Sweet Valley High #98: The Wedding
In which Miss Lila Fowler rules all.
But damn that bridesmaid dress is ugly. And her dad looks like George Hamilton. The people at the tanning salon need to cut him off.
Also, check Jess out in the inset. HA! Someone’s looking mighty trashy and pleased with herself!
On a completely unrelated note, they say the word molest
a lot in this book.
On the first page of the book, Amy tells Lila she looks radiant and Lila tosses her hair and says, “Yeah.” Our girl is BACK, you guys! We learn that Li is wearing jodhpurs her mom brought her from Paris. How did Grace manage to tactfully give that gift? “So sorry you were almost raped, estranged daughter of mine. Here, have some riding pants!”
Anyway, Lila’s invited all her friends over to meet Grace. Grace talks to Jess, who’s standing on the sidelines, not mingling. She’s sad about Sam, you know. The other girls all talk Liz’s trial: Lila thinks that, even though the other driver sent Liz off the road, he wasn’t to blame for Liz’s drinking and driving. True. Jess and her Magical Vodka are to blame for that.
One of the girls asks when Grace is going back to Paris, and poor Lila starts to cry! She has to run to the powder room so nobody sees. She only stays long enough to clean up her smudged mascara – there’s a party going on and she’s the hostess, after all – but she knows she has to make her mom see that she can’t leave again. I love Lila.
Pierre, Grace’s stereotypical French boyfriend, is still hanging around too. Lila hates that he walks with a bounce in his step, swinging his arms, to make sure he’s the center of attention. I can’t imagine how that would look. Is he skipping around the room? Lila doesn’t understand what a sophisticated woman like Grace sees in a “pretentious oaf” like Pierre, and can’t get why Grace lives with him in his Parisian mansion. Pamela agrees with her: “I expected your mother’s boyfriend to be a little more…distinguished. I mean, I can imagine her with your father—but this guy?”
Maybe it’s the mansion, Li. Maybe Grace is a total gold digger. Because I confess, I don’t get what she sees in him either. Pierre tells Lila he’d like to get to know her better, and when Lila is rude, Grace pulls her aside and tells her off. Grace cares about Pierre. He’s important to her, and that should be proof enough for Lila to know that he’s obviously not as bad as Lila thinks he is. Li feels guilty; Pierre probably does have some good qualities, but mostly, she’s worried Grace won’t love her anymore for being rude to Pierre. Oh, Lila. You need a hug. She sincerely apologizes to her mom, who graciously accepts. But then Lila sees Pierre cornering Amy and remembers: the man is an ass, and Lila will have her complete family. She always gets what she wants, and don’t you forget it.
And it looks like she might get it sooner than she’d hoped, because a little while later Lila and the other girls see Amy sprinting across the lawn. They ask if she’s okay, and Amy says she has to go; she has a headache. She runs for her car, looking scared. Lila is suspicious. That’s my girl!
Apparently, Amy went to the pool house to get some sweats she’d left there last time she was over, and Pierre followed her outside and grabbed her boob. That’s when Amy ran away. Amy calls Lila to tell her what happened, because Pierre might be in a position to hurt Lila even worse than he hurt Amy. Lila comforts Amy while thinking triumphantly, “Goodbye, Pierre!” Grace might want to stay away from France a little while longer once she learns what her boyfriend did! But then Lila is scared her mom will think she’s lying because she doesn’t like Pierre. She decides to keep Amy’s experience a secret until Pierre is gone for good.
Because Grace doesn’t have a right to know her boyfriend is molesting sixteen year old girls. Okay!
The next morning, Lila tells Grace she’s arranged to have the following day off of school to spend with Pierre (she has a plan brewing, you see), and then Lila, Grace, George, and Pierre are going to an expensive restaurant. When I was sixteen, I couldn’t just inform my school I wouldn’t be there; my parents had to call and send a written note. When Grace goes to make a phone call, George tells Lila that even though he’s rich and powerful, with a pretty daughter and an awesome house, he still feels empty inside because of a mistake he made fourteen years ago. Lila doesn’t take offense to his list, so I have on her behalf. Instead, she asks her dad why he won’t just tell Grace how he feels now. George says it’s too late, and Lila says it’s not. Letting her go now would be mistake too. George just sighs.
