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.
Mr Fowler and Mr Patman took centre stage once all the tributes were announced. Elizabeth could barely stand up. Why had she been picked? Out of everyone who wanted to be in the arena, why had her name come up instead? She could have stayed out of it, save for writing a daily scathing editorial about the barbaric nature of the Games for the Sixers.
She tried to smile at Amy, but Amy looked away, and Elizabeth felt another stab of fear – Amy had promised to kill Jessica, and now they would both be in the arena together. Elizabeth would have to keep them apart.
“Now,” Mr Fowler said. “I know some of you are disappointed that you haven’t been chosen, but nobody’s a loser here – well, except for twenty-three of the students behind me next week – because we’ve got an impressive array of stars to officially start the Hunger Games!”
Elizabeth saw everyone in the audience straight up, suddenly excited again. For a moment she hated them, because they would not be sent into an arena to die. Then the moment passed, as she realised it wasn’t the audience’s fault she was going to the Games. She didn’t need to waste her time hating people, she needed to use that energy to change their minds.
Mr Fowler continued speaking. “First of all, tonight all the tributes will be moved to hotel rooms at the Sweet Valley Plaza Hotel, and will spend the next few days learning how to use weapons. You will get updates and information about them – we will have a dedicated TV channel for The Hunger Games.” At this, there were a lot of suitably impressed “ooohs” and “aaaahs”.
“Secondly, we have a concert that starts at 3pm on Secca Lake, starring Johnny Buck, Donny Diamond and Melody Powers. Then we have our interview portion, where each of the tributes will have five minutes of screen time to show you their hidden depths. After that, they will retire for a good night’s sleep before the games start – while you all get to party the night away!”
More whoops and cheers. Elizabeth felt weak. She didn’t want to be taken away from her family and taught how to kill people.
“Isn’t it wonderful, Lizzie?” Jessica asked, sliding over to her side. “The Plaza! I hear they have 24-hour room service, and a TV channel dedicated to Johnny Buck music videos!”
“I would rather be at home,” Elizabeth said, blinking back the tears.
Jessica rolled her eyes. “You are such a wet blanket lately!” With that she moved on to speak to Janet Howell.
Elizabeth felt fingernails dig into her arm, and saw that Lila was grasping her arm. “I can’t do this, Elizabeth,” she whispered.
Elizabeth smiled. Finally, an ally.
Lila had gotten through school in a haze of barely-concealed panic. All around her there was happy chatter – people who were glad they hadn’t been picked, people who were glad they had. Lila was neither.
While she was worried about sleeping on the ground, and that was the excuse she had used with her father, it wasn’t her most pressing issue. Lila was pretty sure she was the only one who had figured out the problem in a constantly live-streaming channel. At some point, the tributes would have to pee or pas gas. Lila was unwilling to do either in public.
And in a less pressing way, she was worried that Jessica would murder her. She was fairly sure that neither Ellen nor Janet would have the nerve, but Jessica was a sociopath, and Lila was fairly sure she had killed before.
At some point she had come up with a plan. She had pushed a note into Melissa McCormick’s locker and asked her to meet her straight after school at Fowler Estate, but to tell no-one and make sure nobody saw her enter the grounds.
And now she was stuck pacing the grand foyer as she waited – Melissa was poor, she did not have a chauffeur that drove her around.
“Why are you pacing, Lila?” Mrs Pervis stuck her head out of the kitchen.
“Because I’m going to be picked up in an hour, and taken to the Plaza, and then I’m going to train for a week, and then I get put in an arena with Jessica Wakefield of all people, and we have to fight to the death!” Lila snapped. “Oh, so maybe don’t start dinner, I’ll eat at the Plaza, and could you pack my things?”
“Oh, you’ve never been picked?” Mrs Pervis’ eyes filled with tears. “Not you?”
“Oh, I have, and it’s so unfair!” Lila wailed.
Mrs Pervis stepped out of the kitchen. “I really would have thought your father might have stopped your name going in.”
“So did I!” Lila raged. “But he said since it was my idea, I had to see it through.”
Mrs Pervis patted Lila’s shoulder. “Well, I’m sure you’ll win. I’ll pack your nicest things.”
And with that, she left Lila alone.
A few moments later, the doorbell rang and Lila raced to open the door.
