Gone – Chapter Seven

11,803 / 50,000 words. 24% done!


Jessica was beginning to appreciate what life as Lila Fowler would be like. She could have anything in any store she wanted, and there was nobody home to give her a hard time about it. On reflection, she had no idea why Lila could be so prickly. She lived a charmed life.

All around her in Kendalls, she could hear her friends having a field day picking out outfit after outfit, without any thought of budget or choosing just one thing like they usually had to.

Jessica was trying on an outfit she had been eyeing but knew that she would never afford, even if all one hundred and thirty-seven of her yearly birthdays fell in the same week and every relative was extremely generous. (It went without saying that she’d help herself to Elizabeth’s share too.)

It was the most beautiful dress she had ever seen, in deep purple satin, with ruched sleeves that looked like rosebuds, a tight ruffled bodice that gathered in at the waist in a large bow and puffed out in the most adorable ra-ra skirt she’d ever seen.

It was without question the prettiest dress she had ever worn.

And she was letting herself down by pairing it with sneakers. They weren’t even hers, they were Elizabeth’s. She kicked them off and decided to hunt down a nice pair of heels. Wouldn’t everyone be jealous when they saw her outfit? Even more so if she could find purple heels.

She rounded a corner and found Janet trying on another purple dress in front of three mirrors, angled so they reflected each other and gave the best view. Hers was more simple than Jessica’s but striking nonetheless. It was a simple dress with a rounded neck, short sleeves and a short skirt, but it was covered in purple sequins. Jessica idly considered how she would look in it, but she realized her ra-ra skirt would look much better swirling out as she twirled on the dancefloor.

“You look—” The compliment died on Jessica’s lips as she glanced at Janet’s reflection. The Janet in the mirror was wearing a completely different outfit. Every Janet in the mirror was wearing a completely different outfit.

Janet turned to her in panic, surprised by her voice. She did her best to leap in front of the mirror and obscure the different Janets reflected.

“There are so many of you…” Jessica whispered. Then she began to think about it. “Is that why you don’t remember talking to me?”

Janet stared at her, a flush rising in her cheeks.

“And you don’t remember talking to Ellen either,” she added, as an afterthought. She looked at the many Janets in the mirror. “One of you told me to buy onion dip, and then I saved your life.”

“Actually,” said a Janet in jeans in a shiny top. “I wanted the onion dip—so did everyone else, I was just the only one willing to go for it. But you didn’t save me. You saved her.” She pointed at a Janet in a very simple floor-length lilac gown that Jessica had very nearly tried on before she’d found her current dress.

The Janet in lilac gave her a thumbs up and a big smile.

Jessica noticed that the reflections of Janet were a lot nicer but significantly less cool than the real Janet.

“Please don’t tell anyone about this,” hissed the real Janet. “I don’t know what people would think. I don’t know what I think. I don’t think there should be more than one of me. It could reflect very badly on the Unicorns. I don’t even know what the other mes have done. I only just found out about them when I looked in the mirror. Then I remembered that you said you’d saved me, and one of me only had one shoe…” Janet tailed off looking aggrieved. “Please don’t tell anyone.”

Jessica smiled in amusement. It felt good to have Janet under her thumb. She didn’t even have to say anything, and Janet was squirming.

“For heaven’s sake, Jessica. Think of the Unicorns! I’m the president! There can’t be more than one of me. It’s not like I’m something lame like a twin or whatever.”

Jessica glared. “Being a twin is lame?” She did a quick count of the reflections. “There are at least…” Seeing all the Janets started to give her a headache, and math really wasn’t Jessica’s thing. She wasn’t Lloyd Benson, for goodness sake. “There’s a lot more than two of you!”

“Jessica, please keep your voice down,” Janet urged.

Jessica shrugged. “Ok, I will. I’ll even go to the end of the aisle and make sure nobody else sees you like this.”

A look of comprehension bloomed across Janet’s face. “And what do you want in return?”

“For you to agree with me on every suggestion I make,” Jessica said. Then a truly amazing thought struck her. “And for me to be the president of the Unicorns during this whole dome thing that Elizabeth was jabbering about.”

Janet’s jaw dropped. “That’s not fair! You can’t force me to agree to that! What is everyone going to think if I announce that you’re in charge?”

“What is everyone going to think when they realize there are dozens of you?” Jessica countered. “They’re going to think that you’re…” Jessica didn’t actually get what was so bad about there being multiple Janets (other than the obvious bossiness), but Janet was clearly worried about something. In this case, it would be better to imply she knew. “Well, you know what they’ll think…” Jessica let her voice tail off ominously, just like Connie Boyer when she was manipulating her friends.