You know, George, maybe Grace doesn’t want to be with you, since you were such a psycho, having her declared an unfit parent to maliciously keep her away from her daughter in revenge for her leaving you because you worked all the time and ignored her. Just throwing that out there. George isn’t feeling guilty for what he did, you have to understand. He’s just mopey and lovesick because he can’t have what he wants. I want Lila to have a mom and all, and I’m all for Grace dumping her molester boyfriend, but it really bugs me that it’ll mean George will also get what he wants, without really paying for what he did to Grace and Lila all those years ago.
Lila uses her day with Pierre to great effect. First, she takes him to a notoriously horrible restaurant for breakfast, and orders him a gigantic portion of greasy food. They go to the mall and she buys a million things and makes him carry all her packages. After that, she takes him to the beach and makes him try surfing, where she has a great time watching him fall over again and again. Next, it’s off to the country club, where she runs him around the tennis court for a few hours. Finally, she takes him to a restaurant and tells him, “You should have a drink.” He’s so dehydrated from all the sun and exercise that it doesn’t take him long to get loudly, spectacularly, fall-down drunk. Lila hauls him back to Fowler Crest, telling him it’s so he can take a shower before they have to meet George and Grace at the fancy restaurant, but when they get there, she dumps him in a closet. He passes out on the floor. Hee. She showers and leaves to meet her parents, Pierre still shut up at the house.
When Lila gets to the restaurant, feeling quite hot in her new clothes, her parents are looking pretty cozy. As soon as Lila sits down, George says that he has to ask Grace something, and it’s all thanks to his talk with Lila the other day. Then, he blurts out, “Will you marry me!” Smooth. Grace is speechless, and just then, Pierre stumbles in, still completely trashed. He’s stumbling around and cursing out the maitre d’ at the top of his lungs. Lila is thrilled: she’d just thought Pierre wouldn’t show up. By turning up wasted, he’s gone above and beyond the call of duty! Pierre lunges at their table, and two waiters throw him out. Lila follows him to the parking lot, and Pierre yells that he’s going to tell her mom that she locked him in the closet. Lila puts her hand on her hip and says, “Do that, and I’ll tell her you molested Amy. Get on a plane to Paris. I never want to see you again,” and coolly saunters back inside.
Go ahead, tell me she’s not the most awesome character in this entire series. I dare you.
When she gets back inside, George and Grace are making out. Guess the answer was yes. Fourteen years of cold-heartedly keeping her from her only child forgiven as soon as her drunk boyfriend embarrassed her at a nice restaurant!
George decides to spare no expense for the wedding, to make up with Grace for what happened the last time around. Brilliant plan. A pretty dress and flowers would make me
forget you’d stolen my baby. Grace decides to have someone restore her old wedding gown, though: she wants to wear the same one as last time. Because, as Dwanollah pointed out
, that worked out so well for her sixteen years ago.
Lila has so much fun helping to plan the wedding that she’s thinking about becoming a wedding consultant when she grows up. Jess is astonished: she’s never heard Lila mention a career before. Grace – whom Lila now calls Mother – is totally redoing Fowler Crest too: “She’s getting rid of all of the drab mahogany tables and leather furniture and replacing it with contemporary European everything.” For some reason, I imagine a mansion full of Ikea.
And also, I note, the wedding hasn’t even happened yet and Grace is already quite free with spending George’s money.
The day of the wedding is the happiest of Lila’s life. She hugs Grace and says, “I was so miserable for so long without you.” Aw! Poor Lila! Grace says, “Those days are over now.” Aw again! I’m not made of stone. Lila’s dress has cap sleeves in the book, which sounds much nicer than the one they gave her on the cover. Also, the Los Angeles Philharmonic will be providing the music. The ghostwriter really went all-out with these details: the wedding is full of supermodels and movie stars too. How the hell do George and Grace know all these people, if she just moved back to America a few weeks ago and he has no friends because he works all the time?
As Lila walks down the aisle and her father beams at her, Liz cattily thinks that, for once, George is giving Lila what she needs instead of what she wants. What a bitchy thought! These thoughts are driven right out of Liz’s head when the bride appears, though: Grace is the most beautiful woman Liz has ever seen. Liz wonders if she’ll ever have a wedding: probably not, since Todd is the only boy she could ever love.
