Page 20

 Sara Shepard

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She stared out the window at the small cubic lights over the Montgomerys’ front porch. It had been ages since she’d been to Aria’s house, and she’d forgotten how strange it was. The front of the house had just one window, positioned off-kilter above the stairwell. The back of the house, on the other hand, was nothing but windows, stretching from the first floor to the third. Once, when Hanna and the others were in Aria’s den watching a family of deer traipse through her backyard, Ali gazed at the huge windows and clucked her tongue. “Don’t you guys worry about people spying on you?” She gave Aria a nudge. “But then, I guess your parents don’t have any secrets they don’t want anyone to know about, huh?” Aria had blushed and left the room. Hanna hadn’t known why Aria had gotten so upset, but now she did—Ali had discovered that Aria’s dad was having an affair, and she was torturing Aria with the information, the same way she used to torture Hanna about binging and purging.
Such a bitch.
Mike appeared on the front porch. He wore dark jeans, a long wool coat with the collar turned up, and carried an enormous bouquet of roses. Hanna felt tingles in her stomach. Not that she was excited for this date or anything. It was simply nice to get flowers on such a gray winter day.
“Those are gorgeous,” she said as Mike opened the door. “You shouldn’t have.”
“Okay.” Mike pulled the flowers back to his chest, the cellophane crinkling. “I’ll give them to my other girlfriend.”
Hanna caught his arm. “Don’t you dare.” That definitely wasn’t funny, not after the stunt he’d pulled with Hanna and Kate at the baby shower yesterday. She drummed her fingers on the steering wheel of her Prius. “So. Where are we going?”
“The King James,” Mike quipped.
Hanna glanced at him warily. “No Rive Gauche.” With her luck, Lucas would be their waiter. Très awkward.
“I know,” Mike said. “We’re going shopping.”
Hanna wrinkled her nose. “Ha.”
“I’m serious.” Mike held up his hands. “I want you to shop all night. I know that’s what girls love to do, and I’m all about making you happy.”
His earnest expression didn’t waver. Hanna thrust the car into gear. “We’d better get there, then, before you change your mind.”
They took the back roads to the mall, Hanna slowing every time she saw a DEER CROSSING sign—they were relentless this time of year. Mike slipped a CD into the Prius’s stereo. A throbbing bass filled the car, then a singer’s screechy voice. Mike immediately started singing. Hanna recognized the song, and sang along quietly, too. Mike stared at her. “You know who this is?”
“It’s Led Zeppelin,” Hanna said matter-of-factly. Sean Ackard, Hanna’s ex-ex-boyfriend, had tried to get into the band last summer—it seemed to be a Rosewood Day soccer and lax boy thing—but he’d decided they were too dark and moody for his pure, virginal ears. Mike’s brow was furrowed with disbelief. “What, did you think I listened to Miley Cyrus?” she snapped. “The Jonas Brothers?” Actually, Kate listened to the Jonas Brothers. That and Broadway show tunes.
By the time they were pulling into the King James Mall, both were belting out the lyrics to “Dazed and Confused.” Mike knew every verse by heart and even did a dramatic air guitar solo, which made Hanna buckle over in laughter.
The mall parking lot was packed. A Home Depot was off to their left, the Bloomingdale’s doors in the middle, and the haute section—with stores like Louis Vuitton and Jimmy Choo—was on the right. As they stepped out into the crisp night air, Hanna heard someone grunt. A man stood next to a white car in the Home Depot lot, struggling to lift a heavy barrel of what looked like propane into the trunk of his car. When he moved out of the way, she noticed the writing on the car doors. Rosewood Police Department. The guy had an angular chin and a pointy nose. A shock of dark hair stuck out from the bottom of his black wool hat.
Hanna watched as he lifted the second tub of propane, struggling to fit it in the trunk next to the other one. Did his house not have a normal heater? She considered waving, but then turned away. Wilden had told the press that they’d made up seeing Ian’s body in the woods. He’d turned all of Rosewood against them. Asshole.
“Come on,” she said to Mike, giving Wilden one last look. He had shut the trunk and was now holding his cell phone to his ear, his posture rigid, his shoulders square. It reminded Hanna of a time a few months ago, back when Wilden and her mom had been dating. He’d spent the night, and early in the morning, Hanna had heard whispers in the hall. When she peeked out, she saw Wilden standing in front of the hall window, looking out into the yard, his body rigid and his voice hoarse and harsh. Who the hell was he talking to? Was he sleepwalking? Hanna had slunk back to bed before Wilden noticed her.
Really, what did Hanna’s mom ever see in that guy, anyway? Wilden was cute, but not that cute. When Hanna caught him getting out of the shower all those months ago, he didn’t even look that fabulous half-naked. Not that she was into him or anything, but Hanna had a feeling lacrosse-obsessed Mike would look way hotter.
Otter, Hanna’s favorite boutique, was tucked next to Cartier and Louis Vuitton. She strode in, inhaling the Ceylon-scented Diptyque candles. Fergie was on the stereo, and racks of Catherine Malandrino, Nanette Lepore, and Moschino spread out before her. She sighed, blissful. The leather jackets were glossy and lush. The silk dresses and diaphanous, oversize scarves looked spun from gold. Sasha, one of the salesgirls, noticed Hanna and waved. Hanna was one of Otter’s best customers.
