Pretty little liars (page 11-14)

Author: niaaaa / Posted: 16.03.21, 19:48:22

But Hanna hated thinking about stuff in the past, so she rarely did. Besides, now Hanna got to ogle her mom’s dates in a not so will-you-be-my-new-father? way. And would her father let Hanna have a 2 A.M. curfew and drink wine, like her mom did? Doubtful.

Her mom snapped her phone shut and fastened her emerald green eyes on Hanna. “Those are your back-to-school shoes?”

Hanna stopped chewing. “Yeah.”

Ms. Marin nodded. “Did you get a lot of compliments?”

Hanna turned her ankle to inspect her purple wedges. Too afraid to face the Saks security, she’d actually paid for them. “Yeah. I did.”

“Mind if I borrow them?”

“Um, sure. If you wa—”

Her mom’s phone rang again. She pounced on it. “Carson? Yes. I’ve been looking for you all night…. What the hell is going on there?”

Hanna blew at her side-swept bangs and fed Dot a tiny piece of eel. As Dot spit it out on the floor, the doorbell rang.



Her mother didn’t even flinch. “They need it tonight,” she said to the phone. “It’s your project. Do I have to come down and hold your hand?”

The doorbell rang again. Dot started barking and her mother stood to get it. “It’s probably those Girl Scouts again.”

The Girl Scouts had come over three days in a row, trying to sell them cookies at dinnertime. They were rabid in this neighborhood.

Within seconds, she was back in the kitchen with a young, brown-haired, green-eyed police officer behind her. “This gentleman says he wants to speak with you.” A gold pin on the breast pocket of his uniform read WILDEN.

“Me?” Hanna pointed at herself.

“You’re Hanna Marin?” Wilden asked. The walkie-talkie on his belt made a noise.

Suddenly Hanna realized who this guy was: Darren Wilden. He’d been a senior at Rosewood when she was in seventh grade. The Darren Wilden she remembered allegedly slept with the whole girls’ diving team and was almost kicked out of school for stealing the principal’s vintage Ducati motorcycle. But this cop was definitely the same guy—those green eyes were hard to forget, even if it had been four years since she’d seen them. Hanna hoped he was a stripper that Mona had sent over as a joke.



“What’s this all about?” Ms. Marin asked, looking longingly back at her cell phone. “Why are you interrupting us at dinner?”

“We received a call from Tiffany’s,” Wilden said. “They have you on tape shoplifting some items from their store. Tapes from various other mall security cameras tracked you out of the mall and to your car. We traced the license plate.”

Hanna started pinching the inside of her palm with her fingernails, something she always did when she felt out of control.



“Hanna wouldn’t do that,” Ms. Marin barked. “Would you, Hanna?”

Hanna opened her mouth to respond but no words came out. Her heart was banging against her ribs.

“Look.” Wilden crossed his arms over his chest.

Hanna noticed the gun on his belt. It looked like a toy. “I just need you to come to the station. Maybe it’s nothing.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing!” Ms. Marin said. Then she took her Fendi wallet out of its matching purse. “What will it take for you to leave us alone to have our dinner?”

“Ma’am.” Wilden sounded exasperated. “You should just come down with me. All right? It won’t take all night. I promise.” He smiled that sexy Darren Wilden smile that had probably kept him from getting expelled from Rosewood.

“Well,” Hanna’s mother said. She and Wilden looked at each other for a long moment. “Let me get my bag.”

Wilden turned to Hanna. “I’m gonna have to cuff you.”



Hanna gasped. “Cuff me?” Okay, now that was silly. It sounded fake, like something the six-year-old twins next door would say to each other. But Wilden pulled out real steel handcuffs and gently put them around her wrists. Hanna hoped he didn’t notice that her hands were shaking.

If only this were the moment when Wilden tied her to a chair, put on that old ’70s song “Hot Stuff,” and stripped off all his clothes. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

The police station smelled like burned coffee and very old wood, because, like most of Rosewood’s municipal buildings, it was a former railroad baron’s mansion. Cops fluttered around her, taking phone calls, filling out forms, and sliding around on their little castor-wheel chairs. Hanna half expected to see Mona here, too, with her mom’s Dior stole thrown over her wrists. But from the look of the empty bench, it seemed Mona hadn’t been caught.

Ms. Marin sat very stiffly next to her. Hanna felt squirmy; her mom was usually really lenient, but then, Hanna had never been taken downtown and had the book thrown at her or whatever.

