Title: Cruel Summer
Fandom: Sweet Valley High
Universe: Early canon (SVH #2, Secrets)
Genre: Angst, Romance
Word Count: 2,881
Summary: Bruce Patman was truly the last person she wanted to see, especially at that very moment.
Links: DW | FF.net | AO3
Written for the “gently” prompt on my 2016 Summer Mini Challenge table.
So now it's time to tackle canon - and SVH #2 Secrets certainly had a juicy subplot: Lila starting rumors about Ken Matthews having an affair with the pretty young French teacher, Nora Dalton.
In the book, Lila is upset about this because not only does she consider Ken her reliable date for whenever she can't get a better one, but her father is dating Ms. Dalton as well - so of course she feels threatened by the pretty and popular young teacher. She starts the rumor about Ken kinda-sorta-by accident, but then flames the fire when she writes (or has someone else write) the infamous "If you don't know what a French kiss is, ask Ken Matthews" on Ms. Dalton's blackboard. It has the intended effect, in that Lila's father dumps Ms. Dalton, but Ken also dumps Lila when he finds out that she started the rumor.
It's Lila's canon angst that was the inspiration for this story - because what if it wasn't just the whole Ms. Dalton mess that was causing her to be upset, but also a twist in her secret relationship with Bruce? After they both return to Sweet Valley, he basically ignores her, because that's just the kind of asshole he is. This hurts her quite deeply, even though she knew from the start what kind of guy he was. It hurts her because she saw another side of Bruce in Monte Carlo, and allowed herself to get carried away with her own feelings. She thought they had something more established than they did, and it only fuels her anger about Ken.
I don't think its beyond reason that Lila cooked up the scheme to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, after discussing her problems with Bruce.
But of course, that meant they'd have to talk - which they haven't done, in private at least, since the end of the summer. They have faced off at school over a couple of things, but beyond that, there's been nothing. Bruce is an asshole, and Lila's too proud to go to him and ask him WTF he thinks he's doing. They've warned each other several times not to play with the other's feelings, but that feels like exactly what he's done.
Things come to a head after an awful evening for Lila. She's taken to a dance on the SVC campus (remember when Sweet Valley University was still Sweet Valley College? LOL), only for her date to try to get handsy after being super-clingy. She dumps him, but has no other way home. She calls Ken, but he's at a tutoring session with Ms. Dalton. Her father's driver has the night off, and of course she came with her date so she doesn't have her own car.
The last person she wants to see in that moment of vulnerability is Bruce, but he shows up, having been dumped himself by a sorority sister for ditching her and chatting up one of her prettier sisters at their party. Bruce offers Lila a ride back into town, which she reluctantly accepts, and on the way home, they finally have it out about what's happened since their kiss in Monte Carlo.
They say a lot of things to each other, but in a lot of ways, their actions show opposite intentions. There is still tons of unspoken sexual tension between them, which can't be resolved by a simple cold shoulder or snippy wisecracks. Bruce tells Lila that he didn't drop her, that he respects her too much to consider her another notch in his belt, so to speak, that he's not a one woman kind of guy, and that he wants to be friends - yet they still end up making out at the end of the evening. UST out the yin-yang, oof!
There's an unspoken agreement that nothing has changed between them - their sexual tension is something that they will continue to indulge casually, even if they both have deeper feelings than they're willing to admit just yet. They understand each other in a way nobody else can, because of their wealth and backgrounds, and the feud between their fathers. Hence the "secret" relationship - they are tied to each other, even if they aren't open and exclusive about it. The forbidden fruit aspect of this definitely plays into it as well.
Lila seems to have a habit of becoming attached to the wrong people - at the wrong moment, at least. How else to explain her continuing infatuation with Jeffrey French during the mid-canon books? I can totally see this happening with her and Bruce, too, maybe as a consequence of her father's benign neglect.
Poor Lila. The men in her life always seem to let her down :-/