Title: Jessica vs Elizabeth
“Oh, Lizzie, isn’t it romantic?” Jessica squealed.
Elizabeth gaped at her twin. “They’re expecting us to kill each other.”
“Yes, but we get new clothes and we’re paired with a boy!”
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Notes: I am going to post this, unbeta’d as it gets written for NaNoWriMo2017. I will post a clean, edited (hopefully coherent) version when it is finished, but if you want to see the raw, error-laden process of my word-vomit, here it is.
3815 / 50000 words. 8% done!
“Hey, Lizzie! Wait up!” Jessica called out to her identical twin sister. She crossed the hall and joined her sister as they filed into the assembly hall.
Elizabeth was walking beside Amy Sutton, who was, in Jessica’s humble opinion, the most boring human being on the planet. And she had really stringy hair.
“Hi, Jess,” said Amy. “Do you know what this assembly is all about?”
Ordinarily Jessica would have ignored her, but the news was too exciting not to share. “Lila said it’s some sort of business venture between her father and Bruce Patman’s. She says we’ll really like it!”
Elizabeth frowned. “But the Patmans and the Fowlers have been feuding for so many generations, why are they now working together?”
Jessica was not at all interested in the feuds of generations past, she lived very much in the now, unlike her sister.
It always surprised people that two people who looked so alike – identical from their beautiful golden hair, eyes the colour of the Pacific ocean, right down to the tiny dimple in their left cheek when they smiled – could be utterly opposite in personality. Jessica was into makeup and the latest fashions and the cutest boys, whereas Elizabeth was into reading, and horses, and befriending losers. They often joked that while Elizabeth was only four minutes older than Jessica, it was more like four years.
Jessica was an up-front bitch and a borderline sociopath, which were the core values of the Unicorns, an exclusive club comprising the prettiest and most popular girls at Sweet Valley Middle School. Elizabeth had a martyr complex and was only spiteful behind someone’s back – such as calling the Unicorns the “Snob Squad”.
Despite their alleged differences, the twins were the best of friends, and no matter what stunt Jessica pulled, she knew that Elizabeth could never stay mad at her for long.
“Actually, I heard the same thing,” Nora Mercandy said, stepping into the conversation. When she had first joined the school, everyone had mistaken her for a witch, when she was actually an orphan. Thankfully, her grandpa was really famous, so everyone decided to like her anyway. “I’ve heard that it’s a big project that needs Fowler Technology and one of the National Parks that the Patmans own.”
“How odd,” Elizabeth mused. “I wonder what it’s got to do with the school. I should take notes, this could make a great article for the Sixers.”
The Sweet Valley Sixers was the sixth grade paper. Elizabeth was very proud of it, despite how boring it was.
“Jess, do you know?” Elizabeth asked.
Actually, Jessica didn’t, but she didn’t want to admit that to her sister – much less in front of Elizabeth’s nerdy friends. She decided to try and be mysterious, like her favourite actress, Connie Boyer. She smiled knowingly (or tried to, it was hard to smile knowingly when you weren’t actually knowing), and said, “I guess you’ll find out in the assembly.”
“Jessica!” Lila Fowler’s imperious tones cut through the crowd. “The Unicorns are sitting together.”
Elizabeth smiled good-naturedly. “Go on, Jess. Go join the Snob Squad.”
Jessica’s mouth fell open. “Elizabeth! You have never once said that aloud!”
“Jessica!” This time it was Janet Howell calling, and Jessica was bound by duty to the President of the Unicorns. She skipped away and stepped in line beside Lila.
“I do wish you’d tell us what this is all about, Lila,” Janet said in a haughty tone. Jessica could only imagine how annoying it must be for Lila’s own cousin to be out of the loop.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” Lila said. “And you’ll just die when you find out what we’ve arranged.”
Jessica tried to get further details, but Lila was clearly enjoying knowing something her friends did not. In fact, she definitely had a knowing smile on her face. It was infuriating. Lila might be her best friend, but sometimes Jessica wanted to kill her.
