When Lila Met Stacey: Chapter 4 “Beware the Babysitter” or “Karen’s Goldfish”

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

I value your comments, [all positive so far!] so if you like what you read or have a suggestion for the direction you’d like this to take, please let Winston know!

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.


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4 Responses to “When Lila Met Stacey: Chapter 4 “Beware the Babysitter” or “Karen’s Goldfish””

  1. cokie mason September 9, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    Bahahahaha I always hated Karen Brewer AND Abby Stevenson so this just killed two birds with one stone.
    Winston, you are EVIL!
    Ps – can Liz and Todd end up back together? Pleasse??

  2. Fran September 11, 2010 at 5:08 am #

    Great post! I just discovered your blog and I love it. Hope you keep it up, I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

  3. tooimpurenangel September 14, 2010 at 8:42 am #

    OMG! You killed Claire! You silly-billy-goo-goo!

    HEE! This is fantastic! Kill more annoying baby-sitting charges, please?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The one where Trusty Boyfriend Todd triumphs over Bruce Patman… Almost Married « WHAT WINSTON SAW - September 15, 2010

    […] thought the divorce stats were bad enough in Stoneybrook, but apparently Sweet Valley is edging closer to the YA fiction […]

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