Ali's Pretty Little Lies
Page 18

 Sara Shepard

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“. . . And she’s, like, so manipulative,” Hanna was saying. “There are some things she knows about me that I don’t want anyone to know, and I’m so afraid she’s going to tell someone if I screw up at all. It’s driving me crazy. And she’s acting even weirder than usual lately, keeping all these secrets, getting these weird phone calls—she probably hates me.”
“You have to cut her loose before she ditches you,” Josie answered.
Hanna pulled her bottom lip into her mouth. “But she’s been my friend for two years now. We’ve been through a lot together.”
Ali’s eyes widened. Was Hanna talking about her?
“She might have been a good friend to you before, but she isn’t a good friend now,” Josie said firmly. “You’re super cool, Hanna. You’ll be fine.”
Ali clapped her hand over her mouth. Was Josie high? Hanna wouldn’t be fine without her—not at all.
She couldn’t take it anymore. She stepped from behind the tree and rushed past Hanna as though she hadn’t seen her. “Oh!” she said, feigning surprise just after reaching her. “Hi, Han! Hi . . . Josie, was it?”
Hanna paled. Josie’s smile wavered. “H-hi,” Hanna said, her eyes darting back and forth. “How long have you been out here, Ali?”
Ali put her hands on her hips and blinked.
Her silence seemed to unnerve Hanna even more. Hanna glanced at Josie. “I should go.”
“Of course,” Josie said. She raised a palm to Ali, then walked to her side of the school.
Ali whipped around and marched back into Rosewood Day, her shoulders tight, her jaw clenched. Hanna scrambled to catch up with her. “I hope you don’t think I was talking about you, Ali,” she said. “I was talking about Kate. I swear.”
Ali approached her locker and pretended to concentrate on the combination. “Mm-hmm.”
“Josie has a stepsister, too,” Hanna said, her voice not particularly convincing. “She’s sort of . . . been there, you know?”
Ali faced her, her eyes narrowed. “And you’ve been Kate’s friend for two years? Since when?”
Hanna’s mouth dropped open. No sound came out.
Ali wrenched her locker open and shoved a bunch of textbooks in her bag without paying attention to which subjects they were for. “You should be careful who you talk to, Hanna. You don’t know Josie. She might not keep your secrets as well as I do.”
Hanna nodded obediently. “O-okay.”
Ali started for the parking lot, where she was to wait for Jason. “But she does seem really nice,” she said after a moment. “You know what I’m thinking? Maybe I’ll have a party. We should invite her.”
Hanna twisted her mouth. “Really?”
“Uh-huh,” Ali said.
“Th-that would be great,” Hanna mumbled.
“Glad you think so,” Ali answered. Since it was clear that Hanna wasn’t getting the message that Josie wasn’t necessary, maybe it was time to try a different tack: stealing Josie away. Proving to Hanna that everyone wanted Ali as a friend more than they wanted Hanna.
They were at the front walk by then, right next to the big, bubbling fountain. Hanna’s mom pulled up to the curb, and Hanna waved good-bye as she climbed in. Ali continued toward the flagpole, passing girls carrying economy-size boxes of Toblerone chocolates to sell for a French field trip, and a group of boys bounding toward one of the back buses. She scanned the parking lot for Jason all the while, but she didn’t see him. She took a left and walked to the main drag of shops right down the road. Pinkberry’s happy sign seemed garish and annoying. The Italian flag flapping in front of Ferra’s Cheesesteaks made her dizzy. She needed to get a grip.
But then something materialized in front of her eyes. A gold Mercedes was parked at the end of the block. The engine wasn’t running, but a person sat in the driver’s seat. Ali would recognize that shiny blond hair anywhere. It was her mother.
She crept closer. Her mother held a cell phone to her ear, and there was something about her posture and ducked head that made Ali want to listen. The window was open, and once Ali was only a few cars away, she could hear some of her words. We just need a little more cash, honey. Just to pay the rest of her hospital bills. Then she shifted. I know, I know. But she’s your daughter, too.
Ali shifted. Why would her mom be begging her father for cash?
Mrs. DiLaurentis made a kissing sound into the phone, then hung up. A split second later, the phone rang again. “Oh, hello, Kenneth,” Ali’s mom said with a sigh. Kenneth was Ali’s father’s name. Her mom’s tone of voice was totally different from the one on the last call. Bored. Exasperated. Over it.
Ali’s heart picked up speed. She ducked into Wordsmith’s Books before her mother could spot her. Even though she had no proof, she knew that her mother had just now been talking to two different people—two different men. She’d asked the first one for money, presumably for Ali’s sister’s hospital bills. But then she’d said, She’s your daughter, too. Which made no sense.
Unless . . .
The room suddenly started to spin. Ali listed backward, nearly crashing into a wire rack full of novelty greeting cards. Unless the first man her mother was talking to on the phone was her twin’s real father.
Which made him her real father, too.
Two days later, just as Ali was leaving the house, Jason stepped in her path and opened the door for her. “You going somewhere?” he asked.