Once they were all seated in the assembly hall, Jessica noticed her twin was in the row in front of her. She could also see George Fowler, Lila’s father, sitting beside Hank Patman, father of Bruce. They were both wearing expensive suits and smiling at each other. At this point, Lila lost her cool and let out a squeak that sounded a lot like “Daddy!” Mr Fowler glanced in their direction and gave a cool nod with a confused look on his face, as if he wasn’t sure which child had addressed him.
Mr Nydick made his way to the centre of the stage and cleared his throat into the microphone. Collectively, everyone present cringed. “Good morning, students! As you know, while Mr Clarke is away, tending to his sick mother, he has left me in charge.”
In front of Jessica, Elizabeth’s hand shot up. “Mr Nydick, are you sure you’re in charge?”
“All questions will be taken after the presentation and announcement,” Mr Nydick said fixing Elizabeth with a stern glare. “Now, Mr Fowler has brought in a video for you all to watch, to give you some background before the announcement is made.”
Randy Mason, one of the nerdiest kids in school, wheeled in what looked to be a projector screen, with a tiny VCR beneath it. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a compact disc.
Jessica frowned in confusion. “I thought we were watching a video,” she whispered to Lila.
Lila looked smug. “It’s the latest thing. Daddy found it outside of Sweet Valley. It’s called a DVD.”
“But what is it?”
Lila momentarily floundered, then regained her composure. “It stands for Difficult Video Disc. It’s very now. It shows videos.”
“Like a VCR?”
“Yes, but better.”
“Why aren’t we watching it on a TV?”
“That is a TV, it’s just really thin and modern.”
Jessica watched Randy Mason feed the disc into the Different Video Player, and a picture popped up on the screen. It was incredibly clear, and Jessica immediately started dreaming of having one in her room. She could just imagine how jealous the other girls would be over her slender TV and Different Video thingy.
The picture was of a golden circle with some kind of flaming bird inside it, perched on an arrow. The whole thing was aflame. It was very pretty. Then three words appeared on the screen.
Elizabeth blinked as the lights came back up. She had tried to take notes as the film had played, but in the dark it had been hard to write. And there was a lot of killing to take in.
Amy leaned closer. “Do you know where Panem is, Elizabeth? Maybe we could do a charity drive so they don’t have to have these fights?”
“I think that’s probably why Mr Fowler and Mr Patman are here,” she replied. “They probably want to help us save Panem. Maybe we could have a dance-a-thon or something?”
“Or we could sell cookies,” Amy suggested. “Or have a car wash.”
Julie leaned in on Elizabeth’s other side. “Or we could do a booklet about the trouble in Panem and sell it to our parents. They always buy our writing.”
Elizabeth noted that down. She was sure to be head of the organisation committee for Panem relief. “I could get Dylan McKay to write something…”
Mr Nydick stepped up to the microphone once more and raised his hands to ask for quiet. “Now, I know that was a lot to digest, but that is The Hunger Games. And now I’d like to hand over to Mr Fowler and Mr Patman to explain how the Hunger Games affects you.”
Lila’s father spoke first. “Hello everyone, my name is George Fowler, and I’m here to talk to you about the exciting opportunity that my partnership with Hank Patman will provide for you all.” He smiled around the room, and continued while Elizabeth took vigorous notes, because she was sure she would need to revisit these facts once a special Save Panem version of the Sixers was put in motion.
“Now, you may or may not know that I am incredibly wealthy and frequently visit Europe. On one of these trips I remembered to bring my daughter, Lila–” at this point, he waved vaguely in the direction of the Unicorns “–and she got quite enchanted by the film you’ve just seen.”
Enchanted? Elizabeth wondered. The tragedy of Panem was nothing to be enchanted by. Maybe he had misspoken, perhaps he meant that Lila had been moved by the documentary. Elizabeth shook her head. It was hard to imagine Lila moved by anything.
