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untitled.

I.

Elizabeth returns to Sweet Valley an engaged woman-to the son of an Earl, no less. For the first time in her life (it seems) Jessica isn’t jealous. Indeed, her identical twin is quite happy for her. She isn’t interested in Max, at all. Her mother thinks that the engagement is wonderful (her brother and his wife, Billie, had eloped in her absence-and she suspected the matriarch of her family is simply eager to plan the wedding), and her father voices his happiness. Steven is a bit suspicious (he was always the overprotective one), and Billie tells her that she thinks it’s wonderful. 

It is wonderful.

Max n’ Liz. Liz n’ Max. She’ll soon be Mrs. Maxwell Pennington. She can hardly wait.


II.

The rumors start-Lila Fowler spies an article about Max and some other woman in a tabloid in Paris-written in French of course, but Max swears that she’s just a friend. Nina tells her that she’s being “blinded by love”-which certainly isn’t true. She isn’t blinded. She can’t be. Max was her first.

He promised her. 

The voice in the back of her head that whispered: “He promised Lavinia, too” is, of course, ignored. 

Things are different with her.

III.

Max shows up in Sweet Valley, rather unexpectedly, and she takes him on a tour of her old haunts. He seems somewhat reserved, but that is to be expected for a member of the nobility. 

Isn’t it?

She supposes that he’s just nervous about meeting her family, even though all Steven really cares about is making sure the newly pregnant Billie is feeling okay, and her mother is busy cleaning, and her father is off on business in New York, and her identical twin is being awfully cold to him.

She chastises Jessica.

IV.

The baby kicks. Billie and Steven tell everyone they know, and Elizabeth tries to be happy for them. She feels for her niece, tells Billie that she’s glowing, and tries not to wince when Billie tells her (earnestly) that she can’t wait for it to happen to her.

She wonders if her sister-in-law is blind. 

The plans for the wedding have stalled. Max barely keeps in touch with her. 

The official line is that they’re still engaged. And even she barely believes it.

She leaves their apartment and finds solace at Frankie’s bar.

Todd Wilkins is there.

V.

Todd Wilkins brings her back to Steven’s, falling over drunk, and Billie is not thrilled to be woken up. She opens the door with a pointed hand on her abdomen, groaning when Elizabeth throws up in her kitchen sink, all over the clean dishes. 

She mutters something about how Duchess Catherine would never act like that while she cleans it up, while Elizabeth searches her cabinets for the aspirin. She wants to tell her that she knows she’ll never be a duchess.

That it doesn’t matter if she gets so drunk that Todd brings her home. But she can’t.

VI.

She gets drunk at Frankie’s again after a particularly bad day-she called Max in London and another woman answered-though Max swore she was just his friend-and Todd has the nerve to cut her off. Just because the last few nights he’d had to bring her over to Steven’s didn’t mean she needed a limit! It wasn’t fair!

She twists the ring on her finger as he talks to her, forcing herself not to cry. She can’t cry. She has nothing to cry about. Nothing.

She is going to be Mrs. Maxwell Pennington.

She knows she is.

VII.

Billie calls her from a bookstore, and she has to listen to twenty minutes of various baby names before her sister-in-law realizes why she called, and begins to read off a headline, stuttering slightly. 

“Earl Pennington’s Son Caught at Nightclub With X Factor Alum.”

She doesn’t believe her. Even when presented with the magazine later that night, she doesn’t believe her. 

Steven yells at her when she tries to start a fight with Billie over it. But she deserved to cry. She was the one who believed those mean rumors the British press started about her Max.

VIII.

Dark. That is all Elizabeth feels when Cara Walker blows into town, from London itself. She doesn’t want to see the proof that she has, doesn’t even care, all she cares about is that Max promised her.

They were in love, weren’t they? The other girls were just jokes, because he was lonely. 

Steven points out that he was lonely while Billie was in Spain and he never cheated, but she simply shrugs. She and Max are different. 

He’s British, after all. 

Or maybe he is just a cheat. Maybe.

But she’d be happy with that. She would be.

IX.

Two can play at this game, and Elizabeth finds a willing partner in Todd Wilkins, who is perfectly willing to sleep with her after they have a few drinks. They first sleep together on her brother’s couch, the velvet sticking to their sweaty bodies, while he and Billie are away visiting her parents. 

She feels doubly naughty as a result.

It was shockingly easy to break into their apartment.

Everyone thought she was Jessica.

The couch reeks of sex when their week of fun is up, and she sprays it liberally with perfume.

Steven doesn’t notice. And Billie does.

X.

“You’re being ridiculous, Liz. Just dump him.”
“You don’t understand. You’re happy.”
“Yeah, I know. And you’re not.”
“What?”
“I know you’re not, Liz. Everyone does. I bet even Max does.”
“You married your fiance.”
“Yeah, I know. He got me pregnant, too. But nothing like this happened between Steven and I.”
“Chas-”
“He was the one with the crush. Not me. I didn’t do anything to jeopardize our relationship.”
“He started it! If he wants to sleep around so can I!”
“Or, you could be the mature person, and end it. You could be, Liz. I know it.”

XI.

Max shows up when she becomes an aunt, and her brother is less than thrilled about the reporter from the Sun who takes photographs of the two of them holding her niece-she doesn’t understand why, because she and Max finally look happy together. 

He promises that they’ll be married soon.

He returns to England that night.

She returns to Frankie’s, and to Todd Wilkins’ bed.

The fact that she and Max only slept together once, over a year ago, while she and Todd have done it dozens of times rears into view, but she ignores it.

It works.

XII.

Part of her suspects she might be falling in love with Todd again, but she tries to ignore it, rationalizing that she’s only with him to make Max jealous. Elizabeth has been rationalizing things all her life, since she was a little kid.

After all, she can’t be in love with Todd. It’s too cliche. She can’t marry her middle school sweetheart. 

Or her high school sweetheart.

That’s like something out of a cheap romance novel, that her mother reads.

She will marry Max. He’s supposed to become an earl.

Todd’s just a lowly townie bartender. He’s nothing to her.

XIII.

It’s over. It really is. Even Elizabeth has to admit it, when Steven calls the family together for a meeting and pulls out all of the evidence. Numerous articles from various publications, television clips, and the like. She calls Max to break up with him.

Lavinia answers the phone.

Billie tells her that it’s not the end of the world, and logically she knows this is true, and Jessica offers to hook her up with some of Mike’s friends, but all she wants is, well, Todd.

Even though he is just a bartender, at least he can care. 

XIX.

They go back to SVU. She majoring in journalism, he majoring in business, and they even move in together. They live down the hall from her older brother, and on the floor above her older sister, and though it might be a bit uncomfortable, it isn’t.

She likes living so close to her little niece.

Billie still reads the British tabloids, though she’s careful to hide them when she’s around, and sometimes she reads them too. She hopes that they’re happy.

She and Todd get invited to Max and Lavinia’s wedding. 

For some bizarre reason, they decide to attend.

XX.

Max and Lavinia attend their wedding as well. Jessica is her maid of honor. Nina, Alex, and Billie are her bridesmaids (Billie, only because her mother insisted, even though she’s pregnant again and looks ridiculously out of place next to her thin best friends). 

Todd’s coworkers work the reception, even though her mother was furious about that, too.

They’re happy enough. 

Even though it was cliche to marry her middle school sweetheart, Elizabeth finds she doesn’t mind.

They buy the house with the dog. Have the 2.5 kids. She is very happy. Happier than she’d have been with Max.


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mkrobinson
mkrobinson

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