The Big Deal: Carnival, party at Lila’s
It’s the day after Christmas. The Wakefields have some Chinese food for lunch (I guess Ned isn’t allergic to Chinese food today), and the twins don’t like the fortunes in their fortune cookies. Jessica’s says vanity is her greatest weakness, and Liz’s suggests she avoids high places. Only one of those fortunes comes into play later in the book.
The Caldwell Carnival comes to town and the twins get there as soon as it opens. At the end of the haunted house, there are two paths. Jessica takes the Vampire door, leaving Liz to take the Ghost door. Liz is scared, but she meets a girl named Claire who tells her not to be afraid. Claire says her father owns the carnival and she’s been through the spook house a thousand times. She goes ahead of Liz and disappears. No big deal. Liz goes into the ghost room. At the end of the room is an open grave, and the haunted house’s exit is through it. There’s a tombstone with the initials C.C. and the dates 1882-1892. The whole experience makes Liz feel all creeped. Myself, I think that sounds like an awesome haunted house.
Jessica goes to the fortune teller, who tells her a happy event will happen to her soon. That night, the Wakefield parents announce they’re raising the kids’ allowances, and Jessica is amazed that Mademoiselle Z could really see the future. She goes back that night with the Unicorns, and Lila makes fun of the fortune teller. Mademoiselle Z tells her a great misfortune will fall upon her, and as soon as Lila’s outside the tent, she falls in the mud and ruins the Johnny Buck t-shirt she just won.
The next morning, Jessica wakes up to find Liz has already left for the carnival. She didn’t even make her bed, and that’s just bizarre. Amy comes by looking for her, and she tells Jessica she found out some strange stuff about the carnival and she wanted Liz’s help researching it. Liz is busy hanging out with Claire at the carnival. Claire’s weird. She can read Liz’s mind, which you’d think would make Liz freak out, but she just thinks it’s a neat trick. Mademoiselle Z sees Liz and Claire together and makes a face at them. When Jessica gets to the carnival later, she stops in to see Z, and Z (thinking she’s Liz) tells her she’ll have no future if she doesn’t stay away from the carnival. Jessica gets freaked out and runs away. That night, the twins see a man in a black hat and black raincoat standing across the street, staring right into Jessica’s window. Maybe call the cops, kids. That’s just inappropriate.
Liz goes off to the carnival again the next morning. She runs into Julie Porter at the gate and tells her all about Claire, and they go into the carnival hoping the three of them can spend the day together. But Julie suddenly gets freaked out and says she has to leave. As soon as she’s gone, Claire shows up. Claire takes Liz through a private entrance in the fun house, and they’re able to watch the people going through it. Then Claire turns Liz’s lemonade black. Liz is grossed out and thinks it’s a terrible magic trick. That night, Jessica wakes up to something tapping at her window, and a voice telling her to stay away. She figures it’s a nightmare.
The next day, Claire makes some game tickets appear in Liz’s pocket and then takes her to the shooting gallery. The attendant doesn’t seem to notice Claire at all. Liz is talking to her parents that night about Claire being the carnival owner’s daughter, and Ned says he thought the carnival was owned by a corporation or something. The parents tell Liz to invite Claire over for dinner on New Year’s Day. Jessica wakes up again that night and hears a weird moaning. It’s coming from Elizabeth’s room. Liz is having a nightmare. She’s in front of an open grave. The tombstone says C.C., but then it changes to E.W. A skeleton pops out and says, “I declare, declare, declare, clare, clare…” And then Jessica wakes Liz up.
So we’re pretty sure Claire’s a ghost, right?
At the carnival the next day, Liz is trying to remember what her mother told her to ask Claire, but she seems to forget a lot of things these days. Mademoiselle Z comes along and tells Claire to stop what she’s doing. She’s obviously afraid of Claire. Liz wants to know what’s going on, and Claire tells her Z is just a crazy old woman.
On New Year’s Eve, Lila has a carnival themed party. And it.is.awesome. She’s got tents and rides and games and everything. Liz is completely out of it all night. All she can think of is Claire and how she should really be at the carnival with her. Amy tries to talk to her about the article they’re supposed to be writing about the carnival, but Liz blows her off. For some reason, the haunted house (Lila’s pool house) really creeps Liz out. Jessica is the fortune teller. She and Lila wrote up a bunch of fortunes and put them in a couple of fishbowls, and Jessica reads one for each kid. When it’s Lila’s turn, the fortune Jessica reads for her tells Lila she’s going to go bald. Neither girl wrote that fortune and they don’t know how it could have gotten into the bowl.
