July 18, 2017

SVT #97, Too Scared to Sleep: Don’t Close Your Eyes

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:08 pm by Jenn

I kind of like Liz’s shirt

Summary: This book is bookended (…heh) by scenes with a little girl angry that people are in her house. Though it’s not confirmed until the end, that house is the “old Sullivan house,” a mansion in Sweet Valley that’s been empty for a while. The twins are riding their bikes past it one day when they see that a family is moving in. The mother, Mrs. Riccoli, introduces herself and asks if the twins know anyone who can babysit her five kids. (Her husband is still back at their old hometown and won’t be joining them for a while. Mrs. Riccoli is a college professor who’s arranged to only teach at night so she can be with the kids during the day.)

Elizabeth is eager to help, of course, but Jessica isn’t as thrilled about the idea of babysitting. However, when the twins, Amy, Todd, and Winston go to Casey’s and don’t have enough money to pay for their ice cream, they realize they really need money. (By the way, Joe is now managing the place, and he’s nice enough to let them start a tab.) Elizabeth comes up with the idea of the five of them starting a babysitting service. The Riccolis become their first regular customers, and the twins take the first job.

Right away, things get off to a spooky start – the kids scare the twins before they’ve even met. Fortunately, the kids are pretty well-behaved and like the twins, which means the sitting job isn’t too difficult for them. The only real trouble is that five-year-old Juliana is scared to go to bed because she’s been having nightmares about a “monster girl.” Then, as the twins are leaving, they run into the gardener, Mr. Brangwen, who’s creepy. He advises them to never close their eyes in the house.

Since the Riccolis have a mishmash of furniture that Jessica thinks is ugly, she suggests that Mrs. Riccoli hire Alice to redecorate. There’s a funny moment where Mrs. Riccoli admits that she’d like to get rid of her husband’s beanbag furniture from college, and she decides to tell him it got lost in the move. Alice is happy to take the job.

Elizabeth and Amy watch the Riccoli kids together, and Juliana has another nightmare about the monster girl. Later, Elizabeth runs into Mr. Brangwen downtown, and he’s creepy some more, telling her someone will get her in her sleep. While sitting for the kids again, Todd and Elizabeth start to wonder if Mr. Brangwen’s spooky warnings are making Juliana’s nightmares worse. Liz mentions the dreams to Mrs. Riccoli, who, while obviously worried for her daughter, thinks they’re just due to the changes in Juliana’s life and will end soon.

Jessica takes Alice to the Riccolis’ house to meet Mrs. Riccoli, but as soon as Alice realizes where they’re going, she flips out. She completely refuses to go into the house. Her excuse is that she’s too busy to take the job, which Jessica finds strange since she wasn’t too busy when she first accepted it.

Mr. Brangwen dies, so now Elizabeth is spooked. Amy doesn’t see any connection to the Sullivan house, since he was in his 80s and died at home. Still, Liz can’t help but think that his warning not to close your eyes in the house is tied to his death. On the plus side, she thinks that with him gone, no one will put scary thoughts in Juliana’s head anymore, and her nightmares will end.

Wrong! The twins babysit again, and Juliana has a nightmare, saying that the monster girl scratched her. And just like someone in a Nightmare on Elm Street movie, she has actual scratch marks all over her back. While Liz is tending to this craziness, Jessica finds a hidden room that belonged to a little girl decades ago. There’s a picture of the little girl with a teenager, and it’s labeled “Alice and Eva.” And yes, that’s Alice as in Alice Wakefield. What Jess doesn’t know is that the little girl is watching her, and she’s very unhappy that someone is touching her things…

In the B-plot, Winston runs into Charlie Cashman (who I once called “a huge waste of DNA”) while leaving a music lesson. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a big deal, but the instrument Winston plays is the uber-dorky accordion. Charlie threatens to tell everyone at school unless Winston gives him $25. Good thing Winston’s part of this new babysitting service, and easily gets a job sitting for the eight-month-old Karsten twins. Too bad he has no idea how to take care of children and feeds them soda and Jell-o.

Winston makes $15 and offers to pay Charlie in installments, but Charlie ups the price to $30. So Winston takes another job with the Karstens. For some reason, he doesn’t think to ask Elizabeth if he can help sit for the Riccolis, who need a sitter a lot more often, and don’t have any babies whose health Winston can ruin. Anyway, Winston microwaves a Tiffany bowl with metal in it, ruining both the bowl and the Karstens’ microwave. They fire him and refuse to pay him his $15.

Charlie comes to Winston’s house to collect his money, so Winston traps him in the dark garage while he tries to think of a way to get out of the blackmail. Charlie starts freaking out and admits that he’s afraid of the dark. With his own blackmail material in hand, Winston calls things even with Charlie and even gets his original $15 back. Then the Karstens ask Winston to sit for the twins again, since they apparently liked him a lot. I’m guessing what they really liked was the soda he gave them.

Thoughts: For once in his life, Todd makes an excellent point: No way would a college student take a class on a Friday night.

Mrs. Karsten is officially concerned about paying for a new microwave, considering she could afford a Tiffany bowl.

“My own mother, afraid of a haunted house – not that it’s haunted now, because the Riccolis live there.” So according to Jessica, a house can’t be haunted if people move in. Hasn’t she ever seen a horror movie about a haunted house?

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