#12: WHEN LOVE DIES
pages 66-68It's better this way, Tricia repeated to herself, as she'd been doing all week. Better for Steve that he's found someone else.
But she couldn't stop the cold feeling in her chest, as if an icicle lay wedged alongside her heart. She couldn't seem to stop the tears either. They dripped silently onto the backs of her hands, clasped tightly in her lap. The world that had been so unbearably sharp a moment before had blurred, and the voices around her faded to a distant buzzing.
The drugs she was taking sometimes made her sick to her stomach, but she wasn't sick now, just tired and very, very cold. She shivered in the warm sunlight, hugging her arms. She felt so alone, so desperately alone. If only Steve could be with me, she cried to herself. If only I could feel his strong arms around me just one more time, I could be warm again.
She knew these were dangerous thoughts, but she couldn't seem to stop them, just as she'd been unable to stop her tears. Images of Steven flashed in her mind. She saw them running along the beach, the wind whipping through their hair. They had run until they were out of breath, then tumbled together onto the sand. She thought of him arriving at the house to pick her up on their first date, greeting her father courteously even though he was so drunk he could hardly stand up. Tricia closed her eyes, remembering how it felt the first time Steven kissed her, cupping her face with one hand as he lightly ran a thumb along her cheek. She'd been trembling so hard sure was sure she wouldn't be able to stand up when it was all over.
Steve! Tricia's heart cried out his name, though no sound escaped her lips. I can't bear to lose you! Without you, I'm already dead! It would be so simple to let him know how she felt. There was a pay phone right outside the cafeteria. As simple as slipping a dime in the coin slot and dialing his number. She could tell him everything. Maybe it wasn't too late. She could tell him she still loved him.
No! Tricia bit down so hard on her lip she could taste blood. She had to stop thinking this way! It was selfish and cruel to want to make Steven suffer as much as she was suffering. Let him go, the voice of reason whispered in her head. If you love him, let him go.
pages 82-86The new patient was Tricia Martin!
Elizabeth could hardly believe her eyes. Tricia looked so pale and fragile under the fluorescent lights that Elizabeth could see the faint violet tracing of veins at her temples. She lay very still, her chest barely moving as she breathed. An IV was taped to her arm. Suddenly Tricia's eyes fluttered open.
"Oh!" she gasped.
In a flash Elizabeth understood everything. Tricia never had a sick friend. She herself was the mysterious sick "friend" they had talked about. Elizabeth woundered why she hadn't realized it before. Undisguised by the loose dresses and thick sweaters she had worn at school, Tricia's slight frame looked gaunt and bony under the thin hospital shift. Against the backdrop of white linen, she was as pale as death.
Abandoning her cart, Elizabeth rushed over to her bedside. She seized Tricia's hand - it was so cold! "Oh, Tricia, why didn't you tell me you were sick? What's wrong with you?"
In a ragged whisper, Tricia replied, "I have leukemia, Liz."
Tears filled Tricia's eyes, but she was struggling not to give in to them. She kept her lips tightly clamped together and swallowed hard several times. A single tear escaped to trickle down her cheek.
"H-how bad?" Elizabeth managed to stammer past the rising lump in her own throat.
"I'm - I'm not going to get better."
"Tricia, no!" Elizabeth cried in shocked disbelief.
But looking at Tricia, she knew it was true. There was an expression of hopelessness in her eyes that couldn't be denied. Elizabeth could no longer hold back her own tears. They streamed down her face as she hugged Tricia. "Why didn't you tell us?"
Tricia tensed, her expression tightening. She shot Elizabeth a look of agonized determination. "I don't want Steve to know."
"But you can't keep it a secret!"
"Oh, he'll find out in a few months. Buy by then, it won't matter so much. He won't be in love with me anymore. Don't you see? It's better this way." She gave a deep, shuddery sigh of resignation.
Elizabeth shook her head slowly. "You're wrong, Tricia. Steve would want to know."
Softly, but with that same fierce determination, Tricia repeated, "It's better this way." She said it in a manner that sounded as if she'd spent a lot of time trying to convince herself of it.
"You can't do this," Elizabeth pleaded. "Steve wouldn't want you to go through this alone. He loves you. He's miserable without you!"
"He'd be even more miserable if he knew the truth."
"But that's different! At least you'd have each other."
Tricia smiled wistfully. "For a little while."
"Isn't that better than nothing?"
"For me, yes," she said. "Not for Steve. He's the one who'll be left behind to pick up the pieces. No, Liz. I can't do that to him. I love him too much for that."
Elizabeth was overwhelmed with admiration for Tricia. Yet at the same time, she knew without a doubt that what Tricia was doing was wrong. Horribly wrong. Her decision would hurt Steven even more than if he knew the truth. Elizabeth was certain of it.
Tricia clutched at Elizabeth's hand. "Promise me you won't tell anyone - especially not Steve." Her eyes blazed from the shadowed hollows of her face. "Promise me, Liz!"
Elizabeth dropped her gaze. She stared down at the scuffed linoleum floor. "I promise," she said miserably.
