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Hanna quickly turned away from the TV, wanting to put the story out of her mind. Then something behind the cinnamon sifter caught her eye. It looked like…fabric. And it was the exact same color as the Rosewood Day flag.
Hanna swallowed hard, yanked the fabric free, spread it out, and gasped. It was a piece of cloth, cut into a jagged square. The very edge of the Rosewood Day crest was in the upper right-hand corner. Safety-pinned to the back was a piece of paper with the number 16 on it. Rosewood Day always numbered each piece so they’d know how to sew the flag back together.
“What’s that?” said a voice. Hanna jumped, startled. Kate had slunk up behind her.
Hanna took a second to react, her mind still reeling from the Ian news. “It’s for this stupid game,” she muttered.
Kate pursed her lips. “The game that started today? Time Warp?”
Hanna rolled her eyes. “Time Capsule.”
Kate took a long sip of her tea. “Once all twenty pieces of the flag have been found, they will be sewn back together and buried in a Time Capsule behind the soccer fields,” she recited from the posters that had appeared all over school. Leave it to goody-goody Kate to have memorized the Time Capsule rules, as if she were going to be tested on them later. “And then you’ll get your name immortalized on a bronze plaque. That’s a big deal, right?”
“Whatev,” Hanna mumbled. Talk about ironic—when she didn’t give a shit about Time Capsule anymore, she found a piece without even looking at the clues posted in the school lobby. In sixth grade, the first year she’d been allowed to play, Hanna had fantasized about how she’d decorate a piece if she were lucky enough to find one. Some kids drew pointless things on their pieces, like a flower or a smiley face or—dumbest of all—the Rosewood Day crest, but Hanna understood that a well-decorated Time Capsule flag was as important as carrying the right handbag or getting highlights from the Henri Flaubert salon in the King James. When Hanna, Spencer, and the others confronted Ali in her backyard the day after the game started, Ali had described in detail what she’d drawn on her stolen piece. A Chanel logo. The Louis Vuitton pattern. A manga frog. A girl playing field hockey. As soon as Hanna got home that day, she wrote down everything Ali said she’d drawn on her flag, not wanting to forget. It sounded so glamorous and exactly right.
Then, in eighth grade, Hanna and Mona found a Time Capsule piece together. Hanna wanted to incorporate Ali’s elements into the design, but she was afraid Mona might ask her what they meant—she hated bringing up Ali to Mona, since Mona had been one of the girls Ali loved to tease. Hanna thought she was being a good friend—little did she know Mona was slowly masterminding a way to ruin Hanna’s life.
Naomi and Riley bounded over, both of them immediately noticing Hanna’s flag. Riley’s brown eyes boggled. She reached a pale, freckly arm out to touch the piece, but Hanna snapped it back, feeling protective. It would be just like one of these bitches to steal Hanna’s flag when she wasn’t looking. All of a sudden, she understood what Ali meant when she told Ian she was going to guard her piece with her life. And she understood, too, why Ali had been furious the day someone had stolen it from her.
Then again, Ali had been furious, but not exactly devastated. In fact, Ali had been more distracted that day than anything else. Hanna distinctly remembered how Ali kept looking over at the woods and her house, as if she thought someone was listening. Then, after whining about her missing piece for a while, Ali suddenly snapped back to her bitchy, frosty self, walking away from Hanna and the others without another word, like there was something more important on her mind than talking to four losers.
When it was clear Ali wasn’t coming back outside, Hanna had walked to the front yard and retrieved her bike. Ali’s street had seemed so pleasant. The Cavanaughs had a pretty red tree house in their side yard. Spencer’s family had a big windmill spinning at the back of the property. There was a house down the street that had a humungous six-car garage and a water fountain in the front yard. Later, Hanna would learn it was where Mona lived.
And then she’d heard an engine backfiring. A sleek, vintage black car with tinted windows chugged at Ali’s curb, as if waiting…or watching. Something about it made the hair on the back of Hanna’s neck stand up. Maybe that’s who stole Ali’s flag, she’d thought. Not that she ever found out for sure.
Hanna gazed at Naomi, who was adding Splenda to her mint tea. Naomi and Riley used to be Ali’s best friends in sixth grade, but right after Time Capsule started, Ali ditched them both. She never explained why. Maybe Naomi and Riley had been the ones who’d stolen Ali’s flag—maybe they’d been inside that black car Hanna had seen at the curb. And maybe that was why Ali dropped them—maybe Ali asked them for her flag back, and when they denied they’d taken it, she cut them off. But if that was what happened, why didn’t Naomi or Riley turn in the flag as their own? Why did the flag stay lost?
There was a commotion at the front of Steam, and the crowd parted. Eight Rosewood Day lacrosse boys strutted by in a cocky, confident herd. Mike Montgomery was wedged between Noel Kahn and James Freed.
Riley jostled Kate’s arm, making the gold bangle bracelets around Kate’s wrist jingle. “There he is.”
“You should totally go talk to him,” Naomi murmured, her blue eyes widening. At that, the three of them stood up and strolled over. Naomi ogled Noel. Riley tossed her long red hair at Mason. Now that lax boys were permitted, it was a free-for-all.
