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One of these things doesn’t belong. Figure it out quickly…or else.—A
THAT MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOND
That same Wednesday evening, Spencer boarded the Amtrak Acela bullet train at the 30th Street Station, settled into a plushy seat by the window, adjusted the belt of her gray wool wrap dress, and brushed a piece of dried grass off the pointy toe of her Loeffler Randall boots. She’d spent over an hour choosing her outfit, and hoped the dress said young fashionista, serious young woman, and I’m an awesome bio-daughter, really! It was a hard balance to strike.
The conductor, a gray-haired, kindly looking man in a jaunty blue Amtrak uniform, examined her ticket. “Going to New York?”
“Uh-huh.” Spencer gulped.
“Business or pleasure?”
Spencer licked her lips. “I’m visiting my mom,” she blurted.
The conductor smiled. An older woman across the aisle clucked approvingly. Spencer hoped none of her mother’s friends or her father’s business associates were coincidentally on this train. It wasn’t like she wanted her parents to know what she was doing.
She’d tried to confront her family about being adopted one last time before she left. Her dad was working from home, and Spencer had stood in the doorway of his office, watching as he read the New York Times on his computer. When she cleared her throat, Mr. Hastings turned. His face softened. “Spencer?” he said, concern in his voice. It was as if he’d temporarily forgotten he was supposed to hate her.
Tons of words had welled in Spencer’s head. She wanted to ask her dad if any of this could be real. She wanted to ask him why he’d never told her. She wanted to ask him if this was why they treated her like shit a good deal of the time—because she wasn’t really theirs. But then she lost her nerve.
Now her cell phone beeped. Spencer pulled it out of the front pocket of her tote. It was from Andrew. Want to come over?
An Amtrak train going in the other direction thundered past. Spencer opened a reply text. Having dinner with my family, sorry, she typed back. It wasn’t a complete lie. She wanted to tell Andrew about Olivia, but she was afraid; if she told him, he’d be waiting in anticipation tonight, dying to know how her meeting had gone. But what if it went badly? What if Spencer and Olivia hated each other? She already felt vulnerable enough.
The train clickety-clacked on. A man in front of Spencer laid down a section of newspaper, and Spencer spied yet another story about Rosewood. Was Initial Investigation of DiLaurentis Disappearance Flawed? squawked a headline. Is the DiLaurentis Family Hiding Something? said another.
Spencer pulled her Eugenia Kim hand-knitted newsboy cap over her eyes and slumped lower in her seat. These crazy news stories were relentless. Still, what if the cops who’d initially investigated Ali’s disappearance over three years ago did miss something huge? She thought of Ian’s IMs. They found out I knew. Do you see why I had to run? They hated me. You know that.
It was puzzling. First, Ian assumed he was IMing Melissa, not Spencer. So did Melissa know who hated Ian…and why? Had Ian shared his suspicions about Ali’s murder with her? But if Melissa knew an alternate story about what happened to Ali the night she died, why hadn’t she come forward with it?
Unless…someone was scaring Melissa into silence. Spencer had called her sister repeatedly over the past forty-eight hours, eager to ask Melissa if there was anything more that she knew. But Melissa hadn’t returned any of her calls.
The door that connected two train cars clattered open, and a woman in a navy business suit teetered down the aisle, carrying a cardboard container of burnt-smelling coffees and bottled waters. Spencer leaned her head against the window, watching the bare trees and weathered telephone poles slide by. And what did Ian mean when he wrote they hated me? Did it have anything to do with the picture message Emily had forwarded to Spencer about a half hour ago, the old photo of Ali, a partially concealed Naomi Zeigler, and Jenna Cavanaugh in Ali’s yard? A’s accompanying text implied that the photo was a clue…but to what? Okay, it was weird that Ali was hanging out with dorky Jenna Cavanaugh, but Jenna herself had told Aria that she and Ali were covert friends. And what did that have to do with Ian?
Only one incident of anyone hating Ian stuck out in Spencer’s mind. When Spencer and the others sneaked into Ali’s backyard to steal her Time Capsule piece, Jason DiLaurentis had stormed out of the house and frozen in the middle of the yard, glaring at Melissa and Ian, who were sitting at the edge of the hot tub. They’d just started dating—Spencer remembered how Melissa had agonized over choosing the perfect first-day-of-school bag and shoes a few days before, eager to impress her new boyfriend. After Ali ditched them and Spencer returned home, she heard the new couple whispering in the living room. “He’ll get over it,” Melissa was saying. “It’s not him I’m worried about,” Ian answered. Then he mumbled something Spencer didn’t catch.