"I knew I could trust you." Tricia beamed as she wiped the tears from her cheeks with a corner of the sheet. "In a funny way, I'm glad you know. Someday maybe you can tell Steve - a long time after I'm gone - that I really did love him. But then it wouldn't matter so much. It's just that...I'd like him to know. Will you do that for me?"
Elizabeth was too choked up to speak, so she simply nodded. There was so much more she wanted to say. She wanted to tell Tricia how sorry she was - and how glad she was to know her. But she couldn't seem to get the words to come out of her mouth.
Tricia seemed to have read her mind. "Please don't feel sorry for me," she said. "It was terrible when I first found out. I didn't want to believe what the doctors were telling me. But it's not so bad anymore. I've accepted it. It's strange, but whenever I used to think about dying, it really scared me. I thought it was the worst thing that could ever happen to anybody."
"And it isn't?" asked Elizabeth.
"No," Tricia said with a sad little shake of her head. "Living without love is worse than dying."
Elizabeth dabbed at her eyes with a balled-up tissue she'd fished from the pocket of her uniform.
"What about your family?" she asked. "How are they taking it?"
Tricia shrugged resignedly. "I don't think they've really accepted it yet. They're still talking about cures. Deep down they know, but it's a hard thing to admit. Yesterday I caught Papa looking through an old album of my mother's pictures. I could tell he'd been crying. I felt terrible. He depends on me so much. I worry about how he'll get along without me."
"It won't be easy for Steven either," Elizabeth reminded her gently.
A look of pain crossed Tricia's face. "He'll get over it. You'll see. It'll be easier for him this way. Just remember your promise, Liz. I'm counting on you."
"I'm - " She opened her mouth to tell Tricia that she didn't see how she could ever keep such a terrible promise, but she couldn't say no to the look of pleading on Tricia's face.
At that moment, one of the nurses walked in.
Tricia pressed Elizabeth's hand one last time. "Goodbye, Liz. And thanks for caring."
For the first time in her life Elizabeth realized how final the word goodbye could sound.
page 107His mind drifted off again. That was the weekend he'd planned on taking Tricia to Secca Lake. The last time they'd been up there, they had packed a picnic lunch and hiked up the stream that fed into the lake. There was a place they discovered, a rock pool shaded by ferns and sweet-smelling pine trees, where they could swim in private. They spent the day dipping into the ice-cold water and basking in the warm sunlight. They talked quietly, planning their future together. Then they had kissed, and the kissing seemed to go on forever, sweet and delicate like Tricia herself. He remembered the feel of her bare arms against his back, the way her hair smelled of pine needles...
pages 118-123"You should have called first." Tricia held the front door open just a crack and glared at Steven. Even though her heart soared with happiness at the sight of him, she couldn't let him know. There was too much at stake. So she lied. "I have a late date tonight. He's picking me up any minute. You'd better go."
She tried to close the door, but Steven pushed his way inside. With a glance, he took in the dingy, threadbare living room. Empty bottles and overflowing ashtrays littered the tables. The stale smell of liquor and cigarettes hung in the air. Tricia had always kept the house so tidy in the past. Now that she was sick, she probably didn't have the strength. Steven's heart wrenched with pain.
"You don't have a date, Trish," she said softly.
"You think I'm making it up? Anyway, what right do you have barging in like this?"
Her cheeks were flushed with emotion, but the rest of her face was deathly pale. She was wearing a fluffy sweater in a soft shade of blue that matched her eyes. Even though she was dying, she looked beautiful.
Steven shook his head sadly, tears welling up in his eyes. "Trish, baby, I know."
Tricia began to tremble at his words. What little remaining strength she'd been clinging to suddenly left her. Her legs wouldn't support her anymore. Uttering a strangled cry, she collapsed against Steven.
They stood there for a time, clinging to each other, both of them struggling desperately to hold in the tidal wave of their emotions. Silent tears streamed down Tricia's face, dampening the front of Steven's shirt. He stroked her hair gently, thinking how good it was to touch her again, in spite of everything.
"Oh, Steve." Her voice emerged as a cracked whisper. "How - how did you - " Her throat closed, cutting off the words.
"Liz told me," he choked, tears leaking from the corners of his eyes. "Tricia, why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't want you to see me this way, Steve. I didn't want you to watch me die a little bit at a time. I - I remember how it was with my mother. It hurt so much. I wanted to save you from that kind of hurt."
"Nothing could hurt me more than losing your love," he said.
"Oh, Steve, I never stopped loving you. I only told you that so I could set you free."
"Don't you know?" He touched her cheek. "I could never be free of loving you, not even if I tried. You mean everything to me, Tricia."
Tricia felt oddly weightless. The medication she was taking made her drowsy, and she couldn't help thinking this was all a dream. Except that Steven's presence was so warm and real.
"I missed you," she said.
"I heard you were going out with someone else," he said. "Cara told me all about how you were hanging all over some guy in the drugstore."
Tricia was puzzled for a moment, but then she remembered. "That was the day I went to pick up my prescription and I almost fainted. There was a man - he helped me out to my car and drove me home. I suppose it have have looked as if I were all over him, but if he hadn't been there, I would have fallen down."