And then, very quietly, her mom leaned over. “What was it that you took?”

“Huh?” Hanna asked.

“That bracelet you’re wearing?”

Hanna looked down. Perfect. She’d forgotten to take it off; the bracelet was circling her wrist in full view. She shoved it farther up her sleeve. She felt her ears for the earrings; yep, she’d worn them today too. Talk about stupid!

“Give it to me,” her mother whispered.

“Huh?” Hanna squeaked.

Ms. Marin held out her palm. “Give it here. I can handle this.”

Reluctantly, Hanna let her mom unfasten the bracelet from her wrist. Then, Hanna reached up and took off the earrings and handed them over too. Ms. Marin didn’t even flinch. She simply dropped the jewelry in her purse and folded her hands over the metal clasp.



The blond Tiffany’s girl who’d helped Hanna with the charm bracelet strode into the room. As soon as she saw Hanna, sitting dejectedly on the bench with the cuffs still on her hands, she nodded. “Yeah. That’s her.”

Darren Wilden glared at Hanna, and her mom stood up. “I think there’s been a mistake.” She walked over to Wilden’s desk. “I misunderstood you at the house. I was with Hanna that day. We bought that stuff. I have a receipt for it at home.”

The Tiffany’s girl narrowed her eyes in disbelief. “Are you suggesting I’m lying?”

“No,” Ms. Marin said sweetly, “I just think you’re confused.”

What was she doing? A gooey, uncomfortable, almost-guilty feeling washed over Hanna.

“How do you explain the surveillance tapes?” Wilden asked.

Her mom paused. Hanna saw a tiny muscle in her neck quiver. Then, before Hanna could stop her, she reached into her purse and took out the loot. “This was all my fault,” she said. “Not Hanna’s.”

Ms. Marin turned back to Wilden. “Hanna and I had a fight about these items. I said she couldn’t have them—I drove her to this. She’ll never do it again. I’ll make sure of it.”

Hanna stared, stunned. She and her mom had never once discussed Tiffany’s, let alone something she could or couldn’t have.



Wilden shook his head. “Ma’am, I think your daughter may need to do some community service. That’s usually the penalty.”

Ms. Marin blinked, innocently. “Can’t we let this slide? Please?”

Wilden looked at her for a long time, one corner of his mouth turned up almost devilishly. “Sit down,” he said finally. “Let me see what I can do.”

Hanna looked everywhere but in her mom’s direction. Wilden hunched over his desk. He had a Chief Wiggum figurine from The Simpsons and a metal Slinky. He licked his pointer finger to turn the pages of the papers he was filling out. Hanna flinched. What sort of papers were they? Didn’t the local newspapers report crimes? This was bad. Very bad.

Hanna jiggled her foot nervously, having a sudden urge for some Junior Mints. Or maybe cashews. Even the Slim Jims on Wilden’s desk would do.

She could just see it: Everyone would find out, and she’d be instantaneously friendless and boyfriendless. From there, she’d recede back to dorky, seventh-grade Hanna in reverse evolution. She’d wake up and her hair would be a yucky, washed-out brown again. Then her teeth would go crooked and she’d get her braces back on. She wouldn’t be able to fit into any of her jeans. The rest would happen spontaneously. She’d spend her life chubby, ugly, miserable, and overlooked, just the way she used to be.



“I have some lotion if those are chafing your wrists,” Ms. Marin said, gesturing to the cuffs and rooting around in her purse.

“I’m okay,” Hanna replied, brought back to the present.

Sighing, she pulled out her BlackBerry. It was tough because her hands were cuffed, but she wanted to convince Sean that he had to come over to her house this Saturday. She suddenly really wanted to know he would. As she stared blankly at the screen, an e-mail popped up in her inbox. She opened it.

Hey Hanna,

Since prison food makes you fat, you know what Sean’s gonna say? Not it! —A

She was so startled that she stood up, thinking someone might be across the room, watching her. But there was no one. She closed her eyes, trying to think who might have seen the police car at her house.

Wilden looked up from his writing. “You all right?”

“Um,” Hanna said. “Yeah.” She slowly sat back down. Not it? What the hell? She checked the note’s return address again, but it was just a mess of letters and numbers.

“Hanna,” Ms. Marin murmured after a few moments. “No one needs to know about this.”

Hanna blinked. “Oh. Yeah. I agree.”

“Good.”

