*** Just to let you know – I’m on Facebook as Peacha Lulu – mainly to keep you posted on what I’m working on! ***
You may ask yourself how does Flowers in the attic compare with series fiction like Sweet Valley High? Well , right at the core of V.C. Andrews horse-apple is the throb of an adolescent coming of age tale but only on the most mundane of terms. First off genre fiction, rather than separating from one another, becomes a vast wheel with many spokes though seeming to shoot off in many directions, all of them are working together to bring the reader to the same safe place. Just like series fiction. Sets of rules and patterns vary only slightly giving both book types a secure sense of formula fiction. Thus , Flowers in the Attic may be gussied up with incest , and filicide but it’s voice is pure teen angst featuring young love , beautiful clothes, and an urge to get the hell out of the house.
Sweet Valley High attempts the same formula: the teenager is the ultimate voice, down with constricting/confining parents! Up with the youth culture and all it’s wrappings. Though in all fairness Liz/Cathy is torn between accepting the parents-know-best-fate – which in FITA equals death but in SVH it equals smooth sailing- vs Jessica/Cathy’s contrariwise rebellion – nobody tells me what to do , nobody is going to hold me back – which in FITA equals freedom and in SVH a virtual shipwreck!
I once read in a writers manual that each stage of children’s fiction ( though encompassing all said elements ) could be summed up by certain key words. Age – 7- 9 – was myself and family , 10-12 – friends and action , 13-17 – romantic conflict and decisions. An interesting assessment – however Flowers in the Attic & Sweet Valley High flipped the order of importance, for romantic conflict could not outweigh family which was placed on it’s tip top like a cherry , the crowning achievement for Sweet Valley High but for Flowers in the Attic it became a slimy pit , hard to swallow.
At first glance it seems impossible to compare the characters simply because no one could ever find a Grandmother quite like the Dollangangers in all of Sweet Valley – though it has had it’s share of villains ; Jessica’s psychotic boyfriend Christopher in #54 , an ill-timed kidnaper who holds Regina hostage on her homecoming in #26 , a cult leader #82 , a nice-guy turned date rapist – John Pfiefer #90 , a murderer -Super Thriller Double Jeopardy , a psychopathic girl who pretends to be nice #11 and a psychopathic killer bent on becoming Elizabeth in Sweet Valley’s 100th book – The Evil Twin. However, if we dismiss the Grandmother as ,not your typical Sweet Valley cast member and, allow her to become a walk-on beast to be defeated, she’s in fine form. Her very worst deeds – whippings and hair tarring ( physical punishments ) – may seem over the top for any Ya series fiction but Jessica and Liz have suffered dangers – they have been tied up , chased with a knife , conked out , stuffed in a trunk , even held against their will. Suddenly, Grandmother’s deeds don’t seem quite so exotic.
Some interesting similarities can be hulled from the Dollangangers and Wakefields. For instance – the Dollangangers maybe heaped with doppelgangers but Jessica and Liz exist on an entire doppelganger plane! Elizabeth we are told time and again – is the good twin, the better half. Steven can ask ( only half-joking ) Where’s your evil twin? Physical exactness is stressed ( much like the Dollangangers ) ,contrasted with a much used phrase – ‘but there the similarity ends’ ( ‘Identical opposites’ – Super Thriller On the Run pg170.) In an elaborate preview for Sweet Valley High published in the backs of Sweet Dreams books in 1983 – the girls were described as – Liz was the poet , Jessica the performer. Rather like Cyrano De Bergerac hiding in the shadows allowing Christian to deliver his lines. Jessica is devious and coquettish while Liz is honest and considerate. Though we know they are two separate people on some bizarre level you could actually think of Jessica and Liz as the same person ( one unit. ) Think of Liz in Double Love – Jessica runs out to party with Rick Andover, gets in over her head, and is driven home by the police. When she is spotted by Caroline Pearce – it’s Liz who must take the blame. Rather like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – The doctor must always pay for Hyde’s outbursts. Even the precision of separating their character traits emphasizes this idea ( Double trouble crack is corrected – actually single trouble and sister #27 pg 8) – because no one is always good , and though some may always be conniving – the fact that Jess always gets away with it – bolsters this same person theory. Liz would be forgiven a moment of selfishness but would someone continually be forgiven of their consistently bad behavior? Most likely not. Notice also how a balance occurs in keeping Liz and Jessica on opposite scales – if Liz alters her goody-goody stance by behaving badly the scales tend to shift – Jessica must quickly make up the balance in the story by becoming more Liz-like. Example -#7 Dear Sister. Hence when Liz is bad , stubborn or flirty – Jessica becomes nice, considerate and demure. The scales represent their doppelganger nature working to fulfill their obligatory unit. Jessica could be called Liz’s unrepressed desires come to life a kind of pleasure seeking id! ( and notice how Jessica is never allowed to go too far .) Separate , the girls don’t achieve the totality of a whole person , too good , too selfish but together ( flawed but fair ) they do.