Steven grimaced. "I hate to think of you going through so much alone. Oh, Trish, you should have told me! Thank God Liz had the guts to break her promise."
"She was supposed to keep it a secret."
"I'm glad she didn't. Aren't you?"
Tricia thought for a moment, then nodded slowly. "Yes, I guess I am. I suppose it's selfish of me, but I can't help wanting you to be with me."
"I'm here." He stroked her hair. "I'm not leaving you this time."
"But I'll be leaving you," she said with soft regret. "Soon, I think."
"We still have time. And we have each other. That's the most important thing. We have each other for whatever time is left. Trish, I love you. I'll never stop loving you." His voice caught. "Even - even when you're gone."
For the first time in weeks, Tricia didn't feel cold. She felt Steven's warmth filling her up. When he brushed his lips against hers in a gentle, lingering kiss, she nearly cried out with happiness.
"It's funny," she said, "but I don't feel so afraid anymore. I feel stronger, like I can face everything. Even death."
Steven held her tightly. They were both crying, tears of sadness mingled with tears of happiness.
"I love you," she murmured thickly against his shoulder.
"I could go on holding you like this forever," he whispered.
Forever, she thought. Maybe forever wasn't such a long time for them, but when you loved someone as much as she loved Steven, a day could be forever, even a moment.
Tricia smiled as she looked up at him. "I heard about you and Cara," she chided gently. "Steve, how could you?"
"She's not so bad." Steven smiled back at her, brushing a stray lock from her forehead. "From about a mile away."
They both laughed and embraced tightly, their faces wet with tears.
"I love you," she whispered once again. "Don't ever forget that."
Steven knew he wouldn't. Park of Tricia would stay with him for the rest of his life.
pages 6-7Steven shot Jessica a disgusted look and didn't bother to answer. He wished his sister would learn that money and good looks weren't the only thing that made someone desirable. Steven knew better than most that even the poorest people could have riches that couldn't be calculated in dollars and cents. He conjured up a picture of his girlfriend, Tricia Martin. She was dirt poor, but she was the loveliest, kindest girl Steven had ever met. Still thinking about Tricia, Steven glanced at his clock. "Uh, Jess, I don't mean to kick you out of my room or anything, but I've got to get dressed. I promised Tricia I'd be at her place by seven thirty."
Jessica fought to hold back the distaste she'd always felt for her brother's girlfriend. She had never understood how he could have fallen for someone from a family like Tricia's. Besides being practically penniless, the Martins had a bad reputation. Mr. Martin had become an alcoholic after his wife died, and Tricia's sister, Betsy, was in and out of trouble with the Sweet Valley police. Elizabeth insisted that Tricia was different from the rest of her family, but Jessica still couldn't bear to have her brother's name linked with the Martins'. In the past Jessica had never hesitated to express her feelings. But things were different now, and she felt she owed her brother the courtesy of silence on the issue. They'd both just learned that Tricia was dying of leukemia, and nothing anyone could say or do could keep Steven from being with her as often as possible.
"How's she feeling?" Jessica asked.
"Tired," Steven answered. "We're probably just going to spend the evening at her place."
pages 113-114"Steve got a call from the hospital while you were away," Jessica said. "It was about Tricia Martin."
"Oh, no." Elizabeth gasped. "Is she worse?"
"Yes. She was rushed to the hospital this afternoon. She's in intensive care."
"Oh, no," Elizabeth said, shocked at Jessica's words. "Did Steve go over to the hospital?"
"I think so. He left the house after he got the phone call, but he didn't say anything."
Elizabeth waited for Jessica's usual tirade against the whole Martin family and against their brother for getting involved with one of them. But Jessica merely walked silently out of the room.
pages 135-137"Your mother just called," Cara said to Elizabeth. "She wants you to call her back right away."
"My mother? I wonder why she would call me here."
"I don't know, but she sounded sort of worried. Why don't you call from my father's study?" Cara suggested. "It's more private. And you won't have to compete with all this noise."
Elizabeth turned to Nicholas. "Will you excuse me?"
"Of course, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth looked around. "Where's Jessica?" she asked Cara. "Maybe she should be with me."
"I'll go find her," Cara said.
Elizabeth went into the study and closed the door. Just as she finished dialing, Jessica appeared, looking frightened. "What do you think they want?" she asked. "Do you think it has anything do to with my driving the car?"
Elizabeth shook her head. "They wouldn't call us here just about that," she said.
She heard the phone ring on the other end. It was picked up almost at once, and her mother said, "Elizabeth? Is that you?"
"Yes. What's happened?"
There was a short pause, but to Elizabeth, it seemed to last forever. Then her mother said, "It's Tricia Martin, Liz. It looks..." Her voice broke. "It looks as if the end is near."
"Oh no," Elizabeth gasped. To Jessica, at her side, she said, "It's Tricia. She's..." Her voice broke, and tears began to stream down her face.
"Oh, Liz!" There was no need for Elizabeth to say more.
Elizabeth spoke to her mother briefly. Then she hung up the phone. "Maybe it's just a false alarm," Jessica said, putting her arms around her sister.