“Hi, Lila. Sorry I’m late,” Melissa said. She gave Lila a pointed look. “Of course, if you weren’t desperate to hide our friendship, you could’ve given me a ride over here.”
Lila dragged her through the door. “Did anyone see you walking up my drive?”
“Well, it’s a couple of miles long, so maybe?” Melissa said with a smile.
“Stop being smart – I’m not ashamed of you, Melissa, I’m deliberately hiding you as part of a strategy!”
Melissa raised a single eyebrow. “Uh-huh.”
Lila walked over to her purse and pulled out all her credit cards. “I want you to take these.”
Melissa gave her a small smile and shook her head. “Lila, I’m not taking your money. I think you probably mean this as kindness, so I’m going to say it’s sweet, but you don’t have to worry about me being poor.”
“Oh, blast you being poor! It’s not about that. This is about you protecting me, Melissa!” Lila snapped. “I want you to take these, and send me whatever you think I need by way of sponsorship gifts. The first thing I want you to send me is a tent or something that gives me privacy, so if I need to pee, nobody will ever know.”
Melissa gave a snort of laughter.
“Elegant, Melissa. Is it any wonder I don’t go out with you in public?” Lila paused and thought. “You might want to borrow something from my wardrobe whenever you buy a gift.” She pointed at Melissa. “That outfit and those credit cards don’t go at all. Ask Mrs Pervis, she’ll tell you what to wear.”
Suddenly, Lila found herself somehow attached to Melissa, Melissa’s arms around her waist, and her head resting on Lila’s shoulder.
“What are you doing?” Lila asked suspiciously, utterly thrown by the gesture.
“It’s called a hug, Lila. It’s a way of showing affection,” Melissa explained.
“Oh. Well, I’m not sure I like it,” Lila said.
Melissa stepped away, and Lila wasn’t actually sure that was better. It had been rather nice to be… hugged, was that what it was called? It was like being secure, just for a moment.
Melissa straightened up and gave Lila a big smile. “It’s ok, I’ll watch all the time, and send you whatever you need, I promise.”
It was odd, Lila thought. Jessica was her best friend, but she honestly liked Melissa more. She trusted her, and she was pretty sure that Melissa had never killed anyone.
“You can count on me, Lila,” Melissa added. “I promise, with you and me working together, we’ll make sure you’re the one who comes out of that arena.”
Lila thought about that for a moment, then smiled. “Ok. Let’s try that hug thing again. What do I do with my hands?”
Jessica nearly exploded with joy when the limousine pulled up to convey the twins to Sweet Valley Plaza Hotel. “A limo!” she squealed. “The Hunger Games is the best thing ever!”
“Would you just shut your mouth!” Elizabeth burst out. “Isn’t it bad enough that we’ve got to go through this, without you being delighted over every single thing?”
Jessica pouted, she didn’t understand entirely why Elizabeth was being such a party pooper. Obviously, she knew that Elizabeth realised that she was going to die – after all, only one could win, and that was going to be Jessica – but up until that point there would be parties, and costumes, and time to flirt with boys! Elizabeth was even lucky enough to have her sort-of boyfriend in the arena with her. Why was she so focussed on the downside? Jessica was getting fed up with Elizabeth’s moaning. “No I will not! I’m living my dream, Ms Grouchy Pants, and if you want to sulk until I kill you, that’s fine – but you’re not going to do it out loud!”
“You are so selfish, Jessica Wakefield!” Elizabeth snapped, stamping her feet. “You don’t even care that you’re going to have to kill me to get out of the arena, do you?”
“To be honest, you’re lucky I didn’t kill you to get out of the womb!” Jessica replied.
“Well what if I kill you, Jess? What if I win, not you? How about that?” Elizabeth put her fisted hands on her hips and glared.
“That will never happen,” Jessica said confidently. “I’m going to destroy everyone in that arena, even my own twin!”
Elizabeth shook her head. “No. Not this time. Every single time I give up and let you have your own way, but not this time, Jess. This time it means war!”
Behind them, Steven nudged his mother. “Mom, do you really think they might kill each other?”
Alice nodded thoughtfully. “Actually, this time, I really do.”
“Mom, what if Elizabeth kills Jessica?”
