner of Xenon. Finally, a moment alone! Stacey was incredibly possessive.

“Hey Lila,” he glanced at her, surprised. “What’s up?”

Lila flashed him a seductive smile. “I just haven’t thanked you enough,” she purred, “For rescuing me from John Pfeifer, and saving Magenta Galaxy.”

Nicholas shrugged. “No biggie,” he said amiably. “The lobster dinner with the Moet and the Mazda Miata more than made up for it.”

Lila bent her head closer to his. If the damsel in distress act wasn’t going to work, maybe a whiff of her Estee Lauder perfume would. She lowered her voice. “I mean, I want to really thank you.”

Nicholas looked uncomfortable. “Aren’t you dating Alan Gray?” Alan and Nicholas had known each other through their work at Microsoft.

“We’re through,” she answered simply. She glanced up at him, a hopeful look in her dark eyes. She batted her long, elegant lashes one last time, and felt a shove in her left shoulder.

“Oops!” It was Stacey. She slid a skinny arm around Nicholas’ waist, a triumphant grin on her face. “What were you two talking about?”

“Old times,” snapped Lila menacingly. “Stuff you wouldn’t know about.” She turned back to Nicholas. “Now, as I was saying…”

“Nicholas,” Stacey purred, cutting Lila off. “Why don’t you tell Lila about our holiday in the Hamptons last weekend? It was incredibly romantic.” She raised an eyebrow at Lila, smirking.

Lila’s nostrils flared. You don’t know what you’re in for, Stacey McGill, she vowed. What Lila Fowler wants, Lila Fowler gets…

* * *

Elizabeth Wakefield stood at the back of a very packed Stoneybrook Courthouse, holding her breath as she waited for the jury’s deliberation.

Karen Brewer was standing proudly up the front, her eyes shining with tears.

The judge banged her gavel on the desk. “I find the defendant…guilty.”

The courthouse erupted into cheers. Roger Collins slumped onto his desk, and Elizabeth could just make out the look of misery in his crinkly eyes.

She turned to her father and gave him a hi-five. It was all over!

An hour later, Elizabeth and Ned were joining Karen and her family at Pizza Express for a celebratory meal. In Sweet Valley they might have gone to La Maison Blanche, but this would have to suffice. Karen was rabbiting on about how she’d been Pizza Queen here once, which hardly seemed an enviable title given that Robin Wilson had been the last Pizza Queen of Sweet Valley.

“Sorry to hear about your dog, Liz,” Sam whispered softly.

“Thanks,” she returned gratefully, as he gave her hand a squeeze. But today was not for mourning – today was for celebrating!

“So Elizabeth Wakefield,” Karen’s younger brother, Andrew, flicked his brown, bowl-cut hair and stared at her. “Now that Mr Wilkins and Miss Cummings are getting it on, what is it that is keeping you in Stoneybrook, Connecticut?” It was a well known fact that the Brewer clan did not use contractions.

“Andrew!” Karen warned. “Please leave Elizabeth alone. She does not like being annoyed.” She smiled charmingly at Elizabeth.

Elizabeth summoned her brightest face and smiled wanly at the younger girl. “Karen!” she called across the table. “Wanna put some carols on the jukebox for me?” She handed the perky blonde a dollar, and Karen skipped off, humming “The First Noel” and feeling very important.

Karen paused at the jukebox. Would Elizabeth prefer “Ding dong merrily on High” or “Deck the Halls”? She decided to go with the latter. She popped the dollar into the coin slot and punched in her selection.

“Hey Karen,” taunted a voice. “Get your virginity back in court today?”

Karen gasped and turned around. “Oh, hey Hannie, Nancy.”

Nancy stepped forward. “We have something for you.”

Karen grinned. A celebratory present?

“It’s more Easter than Christmas, but I’m sure you’ll like it.” Nancy dissolved into giggles, and Hannie elbowed her sharply in the ribs.

Karen glanced over Hannie’s shoulder, frowning. “Who’s behind you?”

In an instant, Ricky Torres stepped out, and forcefully pitched a raw egg at Karen’s head.

“Hey!” she yelled as it cracked on her temples, yolk oozing down her face. Hannie and Nancy laughed maliciously as Hank Ruebens and Bobby Gianelli appeared, wildly flinging the raw eggs at her from every angle.

Before long, the whole ninth grade class was around them, cheering as Karen was covered from head to toe with thick, gooey yolks. Karen burst into tears, clutching at oily, stringy chunks of her hair as the shells kept cracking over her brand new shift dress.

“What’s going on here?” Elizabeth appeared at Karen’s side, but even she couldn’t muster a shoulder pat given that runny egg whites covered the shoulder pads of Karen’s dress.

“Nyah nyah nyah!” Pamela Harding yelled back. “We know who you are – Mr Wilkins left you for Miss Cummings, sucker!”

Elizabeth frowned, a crimson flush spreading across her tanned cheeks.

The class erupted into laughter. One by one, they disappeared, leaving Karen and Elizabeth standing in Pizza Express, shell-shocked.

“Suck eggs!” yelled Natalie Springer on the way out.

Elizabeth cast a withering glance at Karen Brewer. “You look gross,” she said finally. “Come on, let’s get back to the Big House.

* * *

Margo traipsed up the stairs of Jessica’s apartment, where the girls were crashing for the night. She hiccupped. Man, she’d had a fun night. Jessica was waay more awesome than her boring, judgmental twin. Not to mention incredibly easy to fool.

She stumbled into the guest room and flicked on the light. Someone was on her bed, and it wasn’t Bruce!

“Stacey?” she barked. “What’s with you?”

Stacey took a deep breath and produced something from behind her back. It was the leather sheath containing Margo’s glittering knife.

Uh oh, thought Margo.

“Hey, gimme that!” she lunged at Stacey, grasping for the silver blade. Stacey held it above her head. “What are you doing in here anyway, you bloody spy?”

Stacey glared at Margo. “I know who you are,” she said threateningly. “I didn’t spend three consecutive summers at Sea City on the Jersey Shore without learning a thing or two.”

“I’m Elizabeth!” cried Margo defiantly.

“You’re Margo Pike,” challenged Stacey. “I knew it  when you got up on stage tonight – as soon as you started peeling bananas with your feet and singing “The House that Jack Built.”

Shit, thought Margo. She shouldn’t have knocked back so many shots. She’d have to be more on her guard from now on.

“Ask Jessica,” Margo responded flatly. “I think she’d know her own twin, don’t you?”

“Margo Jane Pike,” Stacey warned, standing to reach Margo’s eyeline.

“Anastacia Elizabeth McGill,” Margo snapped back.

“Ha!” Stacey grinned triumphantly. “How would Jessica’s twin know my full name?”

