3,213 / 50,000 words. 6% done!
Jessica glanced around the lunchroom which seemed filled to bursting point. There was a buzz of excited chatter in the air. This was far more exciting than the fire drills they had to practice. She was starting to feel as if the situation was something huge.
Initially she had assumed that Mr. Nydick had just wandered off mid-massage (her eyes had been closed at the time) but then Janet told them all that Ms. Wyler had vanished too, and then Kimberly and Tamara wandered in saying that the Hairnet (Ms. Arnette) had just disappeared before their very eyes, right in the middle of her sentence. Something very strange was going on.
It looked like everyone in the entire middle school was packed into the lunchroom—though there was no sign of her sister. If everyone was in the lunchroom, then it meant that there were no teachers in the entire school. If there were no teachers…
The potential scope of their freedom began to occur to her. “You guys!” she blurted as the first of many ideas hit her. “We could go home right now and watch Days of Turmoil and nobody would be able to stop us!”
“Kent Kellerman is soooo cute!” Kimberley replied.
But it was only the first step of her plan. Without any teachers, the school couldn’t stay open, and if school wasn’t open, they could have a party! “We should—” but the rest of her sentence (“have a party”) was cut off by Lila’s smooth tones.
“I think we should have a no-school party,” Lila said. “If we don’t have any teachers, I don’t see how we can be expected to go to school.”
Janet nodded approvingly at her cousin. “That is a wonderful idea.”
Jessica gritted her teeth. Now Lila would get all the credit for what should have been her idea.
Lila flashed Jessica a triumphant look and added, “We can have it at my house. We have so much space. Things are always so cramped when we have a party at Jessica’s house.”
Even though Lila was her best friend (aside from Elizabeth), she couldn’t help feeling riled by Lila’s snotty attitude at times.
Fine, if Lila was going to take credit for a party, then Jessica would get the credit for suggesting a theme. She opened her mouth to suggest something—she wasn’t sure what, but it would be awesome—when Janet stood up and climbed up on the table.
“Excuse me everyone!”
Jessica had to admit, Janet’s voice was commanding.
“It appears that we have no teachers in the school,” Janet announced, and this was met with immediate cheers and whoops.
Janet nodded humbly, as if somehow she was responsible for their unexpected freedom. “So I suggest—”
“It’s worse than you think!”
Everyone craned their necks to see the source of the new voice, and Jessica was far from surprised to see it was her twin.
Elizabeth rushed into the lunchroom, flanked by Amy and Julie, with tears in her eyes. “I’ve checked every single room in the school and there’s not a single adult.”
Again, this was met with delighted cheers—which Jessica was a part of.
“No! No, you don’t understand!” Elizabeth said. “Because Principal Clark wasn’t around, we went into his office.”
“Way to go, Elizabeth!” called Aaron Dallas, before sharing a high-five with Ken Matthews.
“Will you just listen to me!” she snapped. Jessica noticed that her sister’s face was very pink, and she was clearly upset about something. She felt the stirrings of alarm start to quash the excitement.
“What’s wrong, Lizzie?” Jessica asked.
“We used Principal Clark’s phone to call home. Nobody was there.” Elizabeth said.
“So what, doesn’t your mom work a few hours a week?” Sophia Rizzo asked.
“Yes, she does,” Elizabeth agreed. “So after I called home, I called my dad’s law firm. Then Amy called her home, then the TV station where her mom works, then her dad’s work, then Julie tried her family. We even called the high school. Then we just started calling random numbers on Principal Clark’s Rolodex…”
Elizabeth sent a tearful gaze around the room. “Nobody answered. We dialed everyone we could think of Sweet Valley, and nobody answered any of the calls. Nobody.”
Elizabeth was expecting a stunned silence to meet her words, but instead—as was becoming the norm—everyone turned to their friends and started chatting about the new development.
“Don’t you care? It’s not just the teachers, it’s all of the adults!” she implored them. “It’s our families!”
She saw that some people did look alarmed—Mandy Miller and Mary Robinson at the Unicorner, Sophia Rizzo and Sarah Thomas moved closer and linked hands—but for the most part, nobody seemed particularly bothered by this turn of events.
“Well,” Lila drawled. “If there are no parents, then let me be the first to invite you to a fabulous party at my house tonight.”
There was an excited murmur as people realized that without parents, they could have a party on a school night.
“And,” Lila added. “There will be no need for curfews. We can party way past nine p.m. without your parents around to break things up.”
Elizabeth doubted many people caught the “your” instead of “our” before parents, but Elizabeth prided herself on her attention to detail and her empathy towards other students who weren’t as overburdened with perfection as she. Lila lived in a gigantic mansion called Fowler Crest with her father and their housekeeper, Mrs. Pervis. Mr. Fowler spent a lot of time in Europe for his business, and Elizabeth doubted that the vanishing of parents would have much impact on Lila’s life at all.
She made a mental note to speak to Lila at the party and pat her shoulder patronizingly until Lila told her all about her sadness, and then Elizabeth could fix it.
Her eyes welled with tears again as she imagined her attractive split-level ranch house on Calico Drive devoid of her own family. No interior designing mother, who looked like an older sister, rather than the mother of the twins. No dad, talking casually over dinner about his work, as if attorney-client privilege didn’t apply. No Steven, their freshman brother, shoveling food into his mouth and occasionally talking about sports.
No wonder Lila was so mean all the time. Elizabeth was barely holding herself together just imagining her home without her family.
“We need to get home and check whether there are any adults there!” Elizabeth cried.
At this, most shrugged indifferently.
“And we’ll be home in time to watch Days of Turmoil!” Jessica cried.
At this, most girls immediately began gathering their bags and jackets.
Elizabeth jumped up on a table. “Listen to me!” she snapped. “This is what we are going to do: we are all going home, on the way, we are going to check houses and see if anyone is home. If you find anyone, tell them to make their way to town hall. We need to find an adult to take charge.”
“Do we though?” Amy asked. “You’re so good at being in charge, Elizabeth. Why don’t you be in charge… at least until we find an adult?”
Despite the dissention Elizabeth had felt when she had been speaking, many of her classmates were nodding in agreement. She smiled around the room beatifically.
“No! I’m in charge!” Janet Howell said. “I’m a seventh grader and president of the Unicorns. Elizabeth wants you to go and check houses—how boring—whereas the Unicorns are going to throw a fabulous party at Lila’s house. Who do you want in charge?”
To Elizabeth’s chagrin, Janet also received nods and smiles. Well, this had played out many times in Sweet Valley, a smart studious person went up against a popular Unicorn for the role of being in charge, and history proved time and time again that the Unicorns could only promise shallow social events. Elizabeth was not going to dignify the situation with an impassioned response.
She shrugged. “I am going home to check whether my family is there. Then I’m going to town hall. You are all welcome to do as you like.”
She accepted Amy’s hand to help her off the table, and then left the lunchroom with her head held high.