Home > Wicked (Pretty Little Liars #5)(6)

Wicked (Pretty Little Liars #5)(6)
Author: Sara Shepard

Emily let out a little whimper and Spencer looked at her sternly. “Stop. We’re not supposed to dwell on Ian…or any of this.” She stopped at the back of the property, pulling her blue and white Fair Isle earflap hat farther down her forehead. “Is this a good spot?”

Emily blew on her fingers as the others nodded numbly. Spencer began to dig up mounds of half-frozen dirt with the shovel she’d grabbed from the garage. After the hole was sufficiently deep, Spencer dropped the trash bag inside. It made a heavy plop in the snow. They all kicked the dirt and snow back on top of it.

“Well?” Spencer leaned against the shovel. “Should we say something?”

They all looked at one another. “Bye, Ali,” Emily said finally, her eyes filling with tears for about the millionth time that month.

Aria glanced at her, and then smiled. “Bye, Ali,” she echoed. She looked at Hanna next. Hanna shrugged, but then said, “Bye, Ali.”

As Aria took her hand, Emily felt…better. Her stomach unknotted and her neck relaxed. Suddenly it smelled so good back here, like fresh flowers. She felt that Ali—the sweet, wonderful Ali from her memories—was here, telling them that everything would be okay.

She glanced at the others. They all had placid smiles on their faces, as if they sensed something too. Maybe Marion was right. Maybe there was something to this ritual. It was time to put the whole dreadful fall to rest—Ali’s killer had been caught, and the whole A nightmare was behind them. The only thing left to do was look toward a calmer, happier future.

The sun was sinking through the trees fast, turning the sky and snowdrifts a milky lavender. The Hastingses’ windmill slowly rotated in the breeze, and a group of squirrels began fighting near a large pine. If one of the squirrels climbs the tree, things have settled down for good, Emily said to herself, playing the superstitious game she’d relied on for years. And just like that, a squirrel scampered up the pine, all the way to the top.

2

WE ARE FAMILY

A half hour later, Hanna Marin burst through the front door of her house, nuzzled her mini Doberman, Dot, and flung her embossed-snakeskin satchel on the living room couch. “Sorry I’m late,” she called.

The kitchen smelled like tomato sauce and garlic bread, and Hanna’s father; his fiancée, Isabel; and Isabel’s daughter, Kate, were already seated in the dining room. There were big ceramic bowls of pasta and salad in the center of the table, and a scallop-edged plate, napkin, and tall flute of Perrier waited at Hanna’s empty seat. On her arrival Christmas Day—practically seconds after Hanna’s mother had boarded a jumbo jet to her new job in Singapore—Isabel had decided that every Sunday dinner would be in the dining room, to make things feel more special and “family-esque.”

Hanna slumped in her seat, trying to ignore everyone’s looks. Her father was shooting her a hopeful smile, and Isabel was making a face that indicated that she was either trying to contain a fart or was disappointed that Hanna was tardy to Family Time. Kate, on the other hand, tilted her head pityingly. And Hanna just knew which of them would speak first.

Kate smoothed her irritatingly straight chestnut-colored hair, her blue eyes round. “Were you with your grief counselor?”

Ding ding ding!

“Uh-huh.” Hanna took a giant gulp of Perrier.

“How did it go?” Kate asked in her best Oprah voice. “Is it helping?”

Hanna sniffed haughtily. Honestly, she thought the meetings with Marion were bullshit. Maybe the rest of her old best friends could get on with their lives post–Ali and A, but Hanna was struggling with not one best friend’s death, but two. Hanna was reminded of Mona practically every moment of her day: when she let out Dot to run around the frozen backyard in the Burberry plaid doggy coat Mona had gotten him as a birthday gift last year. When she opened her walk-in closet and saw the silver Jill Stuart skirt she’d borrowed from Mona but never returned. When she looked in the mirror, attempting to say Marion’s lame-ass chants, and saw the teardrop earrings she and Mona had stolen from Banana Republic last spring. She saw something else, too: the faded, Z-shaped scar on her chin from when Mona had hit Hanna with her SUV, after Hanna realized that Mona was A.

She hated that her future stepsister knew every detail of what happened to her this fall—especially that her best friend had tried to kill her. Then again, all of Rosewood knew; the local media had talked of little else since. Even weirder, the country had been infected with A mania. Kids across the country had reported receiving texts from someone called A, all of which ended up being from jilted ex-boyfriends or jealous classmates. Hanna had even received a few faux-A texts of her own, but they were obviously spam—I know all your dirty secrets! And hey, wanna purchase three ringtones for a dollar? So lame.

Kate’s gaze remained fixed on Hanna, perhaps waiting for her to spill her guts. Hanna quickly grabbed a piece of garlic bread and took a giant bite so she wouldn’t have to speak. Ever since Kate and Isabel set foot in this house, Hanna had been spending all her time either locked in her bedroom, retail-therapying at the King James Mall, or hiding at her boyfriend Lucas’s place. Even though things had been shaky between them before Mona died, Lucas had been unbelievably supportive in the aftermath. Now they were inseparable.

Hanna preferred to be out because whenever she was in plain view in her house, her dad kept assigning little chores for Hanna and Kate to do together: clearing out Hanna’s extra clothes from Kate’s brand-new bedroom closet, taking out the garbage, or shoveling snow off the front walk. But hello? Wasn’t that what housekeepers and snow removal services were for? If only the snow removal people could remove Kate, too.

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