Margo forced herself to stay calm. “Elizabeth’s a braniac, she knows everything, she…”

Margo knew she was babbling. She’d been caught out this time, and Stacey knew it. If she didn’t act fast, her diabolical plan would be totally screwed up.

Margo squeezed her eyes shut, glimpsing the knife on her bed through the periphery of her vision.

This was one person’s blood she didn’t want on her hands. Stacey had always been the coolest, after all. She was pretty, and good at maths, and wore the most fashionable clothes out of Mallory’s friends. All the boys at SMS wanted to date her, even Pete Black. Margo had never understood why Stacey spent all her free time with that Charlotte Johannsen kid, and all the other dweebs in the neighbourhood. Stacey was so cool, so trendy! Her parents even got a divorce just when it was coming back into vogue.

Margo gritted her teeth and grabbed the knife from behind Stacey’s. She unsheathed it, her hands shaking, and transferred it to her left hand for precision. Her knuckles were white as she raised it high in the air.

“Margo?” Stacey whispered. “What are you doing?”

Margo sliced the knife down, angling at Stacey’s pretty white neck. “Have fun in heaven!” She cackled, “Or wherever it is that you diabetics go!”

Will Stacey’s death reveal the truth about Margo?

Will Lila win the heart of Nicholas Morrow?

And what did Bruce get up to on that fatal night?

Find out in a festive Chapter 19, ” Goodbye, Stacey, Goodbye”.

CHAPTER 19: MAGNA EDITION “GOODBYE STACEY, GOODBYE”

The soulful drone of a church organ filled the massive cathedral, a somber reminder that Christmas Eve was devoid of its cheer this time around. 25-year-old Claudia Kishi felt a tear roll down her alabaster cheek as the mahogany coffin came into view. Her best friend, Stacey McGill, had been brutally knifed in Jessica Wakefield’s apartment just two nights before. For the life of her, Claudia still couldn’t believe who – or what – could commit such an evil crime. Stacey was one of the most awesome girls who’d ever lived: She was queen of Stoneybrook Middle School, a doting babysitter, and a mathematical genius. The flock of Stoneyrbookites who’d turned out was a testimony to that fact. To her right was the entire Pike family: Mallory was casting a withering glare at Jessica Wakefield and her current squeeze, Ben Hobart. Mrs Pike was doing some sort of head count among her offspring, and gnawing on her bottom lip as though something were amiss. Come to think of it, Margo wasn’t in attendance, Claudia noticed absently. Kristy Thomas, Bart Taylor, Dawn Schafer, and Logan Bruno were propping up a heavily pregnant Mary-Anne Spier in the seat adjacent.

“Who’s that?” Lila Fowler, who was standing next to her in the pew, pointed at an attractive African-American twenty-something.

“That’s Jessi Ramsey,” Claudia responded. “Did you know, Jessi is black?”

“No shit, Sherlock,” Lila muttered drily, rolling her eyes.

A few rows along, Charlotte Johannsen was draped over Steven Wakefield, and Shannon Kilbourne was filling the gap beside them. Directly in front of them was a whole row of ex-sitting charges: Hayley and Matt Braddock, Buddy, Marnie and Suzie Barrett, Amanda and Max Delaney, the Perkins, the Arnold twins, and even Jenny Prezzioso.

Richard Spier and Watson Brewer filed in with their wives, and Karen Brewer slowly and purposefully sauntered in after them, pausing to kneel beside the altar. Claudia resisted a giggle – her former sitting charge and Kristy’s step-sister was wearing a long black velvet gown and a matching veil with a wire fascinator. Trust Karen Brewer to treat today like a fucking wedding. Claudia watched on as Karen gracefully slipped into a seat beside her brothers – Andrew Brewer was throwing spitballs at David Michael, and Charlie was snoozing. Jade let out a cry from her pram and Claudia bent down, stuffing a gummi bear in her mouth to silence her.

She averted her gaze to the elaborate ceiling, and in every wooden carving she saw a memory of Stacey – the fun, the fights, everything from kid-kits to diabetic comas to holidays at Camp Mowhawk and Shadow Lake. The memories were all that remained – Stacey McGill was no more.

* * *

Stacey McGill is no more, thought Lila, with just a hint of triumph. She leaned over to comfort Nicholas Morrow beside her. Nicholas was no stranger to heartbreak – his sister, Regina, had died from a fatal cocaine overdose a decade ago. But Lila would be his confidant now. She had him in the bag. Lila smoothed the hem of her black YSL shift dress, feigning an expression of sadness. Diabetics never lived that long, anyway – she reasoned. Stacey would’ve died of vascular complications or renal failure by her fortieth, she was sure. Lila glanced over at Jessica, who was clutching tightly to Ben Hobart’s arm in the row in front. Jessica was no stranger to dead people either – but usually they were her boyfriends. Lila shuffled over to make way for Ellen Riteman, Aaron Dallas and Randy Mason.

“So, how did you know her?” Randy enquired awkwardly. “I met her at math camp.”

“It’s not a wedding, Randy,” Lila snapped. Etiquette was certainly a precious rarity these days!

Lila glanced over at Elizabeth Wakefield and her new man, Sam Thomas. She noticed Jessica’s pathetic twin throwing frequent glances over at her ex, Todd Wilkins, who had his arm wrapped tightly around Stacey’s ex-best friend, Laine Cummings. Lila rolled her eyes. Elizabeth was still pining over that boring-as-butter schmuck? She’d clearly come from the nerdy half of the uterus.  Lila reached over and kissed Nicholas softly on the cheek. After today, he wouldn’t remember Anastasia Elizabeth McGill, she’d make sure of it.

* * *

Margo traipsed through Copley Square on Christmas Eve, her loose black garments in stark contrast to the technicolour festivities around her. It was a bitterly cold December day, although the scarf bound tightly around her blonde head was more of a disguise than a shield from the blustering wind. She was meeting Bruce in secret by the subway at noon – they’d decided it was safer to venture out alone. Margo now had the blood of four people on her hands, and she knew the authorities – or at least the real Elizabeth Wakefield – would soon be after her. So after the deed was done last night, she’d hastily scribbled a note to Jessica, and Bruce’s private jet had transported the villains to the safety of Boston, Massachusetts where they could lie low for a few days.

“Merry Christmas!” A group of carolers waltzed over to Margo in the street, hungrily munching candy-canes and gingerbread cookies. The smallest, decked out in a red holly-print coat with green mittens gave her a lopsided grin, bits of candy stuck to her teeth. They burst into a spontaneous rendition of  “God rest ye merry Gentlemen”, and Margo smiled despite herself.

Margo recalled with a pang of nostalgia the Christmases she’d spent back home in Stoneybrook, Connecticut. Back when Claire was alive, and the money flowed

freely. She remembered the basement on Christmas morning, strewn with rolls of Santa-print wrapping paper, the new toys she’d had to show off to her friends and the enormous roast turkey feasts her mother never failed to prepare.

