Gone – Chapter Nine

16,531 / 50,000 words. 33% done!


Elizabeth couldn’t wait for Mrs. Pervis to return. She was engaged in a frantic back-and-forth with Mr. Nydick, who had taken over when a pop-up coffee stall had appeared, and the adults of Sweet Valley had surged towards the source of caffeine.

Mr. Nydick seemed very concerned that they were all wearing appropriate clothing for the weather, and seemed very keen to check that nobody was doing anything as foolish as wearing lingerie and/or indulging in pillow fights.

That was all very well, and she appreciated his respect for health and safety, but it wasn’t doing anything to advance the plot.

Mrs. Pervis returned carrying a cardboard to-go cup and snatched the pad and pen from Mr. Nydick.

“D. Sutton says they are working on epicenter of dome.”

Elizabeth nodded. That would be a very good place to start. Though, she couldn’t help but feel that the epicenter would be over her house. It was, she though self-deprecatingly, just how things were in Sweet Valley. She and her sister didn’t mean to be involved in everything, but they were.

But why would there be a dome centered over their house. While they were obviously special, what had provoked it? Was it really like Amy said? Could it be aliens? Maybe it was put in place by aliens and they were simply fascinated by identical twins—especially twins as cute and precocious as the Wakefields.

Julie Porter twitched and groaned from her place on the ground.

Elizabeth wondered if maybe she shouldn’t have forced her to test the barrier so often. Now she was without Amy, she really did need her backup friend.

Mrs. Pervis suddenly rushed closer to the barrier, and Elizabeth braced herself for the news that the dome was centered right over Calico Drive.

“Epicenter: somewhere on Valley Heights Row.”

Elizabeth frowned. How could that be true? Valley Heights wasn’t anywhere near her house. She didn’t even know who lived there.

She reached down and grabbed Julie by the shoulder. “Get up. We’re going to the library. We need to find out who lives in Valley Heights.”

Julie groaned in response.

Jessica had lost Janet somewhere along the line. She and Aaron had excitedly told their plan to anyone (cool) they bumped into, and the group of people tagging along had grown far beyond the SOAR members they needed to work the lights and PA system.

There was an odd bubble of excitement—and a strange mix of people too. Jessica supposed it was the combination of the general oddness of the day, the pending party and the thrill of being somewhere they weren’t supposed to.

They reached a door between two stores, painted white with a metal keypad beside it. The door was marked with an exclamation point and underneath it said, “PRIVATE—NO ACCESS”.

“How are we going to get in?” Jessica asked.

Aaron stepped forward and gave it an experimental push.

That was his plan? To push it a bit? She thought he’d had a better plan than that. Maybe something cool like in spy movies, like using a credit card to break in, or maybe short-circuiting the keypad with water. She frowned. It didn’t look likely that the keypad was high-tech like in movies. It was just a series of metal buttons that would push tumblers into position on the right combination of numbers, no electricity involved.

Aaron gave the door another push, this time much harder, and the door flew off its hinges and fell sideways.

Jessica felt her heart skip a beat. Her sort-of boyfriend seemed to have super strength. It was very attractive.

Amy walked around the mall at a bit of a loss. She wasn’t sure what to do next. She had told Elizabeth that she was going to the book store to do research, but in all honesty, she didn’t see the point. If the scientists were working on it, what could she do? Hadn’t she said exactly that to Elizabeth?

She didn’t want to get herself a party dress, and she was too irritated to sit down with a good book. She didn’t really know what she wanted. Maybe she just wanted to sit down with someone and have a nice conversation.

“Hi, Amy,” said a cheerful voice.

She looked up from her mopey consideration of the floor and saw Ellen in front of her. Ellen was wearing a very pretty dress. She kind of looked like one of the girls in that musical that the Unicorns loved so much, the one set in the 50s with the girls and boys wearing matching jackets.

“You look nice,” Amy said without thinking.

Ellen preened at the compliment. “Thank you. It’s my party dress. I’m so glad you like it. Have you found a party dress yet?”

Amy shook her head. “I’m not in the mood. I just had a fight with Elizabeth.”

“What happened?”

Even though Ellen was feeling very grateful that Amy saved her life, Amy wasn’t sure she could entirely trust her. They had been through this before after Amy saved her from a kidnapper. Ellen had been devoted to her for a week or so and then, apparently embarrassed by her feelings, she had gone back to being spiteful. Still, it would be good to talk. “I just think Elizabeth would do more good here, you know, just in case there are more fires, or we need someone organized to take charge, but she would rather sit at the barrier trading notes with the adults outside.”

Ellen nodded thoughtfully. “That makes sense. I mean, what can she do from there?” After a pause, she added, “Though she’s not the only one who can organize us. Janet Howell is very boss—organized. And there’s you! Haven’t you helped Elizabeth through everything she’s done?”

Amy flushed. She hadn’t ditched Elizabeth to take her place. She had just wanted Elizabeth to consider where the best place for her was. And she really shouldn’t talk to Ellen about the situation. If it got back to Elizabeth worded badly—and of course it would because Unicorns—then it would hurt her. She needed to change the subject. “So what is everyone doing at the mall, besides shopping for dresses?”

“Well, I’m going to Sweet Valley House and Home to get some super purple bedding, then I’m going to claim my bed at Sweet Valley Beds. And I think someone is running Valley Burgers, so maybe I’ll get something to eat after. Would you like to come with me?”