Hanna swallowed hard. Except…someone did know.

9

NOT YOUR TYPICAL STUDENT-TEACHER CONFERENCE

Wednesday morning, Aria’s father, Byron, rubbed his bushy black hair and hand-signaled out the Subaru window that he was making a left-hand turn. The turn signals had stopped working last night, so he was driving Aria and Mike to their second day of school and taking the car to the shop.

“You guys happy to be back in America?” Byron asked.

Mike, who sat next to Aria in the backseat, grinned. “America rocks.” He went back to maniacally punching the tiny buttons of his PSP. It made a farting noise and Mike pumped one fist in the air.

Aria’s father smiled and navigated across the single-lane stone bridge, waving to a neighbor as he passed. “Well, good. Now, why does it rock?”

“America rocks because it has lacrosse,” Mike said, not taking his eyes off his PSP. “And hotter chicks. And a Hooters in King of Prussia.”

Aria laughed. Like Mike had been inside Hooters. Unless…Oh God, had he?

She shivered in her kelly green alpaca shrug and stared out the window at the thick fog. A woman wearing a long, red hooded stadium jacket that said, UPPER MAIN LINE SOCCER MOM, tried to stop her German shepherd from chasing a squirrel across the street. At the corner, two blondes with high-tech baby carriages stood together gossiping.

There was one word to describe yesterday’s English class: brutal. After Ezra blurted out, “Holy shit,” the whole class turned and stared at her. Hanna Marin, who sat in front of her, whispered in a not-so-quiet voice, “Did you sleep with the teacher?” Aria considered, for a half second, that maybe Hanna had written her the text message about Ezra—Hanna was one of the few people who knew about Pigtunia. But why would Hanna care?

Ezra—er, Mr. Fitz—had dispelled the laughing quickly, and come up with the lamest excuse for swearing in class. He said, and Aria quoted in her head, “I was afraid that a bee had flown into my pants, and I thought the bee was going to sting me, and so I yelled out in terror.”

As Ezra then started talking about five-paragraph themes and the class’s syllabus, Aria couldn’t concentrate. She was the bee that had flown into his pants. She couldn’t stop looking at his wolfish eyes and his sumptuous pink mouth. When he peeked in her direction out of the corner of his eye, her heart did two and a half somersaults off the high dive and landed in her stomach.



Ezra was the guy for her, and she was the girl for him—she just knew it. So what if he was her teacher? There had to be a way to make it work.

Her father pulled up to Rosewood’s stone-gated entrance. In the distance, Aria noticed a vintage powder-blue Volkswagen beetle parked in the teacher’s lot. She knew that car from Snooker’s—it was Ezra’s. She checked her watch. Fifteen minutes until homeroom.

Mike shot out of the car. Aria opened her door as well, but her father touched her forearm. “Hang on a sec,” he said.

“But I have to…” She glanced longingly at Ezra’s bug.



“Just for a minute.” Her father turned down the radio volume. Aria slumped back in her seat. “You’ve seemed a little…” He flicked his wrist back and forth uncertainly. “You okay?”

Aria shrugged. “About what?”

Her father sighed. “Well…I don’t know. Being back. And we haven’t talked about…you know…in a while.”

Aria fidgeted with her jacket’s zipper. “What’s there to talk about?”

Byron stuck a cigarette he’d rolled before they left into his mouth. “I can’t imagine how hard it’s been. Keeping quiet. But I love you. You know that, right?”



Aria looked out at the parking lot again. “Yeah, I know,” she said. “I have to go. I’ll see you at three.”

Before he could answer, Aria shot out of the car, blood rushing in her ears. How was she supposed to be Icelandic Aria, who left her past behind, if one of her worst memories of Rosewood kept bubbling to the surface?

It had happened in May of seventh grade. Rosewood Day had dismissed the students early for teacher conferences, so Aria and Ali headed to Sparrow, Hollis campus’s music store, to search for new CDs. As they cut through a back alley, Aria noticed her father’s familiar beat-up brown Honda Civic in a far-off space in an empty parking lot. As Aria and Ali walked toward the car to leave a note, they realized there was someone inside. Actually, two someones: Aria’s father, Byron, and a girl, about twenty years old, kissing his neck.

That’s when Byron looked up and saw Aria. She sprinted away before she had to see any more and before he could stop her. Ali followed Aria all the way back to her house but didn’t try to stop her when Aria said she wanted to be alone.