Once we have that doppelganger idea for Liz and Jess they can share the comparison to Cathy, for Cathy is not altogether good , she straddles a line wavering between the golden ideal of perfect beauty , poise , and devotion and a darker smirch of vanity. Like Liz she manages to attract every male with almost cataclysmic intensity. She nabs the ‘eye’ of not only her father and brother but also the eye of her step father ( think what could’ve happened had Cathy been set loose on the world! ) compare that with Liz’s automatic admirers – Nicholas Morrow ( whose hooked moments after meeting her ) , a psychopathic orderly who kidnaps her , Kris Lynch who decides she’s his dream gal after one date , Eric a sensitive boy from the witness protection program who writes her poetry , and Jamie Galbriath a.k.a Tony Sargant a teen singer who writes a hit song about her. Cathy also radiates a touch of humor that is pure Jessica – notice on pg 230 – when Cathy is awaiting news of her Grandfathers’ death she hums ‘swing low sweet chariot comin’ for to carry me home’ while she makes the beds! Jessica’s tactless behavior was noticed in #15 when Liz admonishes Jess who is ransacking her clothes – ‘For goodness sakes Jess, it’s a funeral not a cocktail party.’ And Cathy bedecked in a dusty , tattered costume ready to play the part of Scarlet O’Hara trips into an undignified heap pg. 129 – a pratfall if there ever was one. Jessica was not immune to this kind of behavior – ‘With a loud whomp she landed on the floor – on her rear end, as usual. “Are you alright?” Mr. Jaworski asked getting up from his seat. Jessica thought quickly. “Uh, that was my grand floppe!” she said making the name up on the spot. “Did you like it?”’ #47 )
Physical beauty or rather it’s importance is stressed throughout FITA – Cathy at one point believes evil was something crouched and ugly ( in fairy tale terms that could mean ogre in this pseudo-reality it smacks of age! She was contrasting it with the fact that she couldn’t see her mother – who represents youth/beauty as evil. Again the youth angle.) When Christopher mocks her braless , girdleless figure – Cathy is furious insisting her stomach was a hallowed out cave , her buttocks rounded and firm. Even her hair after the tarring and chemical compound to remove it never ‘gleamed more or felt so much like gossamer silk.’ ( Notice these are all counter attacks – much like in Double Love when Jessica mock- tears –herself –down ‘ legs like chopsticks’ – to allow the author to build her up.) Jessica and Liz are not only pillars of physical perfection but are molded out of the same typification as golden Cathy – ‘Together, they formed a double image of sun-kissed all-American loveliness.” #12 pg 2. And ‘Both girls were spectacular, with the all-American good looks that made them the envy of every other girl in Sweet Valley.’ #14 pg 3. In every book ornate offerings were made to out-dazzle their already dazzling attributes – blonde hair was – sun-kissed honey gold , gleaming spun gold burnished by the sun, honey-and-sunshine , sun streaked and silky. A figure became – a stunning size six , perfect size six , model slim , perfectly proportioned. Blue eyes were – almond shaped eyes the color of the Carribean , sparkling blue-green eyes fringed with dark lashes , aquamarine eyes and blue-green eyes the color of the Pacific ocean. Other virtues included – dimples , healthy Californian tans , and flawless complexions. Modifiers included – most adorable , most dazzling , gloriously attractive.
Looks were only part of this typification , talents, added to the flawless whole, consider SVH’s plots bolstering the unspoken rule that all heroines must transcend worldly limitations. Meaning Cathy could twirl in an attic with nary a lesson and still expect that fame would never elude her. Just like Liz who could pick up a recorder and within a week play well , take surf lessons and nearly win a competition ( it sounded like it was in the bag till she purposely took a spill ) , and become the star of her ballet class within a week of joining- (SVT ) and on and on.
While drawing a link from Cathy to Jess and Liz might be a stretch it’s quite easy to compare Christopher Dollanganger with Steven Wakefield. First off all fellows in series fiction are not normally a strong suit – since it is girl-fiction , the girl becomes the focus and the boys are usually there only to strengthen her image – not build one apart from her. Christopher has this problem from the get-go – he is never a strong character being only a basic echo of his father in name and stature who himself was nothing more than a stereotype of the perfect man – all attributes and no-faults. Seeing as how, he becomes a paragon and not a person ( his faults are being too loyal , too loving ) he turns into an object for Cathy to set her standards by. He is dedicated to his father’s wish for him to become a doctor – even to the sacrifice of his youth. He is also studious , kind and fatherly. Rarely does he show any faults that might mar his perfection. Steven also follows in the same footsteps of male idealism, he is unquestionably handsome ( ‘You’re absolutely too gorgeous! Aren’t we lucky Lizzie? We probably have the towns- maybe even the states handsomest brother’ Jess on Steven #1pg33 ) sharing a twindom with his father not only in looks- for he is often described as a younger version of his father ( ‘he looked like a carbon copy of their tall dark-haired athletic father’) but in professions – Steven’s goal is to become a lawyer just like his father. Sometimes the books will even prod along their similarities in #24 Ned Wakefield is commented as wearing the same troubled expression as Steven and in #12 pg 61 Steven acknowledges – ‘There was a kinship between them that went much deeper than physical likeness.’ Steven is also a victim of romanticism – given a haunted luster for barely surviving the death of his short time girlfriend Tricia, his loyalty to her memory and visage continue to cast shadows on all future relationships as he tries continuously to recapture that first true-love. Which sounds very much like Christopher who will later reveal in Petals in the Wind an urge to be back in the attic ( in order to keep Cathy all too himself. ) However one wonders how true this ‘first love’ is cause he still carries a torch for Momma – She could be his first true-love and Cathy her twin is only a symptom of it, for it’s his loyalty to Momma that clouds every decision he makes while they are in the attic, his trust holds them prisoner – and Steven’s loyalty holds him in an equally solitary state which barely lets up even when he finds himself guiltily attracted to Cara – notice that Christopher’s attraction to Cathy can only be seeped in guilt!