Elizabeth grasped at this slender straw. "Maybe," she said. "But Mom and Dad want us to meet them at the hospital right away. Steve's already there."
pages 2-3"Hey, no crying allowed!" Tricia's voice was barely louder than a whisper, but her tone was unusually forceful. "You've got to believe these last few months of my life have been the happiest of my life." She looked at Steven and held his gaze meaningfully. Her own tears threatened to break loose as she studied her dark-haired boyfriend, his handsome face lined with sorrow, his eyes ringed from lack of sleep. Quickly she shifted her attention back to Elizabeth, Jessica, and their parents.
"The happiest of my life," she repeated, "because of you. I almost feel as if I'm a part of the family."
pages 5-6"Remember, Steven?" Tricia asked, when his family left and the two were alone. "Remember that first time I saw you?"
Steven hoisted himself up and moved over to the edge of Tricia's bed. "I'll never forget," he told her, cupping his large hands around her pale face. "When I close my eyes, I can still see exactly the way you looked, splashing your feet in the ocean and trying to catch raindrops on your tongue. While everyone else on the beach ran as fast as they could to get out of the rain, I joined you at the water's edge..."
"All those people missed the best part of the day," Tricia remembered joyfully, but her voice was painfully weak.
"You looked so beautiful that day." Steven bent down and kissed her forehead. "You still do." Suddenly his face wrinkled up, and he let out a choked sob. "Tricia, don't go," he cried. "Please stay with me." He dropped his head in his hands, his body racked with grief.
Tricia's fingers found Steven's body. With the final bit of energy left in her, she lifted her hand slightly and rested it on his knee. His sobs quieted.
"Steve, it's time," she said. "I can't keep going much longer. I want the pain to stop. Steve. You've got to let go know. Please. For me."
Steven lifted his head and wiped away his tears with the back of his hand. "For you, Trish. I'll do anything for you."
page 7"I know, Trish. Be quiet now. You'll wear yourself out." Steven caressed Tricia's cheek with his fingertips.
"Say you'll do it, Steve. Look after Betsy."
"Tricia, I-I'm not sure anyone can look after her."
"Promise me," Tricia insisted.
Steven looked into her china-doll blue eyes. "I can't say no to you," he said softly. "I promise."
Tricia let out a small sigh. The conversation had clearly exhausted her. "I knew I could count on you. Steven, I love you."
"I love you, too, Trish."
"Steve, I'm so tired. I have to sleep, okay?" Tricia's voice was barely audible.
"Yes, it's okay," Steven murmured as Tricia closed her eyes for the last time.
pages 36-37"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust..." The minister pronounced the final words of the service as Tricia Martin's coffin was lowered into the ground.
Elizabeth shuddered against the damp morning fog and pulled her thin sweater tightly around her. She was solemn as she stood near the front of the shamefully small group of people who had come to pay their last respects to Tricia Martin. Some of the Sweet Valley High teachers were there, a handful of Tricia's classmates, and a few others. Betsy alone represented the Martin family. No other relatives had gathered for bittersweet reminiscences; no one had come to bestow one final declaration of love. Jim Martin, the girls' father, had not appeared. Though Betsy said nothing, her gaze had roamed over the crowd throughout the brief, simple service. The tiny ray of hope in her eyes had turned to sorrow-clouded disappointment and anger as she scanned the faces.
But now Betsy was still, one arm linked through Elizabeth's, the other through Steven's. Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield were at their son's side, their heads bowed. Even Jessica, standing next to her twin, wore a mournful expression as the first handful of dirt was thrown into the grave.
Suddenly Betsy gave a low, heart-wrenching moan, as if it were her very soul being buried in the earth. Her knees weakened, and Elizabeth felt her crumple to the ground.
"No! Dear God, no!" Betsy sobbed, beating the dew-soaked grass with her hands.
In a flash, Steven was kneeling down beside her. He wrapped his arms around her and rocked her back and forth. "It's okay," he crooned, forcing back his own tears. "Everything's going to be okay." He held Betsy tightly, stroking her head, until her grief-stricken wail gave way to subdued sobs and then to soft hiccups. Finally she was quiet.
Steven helped Betsy to her feet, continuing to hold her around the waist, as people filed past, murmuring their condolences.
pages 79-80Elizabeth studied her brother's sad, lonely face. "Steven, I don't want to make your life any tougher than it is right now," she said sympathetically. "It's just that I'm worried about you. And about Betsy, too. She seems to dependent on you. Steve, you're her only real companion."
Steven nodded his head. "I can't say you're wrong, Liz. But what can I do? If she needs me, I've got to be there for her."
"But, Steve, you haven't had enough time alone even to begin to recover from - from what happened."
"I know. Lord, do I know." Suddenly Steven's face was in his hands, and his head rolled from side to side in grief. "I can't believe she's gone," he mumbled through his tears. "Tricia. My Trish."
Elizabeth went over to her brother and put an arm around him. She could feel his body tremble as he unleashed his tears. She sat there for several minutes, hugging him tightly until he grew calm again.