Well, until Tom Watts comes along, right? And then that prince or whatever from the Elizabeth series. Oh! And alcoholic Connor from Senior Year. But never mind about them.
Anyway, the wedding is perfect. The Fowlers are a happy, happy family. And it’s all thanks to Lila!
The Wakefields, Enid, and Horrible Todd
At Lila’s lunch party for Grace, that dirt bike girl
tells Jess that she was close to a cousin – they were more like sisters – who died in a car accident. At first, the dirt bike girl wanted to die, but then she decided to channel her grief into something productive. Jess asks, “What did you do?” and the girl is like, “Duh. I raced my dirt bike.” How deep and meaningful. Jess is all, “I don’t race dirt bikes, but thanks anyway. You’ve been very helpful.” The girl suggests Jess organize an event instead, since she’s organized practically everything that’s ever happened at SVH. Jess runs away and cries over Sam.
Also, apparently Jess can hear Liz sobbing herself to sleep every night. Jess wants badly to comfort her, but forces herself to stay put because Liz only lost her driver’s license. Jess lost her “one true love.” And then Jess reminds herself of the Magical Vodka incident, but puts it from her mind. It makes her feel too guilty to think about it. Easier to just blame Liz, since Jess thinks Liz has definitely not suffered the way Jess has. That’s why Jess has to steal Todd: to show Liz what real suffering’s like.
Liz and Enid go to the Dairi Burger and hang out with Winston (who had been sitting with Bruce and Roger, but ditched them to join Liz and Enid! Go Winston!). Liz can’t believe how good it feels to be out like normal, but her fun is interrupted by a kid named Ted Carpenter, who was Sam’s best friend. He leans over their table, right into Liz’s face, and says, “You’re having an awfully good time. Just because they let you off the hook at your trial doesn’t change anything. You were still driving drunk. And Sam’s still dead.”
But she’s not guilty of his death, Ted. That other kid is. Maybe you need a remedial civics class, so you can understand how trials work, and what it means if someone who isn’t you confesses to the crime while under oath.
Bruce cracks up. He would. Liz feels guilty and selfish for having fun even though Sam is dead. She would. She cries and runs away. Enid chases her down and reminds Liz that, “The judge made her decision.” And that decision apparently involved gender reassignment, since the judge was a man in the last book.
Todd plays basketball in his driveway, but he misses all his shots because all he can think about was how Steven Wakefield was right: he’s a jerk. A lonely jerk. Aw, cry me a river, Todd. Jess shows up. She tries to kiss Todd, and he pushes her away. He opens his mouth to tell her they can’t go out anymore, so she, realizing she needs to cut him off before he can start talking, starts to cry about how everyone at Lila’s lunch wanted to talk to her about Sam. Todd chickens out and hugs her. She is cold.
She drags him to brunch at a beach restaurant. She tries to dance with him – there’s a band – but he just sways and looks at the floor. So she suggests a walk on the beach, but when she tries to kiss him again Todd jumps away and yells, “This isn’t right! It’s over!” Jess just sits there, realizing that he and Liz are going to get back together eventually and then Liz’s life will be perfect, right back to normal, but Jess will be all alone. Todd offers to drive Jess home and she tells him she’ll walk. So he leaves.
Jess goes to the cemetery and sobs over Sam’s grave, hugging his headstone and crying that it’s all her fault he died. When she gets up, she’s all dirty and doesn’t want to walk home looking like that: someone might see her and, “After all, with or without Sam Woodruff, she was still Jessica Wakefield.” God. I don’t even know what to say to that.
Just then, it hits Jessica that she’s still alive, even though she hasn’t been acting like it. The dirt bike girl was right! She should LIIIIIIIVE, dammit! Do something life-affirming that would make her happy and pay tribute to Sam! She’ll put together a memorial dirt bike rally, and that will be just the thing to get her back to her old self!
Twenty four hours later, Jessica already has hundreds of dollars in donations. The dirt bike fundraiser will be for the SVH chapter of SADD.
