With its warm peach-coloured wallpaper and subtle gold curtains, Alice Wakefield’s study was the epitome of chic. But its occupant looked anything but stylish as she gathered together the ingredients of her diabolical concoction.
“Let’s see,”she murmured. “Dragon’s spleen….moth dust…. Toad’s ears……Yes, this is everything.”
She arranged her cauldron over the small fire she’d laid in the grate. The fireplaces in the Wakefield’s split-level ranch house were merely for show – in all but Alice’s study. There the fireplace was a necessary part of her evil schemes. She needed it to cook her evil brews.
And few were more evil than the one she was creating tonight.
Thirty years ago Alice had struck a bargain with the forces of darkness. A vow that allowed her to keep her youthful features, so similar to those of her daughters. The only part of Alice that aged was the portrait which hung in the study. Few noticed it. That was intentional. Alice had bewitched the room to ensure that her guests’ eyes passed over the image of her time-ravaged features. She would have hidden it away in the attic, if split-level ranch houses were equipped with such things. Which they weren’t.
But now, it seemed as if the magic was weakening. Alice had noticed not one but several wrinkles. And were those grey hairs glinting among her golden locks?
She needed to try a new magic. A darker magic. And to do so, she placed a framed photo of her handsome husband Ned in the pentagram she’d painted on her designer’s drawing board.
“Ah, Ned,” crooned Alice, caressing the frame. “You have chosen to age naturally, and this decision has served you well. But tonight my dark magic will steal some of your innate vitality – and give it TO ME.”
And with a terrifying laugh that was more like a cackle, Alice threw the evil ingredients into her cauldron. But before she could place it on the fire, there was a knock at the door.
“What is it!” said Alice, her voice hoarse.
“It’s me, Alice,” said Ned. “Dinner’s ready!”
Alice growled in frustration and smoothed out her fawn-coloured silk blouse, wiping away a few traces of dried dragon blood. The Wakefields were sticklers for punctuality, and if she were even a few seconds late the family would be worried. Her spell would just have to wait until later.
But not much later.
Because it seemed that Alice’s time was running out – fast.
* * * * *
“Go, wild man Watts!” cried Todd from the bleachers as the Sweet Valley High basketball team went through their paces on the court. He loved coaching. It reminded him of his glory days at Sweet Valley High. He’d had it all – a starring place on the team. Good grades. Good friends.
How had he let her go? How had he given in to his feelings for Enid? He remembered the fateful day that Elizabeth had discovered their tryst. She had entered the Oracle office to find the couple enjoying an intimate and illicit embrace, on Elizabeth’s own typewriter.
It was the ultimate betrayal.
He had Enid had become fugitives, fleeing from Elizabeth’s sorrow and anger. They assumed she would tell everyone, which would have undoubtedly led the entire town to turn against the secret lovers. Elizabeth had managed to help just about everyone in town by the time she finished school – there was something about her that led almost total strangers to confide in her. And so rather than face Sweet Valley’s wrath, Todd and Enid had fled.
And when they came back, ten years later, Todd discovered that his feelings for Elizabeth, which he had buried under his guilt and love for Enid, had returned.
Perhaps they had never gone away. How could anyone ever really compete with Elizabeth Wakefield? She had haunted his dreams over the years, dressed in her trademark chinos and sensible blouse. Her blonde hair was tied back in a ponytale, and the watch that always distinguished her from her skanky sister gleamed on her delicate tanned wrist.
“Oh, Liz,” he thought. “I know it’s too late, but I still miss you. If I was a king at SVH, you were my queen.”
The players continued to shoot hoops, but Todd didn’t see them. How could he see through the tears in his eyes?
* * * * * * * *
The Dairi Burger was jumping.
Although a few years ago it had been replaced by a posh French restaurant, Elizabeth and Jessica’s return to Sweet Valley the previous summer had inspired a demand for the venue to return to its previous incarnation, in honour of the town’s most beloved and admired residents. And so the Burger was back, serving up the most delicious burgers, milkshakes and fries in town.
Enid, Maria, Winston and Todd occupied a corner booth. Todd had striven to drive thoughts of Elizabeth from his mind, but it was hard to do so in the place where they’d enjoyed such happy times together.
“So, what do you think of Jessica’s presidential plan?” said Enid cheerfully, unaware that her lover’s heart was suffering a torment comparable to that of the winged monkey Boo Boo when Winston’s arrow ended his reign of terror.
“Um, I’m a little worried about Lila being back in action,” said Winston. The Sweet Balley High class clown’s buffoonish exterior had always concealed a sensitive soul. And Winston’s soul had been truly batterered during his terrible marriage to the tyrrannic Lila. Smiling sympathetically, Maria took his hand.
“I don’t think you need worry about her, Win,” she said. “I really do think she’s reformed.”
“I think she’s right,” Enid agreed. “After all, Jessica was one of the bravest of us all during last summer’s battle. She was prepared to fight Lila to the death. If she trusts her, it’s probably okay.”
“How quickly you forget!” cried Todd. The others turned to stare at the burly basketball coach. “Jessica and Lila were always fighting and making up – but then they’d turn on each other again! We can’t trust either of them! Don’t you remember the ways Jessica tricked all of us over the years? Don’t you remember the way she treated Liz? She has to be stopped! And so does Lila!”