Because we don’t see much of either set of parents ( typical for series fiction ) it’s hard to get a fix on their true nature but like the beginning of FITA – Mr. & Mrs. Wakefield seem to be the perfect archetype – their youthful appearance and their likeness to their children are stressed ( ‘With his wavy, dark hair, broad shoulders and rugged good looks the twins’ father looked like an older version of their brother Steven….’ , ‘Petite, blond-haired , and blue eyed Alice Wakefield was sometimes mistaken for the twins’ older sister.’ #16 pgs23-24 ) -they reside in a jewel of a town called Sweet Valley ( in FITA it’s Gladstown -notice how both districts push implications of being pleasing ) And though FITA deviates from series norm – of turning the mother into – not only a useless object but a villain, their can still be some similarities to be derived when Corrine physically withdraws from the children. For Sweet Valley High it became a joke to the fans that the parents were never around – and the t.v. series gave those fans a wink with a note taped to the fridge reading something along the lines of Ran off with the mailman , Mom in one episode. But it’s a misconception, stemming from the real idea that ,though the parents were there, their advice was often ignored , and they were frequently bamboozled about their children’s behavior – when you think Mrs. Wakefield has wised up – ‘Elizabeth …what you’re describing is a very manipulative young lady.’ the reader discovers she hasn’t pegged Jessica – she’s talking about Amy in book #29! So in some ways the parents are as blind to Jessica’s behavior as the Dollanganger children were to Corrine! Which brings up an interesting idea – since we can not find anything of Mrs. Wakefield in Corrine – they are a study in contracts – slothful/weak vs career-oriented/strong , with the exception of fulfilling a series law, that mothers only appear to discuss problems – Corrine’s best mirror thereby becomes Jessica!
It’s not such a stretch -notice that Jessica is the odd one out in the Wakefield family – just like Corrine in the Dollangangers – but only one is presumably a bad seed. Though Corrine’s selfishness can be found in her father ( the grandfather ) and her ruthlessness can be found in her mother ( the grandmother. ), the same can’t be said about Jessica. After scouring the books for an inkling of Jessica within Mrs. Wakefield or Mr. Wakefield for that matter – I could only find traces of Elizabeth and Steven – even in the Legacy books Alice and Ned come across as sweet and tender people – Jessica appears to be an aberration. How in the world did they spawn Jessica? Talk about the Devil’s issue! ( FITA term ) Kidding aside it is a puzzler. Jessica’s behavior mimics that of Corrine both are wildly dramatic – ‘My parents are filthy , sinfully , unbelievably rich’ or – ‘oh but you are heartless and ungrateful children…..that you should do this to me.’FITA pgs 28 & 295 now watch Jessica’s histrionics – ‘I’m not going to school to be humiliated like a kindergarten child!’ ( her driving privileges have been revoked , Liz is driving ) #1 & ‘Oh no! he’s coming over to our house on Friday for dinner!’ she ( Jess ) clutched Darcy’s arm. Darcy looked scornful.‘Jess, don’t overreact. He’s not going to go running around with a machete or anything.’ Super thriller On The Run pg118. They are both manipulative – ‘Don’t throw everything away by becoming impatient just when we’re due to win!’ FITA Pg295. and Jess – ‘Honestly, Jess, as long as I live, I doubt I’ll ever fully come to grips with your awesome powers of persuasion.’ ( Liz ) #29 pg59. Both are vain – ‘She flirts with him, while he tries to ignore her. She is about ten years older than him, at least, and he keeps looking at me.’ FITA pg133. and Jess – ‘I’m Jessica Wakefield in case anybody doesn’t know.’ #10. And Greedy – ‘…and when he dies, his entire fortune will be mine! Mine! Ours!’ FITA pg 33. Jess – ‘Does it seem fair to you that Lila should have tons of money while I’m practically destitute?’ #34 pg119 & ‘Cleopatra has nothing on your sister.’ Todd about Jess noticing that she is making Bill hop to her tune even though she doesn’t give a hoot about him #8 pg33 Both even have moments where they can even inflict guilt in their victims! –‘Why it must’ve taken her months to buy all this ( *snort – hardly ) I was ashamed and full of contrition for everything mean and ugly I’d thought.’ FITA pg181. – Liz says – “Only Jessica ..could manage to make me feel bad for criticizing her for something she did wrong.” – #Super Thriller Double Jeopardy – pg 202.