“Deck the Halls with Bors of Jolly,” sang the smallest child with a giggle, and for a second Margo could have sworn it was her long-dead sister. She handed the girl a shiny gold dollar with a smile. Margo looked on wistfully as the child skipped on spindly legs into the crisp morning.

“Merry Christmas!” she called after her.

“What am I thinking?” Margo caught herself, ashamed that she’d given in to the Christmas cheer around her. “As if Pike Christmases were all fun and games.”

With a bitter sneer she recalled the Christmas when she was just seven years old, and the triplets replaced the gifts in her stocking with a lump of coal. Then there was Claire getting the puppy surprise that she’d asked for. Mallory getting a new calligraphy set when all Margo had wanted was a Barbie. Nicky being spoiled rotten because he was a wimp.

“Happy Horrordays,” she rasped with a wry smile.

* * *

Bruce Patman sauntered through Copley Square, gobbling down a wedge of pudding he’d grabbed off one of the street vendors. Margo was on some psycho grapefruit diet so she could get into Elizabeth’s chinos, and Bruce was ravenous. Margo..for a second he wondered if this time, they’d gone to far. Amy Sutton was one thing, but Stacey had been from all accounts a well-respected member of the Manhattan community. He glanced down at his Rolex. He was meeting Margo by the subway in ten minutes. Without Margo, the Rolex would go. And the jetskis. And the yacht, and the lifetime membership at the Country Club, and the six figure inheritance… Bruce sighed. Hank was not one to bluff. Bruce needed to make an honest woman out of the girl who would become Elizabeth Wakefield, or his name would no more follow the great dynasty of Patman men. And Roger would be loaded. Bruce passed a row of rundown terrace houses. In some bitter, twisted way, he did love Margo, more than he could ever admit to another soul. Somehow, the woman had landed in his world, and filled the void that Regina had left over a decade ago.

“Bruce? Bruce, my boy?” A familiar voice jolted him from his reverie.

“Holy shit,” Bruce muttered. There, on the tiny verandah of a dilapidated flat stood his father, dressed in a rumpled white shirt and puffing a cigar.

“Father?” he stammered. “What are you–”

“Hush,” Hank warned. “What say we grab a roast from down the village?”

An audible ring sounded from Bruce’s Blackberry.

“Hey Liz,” he answered loudly. “Hang on.” He covered the mouthpiece.

“The village?!” He screeched at his father. “What the hell has gotten into you?”

“Bruce?” Margo’s voice sounded. “Who’s there?”.

“My dad,” he answered incredulously. He turned to the older Patman.

“What are you creeping around Boston for? I thought you had business here!”

“Forgive me having a little Christmas cheer,” Hank replied tersely. He lowered his voice. “Come on, lets make ourselves scarce.”

Just then, Alice Wakefield popped her head out of the chipped off-white door.

“I see,” Bruce said icily, his eyes locked on his father’s. “ ‘Interior Decorating’ – is that what you call it?”

“Bruce – ” warned Hank.

“Who else is there?” Margo demanded from the other end of the phone.

“Your mum!” Bruce bellowed in exasperation.

“Get serious,” Margo snapped.

“I am,” he whispered. “It’s Alice Wakefield.”

There was silence on the other end.

Alice smiled warmly at Bruce. “I hear you’ve been cheering up Liz,” she said gratefully. “Say, why don’t you bring her over and the four of us can head out for lunch.”

Bruce stole a look at his father. Hank was rocking back and forth on his heels, looking distinctly uncomfortable.

“I thought Mum had given you the ultimatum,” Bruce challenged, a look of triumph spreading across his lips. “You promised her this wasn’t still going on.”

Hank hesitated. “Marie cannot find out about this,” he whispered imploringly.

“What do you mean?” Alice demanded. “I agreed to come clean with Ned if you did. What better way to start than by having lunch with our children?”

Hank was rooted to the spot. “Oh alright,” he muttered grudgingly. “You kids meet us at Roxy’s at 1.”

“Kids,” mumbled Bruce. “I’m nearly thirty for Christ’s sake.”

He stormed down to the subway to meet Margo.

* * *

“We’re not going,” she hissed as soon as he appeared.

“She’ll be too wrapped up in my father to notice,” Bruce countered. “She’ll have no idea.”

“I’m not ready!” Margo snapped. “Besides – doesn’t she know Liz is in The Big Apple? I’ll give it away for certain!”

“You won’t,” Bruce reassured her. “C’mon Margs.”

“If she finds out, I’ll knife her,” Margo warned, her grey eyes glittering.

“You can’t!”

“Why?”

“She’s –”

“What?”

“Your MUM!” He barked. “And she keeps my Dad happy, which you and I are currently relying on.”

“This isn’t about Alice or your Dad – its about you and your inheritance, stubborn-ass. You’re the rudest, most selfish, most arrogant person I’ve ever met, Bruce Patman!” Margo cried.

The holiday-goers on the subway were turning to stare.

Bruce lifted a hand to his cheek. He felt as though he’d been slapped. Nobody, no-one in his 28 years had dared to defy Bruce Patman like that. And it was turning him on! He was suddenly aware that they were standing under a gigantic fake Christmas tree, a bunch of tacky mistletoe hanging over their heads.

Bruce wrapped a strong arm around Margo’s slender waist. “I love you Margo Pike!” he cried passionately. He grabbed her roughly, pushing her soft lips to his own. An electric shock coursed through his muscular body, and he knew she felt it too.

* * *

A half hour later, the couple were seated in the plush interior of Roxy’s, making small talk with their parents.

Alice poured Margo a big glass of wine. “How’s Jess holding up?” She asked, a worried look crossing her brow. “So many of her friends have died now I can’t keep track!”

“I’m sure you’ve been really concerned Mum,” Margo shot back with just a touch of sarcasm. “But she’ll be fine – Jessica always bounces back.”

Hank cleared his throat, raising his glass of whiskey in a mock toast. He clinked the side with a fork, and coughed again.

“While I would love to spend Christmas with you all,” he began, “I owe it to Bruce and Marie to spend my last one at Patman Estate. I’ll have us all flown back to Sweet Valley tonight. No more hiding.”

“But Henry-” Alice began.

“Ned will be expecting you,” he interrupted. “And the twins need you. We’ll make our decisions in the New Year. But in the meantime, I ask that we keep this little meeting a secret.” He looked pointedly at Bruce, and then at Margo. “All of us.”

Sweet Valley! Margo thought in a panic. She wasn’t ready for this! Besides, Jessica had told her last night that both twins would be coming home for Christmas.