Amy thought about it for a moment. “Ok. Maybe we can even get me a party dress.”

Jessica’s feet were sore. After a lot of wrong turns down the corridors that ran through the innards of the mall—one wrong turn netted Jessica the most adorable purple clutch purse from Lisette’s store room—they eventually found themselves in the control room of the mall.

There was a large control desk covered in interesting buttons that Jessica itched to push, with screens inset that the far edge of it. Randy Mason immediately settled himself on the chair, and started pushing buttons on the control panel in an experimental but decisive way.

Grace Oliver found a map on the back of the door to the office they were in and let out a laugh. “We did a big circle!” she said. “If we’d have gone left instead of right at the first turning, we’d have come straight here.”

That didn’t surprise Jessica in the slightest. It was that kind of day. She eased her feet out of the ambitious heels she had chosen and sighed with relief at the cool tile under her feet.

“Look at this,” Randy said, pointing at the screens. “We can see what everyone is doing.”

Jessica peered at the grainy footage, bored. She didn’t break in here to watch people, she was here to get Johnny Buck blasting through every speaker. “Come on, Randy. We need music.” She dumped down all the cassettes from her Valley Records bag on the desk.

The weight of the cassettes pushed a random assortment of buttons. This resulted in lights flashing throughout the mall, and a high-pitched whine that made them all clap their hands over their ears. On the screens, their classmates did the same.

Randy pushed the tapes off the console in irritation. “For heaven’s sake! They probably heard that all the way in Big Mesa, never mind the dome we’re in!”

Jessica wanted to tell Randy not to speak to her like that, but she also wanted her party to be great, so she pasted a smile on her face and spoke in honeyed tones. “I’m so sorry, Randy. Can you fix it?”

“There’s nothing to fix, I’ve moved the tapes. If you give me twenty minutes, I can set it up so it plays the songs you want. There’s a double tape deck there, so that when one tape runs out, it will play the next.”

That was, admittedly, very cool. Jessica wished she had such a high-tech setup at home. Then she realized she could. She could have anything she wanted. “How do I get a double tape deck for myself?” she asked.

“I’ll help you find a good stereo, Jessica,” Randy offered. “But really, the person to speak to is Lloyd, he’s a genius when it comes to technology.”

Janet would probably say it reflected badly on the Unicorns to have a fleet of nerds doing her bidding. Janet would also probably be green with envy once she saw how cool Jessica’s stereo would be.

“This doesn’t reflect well on the Unicorns,” said Janet Howell.

“No,” Janet agreed.

Janet nodded vigorously. “You can’t have a sixth grader stealing your presidency!”

“Or do you mean precedence?” Janet asked.

Janet shook her head. “I’m fairly sure I mean presidency.”

“Shut up!” yelled the real Janet Howell, the one standing outside of the mirror.

The other Janets quelled and looked at her. Janet had snuck back to Kendalls to talk to her other selves not long after Aaron had broken the door with his super strength. She made sure she found the best setup of mirrors so that all the Janets could be seen.

She had wanted to speak to them because after she saw Aaron use his super power to break a door, it occurred to her that having her own power probably wasn’t shameful. Jessica had just let her think it was.

Janet spent a lot of time quashing parts of herself to convey the best Janet she could possibly be, the best president of the Unicorns, the best eighth grader. She denied herself onion dip because it gave her bad breath, she tried to hide her head brace so that nobody would see her looking terrible, she wore the best clothes, even when they were uncomfortable. She even tried to get the rest of the Unicorns to lead by her stellar example. She quizzed them on their sort-of boyfriends, she allowed or denied trends, she banned homework from the Unicorner—she never stopped being the ideal Janet.

And apparently, all the parts of Janet she had denied, were still better Unicorns than Jessica—who had now taken up with a bunch of geeks and stolen her Unicorn Club!

When Ms. Wyler first disappeared, Janet had been frightened. She had done her best to keep it hidden, put on a brave face and address the school like the leader she was, but the fear had been there. She thought some of the other Janets had gotten free then. She had put all her effort into quelling the fear (there was a Janet, far in the back, hiding behind another more assertive Janet), and some of them had slipped free. And that was where the trouble started. One Janet had talked to Jessica, another to Ellen, another to Lila, while she, the real Janet, had been with Mary.

“I think,” said the Janet in a stunning floor-length lilac dress the main Janet had discarded because it simply didn’t stand out enough against the very striking dresses the rest of the Unicorns had chosen. “I think that maybe we are the best parts of the Unicorn Club. And we should take it back.”

A Janet in jeans and a purple tank top stepped forward. This was the Janet that most scared her. This was the Janet that didn’t care what the rest of them thought. This was the Janet who had been the most stifled in the past thirteen years.

“I know we’re right,” she said. “We know we’re right. We’re taking back our club—all of us. We’re going to help you.”

Janet couldn’t help but smile at her most assertive self. She was right. She was terrific. All parts of her. She was the best Unicorn. All of her. And she was taking back her club from that jumped up little sixth grader. Jessica may be a Wakefield Twin, but Janet was Legion. Janet was many.

And she was done repressing herself.

Janet reached a hand out to her other selves. “Let’s take back our club!”

Note: I have been referring to Janet as a seventh grader, but actually she’s an eighth. I’ll go back and correct everything, but if you’ve noticed an error as reading, this is the moment I caught it and fixed it.

Also, I think “Valley Heights” is a daft name for a road, but if you read The Sweet Life, there is an area called that.