“Good morning, Mr Patman!”
Bruce Patman ignored the salutations of his employees as he strode across the parking lot of the Patman Canning Factory. He had just turned on the local news and heard that not only was Jessica back in town – but she was running for President. And not just President of the Sweet Valley student council. No, she was going for the big one. The presidency of the United States. He couldn’t believe it.
With a rough, leonine growl of bitter confusion, Bruce leaped into his Porsche and headed for his luxurious home. He drove down the main street of Sweet Valley, surrounded by posters of Jessica and Lila. So the presidential plan was a reality. It was unbelievable. It was daring. It was outrageous.
It was pure Jessica Wakefield. God, how he loved her.
As the Porsche moved smoothly past the town square, Bruce caught a glimpse of hair like spun gold in the crowd gathered around the old bandstand. Was it Jessica? He had to know. He pulled the Porsche to a halt and bounded from the front seat. As he made his way towards the bandstand, he saw that he had been right.
There she was. Her gold locks glinted in the sun, her eyes – still the blue of the Pacific Ocean – shone with excitement. Her over-sized blouse was draped elegantly over her perfect size six body.
“Hey everyone!” she said, to the cheers of the rapidly gathering crowd. “It’s me, Jessica Wakefield! It’s great to be back in my home town. And it’s even greater to know that soon, with your help, I’ll be running the world! I mean, America, but who cares about the rest of the planet, really? Okay!”
As Jessica blathered on about her increasingly deranged plans for the nation, Bruce turned away. Jessica was so near, and yet so far. Had she forgotten their sexy tryst last summer? He had fought by her side in the war against Lila, but after the dust had settled in the ruins of Fowler Crest, Jessica had fled her home town. He hadn’t seen her since.
Choking back a sob, Bruce returned to the Porsche and drove home. With tears in his eyes, he ran inside and headed straight for the safety of his grey and black bedroom. There, beneath his sportscar posters, he threw himself onto the back satin sheets of his circular beds and wept for his lost love.
* * * * * *
Olivia Davidson was looking good. The former Oracle arts editor hasn’t lost her distinctive, artsy style. She was wearing an old potato sack decorated with shells, accessorised with sandals made of bits of old cardboard decorated with semi-precious stones, and her frizzy brown hair stood out in a halo around her pretty face. Now one of the world’s most celebrated artists, Olivia had made it her mission to turn Sweet Valley into a centre of progressive painting, music, and theatre.
She had failed. Dismally. But she continued to stay in Sweet Valley, to live, to love and of course to paint.
“Hi, Olivia,” said Elizabeth with a smile. “Where are you off to?”
“I want to get some essential oils to enhance my art studio,” said Olivia. “A new shop has opened in Peach Street. It’s kind of kooky, but it’s got some good stuff. Care to join me?”
“Okay,” said Elizabeth. “I might get some soothing oils for myself. Lord knows I need it, now that Jessica’s begun this insane campaign. You know she’s writing a novel, too?”
“A novel?” said Olivia. “Well, Liz, you never know, it might be good. Remember she wrote some stuff for us back in the Oracle? It wasn’t bad at all. You may not be the only writer in the family!”
Elizabeth smiled politely back at her friend.
“I dunno, the presidential campaign is taking up a lot of her time,” she said. “I don’t think she’ll have time to write.”
“Perhaps you should encourage her to stick to the scribbling,” said Olivia good-naturedly. “I’ve heard her plans for the presidency, and I think we’ll all be a lot safer if she stuck to a less powerful passtime! The more time she spends writing rather than campaigning, the better!”
Elizabeth kept smiling, but inside she was seething with an unfamiliar feeling.
Envy. Pure envy.
“Jessica’s never going to write that novel,” she thought furiously. “Even if that means helping her become president and destroying the world, I can’t let her become a novelist first! I can’t!”
“Here we are,” said Olivia. “Spooky, huh?”
They had arrived at the shop. Over the door were the words BLACK’S MAGICK EMPORIUM and a large, blotchy upside-down pentagram. The pentagram was a strange, dark brown colour.
“It’s the nearest thing we’ve got to a New Age store,” said Olivia. “I kind of wish it wasn’t so….dark. But it’s the only place that sells mandarin oil.”
They went inside. The shop was a strange one, unlike any new age store Elizabeth had ever seen. Instead of windchimes and dream catchers, self-help books and hypnotherapy tapes, the shelves were full of mysterious jars and ancient leather-bound tomes. Peculiar pickled creatures, some of which looked like long, spiky lizards, hung from the walls.
“I’ll just be a sec, don’t worry,” said Olivia, noticing Elizabeth’s look of trepidation. As Olivia headed for the oil section, Elizabeth wandered around the aisles. She was looking at a bottle marked “dried dragon blood” and thinking what a funny joke it was when, to her amazement, she saw a familiar figure filling a shopping basket with some of the most exotic-looking jars in the shop.
“Mom!” gasped Elizabeth, “What are you doing here?”
* * * * * *
Outside the enormous windows of a certain luxury bachelor pad, the sun was setting. But Bruce Patman didn’t notice. And hwas so busy weeping that for a few minutes he didn’t notice the strange glow that was gradually filling the room. But soon it became too bright to ignore. He looked up from his tear-stained satin pillows – and cried out in shock.
A young woman was standing in front of him, bathed in a heavenly light. Her eyes were a deep blue, her skin was the colour of ivory, and her hair was black as a raven’s wing.
And her face – well, her face was burned into Bruce’s heart with an acid of pure love.
She was Regina Morrow.
And she had died ten years ago.