The lime-green triumph pulled up at the site of the former Dairi-Burger. Where once Sweet Valley’s teenagers had sipped innocent shakes and gorged on burgers, and sometimes run gambling rackets, now stood La Belle Maison, a stylish restaurant.
The door of the Triumph opened, and two long, silk-stocking-clad legs swung out from the driver’s seat. The legs were topped by a tight fitting Versace suit, and a strangely pinched looking face, surrounded by glossy light-brown hair.
Lila Fowler. Jessica Wakefield’s greatest friend. And greatest rival.
These days, of course, both girls had changed. A lot. Jessica was a world-famous actress, just as she’d always dreamed, and Lila, well, Lila was still one of the richest women in California. Her father had died when Lila was just 21, leaving her his millions, as well as his computer company, which was now run by a team of loyal minions. Lila had plenty of time to spend with her husband, Winston Egbert – and she also had plenty of time to visit her surgeon.
Lila had been under the surgeon’s knife more times than she now cared to remember. Her formerly pleasant but unremarkable features had been transformed. Her eyes were enormous, and permanent contact-lenses had turned them a shocking bright purple. Her cheekbones were so high they were almost in her forehead. Her mouth was a perpetual enormous pout. Her nose was a tiny button. Her chin was a pert bump.
She looked freakish.
And she loved it.
Lila had always wanted to be more than just George Fowler’s daughter. And while a lesser, less imaginative woman might have decided to develop her own talents, to go to college and study something new and fascinating, Lila decided on something a little more – unusual. She’d make herself the most beautiful, head-turning woman in America. As far as she was concerned, her unusual looks were exotic and charming.
They made children cry.
Humming a hit by the Droids, her old classmates who were now America’s hottest band, Lila sauntered across the Maison Belle parking lot. Suddenly a huge limo swung in front of her. Jessica Wakefield got out.
As usual, Lila grudgingly admitted, Jess looked sensational. Her naturally wavy blonde hair was teased into a halo of curls, reminiscent of the outrageous perm her twin Elizabeth had got many years ago. She wore an aqua-blue miniskirt with matching tights and red sparkly sandals, topped off with a teal batwing sweater. Her cruel face hit up when she saw her old friend.
“Lila!” she shrieked, embracing the girl in a warm bear hug. Psychotic bitch Jess may have been, but she had always genuinely liked Lila. Lila had always been a worthy rival. And in many ways, she still was.
Lila giggled. “Hey, Jess. It’s good to see you. How was your flight?”
“AS ever on the Hershey Bar, it was great”, Jessica replied. The Hershey Bar was what she called her jet, whose inner walls were inexplicably painted a horrible brown colour. Jessica loved it. Her jump-suited staff felt it was like working in someone’s bowels. “Come on, let’s eat.”
The duo’s entrance caused uproar in La Belle Maison. All heads turned to see the superstar and her freakish companion. Everyone knew Lila Fowler in Sweet Valley, but her odd appearance always caused comments. Lila took these as her due. She always assumed they were praising her unique beauty. The awe-struck hostess showed them to their enormous table, where Jessica swiftly ordered a large bottle of Cristal.
“So,” she said. “How are you? How’s Winston?”
“Winston’s just great,” said Lila.
“I can’t believe you married that nerd,” Jessica grumbled. “You could have had any boy in the school. You could have had Ken Matthews, or even Jeffrey French after Liz tossed him to the kerb. Why Winnie the Pooh?”
“Winston has always been something of a class clown,” said Lila. “But beneath the jokes he’s shy and gentle. When we first kissed after the prom, I knew he was the man for me.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, it was a rhetorical question,” said Jess. “Ah, the champagne. Cool.” She took a long draft of the sparkling liquid. “I can’t get enough of this stuff,” she giggled.
“Wow, Jess,” said Lila. “You’re turning into quite the lush.”
Jessica’s lovely features contorted into a hideous grimace.
“Shut it, Fowler,” she snarled. “Jessica Wakefield is not a lush. She’s a sophisticated woman who likes her champagne like she likes her men – expensive and bubbly.”
“Why are you referring to yourself in the third person?” said Lila nervously.
Jess shook her her head irritably, and when she next looked at Lila her gaze had softened.
“I’m sorry, Lila,” she said. “I don’t know what came over me. Have some champagne. Ah, here’s the waiter. Do you want to order first?”