“So,” said Lila, “do you think Cara will turn up to this reunion thing?”
Jessica made a disgusted face.
“She’d better not,” she said. “I can’t believe she chose that geriatric over my brother. And after all the effort I put in getting them together!”
“I see her every so often, you know,” said Lila. “I mean, I don’t arrange to meet her or anything. But sometimes I drive along and see her strolling around with Mr Cradle-robber Collins.”
“Ugh,” said Jess. “So when’s that husband of your coming along, then, Li?”
“He should be here any minute,” said Lila. “Honestly Jessica, sometimes I don’t know what gets into him. You’d think he’d be grateful for his job at Fowler Electronics, but he keeps saying he wants to leave and go back to college. Like he has to!”
Jessica shook her head in sympathy. Like Lila, she couldn’t understand anyone wanting to work hard for a living. If it didn’t mean sacrificing her place in the spotlight- almost as important to Jessica as her sumptuous riches - Jessica would never work again. Even when she did, she liked to insist on five hour working-days, max. And because the world loved Jessica Wakefield, no director dared refuse.
But here was Winston Egbert, fixed up with a cushy no-work token-job at his wife’s firm, and he wanted to work? Jessica couldn’t understand it. But then Winston had always been a little bit crazy. Jessica had been shocked when he and Lila had got together. But then, she had been even more shocked with Liz and Todd suddenly spilt up without warning and Todd and Enid both vanished. It didn’t really bother her. Jessica never thought about anyone else for long. If it didn’t directly concern her, she didn’t care.
“Ah,” Lila cried, a touch of relief in her voice. “Here he comes now. Winnie!”
Winston Egbert groaned silently as he crossed the floor of the chic eatery. How had his life turned into this? The former clown of Sweet Valley High had become a dull drone, bossed around by his wife and without a life of his own. Why had he married Lila Fowler?
The last few years had gone past in a kind of haze. Ever since that drunken night, when he and Lila had exchanged their first tentative kisses, his life had changed, changed utterly. A terribly beauty had been born. His and Lila’s marriage.
He knew they’d been wed too young. But Lila had given him little choice. He lacked the willpower to stand up to his haughty new bride. She wanted to be married, and she wanted to have lots of cosmetic surgery. And there was nothing Winston Egbert could do about that.
He had loved her. God, he had loved her. He hadn’t been able to believe it at first – this giggling, kittenish beauty in his arms was the rich diva of Sweet Valley High? But Lila’s warm and gentle side was as shallow as her rich bitch persona, and just a few months into their union Winston was living in a nightmare.
He knew it was his own fault. He had been blinded by Lila’s more obvious charms. And he had let her boss him around. Their marriage should have been a partnership of equals. They should both have been learning new things, inventing their own lives. Instead Lila spent all her time in the surgery and he spent his in his luxury office, doing his make-believe job. He couldn’t bear it anymore. He was really freaked out by Lila’s constant modifications to her features. But he lacked the courage to make his escape.
“Winnie” Lila greeted her husband with a peck on the cheek. “Look who’s here!”
Winston leaned over and pecked Jessica’s powdered cheek.
“Hi, Jess,” he said. “Boy, you look great.”
Jessica preened. She was always eager for compliments, even if they came from Winston, the boy who had been her biggest high school fan. Then he had been a mere annoyance. But every morsel of adulation was important. Besides, he was right. She looked sensational, and she knew it. A skin-tight pale pink sheath dress showed off every trim curve of her perfect size six body, while oversized gold jewelry and gold lame tights completed the outfit. Jessica knew she was the epitome of European chic.
“You look good too, Winston,” she said. To her surprise, she realised that she wasn’t lying as she mouthed the platitude. Winston had grown unto his gangly looks, filling out a bit and losing his stick-insect air. His black hair was carefully groomed. Suddenly Jessica started wishing she’d paid a bit more attention to him back in the day.
She shook her head. What was she thinking! To distract herself, she decided to tell Winston about Elizabeth’s big plan.
“Hey, Winston, have you heard the news? Liz is organizing a big Sweet Valley High reunion bash! In just a few weeks!”
Winston gasped at this glorious news.
“You mean, Liz is coming home? To Sweet Valley?”
“Well, she’s coming on a visit, if that’s what you mean,” said Jessica. “So anyway, if you’re in touch with any of the old high school gang, let them know. It’s going to be a great party!”
“I will, Jessica,” said Winston. He felt more cheerful than he had in months. A reunion might be just what he needed. Seeing all his old pals might be the thing to inspire him to take charge of his life. Yes, this was going to be good. Maybe things were looking up for Winston Egbert….
“Todd, I think I’m hallucinating!”
The man who had once been known as Todd Wilkins threw a protective arm around the woman he loved.
“Don’t call me Todd in public, sweetie,” he said. “You know that.”
“I’m sorry,” said the lovely young woman who had once been Enid Rollins. “But I swear I just saw Elizabeth come out of that restaurant across the street!”
Todd started. Ever since the moment that Elizabeth had caught him and Enid romping passionately on her desk, he and Enid had lived like fugitives. They knew that all of Sweet Valley would turn on them if they knew what they had done to Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the most popular girl in town. By the time she finished high school, she had offered helpful advice to just about every family in town.
Whoever broke her heart would find no welcome in Sweet Valley.
So Todd and Enid fled, into the Los Angeles underground. With the help of a gang of renegade mercenaries led a cigar-smoking control freak, they forged new identities. They had left their families, their friends – their lives. They knew even their own parents would never forgive them for what they’d done to Elizabeth. No one would. Ever.
They were outcasts. Doomed by a love they couldn’t hide.
Well, they had to hide it, but they couldn’t deny it. They donned disguises and started new lives. L.A. became their home. They were happy. They had each other.
Then the dreams started coming.
Enid kept waking from a dream in which Elizabeth appeared before her, clad in white robe.
“Come home, Enid,” said the spectral figure in Elizabeth’s dulect tones. “Come home to Sweet Valley.”
She’d had the dream three times before telling Todd about it. He was shocked and amazed.
He’d been having the same dream.
“I don’t believe in magic, except the magic of our love,” said Todd. “Oh, and those crazy card tricks that Murdoch used to show us in the van. But I think these dreams are a sign. I think they’re telling us something.”
“We have to go home, Todd,” said Enid. “We have to return from here to Sweet Valley.”
The couple had packed their bags the next day. They were now staying in the poshest hotel in town. The years had been kind to Todd and Enid. Todd, under his new name, Kenny G, was a successful businessman. Enid also ran her own business, under the name Celine St. Claire. They could afford any luxury now. But they’d have given up their fancy hotel room with its gold-plated bath and duck-feather quilt in a second if they could just stay with their families.
But they couldn’t. Their horrific act of betrayal had put paid to that. Or so they thought. They didn’t know that Elizabeth had never told a soul about what she had seen in the Oracle office.
“That’s not Liz,” said Todd. “I’d know. I see her every night in my dreams, beseeching me not to betray her.”
“It must be Jessica!” Enid gasped. She looked at her handsome paramour. “Todd, I think I have to talk to her.”
“Enid, you can’t…”
“Todd, I have to. I just have to.”
And with that, Celine St Claire marched across the parking lot to the limo into which Jessica Wakefield had just climbed.
To be continued...