For the second time that day, she felt that familiar pang for a Pike Christmas. Her real mum might have been fertile, but she certainly wasn’t a slut. Margo shook herself free of the thought. There was no way she could avoid the plane trip tonight – Bruce’s very fortune depended on it. But how would she make three twins look like two at the other end? This was going to get messy, and fast! Margo absently toyed with a piece of holly and took a big swig of her Pinot. She raised her half-empty glass to toast Bruce, Hank and Alice.

“To Christmas!” she rasped with a sardonic smile. “To a Sweet Valley Christmas!”

Chapter 20: “Special Christmas” or, “Baby-Sitter’s Christmas Vacation”

“Hold still!” 17-year-old Margo Pike barked at her boyfriend Bruce Patman as she fiddled with the lapels of his jacket. It was Christmas morning and the couple was preparing for a traditional breakfast feast with Bruce’s family.

Bruce pouted and turned front-on to his antique full-length mirror. He looked incredibly studly this morning, thought Margo, a feeling of pride surging through her chest.

“I don’t know about this tie, Margs,” he said critically, squinting his coffee-coloured eyes. “It’s a little too….festive.”

“Well it’s a special occasion,” Margo snapped back. In more ways than one, she added silently.

“Do you have the supplies?” Bruce urged in a hushed tone, as though reading her mind.

Margo turned toward the mahogany dresser and began rifling through the top drawer.

“All present and correct,” she rasped, flinging the items onto Bruce’s four-post bed. The magic jungle prom juice glistened in its crystal vial, and her butchers knife caught the morning light filtering through the window, casting a jovial Christmas glitter across the nightstand.

Margo turned toward the handsome heir. “I’m going to need your utmost concentration, Bruce,” she leveled with him, her aqua eyes piercing his own with a steely gaze.

“Forget about Alice boning your Dad, forget Amy Slutton and Stacey McGill. All that matters now is that on the stroke of midnight, our diabolical plan succeeds and I become–”

“Elizabeth Wakefield.” He finished for her. “And then we can talk about the threesome with Jessica?”

“And then we can have an orgy with the entire fucking babysitters club,” she confirmed.

“Merry Christmas, Elizabeth,” Bruce whispered.

“Merry Christmas Bruce,” Margo rasped.

* * *

“Wow, Dad – what a sensational feast!” Jessica Wakefield shoved a forkful of blueberry pancakes into her mouth and beamed at Ned.

“This bacon is delicious!” Alice agreed, leaning over to playfully pinch her husband on the cheek.

“You look tired, Mom,” said Elizabeth thoughtfully, pushing her French toast around the plate. “Chicago really took it out of you, huh?”

Alice frowned and glanced down at her empty plate.

“So, who’s up for Lila’s bash tonight?” Steven changed the subject.

“Of course you would be, perve,” muttered Jessica. It was a well-known fact that most of Steven’s partying days had been spent with a younger crowd.

“Why don’t we make a pot of tea and sit in the lounge room for awhile?” chirped Alice. “I don’t know about you kids, but I’ve had enough breakfast to last me till next year!”

Steven patted his stomach contentedly. “Cheers, Dad.” He wandered into the carpeted lounge with his sisters, and rifled through the scrunches of wrapping paper.

“Thanks so much for the SVH yearbook!” he grinned at the twins. “You all know me too well! I might take it up to my room for a bit and see you in an hour or so?”

Jessica and Elizabeth exchanged a knowing glance and settled on the couch beside the tree.

‘Remember this, Jess?” Elizabeth drew out a Christmas album, compiled almost ten years before.

Jessica snatched it with a smile. “Of course!” she cried excitedly, flipping open the dusty cover.

“Suzanne Devlin,” she recalled with a shake of her head. “Who could forget that Christmas?”

“The MS that wasn’t MS!” Elizabeth smiled. “Boy, did she have us fooled.”

Jessica scowled. “She never had me going for a second!” she cried adamantly. “But she got your pity vote – even when she went off with Todd.”

At the mention of her ex-boyfriend’s name, Elizabeth stiffened slightly.

“Todd…” she whispered. “Remember that Christmas where you saved him from a burning car?”

“How could I forget,” Jessica cast her eyes down, recalling their night of passion at Joshua Fowler Memorial Hospital. “But that was before Nora tied me up at school and tried to steal my life.”

“Remember the Miss Christmastime parade?” Elizabeth said brightly, trying to lighten the mood. “And the Christmas we worked at Simpsons?”

“Was that when Olivia Davidson stole my rich date and then left him for a starving artist?”

“I think so…” Elizabeth rubbed her temples trying to recall. “And what about the time she showed up at our high school reunion on Boxing Day, after she’d supposedly been dead for two years?”

“I know, right,” Jessica cut in. “She went and ruined our birthday by getting crushed by a fridge, and it didn’t even kill her! Selfish!”

“Remember the Christmas with Sue Gibbons? And Jeremy trying to burn you to death?”

“And the one where you got kidnapped by an angel?”

“And the one where we woke up and were thirty?”

“And the ghost?”

“And the one where you had five Christmas Eves?”

“Hang on –” Jessica interrupted. “There’s two more presents under the tree.”

Elizabeth frowned. “But we –”

Jessica tossed Elizabeth one of the gifts, which was floppy and wrapped in red. “It says my name!” Elizabeth exclaimed.

“Mine too!” burst out Jessica excitedly. “Mom must’ve brought them back from interstate.” She scraped off a piece of sticky-tape with a perfectly manicured nail. “One, two, three –”

The twins tore open the presents, revealing two elegant pink ball-gowns. Jessica slipped hers on quickly. It was strapless, and fitted at the waist, with a chiffon skirt in a deep shade of magenta that flowed past her ankles.

“We’ll wear them tonight,” she decided, admiring herself in the mantelpiece mirror.

“Okay,” Elizabeth agreed, tracing the pink fabric with her index finger. They were beautiful, she had to admit. But something seemed…. wrong. Elizabeth shuddered involuntarily. Suddenly she had the feeling that someone, or something, was watching her. Elizabeth drew her blue nightgown around her. She had a feeling there was a surprise in store for her tonight.

* * *

“There’s a surprise in store for you tonight,” Margo murmured, ducking her head under the Wakefield’s windowsill. So they’d bought it. Relying on Jessica’s stupidity was certainly serving her well.

“Perfect,” she whispered. “Just perfect.”

She caught a glimpse of Alice wandering past the lounge-room and clucked her tongue.

“Bad mom,” she reprimanded softly. “We’ll have to do something about your wicked ways.”

Margo slipped out from under the rose bush and brushed her skirt. It was time to head back to the Patman’s, and prepare herself for a night to remember….

* * *

“Merry Christmas, Mary Anne!” Dawn Schafer handed her heavily pregnant stepsister an envelope. “Don’t get too excited.”

“A lifetime membership to Greenpeace,” MaryAnne smiled flatly, trying to muster some enthusiasm. “Gee, thanks Dawn, how thoughtful.”