Wait a minute you could say – what about the filicide? surely that alone separates Jessica and Corrine – In a way it does – in a way it doesn’t – though Corrine turns out to be the murderer of her own children and Jessica is scarcely a murderer, she does however turn a shocking page in her repertoire of bad deeds in the non-numbered book ( seemingly #94 ) A Night to Remember. This special kicked off a six book mini series in which an argument over who would win the title of Prom queen drives Jessica to boost her odds by spiking Elizabeth’s drink which ends, in typical after-school special fashion, with Elizabeth in a car accident and Jessica’s prom date, Sam, dead. Rather than wallow in regret and guilt – Jess targets Liz with an unprecedented hatred ( severely out of place in a series that always had Jessica or Liz coming to one another’s rescue.) She not only allows bewildered Liz to take the blame she watches with cold satisfaction as it quickly escalates to Elizabeth being charged with Sam’s death, and taken to trial! Still not satisfied her vengeful manner causes her to steal flaky Todd ( yeah that was a difficult task ) whose flimsy attempts to contact Liz are continually sabotaged by her. But much like the ill-gotten prom crown it’s a cheerless win and Jess dismisses both flings as pointless! What’s most shocking is that Liz isn’t saved by Jessica’s guilty conscience (usually par for the norm ), she is saved by pure luck when a boy comes forward to admit he was drinking and driving and that he caused the Jeep to swerve out of his way! Jessica never pays , is never found guilty – Jessica’s responsibility is once again given a pardon ( she exits in a land like Corrine – gamboling, tanned , justified ) even as she nauseatingly, mercilessly continues in her crackpot idea of vengeance. ( even if we buy Petals in the Wind – that Corrine was wracked by guilt – like Jess who tells us she too feels guilt – it’s not enough! Their actions reveal a twin self-interest , a self pity as Corrine can only target Cathy for being the worst of her accusers of never making it easy for her in the attic. Jessica too casts the accusation on Elizabeth who’d been dancing with Sam and caused Jessica to react. Neither one acknowledges their responsibility ) Can it even be called revenge when she knows Liz didn’t do anything ( Liz’s only crime – the one perhaps Liz must always pays for, is that she is Jess’s double , and usurping her limelight is unacceptable.) – at the end of FITA – Corrine is off gallivanting with her hard earned riches. By the end of the mini-series Jess lands on her feet, forgiven by saintly Liz ( for everyone is distracted by a killer Margo – in a truely-Twin Peaks meets Melrose Place storyline.) And all characters snaps back into place like a rubber band for book #101. Jessica has managed with Liz what Corrine couldn’t manage with Cathy , Chris yes , Cathy no and that was to have Chris forgive with a flippant manner of what’s done is done. I had the feeling that if Corrine wanted to worm her way back into Christopher’s life ( via – Petals in the Wind – not her crackpot return in If there Be Thorns or was it Seeds of Yesterday? ) it would’ve been easy. Just as Liz allows not only a return to their friendship/ sistership but as it had once been intact – with all of Jessica’s flaws. Growth -like Cory and Carrie – has been stunted.
The mechanics of Flowers in the Attic display an almost antithesis of the typical series fiction especially Sweet Valley High which throbs with action. FITA’s claustrophobic set is partially to blame for slowing the action to mere descriptions on how the children kill time but V.C. Andrews has neglected the possibility of action-fueled plot twists. While Sweet Valley High jars it’s plots with highs and lows , FITA seems like a flat-lining pulse. Is it done on purpose , a deconstruction of the norm to mount the horror? Yes , therefore while new characters enter Sweet Valley only a handful of characters in FITA are present and blot out everyone that is not of their present world. As the children await cold meals in FITA , Liz and Jessica revel in hot nourishing breakfasts and yummy dinners prepared by a mother who is never to busy to bake them. As Jessica and Liz evolve from trend to trend , Cathy and the children regress to fairy tale imagery – their world becoming a bygone vision of Rapunzel’s turret , Hansel and Gretel’s cage – not even in dreams does the outside world enter. But there are some similarities to emerge from both structures – For instance – Family becomes the epitome of your happy existence and also the sickening end of it when you realize the one you love is fueled by greed and jealousy – are we talking about Liz and Jess here or Cathy and Corrine? Or – Incidents from the past, not pertinent to the present are conveniently omitted – think of Cathy and Christopher who never talk of past friends or favorite school subjects and note how in Sweet Valley High a whoops can occur like in #21 Runaway – when Jess wants to runaway to San Francisco, 3 books after having just talked her parents out of moving the family there ( #17 ) ouch! And – Years can stretch with seemingly no change to format- Sweet Valley High’s never ending junior year or FITA’s three years wasted on arguing the obvious. The worst offender is the dual flip flop – characters who are dumb when it’s convenient and smart when it’s illogical plus scenes that conform in order to propel the plot or deliver urgent info, regardless. Think of genius Christopher who can’t come up with a descent escape plan until one of them succumbs to the poison not to mention stalling off stealing the jewels until they’re gone! Contrast that with Liz’s constant denial that Jessica could be the culprit behind the latest rumor/catastrophe despite her history( #2 Secrets – Enid’s letter in Liz’s room – maybe Jess could’ve read it.) Recall the scene in FITA in which Christopher is trapped in the library listening to the maid and butler who’ve snuck off for a ‘quickie’ – quickie my eye – they discuss everything down to a codicil in a will that was read like eight months ago?! Nice try. About as convenient as Liz bumping her head – perfect timing! Before Bruce can seduce her in Dear Sister #7.
