Sweet Valley High #21: Runaway
The twins are in Jessica's room, bickering over a new blue silk blouse (foncy!) that Elizabeth bought and Jessica borrowed without asking, when their brother Steven arrives home from college. It turns out that he's dropped out for the rest of the term because he hasn't gotten over Tricia's death. Apparently that was only a few months ago, although we've been through nine books since then, which is why it feels more like years, rather than months, have passed.
Jessica feels a momentary twinge of guilt over what an absolute wagon she was to Tricia when she was alive, giving us some inkling that she may not actually be 100% blonde hair and pure evil. Of course, Jessica's attempts to ruin Tricia's life and make her own brother Steven miserable are breezily dismissed as "well-intentioned tampering", because this bitch just gets a pass on everything.
In any case, the twins decide to invite Steven to a party at Cara's house in an effort to cheer him up a bit and Elizabeth talks Jessica into being the one to do the asking. The Wakefields gather for dinner, and Ned has been on cooking detail, the massive dreamboat.
Her father, wearing an apron over his shirt and tie, was standing at a counter and fussing over the salad. On anyone else, the apron might have been comic, but Ned Wakefield was the kind of man who looked good in almost anything.
Alright ghostwriter, put your pants back on.
At dinner, Steven is distant and quiet but when Jessica brings up the party, he flies off the handle at her, thinking that she's trying to set him up with Cara again and accusing her of trying manipulate everyone's life, before furiously storming out. Then Ned and Alice have a go at Jessica for being insensitive, and only lay off when Elizabeth explains that it was actually her idea and that they didn't mean anything by it. Jessica is filled with righteous indignation, as her parents never yell at Elizabeth and she's always the one getting in trouble, so she flounces off to Dairi Burger to meet Cara.
While there, she runs into Nicky Shepard, a fast car-drivin', longish hair-havin', Shady Lady drinkin' bad boy who's a quiet, mysterious loner at school, yet is built like a football player. Sounds legit. He flirts with Jessica, and she reckons she sees a fragility or something in his eyes, so she's fascinated.
Cara's party is in full swing the following night, and while Steven eventually agreed to go, he's moping in the corner while everyone else is apparently having a wonderful time.
In one corner a group of people were playing Trivial Pursuit.
ROCK ON, KIDS.
Fed up with Steven's glum demeanour and everyone generally talking about how brilliant Elizabeth is, Jessica stomps out to the back garden and runs into Nicky. He smokes a cigarette and talks about how his parents don't care about him, that his dad works all the time and his mother is constantly busy with his younger brother Danny, who has asthma, so she never has time for him. Like, just get that kid some Ventolin and everyone chill. Be grand. Anyway, Jess and Nicky bond over feeling unwanted and they end up kissing and then dancing up a storm back inside, scandalising their square-as-fuck fellow students. They end up leaving the party together, while Elizabeth and Steven look on disapprovingly.
The next day, Elizabeth tells her parents that she thinks something is up with Jessica, as she's been withdrawn and passive, but Ned and Alice aren't concerned, and while they admit that she hasn't seemed like herself lately, it seems like "a change for the better". BURN! Alice, you shady bitch. Elizabeth then points out:
"It may be nice, but it just isn't Jessica."
HAA! SUCK IT, JESS!
Elizabeth then confides in Steven that she thinks something is up with Jessica. He tries talking to Jess but it all goes a bit wrong and they end up arguing, leaving Jessica feeling sad and like everyone prefers Elizabeth to her. In an effort to show that she's changed, Jessica makes dinner for the family but they all make jokes about how she gave them all food poisoning the last time and when Ned starts talking about an ongoing court case involving Ricky Capaldo's family, he dismisses Jessica's opinion and is all ears when Elizabeth chips in, and even invites her along to the hearing so she can write about it for the Sweet Valley News. (Sure why wouldn't the local paper want a sixteen year old writing their court reports?) In any case, all the Elizabeth-love makes Jessica feel even more like no one wants her around.
Fed up, Jessica goes out alone for the evening and runs into sexy Nicky being a sexy loner, sitting on the bonnet of his car, like a lukewarm Sweet Valley James Dean. He takes her to a gazebo in the town's oldest park, a place he likes to go to but has never shared with anyone else. However, Jessica is special, and she sees how sensitive he is while they bond some more over being misunderstood. He then confides in her that he's got a plan to run away to San Francisco and go into business with his friend Denny.
WHAT KIND OF DRUGS, DENNY?
(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I must insist that you watch The Room. You won't regret it. Although a few drinks probably wouldn't go astray.)
The next morning, Elizabeth is all set to join her Dad at the courthouse for the hearing and tries to get Jessica to come with her, but she's not having it and they end up arguing. Ned and Elizabeth head off to the hearing, and the paper has agreed to print Liz's articles about the case, because of course they'll want a sixteen year old court reporter when she's a Magical Wakefield. The deal with the case is that Ricky's parents got divorced and his father upped sticks and stopped paying child support. As a result, Ricky's mother is struggling and is trying to stop the grandparents on the dad's side from seeing Ricky and his sister, in the hopes that they'll pressure their son to pay up. Unsurprisingly, Ricky is none too pleased that his classmate is writing a story about his family troubles for all to read in the local newspaper, and he angrily asks Elizabeth not to write the story.