“Rosewood Day is really picky about people drawing inappropriate stuff on the Time Capsule flag,” Mike was saying to his friends. “But if the lax team found every single piece and made one huge inappropriate drawing—of like, a penis—Appleton wouldn’t be able to do a thing. He wouldn’t even know it was a penis until he unveiled the flag at the assembly.”
Noel Kahn slapped him on the back. “Nice. I can’t wait for the look on Appleton’s face.”
Mike pantomimed Principal Appleton, who was getting up there in years, shakily unfolding the reconstructed flag for the school to see. “Now, what’s this?” he said in a craggy old-man voice, holding an invisible magnifying glass to his eye. “Is this what you young whippersnappers call…a schlong?”
Kate burst out laughing. Hanna glanced at her, astonished. There was no way Kate could honestly think these cretins were funny. Mike noticed her laughing and smiled.
“That imitation of Appleton is perfect,” Kate cooed. Hanna clenched her jaw. As if Kate had even met Principal Appleton yet. She’d only been a Rosewood Day student for a week.
“Thanks,” Mike said, running his eyes up and down Kate’s body, from her boots to her slender legs to her Rosewood Day blazer, which fit Kate’s willowy frame perfectly. Hanna noted with annoyance that Mike didn’t look at her once. “I do a pretty good impression of Lance the shop teacher, too.”
“I’d love to hear it sometime,” Kate gushed.
Hanna gritted her teeth. That was it. There was no way her soon-to-be stepsister was snagging the guy who was supposed to worship her. She marched over to the boys, nudged Kate out of the way, and ran her fingers over the Time Capsule flag she had just found.
“I couldn’t help but overhear your brilliant idea,” Hanna said loudly, “but I’m sorry to say your schlong is going to be incomplete.” She waved her flag under Mike’s nose.
Mike’s eyes widened. He reached out for it, but Hanna yanked it away. Mike stuck out his bottom lip. “Come on. What’ll it take for you to give that piece to me?”
Hanna had to hand it to him—most sophomore guys were so nervous in Hanna’s presence, they started quivering and stuttering. She pressed the flag to her chest. “I’m not letting this baby out of my sight.”
“There’s gotta be something I can do for you,” Mike pleaded. “Your history homework? Hand-wash your bras? Fondle your nipples?”
Kate let out another girlish titter, trying to bring the attention back to her, but Hanna quickly grabbed Mike’s arm and pulled him back toward the condiments table, away from the crowd. “I can give you something way better than this flag,” she murmured.
“What?” Mike asked.
“Me, silly,” Hanna said flirtatiously. “Maybe you and I could go out sometime.”
“Okay,” Mike said to Hanna emphatically. “When?”
Hanna peeked over her shoulder. Kate’s mouth had dropped open. Ha, Hanna thought, feeling triumphant. That was easy.
“How about tomorrow?” she asked Mike.
“Hmm. My dad’s throwing his mistress a baby shower.” Mike stuffed his hands in his blazer pockets. Hanna flinched—Aria had told her about her dad running off with his student, but Hanna hadn’t been aware that they were talking about it so candidly. “I’d blow it off, but my dad would kill me.”
“Oh, but I love showers,” Hanna exclaimed, even though she sort of hated them.
“I love showers too—the kind I take with a couple of hot girls,” Mike said, winking.
Hanna fought the urge to roll her eyes. Seriously, what did Kate see in him? She peeked over Mike’s shoulder again. Now, Kate, Naomi, and Riley were whispering to Noel and Mason. They were probably just trying to act secretive to throw Hanna off—but she wasn’t falling for it.
“Anyway, if you really want to come, awesome,” Mike said, and Hanna turned back to him. “Give me your number and I’ll text you the deets. Oh, and you don’t have to bring a gift or anything. But if you do, Meredith’s really eco and shit. So, like, don’t get her disposable diapers. And don’t get her a breast pump—I already got that department covered.” He crossed his arms over his chest, as if terribly pleased with his idea.
“Got it,” Hanna said. Then, she stepped forward until she was just inches from Mike’s mouth. She could see flecks of gray in his blue eyes. He had that sweaty boy smell, probably from a morning gym class. Surprisingly, it was kind of hot. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she whispered, her lips touching his cheek.
“Definitely,” Mike breathed. He walked back to Noel and Mason, who were watching, and did that shoulder-punching thing all the lax boys loved.
Hanna dusted off her hands. Done and done. When she turned around, Kate was standing right behind her.
“Oh!” Hanna simpered. “Hi, Kate! Sorry, I had something I had to ask Mike.”
Kate crossed her arms over her chest. “Hanna! I told you I wanted to go for Mike.”
Hanna wanted to laugh at Kate’s wounded tone of voice. Had Little Miss Perfect never fought for a guy before? “Mmmm,” Hanna answered. “Seems like he likes me.”
Kate’s pale eyes darkened. A serene look came over her face. “Well, I guess we’ll have to see about that,” she said.
“I guess we will,” Hanna chirped, her voice ice.
They stared each other down. The song over Steam’s speakers changed from an emo-punk ballad to a throbbing, African dance beat. It reminded Hanna of a song a tribe might play before they went off to battle.