Finally Steven wiped his eyes with the corner of his towel. "That's the first time in days that I've really let my feelings out," he confessed. "I think a good cry was just what I needed."
page 98On his face was the faraway expression that Elizabeth had seen so often in the past week. She realized her brother was thinking about Tricia again. It was no wonder he seemed empty, no wonder he felt as if he'd forgotten something. He was returning to school without Tricia's loving goodbye kiss, without the knowledge that she'd be waiting eagerly for his next visit home, without the comfort of her sweet smile. Steven might have everything he was supposed to have packed up in his knapsack, but Elizabeth knew that her brother had a hollow spot in his heart.
#23: SAY GOODBYE
page 23Elizabeth blinked back tears. "It is hard," she admitted. "It's kind of weird even now, when we both know we should be enjoying our last few days together. Everything we do - like going to the Dairi Burger or going to the beach - has this awful finality about it. We both keep thinking, 'Well, I guess that's the last time we do that."
"I know," Steven said softly. "There's nothing worse than being conscious something is coming to an end - especially when that 'something' is very special."
pages 152-153Jessica shook her head. "Poor Steve," she murmured. "It sounds like Betsy Martin really gave him a hard time tonight."
"What do you mean?" Elizabeth asked, her curiosity rising.
Jessica shrugged. "Well, I guess I was right about Steve and Cara. Lila said as soon as I left they started dancing together - slow dances - and they were attracting a bit of attention. She said it looked like they were acting pretty crazy about each other."
"And - " Elizabeth prompted.
"And Betsy Martin came up to them on the dance floor and made a scene. Lila said she was incredibly nasty. She said something like, 'Don't you think it's a little soon for that sort of behavior? Or have you forgotten my sister already?' And Lila said Steve went pale, and his eyes filled up with tears. He stormed off the dance floor and left without even saying good night to poor Cara."
"Oh, no," Elizabeth moaned, putting her face in her hands. Poor, poor Steven! If he had been having a good time with Cara, he certainly deserved it. It had been months since Tricia's death. And Elizabeth understood now how vital it was for her brother to begin to pick up the pieces of his life. He just couldn't go on forever remembering the past, she thought, her heart aching for her brother. Sooner or later he had to take a deep breath and begin to look forward again. And from what Lila reported, it sounded as though Steven had made a tentative move in that direction tonight.
But Betsy Martin had made certain his guilt would snuff out the first sparks of interest he felt for Cara Walker.
How dare she, Elizabeth thought furiously, after everything Steve did to help her after Tricia's death? Doesn't she realize it's time for him to set himself free from mourning?
God, I hope Steve can let himself go and begin a new life! And I hope Betsy Martin has the decency to step back and let him find happiness after all these months!
pages 1-2"Steven! What's wrong?"
Ned Wakefield looked up from the book he was reading as his ston streaked by the master bedroom. Then came the sound of Steven's bedroom door closing with an angry slam.
Alice Wakefield gave her husband a puzzled look. "What do you think could be the matter?"
Ned Wakefield and his eighteen-year-old son were both tall and had the same dark hair and eyes. Right now Mr. Wakefield wore the same troubled expression that Steven had been wearing on and off for weeks. "I don't know," he answered, rubbing his forehead. "Steve has been so much better lately. I was sure he was beginning to let go of Tricia's memory. I hope that's not the problem."
But that was the problem. Steven had forgotten about Tricia Martin, at least for a little while, and now, as he lay staring up at the ceiling of his bedroom, he felt horrible about it. Memories of Tricia, his beautiful girlfriend with her halo of strawberry blond hair and her shining blue eyes, washing over him. Death had taken Tricia from Steven several months ago, but he had vowed always to keep her in his heart.
In spite of his family's love and support, Steven had mourned for weeks following Tricia's death. Lately he had begun to recover from his depression, though Tricia was always in his thoughts.
pages 47-49Inside the den, Steven was slumped in his father's armchair, while Mr. Wakefield watched him with somber eyes from across the room.
"I never thought that I'd be unwelcome in my own home," Steven muttered.
Mr. Wakefield began pacing the floor. "Steve, I didn't say anything of the kind. I just don't think you should be here when you've got another full day of classes left."
Steven looked up sadly. "I'm sorry. I just seem to have trouble staying in one place."
"Oh, Steve, you can't rid of ghosts by running away from them," his father told him compassionately.
"You don't understand." Steven ran his fingers through his already tousled hair. "Tricia's not a ghost to me. She's real, and I want to keep her that way."
Mr. Wakefield chose his next words carefully. He stopped by the window and turned to face his son. "That's not possible, Steve. Tricia's gone, and in time that will be easier to bear. Until the day comes when you can remember her without guilt or longing - and believe me, that day will come - you must try and deal with the fact that Tricia's life is over and yours must go on."
"I'm not ready to let her go," Steven said stubbornly.
"Let me tell you a story." Mr. Wakefield sat down in a chair facing Steven. "When I was a junior in college, my best friend died in a car accident. I was devastated for weeks. I couldn't study, couldn't eat. Nothing seemed important."
Steven nodded. He understood very well what his father had gone through.