“And she started asking me, ‘Daddy, why can’t we have a Hunger Games back home?’”
Elizabeth’s jaw dropped. He couldn’t be serious. Then she smiled. Of course he couldn’t be serious, he was just forcing them to empathise with the poor people of Panem through shock value. She jotted down a quick note about Mr Fowler’s technique and drew a smiley face next to it.
“At first, like all of Lila’s endeavours, I wondered about the cost. But then – as chance would have it – I bumped into Hank at the golf course, and we started talking about how to make this work, and we realised with the unspecified technology my firm produces, and the Patmans’ love of owning vast swathes of land, this was actually a match made in heaven. So I’m going to pass over to Hank, so he can tell you how this is going to affect you.”
Elizabeth stared at him. Surely he was going to end the joke before he finished speaking. Surely he was going to tell them that he wasn’t going to start a Hunger Games in Sweet Valley.
Bruce’s father moved to the microphone, and Elizabeth found that she did not like him. It was clear that Bruce had inherited his good looks from his father, but it was equally clear he had gotten his arrogance from him too. Although he smiled often, Elizabeth thought his eyes did not smile.
“I came here today to tell you kids about The Hunger Games. As you saw from the film, two children in each district are chosen, one boy and one girl, and they are placed in an arena to fight to the death. Now we don’t have districts in Sweet Valley, it’s too small for that,” Mr Patman went on. “There is merely us–” at this point he gestured to himself and Mr Fowler, “–you–” he gestured at the rest of the room, “and poor town. And it would be unfair to pit Sophia Rizzo against all of you, so we will be drawing names out of a hat for a truly random experience.”
Elizabeth gasped. She was beginning to feel that Mr Fowler and Mr Patman were not trying to shock the students into empathy, but were actually serious. Then she heaved an audible sigh of relief. Of course! If the Patman-Fowler enterprise were going to run the Sweet Valley Hunger Games, then they would need help organising, selling tickets, maybe the school was going to host – it would be fine.
Mr Patman beamed at the students. “Whose names, you might ask. The answer is your names.”
A collective gasp rippled through the hall, and uncertain whispers and giggles were heard.
Elizabeth could wait no longer and stuck her hand in the air, ready to make sure that she was really hearing this. Hers was not the only hand in the air, and Mr Patman pointed at Winston Egbert. “Yes, young man?”
Winston stood up, and Elizabeth could see that his ears had turned red with embarrassment at being called on. “Am I right in thinking you want us to have a play fight?”
“What’s your name?” Mr Patman asked.
“Winston Egbert, sir.”
“Well, Mr Egbert, I now know not to bet on you. You are too stupid to survive. No, we are not talking about a play fight. Twenty-four of you will go into an arena and only one of you will walk out alive.”
Elizabeth’s hand dropped to her side numbly. Her question had been answered.
“Oh, Lizzie, isn’t it romantic?” Jessica squealed as soon as the assembly was over.
Elizabeth gaped at her twin. “They’re expecting us to kill each other.”
“Yes, but we get new clothes and we’re paired with a boy! Weren’t you watching the movie?” Jessica got a dreamy look in her eyes. “Imagine if I’m paired with Bruce Patman and he’d rather die than live without me, so we’re going to take the berries, and just at the last moment, we’re saved, because people love us so much!”
Elizabeth let out a sigh of frustration. “That wasn’t what the documentary was about, Jess. It was about an oppressive government, and two kids who gambled with their lives to make a point and somehow got away with it.”
“And did you see the dresses in the Capitol? They were very sophisticated, weren’t they?” Jessica went on as if she hadn’t heard a word Elizabeth had said. “Where is the Capitol, Lizzie? And Panem?”
“Oh, honestly, weren’t you both watching?” Lila’s smooth tones cut through the conversation. “It’s not a documentary, it’s a movie. It’s fictional.”