“No worries!” Dawn giggled, digging into the hommus dip with a granola cracker. “Don’t let me eat all this, just cause its Christmas.”

“You’re certainly not eating for two,” Logan joked.

Mary-Anne smiled. “I should probably ease up myself,” she offered. She was feeling rather strange today- her stomach felt tense and kind of crampy.

“You okay, Mary-Anne?” Richard Spier frowned across the table at his daughter. “Maybe we should’ve stayed in Stoneybrook for Christmas.” He exchanged A Look with Sharon, who was busy picking a paper clip out of her grapefruit.

Mary-Anne took a sip of cider and shook her head. “I’ll be fine, Dad,” she smiled tightly, hoping her wavering voice wouldn’t betray her.

“Well then – open this!” Richard pushed a small gift across Dawn’s cedar table.

Mary-Anne neatly unwrapped it. “Kenny G?” she asked blankly.

“Sharon!” Richard hollered at his wife. “How did you get that from Cam Geary?”

Sharon looked dumbfounded. “Cam Geary?”

“Women,” he muttered. “You can exchange it at CD universe, sweetie.”

Mary-Anne stiffened as another tightening enveloped her lower abdomen. She clutched Logan’s hand tightly.

“You okay?” he murmured, a look of concern crossing his boyishly-handsome face.

“Just fine,” she lied. “Merry Christmas, everyone.”

* * *

“Eve!” Lila’s voice thundered down the staircase. “We need another pack of pretzels, pronto!”
Lila’s maid scurried into the lavish dining room.

“Let me help you with that,” Nicholas Morrow offered in a low voice. Since Lila had insisted on him being here at five he might as well make himself useful.

“Thanks,” mumbled the elderly Polish woman gratefully, handing him a bottle of root beer. “Miss Lila certainly has her knickers in a twist tonight.”

“She sure does,” agreed the handsome computer magnate. “Not to mention the five gowns she had me ship over from Milan. She’s so worked up about outdoing the Patman bash from last Christmas.”

At last Lila arrived at the top of the spiral staircase, one slender arm resting carefully on the marble rail.

Nicholas let out a low whistle, on cue. Lila looked beautiful, alright: Her black velvet gown hugged her in all the right places, dipping low at the back to reveal her twelve shapely ribs. Her neck was adorned with a classy Tiffany’s chain, and her glossy brown hair was pulled into an elegant chignon, framing her delicate cheekbones.

Although Nicholas knew that, superficially, Lila was a stunner, she didn’t make his heart leap into his chest the way Stacey had. Her style, though polished, lacked the New York flair of Stacey, and her manner, while refined, seemed somewhat cold and calculating. For whatever reason, she left him cold, and tonight more than ever, he longed for his dead girlfriend. As Lila glided down the stairwell, Nicholas’ slate-grey eyes brimmed with tears.

“I’m sorry,” he choked out, “I can’t do this. Merry Christmas.”

Without another word, he turned and fled.

* * *

Lila watched her handsome boyfriend exit the marble door of Fowler Crest, a look of despair crossing her attractive face.

“Eve, stop him!” She yelped desperately at the maid.

“Miss Lila, I think Mr Morrow doesn’t want to be stopped,” came the honest reply.

“Gaaaa!” Lila screeched. She pivoted on her Manolos, turning to face the opulent dining room.

“You’ll pay for this, Nicholas Morrow,” she seethed, her nostrils flaring.

She shot a look at Eve, who was hiding a smirk.

“He’s just busy,” Lila snapped haughtily. “Get back to work.”

“Excuses, excuses,” muttered Eve. Lila drew her lips into a tight line. She knew Eve was right. Even from the start she’d never had a hold over the Morrow heir – he was still weeping over that dead babysitter. Well she would show him: tonight, Lila Fowler would throw the most amazing Christmas party in Sweet Valley history.

Will Margo’s murderous plot prevail?

Will Mary-Anne make it to a hospital in time?

And who will become Elizabeth Wakefield?

Find out in The Final Installment of “When Lila Met Stacey” : Chapter 21 “The Evil Twins”


When Lila Met Stacey Chapter 21: “The Evil Twins”

It is with just a hint of sadness that I close the curtain on “When Lila Met Stacey”, a labour of love that has occupied the best part of the past four months.  And what more fitting way to go out than with a Christmas-themed Magna Edition on my favourite day of year.

When you get to the end of this chapter, you will understand why there is nowhere else for us to go. [Then again, this is Sweet Valley, where even carotid artery lacerations and falling fridges don’t equate to fatality….just a thought]

Maybe it will get published in the Oracle someday. Or, if I’m super lucky, the Sweet Valley Tribune. Merry Christmas, or should I say, Happy Horrordays

THE EVIL TWINS

“Steven? Can you zip me?” Twenty-six year old Jessica Wakefield called to her handsome brother as she painted on one final layer of mascara. She stepped back from the mirror to gauge the full effect, admiring the way her pink ballgown showed off her athletic, sized-six figure.

Steven hurried into the bathroom shared by his younger twin sisters, and let out a long, low whistle. “You look amazing, Jess,” he whispered, bending his muscular body over the garment.

“Are you ready?” It was Elizabeth, from her bedroom. “It’s almost seven.”

Jessica turned to Steven and rolled her eyes. Ten years on and still Elizabeth didn’t understand the concept of fashionable lateness. Jessica, meanwhile, never wore a wristwatch and believed that no party started until she’d arrived. However, Lila had sent her a “hurry up” text half an hour ago – apparently Nicholas Morrow had bailed. Jessica could only assume he was still grieving over Stacey McGill’s untimely death, which had been almost an entire week ago!

Jessica met her twin on the stairs with a grin. They were dressed the same tonight – although Jessica knew that being exactly one pound lighter, she had the edge.

“Take those barrettes out,” Jessica ordered. “We’re supposed to be identical – it’s cuter.”

Elizabeth reluctantly obliged and smoothed the hem of her magenta skirt.

“Ben! Sam!” she bellowed at their dates, who were seated patiently downstairs.

“Fire up the jeep!”

As the twins descended the stairs, a faint rumble of thunder sounded across the Californian sky. An involuntary shudder wracked Jessica’s slim body, and she stole a glance at her twin. Elizabeth met her gaze, her blue-green eyes widened in fear. Jessica clutched a hand to her heart as the conniption washed over her, trying to ignore the growing premonition that she would be lucky to escape this Christmas alive.

* * *

Lila Fowler glanced nervously around the ballroom. She hoped no-one would notice she was stag tonight. So far, so good – but only the dorky guests had already arrived.

“Great party Lila!” Winston Egbert appeared at her side, flanked by his wife Denise.

