Ali's Pretty Little Lies
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“Shut up!” Spencer screeched. “You flirted with him, too!”
Ali shrugged. Of course she’d flirted with him. There was something in her DNA that made her want to flirt with every boy Spencer liked. She needed to prove that she was better. In fact, Ali and Spencer had a running contest this year to see who could kiss the most older boys. Spencer kept insisting she was winning, but Ali was convinced she’d cheated. “I wasn’t serious,” she said. “Admit you have a crush on him and I won’t be pissed that you didn’t tell me about this party tonight because you wanted Ian all to yourself.”
“But I didn’t know—” Spencer started.
“For the record?” Ali interrupted. “I think he’s gorgeous. You should totally go for him.”
“You think?” Spencer’s eyes lit up. “Even though he’s with Melissa?”
“Why not?” Ali asked. “All’s fair in love and war.”
In truth, she thought it was kind of sketchy to go for a senior, but she hoped softening Spencer up a bit would get her to confess even more.
Spencer sighed. “Okay. I do have a crush on him. But you can’t tell anyone, okay?”
“Your secret is safe with me.” Ali linked her arm with Spencer’s and pulled her toward a table of food and drinks set up near the grill. And, lo and behold, there were a few bottles of Dom Pérignon on the table. But as she grabbed a bottle and glugged some of the uberexpensive liquid into a cup, it hit her: By admitting she had a crush on Ian, Spencer had also kind of admitted she had kept the party a secret from Ali after all.
NEVER TRUST SOMEONE FROM CALIFORNIA
“Why didn’t you go to the Hastingses’ last night?” Ali asked as she climbed into Jason’s BMW the following morning for school.
Jason, who had purple circles under his eyes as though he’d gotten no sleep, turned up the college channel on SiriusXM. “I didn’t feel like it.”
“Half your class was there,” Ali argued. “It was a lot of fun.” After she and Spencer had made up, they’d danced with cute upperclassmen for the rest of the night. Several guys had asked for her number, not that she’d given it to them. She still felt like there was something sketchy about dating someone that much older.
“I wasn’t in the mood.” Jason shot her a look. “And I don’t like that you went.”
Ali scoffed. “Melissa didn’t care that Spencer was hanging out.”
Jason flinched. “It’s not like I’d jump off a bridge if Melissa did it first.”
Ali crossed and uncrossed her legs. You would have a year ago, she wanted to blurt. But she doubted Jason had confessed his crush on Melissa to the real Alison.
She looked at Jason. “Do you think Mom and Dad are really stressed about sending you to college?” She gasped. “What if they’re broke?”
Jason snorted. “They’re not broke. I don’t think that’s what they’re worried about, either.”
“But they said . . .” Ali trailed off, thinking of her parents’ weird behavior at dinner. “Do you think they lied?”
Jason hit the brakes hard behind a Mercedes coupe, not answering.
Ali ran her fingers up and down the seat belt strap. “What if they’re talking about getting a divorce?”
Jason twisted his mouth. “I don’t think—”
“It makes sense. They’re never together anymore. And all that talk at dinner about telling us something—it’s probably that, don’t you think?” She pushed her string bracelet around her wrist. “I’m not surprised, really. Having a daughter like Courtney must really take a toll on a marriage.”
The name Courtney hung in the air like a bad smell. Ali rarely said her real name out loud, and definitely never to Jason. He breathed out steadily and evenly, his expression giving away nothing. “Maybe,” he finally said.
They pulled down the long, tree-lined drive to Rosewood Day. The stone-and-brick school rose up before them, giving Ali the same tingles she’d felt the very first time she’d come here in sixth grade. This is what I was missing, she’d thought as she’d smoothed her hands over her blazer. I am so going to rock this place.
And she had, of course. Everyone already knew her and bowed down to her. Oh, there had been challenges on the first day: getting lost on her way to gym, confusing Devon Arliss and Dara Artz—luckily they were just thrilled she was speaking to them at all—and flirting with Andrew Campbell, only to realize he was one of the nerdiest kids in school. A few people had given her strange looks when she’d sat down inside the cafeteria—apparently all the cool kids sat outside—but she’d played most things off with panache and ease. The very next day, though, she carried around her sister’s old diary, which she’d begun writing in herself, as a cheat sheet to Ali’s life.
Jason swung past the lower and middle schools and headed for the parking lot at the back, where all the upperclassmen parked. People spilled out of cars and talked boisterously. Ali bolted out the door as soon as Jason rolled into a space, and looked around for Cassie and her other hockey teammates. But then she spied someone else. Hanna stood at the far end of the parking lot with a tall, thin, dark-haired girl she didn’t recognize.
“Ali!” Hanna waved her hands above her head. “Over here!”
Ali strutted over, squinting at the girl. She was pretty—really pretty—and looked like she was at least a freshman. She was carrying an emerald-green fringe bag with a Marc Jacobs logo on the clasp. Ali wanted to think it was a knockoff, but it looked way too nice.