Mr. Wakefield continued. "Finally I realized that grieving wasn't helping my friend. He wouldn't have wanted that for me, either. That was when I came out of my depression, but I never forgot him. When you were born I named you Steven, after him."
Steven sat in silence for a moment. "Dad." He cleared his throat. "I know you're trying to help. But no matter how deeply you cared about your friend, it couldn't be anywhere near what I felt for Tricia. I loved her completely," he burst out. "We were planning to spend the rest of our lives together. I'm not ready to forget about her, and I don't think I ever will be."
page 80Jessica looked out the window in the direction of the driveway. Steven was scrubbing his yellow Volkswagen so hard he looked as thought he were trying to take the finish off it.
pages 82-84Steven stopped soaping his car long enough to wave to Jessica as she backed out of the driveway. Sometimes he wished he could be more like his carefree younger sister.
That morning Steven was feeling bad about all kinds of things. First, there was Cara. Her hurt, humiliated expression on the dance floor had stayed with him, and it was awful knowing he had been the cause of it. Then there was the matter of his true feelings about Cara. He knew it was time to be honest with himself. He was attracted to Cara. There was no doubt about it. He had known for sure when Artie had called him that morning to say he had made a date with Cara for that night. Steven had felt a sharp stab of jealousy.
Then there was Betsy. He wondered whether his family was right about Tricia's sister. Was she trying to hold him too tightly to the past? He pushed the disloyal thought aside. No, his conversations with Betsy enabled him to remain true to Tricia.
Tricia. Just her name conjured up images in his mind. None of this would be happening if Tricia were still with him! Steven threw the sponge back into the soapy water and sat down on the front lawn. He missed her. Putting his head in his hands, Steven began to sob.
Elizabeth, who had been watching her brother from the living room window, saw him crying. She walked out the front door and went over to him. "Oh, Steve," she whispered as she sat down.
He looked at her with red-rimmed eyes. "I'm so mixed up, Liz," he said, taking short breaths.
"I know." She patted his knee. "But it'll get better, Steve."
"Will it?" he asked, his face etched with suffering. "Sometimes I wonder."
Elizabeth sighed deeply. Sometimes she, too, wondered when Steven would at least get over the pain of losing Tricia Martin.
pages 113-114Fortunately Cara could not see Steven's reaction to her announcement. He paled, and his eyes took on a haunted look. The Valley Inn, he thought. That was the restaurant he and Tricia had gone to before she became too sick to leave the house. A flood of memories washed over him: Tricia, frail but more beautiful than ever, dancing in his arms; asking the band to play Tricia's favorite old song, "Always"; whispering the lyrics in her ear as they moved to the music. The last place in the world Steven wanted to go was the Valley Inn.
"Steve." Steven looked up to see Cara standing in front of him, her raincoat on. Obviously this was not the first time she had called him. "Didn't you want to leave now?"
He averted his eyes from her gaze. Cara looked so beautiful, and she had been so excited and hopeful when he had walked through the door. Now her face wore a worried expression, as if she were wondering what she had done to change his mood. Steven didn't want to hurt her again. He would just put aside his own feelings and go on with the date as though nothing were wrong.
"I'm all set," he said, opening the door for her. It had stopped raining, and the air outside smelled fresh and new. Cara was so energetic and cheerful on the ride to the Valley Inn that Steven's tension began to fade. Maybe going there wouldn't be so bad after all.
There were, however, a shaky couple of minutes as they stood at the entrance to the dining room, waiting for the maître d’hôtel to show them to their table. The last time Steven had looked out across the dining room, Tricia had been on his arm. Fortunately, he and Cara were soon shown to a table on the end of the room opposite where he had been with Tricia.
"This place is lovely," Cara said, looking at the snow-white table linens and the fresh flowers on every table. In a corner, a band was playing romantic old songs.
"Yes, it is," Steven replied wistfully.
pages 117-118As the band struck up the introduction to the next song, Steven took Cara in his arms once more. But when the band went into the melody, his back stiffened.
"Always"! The band was playing the song Tricia had loved so much! Suddenly the room seemed suffocatingly hot, and Steven felt as though he couldn't breathe.
Cara quickly noticed his distress. "Steven, what's wrong? Are you ill?"
He tried to cover up. "No, I feel fine," he said. But there was a sick feeling in his stomach and a sick feeling his heart. How could he dance to this song with another girl in his arms? It was the ultimate disloyalty. The two of them were barely moving now, and Steven was hardly aware of Cara. The only thing he could hear was that song, "Always."
Tricia believed I knew the meaning of that word, Steven thought to himself bitterly, but I guess I don't.
Cara looked up at Steven's pale face. "Can't you tell me what's wrong?"
He focused on her and shook his head. No, he couldn't - he didn't want to explain. All he wanted was to get away from there and leaving the haunting music behind. Cara's face began to swim before his eyes, and he felt dizzy. He stopped dancing and stood rooted to the spot, but his voice was agitated. "No, Cara, I, uh - Cara, I'm sorry. I have to go." With those words he left her standing alone on the dance floor and dashed away.
pages 138-139Betsy stopped walking back and forth and sat back down. "That final time they had together was beautiful..."