Hanna immediately selected a few dresses, enjoying the noise the wooden hangers made when they clonked together. “Would you like me to put those in your dressing room?” said a fake high-pitched voice. Hanna turned. Mike was standing next to her. “I’ve already started a room for you with some of my favorite selections,” he added.
Hanna stepped back. “You picked things out for me?” This she had to see. She marched to the only dressing room that had its velvet curtain tied to the side. A few things hung on the knob next to the mirror. First was a pair of high-waisted, tight black leather pants. Then there was a slinky silver tunic with a deep V in the front and big, gaping side vents. Behind that were three string bikinis with Wonderbra tops and thong bottoms.
Hanna turned to Mike and rolled her eyes. “Nice try, but hell has to freeze over before you get me into any of that stuff.” She eyed the leather pants again. Interestingly, Mike thought she was a size zero.
Mike’s expression wilted. “You won’t even try on the bikinis?”
“Not for you,” Hanna teased. “You’ll have to use your imagination.” Whipping the curtain closed, she couldn’t help but smile. Mike deserved a few points for being so creative.
She put her plum-colored suede satchel on the little leather footstool and smoothed out her piece of the Time Capsule flag, which she’d wrapped around the strap. After some consideration, Hanna had decided to decorate the piece in homage to Ali, incorporating Ali’s original designs from sixth grade. The Chanel logo was next to the manga frog. A field hockey girl swatted a ball into the Louis Vuitton initials. Hanna was quite pleased with the end result.
Turning, she peeled off her sweater, unhooked her bra, and unzipped her pants and kicked them off. Just as she was reaching for the first dress, the dressing room curtain parted. Mike poked his head in.
Hanna let out a yelp and covered up her boobs. “What the hell?” she squealed.
“Oops!” Mike brayed. “Shit. Sorry, Hanna. I thought this was the bathroom. This place is like a maze!” His eyes landed on Hanna’s cleavage. Then they moved down to her skimpy lace underwear.
“Get out!” Hanna roared, giving Mike a kick with her bare foot. A few minutes later, she emerged from the dressing room, one of the dresses draped over her arm. Mike was perched on the chaise by the three-way mirrors. He looked like a naughty puppy who’d just chewed up his owner’s Ugg slippers. “Are you mad?” he asked.
“Yes,” Hanna said frostily. Truthfully, though, she wasn’t that bothered—it was kind of flattering that Mike was that eager to see Hanna’s body. But she did want to get revenge.
She paid for her dress, and Mike asked if she wanted to get some dinner. “Not Rive Gauche,” Hanna reminded him.
“I know, I know,” Mike said. “But there’s a place that’s even better.”
He led her to Year of the Rabbit, the Chinese place near Prada. Hanna wrinkled her nose. She could practically feel her butt expanding from simply being around the oil, fat, and sauce all Chinese restaurants seemed to use in their entrees.
Mike registered her look of disgust. “Don’t worry,” he assured her. “I got you covered.”
A bone-thin Asian woman with chopsticks in her bun led them to an intimate booth and poured them both cups of hot green tea. There was a gong in the corner and a large jade Buddha leering down at them from a high shelf. An elderly Chinese waiter appeared and handed them their menus. To Hanna’s astonishment, Mike mumbled a few words in Mandarin. He pointed at Hanna, and the waiter nodded and turned away. Mike sat back, smugly flicking the center of the gong with his thumb and forefinger.
Hanna gawked. “What the hell did you say?”
“I told him you were an underwear model and needed to keep your hot body in top shape, and we’d like to see the special healthy low-fat menu,” Mike explained nonchalantly. “They hate giving that menu to people. You have to know how to ask for it.”
“You know how to say underwear model in Chinese?” Hanna blurted.
Mike draped his arms over the back of the leather booth. “I picked up a thing or two during that boring-ass time I spent in Europe. The term underwear model is the first thing I learn in every language.”
Hanna shook her head, fascinated. “Wow.”
“So you don’t mind that the waiter thinks you’re an underwear model?” Mike asked.
Hanna shrugged. “Not really.” Underwear models were pretty, after all. And rail thin.
Mike brightened. “Sweet. I brought my last girlfriend here, but she didn’t find the whole special diet menu trick so funny. She thought I was objectifying her or some shit.”
Hanna took a slow sip of tea, unaware that Mike had had previous girlfriends. “Was this…a recent girlfriend?”
The waiter handed them their menus—the regular one for him, the diet one for Hanna. After he left, Mike nodded. “We just broke up. She kept bitching about how I was too concerned with being popular.”
“Lucas said that too,” Hanna squealed, before she could stop herself. “He didn’t like that I told everyone Kate had herpes.” She flinched, annoyed she’d said Kate’s name out loud—Mike would probably step in and defend her. But he just shrugged.
“I had to do it,” Hanna went on. “I thought she was going to…” She trailed off.