It all began quite innocently enough, as was usually the case with life-altering events in Sweet Valley.
"Hi, Enid, can I talk to you for a second?" The thing about Jeffrey French - the completely devastating thing that made over half the female population at Sweet Valley High want him - was that he never really seemed to grasp the fact that there were few people would would really ever say no to such a proposition from him.
But Enid forced herself to remember that she wasn't head over heels for him anymore. They'd already established that and had settled in on a very healthy friendship. So, going a little weak in the knees when he showed up in a forest green turtleneck that matched the green of his eyes perfectly was utterly ridiculous in a very special kind of ridiculous usually reserved for Jessica Wakefield's half-baked schemes.
So Enid ignored her knees and their tendency to go weak, and firmly reminded herself that she had green eyes and they weren't all that special.
At least, they weren't ever that special when they looked back from a mirror.
"Sure, Jeffrey. Have a seat," Enid replied. "It's just me and my tuna salad sandwich today, so you are hardly interrupting anything important."
She didn't mention that she was supposed to be having lunch with his ex, because first of all, that really wasn't something that you rubbed in a guy's face. Secondly, saying "I think I got dumped so that Liz and Todd could go off for some make-out time" was really not something you brought up to a guy.
Unless it was Bruce Patman, or something. Then it might have been okay.
"Yeah, I saw Todd and Elizabeth having ... um, lunch, in his car on the way here," Jeffrey remarked as he sat down on the marble bench beside her. "I figured you might be eating lunch alone."
Enid crumbled her plastic wrap into a ball and gave him the best indignant glare she could manage. "Ah, the life of a best friend after a romantic reconciliation. Doomed to a pathetic existence of eating lunch all by myself."
"I can't say much. I was eating lunch by myself, too," Jeffrey pointed out.
"So you'll join me in patheticville?" Enid teased.
"I think I like it in patheticville. It's much less cramped than ... " Jeffrey trailed off and Enid wondered if she should fill in "the front seat of Todd's car."
She had just decided that maybe that wasn't a wise life choice when Jeffrey continued, "So the photo essay that Olivia and I did a couple of months ago did pretty well."
"That's because it was beautiful," Enid said sincerely.
Jeffrey grinned the kind of almost-shy grin that totally made it look as though he wasn't used to receiving compliments all the time. "Thanks. They liked it enough to commission a follow up."
"That's great, Jeffrey. You and Olivia must be pretty proud."
"We are, and Olivia's already promised to be part of the follow up photo essay. But the project I was planning needs two people. I was kind of wondering if you'd like to be a part of it," Jeffrey asked.
Enid blinked in surprise. "You want me to be a part of a photography project?" she asked skeptically. "Not that I mind, but I've never been much of a model. That's more ... everyone else in this school." Except maybe Olivia. Enid bit back a giggle at the realization that Jeffrey had picked two of the least-likely-to-ever-be-a-model women in all of Sweet Valley to be part of his project.
Sometimes you could really tell that he was from out of state.
"I know," Jeffrey answered, "but the project is supposed to capture various stages of friendship, and there isn't anyone in this school who is as loyal of a friend as you are."
"Well, I can hardly say no to that, now can I?"
"That's part of my cunning plan. Butter you up so you can't reject my proposal," Jeffrey said and when he winked, Enid really didn't think that kind of charm should be legal in the state of California.
But since she wasn't old enough to run for governor yet, there was nothing she could do about it, but give in. "As long as one of the stages of friendship doesn't involve eating lunch alone, I'm in."
Jeffrey laughed, the kind of belly-deep, body-warming laugh that made Enid wonder what she had ever seen in Ronnie Edwards.
"No lonely lunches. You have my word," he promised.
The first photo shoot for Jeffrey's project took place after school two days later. It was really amazing just how empty the halls of Sweet Valley High could be on a Friday afternoon, and it genuinely seemed like Olivia, Jeffrey and Enid were the only three people in the entire school.
The shoot was intended to capture a "first meeting" and the finished product involved Olivia holding a bottle of water and leaning casually against a lunch table to talk to Enid.
Enid was certain that between Olivia and herself there were far too many curls, but Jeffrey claimed it was just right.
On the Wednesday before the second photo shoot, Enid was waiting on Elizabeth once again for lunch (apparently Elizabeth did not find the front seat of Todd's car all that cramped) and eating a chicken salad sandwich on the front lawn. Instead of Jeffrey, it was Olivia who sat down beside Enid.
"So did you get a peak at the fruits of our Friday afternoon labor?" Olivia asked as she unpacked her lunch. Olivia's lunch consisted of far more vegetables than Enid's ever had, and chips with far stranger colors than Enid's chips ever would be.
Still, in the interest of being nice, Enid had to accept that blue corn chip.
"I did," Enid agreed, breaking off half of her cookie and offering it to Olivia. She consoled herself with the knowledge that the cookie was oatmeal raisin, so it was almost as healthy as Olivia's lunch.
"Did you like it?" Olivia asked as she accepted the cookie. "I really liked the way Jeffrey used the natural light coming through the cafeteria doors to create a real depth to the background."
