Pretty little liars, p.31
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       Pretty Little Liars, p.31

         Part #1 of Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard
Page 31


  The eleven-o’clock newscasters signed off and The Simpsons came on. Hanna picked up her BlackBerry. She still knew Spencer’s number by heart, and it probably wouldn’t be too late to call. As she dialed the second digit, she cocked her ear, her Tiffany earrings jangling. There was a scratching noise at the door.

  Dot, who had been lying by her feet, picked up his head and growled. Hanna took the Cheez-It bowl off her lap and stood.

  Was it…A?

  Knees shaking, Hanna crept into the hall. There were long, dark shadows at the back door, and the scratching noise had grown louder. “Oh my God,” Hanna whispered, her chin trembling. Someone was trying to get in!

  Hanna looked around. There was a round jade paperweight on the little hall table. It had to weigh at least twenty pounds. She heaved it up and took three tentative steps for the kitchen door.

  Suddenly, the door burst open. Hanna jumped back. A woman stumbled through the entranceway. Her tasteful, gray pleated skirt was up around her waist. Hanna held up the paperweight, about to throw it.

  Then she realized. It was her mom.

  Ms. Marin bumped into the telephone table as if she were wasted. Some guy was behind her, trying to unzip her skirt and kiss her at the same time. Hanna’s eyes widened.

  Darren Wilden. Mr. April.

  So that was what her mom meant by “taking care of it”?

  Hanna’s stomach clenched. No doubt she looked a little insane, tenaciously clutching the paperweight. Ms. Marin gave Hanna a very long look, not even bothering to turn away from Wilden.

  Her mother’s eyes said, I’m doing this for you.



  On Monday morning, instead of sitting in first-period bio, Emily stood next to her parents in the high-ceilinged, marble-floored nave of Rosewood Abbey. She tugged uncomfortably at the black, pleated, too-short Gap skirt she’d found in the back of her closet and tried to smile. Mrs. DiLaurentis stood in the doorway, clad in a cowl-neck black dress, heels, and tiny freshwater pearls. She walked up to Emily and engulfed her in a hug.

  “Oh, Emily,” Mrs. DiLaurentis sobbed.

  “I’m so sorry,” Emily whispered back, her own eyes watering. Mrs. DiLaurentis still wore the same perfume—Coco Chanel. It instantly brought back all kinds of memories: A million rides to and from the mall in Mrs. DiLaurentis’s Infiniti, sneaking into her bathroom to steal TrimSpa tablets and to experiment with her expensive La Prairie makeup, going through her enormous, walk-in closet and trying on all her sexy size-2 black Dior cocktail dresses.

  Other kids from Rosewood streamed around them, trying to find seats in the high-backed wooden pews. Emily hadn’t known what to expect at Alison’s memorial service. The abbey smelled like incense and wood. Simple cylinder-shaped lamps hung from the ceiling, and the altar was covered with a billion white tulips. Tulips were Alison’s favorite flower. Emily remembered Ali helped her mom plant rows of them in their front yard every year.

  Alison’s mom finally stood back and wiped her eyes. “I want you to sit up in the front, with all of Ali’s friends. Is that okay, Kathleen?”

  Emily’s mom nodded. “Of course. ”

  Emily listened to every click of Mrs. DiLaurentis’s heels and the shuffling of her own chunky loafers as they walked down the aisle. Suddenly it hit Emily why she was here again. Ali was dead.

  Emily clutched Mrs. DiLaurentis’s arm. “Oh my God. ” Her field of vision narrowed, and she heard a waaaah noise in her ears, the sign that she was about to faint.

  Mrs. DiLaurentis held her upright. “It’s okay. Come on. Sit down here. ”

  Dizzily, Emily slid into the pew. “Put your head between your legs,” she heard a familiar voice say.

  Then another familiar voice snorted. “Say it louder, so all the boys can hear. ”

  Emily looked up. Next to her were Aria and Hanna. Aria wore a blue, purple, and fuchsia-striped cotton boat-neck dress, a navy velvet jacket, and cowboy boots. It was so Aria—she was the type who thought wearing some color to funerals celebrated the living. Hanna, on the other hand, wore a skimpy black V-neck dress and black stockings.

  “Dear, can you move over?”

  Above her, Mrs. DiLaurentis stood with Spencer Hastings, who wore a charcoal suit and ballet flats.

  “Hey, guys,” Spencer said to all of them, in that buttery voice Emily had missed. She sat down next to Emily.

  “So, we meet again,” Aria said, smiling.

  Silence. Emily peeked at all of them out of the corner of her eye. Aria was fidgeting with a silver ring on her thumb, Hanna was fumbling around in her purse, and Spencer was sitting very still, staring at the altar.

  “Poor Ali,” Spencer murmured.

  The girls sat quietly for a few minutes. Emily wracked her brain for something to say. Her ears filled with the waaaah sound again.

  She twisted around to scan the crowd for Maya, and her eyes landed square on Ben’s. He was sitting in the second-to-last row with the rest of the swimmers. Emily lifted her hand in a tiny wave. Next to this, the party stuff seemed petty.

  But instead of waving back, Ben glared at her, his thin mouth in a stubborn, straight line. Then he looked away.


  Emily swung back around. Rage filled her body. My old best friend was just found murdered, she wanted to scream. And we’re in a church, for God’s sake! What about forgiveness?