“Cool it, Egghead,” Lila snapped. She still couldn’t believe that the former class clown had snagged such a beauty.

“I mean, the canapés are awesome! You did so well, pulling this together all by yourself.”

Lila glowered at her former classmate and excused herself. Winston still had the subtlety of Caroline Pearce – but at least some things never changed.

She motioned to the caterers for another round of champagne, and watched as the Droids set up their equipment on the purpose-built stage.

Claudia Kishi was working her way through the chocolate éclairs, and her dweeby plus-one Kristy was actually building a tower out of croutons. Lila shook her head in disgust – the girl looked about eighteen years old, and had clearly missed the memo that jeans were not in the dress code.

“Nice party Lila,” Bruce sauntered over to the hostess, a smirk on his face. “Fowler Crest doesn’t appear too shabby tonight. Or maybe it’s just my Christmas spirit?”

“Bruce, Elizabeth,” Lila greeted the couple curtly. She arched an eyebrow thoughtfully. “Attending to father’s wishes, I see.”

“At least my father cares about me.” Bruce challenged. “Elizabeth knows the deal, don’t you my dear?”

Bruce and Elizabeth exchanged a knowing smile.

“Let me take your purse,” Lila offered graciously. “Maybe you should stuff those barrettes in there while I’m at it.”

“No!” Elizabeth shot back. “I mean, no, thank-you Lila.”

Lila watched as her former boyfriend slipped away with Jessica’s boring twin.

Funny, she’d thought Elizabeth was dating that Sam character from Stoneybrook.

Lila sauntered over to the bar. “Another Moet,” she demanded. “And fill it right up, this time.”

* * *

Margo clutched Bruce’s hand as they dashed up the stairs. The Wakefield twins had just arrived, with Mallory’s ex in tow. It was time for the next Elizabeth to lie low.

Margo smoothed her pink chiffon ball-gown and shoved open the door of Lila’s enormous wardrobe. She paused to take in a deep, ragged breath. Soon, she’d have a room just like it.

“Wait for me in here,” Bruce ordered. “I’ll take the Jungle Prom Juice.” He rifled through Margo’s bag and produced the deadly vial. “Unless you want a quickie in Lila’s walk-in?” he murmured in a husky voice. Margo swatted his arm in annoyance.

“Who’s calling the shots?” she demanded, and Bruce looked away sheepishly.

There was no time for play tonight. Christmas night was about a new start – the end of Margo Pike and the beginning of the new Elizabeth Wakefield.

“Take care, Bruce,” Margo rasped. “Meet me by the pool-house at ten.”

* * *

Elizabeth Wakefield wandered over to the bar, hand in hand with Sam Thomas. She shot a look at her date – he was so miserable tonight! Elizabeth shook her head. She couldn’t understand why anyone would be sad at Christmas – it was the most joyous time of year, after all.

“Hi Kristy!” she greeted the Stoneybrook mayor as they passed the hors d’ourves table. “Merry Christmas!”

“Hello,” the politician answered coolly. Elizabeth bit her lip. She knew she’d outstayed her invitation at Kristy’s stepfather’s mansion – but ever since the Todd saga had blown up she’d been without a home. Surely Kristy would be happy that she was dating her elder brother?

“Are you alright?” Elizabeth asked the shorter girl uncertainly. “Have I done something?”

“It’s not always about you, you know,” Kristy glared, crossing her arms across her flat chest. “I lost one of my best friends last week, not that grieving is anything your Valley people know about. And Sam loved her, he loved her, dammit!”

Elizabeth turned to face her boyfriend, ignoring the gathering crowd of partygoers who were turning to stare. Sam’s face had turned beet red, and he was gazing uncomfortably at an invisible spot on the floor.

“Is this true Sam?” Elizabeth challenged, trying to meet Sam’s gaze. “Is it?”

An awkward silence followed. Finally Sam’s bloodshot eyes raised to meet her own.

A single tear coalesced in the corner of his eye. Elizabeth dropped his hand. For once, nothing needed to be said. And once again, she was all alone.

* * *

Mary Anne Spier set down her apple cider vinegar on the white linen tablecloth and clutched her stomach. That was four in ten now, she’d been timing it on the Fowler’s antique grandfather clock.

“Don’t you like it?” Dawn tried not to look offended. “Why –“

Mary-Anne gasped as a puddle of clear liquid appeared on the floor. “Logan, heeeeelp!” she cried as she began to slip. She grabbed the edge of the tablecloth, barely noticing as an entire Doulton dinner-set crashed to the floor.

Logan wrapped his arm around his girlfriend’s waist.

“We gotta get you outta here!” He drawled in his soft Kentucky accent. “Is there a doctor in the mansion?”

Winston Egbert appeared at their side in an instant, almost tripping over his size eleven feet.

“Denise – grab my orange VW from across the street.” He hollered. “To Joshua Fowler Memorial Hospital!”

* * *

“Here, let me get you a drink,” Bruce Patman put on his best sympathetic expression and covered Elizabeth’s shaking hand with his large manly one.

This was working out even better than he’d planned. When Margo had told him that Elizabeth’s new boyfriend had had a thing for Stacey, he’d known it was the final nail in the coffin. And man, she was playing right into his hands. There was nothing Bruce dug more than a damsel in distress.

He furtively slipped a dash of Jungle Prom Juice into Elizabeth’s drink.

“Here you go,” he smiled warmly, handing her the champagne flute.

“Thanks, Bruce,” she sniffed feebly. “I don’t know if I’m in the mood for drinking, though.”

“Don’t be silly,” he soothed. “The best way to get over a loser like that is to loosen up with the Patman.”

Elizabeth cast a melancholy glace at the yellow liquid, and Bruce almost felt sorry for her.

“Go on, drink it,” he added with a hiss.

Elizabeth held the crystal glass to her trembling lips. Finally, she took a big gulp, guzzling the champagne in one.

“Alriiiiight!” Bruce beamed, resisting the urge to slap her on the arse.

Elizabeth glanced up at Bruce, and hiccupped.

“More,” she whispered. It was almost a question.

“What’s that?!” Bruce grinned.

“I said, more!” Elizabeth slurred, a smile spreading across her face.

* * *

Lila Fowler scanned the crowded ballroom. There was still no sign of Nicholas – but at least her guests were enjoying the party. Even Elizabeth Wakefield was getting on the drink with Bruce – and she’d finally removed those pesky barrettes.

Lila watched, half in horror, as Elizabeth twirled clumsily around the floor, making vulgar thrusting movements with her sized six pelvis.

Just observing this complete lack of class was making her nauseous! She hadn’t seen Elizabeth like this since senior year.

Jessica, meanwhile, was working the room, chatting to Claudia and a bunch of people Lila didn’t even know. Lila wondered for a moment if she should have settled on a brighter dress for the event – then remembered seeing Jessica’s ball-gown on the sale rack at Lisette’s.