Liz walks home from school, appreciating how great it is to be in Sweet Valley instead of juvie. Todd pulls up and asks if she wants a ride, and she tells him no. Liz awesomely thinks, “Did he think [we] could be friends now, when this was the first time he’d said two words to [me] since the accident? What does he take [me] for?” Todd drives away sadly and Liz says, “Rejection’s a pretty tough pill to swallow, isn’t it? I should know.” Go Liz! Serves him exactly right.
The rally helps Jess feels so much better about herself. The one thing marring her happiness is her guilt over the Magical Vodka. She wants so much to confess to Liz, but knows Liz would never forgive her. Jess feels like it’s too late; that door is closed forever. She and Liz will never be close again. If only Jess had this fundraiser idea two books ago, Liz and Todd could have been spared a whole lot of twisted sociopathy.
Winston tries to tell Liz how much Todd misses her, and Liz basically says, “Bite me, Winston. Mind your own fucking business.” Winston feels bad for possibly making things worse.
That night, Jess hears Liz screaming in her sleep, and she snaps. This has gone on long enough. She goes into Liz’s room and hugs her, and is just about to confess the Magical Vodka to her still mostly asleep, screaming and sobbing sister, but they’re interrupted by Alice, who’s also come to check on Liz. She sees the twins sitting together and is like, “Oh, I’ll just go back to bed. Carry on.” That’s enough to give Jessica pause: what was she thinking? She can’t confess! So she goes back to her room and leaves Liz all alone to scream the house down some more. Jess figures she’ll tell Liz some other time.
Oh, sure. No hurry. After all, it’s not like the information is important or anything.
The next morning, Jess is extra glad she hadn’t confessed the night before: if she had, her parents might not have let her go through with the rally, which is a huge success. Before the race starts, Jess makes a speech to the crowd about what a wonderful person Sam was, and how his life was cut short by a tragic mistake. “Drinking and driving is wrong,” she solemnly informs everyone. Liz just knows Jess is lecturing her directly, and feels like crap.
Just as the race is about to start, a late entrant shows up: he calls himself Black Lightening. HA! He’s wearing a helmet, so Jess can’t see his face, but she just knows he’s hot because his back is muscular. Of course! It’s a photo finish, but Black Lightening wins. Jess is thrilled: Sam would’ve been proud of her for organizing this event. Black Lightening goes up to the podium to get his trophy from Jess, and when he takes off his helmet she starts to pant all over him: he’s the hottest guy she’s ever seen. It’s James. More about him later. Margo happily watches from the stands, pleased at how easy Jess was to ensnare. James gives Margo a reassuring look, and we learn that Margo has hired him to date Jessica and find out as much as he can about the Wakefield twins. He obviously doesn’t know that she’s planning on murdering one of them, though.
Jess spends the entire weekend with him, and is in heaven. All he wants to do is talk about her! He wants to know her favorite foods, what classes she’s taking, who her friends are and how she met them…he’s a dream guy! And the best kisser ever! Just a few days before, she was sobbing over Sam, and now she’s blissed out at Miller’s Point with some guy she just met?
Jess never stops to think there might be anything strange about the fact that all James does when they’re together is pump her for information. Jess is a little slow. Lila suggests she and James take it slow, but Jess blows her off: “Don’t worry. I know I’ve been down in the dumps since Sam died.” – Oh, is that what you’d call your sociopathic rampage? – “And my little fling with Todd did nothing to help matters. But it’s time to start living my life again!” What a crazy bitch. And not in an amazing way like Margo. I hate her. Liz should too.
Jess brings James to the Fowler Wedding, and she finds him super-hot in his white linen jacket, black pants, and string tie. I’ll not comment. Let’s just let the outfit speak for itself, shall we? When Lila asks if James has any brothers, Jess realizes she doesn’t know that, or anything else about him. But she doesn’t care. She knows the most important thing about James: how hot he is. I’m not making that up.
Psychotic Margo and Josh Smith, Boy Detective
Margo, who has decided to go by Mandy until she becomes Elizabeth (I love that I just typed that), gets the Wakefields’ address and phone number from the phone book. She can’t stand the thought of being apart from the Wakefields any longer, so she calls the house from a payphone and then, happy to have heard the voice of someone in her new family, hangs up when Liz answers.