The revelation of incest in FITA could knock my comparison out of orbit – it’s an idea too taboo for series fiction – but FITA like I said in the above paragraph is kindof an antithesis of series fiction in that it wants to bust open and trample the norm in order to increase the horror. Family in Sweet Valley becomes such a strong frame for the series – notice that it’s first spin off allowed itself to bank on it’s core – Sweet Valley Twins – that all other characters are made to kowtow to their supremacy. The Wakefields are it ( not the Fowler’s , the Patman’s -all fall short! ) Sardonic fans have been trying to milk the black humor out of the idea that maybe their was something hinky going on between Liz and Steven even though Jessica has probably had more flirtatious moments with Steven. Most notable is #13 when the book opens with Jessica batting her eyes at Steven while asking him to zip up her dress , as he stands wearing only a towel- shaving in an unlocked, open bathroom. The urge to destroy the series ideal of the perfect family comes to a head in FITA where even the doting Grandparents ( no balloon rides for Cathy and Christopher unlike Liz and Jess book #25 ) become monsters!
Truth be told if Flowers in The Attic had been written in the vein of Sweet Valley High, the story would not have survived it’s knowing characters. They would’ve shown more guts. But for now – Imagine the chapters with Jessica , Liz and Steven replacing Cathy and Christopher ……
Sweet Valley Super Thriller – Locked in – a tale ( SPOOF ) of Horror. Pictures ( purely for fun ) are grab its of Flowers in The Attic with SVH additions.
Prologue – 3-4
“What we need,” Liz said going over her beloved diaries – “is the perfect title that sums up our ordeal”
“Jessica’s Ordeal” Jessica lets it roll tantalizingly off her tongue.
“I said our ordeal.”Liz says wryly.
“Okay, Okay you can’t expect me to do everything!” Liz shook her head and smiled – considering she’d kept the diaries all those years and was busy typing everything out, Jessica had done very little. “Put something with sex in the title, we’ll sell more copies that way.” Liz is shocked. “Jess you are shameless.”
“Me , you’re the one that started with all that hooey about every word being written in ‘tears and shame and guilt.’ Plus it’s not as if there’s no payoff.” Jessica said all wide eyed innocence before turning sly.
“That’s not – that’s not at all what happened!” Liz sputtered turning red.
“I don’t know, “Jessica continued in mock debate – “I seem to recall a rather suspicious disappearance during an otherwise dull day in that smelly ole attic. And who wants to read about our Monopoly championships anyway. Even though you did cheat!” Jessica impatiently flung aside a copy of Ingenue she was flipping through. “How about …Held captive by a Battle-ax with split ends?”
“It’s a little long.” Liz was grateful to change the subject – “How about Flowers in the Attic?”
“Gag me , like that makes any sense.”
“It’s a metaphor.”
“I don’t care who it’s for we need something snappy – Locked in?”
“Alright Jess.” Liz sighed glad to give in and move on. Putting in a fresh piece of paper on her Smith-Corona she typed Goodbye Daddy across the top of the page. Jessica peered over her shoulder and read it aloud. “Could you be any more morbid?”
Chapter 1 – Goodbye Daddy
Jessica continued to scrutinize Liz’s work nit-picking every detail.
“I refuse to use the expression Golly-lolly!” Jessica said.
“And what is with these names , they’ll think we’re complete morons – Cory and Carrie and Corrine!”
“Jess , please!”
“Daddy said he loved you more than me , ha! He only told you that to get you off his case because you were crying over those brats being born!”
“I never cried Jess that was you, I was ecstatic when the twins were born. You were the one who didn’t feel special anymore.”
“Well,”Jessica hedged. “How come Daddy bought you that music box then?”
“It was for being good Jess.”
“If only he had a crystal ball.”
“What’s this?” Jessica yelled “You blubber all over Daddy’s funeral and look like the best , most grieving daughter of the century – where am I? , why don’t you put in what I was doing or are you afraid I might show up your theatrics”
“It’s not a contest Jess but if want me to put in that you went to Lila’s roller skate party I will.”
“Don’t you remember?” Suddenly Jessica did.
“Well it was her birthday. Daddy would’ve wanted me to go.” She snapped before adapting a woebegone expression, tears quickly summoned, blurring her aquamarine eyes- “After all it was the last party I ever went to.”Sigh.
“Put Momma in a black negligee when she’s telling us about the old battle-ax.”
“What! What has that to do with anything – Jess it looks out of place.”
“We have to gussy it up a bit – what were you going to put her in a nun’s habit?” Jessica scorned.
“I wasn’t going to mention her clothes at all. It bares no relevance on what happened”
“You never like my ideas.”Jessica wailed.
“Fine!”Elizabeth sighed and penciled it in.
Chapter 2 – The Road to Riches
“I wonder how Momma felt when she opened up her suitcases’ Jess , and found that you had replaced most of her things with your own?” Liz couldn’t help but laugh.
