Title: Sweet Valley Twins: Friendship is Magic
Summary: All the trouble started right after Lila saw the purple Unicorn in her backyard.
Dedication: For Raven and @buffywatcher23
Timeline: Factory reset, just like almost any book.
Notes: This won’t be as aggressively meta as my last NaNo, so if you were anticipating me leaning so hard on the fourth wall that it falls over, I’m sorry. This still will be a bit sassy, but honestly, I peaked with the Hunger Games crossover. Wait. No, I lied. I couldn’t get past the first page without doing my usual thing.
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.
9,951 / 50,000 words. 20% done!
Ms. Drabble—or Rita, as Tammy called her—was not what Elizabeth was expecting. Sweet Valley adults all seemed to come from the same exquisite mold—looking much like their daughters, but just old enough to ensure that their children were never questioned as being “accidents”, with trim size six figures. Rita was at least six feet tall, with a shock of dry red hair that was moderately tamed with an elastic band at the nape of her neck, but tufts broke free and stood out in different directions. Her features were pointed and prominent, and she looked slightly like a cartoon witch with her large nose. Her figure was not size six like Elizabeth’s own mother, but instead she was tall and gangly, and lacked the style of the mothers that Elizabeth knew.
It was no wonder Tammy dressed so strangely with Rita as a role model. Elizabeth couldn’t wait to get involved. Maybe Jessica had gotten over the Sandra Ferris debacle and would be willing to give Tammy a makeover—after Elizabeth had resolved all of her issues, of course.
Rita also had a strange voice—slightly nasal in places, and flat in others. It was hard to listen to really, when Elizabeth was so used to the soft voice of her own mother.
After only a few minutes of interviewing Rita, Elizabeth could easily tell that Tammy needed her own real mother as a matter of urgency.
“Did you always want to be a mother?” Elizabeth asked, reading the same questions Tammy had asked Alice.
“She means foster carer,” Tammy corrected. “The question actually is: When did you decide to be a foster parent, and what inspired you?”
Rita gave Tammy a warm smile. “Well, I may have already told you parts of this, Tam, but for the sake of your report, I’ll give you a fuller version.
“I was a very unhappy child, my own mother and sister were… difficult to live with.” Rita took a deep breath, and then started again. “Looking back, I can see that it was their own unhappiness that made them act that way, but to a young teenager, it was hurtful. I tried to please them, but I never seemed to get it right. I tried to make other friends, but I couldn’t get that right either—and it upset my family.”
Tammy gave Rita an encouraging smile, and Rita continued again. “Then one day, someone took me aside and told me that if I really wanted to change my life, I could. She offered me a fresh start, free from my family, where I could find out who I really was when I wasn’t trying to please a bunch of people who would never be happy with me.”
Elizabeth kept a polite smile on her face, but this was awful. Rita was from a broken home? Was that safe? Wouldn’t her own history influence her to keep Tammy away from her real family?
“To make a long story short,” Rita gave a short laugh, apparently embarrassed by how long she’d taken to answer a single question. “I started over. I found out that I was actually quite smart and that I really love throwing ingredients together, so I started working in kitchens. I now work at The Soup Cauldron. You girls should stop by one day. We make the best soup in Sweet Valley.”
Elizabeth vaguely knew of The Soup Cauldron, but didn’t know anyone who went there. It wasn’t really a cool hangout, like Casey’s Place or The Dairi Burger. “That sounds nice,” she said neutrally.
“It’s great,” Tammy said, her tone almost belligerent. “I really like the beef stew they make—it’s Rita’s own recipe.”
“To get back to your question about fostering, it was about two years ago that I started to want to foster. I realized that Maj—my savior had given me a second chance that I desperately needed, and I could never thank her for it. But I could do the same for someone else.”
It seemed to Elizabeth that Rita had all but admitted her agenda to separate kids from their real parents, but she kept her tone even when she thanked Rita for her answer.
“And there’s a follow-up question,” Tammy added. “Which is—” she blushed a little “—is it as rewarding as you hoped?”