Later that night, Byron came up to Aria’s room to explain. It wasn’t what it looked like, he said. But Aria wasn’t stupid. Every year her father invited his students over to their house for get-to-know-you cocktails, and Aria had seen that girl walk through her very door. Her name was Meredith, Aria remembered, because Meredith had gotten tipsy and spelled out her name on the refrigerator in plastic letter magnets. When Meredith left, instead of shaking her dad’s hand as the other kids had, she gave him a lingering kiss on his cheek.



Byron begged Aria not to tell her mom. He promised her it would never happen again. She decided to believe him, and so she kept his secret. He’d never said so, but Aria believed Meredith was the reason her dad took his sabbatical when he did.

You promised yourself you wouldn’t think about it, Aria thought, glancing back over her shoulder. Her father hand-signaled out of the Rosewood parking lot.

Aria walked into the narrow hallway of the faculty wing. Ezra’s office was at the end of the hall, next to a small, cozy window seat. She stopped in the doorway and watched him as he typed something into his computer.

Finally, she knocked. Ezra’s blue eyes widened when he saw her. He looked adorable in his button-down white shirt, blue Rosewood blazer, green cords, and beat-up black loafers. The corners of his mouth curled up into the tiniest, shyest smile.

“Hey,” he said.

Aria hovered in the doorway. “Can I talk to you?” Aria asked. Her voice squeaked a little.

Ezra hesitated, pushing a lock of hair out of his eyes. Aria noticed a Snoopy Band-Aid wrapped around his left pinkie finger. “Sure,” he said softly. “Come in.”



She walked into his office and shut the door. It was empty, except for a wide, heavy wood desk, two folding chairs, and a computer. She sat down on the empty folding chair.

“So, um,” Aria said. “Hey.”

“Hey again,” Ezra answered, grinning. He lowered his eyes and took a gulp from his Rosewood Day crest coffee mug. “Listen,” he started.

“About yesterday,” Aria said at the same time. They both laughed.

“Ladies first.” Ezra smiled.

Aria scratched the back of her neck where her straight black hair was drawn up in a ponytail. “I, um, wanted to talk about…us.”

Ezra nodded, but didn’t say anything.

Aria wiggled in her chair. “Well, I guess it’s shocking that I’m…um…your student, after, you know…Snooker’s. But if you don’t mind, I don’t.”

Ezra cupped his hand around his mug. Aria listened to the school-issued wall clock ticking off the seconds. “I…I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said softly. “You said you were older.”

Aria laughed, not sure how serious he was. “I never told you how old I was.” She lowered her eyes. “You just assumed.”

“Yeah, but you shouldn’t have implied it,” Ezra responded.

“Everybody lies about their age,” Aria said quietly.



Ezra ran his hand through his hair. “But…you’re…” He met her eyes and sighed. “Look, I…I think you’re amazing, Aria. I do. I met you in that bar, and I was like…wow, who is this? She’s so unlike any other girl I’ve ever met.”

Aria looked down, feeling both pleased and a little queasy.

Ezra reached across the desk and touched his hand to hers—it was warm, dry, and soothing—but then quickly pulled away. “But this isn’t meant to be, you know? ’Cause, well, you’re my student. I could get in a lot of trouble. You don’t want me to get in trouble, do you?”

“No one would know,” Aria said faintly, although she couldn’t help but think about that bizarre text from yesterday, and that maybe someone already knew.

It took Ezra a long time to respond. It seemed to Aria that he was trying to make up his mind. She looked at him hopefully.

“I’m sorry, Aria,” he finally mumbled. “But I think you should go.”

Aria stood up, feeling her cheeks burn. “Of course.” Aria wrapped her hands around the top of the chair. It felt like hot coals were bouncing around her insides.

“I’ll see you in class,” Ezra whispered.

She shut the door carefully. In the hall, teachers swarmed around her, rushing off to their homerooms. She decided to get to her locker by cutting through the commons—she needed some fresh air.

Outside, Aria heard a familiar girl’s laugh. She froze for a second. When would she stop thinking she heard Alison everywhere? She trudged not on the commons’ winding stone path, like you were supposed to, but through the grass. The morning fog was so dense that Aria could barely see her legs below her. Her footprints vanished in the squishy grass as quickly as she made them.



Good. This seemed like an appropriate time to disappear completely.

