Home > Wicked (Pretty Little Liars #5)(2)

Wicked (Pretty Little Liars #5)(2)
Author: Sara Shepard

“Are you going to play?” Gemma asked Emily, zipping up her Upper Main Line YMCA swimming parka to her chin.

“I guess so.” Emily giggled nervously. “But do you think we have a shot? I hear they always hide the clues in the high school. I’ve only been in there twice.”

Hanna was thinking the same thing. She hadn’t even been in the high school once. Everything about high school intimidated her—especially the beautiful girls who went there. Whenever Hanna went to Saks at the King James Mall with her mom, there would inevitably be a group of Rosewood Day high school cheerleaders gathered at the makeup counter. Hanna always covertly watched them from behind a rack of clothes, admiring how their low-slung jeans fit perfectly around their hips, how their hair hung straight and shiny down their backs, and how their smooth, peachy skin was blemish-free even without foundation. Before she went to sleep every night, Hanna prayed that she would wake up a beautiful Rosewood Day cheerleader, too, but every morning it was the same old Hanna in her heart-shaped makeup mirror, her hair poop brown, her skin blotchy, and her arms like chunky sausages.

“At least you know Melissa,” Kirsten murmured to Spencer, also overhearing what Emily said. “Maybe she was one of the people who hid a piece of the flag.”

Spencer shook her head. “I would’ve heard about it already.” It was as much an honor to be selected to hide a piece of the Time Capsule flag as it was to find one, and Spencer’s sister, Melissa, never failed to brag about her Rosewood Day responsibilities—especially when her family played Star Power, the game where they went around the table describing their most ambitious accomplishment of the day.

The school’s heavy double doors opened, and the remaining sixth-graders spilled out, including a group of kids that seemed to have walked right out of a page of a J. Crew catalogue. Aria returned to the stone wall and pretended to be busy sketching. She didn’t want to make eye contact with any of them again—a few days ago, Naomi Zeigler had caught her staring and cawed, “What, are you in love with us?” These were the sixth-grade elite, after all—or, as Aria called them, the Typical Rosewoods.

Every single one of the Typical Rosewoods lived in gated mansions, multi-acre-spanning compounds, or luxurious converted barns with horse stables and ten-car garages. They were such cookie cutters: the boys played soccer and had ultra-short haircuts; the girls had the exact same laughs, wore matching shades of Laura Mercier lip plumper, and carried Dooney & Bourke logo bags. If Aria squinted, she couldn’t tell one Typical Rosewood from another.

Except for Alison DiLaurentis. No one mistook Alison for anyone else, ever.

And it was Alison leading the crowd down the school’s stone path, her blond hair streaming behind her, her sapphire blue eyes sparkling, her ankles steady in her three-inch platforms. Naomi Zeigler and Riley Wolfe, her two closest confidantes, followed her, hanging on her every move. People had been bowing down to Ali ever since she’d moved to Rosewood in third grade.

Ali approached Emily and the other swimmers and stopped short. Emily was afraid Ali was going to tease them all about their dry, greenish-tinted, chlorine-damaged hair—again—but Ali’s attention was elsewhere. A sneaky smile crept over her face as she read the flyer. With a quick flip of her wrist, she tore the paper off the wall and spun around to face her friends.

“My brother’s hiding one of the pieces of the flag tonight,” she said, loud enough for everyone else in the commons to hear. “He already promised to tell me where it is.”

Everyone began to murmur. Hanna nodded with awe—she admired Ali even more than the older cheerleaders. Spencer, on the other hand, seethed. Ali’s brother wasn’t supposed to tell her where he was hiding his Time Capsule piece. That was cheating! Aria’s charcoal crayon flew furiously over her sketchbook, her eyes fixed on Ali’s heart-shaped face. And Emily’s nose tickled with the lingering vanilla scent of Ali’s perfume—it was as heavenly as standing in the doorway of a bakery.

The older students began to descend the high school’s majestic stone steps across the commons, interrupting Ali’s big announcement. Tall, aloof girls and preppy, handsome guys ambled past the sixth-graders, heading for their cars in the auxiliary lot. Ali watched them coolly, fanning her face with the Time Capsule flyer. A couple of puny sophomores, white iPod headphones dangling from their ears, looked downright intimidated by Ali as they unlocked their ten-speeds from the rack. Naomi and Riley snorted at them.

Then a tall blond junior noticed Ali and stopped. “What up, Al?”

“Nothing.” Ali pursed her lips and stood up straighter. “What’s up with you, Eee?”

Scott Chin elbowed Hanna, and Hanna blushed. With his tanned, gorgeous face, curly blond hair, and stunning, soulful hazel eyes, Ian Thomas—Eee—was second on Hanna’s All-Time Hottie list, just under Sean Ackard, the boy she’d crushed on since they were on the same kickball team in third grade. It was unclear how Ian and Ali knew one another, but the gossip said upperclassmen invited Ali to their A-list parties, despite the fact that she was a lot younger.

Ian leaned against the bike racks. “Did I hear you saying you know where a piece of the Time Capsule flag is?”

Ali’s cheeks pinkened. “Why, is someone jealous?” She shot him a saucy grin.

Ian shook his head. “I’d keep it down, if I were you. Someone might try and steal your piece from you. It’s part of the game, you know.”

Ali laughed, as if the idea was incomprehensible, but a wrinkle formed between her eyes. Ian was right—stealing someone’s piece of the flag was perfectly legal, etched in the Time Capsule Official Rule Book that Principal Appleton kept in a locked drawer of his desk. Last year, a ninth-grade goth boy had stolen a piece that was dangling out of a senior crew member’s gear bag. Two years ago, an eighth-grade band girl had snuck into the school’s dance studio and stolen two pieces from two beautiful, thin ballerinas. The Stealing Clause, as it was known, leveled the playing field even more—if you weren’t smart enough to figure out the clues that would allow you to find the pieces, then maybe you were cunning enough to snag one from someone’s locker.

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