Elizabeth goes back to the bar to talk to Liam again (and presumably to work her way up to inviting him to go to her grandmother’s birthday party with her). It seems like this should be a really easy thing to set in motion given that, universally, people love nothing more than when strangers invite them to attend their grandmother’s birthday party.
It’s the end of Liam’s shift, but Elizabeth catches him before he heads off.
“Hi,” Elizabeth said. “I just stopped by to reserve a quiet table for tomorrow afternoon. I’m going to interview Will. You know, the playwright.”
Smooth, Elizabeth. Ask to reserve a quiet table at a bar that will probably be empty in the middle of the afternoon.
“Sure, the guy from this afternoon. I’ll take care of that.”
“Hey, thanks. That’s great.” Elizabeth waved and turned to go. “See you tomorrow.”
“Wait up!” Liam called out. “As long as you’re here, can I buy you a drink?”
They go to get a cup of coffee together at a different location. Liam gets a whole boring backstory which, rest assured, you won’t care about. But, most importantly, “The accent was real; he grew up in Dublin.” So that settles that. Liam was not faking his accent this whole time!
Turns out, Liam’s family is in California too. What a lucky coincidence. This will surely mean that his desire to go to a grandmother’s birthday in California will be exponentially stronger than if he was just an Irish bartender who met Elizabeth that day who wasn’t from California.
Elizabeth assures us that Liam has no romantic interest in her in the most repetitive way we could hope for:
They were having a conversation like friends, good friends, in fact. Strange, considering they had just met. But Elizabeth could tell when she had a friend, and she could tell when it was something else. Without any words, she could feel that something else, because it was physical, and it wasn’t there with Liam. But the friendship was.
Let me translate for you: “They were friends because they were friends and not something more than friends because Elizabeth knew what a friend was. A friend in need is a friend indeed, and Liam was in need and a friend indeed. Elizabeth could tell when someone was a friend indeed, because they are in need, and Liam was in need indeed.”
Elizabeth asks Liam how his acting career is going, giving me the opportunity to severely misread the title of a play:
“One. Last winter I was in an Off-Off-Broadway piece called Warfrats at a loft in SoHo. Did you happen to cover it?”
Definitely thought this said Warfarts. I would definitely be curious about what that play was about.
Liam casually mentions that he should probably visit his parents soon…
“This is such a weird coincidence. I have to go back to Sweet Valley for my grandmother’s birthday, and I would really love to bring someone.”
“I think I saw that movie.”
Yes, that classic Hollywood set-up of needing a date to grandma’s birthday party to somehow get revenge on your ex and your twin sister who are now engaged.
Elizabeth assures him that he doesn’t have to pretend it’s anything romantic, she just wants the company. She tells Liam the whole story, and the book confirms that they’re now good friends too.
For the rest of the chapter, Elizabeth thinks about how Todd is a jerk but also “The guppy in the path of the shark,” which 1) is kind of sexist to make the narrative that Jessica is the sole villain when Todd was completely able to make his own decisions and 2) possibly scientifically inaccurate?
This isn’t even just a throwaway line, Elizabeth genuinely ponders her moral responsibility to save Todd from Jessica and/or get revenge while doing so.
Then she flashes back to when she was waiting for Jessica to come back to Sweet Valley after leaving her husband.
I’m so busy with excuses for Jessica that I almost walk right into this huge oak-tag sign festooned with bows, curly, hanging crepe paper, and big red Magic Marker letters spelling out WELCOME HOME, JESSICA!
It’s really ugly, like the handiwork of any cruelly untalented ten-year-old. Except this is a cruelly untalented twenty-seven-year-old man and, like I said, he’s trying.
“I love it,” I tell him. He’s standing there with the most excited, delighted smile on his face, so I give him a huge hug and say how I love the artist.
It’s a happy moment for both of us, and Todd practically hugs me off my feet.
How could Elizabeth have missed the signs? The Magic Marker sign says it all, really.
Elizabeth also takes this flashback as an opportunity to talk about how she and Todd had started growing apart, but then how their relationship got good again. It’s still unclear to me why Todd stayed with Elizabeth. If he is a guppy in this scenario, putting aside the damning evidence that guppies are not eaten by sharks, then he is a really shitty guppy who probably deserves to get eaten by all other water-dwelling creatures.
We also get really weird details in the flashback about Jessica and Elizabeth’s brother being a terrible, cheating husband, which drives his wife to obsessively bake and distribute desserts.
His wife, Cara Walker, the girl he ended up with after his first love, Tricia Martin, died of leukemia, keeps herself totally in the dark, baking. Obsessively. There’s no one in the neighborhood who, hard as they try, can escape her endless desserts. Any new dalliance on Steven’s part is sure to bring out a fresh festival of brilliant recipes. The latest gossip, compliments of Caroline Pearce, is that he’s involved with Lila Fowler, Ken Matthews’s wife.
I remember this Tricia girl. She’s the one Jessica kept saying was trash for some reason or other. That’s a really sad detail that she died, one that is weirdly undercut by the sort of humorous way Cara’s baking is presented.
Elizabeth also gives us background details about Ken Matthews being an NFL star, Winston and Bruce getting rich from “dot-com venture”, and how Elizabeth still doesn’t know why Winston and Todd had a falling out. Elizabeth reminds me so much of a few people I’ve met who will tell you every single detail about every person that even tangentially comes up in a story. I’m not even sure if this is supposed to be fan service and that people were actually desperate to know more about Ken.
Back in the present day, Elizabeth wonders if it would actually make her a good person to break Jessica and Todd up:
Suppose she could find a way to satisfy her special need, pay Jessica back, and save the dumb guppy Todd, who really didn’t deserve her kindness, from the shark’s mouth? Even if the guppy was a shithead, it was normal to want to save the guppy. Additionally, it would tailor the revenge a bit closer to Elizabeth’s sense of decency.
I totally get that this is a scenario where it’s kind of hard who to decide to hate more, but I really don’t like that Elizabeth thinks she is ‘saving’ Todd. He is obviously a deceitful, manipulative person as well.
Elizabeth sleeps on it, and she decides to let go of the idea of having Liam somehow seduce Jessica or whatever that brilliant plan was going to be.
So do sharks eat guppies? Discuss.