10

SINGLE GIRLS HAVE WAY MORE FUN

That afternoon, Emily was standing in the student parking lot, lost in thought, when someone threw their hands over her eyes. Emily jumped, startled.

“Whoa, chill! It’s just me!”

Emily turned and sighed with relief. It was only Maya. Emily had been so distracted and paranoid since getting that bizarre note yesterday. She’d been about to unlock her car—her mom let her and Carolyn take it to school on the condition they drive carefully and call when they got there—and grab her swimming bag for practice.

“Sorry,” Emily said. “I thought…never mind.”

“I missed you today.” Maya smiled.

“Me too.” Emily smiled back. She’d tried calling Maya this morning to offer her a ride to school, but Maya’s mom said she’d already left. “So, how are you?”

“Well, I could be better.” Today, Maya had secured her wild dark hair off her face with adorable iridescent pink butterfly clips.

“Oh yeah?” Emily tilted her head.

Maya pursed her lips together and slid one of her feet out of her Oakley sandals. Her second toe was longer than her big toe, just like Emily’s. “I’d be better if you came somewhere with me. Right now.”

“But I have swimming,” Emily said, hearing Eeyore in her voice again.

Maya took her hand and swung it. “What if I told you that where we’re going sort of involves swimming?”

Emily narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean?”

“You have to trust me.”

Even though she’d been close to Hanna and Spencer and Aria, all of Emily’s favorite memories were of hanging out alone with Ali. Like when they dressed up in bulky snow pants to sled down Bayberry Hill, talked about their ideal boyfriends, or cried about The Jenna Thing from sixth grade and comforted each other. When it was just the two of them, Emily saw a slightly less perfect Ali—which somehow made her seem even more perfect—and Emily felt she could be herself. It seemed like days, weeks, years had gone by where Emily hadn’t been herself. And she thought that now, she could have something like that with Maya. She missed having a best friend.

Right now, Ben and all the other boys were probably changing into their suits, slapping one another’s bare butts with wet towels. Coach Lauren was writing the practice sets on the big marker board and carrying out the appropriate fins, buoys, and paddles. And the girls on the team were complaining because they all had their periods at the same time. Did she dare miss the second day of practice?

Emily squeezed her plastic fish keychain. “I suppose I could tell Carolyn I had to tutor somebody in Spanish,” she murmured. Emily knew Carolyn wouldn’t buy that, but she probably wouldn’t squeal on Emily, either.

Triple-checking the parking lot to see if anyone was watching, Emily smiled and unlocked the car.

“All right. Let’s go.”

“My brother and I checked out this spot this weekend,” Maya said as Emily pulled into the gravel parking lot.

Emily stepped out of the car and stretched. “I forgot about this place.” They were at the Marwyn trail, which was about five miles long and bordered a deep creek. She and her friends used to ride their bikes here all the time—Ali and Spencer would pedal furiously at the end and usually tie—and stop at the little snack bar by the swimming area for Butterfingers and Diet Cokes.

As she followed Maya up a muddy slope, Maya grabbed her arm. “Oh! I forgot to tell you. My mom said your mom stopped over yesterday while we were in school. She brought over brownies.”

“Really?” Emily responded, confused. She wondered why her mother hadn’t mentioned anything to her at dinner.



“The brownies were deelish. My brother and I polished them off last night!”

They came to the dirt trail. A canopy of oaks sheltered them. The air had that fresh, woodsy smell and it felt about twenty degrees cooler.

“We’re not there yet.” Maya took her hand and led her down the path to a small stone bridge. Twenty feet beneath it, the stream widened. The calm water glittered in the late-afternoon sun.

Maya walked right up to the edge of the bridge and stripped down to her matching pale pink bra and undies. She threw her clothes in a pile, stuck her tongue out at Emily, and jumped off.



“Wait!” Emily rushed to the edge. Did Maya know how deep this was? A full one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi later, Emily heard a splash.

Maya’s head popped back up out of the water. “Told you it involved swimming! C’mon, strip!”

Emily glanced at Maya’s pile of clothes. She really hated undressing in front of people—even the swim team girls, who saw her every day. She slowly took off her pleated Rosewood skirt, crossing her legs over each other so Maya couldn’t see her bare, muscular thighs, and then pulled at the tank top she wore under her uniform blouse. She decided to keep it on. She looked over the edge to the creek and, steeling herself, she jumped. A moment later, the water hugged her body. It was pleasantly warm and thick with mud, not cold and clean like the pool. The built-in shelf bra of her tank top puffed out with water.