“Cheap,” she muttered.

Eve was busy cleaning up what remained of George Fowler’s Royal Doulton tea-set after that pregnant girl had slipped in her own waters. Thank heavens it was only the back-up china!

Lila watched on as Elizabeth stumbled onto her pool-deck, arm in arm with Bruce.

She turned back toward the dance floor, as the Droids belted out another classic. For a second she could have sworn she saw Elizabeth darting past the stage again, this time with those fugly pearl barrettes fastening her blonde locks.

“My eyes are playing tricks on me,” Lila mumbled, casting down her champagne. “Mixing Moet and Bollinger – I should know better.”

* * *

Margo slipped the barrettes out from her shoulder-length blonde hair and slung her arm over the pool-house barrier

“Patience,” she whispered to herself. The moment would soon be here – months of planning, and snooping, and studying would now make way for her inevitable triumph. She ran a finger along the sharp-edged butcher’s knife concealed in her leather garter belt. Margo’s time was approaching – but first, there was once last twin switch to pull.

A sardonic smile played on Margo’s lips as Bruce dragged a barely articulate Elizabeth through the pool-house door.

“Hey sis,” she murmured, roughing up Elizabeth’s hair. “Had enough?” She met Bruce’s gaze, and he nodded, a look of pain momentarily flickering across his brown eyes.

Margo drew in her breath and slid the knife out of its holster, admiring the way the blue light of the pool glinted coldly on its surface.

Margo raised the knife high in the air, ready for the kill.

“Stop right there, Margo Pike!”

Margo froze. She recognized that whiny, know-all voice.

Margo turned, in a violent rage. Standing before her in a matching magenta ball-gown, her blonde hair trimmed to shoulder length and her glasses replaced with blue-green contacts, was Karen Brewer.

“You’re not Jessica,” whispered Karen.

“That’s right,” Margo rasped, a glint in her eye. “I’m Elizabeth.”

Karen smiled. “Whatever, Margo. You do a gigundoly good impression, though. And did you get those contacts from OPSM? They are a pretty awesome shade,” Karen continued. “Not quite the same as the twins’ though. And the barrettes you had on before – awesome. Although you had the fake pair from Merry Go-Round. Elizabeth buys hers at Belairs – they’re fresh water pearls.”

Karen turned her head to either side, revealing a pair of pearl-encrusted barrettes.

Margo gasped. Was this kid for real?

“My Dad got them for me for Christmas,” Karen went on. “But a snakeskin purse? Really, Margo? Elizabeth only takes satin on nights out.”

Margo turned the knife toward Karen, her hands shaking with fear and rage. She wasn’t about to be duped by this little brat.

Karen shrugged and dipped her hand into her strapless bra, producing a steely black handgun.

Margo’s eyes widened and her pulse quickened, as fine beads of sweat broke out across her forehead. She raised her hands in surrender.

Karen pointed the gun at her former classmate. “I know you killed Stacey,” she uttered menacingly.

“Fine,” Margo whispered hoarsely. “Tell me what you want and I’ll do it.”

Karen lowered the gun. “You can be Jessica,” she offered. “Consolation prize. But I will be Elizabeth.”

Margo nodded. “Okay,” she whispered. “But let me finish her, my way.” She glanced up at Bruce, who had a delirious Elizabeth around the waist. She was barely conscious after that whole flask of grain alcohol.

Margo took the knife and finished her quickly, painlessly, cutting the carotid artery lengthwise like Enid’s book had said.

It was without the melodrama and the struggle she’d anticipated, but nevertheless it was done. She stole a glance inside, where Karen had led Jessica behind the stage and delivered the final bullet, the gunshot concealed by the thumping bass of Max Dellon and The Droids.

“Bruce, honey, you’ll take care of this?” Margo asked expectantly, dropping Elizabeth’s lifeless body into her boyfriend’s arms.

Margo smiled as Karen joined them on the deck, just as the first dawn light appeared over the horizon. “Welcome to the family, Elizabeth,” she whispered.

Karen smiled triumphantly. “Merry Christmas, Jessica,” she replied, her eyes shining through the tears.

That was our last installment of WLMS, for the time being. Our final Christmas Countdown recap will be posted in time for the New Year. [No prizes for guessing which will be #1]. In other news, I’m off to the neonatal intensive care unit to meet my brand new nieces – identical twin girls born four minutes apart. No bullshit. Mum is reportedly doing well, but I’m not sure she’ll look young enough to pass as their sister. They’re yet to receive middle names, so I’m off to vouch for Margo and Nora.

Merry Christmas, wherever you are.

Winston

41 Responses to “WHEN LILA MET STACEY: A Sweet Valley/ Babysitter’s Club Crossover”

  1. Nalice August 27, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    Shannon as in Shannon Kilbourne, alternate officer?? GENIUS! LMAO at the Burger Bite. Brought back so many memories!!

  2. Heather August 28, 2010 at 3:25 am #

    I love it! Hope it comes out as a series! Those were my 2 favorite series growing up!

    • winstonegbert September 5, 2010 at 11:28 am #

      I hope so too, Heather. Although I might need some legal advice re copyright! Should I ask Ned or Richard Spier?

  3. Zoe August 30, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    This is hilarious! I want more! What a fantastic storyline… im on the edge of my seat waiting to see where your going to go with this! Its a really well written chapter and your writing style compliments both previous books/series so well. You have such a thorough knowledge of both series – it is incredible! I love the innuendo, references and connections you have made. Eagerly awaiting the next chapter!

  4. Emily August 31, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    WAY TOO FUNNY! Bowled over at Stacey still being a beezy about having Type 1 dyuhbeetus. Haahahahaha

  5. kiwimusume August 31, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    This is absolutely amazing.

  6. kiwimusume August 31, 2010 at 3:12 pm #

    Huh, looks like this thing won’t let you illustrate your replies with macros. What I wanted to say was “MOAR! Because MOAR!”

  7. Sam September 1, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    Ahhhh this is gold!! Absolutely brilliant :)

    Am looking forward to reading more. Noticed some Aussie references – do Americans have ABNs and cordial? On that note am hoping that patriotic Australian Ben Hobart will feature somewhere in this series!

    I never thought about how weird it was that both SVH and BSC had characters called Margo. I mean really, is it that popular a name?? I have never met a Margo in my whole life.

  8. winstonegbert September 1, 2010 at 9:47 pm #

    Yeah the ABN thing had me stumped! I will pose the question to our American readers. As for Margo, I have met one through mutual friends and I’m PETRIFIED of her. [There is a strong chance she is secretly imitating me and fooling all my friends and family]

    • ksarp March 27, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

      Loved this! Read until the end non-stop.