Margo finds her way to Kelly’s Bar. Figures. She orders a shot of Wild Turkey. She pretends to be nice to the guys who hit on her, drinks her shot, and then turns to leave, only to see the most gorgeous guy she’s ever laid eyes on. She decides to stay to get to know him. His name is James, and he’s surly because his dirt bike is broken and he can’t afford to fix it. Does everyone in Sweet Valley race dirt bikes? Jeez. Margo decides to keep her interest in him strictly professional, thinking he could be good bait for one of the Wakefield twins.
Josh, Drowned Georgie’s nineteen year old brother, fumes in Los Angeles. The police didn’t listen to him when he told them about seeing Margo at the train station. They were like, “It’s out of our jurisdiction.” Because that’s totally how it works. If you kill someone, nobody can arrest you if you cross state lines. Criminals do it all the time and never get caught and sent back where they came from. That, or Sweet Valley is an extradition-free zone. Josh is like, “Since the police are so stupid, I’m just going to do their job for them.” He even has his own little detective notebook, with a psychological profile of Margo that he’s written up (It probably says, “Margo=Crazy,” with a bunch of lame doodles in the margins), a map of her journey so far, and all her known addresses. That’s a pretty sad notebook, even though he’s proud of it.
As he looks at a photo of Margo and Georgie together, his mom calls him drunk, crying and slurrily begging him to come home. She’s become an alcoholic since Georgie died, you see. How unfortunate. Josh hangs up and hopes his mom passes out soon. What a loving son!
Margo hides behind a bush across the street from the Wakefield house and spies on them. Ned is the handsomest dad she’s ever seen, and she just knows he’ll protect her no matter what. She thinks Alice is one of the girls at first, but realizes her mistake when she and Ned make out on the doorstep as he leaves for work. Alice is the most beautiful woman in the world, and Margo already loves her more than life. Enid shows up to get Liz, and she and Jess leave the house, Jess heading for the Jeep. Margo sees the tension between the twins and is unhappy that they’ve fought about something, but then realizes she might use this to her advantage. She sees Steven too and is at first distraught, since she didn’t know the twins had an older brother: “A big brother. The thought made Margo cringe as she remembered how some of her foster brothers had treated her. Yes, she knew how Steven should think of her—as a younger sister and nothing more.” Is the ghostwriter implying Margo was molested? That’s pretty dark.
Margo sees an article about Jess’s dirt bike race in the paper. She spends some time shoplifting at the mall, and then she buys a pair of colored contacts. She requests, “Blue-green. The color of the Pacific Ocean.” Okay, when I said that in the last recap, I was joking. I did not think that Margo would actually request that specific shade out loud in the contacts store. Hee! Next she’s going to ask a salesperson at Lissette’s for all their dresses in Perfect Size Six.
Margo hangs out by the Wakefield house, and when she sees Alice struggle with getting some grocery bags out of her car, pops up to help. Alice is all, "You look familiar," but doesn't clue in that Margo is identical to her daughters. When they get inside, Alice offers Margo a glass of lemonade, but when she turns around, Margo is gone. Alice is all, "Huh. She must've been shy."
Margo gets James’s phone number from the bartender at Kelly’s – does he maintain a rolodex of his regulars or something? – and when she calls James and offers him two thousand dollars to enter Jess’s dirt bike rally and win, with some follow up work after, he happily agrees.
Josh shows Margo’s picture around the LA train station, telling the conductors she’s his sister who ran away. He knows that the conductor on Margo’s train will remember her, because her eyes are scary. He’s at it for quite a while, and just when he’s trying to talk himself into not giving up and heading back to Ohio to comfort his mom – He has to stay on the job: after all, who knows how many other lives Margo’s ruined? – he hits pay dirt. Josh is the luckiest bastard ever: one of the conductors remembers her from the train to San Diego; she didn’t really talk to anyone, just kept her nose buried in the Sweet Valley News. Josh, ecstatic, runs off to San Diego.
