5 Dec

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!”


“She’s –”


“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!”


2 Responses to “When Lila Met Stacey, Chapter 19: MAGNA EDITION “GOODBYE STACEY, GOODBYE””

  1. cokie mason December 6, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    Hank and Alice! Best! Halice?
    I like how you get in Margo’s head

  2. Misty Fernandez December 9, 2010 at 2:03 am #

    OMG! You absolutely have to finish this story! It is really good.I also grew up reading and watching every single thing that I could get my hands on of both SVH and BSC, and I am so glad you mixed them together! You are a great writer and you should definitely look into getting this published!(of course after you post an ending, lol.) Thank you, as sad as it is to actually say this out loud, you really made my day! 🙂

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