She slipped an arm around her Cheeto-covered son. “It’s ok, Steven. At the last minute, Elizabeth will sacrifice herself for Jessica. She always does. You won’t lose your favourite sister.”
Steven looked relieved. “Thanks, Mom.”
All the tributes were assembling in the lobby of the Plaza, and they were pairing the districts up, and taking photos of them on the sweeping stairs of the hotel. Julie Porter was there, assisting the photographer and taking notes. By the check-in desk was a table laid out with fake weapons for the tributes to pose with.
“What are you doing?” Lila asked when Julie swung past her.
“We’re taking photos for the commemoration booklet we’re producing. We’re going to sell ad space in it, and then sell the booklet to the families of the dead. The funds go to making the Sweet Valley High Hunger Games even bigger!” Julie said, breathless with excitement. “And with both Elizabeth and Amy in the games, I’m taking over as editor of the Sixers, so I’m here for the story as well. Do you have anything you want to say? This might be your last chance to get your side of the story out before you die.”
Lila’s fought the urge to roll her eyes. On the drive to the hotel, she had realised that the Hunger Games surely would not go ahead. They had a couple of days of training ahead of them, and Lila was sure that Elizabeth would use those days to stop the games. She would do research and find a reason to make it stop, or do one of her impassioned speeches that tugged on the heartstrings of everyone who heard them. She was certain that Elizabeth would save the day, but it was good to have Melissa and some credit cards as her backup.
Outside the hotel, there was a female scream of “I’m going to kill you!” and then the glass doors exploded inwards, and the twins tumbled in through the broken glass. Each one had their hands locked around the other’s throat.
The photographer rushed forward and started snapping pictures from as many angles as he could before two security people dragged the twins apart. Despite the bulky adult holding each of them back, they continued to lunge at each other. Jessica had a bloody nose from the fight. “You’ve broken my nose!” she shrieked. “You did that to destroy my chances during my interview!”
“Too right I did!” Elizabeth yelled back. “You’re going to lose, Jessica! I’m going to murder you in the arena!” With her cheeks red, her hair standing on end, and a small trickle of blood oozing from a cut on her left eyebrow, she turned to the rest of the room. “That’s means I’m going to kill each and every one of you too!”
Lila gulped. Apparently her plans had changed.
After the fracas in the lobby, the twins were forcibly separated.
Amy stood beside her sort-of boyfriend, and district partner, Ken Matthews, discussing the situation in low voices, while they waited for the twins to have their pictures taken. Typically, Jessica insisted on getting her hair and makeup cleaned up before a photo was taken. She also insisted on going before Elizabeth, much to everyone’s annoyance, as it meant everyone was waiting around for Jessica to be made presentable.
“I’m worried about Elizabeth,” Ken said to her. “This isn’t like her at all. I thought she was against the games.”
Amy nodded. “She was, and she was against me killing Jessica too, but she seems to have come around.”
“What do you mean, come around?” Ken asked. “I thought we were all against this? I thought we were rebelling?”
Amy gave him a scornful smile. “Why? Why would you want to do that? You are going to be in the arena with Bruce Patman and the Unicorns and you are allowed to kill them. What’s to rebel against?”
“I won’t do it,” he said staunchly.
Amy’s gaze fell on Jessica, now pretty and made up after her fight, with the words “DISTRICT 12” written along her jawline in purple eyeliner and a sharp knife in her hand, posing with handsome seventh grader, Rick Hunter, and Amy felt her blood boil. Jessica always got what she wanted, but times had changed. Amy was looking forward to the moment just before the life left Jessica’s eyes, the confusion of how Amy the loser could have murdered her – and then her eyes would go dark, and her lifeless body would crumple to the ground. “The games can’t come soon enough.”
Jessica reluctantly left the photograph area, so that Elizabeth and Todd could have their photos taken. Once Elizabeth was in place on the stairs, she called out, “I want a picture with blood on my face. It will prove I’m a fighter, unlike my wimpy sister!”
Jessica whirled around, but security quickly stepped between the twins before another fight could break out.
Todd had been given a cudgel which he half-heartedly held aloft, looking very close to tears. By contrast, Elizabeth had chosen a highly polished mace, and was pretending to lick one of the spikes, with a look of maniacal glee in her eye.
For the first time in her life, Amy contemplated which twin was more dangerous.