Rita reached out and threw a skinny arm around Tammy’s shoulders. “Of course it is, you silly girl!” She turned back to Elizabeth. “Tammy is actually my first foster child. It takes longer than you’d think for paperwork to go through, but we got there in the end.”
“Ok, thank you for your time. I think we’re done here,” Elizabeth said. “Tammy, why don’t we go up to your room and start writing this up?”
“Actually, Elizabeth, we aren’t done,” Tammy said. “We never explained what the project is called.” She turned to face Rita. “It’s called ‘Everyday Heroes’, and I just want to say that I think taking someone in to care for them, especially when you’ve got no reason to, is heroic.”
Rita went pink. Against her otherwise pale features, it was not a flattering look, Elizabeth thought. Rita hugged Tammy to her and whispered a few words that Elizabeth did not catch. Then Tammy broke free, and led Elizabeth upstairs to her room.
By this point, Elizabeth was unsurprised that Tammy’s room was decorated in rather boyish tones of greens, with no posters on the walls, and only a few books on the shelves.
Elizabeth set her bag and jacket down and took a seat on the bed. She decided to try and have a light conversation with Tammy. Maybe that would make her open up more easily. “So, what do you think about the magical ponies at school?”
Tammy shrugged. “What am I supposed to think of them?”
Elizabeth felt rather pleased by that. She felt that ponies fixing friendship problems was rather stepping on her area of expertise. It probably meant that Tammy would be happier talking to Elizabeth than Twilight about her issues. “Most of the school is quite excited about them.”
“Most of the school watches whichever sport is in season. I don’t really have an interest in sport—or ponies either.”
Before they could get sidetracked by this, Elizabeth decided to switch topics back to the project, so that Tammy would feel comfortable opening up to her about her family issues. “So, how do you think we should write this?”
“I was thinking that maybe we should go back to the plan of writing up about our own guardians and swapping,” Tammy said.
Elizabeth didn’t like that plan any more than the first time she heard it. “But why?”
Tammy glared at the floor for a few moments before replying. “Because I think I’d rather write about Rita than your mother. I think the project is stupid. I think if it was really a Mother’s Day gift, then the child should write it about their own guardian, rather than someone they spoke to for five minutes. I think we know nearly nothing about each other’s family, and a few questions isn’t really going to change that.”
Elizabeth was pretty sure that was the most Tammy had ever said to another human being. “But Ms. Arnette said—”
“Ms. Arnette won’t know.”
Elizabeth opened her mouth to argue, but then it struck her why Tammy was being so difficult. It was hard for her to write about someone’s real mother when her own was not around. Elizabeth’s heart swelled with sympathy (and smug superiority). “It’s ok if you miss your real mom,” she said softly.
“My ‘real’ mom?” Tammy snapped, making air-quotes with her fingers.
“Yes, your real mother. It’s ok if you’re finding this project hard—it’s understandable given the subject.” Elizabeth wore her most sympathetic face, the one that had brought the likes of Brooke Dennis, Sophia Rizzo and even Prince Arthur Castillo to their knees.
Tammy stepped closer to Elizabeth, and spoke in a low, even tone. “My biological mother is none of your business. This project is just a school project, and your topic is Rita and mine is your mother. I’ve offered several times to swap with you, because it’s very clear that it bothers you that Rita isn’t my birth mother, but you won’t. So I think it would be best if you went home, wrote a report on Rita—with as little judgment as you can muster—and I’ll sing the praises of your mother, and after that we can forget this entire project.”
Elizabeth gaped a few times, searching for the right words—she wondered if this was the moment of anger before Tammy broke down and cried on Elizabeth’s shoulder. She just needed to find the right words… and then she found them. “I forgive you. I know—”
“You forgive me?” Tammy’s face turned pink with anger. “I don’t want your forgiveness. I don’t need your forgiveness! I want you to get out and take your stupid obsession with blood family with you!”
Elizabeth was so aghast that she had grabbed her bag and was halfway down the stairs before she could even process what had happened.