“It’s like a sauna in here,” Maya said.

“Yeah.” Emily paddled over to the shallower area, where Maya was standing. Emily realized she could see Maya’s nipples straight through her bra, and cut her eyes away.

“I used to go cliff diving with Justin all the time back in Cali,” Maya said. “He’d stand up at the top and, like, think about it for ten minutes before jumping. I like how you didn’t even hesitate.”



Emily floated on her back and smiled. She couldn’t help it: she gobbled up Maya’s compliments like cheesecake.

Maya squirted Emily with water through her cupped hands. Some of it squirted right into her mouth. The creek water tasted gooey and almost metallic, nothing like chlorinated pool water. “I think me and Justin are going to break up,” Maya said.

Emily swam closer to the edge and stood up. “Really? Why?”

“Yeah. The long-distance thing is too stressful. He calls me, like, all the time. I’ve only been gone for a few days, and he’s already sent me two letters!”

“Huh,” Emily answered, sifting her fingers through the murky water. Then something occurred to her. She turned to Maya. “Did you, um, put a note in my swim locker yesterday?”

Maya frowned. “What, after school? No…you walked me home, remember?”

“Right.” She didn’t really think Maya had written the note, but things would’ve been so much simpler if she had.

“What did the note say?”

Emily shook her head. “Never mind. It was nothing.” She cleared her throat. “You know, I think I might break up with my boyfriend too.”

Whoa. Emily wouldn’t have been any more surprised if a bluebird had just flown out of her mouth.

“Really?” Maya said.

Emily blinked water out of her eyes. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

Maya stretched her arms over her head, and Emily caught sight of that scar on her wrist again. She looked away. “Well, fuck a moose,” Maya said.

Emily smiled. “Huh?”

“It’s this thing I say sometimes,” Maya said. “It means…screw it!” She turned away and shrugged. “I guess it’s silly.”

“No, I like it,” Emily said. “Fuck a moose.” She giggled. She always felt funny swearing—as if her mom could hear her from their kitchen, ten miles away.



“You totally should break up with your boyfriend, though,” Maya said. “Know why?”

“Why?”

“That would mean we’d both be single.”

“And that means what?” Emily asked. The forest was very quiet and still.

Maya moved closer to her. “And that means…we…can…have fun!” She grabbed Emily by the shoulder and dunked her under the water.

“Hey!” Emily squealed. She splashed Maya back, ripping her whole arm through the water, creating a giant wave. Then she grabbed Maya by the leg and started tickling underneath her toes.

“Help!” Maya screamed. “Not my feet! I’m so ticklish!”



“I’ve found your weakness!” Emily crowed, maniacally dragging Maya over to the waterfall. Maya managed to wrench her foot away and pounced on Emily’s shoulders from behind. Maya’s hands drifted up Emily’s sides, then down to her stomach, where she tickled her. Emily squealed. She finally pushed Maya into a small cave in the rocks.

“I hope there are no bats in here!” Maya squealed. Beams of sunlight pierced through the cave’s tiny openings, making a halo around the top of Maya’s sopping wet head.

“You have to come in here,” Maya said. She held out her hand.

Emily stood next to her, feeling the cave’s smooth, cool sides. The sounds of her breathing echoed off the narrow walls. They looked at each other and grinned.

Emily bit her lip. This was such a perfect friend moment, it made her feel kind of melancholy and nostalgic.

Maya’s eyes turned down in concern. “What’s wrong?”

Emily took a deep breath. “Well…you know that girl who lived in your house? Alison?”

“Yeah.”

“She went missing. Right after seventh grade. She was never found.”

Maya shivered slightly. “I heard something about that.”



Emily hugged herself; she was getting cold, too. “We were really close.”

Maya moved closer to Emily and put her arm around her. “I didn’t realize.”

“Yeah.” Emily’s chin wobbled. “I just wanted you to know.”

“Thanks.”

A few long moments passed; Emily and Maya continued to hug. Then, Maya backed off. “I kind of lied earlier. About why I want to break up with Justin.”

Emily raised an eyebrow, curious.

“I’m…I’m not sure if I like guys,” Maya said quietly. “It’s weird. I think they’re cute, but when I get alone with them, I don’t want to be with them. I’d rather be with, like, someone more like me.” She smiled crookedly. “You know?”