      The Aussie references were a tad distracting (please do not take that as negative criticism, it’s just one of my quirks). I have no idea what ‘ABN’ is. We technically do have cordials, but we don’t really use that term very often. To us, it’s a ‘stroller’ not a ‘pram’, and a few other spelling things (weren’t spelled wrong, just not the “American” way). Keep up the fan-fic! I look forward to seeing what else you come up with!

  9. Totally Sweet Valley September 2, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    OMG That was EXCELLENT!!!

    And LOL at Charlotte Johannson, totally forgot about her, that was a pretty awesome cameo appearance.

  10. Sam September 14, 2010 at 11:37 am #

    Love it!! Am looking forward to each chapter

  11. Rachel September 14, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    This is amazing! Can’t wait to read more :)

  12. Bonnie September 19, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    This is fabulous – love it!

  13. Mandy September 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    Oh, my gosh. I am what we’d call a lurker on several snark sites for these series but have never felt compelled to comment before. I LOVE THIS. It is spot-on and I get at least a giggle — the unexpected kind, the best kind — each paragraph. I hope you’ll keep going :) and at some point, I hope you’ll stop using your talent for good and start using it for commercial, competitive, cutthroat, publishing-house evil — so I can buy your books!

    • winstonegbert September 24, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

      Naww..This comment made my week! No – I take that back – my year! Glad you like the story so far, chapters 6 and 7 are up now too.

  14. Jenn September 20, 2010 at 4:35 am #

    I love this! I can’t wait to read more.

  15. kiwimusume October 23, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    I always assumed Day-Glo = fluorescent, and Wikipedia confirms this. :D

    Also, I just googled ANZAN – you’re from Aussie or NZ? Which one, and whereabouts? I’m from Auckland.

    • winstonegbert October 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

      Australia! :D
      [The big brother to you sheep lovers]
      NZ sounds lovely, though, the bf and I are taking a trip there in a couple of months.

  16. Spoonz December 6, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    LOVE IT!!! Definitely look forward to new additions of this!!!

  17. lillysghost December 23, 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    this was too good! going to miss it so much. and oh my god your nieces. that is freakishly awesome! if it were me i would immediately go shopping for gold lavaliers (just as soon as i figured out what the fuck a lavalier actually is). congratulations to your family and thanks so much for all the laughs. i would so buy this book!

  18. kiwimusume January 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    ROFL at that ending! This fic has been epic.

  19. Myrna March 31, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    I love reading the Sweet Valley/Babysitter’s Club Crossover. Much better than Sweet Valley Confidential which is rather disappointing and doesn’t do the characters justice. Maybe you should have written Sweet Valley Confidential. =)

  20. princess me May 1, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    that was all kinds of awesome.

    i found myself hating both the Wakefield twins though, spoiled brats the pair of them.

    and Stacey, oh Stacey, she was my fave Baby Sitter. May she R.I.P. I always hoped she and Sam Thomas would get it on one day.. bless.

    thanks for the memories!!!!

  21. starfish May 13, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    Omg, this was fabulous! I just discovered this website and had to read this story, bsc and sv were my favorites growing up. You did an awesome job on this, I laughed way harder than I should have lol I hope you write more one day!

  22. TV Patriot October 20, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    WHEN LILA MET STACEY: A Sweet Valley/ Babysitter’s Club Crossover WHAT WINSTON SAW, WHEN LILA MET STACEY: A Sweet Valley/ Babysitter’s Club Crossover WHAT WINSTON SAW .

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  24. http://tinyurl.com/cheadring02578 January 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

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  25. http://tinyurl.com/savrromeo47890 January 23, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

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  26. Vernon February 28, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    “WHEN LILA MET STACEY: A Sweet Valley/ Babysitter’s Club Crossover | WHAT
    WINSTON SAW” holyvirus was a remarkable post.
    If it had more pix this would be even much better.
    Thanks ,Marie

    • 'liya July 15, 2013 at 1:10 am #

      Absolutely hilarious! I loved all the references to my two favourite series growing up! Wish there was more, what a genius idea :)

  27. Robin Brown October 3, 2013 at 3:12 am #

    I loved this! I read both of these series when I was growing up. Always wondered if they would do a BSC reunion book and this was awesome. I loved everything about this. Making Mr. Spier a pot-head was absolute genius. I didnt want it to end. Please finish up all the loose ends and publish it.

  28. alice December 8, 2014 at 1:50 am #

    this is awesome&very well done! i enjoyed it so much&am sad its over. excellent work!!!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. When Lila Met Stacey – Chapter 2 « WHAT WINSTON SAW - August 31, 2010

    […] If you haven’t read chapter one yet, go here […]

  2. When Lila Met Stacey: Chapter 4 “Beware the Babysitter” or “Karen’s Goldfish” « WHAT WINSTON SAW - September 8, 2010

    […] 8 Sep Before you go any further, let me give a word of warning. The following chapter contains some very disturbing content, i.e. Margo at her vile, scheming, child-murdering, Wakefield-hating best. If you had a special place in your heart for Claire Pike, or an affiliation with Trusty Boyfriend Todd, I would advise you to stick to the earlier, more light-hearted installments of this crossover series here […]

  3. When Lila Met Stacey CHAPTER 5 Mary Anne and the Trouble With Twins « WHAT WINSTON SAW - September 13, 2010

    […] Go to chapters 1 – 4 […]

  4. When Lila Met Stacey, Chapter 6 “The New Jessica”, or, “Karen’s Tattletale” « WHAT WINSTON SAW - September 20, 2010

    […] [if you missed the first five, go here] […]

  5. Suzanne, The Plans They Made Put An End To You or SVH # 10 Too Good to Be True « WHAT WINSTON SAW - October 4, 2010

    […] The concert scene is rather funny, because the Wakefield charm has no effect on Pete. Even after she steals Suzanne’s clothes, flirts like crazy and invites him in to “uh, listen to the stereo or um…” he ditches her at the door. Ha! [Note to self: the word seductively was used at least 11 times this chapter. Must overuse it in WLMS] […]

  6. Baby-Sitters Club Week, Day 4: Fandom and Parody || Bri Meets Books - November 23, 2010

    […] on November 23, 2010 Winston Egbert has a massive BSC/Sweet Valley High project “When Lila Met Stacey” over on the website What Winston Saw.  It’s so not the Stoneybrooke  or Sweet Valley […]

  7. The One Where Margo Drops The Ball – SVH #100 “The Evil Twin” « WHAT WINSTON SAW - December 30, 2010

    […] WHEN LILA MET STACEY: A Sweet Valley/ Babysitter’s Club Crossover […]

  8. Sweet Valley High: The Conspiracy Theories « WHAT WINSTON SAW - February 26, 2011

    […] first raised this possibility in “When Lila Met Stacey”, and truth be told that began as merely a point of speculation. But gradually, I began to […]

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