"Mmmhmm," Enid agreed, because she didn't know much about photography or art - that was much more Olivia and Jeffrey's deal than hers. "I thought it was great the way we he captured us having so much fun."
Olivia laughed as she bit into the cookie. "Oh, Enid. That part was easy."
The first time Enid kissed a girl, she had been so high that she frankly couldn't remember what color the girl's hair had been afterwards.
Since then, Enid mostly tried to shrug the experience off. After all, she could remember every single thing about George, and wasn't that a sign that the kiss hadn't meant anything at all? Wasn't that a clue that the kiss had been a simple experiment, something to forget, just as she tried to forget the adrenaline rush that was so synonymous with that time of her life?
Enid did try to forget.
But sometimes, when Enid was lying on the beach and trying to remember, the hair in her memories was deep auburn; other times it was the kind of jet black that would have made poor tragic Regina Morrow jealous. Still other times, when Enid was sitting in the middle of French and trying to check out of the increasingly creepy Ms. Dalton and Ken Matthews thing, the hair belonging to that first kiss had streaks in it the same shade as the sky on a breezy Sweet Valley spring afternoon.
Sometimes, sitting next to Liz in the Dairi Burger,, Enid was confident that the early chapstick flavored kiss had come from someone with the kind of sun-kissed golden tresses that ... well. That would have matched Elizabeth Wakefield perfectly.
Maybe it was one too many times sitting next to Liz at the Dairy Burger that made Enid begin to consider that the first kiss wasn't something she should just blame on the drugs.
Maybe it was the fact that when Enid was alone on her bed, starring up at her ceiling, the hazy face of the barely remembered first kiss more often than not sharpened into focus to look exactly like Elizabeth Wakefield.
And Enid was beginning to get comfortable with what that meant, exactly. Sure, there was nobody and nothing to help Enid deal with that realization in Sweet Valley. Everyone else might have sought out Mr. Collins, but even if Mr. Collins and Liz hadn't had that special kind of student/teacher bond, Enid knew very well that Mr. Collins had no idea what she was going through.
After all, the rumors around Sweet Valley had never involved Steven Wakefield and Mr. Collins, had they?
And Enid's mother ... well, she still worried. About everything. So there was no way Enid was going to bring this particular bombshell into her mother's life.
But while most of the people in Sweet Valley were pretty useless when it came to helping with her predicament, Olivia Davidson just made the situation more obvious.
And she did it in a ponytail, short denim shorts and oversized blue shirt.
"What do you think?" Jeffrey asked, three days later.
"I think it's weird to be anywhere near the Oracle without Liz here," Enid confirmed.
"It's lunchtime. I figured she had better priorities," Jeffrey said lightly.
"Different ones," Enid said softly. "Not so sure they're all that better."
And then Jeffrey looked down at her and smiled so brightly that it could have outshone the Sweet Valley sun. "Besides, I was wanting your opinion on our project."
Enid managed to break her gaze away from Jeffrey's face and look at the photograph. For the second "stage" of the friendship, they had settled on a telephone "conversation" and one of Olivia's hands was curled around a lock of her hair to mirror the way Enid's hand was curled around her phone cord.
Olivia looked so blissful at their imaginary conversation that it nearly took Enid's breath away. When she could speak again, she was completely sincere, if somewhat underrated in her compliments. "It's lovely, Jeffrey."
Somehow Jeffrey had moved even closer than Enid had realized while she'd been staring at the photograph,and his breath was warm next to her ear when he answered. "The two of you really are."
The affect his breath had on her insides didn't make a damn bit of sense when combined with the way the photograph of Olivia made her feel.
The third scheduled activity on their photo essay was supposed to be shopping. They tried various angles and shots and locations to try to make that work, but it just didn't.
Enid finally convinced Jeffrey that was because neither she nor Olivia were into shopping, so it was going to look fake one hundred percent of the time. So for the third stage, they exchanged shopping for painting, and although Enid wasn't anywhere near as good as Olivia, the enthusiasm was infectious.
Of course, the paint was infectious in the kind of way that resulted in splotches of blue and green paint all over Enid's face and bare legs.
It would have been somewhat inappropriate to complain, however, considering the gentleness with which both Olivia and Jeffrey helped her remove the paint.
In what was an increasingly rare event, Enid was actually having lunch with her best friend on Tuesday morning after the photo shoot, when Olivia came up to them. Over her shoulder was slung a bag full of books, which Olivia had a tight grip on. Enid wasn't entirely sure why she was clinging so protectively to them. It wasn't as though anyone at Sweet Valley was going to grab her books and run.
There were far more creative and interesting ways to be a criminal in Sweet Valley than to go around stealing books.
"Hello, Olivia!" Elizabeth greeted cheerfully, and Enid wondered if it made her a bad friend that she was grateful for the interruption to the constant stream of chatter about all of Todd Wilkins' numerous positive traits.
It probably did, but Enid was grateful, anyway.
"Hi, Elizabeth," Olivia answered breezily. "Hey, Enid, do you have a minute? I need to talk to you alone."
Elizabeth's perfectly shaped blonde brows furrowed together at the obvious exclusion, and Enid belatedly realized that she hadn't yet had time to fill Elizabeth in on the project that Enid was participating in.