“Serves her right , two suitcases between the five of us while she took two for herself, that alone tipped me off that she was a crazy, selfish hag.”
“Oh Jess , you believed everything Momma said.”
“Well , you did too. Especially you and Steven.”
“Jess don’t start.”
“You didn’t write about those noises I heard on the road , definitely snakes! And when I screamed or about how I left Cory behind and Momma had to go back for him because I couldn’t carry both him and the tote with my Johnny Buck poster in it.”
“We can’t have people thinking we’re totally selfish Jess.” Elizabeth tried to be tactful by her careful use of the word we , thinking about all the other incidents concerning Jessica she planned on leaving out.
“Oh good thinking – keep the focus on Mommie dearest.” Jessica went back to polishing her nails a deep rose color after a last glance at Liz’s work.“Ha you did leave in Steven’s understatement of the millennium – ‘It won’t be so bad’ – was he ever snowed!”Jess said blithely waving her nails to dry them.
“Just for that Jess – I think I’ll keep in how you dreamed of having servants to beat ,when we all got rich.”
“It was only when I caught them stealing.” Jess protested.
Chapter 3 – The Grandmothers house
“Lizzie those rules make us sound positively medieval!”
“But they’re copied from the originals which I kept – ”Elizabeth held up several pieces of folded paper, yellowed with age.
“You would.” Jessica scoffed snatching them.“You will not stride around the bedroom wearing only your nightclothes…” She read mockingly before tossing the papers aside. “I’ve already forgotten what century we’re in and so will our readers – Lizzie can’t we bring it up to date just a teeny bit?” She pleaded. “Can’t we tell it like is was? – no boys , no parties , no dates, no leaving the room, no loud music, no talking back, you must grub around like Cinderellas after every speck of dirt , you must choke down every bite of these boring meals that make cafeteria lunches taste scrumptious, no phone calls!” Jessica’s chin wobbled on that one but bravely she went on. “No flirting , no one to flirt with and no MTV!”
Chapter 4 – The Attic
– “Jess , we can’t leave Cory and Carrie out of the story for too much longer it just isn’t fair.”
“Well okay but why use names – why not call them collectively ‘large pain in the butt’ it sums them up nicely.”
Elizabeth chose to ignore that crack.
“Remember when Steven made a swing for them, he was so thoughtful. I don’t know what we would’ve done without him.”
“That goody-goody.”Jessica scoffed. “I’m sick of hearing, Steven did this and Steven did that. I had plenty of good suggestions.”
“Hide and seek in an attic full of trunks with brass locks wasn’t one of them.”
“Neither was your idea to start a newspaper – the Daily Attic – pul-lease!”
Chapter 5 – The Wrath of God
“Oh Jess, I felt so bad when little Carrie got yanked up by her hair , didn’t you? The Grandmother was truly a monster.” Elizabeth said wiping away a tear just thinking about it.
“Are you kidding I’d been dying to do that for ages – in fact for a moment, I thought there was hope for the old battle ax yet.”
Chapter 6 – Momma’s Story
– “Okay let me get this straight -”Jessica said for the zillionth time ticking each item off on her fingers. “Mom married Dad who was her uncle -”
“Half-uncle , who was Grandpa’s little brother by their father’s second wife? -”
“And so that makes our grandpa also our uncle and technically were cousins?!”
’“This family has got to be the biggest bummer in five hundred and thirty-seven cities!”’- #1 -“I hope Lila never finds out.” Elizabeth for once was quick to agree.
“Pseudonyms.” she said.
Chapter 7 – Minutes Like Hours
– “Look Jess I saved all of our issues of the Daily Attic – ”
“Here’s my feature story on Momma’s whipping.”
“And you call me insensitive.”
Elizabeth cringed. “Well I was only twelve besides you have to set aside personal feeling if you’re going to be a good journalist. Momma was just glad that I was being productive unlike some people.”
“Oh yes you and the goody-goody were positively beside yourself at the opportunity to commit social suicide for Momma. Excuse me if I wasn’t so eager to inhale attic dust , and dead mouse germs all day long.”
“Nice try with the coughing fits Jess.”
“I still say I had an allergy. Momma was just too busy sailing to notice.”
Chapter 8 – To Make a Garden Grow
“Remember when Momma came to clean out the attic Jess? And as usual you got out of helping.”
“What! I drudged and slaved for hours in that smelly attic. And for what? I suggested a disco but no, everybody picked Steven’s crazy-insane idea to turn it into a garden.”
Elizabeth ignored this outburst and went on.
“Ahem – here is a direct quote from one of my diaries – Let’s share the work. You clean the johns I’ll arrange the flowers.” #4
“That just proves how wrong your diary is there were no flowers.”Jessica was smug.
“That’s the point Jess. You stood over us all day sipping lemonade and pointing out all the spots we missed.”
“Well , you should’ve voted for the disco I would’ve been more helpful.”
“I seriously doubt that.”
“Don’t forget to put in that I was doing my Jane Fonda exercises.”
“I didn’t it’s right there Jess.”
“Hrmph! Your dancing scene is three paragraphs long. You weren’t that good at ballet if you want my honest opinion.”