#64: THE GHOST OF TRICIA MARTIN
pages 5-6"You're not going out with Cara tonight, are you?" Elizabeth asked in a low voice.
Steven shook his head. Cara Walker, who was one of Jessica's close friends, was Steven's girlfriend. It was a warm, caring relationship, but Elizabeth knew something had happened recently to turn it upside down. Her brother had seen a ghost.
Not in the real sense, of course. But the way it had shaken Steven, Elizabeth decided it could just as well have been a ghost. The day before, Steven had gone with Elizabeth to the Sweet Valley Mall, and they had stopped in a store called the Unique Boutique. Standing behind the counter had been a girl who looked, sounded, and dressed just like Tricia Martin, the girlfriend Steven had lost to leukemia months ago. Elizabeth knew she would never forget the look of astonishment and wonder that had crossed her brother's face when he saw her. He had been unable to resist asking the girl's name, and his eyes had devoured her. Elizabeth had been frightened by his intensity.
pages 24-25"Liz - last night - it was amazing. Andrea's so much like Tricia, it's just incredible!"
"Really?" Elizabeth gave him a faint smile. "I know she looks just like Tricia, but - "
"No! That's just it!" Steven cut in. "She's exactly like Tricia, in every way! She likes all the same things Tricia did, and she dresses like her. She talks like her! Everything! It was like being in a time warp!"
The expression in Steven's eyes made Elizabeth uneasy. Frowning, she looked down at her hands. Nobody was just like anybody else, not even identical twins. She knew that better than anyone.
"We met at La Paloma, where Tricia and I used to go all the time," Steven went on eagerly. "She looked so right there! And when I told her how good the chef's salad was, she ordered that, just like Tricia!"
Steven jumped up and began pacing. He couldn't seem to contain his enthusiasm. He kept picking things up and putting them down. Elizabeth watched him silently.
"And she told me how much she likes to walk on the beach, just like Tricia used to. I still can't get over it."
"Steve - " Elizbaeth chose her words carefully. "Steve, she's not Tricia, remember. She's a different person who just happens to be like her in some ways."
Steven waved his hand irritably. "Look, I know she's a different person - I'm not crazy."
"I didn't say that," Elizabeth put in.
"I know, but..." Steven abruptly stopped pacing. He sank onto the bed and ran his hands through his hair. "Maybe I am acting a little crazy. But I just can't get her out of my mind. I have to see her again."
Elizabeth gave him a hard look. "Are you going to break up with Cara?"
"No! Of course not, it's not like that!" Steven stared at the floor for a long moment. Then he shook his head.
"It's not like what?" Elizabeth asked.
Steven sighed. "I don't know, maybe you're right. I should try to stop thinking about her. I don't want to break up with Cara, because I really do love her a lot. Maybe I should find some way to keep my mind off this whole thing."
pages 53-57Steven and Andrea strolled through the aquarium, deep in conversation. Andrea told Steven how the luminous tanks of fish and coral reminded her of paintings she had seen, or dreams she had had. Steven couldn't take his eyes off her face. In the underwater light, she looked more like Tricia than ever. The only thing that bothered him was that she had her hair pinned up on top of her head. He preferred it down, the way Tricia had always worn hers. But that was a minor detail. It wasn't important.
"I love it here," Andrea said as they stepped out into the late afternoon sunshine.
Steven nodded, entranced by his memories and by Andrea. "Me, too." He nodded to the left. "Come on, let's go see the otters."
"Oh! Great idea - I love otters!" Andrea said with a happy smile.
"I knew you would," Steven replied.
Tricia had loved watching the playful animals, too. The two of them had spent many happy Saturday afternoons at the aquarium, walking hand-in-hand, feeding the seals, and just watching the fish. Bringing Andrea there brought back so many memories for Steven that he thought he would cry. But he was happy and peaceful, too.
"Look at that one, swimming on its back." Andrea laughed and pointed into the otter pool. "Isn't it beautiful?"
Steven was looking at her as he nodded. "Yes."
Even though she didn't turn to face him, Andrea obviously knew what he meant. "Wouldn't it be wonderful to be that carefree?" she went on in a casual tone. She leaned her arms on the railing and looked down into the water. "There's something so joyful and uninhibited about them."
Steven finally turned to look at the otters. That was just the kind of remark Tricia would have made, he thought happily. The way the otters glided through the water so smoothly and effortlessly reminded him of the hang gliders he'd seen in the canyons. He glanced at Andrea. He was positive she would react differently than Cara had done if he told her about his new interest.
"You know what they make me think of?" he began, watching Andrea's face.
She lifted her eyebrows. "What?"
"Flying," he said.
Andrea smiled. "That's true! It's very similar. Wouldn't it be fantastic to be able to fly like a bird?"
"Hang gliding would be like that," Steven pointed out. He felt as thought he were testing her. It felt sneaky, but he couldn't help it. He had to know if she would react the way he thought she would.
A half-scared, half-laughing expression came into Andrea's eyes. "I'd be scared to death to try that," she admitted, shaking her head. "But you're right, it's probably the closest thing to flying humans can do."
