Home > Heartless (Pretty Little Liars #7)

Heartless (Pretty Little Liars #7)
Author: Sara Shepard

Lost and Found

Ever have something really important just up and vanish without a trace? Like that vintage Pucci scarf you wore to the ninth-grade formal. It was around your neck the whole night, but when it was time to head home, poof. Gone. Or that gorgeous gold locket your grandmother gave you. Somehow it grew legs and just walked away. But lost things don’t just disappear into thin air. They have to be somewhere.

Four pretty girls in Rosewood have lost very important things too. Things much bigger than a scarf or necklace. Like the trust of their parents. An Ivy League future. Purity. And they thought they lost their childhood best friend, too . . . but maybe not. Maybe the universe returned her, safe and sound. But just remember, the world has a way of balancing out: When something is given back, something else must be taken away.

And in Rosewood, that could be anything. Credibility. Sanity. Lives.

Aria Montgomery was the first to arrive. She tipped her bike onto the crushed-gravel drive, plopped down under a lavender weeping willow, and ran her fingers through the soft, clipped lawn. Just yesterday, the grass had smelled like summer and freedom, but after all that had happened, the scent no longer filled Aria with liberated glee.

Emily Fields appeared next. She was wearing the same faded, nondescript jeans and lemon yellow Old Navy tee she’d had on the night before. The clothes were wrinkled now, as if she’d slept in them. “Hey,” she said listlessly, lowering herself down next to Aria. At the exact same moment, Spencer Hastings emerged from her front door, a solemn look on her face, and Hanna Marin slammed the door to her mom’s Mercedes.

“So.” Emily finally broke the silence when they were all together.

“So,” Aria echoed.

Simultaneously, they turned and looked at the barn at the back of Spencer’s yard. The night before, Spencer, Aria, Emily, Hanna, and Alison DiLaurentis, their best friend and leader, were supposed to have had their long-awaited, end-of-seventh-grade sleepover there. But instead of the party lasting until dawn, it had ended abruptly before midnight. Far from being the perfect kickoff to summer, it had been an embarrassing disaster.

None of them could make eye contact. Nor could they look next door at the big Victorian house that belonged to Alison’s family. They were due over there any minute, but it wasn’t Alison who’d invited them over today—it was her mother, Jessica. She’d called each girl mid-morning, saying Alison hadn’t turned up after breakfast—was she at one of their houses? Ali’s mom hadn’t seemed too alarmed when they said no, but when she called back a few hours later, reporting that Ali still hadn’t checked in, her voice was thin and high-pitched with distress.

Aria tightened her ponytail. “None of us saw where Ali went, right?”

They shook their heads. Spencer gently prodded at a purple bruise that had appeared on her wrist that morning. She had no idea when she’d hurt herself. There were a few scratches on her arms, too, as if she’d gotten tangled in a vine.

“And she didn’t tell anyone where she was going?” Hanna asked.

Each girl shrugged. “She’s probably off somewhere fun,” Emily concluded in an Eeyore voice, hanging her head. The girls had nicknamed Emily “Killer,” as in, Ali’s personal pit bull. That Ali could have more fun with anyone else made her heart break.

“Nice of her to include us,” Aria said bitterly, kicking at a clump of grass with her motorcycle boots.

The hot June sun beat down relentlessly on their winter-pale skin. They heard a splash from a backyard pool and the groan of a lawn mower in the distance. It was typical suburban summer bliss in Rosewood, Pennsylvania, a luxurious and pristine suburb about twenty miles from Philadelphia. Right now, the girls were supposed to be poolside at the Rosewood Country Club, ogling cute guys who went to their elite private school, Rosewood Day. They still could do that, but it felt weird to have fun without Ali. They felt adrift without her, like actresses without a director or marionettes without a puppeteer.

At last night’s sleepover, Ali had seemed more aggravated with them than usual. Distracted, too—she’d wanted to hypnotize them, but when Spencer insisted that the blinds be left open, Ali argued that they needed to be closed; then Ali abruptly left without saying good-bye. All the girls had a sinking feeling they knew why she’d left—Ali had found something better to do, with friends older and way cooler than they were.

Even though none of them would admit it, they’d sensed this might be coming. Ali was the girl at Rosewood Day who set trends, topped every guy’s Hottest Girl list, and decided who was popular and who was an undesirable Not It. She could charm anyone, from her sullen older brother, Jason, to the school’s strictest history teacher. Last year, she’d plucked Spencer, Hanna, Aria, and Emily from obscurity and invited them into her inner sanctum. Things were perfect for the first few months, the five of them ruling the Rosewood Day hallways, holding court at sixth-grade parties, and always scoring the best booth at Rive Gauche at the King James Mall, kicking out less-popular girls who had been seated there first. But toward the end of seventh grade, Ali grew more and more distant. She didn’t call them immediately when she got home from school. She didn’t surreptitiously text them during class. When the girls talked to her, her eyes often looked glazed over, like her thoughts were elsewhere. The only things that interested Ali were their deepest, darkest secrets.

Aria glanced at Spencer. “You ran out of the barn after Ali last night. You seriously didn’t see which way she went?” She had to yell over the sound of someone’s weed whacker.

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