  Then it hit her. She didn’t want him to take her back. Not one bit.

  Aria tapped her on the leg. “You okay after Saturday morning? I mean, you didn’t even know yet, right?”

  “No, it was something else, but I’m okay,” Emily answered, even though that wasn’t true.

  “Spencer. ” Hanna’s head popped up. “I, um, I saw you at the mall recently. ”

  Spencer looked at Hanna. “Huh?”

  “You were…you were going into Kate Spade. ” Hanna looked down. “I don’t know. I was going to say hi. But, um, I’m glad you don’t have to order those purses from New York anymore. ” She put her head down and blushed, as if she’d said too much.

  Emily was startled—she hadn’t seen Hanna make that expression in years.

  Spencer’s brow crinkled. Then, a sad, tender look came over her face. She swallowed hard and looked down. “Thanks,” she murmured. Her shoulders started to shake and she squeezed her eyes shut. Emily felt her own throat choking up. She’d never actually seen Spencer cry.

  Aria put her hand on Spencer’s shoulder. “It’s okay,” she said.

  “Sorry,” Spencer said, wiping her eyes with her sleeve. “I just…” She glanced around at all of them and then started crying even harder.

  Emily hugged her. It felt a little awkward, but by the way Spencer squeezed her hand, Emily could tell she appreciated it.

  When they sat back, Hanna pulled a tiny silver flask out of her bag and reached over Emily to pass it to Spencer. “Here,” she whispered.

  Without even smelling it or asking what it was, Spencer took a huge swallow. She winced but said, “Thanks. ”

  She passed the flask back to Hanna, who drank and handed it to Emily. Emily took a sip, which burned in her chest, then passed it to Aria. Before drinking, Aria pulled on Spencer’s sleeve.

  “This’ll make you feel better too. ” Aria tugged down the shoulder of her dress to reveal a white knitted bra strap. Emily immediately recognized it—Aria had knitted heavy woolen bras for all the girls in seventh grade. “I wore it for old time’s sake,” Aria whispered. “It’s itching like hell. ”

  Spencer sputtered out a laugh. “Oh my God. ”

  “You’re such a spaz,” Hanna added, grinning.

  “I could never wear mine, remember?” Emily chimed in. “My mom thought it was too sexy for school!”

  “Yeah. ” Spencer giggled. “If you can call scratching your boobs all day sexy. ”

  The girls snickered. Suddenly, Aria’s cell phone buzzed. S
he reached into her bag and looked at the phone’s screen.

  “What?” Aria looked up, realizing they were all staring at her.

  Hanna fiddled with her charm bracelet. “Did you, um, just get a text message?”

  “Yeah. So?”

  “Who was it?”

  “It was my mom,” Aria answered slowly. “Why?”

  Low pipe organ music began to lilt through the church. Behind them, more kids shuffled in quietly. Spencer glanced nervously at Emily. Emily’s heart started to pound.

  “Never mind,” Hanna said. “That was nosy. ”

  Aria licked her lips. “Wait. Seriously. Why?”

  Hanna’s adam’s apple rose with a nervous swallow. “I…I just thought maybe strange things had been happening to you, too. ”

  Aria’s mouth fell open. “Strange is an understatement. ”

  Emily clutched her arms around herself.

  “Wait. You guys, too?” Spencer whispered.

  Hanna nodded. “Texts?”

  “E-mails,” Spencer said.

  “About…stuff from seventh?” Aria whispered.

  “Are you guys serious?” Emily squeaked.

  The friends stared at each other. But before anyone could say anything else, the somber-sounding pipe organ filled the room.

  Emily turned around. A bunch of people were walking slowly up the center aisle. It was Ali’s mom and dad, her brother, her grandparents, and some others who must’ve been relatives. Two redheaded boys were the last to come down the aisle; Emily recognized them as Sam and Russell, Ali’s cousins. They used to visit Ali’s family every summer. Emily hadn’t seen them in years, and wondered if they were still as gullible as they used to be.

  The family members slid into the front row and waited for the music to stop.

  As Emily stared at them, she noticed movement. One of the pimply, redheaded cousins was staring at them. Emily was pretty sure it was the one named Sam—he’d been the geekier of the two. He stared at all the girls and then slowly and flirtatiously raised an eyebrow. Emily quickly looked away.

  She felt Hanna jab her in the ribs. “Not it,” Hanna whispered to the girls.

  Emily looked at her, puzzled, but then Hanna motioned with her eyes to the two gangly cousins.

  All the girls caught on at the same time. “Not it,” Emily, Spencer, and Aria said at once.

  They all giggled. But then Emily paused, considering what “not it” really meant. She’d never thought about it before, but it was kind of mean. When she looked around, she noticed her friends had stopped laughing too. They all exchanged a look.

  “I guess it was funnier back then,” Hanna said quietly.

  Emily sat back. Maybe Ali didn’t know everything. Yes, this might have been the worst day of her life, and she was horribly devastated about Ali, and completely freaked about A. But for a moment, she felt okay. Sitting here with her old friends seemed like the tiny beginning of something.



  The organ started up again with its dreary music, and Ali’s brother and the others filed out of the church. Spencer, tipsy from a few slugs of whiskey, noticed that her three old friends had stood up and were filing out of the pew, and she figured she should go, too.

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