Emily ran her hands over her face and hair. Maya’s gaze felt too close all of a sudden. “I…,” she started. No, she didn’t know.

The bushes above them moved. Emily flinched. Her mom used to hate when she came to this trail—you never knew what kind of kidnappers or murderers hid in places like this. The woods were still for a moment, but then a flock of birds scattered wildly into the sky. Emily flattened herself up against the rock. Was someone watching them? Who was that laughing? The laugh sounded familiar. Then Emily heard heavy breathing. Goose bumps rose up on her arms and she peered out of the cave.



It was only a group of boys. Suddenly, they burst into the creek, wielding sticks like swords. Emily backed away from Maya and out of the waterfall.

“Where are you going?” Maya called.

Emily looked at Maya, and then at the boys, who had abandoned the sticks and were now throwing rocks at each other. One of them was Mike Montgomery, her old friend Aria’s little brother. He’d grown up quite a bit since she last saw him. And wait—Mike went to Rosewood. Would he recognize her? Emily climbed out of the water and started scurrying up the hill.

She turned back to Maya. “I have to get back to school before Carolyn’s done with swimming.” She pulled on her skirt. “Do you want me to throw down your clothes?”

“Whatev.” At that, she stepped out of the waterfall and waded through the water, her sheer underwear clinging to her butt. Maya climbed up the slope slowly, not once covering up her stomach or boobs with her hands. The freshmen boys stopped what they were doing and stared.

And even though Emily didn’t want to, she couldn’t help but stare too.

11

AT LEAST SWEET POTATOES HAVE LOTS OF VITAMIN A

“Her. Definitely her,” Hanna whispered, pointing.

“Nah. They’re too small!” Mona whispered back.

“But look at the way they puff up at the top! Totally fake,” Hanna countered.

“I think that woman over there has had her butt done.”

“Gross.” Hanna wrinkled her nose and ran her hands over the sides of her own toned, perfectly round butt to make sure it was still perfectly perfect. It was late afternoon on Wednesday, just two days until Noel Kahn’s annual field party, and she and Mona were lounging on the outside terrace at Yam, the organic café at Mona’s parents’ country club. Below them, a bunch of Rosewood boys played a quick round of golf before dinner, but Hanna and Mona were playing another type of game: Spot the Fake Boobs. Or fake anything else, as there was lots of fake stuff around here.

“Yeah, it looks like her surgeon messed up,” Mona murmured. “I think my mom plays tennis with her. I’ll ask.”

Hanna looked again at the pixieish, thirtysomething woman by the bar whose butt did look suspiciously extra-luscious for the rest of her toothpick-skinny figure. “I’d die before I got plastic surgery.”

Mona played with the charm on her Tiffany bracelet—the one she, evidently, didn’t have to give back. “Do you think Aria Montgomery had hers done?”

Hanna looked up, startled. “Why?”

“She’s really thin, and they’re like, too perfect,” Mona said. “She went to Finland or wherever, right? I hear in Europe they can do your boobs for really cheap.”

“I don’t think they’re fake,” Hanna murmured.

“How do you know?”

Hanna chewed on her straw. Aria’s boobs had always been there—she and Alison had been the only two of the friends who needed a bra in seventh grade. Ali always flaunted hers, but the only time Aria seemed to notice she even had boobs was when she knit everyone bras as Christmas gifts and had to make herself a larger size. “She just doesn’t seem the type,” Hanna answered. Talking to Mona about her old friends was awkward territory. Hanna still felt bad about how she and Ali and the others used to tease Mona back in seventh grade, but it always seemed too weird to bring up now.

Mona stared at her. “Are you all right? You look different today.”

Hanna flinched. “I do? How?”

Mona gave her a tiny smirk. “Whoa! Somebody’s jumpy!”

“I’m not jumpy,” Hanna said quickly. But she was: Ever since the police station and that e-mail she had gotten last night, she’d been freaking. This morning, her eyes even seemed duller brown than green, and her arms looked disturbingly puffy. She had this horrible sense that she really was going to spontaneously morph back into her seventh-grade self.

A blond, giraffelike waitress interrupted them. “Have you decided?”

Mona looked at the menu. “I’ll have the Asian chicken salad, no dressing.”

Hanna cleared her throat. “I want a garden salad with sprouts, no dressing, and an extra-large order of sweet potato fries. In a carry-out box, please.”

As the waitress took their menus, Mona pushed her sunglasses down her nose. “Sweet potato fries?”

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