Were they talking about Jason…or someone else? From what Spencer understood, Jason and Melissa weren’t really friends. They had some classes together—sometimes when Melissa was sick, Spencer had to go next door and collect her class assignments from Jason—but Jason was never part of the big clique that rented stretch Hummer limos for school formals or spent spring breaks in Cannes, Cabo San Lucas, or Martha’s Vineyard. Jason ran around with some of the other soccer boys—they were famous for making up the “Not It” game that Ali, Spencer, and the others played—but Ali’s brother also seemed to need a lot of personal space. Half the time, Jason didn’t even hang out with his family. The Hastings and the DiLaurentis families were both members of the Rosewood Country Club, and both faithfully attended the weekly Sunday jazz brunches…except for Jason, who faithfully didn’t. Spencer recalled Ali mentioning that their parents let Jason go to their lake house in the Pocono Mountains alone on the weekends; was that where he was all those Sundays? Whatever the answer, the DiLaurentises didn’t even seem to mind he was gone, going on about their brunch happily, savoring their eggs Benedict, drinking mimosas, and doting on Ali. It was almost as if they only had one child, not two.
Spencer shut her eyes, listening as the train blew its whistle. She was so tired of thinking about this. Maybe the farther away she got from Rosewood, the less everything would matter.
After a while, the train slowed. “Penn Station,” the conductor called. Spencer grabbed her purse and stood, her knees quivering. This was really happening. She followed the line of passengers down the narrow aisle, onto the platform, and up the escalator to the main hall.
The station smelled like soft pretzels, beer, and perfume. An anonymous announcer blared over the PA system that the train to Boston had pulled into gate 14 East. A crush of people ran for 14 East at the same time, nearly knocking Spencer over. She looked around fretfully. How could she find Olivia in this crowd? How would Olivia know it was her? What on earth were they going to say to each other?
Somewhere in the throng of people, Spencer heard a familiar, high-pitched giggle. And then she considered the worst of the possibilities: What if Olivia didn’t exist? What if this was some cruel joke orchestrated by A?
“Spencer?” cried a voice.
Spencer whirled around. A young blond woman in a gray J. Crew cashmere sweater and brown riding boots was walking toward her. She carried a petite snakeskin clutch and a large accordion folder stuffed with papers.
When Spencer raised her hand, the woman grinned. Spencer’s heart stopped. The woman had the same broad smile Spencer saw whenever she looked in a mirror.
“I’m Olivia,” the woman announced, taking Spencer’s hands. Even her fingers were similar to Spencer’s, small and slender. And Olivia had her same green eyes and a familiar clear, mid-range voice. “I knew it was you as soon as you stepped off the train. I just knew it.”
Spencer’s eyes filled with giddy tears. Just like that, her fears began to melt away. Something about this seemed so…right.
“Come on.” Olivia pulled Spencer toward one of the exits, skirting a bunch of NYPD officers and a drug-sniffing dog. “I have lots of things planned for us.”
Spencer beamed. It suddenly felt like her life was beginning.
It was an unusually warm January night, and the streets teemed with people. They took a cab to the West Village, where Olivia had just moved, and stopped into Diane von Furstenberg, one of Olivia’s—and Spencer’s—favorite stores. As they sifted through the racks, Spencer learned that Olivia was an art director at a new magazine dedicated to New York City nightlife. She was born and raised in New York City, and had gone to school at NYU.
“I’m going to apply to NYU,” Spencer chirped. Admittedly, it was her safety school—or it had been, back when she was first in the class.
“I loved it there,” Olivia gushed. Then, she let out a small ooh of delight and pulled out a sage green sweaterdress. Spencer laughed—she’d just selected the same thing. Olivia blushed. “I always pick things that are this color green,” she admitted.
“Because it matches our eyes,” Spencer concluded.
“Exactly.” Olivia gazed at Spencer gratefully. Her expression seemed to say, I’m so glad I found you.
After shopping, they strolled slowly up Fifth Avenue. Olivia told Spencer that she’d recently married a wealthy man named Morgan Frick in a private ceremony in the Hamptons. “We’re leaving for a honeymoon to Paris tonight, in fact,” she said. “I have to catch a helicopter to his plane later. It’s at a private airport in Connecticut.”
“Tonight?” Spencer stopped, surprised. “Where’s your luggage?”
“Morgan’s driver is bringing it to the airport,” Olivia explained.
Spencer nodded, impressed. Morgan must be loaded if he had a driver and a private plane.
“That’s why it was so important that we meet today,” Olivia went on. “I’m going away for two weeks, and I couldn’t stand the idea of putting it off until I got back.”
Spencer nodded. She wasn’t sure if she would’ve been able to bear the suspense for two extra weeks either.
The accordion file under Olivia’s arm started to slip, and she stuck out her hip to catch it from spilling to the sidewalk. “Do you want me to take that for you?” Spencer asked. The folder would fit easily into Spencer’s oversize tote.
“Would you?” Olivia pushed it toward her gratefully. “Thanks. It’s driving me nuts. Morgan wanted me to bring the information about our new apartment so he could look it over.”
They turned down a side street, passing a row of beautiful brownstones. The parlor levels were lit up in golden light, and Spencer locked eyes with a big calico cat lazing in one of the front bay windows. She and Olivia fell silent, the only sound their clicking heels on the sidewalk. Gaps in conversation always made Spencer uneasy—she always worried that the awkwardness was some fault of hers—so she started to babble about her accomplishments. She’d scored a total of twelve goals this hockey season. She’d gotten the lead role in every school play since seventh grade. “And I have A’s in almost all my classes,” she boasted, and then realized her mistake. She winced and braced herself, certain of what was coming.