“I think I’ll get your opinion whether it’s honest or wanted. Besides Jess , I left out your silly attempts at gaining Steven’s attention and your grand floppe!” #47
“That was merely a distraction for your benefit Lizzie- I told you to start wearing an overcoat – he was being positively disgusting leering at us already and it hadn’t even been years yet , the nerd!”
Chapter 9 – Holidays
– “Here’s little suzy homemaker orbiting the moon, over setting a fancy, thanksgiving table in our prison. Forgetting all about our insane battle-ax warden.”
“Very funny Jess.”
“And once more that pig Steven doesn’t lift a finger to help.” Elizabeth didn’t bother to add neither did you but to soothe Jess said –
“Well I have to agree with you on that point – he could be a total chauvinist.”
“Don’t try to score brownie points with me Big sis ,not after you slobbered all over him just for helping you clear the table.”
“You’re just sore Jess, because Momma didn’t bring any pumpkin pie.”
“Jess ,” Elizabeth whispered sadly. “Here’s where the little twins get sick.”
“Peace and quiet at last!”
“Here’s where you give a go at folk singing.” Jessica snickered. “It just goes to show you Liz , you can’t be good at everything.”
“It wasn’t that bad.” Elizabeth frowned. “Here’s our Christmas Lists. Mine was -”
“I was going to say , a car ride for the twins.”
“Oh you’re so selfless Liz.” Jessica said scornfully yanking the diary away. “Steven- a gavel , what a gigantic loser practicing law in that prison , he should’ve pulled his nose out of Momma’s bosom and put it in a law book maybe then he’d have finally learned to raise an objection! Mine was the only list that made any sense.”
“Hardly – a big blunt instrument – subtle Jess , a signal flare , a tuba , a karate manual.”
“Well I did get those suede boots Lila really wanted, but what good was it when I couldn’t even brag.”
“Here’s your first escape attempt Jess.”
“Don’t rub it in.”Jessica groaned.
“Brilliant idea to toss that hornet’s nest you found under the eaves at the Grandmother. She didn’t even bother to punish us when she saw how stung we got!”
“Well , at least I was trying. You actually thought you could befriend her. Why grandmother if there’s anything you want to talk about I’m always here ,”Jessica mimicked. “doggone right you were! You might as well have made friends with Jaws!”
Chapter 10 – The Christmas Party
“Perhaps you should change the title to the Masquerade ball. After all it was your idea to get Momma to change it to a masquerade party.”
“I’ll leave it as is Jess.” Elizabeth said wondering why Jessica was suddenly giving her the credit. Years ago Jessica had always taken the stance that it had been her idea.
“Personally I don’t think your escape attempt was any better than mine.” Here goes, Liz thought sighing.
“Jess , you know that’s not true. We almost got away that time if you hadn’t stopped to flirt with Momma’s escort!”
“Blame me! When it’s really all Steven’s fault stuffing his face at the banquet like a wheat harvester! -”
“And then pushing the Grandfather’s wheelchair to the edge of the grand staircase , Jess, if someone hadn’t stopped you-”
“Well somebody had to speed things up!”
Chapter 11 – Christopher’s Explorations and it’s repercussions
“I still say I should’ve been the one to look around.”
“Oh sure Jess,” Liz laughed. “you never would’ve came back!”
“I would too , with an entire police force, which would’ve been a lot better than Steven’s torture stories – like I really wanted to hear that Momma was living in a room that would’ve made me the envy of every Unicorn!”
Chapter 12 – The Long Winter and Spring
“Oh thank God this is where we got t.v.!”
Liz wrinkled her nose.
“Ugh a whole winter of being forced into watching Kent Kellerman in All the World. I thought my brain would turn to mush.”
Chapter 13 – Growing up , Growing Wiser
“This was definitely not my fault – you will write that in won’t you Lizzie,” Jessica pleaded. “I just wanted to see if my tan lines had faded that’s all , I never would have taken off every stitch of clothing had I known Steven had turned into a weird stalker pervert.”
“Jess he was not stalking you , he didn’t expect you to be there like that – he was just as embarrassed. But did you have to tell the Grandmother you were me?”
“Now Liz , your hair looked fabulous after we removed the tar and Steven was a wizard with the scissors, why he could put Vidal Sassoon out of business!”
“Jess you’re too much.” Liz shook her head smiling. “It’s too bad the Grandmother found out you tricked her but I wished you would’ve just cut your hair when she asked you Jess.”
“And looked as hideous as you no way! Besides I wanted to lose a few pounds anyway.”
Chapter 14 – A Taste of Heaven
“Now our demented brother has literally gone off the deep suggesting midnight swims instead of escaping.”
“We couldn’t have carried the twins down , Jess , they were just too heavy.”
“To Hell with them – I mean – we could’ve come back for them later.” Jessica said sweetly. “Like I suggested.”
“Well as it was we hardly had any fun at all with you running off across a field screaming Help! Help! We’ve been kidnapped and tortured – no phone , I haven’t had a pizza in ages Help! If Steven and I hadn’t caught you the twins might’ve been hurt.”
“I was willing to take that risk.” Jessica said nobly.
Chapter 15 – One Rainy Afternoon
“Isn’t this where Steven nearly got us beat for serving the Grandmother with an injunction?”