Margo sees a newspaper article about the Fowler wedding, and knows she has go. After all, the twins will be there, and this will be a perfect chance for her to observe them up close. The article lists the vendors George and Grace have hired, which gives Margo an idea. She puts on a red wig and a suit and goes to interview as a waitress at the catering company! Alas, they’re fully staffed right now, but they promise to keep Margo in mind if something opens up. Margo is enraged. As usual. The manager leaves the office, and Margo uses her moment alone to jot down the name and address on a personnel file sitting on the woman’s desk.
Margo asks James to fill her in on Jess, and James sarcastically asks, “Where would you like me to start? Her first birthday or the fifth grade play?” HA! Jess is so dumb to not have twigged that there was something weird about this guy. Never underestimate the hormones of a sixteen year old, I guess. Margo agrees: “Either James is a great actor or Jessica Wakefield is incredibly stupid. My money is on Jessica.” I crack up.
Margo goes to the house of the woman whose name she copied down at the catering office. While she waits for the lady to come home, she sits in her car and casually flips through the woman’s newspaper (!) seeing that the dirt bike rally raised $1500. She’s so proud of Jess: “That’s my sister!” she thinks. I love Crazy Margo. Then, the woman comes home. She parks the car and leaves her baby in the carseat (Of course there’s a baby. Did you even need to ask?) and goes to her mailbox. As soon as the woman sets foot in the street, Margo, still flushed with pride in Jess, floors the accelerator and runs over the lady, then backs up and runs over her again for good measure. The baby cries as Margo speeds away. She leaves the car in the woods and wipes it down so they won’t find her fingerprints.
I swear to God, I hope none of you think I’m a sociopath like Jessica when I say that was awesome. I hadn’t remembered that murder, so I got to be surprised. The gratuitous baby made it even better.
Josh is almost to San Diego when he clues in that Margo wouldn’t have been reading a local paper like the Sweet Valley News unless she’d been planning to go there. He turns around and heads north again, saying, “You’re good, Margo, but I’m better.” I’ll reserve judgment on that one for a little while, if it’s all right with you.
The wedding caterer calls to hire Margo. Bad luck, a waitress was run over. The wedding isn’t all Margo hoped it would be, though. The manager doesn’t let her go serve the guests: she makes Margo stay in the kitchen filling trays. So Margo picks up a big butcher knife and almost stabs the manager in the back, but stows the knife under her apron as another waiter walks through. Just then, the manager gives Margo a tray and sends her out to the party. Good thing Margo didn’t murder her! She’ll finally get to see Elizabeth up close!
Winston notices Margo staring and gets creeped out. He tries to point her out to Liz, but Liz doesn’t listen. Margo happily thinks that Liz and her friends seem fun, and knows she’ll have a great time once she’s one of them. They’ll be her first true friends: people who like her for being herself, Elizabeth Wakefield. God, she’s amazing. Also, Liz is the only guest who looked Margo in the eye and thanked her. Wow. The Fowlers’ friends are rude. This only confirms to Margo that she’s picked the perfect girl, in the perfect life. It will all be hers! MUAHAHAHAHAHA!
Liz and Winston dance, but Margo disapproves. Winston is too dorky: when she’s Elizabeth, she’ll pick better dates. She imagines shooting Winston through the heart as he offers her roses, which cracks her up.
Then, as the band strikes up a slow song, Todd asks Liz to dance. They hold each other close and sway to the music, which pleases Margo immensely. Todd is tall and handsome: the perfect boyfriend. She overhears some kids talking happily about how it looks like Todd and Liz are making up. One girl mentions Jess dating Todd for a while, and Margo’s all, “Ooooh, I hope I won’t have to teach Jessica a lesson about keeping her hands off my man.” But, seeing James holding Jess on the other side of the floor, she’s satisfied that Jess has what she wants.
When the song ends, Liz cries. Todd thinks they’re tears of joy – Todd, I hate to break it to you, but you are not that cool. – but then he clues in that she’s sad. She thanks him for the dance and walks away. Margo’s sorry it ended so soon; she wanted to see Liz and Todd dance some more. “Elizabeth and Todd belonged together. Yes, we do belong together.” Margo stares at Todd and strokes her butcher knife. “We will be together. Just as soon as I kill Elizabeth Wakefield.”
To be continued in #99: Beware The Babysitter. I LOVE this miniseries.