“Why do you care?” Ali asked, feeling prickly.
Jason winced at Ali’s tone of voice. “I just thought I could give you a ride.” He shifted uncomfortably. “I thought maybe we could . . . talk.”
Ali wrapped her hand around the doorjamb, staring at her brother’s Vans. What did he want to talk about? The last time they’d really talked, she’d voiced her concern about her parents getting divorced. That was even before she’d found out about her mom’s affair. All of a sudden, the desire to tell him about her mother and that strange man pulsed inside her. The old her would have. They would have sat in the Radley’s common room and dissected the thing to death, trying to figure out why Mom was doing it, who the man could be, what was going to happen next. It was way too hard to keep it to herself. With every passing day, she felt like she was going to burst.
“Ali?” Jason prompted.
She shuddered and jerked up, coming back to reality. She wasn’t her old self, and she could never be again. Alison DiLaurentis didn’t have that kind of relationship with her brother—he was too moody and weird to care about. She stepped off the porch. “I can get there myself,” she called over her shoulder. “I doubt we’re going the same direction, anyway.”
Ten minutes later, Ali parked her bike in front of the Orvis Hollis Memorial Ice Rink at Hollis College, where she was meeting Emily. HOME OF THE HOLLIS PENGUINS, said a placard by the sidewalk. Boys with ice-hockey skates slung over their shoulders and long sticks with boomerang-shaped ends sauntered out of the double doors. Even from the street, Ali could smell the rink’s freshly popped popcorn and concession-stand hot dogs.
“Alison DiLaurentis ice-skates?”
Ali turned. A black Escalade had pulled up to the curb, and Ian Thomas’s tanned, handsome face leaned out the window.
Ali walked over to him. “Are you following me, stalker?” she teased.
“You got me.” Ian got out of the car and walked over to her, stopping so close that they were almost touching. “I just wanted to let you know that I kissed Spencer, just like you asked. So when are you going to hold up your end of the bargain?”
Ali removed a tube of gloss and eased it across her lips. The last thing she wanted was to kiss him, but something about the way he was looking at her made her feel superhero-powerful, like she could spin cars over her head or bend bars of steel with her mind. A second later, though, it hit her: Cheating on Nick with Ian made her no better than her mother.
A chill shot through her. Could someone else really be her true father, some random, awful man she didn’t know? It made no sense. Her father had taken her and her sister sledding when they were small. He’d come to her dance recitals. He knew that she liked orange juice without pulp and Wawa French vanilla coffee. Whatever had happened, if something had happened, she was almost certain he didn’t know about it.
And maybe something had happened. Mr. DiLaurentis and Jason had identical toes, the second one larger than the first. And Ali had her mother’s blond hair and ice-blue eyes. But she didn’t have either of their noses—not her mother’s pert little button or her father’s ugly hook. For the longest time, she’d been grateful that she hadn’t inherited her father’s nose, but now she regretted it. And where had her bow lips and sarcastic smile come from? She had stared at her father for so long at dinner last night that he’d asked her twice if there was something wrong.
Ian moved his hand toward Ali’s arm, but Ali stepped away before he could stroke her wrist. “You know what? I’ve changed my mind. I’ll only give you a kiss if you break up with your girlfriend.”
Ian’s brow furrowed. “Melissa?”
Ali barked out a laugh. “No, Spencer. Of course Melissa. I’m not the type who goes for guys who are already taken.”
Ian crossed his arms over his chest. “It’s just a kiss.”
“My deal is final.” She spun around and sauntered toward the entrance to the ice rink.
The inside of the ice rink was dark and chilly. Team pennants and championship plaques hung on the walls, and eighties New Wave music blared from the speakers. A Zamboni groaned back and forth on the ice, clearing away all the nicks. Several little kids stood impatiently against the Plexiglas walls, their skate-clad ankles wobbling.
Ali spied Emily at the rental desk. When Emily turned and smiled, Ali’s stomach flipped over. This was the first time she’d been alone with Emily since she’d discovered the heart on Emily’s notebook. Even though she was almost positive Emily had no idea Ali knew about it, she still felt shaky, like Emily might guess that she knew.
And how could she not know? Ali had run out of the dressing room so fast. She hadn’t even tried to hide it, which wasn’t like her at all. It made her paranoid about all the other secrets in her life. What if people found out about those?
“Hey,” Emily said softly as she approached. There were two pairs of white ice skates looped over her wrist, and she wore a heavy cable-knit sweater and jeans. She handed Ali a pair of size-seven skates and sat down on the bench. “Thanks for meeting me. This is going to be so fun.”
“If you like dodging little kids,” Ali said, watching as kids in Girl Scouts uniforms and brown rental skates spilled out of the bathroom. “And falling on your butt. I haven’t skated since I was little.”
“Don’t worry,” Emily said softly. “I’ll help you.”
Ali looked at her friend, thinking about that heart again. I love Ali, it had said. Ali loved her, too, but not like that. She still didn’t know whether to be flattered or just completely weirded-out.