She felt badly about that - it had been a pretty significant part of Enid's life over the past couple of weeks and would continue to be - but the two of them had just been so busy that they'd barely had time to connect at all.
"Sure, Olivia. I'll be right back, Liz," Enid promised as she stood up.
"It's no problem," Elizabeth said cheerfully. "I'll see you after school, okay? We still up for the run to the Dairi Burger?"
"Of course," Enid promised, before following Olivia.
Enid did keep her promise - she always had and always would, when it came to Elizabeth. Liz was her best friend and it was a friendship that Enid was certain she would always treasure.
But her time at the Dairi Burger was very brief, because the bag of books that Olivia had given her had been sitting impatiently in Enid's trunk since lunch.
Apparently, one of the great things about having dated a rich guy was meeting his much more worldly uncle's friends, who had the kind of libraries that people like Olivia hadn't been able to resist.
Even more apparently, they had the kind of fantastic libraries in San Francisco that they really didn't have in Sweet Valley, End thought. And with each additional turn of the page, Enid thought that was a greater shame. Because the books they didn't have in Sweet Valley turned out to describe the people in Sweet Valley kind of perfectly.
It was fortunate that Mrs. Evans had been so generous with her books, and that neither her husband nor her boyfriend had seemed to mind when Olivia permanently borrowed them.
Enid fully planned to sit on the information in Olivia's books - that wasn't something you just jumped on, right away.
But after spending the morning getting teased by Mr. Collins for "having her head in the clouds," and spending lunch getting sighed at by Elizabeth for "not listening," Enid realized that it also wasn't the kind of information that a person could just sit on and do nothing.
So after school, she made her way to Jeffrey's locker and leaned against it in a fashion she desperately hoped was nonchalant.
"I was hoping we could talk," Enid said, and she congratulated herself internally for not laughing at the incredible understatement that her words were.
"Of course," Jeffrey answered, and he genuinely did make it sound as though he'd never even consider giving her another answer... which made what Enid had to say easier.
"So, Olivia brought me some books," she began, as they walked out towards the parking lot together. "She said you'd already read them?"
"She read them to me, and we talked about them together." Jeffrey glanced at her curiously. "What did you think about them?"
Enid glanced up the hallway and back down, to make sure that she had the freedom to answer him. Then she took a deep breath and concentrated on the calm and steady hand holding the strap of Jeffreys' backpack as she answered. "When you and I decided that we weren't going to work out and you started to date Liz.... it felt like I was losing both of you, and I couldn't really figure that out. I tried to chalk it up to jealousy, but that never seemed quite right."
"Liz isn't much of the sharing type," Jeffrey answered, and Enid bit back a laugh at the idea of any of the Wakefields sharing. They didn't even like sharing with their own twin, and they'd been doing that forever.
"That's good for you. I don't think you, Liz and Todd would all fit in the front of Todd's car," Enid teased.
"Leg cramps would interfere with soccer," Jeffrey said solemnly, and Enid gave into the urge to laugh before he reached over and cupped her face. "So what do you say, Enid?"
There was a lot she could say, but she tried to focus on the important part. "I'm not sure what to say, Jeffrey, because I'm not sure why the two of you want me."
"Well, that's simple. You're beautiful and kind and you don't mind sharing the limelight," Jeffrey answered.
"Have I mentioned lately that you make it hard for a girl to say no?"
"Part of my cunning plan."
"So I can't reject your proposal?"
"You got it," Jeffrey answered, before leaning in for a kiss.
That Friday night, Jeffrey's parents were out of town, and the three of them took advantage of the lack of supervision to have privacy for their first official date. As Enid sat on Jeffrey's couch, a very important question occurred to her.
"The whole photo essay ... are you actually doing it, or was it all part of your cunning plan?" she asked.
Olivia's fingers ruffled lightly as they ran through Enid's hair before she answered. "Oh, it was part of our cunning plan, alright, but we're also definitely doing it... and we really do need to get around to those other two stages."
"True, but one of them involves crying, and I don't think we're quite up for that this weekend," Jeffrey pointed out. His hand was resting lightly on Enid's knee, just slightly under the hemline of her skirt.
"That might be tough," Enid agreed, "though I guess we could move on to the kiss and make-up part of the friendship scenes and come back to the crying scenes later."
"We could," Olivia agreed, as she dropped a feather light kiss on the top of Enid's ear. "We could even use Elizabeth's Christmas cookies as a prop."
Enid spared a glance towards the homemade Christmas cookies that Elizabeth had bizarrely made for Jeffrey. They sat untouched on the living room coffee table, next to their sodas and popcorn.
"Maybe later," Jeffrey suggested. "I can think of better ways to spend the evening, and none of them involve a camera."
As Olivia and Jeffrey scooted closer to Enid on the couch, Enid soaked in the hard lines Jeffrey's soccer player muscles in contrast to Olivia's soft curves.
It was really incredibly easy to agree to Jeffrey's proposal at the moment.
"Mm, it's almost too bad, because this would make for one hell of a gorgeous photograph," Olivia murmured.
It was incredibly easy to agree with that too.