“Ali, this is Josie.” There were two bright pink spots on Hanna’s cheeks. “And Josie, this is Alison DiLaurentis.”
“Nice to meet you.” Josie stuck out her hand to shake. Her nails were painted a dove gray Ali had never seen before. She didn’t even know gray was a popular color, but it looked utterly chic. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Everyone has,” Ali said primly. “But I’ve heard nothing about you.”
“Josie’s family just moved here from Los Angeles,” Hanna butted in.
“It’s so lame that they decided to move in May.” Josie rolled her eyes. “Couldn’t they have waited until summer? I wasn’t even able to go to my ninth-grade dance, and the hottest guy had asked me. And I had a friend who had tickets to the Teen Choice Awards, so I couldn’t go to that, either.”
“Oh my God, I would love to go to the Teen Choice Awards!” Hanna breathed.
Ali’s head was spinning. Los Angeles? Ninth-grade dance? Teen Choice Awards? She leaned on the back bumper of someone’s VW Beetle. “And you know Hanna how?”
Hanna brightened. “I met her yesterday at Otter.”
“What’s that?” Ali asked. “A pet store?”
Small, almost pitying smiles appeared on both Hanna’s and Josie’s faces. “Otter is the new boutique at the mall,” Josie said. “My dad owns it. I’m working there after school a few days a week.”
“It’s the best store, Ali,” Hanna gushed. “People from the Sentinel’s style section were even there when I went in. They said they might do a write-up!”
“We’re having an opening-week sale—you should stop by,” Josie said, stepping out of the way as a battered Volvo gunned its way up the lot. Then she nudged Hanna. “Remember that fight those girls got into over that pair of Citizens jeans?”
Hanna looked at Ali. “You would have loved it. These two girls spotted a pair of skinnies they both wanted at the same time and got into a fight in the dressing area.”
“That’s how amazing the jeans were,” Josie added.
Ali cleared her throat. “And how did you find out about this store, Hanna?”
“I read about it online.” Hanna suddenly looked panicked. “I thought you knew about it, Ali. I would have said something.”
“Since when do you go to the King James alone?” Ali said in a voice that might sound to anyone else like teasing but she knew would put Hanna on edge. “I thought we always texted each other if we were going.” She didn’t bother to bring up that she had been at the King James yesterday, too. But that didn’t count—she’d been with her parents.
“She wasn’t there for very long,” Josie said cautiously, giving Ali a strange look.
“It’s a personal, best-friends thing,” Ali said tightly. Then she looked at Hanna again. This whole situation was wrong. Since when was Hanna receiving invites to boutique openings and not telling her about them? And since when was a pretty, older girl from Los Angeles choosing Hanna as her newest bestie? Okay, so Hanna was wearing a pretty silk blouse Ali had never seen before, and she always knew what to do with jewelry—today she had a bunch of silver bangles on her left arm. But she also had pink and purple rubber bands in her braces. There was a pimple on her forehead and another one forming on her chin. Her Rosewood Day blazer, which had fit at the beginning of this year, pulled at the chest and didn’t quite button at the waist. She’d still be a dork if Ali hadn’t scooped her up and given her a popular-girl home. More than that, she was Ali’s dork, and Ali didn’t want to share her.
Ali sniffed the air. “Um, Hanna?” She glanced down at Hanna’s banana-yellow Marc Jacobs wedges. “I think you have dog poop on your shoe.”
Hanna paled. “Oh my God.” She scuttled over to the curb and furiously scraped her heel against the concrete.
Ali gave Josie an apologetic look. “We just can’t take Hanna anywhere. One time, when we were in Philly together, she literally fell off the curb into a mud puddle!”
Josie’s lips twitched, but she didn’t laugh. She pulled her bag up her shoulder. “Actually, I should probably go. I still don’t really know my way around this place yet.”
“You’re leaving?” Hanna asked, returning from the curb.
“We’ll talk soon, okay?” Josie practically fled from them, her ponytail bouncing as she ran down the hill. When she got to the door, a few pretty girls said hello to her, and she smiled back.
Hanna slumped miserably. Ali threaded her arm through her elbow. “I’m sorry, Han. People can get pretty grossed out by dog poop, though.”
Hanna pulled her bottom lip into her mouth. “There actually wasn’t any dog poop on my shoe. I checked.”
“Really?” Ali asked innocently. She grabbed her hand and squeezed it hard. “I swore I smelled something, Han! My bad!”
Hanna’s brow furrowed, perhaps sensing what Ali was up to. Hanna was smarter than Ali sometimes gave her credit for—she picked up on manipulative behavior much faster than the others did. If Ali ever stepped aside—not that that would ever happen—and if Hanna made herself over, she’d probably make a decent queen bee herself.
But Hanna said nothing. Ali clutched her arm once more. “Besides, I’ve heard that everyone from California is a major flake. You don’t want to be friends with her, anyway.”