Steven felt a surge of elation. He had known she would feel that way! He couldn't stop smiling. Impulsively, he put out his hand and unclipped the barrette holding up Andrea's hair. Her strawberry-blond curls cascaded around her shoulders.
"Hey!" She let out a startled laugh. "What are you doing?"
"Your hair looks so pretty loose," Steven told her. He grinned disarmingly. "I just couldn't resist."
Andrea tipped her head to one side. "Oh, yeah?" She smiled and held her hand out for the barrette. When he gave it back to her, she began to gather her hair to pin it up again.
"Couldn't you leave it down for a while?" Steven asked wistfully.
"You really mean it, don't you?" She shook her head with a wondering smile. She shrugged and put the barrette in her purse. "OK."
Steven drew a deep breath. "Thanks. Are you hungry? Do you want to get hamburgers and eat on the beach?"
"Sure," Andrea agreed. "That sounds good."
Andrea was everything Tricia had been, Steven decided jubilantly. And everything Cara was not. Andrea was so much like Tricia, it was just like finding Tricia all over again. It was a miracle. He couldn't find her again and then just let her walk out of his life. He couldn't.
"Let's get ice cream first," Andrea said, interrupting Steven's thoughts. "My motto is, life is uncertain, eat dessert first."
Steven laughed. "That's an excellent philosophy. Two chocolate cones, coming up."
"Make mine vanilla, please," Andrea corrected him as they reached the ice cream vendor.
"Vanilla?" Steven echoed in surprise. "But - "
Just in time, he stopped himself from saying, "Tricia always had chocolate." He stared at Andrea, at a loss for words.
"Isn't vanilla allowed?" Andrea said lightly, but Steven thought he saw a look of uncertainty cross her face.
"Sure. No problem," Steven said with difficulty.
It didn't matter if Andrea liked a different kind of ice cream, he realized. What mattered was that in every other way, Andrea was just like Tricia. And he wasn't going to lose her again.
#83: STEVEN'S BRIDE
pages 23-25Just then, Elizabeth appeared at his side. "Having fun?" she asked.
Steven shrugged. "I guess I'm having as much fun as I can, considering the fact that I'm absolutely miserable."
He resting the glasses on a nearby table. Elizabeth slipped an arm around her brother's waist. "I know how hard this is for you," she said softly. "I know what it's like, having to say goodbye to someone you love."
Steven looked down into his younger sister's sympathetic eyes. "That's right," he said. "I guess it was just as tough for you when Todd's dad was transferred to Burlington."
Elizabeth nodded. "When Todd moved away, I was crushed. I never dreamed we'd be reunited. But we were. Maybe someday you and Cara will be, too."
Steven looked skeptical. "How? When?"
"Well..." Elizabeth considered. "She could come back to California to go to college."
"She's just a junior. College is still a long way off," Steven said glumly.
"You can still have hope, Steven," his sister said. "Maybe someday..."
Steven frowned. "Sorry, but I just don't believe in 'someday,' Liz. There wasn't any someday for me and Tricia, and there won't be one for me and Cara, either."
Elizabeth gasped. "Don't talk that way, Steven."
"You sound so...so hopeless. So desperate!"
"Well, that's the way I feel," he declared roughly. "When Cara leaves, it will be forever."
Elizabeth wanted to reassure her brother, but there was nothing else she could say. She squeezed his arm and slipped away into the crowd.
His throat suddenly bone-dry, Steven gulped down his soda. He saw Cara approaching. She was smiling at her friends, trying so hard to be cheerful. Steven's heart ached. His own words echoed in his brain like a voice from a nightmare. It was inevitable. When Cara leaves, it will be forever.
In all his life, Steven had never felt so powerless. At least when Tricia had been near death, he had been able to accept the fact that her illness was beyond all human control. This was different. I should be able to do something! Steven thought desperately.
page 65Of course marriage meant sex. Everybody knew that. So why hadn't it occurred to her? Cara unwrapped a bundle of fluffy yellow bath towels, a gift from Sandy, but her thoughts were about her relationship with Steven. They were very much in love, and they were also great friends. There was nothing Cara liked better than romantic evenings alone with Steven, and the passionate kisses they shared. But they had never slept together. It was Cara's decision. Steven, who was not much older, understood that the time was not right yet for either of them.
pages 125-126"Did you sleep at all last night?"
"Not a wink," Cara confessed. "That's normal, isn't it?"
Steven laughed. "I hope so, because I didn't, either. We'll probably collapse right after the ceremony. I brought a big blanket. We can find a park somewhere and have a picnic. Or we could just check into the hotel and take a nap."
Cara hesitated. "That sounds...nice."
Steven glanced at her. Gripping the steering wheel with his left hand, he took her hand with his right. "We're taking a pretty big step. There are going to be a lot of changes in our lives. But one thing won't change, and that's how much I love you. So don't be nervous about...tonight. All I want is to be with you. We can take things slowly."
The tenderness in Steven's voice brought a lump to Cara's throat. "Thanks, Steven," she said softly.