“Yes , but maybe we should write in something else , Jess. I don’t want to make him look crazy.”
“Heavens no , just wait a few more chapters, when he does such a fine job on his own.”
Chapter 16 – To Find a Friend
“This is when Cory found Mickey , Jessie , weren’t they adorable together?”
“Disgusting rat ” Jessica sneered. “And I still say we should’ve dropped him down the Grandmothers dress!”
“Cory or Mickey?” Liz teased.
Chapter 17 – At Last Momma
“Oh Jess, this is a painful Chapter to write , Momma was so emotional , I felt so bad for her being torn between us that way , but when she ignored the little twins that was unforgivable.”
“All I remember was that Steven ate all our candy!”
“Should I mention your other escape attempt Jess?”
“Which one – the fake appendicitis attack?”
“No, the one where you were planning on ski- jumping off the roof. Steven and I had to hold you down and you went berserk. You were even suicidal Jess. Not that the jump itself wasn’t ..”
“Not my most shinning moment. I was so juvenile back than , I was mad cause Momma wouldn’t buy me a bra.” Jessica flipped her hair over shoulder in a saucy manner and continued with a grin. “But why kill myself over something so trivial when I can live and get revenge.”
“That’s the spirit Jess.”
Chapter 18 – Our Mother’s Surprise.
“Guess what? Is that Momma’s line?”
“And I said the Grandfather’s dead hooray!”
“And Momma was quite mad.”
“Tell me your guess again Liz, it was hysterical!”
“You’ve been invited to the white house and your fairy godmother is getting ready to turn a zucchini into a jet for you!” Book #2 pg47.
“The look on Momma’s face was priceless.” Jessica hooted. “Of course it was no match for the look on moony Steven’s face when he found out Momma married that hunk.”
“Jess don’t be mean.”
“I’m not! Wasn’t I the one that gave him a haircut in order to cheer him up. ”
“Jess, that was an awful haircut.”
“Of course – you didn’t think I’d make him look like Prince Valiant with the way he’d been ogling us did you?”
Chapter 19 – My Stepfather
**Eyes and Ears items for the Daily Attic – included ***
The Kissing Bandit strikes! – what flirtatious girl seen skulking into bedrooms with a pillow sack, planted a sizzling kiss on her very own step-father? The sleeping prince is dying to know!
What brother mistakenly believed the kissing bandit to be none other than our dear editor who demands a full apology.
The kissing Bandit would like to know where her totally perverted brother and wimpy pushover sister stole off to between the hours of six and seven , after returning from ransacking Momma’s room with barely any loot!
P.s. what Amazonian Battle-ax wears a wig?
The Kissing Bandit blew it big time. After a second trip to our Stepfathers and throttling him awake , K.B. continued with her smooth moves to alternate between hysterical accusations and absurd flirting. Mother managed to convince him he was having a nightmare.
Donut rations doubled.
Chapter 20 – Color all days Blue but save one for black.
“Hold it! You forgot the scene between you and Steven in the attic?”
“How could there be rumors with just the five of us?” Jessica grumbled “Besides you admitted -”
“I admitted nothing , besides you know I never go any further than kissing.” Liz said nervously and before Jess could pounce, she hurriedly went on “Listen we need to focus on more important events like Cory’s death.” Elizabeth’s tone softened , the tragedy still haunted her to this day. Jessica, though, feeling a tad remorseful for never liking the little munchkin all that much, buried it under a volcano of anger – “Didn’t I tell you we had to get out of there. What’s the hurry Steven said. If we’d left when I said so the little brat would still be alive. He died because you let that moony nut be in charge.”
“Actually Jessica,” Liz simmered. “Cory died because you let him eat the entire box of donuts for dinner when I told him he couldn’t.”
“How was I to know they were poisoned!”
Chapter 21 – Escape
“Not quite Jess, we have to tell about the codicil.”
“You would think that genius boy would’ve figured out , with all his law books, that their might’ve been a codicil without having to hear about it.”
“Jessica , you’re too hard on Steven , he couldn’t think of everything.”
“That’s for sure – I was the one who said steal the jewels and he called me a selfish twerp.”
“You suggested that before we even planned on running away.”
“And don’t you wish now that you’d listened.”
“Yes but first we have to find out about the poison.”
“Good riddens to that smelly mouse! – Now do we escape?”
“Yes but Jessica did you have to start that fire?”
“Are you crazy – I wasn’t going to leave Momma to inherit that beautiful big mansion after what she did to us.”Jessica reminiscing the scene gave a blissful sigh. “It went up like a roman candle didn’t it?”
“It sure did. We nearly didn’t get out.”
“And did you see the Grandmother run – what a hideous nightgown she wore! No wig! I could’ve died laughing. That old battle-ax had no sense of fashion!”
“It was supposed to be a quiet escape Jess.”
“Oh it was much better my way. The fire trucks , the news cameras , the interviews- Lila was so jealous.”
“Jess you’re too much.”
“Shall we tell about Momma in the insane asylum Jess?”
“Yes, a truly happy ending!”
“And her last words don’t forget those.”
“How could I forget ” “I’ve been Jessica-d!”