Elizabeth sagged in relief. “It is? Oh, that’s wonderful. I thought they were actually going to make us fight to the death.”
Lila smirked and flipped her light brown hair over her shoulder. “We really are, Elizabeth. It’s just we took our inspiration from the movie.”
“And what a great movie!” Jessica bubbled enthusiastically.
“Jess, pay attention, it was twenty-four children murdering each other!” Elizabeth yelled.
“But the dresses!” She turned to Lila excitedly. “If we’re picked, do we get dresses? And about those matching outfits everyone has to wear in the arena? I was thinking if a Unicorn gets picked, they should have theirs in purple, rather than red, what do you think?”
“Oh, absolutely, I’ll have Daddy organise it,” Lila said. “I’ll call an emergency Unicorn meeting at my house after school.”
Elizabeth moved forwards and took Lila’s arm. “But do you really want to get in an arena and kill your friends?”
Lila shook off Elizabeth’s hand as if it was covered in cooties. “For the most part, no, although I wouldn’t mind stabbing Ellen just once – oh, and Janet. Actually, Kimberley Haver never returned my luminous yellow mini-skirt, so her too – um, what was the question? – Oh, do I want to go in the arena? No, I don’t. It’s dirty, and probably cold. Fowlers don’t do sleeping on the ground, why else would I be absent for every single Super Edition about camping?”
“So?” Elizabeth prodded. Lila looked contemplative, and Elizabeth felt like she might get somewhere. “And if you don’t want to be in the arena, don’t you think everyone else must feel the same?”
“Hrmm.” Lila raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, don’t listen to her,” Jessica said. “She’s just being a stick-in-the-mud. She doesn’t really get trends. Tell me more about the uniforms for the tributes…”
With that, she tucked her arm through Lila’s and they headed off down the hall.
Elizabeth frowned. She wasn’t going to stand for this. Something must be done.
Jessica reclined on one of the loungers to the side of Lila’s Olympic-sized swimming pool. It would be nice to go into the arena with a tan, so that sponsors would like her best. Around her, there was some debate about the Hunger Games.
“Well I think,” Janet said, leaning forward and helping herself to a potato chip and some dip, “that anyone who considers herself a Unicorn should be determined to get in that arena. We want at least one Unicorn per grade.”
Mandy Miller pulled a face. “I’m sorry, Janet, but I literally just beat cancer. I’m not getting murdered on TV just because Lila and Bruce’s dads have some very strange ideas about what makes for entertainment.”
Lila looked affronted at this, and opened her mouth to respond, but Janet got there first. “Mandy, like I said, if you consider yourself a Unicorn, you will want to be in the arena,” she said icily. “If you don’t, then perhaps you’re not Unicorn material.”
“That’s exactly what I’m afraid of – being Unicorn material… all over Amy Sutton’s knife.” When everyone looked blank, Mandy prodded them. “Material, like matter, like my insides… never mind.” She sighed and reached for a chip.
After a moment of silence, Lila broke in. “I think what Janet is saying is that you’re either in or out. In the Unicorns and in the arena, or out of both.”
Mandy dropped her chip in the dip and left it there. “You know what? I love being a Unicorn, but not so much I want to die for it.”
“Think of how well it would play for the sponsors though: Cancer Girl – the fighter!” Jessica mused. “I wish I had something like that. Oh, it’s so unfair that I’ve never beaten cancer!”
“Maybe you could shave your head and tell people you beat cancer,” Ellen suggested.
Every single Unicorn glared at Ellen. “How could you suggest that, Ellen!” Mandy exclaimed.
“Yeah, Ellen, like I’m going to cut my hair!”
Mandy sagged back into her chair, muttering “That wasn’t what I meant.”
Jessica fluffed her hair, “So if we’re going to be paired with boys, who do you think you’ll get?”
She asked the entire group, but Janet answered first. “Well, I think Denny Jacobson and I would make a good pair. I think Jake Hamilton for Lila, what about you, Jessica?”
