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

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

“Don’t throw that in,” Emily said, ignoring Marion’s stern look. “It’s a really good picture of her.”

Spencer raised an eyebrow but wordlessly put the photo on the mahogany credenza next to a large, wrought-iron statue of the Eiffel Tower. Out of all Ali’s old friends, Emily was definitely having the toughest time handling Ali’s death. It was just that she’d never had a best friend like Ali, before or since. It didn’t help, either, that Ali had also been Emily’s first love, the very first girl she’d ever kissed. If it were up to Emily, she wouldn’t be burying Ali at all. She was perfectly fine with keeping her Ali memorabilia on her nightstand forever and ever.

“We good?” Marion pursed her merlot-colored lips. She cinched the bag tight and handed it to Spencer. “Promise me you’ll bury this. It will help. Honest. And I think you girls should meet Tuesday afternoon, okay? It’s your first week back at school, and I want you to stay connected and check up on one another. Can you all do that for me?”

Everyone nodded glumly. They followed Marion out of the media room, down the Hastingses’ grand marble hall, and into the foyer. Marion said good-bye and climbed into her navy Range Rover, turning on the wipers to knock the excess snow off her windshield.

The big grandfather clock in the foyer began to strike the hour. Spencer shut the door and turned around to face Emily and the others. The trash bag’s red plastic ties dangled from her wrist. “Well?” Spencer said. “Should we bury this?”

“Where?” Emily asked quietly.

“What about by the barn?” Aria suggested, picking at a hole in her red leggings. “It’s appropriate, right? It’s the last place we…saw her.”

Emily nodded, a huge lump in her throat. “What do you think, Hanna?”

“Whatever,” Hanna mumbled in a monotone, as if she’d rather have been anywhere else.

Everyone pulled on their coats and boots and tromped through the Hastingses’ snowy yard to the back of the property. They were silent the whole way. Although they’d grown close again during A’s awful notes, Emily hadn’t seen much of her old friends since Ian’s arraignment. Emily had tried to arrange outings at the King James Mall, and even between-classes meetings at Steam, Rosewood Day’s coffee bar, but the others hadn’t seem interested. She suspected they were avoiding one another for the same reasons they’d drifted apart after Ali went missing—it was just too weird to be together.

The old DiLaurentis house was on their right. The trees and shrubs that divided the yards were bare, and there was a crusty layer of ice on Ali’s back porch. The Ali Shrine, which consisted of candles, stuffed animals, flowers, and curling photos, was still on the front curb, but the news vans and camera crews that had camped out for a month after Ali’s body had been found had thankfully vanished. These days, the media were hanging around the Rosewood courthouse and the Chester County prison, hoping to get more news about Ian Thomas’s upcoming trial.

The house was also the new home of Maya St. Germain, Emily’s ex. The St. Germains’ Acura SUV was in the driveway, which meant they’d moved back in—the family had steered clear of the house during the height of the media circus. Emily felt a pang as she looked at the cheerful wreath on the front door and the overflowing garbage bags of Christmas wrapping paper at the curb. When they were together, she and Maya had discussed what they’d get each other for Christmas—Maya wanted tripped-out, DJ-style headphones, and Emily wanted an iPod shuffle. Breaking up with Maya had been for the best, but it felt strange to be completely disconnected from Maya’s life.

The others were ahead of her, approaching the back of the two yards. Emily jogged to catch up, her big toe dipping in a muddy slush puddle. To the left was Spencer’s barn, the site of their very last sleepover. It bordered the thick woods that stretched for more than a mile. To the right of the barn was the partially dug hole in the DiLaurentises’ old yard where Ali’s body had been found. Some of the yellow police tape had fallen down and was now half-buried in the snow, but there were a lot of fresh footprints, probably belonging to curious gawkers.

Emily’s heart pounded as she dared to look at the hole. It was so dark. Her eyes filled with tears as she imagined Ian savagely shoving Ali down there, leaving her to die.

“It’s crazy, isn’t it?” Aria remarked quietly, looking into the hole, too. “Ali was here all along.”

“It’s a good thing you remembered, Spence,” Hanna said, shivering in the frigid, late-afternoon air. “Otherwise, Ian would still be out there.”

Aria paled, looking worried. Emily bit her fingernail. The night of Ian’s arrest, they’d told the cops that everything they needed to know about what happened that night was in Ali’s diary—her very last entry was about how she was planning to meet up with Ian, her secret boyfriend, the night of their seventh-grade sleepover. Ali had given Ian an ultimatum—either he break up with Spencer’s sister, Melissa, or Ali was going to tell the world they were in love.

But what really convinced the cops was the repressed memory Spencer had recalled from that night. After Spencer and Ali had fought outside the Hastingses’ barn, Ali had run to someone—Ian. It was the last anyone saw of Ali, ever, and everyone assumed exactly what happened next. Emily would never forget how Ian had stumbled into the courtroom the day of his arraignment and dared to plead innocent to Ali’s murder. After the judge ordered Ian to prison without bail and the bailiffs walked him back down the aisle, she caught Ian shooting them a searing, bitter glare. You girls picked the wrong person to mess with, his look seemed to say, loud and clear. It was obvious that he blamed them for his arrest.

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