Janet groaned. “Oh goodness, they’ll think I’m to blame for this whole situation.”

Really? That was her fear? Jessica hadn’t even considered that her fire powers might be linked to the dome, and if they were then it certainly wasn’t her fault. She was not going to take the blame for something she couldn’t control. Heck, she rarely took responsibility for all the things she did put in motion. But if it got Jessica what she wanted…

Gritting her teeth, Janet stuck out her hand and shook Jessica’s.

Lila was already sick of An Ode to Amy Sutton by Ellen. Ever since the fire, Ellen had been burbling on with barely a pause for breath. Lila wasn’t even listening at this point. There was only so much hero-worship a person could take, and she’d already reached her limit several months ago when Amy had again saved Ellen from a kidnapper.

“Do you think we should join Elizabeth and try to find a way to get back to our parents?” Ellen asked.

“A way back?” Lila scoffed. “Don’t be silly.” Lila had no intention of helping Elizabeth end the current situation. For one thing, she was having a perfectly lovely time not being touched inappropriately by Mr. Nydick while allegedly learning about the Civil War; for another, her father was in Europe at the moment, and would not be back for a few days. If Elizabeth got her way and managed to bring down the barrier, then everyone would have a tearful reunion with their parents and Lila would… what? Hug Mrs. Pervis? Were you even allowed to hug the help?

It was rather nice having everyone in the same boat as her when it came to parents. Though she wasn’t too keen on the feeling that everyone could have anything they wanted from the mall. Lila preferred that to be an exclusive luxury to the rich, not the default for every Lois Waller and Jessica Wakefield in Sweet Valley.

Though nobody was going to look as fabulous as Lila. She had found a wonderful dress in a shiny purple material. The dress was strapless and tight to her hips, then puffed out in ruched layers. It was so eye-catching.

“But maybe we should try to find out why all the adults vanished.” Ellen sat down sulkily on a stool provided for trying shoes on. She was wearing a terrible abomination of a dress. A boring halter dress with a flared skirt, black with purple dots, with a silk ribbon as a belt. It looked like something from the fifties. Why was Ellen always so behind?

Still, if Ellen looked terrible, it would only emphasize how fabulous Lila looked in her shiny dress!

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Lila said. “These things do tend to resolve themselves. Besides, Elizabeth said that the news was reporting on it, so surely someone else can figure it out.”

“But we haven’t even been to the barrier,” Ellen said. “Maybe we should go and take a look.”

“And what exactly will you do when you get there? Wave at your parents and brother? Then what?” Lila kept her face indifferent, but at least Ellen would have someone to wave at. “What exactly is Elizabeth going to do? I know she knows everything and is the most wonderful human being that ever existed, but what is her skillset that will get us out of a… what did she call it? A dome?”

“She doesn’t know everything!” Ellen replied fiercely. “It was Amy that said it was aliens!”

“Well then, you have your answer.” Lila checked reflection from another angle and nodded approvingly. “Even Elizabeth can’t defeat aliens.”

Elizabeth held up her “What is going on?” sign again to the adults gathered on Valley Road.

Mrs. Pervis was the only one with paper and pens, so she was having to report the goings on outside the dome. It was slow going.

Amy was content to sit down behind her and wave to her mother. Julie was still on the ground where they had left her about an hour ago after too many bumps into the barrier.

Elizabeth tried to withhold a sigh of impatience as Mrs. Pervis scribbled a response.

“News says big dome. Circling town. No way in or out. Scientists coming to investigate.”

That was interesting. This really was a big deal.

“See, Elizabeth, they’ve got scientists on it. Everything will be fine,” Amy said.

Elizabeth bit her lip. Amy clearly wanted to go to the mall with everyone else, but Elizabeth was their leader. She had to do the right thing. She wrote, “What can I do to help?” and held it up.

Mrs. Pervis was much quicker in responding this time. “Make sure Lila safe.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. If anyone was adept at being without parents, it was Lila. But she politely nodded and wrote, “What else?”

It wasn’t long before Mrs. Pervis held up another note. “What can you do? You’re twelve.”

Clearly Mrs. Pervis didn’t know who she was dealing with.

Notes: Sorry for the costume porn. Describing hideous 80s clothing is part of the reason I do NaNo. Jessica’s outfits are a fucking delight to write.

I have attached pictures of their foul dresses (though I made Jessica’s worse by making the skirt ra-ra, to be fair). I would give credit, but they are from Pinterest, and anyone who’s ever done an image search will know what a nightmare it is trying to follow a link from an image search via bloody Pinterest.