Jessica mentally ran through the cutest boys in school. Aaron Dallas was her sort-of boyfriend, but she wasn’t sure he was the one she wanted to romantically pretend to be willing to die for. Aaron was cute and all, but he wasn’t Bruce Patman…
After school, Elizabeth, Amy and Julie met outside the front of the school to discuss the state of affairs. Elizabeth had been thinking about the Hunger Games all day, and had hit upon an idea, but she needed her friends’ help.
“I was thinking we need to make a petition,” she said. “To show the school that most people don’t want to go into an arena and kill people.”
“Don’t they, though?” Julie Porter asked. “Every single class has been nothing but people talking about who they want to kill.”
Elizabeth was aghast. “Of course they don’t mean it, Julie! Nobody wants to kill anyone.”
Julie was unflappable in the face of Elizabeth’s outrage. “I don’t know, Liz. Surely you’ve heard those rumours about your sister?”
“What rumours?” Elizabeth honestly did not know. Rumours about Jessica were always wrong anyway. Well, mostly. Some. Well, three had been false, so far.
Julie and Amy exchanged a look before Julie answered. “That Roberta Manning and Sally Holcombe were murdered by your sister.”
“What? Don’t be absurd. Jessica would never kill anyone! And besides, Roberta Manning just randomly never ever showed up at school ever again after she was kicked out of the Unicorns. It was mere coincidence that her absence cleared space for Jessica to join. And Sally’s still around, isn’t she? Surely she’s been at a dance or a fundraiser, after being such an integral part of Belinda Layton dropping her entire identity in order to be pretty.”
Julie shook her head. “No. Sorry, Elizabeth, but nobody’s seen her since my birthday party.”
Elizabeth waved the idea away. “Well, never mind that, the issue isn’t whether Sally’s missing it’s whether Jessica murdered her, and I know for certain that she didn’t.”
Amy sighed pointedly. “No, you don’t. I could imagine her murdering anyone who crossed her. And besides… she’s got a point.”
Elizabeth’s jaw fell open. “What are you saying, Amy?”
Amy’s face hardened. “I’m saying the Unicorns have made my life hell before, and maybe the idea of taking them out is starting to appeal to me. And I’m not the only one: Nora, Brooke, Ginny-Lu – all terrorised by the Unicorns, and all three of them were outside Mr Nydick’s office asking how to sign up.” She paused and thought. “He told them to sneak out after dark to see him. In their prettiest nighties.”
Elizabeth nodded wisely, Mr Nydick quite often made that request when she had questions about her history homework. But she needed to convince Amy that she was wrong. “But Amy, you surely don’t want anyone dead, do you?”
Amy pulled out a notepad. “I’ve made a list. I’ve checked it twice. And then put it in order of most urgent to slightly annoying.” She held the pad out for Elizabeth to see. At the top of the list, underlined three times and highlighted in yellow marker, was the name Jessica Wakefield.
Elizabeth’s eyes filled with hot tears, and she took a step back. “Please, Amy, what can I say to stop you?”
Amy rolled her eyes. “Oh here we go again! You’re supposed to be my best friend, Liz, but of course you’re going to side with Jessica, just like always!”
The tears slipped down Elizabeth’s saint-like cheeks. “I can’t let you murder my sister,” she said in a hoarse voice.
“Then I guess we’re not friends any more,” Amy said in a hard and final tone.
End Notes: This is where you come in. If you want to comment with questions to ask the tributes (they will be revealed in the next post), or if you would like to send sponsor gifts once they get in the arena, then comment. With regard to gifts, tell me what you want to send, from generic (weapon, food) to specific (eyelash curler, Tootsie Roll). I do reserve the right to change your gift slightly – I will keep to the type (weapon, food, etc), but if I have an idea in mind and it won’t fit, I will slightly change it. However, please sponsor the tributes. They’re fucking morons. They need all the help they can get. Comment either on the entry, Twitter or Facebook.