Mrs. Wakefield asks Liz the next day if she remembered to ask Claire to dinner, but Liz has trouble remembering anything she and Claire talk about. She thinks Claire said she would come, and she’s disappointed when she doesn’t show up. The carnival is closed for the holiday and Liz has been acting weird all day about not being able to see Claire. The next morning, Alice tells Liz she has to clean her room before she goes to the carnival, and they have an argument. Then Amy comes over to try to talk to Liz about the Sixers article, and Liz snaps at her and tells Amy to leave her alone.
Jessica wants to know what’s happening to Liz, so she decides to help Amy with her research. They visit a man named Mr. Melman. He designed the haunted house. Mr. Melman tells them the original haunted house was burned down, possibly by a local kid who went crazy because of it. The story was never really clear. When Mr. Melman designed the new haunted house, the ghost room Liz went through was the last part he built. When he built it, the open grave had a wooden tombstone that said RIP, but when he went to work the next day, it was a solid granite tombstone with the initials C.C. and the dates 1882-1892.
The Wakefield parents tell Liz she can’t hang out with Claire anymore until they get to meet her, so Liz sneaks out. Jessica sees her leaving and follows her to the carnival. She gets there just as Patrick Morris comes running out the gate in a panic. He tells Jessica he was on the Ferris wheel and had a car to himself. His car got stopped at the very top, and he heard a girl’s voice asking him to come and play with him. He looked out and saw a white, wispy figure in midair.
Jessica is afraid to go inside the gates because of Mademoiselle Z’s fortune, but she doesn’t have to. It’s starting to storm and the carnival is closing. Liz comes out all upset that she hardly got to say hello to Claire. Jessica tries to tell Liz what Patrick said, but Liz thinks Jessica is just jealous of Claire and trying to scare her away from the carnival. Jessica says she doesn’t like the way Liz is sneaking around behind their parents’ backs, but Liz tells her Claire just today suggested Liz be nicer to her parents. Jessica thinks Claire is up to something.
The next morning, Liz kisses up and does a bunch of chores, so the parents tell her she’s allowed to go to the carnival as long as she’s home by five. The parents are out that evening, so Steven and Jessica are the only ones who notice that Liz still isn’t home at eight. Steven insists Liz is fine, but Jessica is freaking out. The phone rings, and someone tells Jessica to get the girl away from the carnival because the evil one is about to strike. Thanks for the vague threat.
Jessica gets to the carnival just as it’s about to close, and she goes running around the place looking for Liz. Finally, the last place to look is the haunted house. It’s shut down for the night, but unlocked. A voice tells her to leave through the ghost room, so she tries to go through the vampire room instead. It’s locked, and the front entrance is locked, so she has to go through the ghost room. She’s terrified at this point and she’s pretty sure one of the sheets hanging from the ceiling actually has a ghost inside it. She tries to leave, but the exit inside the grave won’t open. Suddenly, Mademoiselle Z is there with her assistant, and they take her back to Z’s tent.
Z says she knew Jessica was in terrible danger, and that’s why she sent her assistant, who’s also her fiancé, to Jessica’s house to tap on her window and scare her away from the carnival. Then she tells Jessica all about the little girl whose parents used to own the carnival. The girl decided to sneak out one night and ride the Ferris wheel, and she managed to fall from the very top and die. The little girl, of course, was Claire. When Z tells Jessica the girl she’s been spending all her time with has been dead for a century, Jessica finally figures out that Z thinks she’s Liz.
So Liz is still in danger, of course. Jessica, Z, and Nicolai the fiancé find her on the Ferris wheel. Jessica manages to jump into Liz’s car before it leaves the platform and she tries to talk to Liz, but Liz is staring into space and not responding. When they’re at the top, the wheel stops and Claire floats up to ask Liz to play. Liz tries to get up, but Jessica is holding onto her. She breaks free and starts putting a leg over the rail. Jessica superstrengths her away. Claire suddenly turns into a gross skeleton, and one of her eye sockets launches some kind of light at Jessica. Seeing that Claire hurt Jessica snaps Liz out of her trance and she tells Claire she’s not going to come play with her, dammit. Claire disappears and the twins go home.
By the way, it was brother Steven who slipped the fortune about Lila going bald into the fishbowl, so Lila retaliates by showing up at the house in a bald cap. Steven goes to his room and slams the door.
“I have you, Elizabeth. And you’ll be my friend forever and ever,” Claire said confidently.
Never trust someone who says you’ll be friends forever and ever.
The Cover: It looks like Liz is wearing a Hawaiian shirt and it gives this cover a ridiculous feel.