That evening, Jessica is at a party with Nicky, but this one doesn't have kids playing Trivial Pursuit in the corner. Oh no. This one has beer and joints and punky girls called Sheila with bright red hair and too much eyeliner. Jessica ends up telling Nicky about all her arguments with her family and how she feels like they don't want her around, so he asks her come to San Francisco with him when he leaves in a few days time. She decides that she couldn't leave, so Nicky tells her to think about it and they leave the party together. He's had a few beers but doesn't seem drunk, so Jessica reluctantly lets him drive, and in a twist that will surprise no one, they crash into a telephone pole on the outskirts of Sweet Valley.
Neither of them are hurt, and when Nicky calls his parents, they're furious with him and more concerned about the damage to the car, never once checking to see if their son and his friend are ok. They drop Jessica home, who manages to get out of it without her parents finding out, and that night she resolves to talk to her family and get everything out in the open the following day.
Unfortunately for Jessica, everyone else is super busy and has places to be the next morning, resulting in a series of conversations where each family member that she tries to talk to goes running out the door in a hurry. When she's finally left alone in the house, Jessica calls Nicky, who reveals that he's leaving town that night, as things have gotten so bad at home after the car crash, so Jessica decides she's going to follow him to San Francisco the next day. She tells her family that she's spending the weekend at Lila's house, packs up her shit and writes a suitably melodramatic note to Elizabeth, beginning with "By the time you get this, I will be far away", where she apologises for all the trouble she's caused and tells everyone she loves them. Jessica realises that she's only really leaving a note in the hopes that they'll come and find her, because she doesn't actually want to go. But hey, attention doesn't grow on trees. She leaves the note in her bedroom, but as she closes the door, a breeze knocks it over and it falls down behind the dresser it was left on. Ooooh, you jerky dramatic effect breeze!
|Jessica looks like she's going to the gym in her Jennifer Beals from Flashdance jumper. But she's VERY SAD ABOUT IT. Also, there's hardly anything in that bag.|
Meanwhile, at the courthouse, Ned's case to help Ricky's grandparents retain the right to see their grandchildren isn't going super well, as Ricky and his sister appear to support their mother in her decision. At one point during Ned's closing argument, Ricky walks out of the courtroom. His girlfriend Annie goes to follow him, but "Elizabeth stopped her with a look". Which seems unlikely really, I mean I know she's a Wakefield and all but have a seat bitch, this does not concern you and Ricky is not your boyfriend. Anyway, Elizabeth finds Ricky crying in the corridor and when he cuts her off to angrily tell her that she has no idea how he feels or what this whole ordeal has been like for him, the little wagon GETS MAD AT HIM. She essentially calls him a quitter and says that he's hurting his grandparents when all they've ever done is love him and other tough love pep talky stuff.
When Elizabeth reenters the courtroom, Ned is winding up his argument and comes over all Helen Lovejoy, "Think of the children. The children. That's what's really at stake here. Think of them." And right when the judge is about to wrap things up in favour of Ricky's mother, Ricky comes back in and interrupts proceedings to say that what's happening isn't right and that it isn't fair to any of them.
When he caught Elizabeth's eye, he smiled.
Oh PLEASE. Can't her meddling ever just backfire for fuck's sake? The judge takes the lot of them into the back and they all reach an agreement between themselves, so Elizabeth saved the day yet again by wading into other people's issues uninvited and waving her big wooden stirring spoon of honesty personified around.
When Elizabeth gets back home, she goes into Jessica's room to return a scarf that she borrowed and immediately realises that something is very wrong, as Jessica's chocolate-brown painted room is perfectly tidy and the wardrobe is completely empty. She alerts her parents, who have just arrived home and they rush to call Lila to see if she knows anything. Then Steven turns up, so Alice informs him of the news.
His mother turned to him from her chair. Worry lined her youthful face.
Yes, we get it, Alice could PRACTICALLY be their older sister, so gorgeous and un-aged is she. Lila has no idea where Jessica is, so Steven suggests that she might be with Nicky. Elizabeth and her dad head over to Nicky's parents house, but his mother is rude and unhelpful, eventually admitting that they haven't even tried looking for Nicky because they're a shower of bastards.
Meanwhile, Jessica is mournfully sitting in the bus station, waiting until the very last bus in the hopes that she'll be rescued from the public transport nightmare (if pop culture has taught me anything) that is American buses. Deciding that her family don't actually care about her, she resigns herself to her runaway plan and boards the bus. Back at the house, Steven is on the phone to a guy who's in with Nicky's crowd and finds out that he's gone to San Francisco, which must be where Jess has headed.
Steven and Elizabeth drive to the bus station and discover that Jessica just got on the last bus, as they see it pull away. They race the bus to the next stop in Carver City and catch it just in time to run onboard and find Jessica and then cry all over each other. They bring Jessica home and everything is great. Woooo.
Caroline Pearce was looking fly as fuck at the Trivial Pursuit party:
Her soft, ivory skin seemed to glow from within, and the green jumpsuit she was wearing set off her red hair and green eyes dramatically.
Get it, Car.
But I really must give a shout-out to Elizabeth's courtroom hack outfit:
Elizabeth was dressed like the perfect reporter in a smartly tailored tan suit.
She wears this with a green scarf tied around her neck, borrowed from Jessica. No sixteen year old girls' wardrobe is complete without a tailored tan suit. Murphy Brown realness.
Things I counted:
Number of pages:169
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 5
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 3 (Aw. But they're SO BLONDE! And SUNKISSED!)