Page 6

 Sara Shepard

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Riley twirled a piece of coppery hair around her fingers. “But you can’t sneak wine here like you can at Rive Gauche.”
“Yes, but you can’t bring dogs to Rive Gauche,” Hanna said, cupping Dot’s little face in her hands. She gave him another tiny bite of Pinkberry.
Naomi took a bite of yogurt and immediately reapplied a coat of Guerlain KissKiss lipstick. “And the lighting in here is so…unflattering.” She peered into the round mirrors that lined Pinkberry’s walls. “I feel like my pores are magnified.”
Hanna slammed her Pinkberry cup on the table, making the little plastic spoon jump. “Okay, I didn’t want to resort to this, but before we broke up, Lucas told me that Rive Gauche has rats in the kitchen. Do you really want to hang out somewhere with a rodent problem? There could be rat poop in your frites.”
“Or do you not want to hang out there because of a Lucas problem?” Naomi snickered, tossing her pale blond hair over her bony shoulder. Kate giggled and raised the cup of mint tea she’d bought earlier at Starbucks in a toast. Who drank mint tea besides old ladies, anyway? Freak.
Hanna glowered at her quasi-stepsister’s turned head, unable to read her. Earlier the week before, Kate and Hanna had almost bonded, sharing some secrets over breakfast. Kate alluded that she had a “gynecological problem” but didn’t explain what it was, and Hanna confessed to bingeing and purging. But when A started hinting to Hanna that Kate was less of a new BFF and more of an evil stepsis, Hanna fretted that trusting Kate had been a huge mistake. So at the Rosewood Day benefit, Hanna blurted out to the entire school that Kate had herpes. If Hanna hadn’t, she was certain that Kate would have spilled Hanna’s secret instead.
Naomi and Riley had recognized the herpes incident as a big power play immediately, calling both Hanna and Kate this Sunday morning to see if they wanted to go to the King James like it never even happened. Kate seemed to brush it off, too, turning to Hanna in the car on the way to the mall and saying in a cool and unbothered voice, “Let’s just forget about last night, okay?”
Unfortunately, not everyone saw the herpes trick as the queen bee move it really was. Right after Hanna said it, Lucas, Hanna’s then-boyfriend, said it was over between them—he didn’t want to be with someone who was so obsessed with popularity. And when Hanna’s dad had found out, he mandated that Hanna must spend every spare minute with Kate so they could bond. So far, he was taking the punishment seriously. This morning, when Kate wanted to go to Wawa for a Diet Coke, Hanna went along. Then, when Hanna wanted to take a Bikram yoga class, Kate ran upstairs and changed into her Lululemon yoga capris. And this afternoon, the press had shown up to Hanna’s door to ask her questions about Ian breaking house arrest last week to meet with Spencer. “What were they talking about?” the reporters crowed. “Why didn’t you tell the police Ian had busted out?” “Are you girls keeping something from us?” As Hanna explained that she hadn’t known that Ian showed up on Spencer’s porch until long after Ian had escaped, Kate was right there at her side, applying a fresh coat of Smashbox lip gloss in case the reporters needed an extra Rosewood girl’s opinion. No matter that she’d only been a Rosewood girl for a week and a half. She’d moved into Hanna’s house after Hanna’s mother took a high-paying job in Singapore. Kate’s mother, Isabel, and Hanna’s father had moved into the house too, and the two planned to marry. Yecch.
Now, a pitying smile formed on Kate’s lips. “Do you want to talk about Lucas?” She touched Hanna’s hand.
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Hanna snapped, drawing her hand away. She wasn’t about to open up to Kate—that was so last week. She was sad about Lucas and had already started to miss him, but maybe they weren’t right for each other.
“But you seem pretty upset yourself, Kate,” Hanna shot back, matching Kate’s sweetie-pie voice. “You haven’t heard from Eric, huh? Poor thing. Are you heartbroken?”
Kate lowered her eyes. Eric Kahn, Noel’s hot older brother, was interested in Kate…well, he had been until the herpes remark, anyway.
“It’s probably for the best,” Hanna said airily. “I heard Eric’s a big player. And he only likes girls with big boobs.”
“Kate’s boobs are fine,” Riley jumped in quickly.
Naomi wrinkled her nose. “I never heard Eric was a player.”
Hanna balled up her napkin, annoyed that Naomi and Riley were so quick to jump to Kate’s defense. “You guys don’t have the same kind of inside info that I do, I guess.”
They all turned back to their Pinkberries, saying nothing. Suddenly, a flash of blond hair in the atrium caught Hanna’s eye, and she whirled around. A group of girls in their twenties passed, swinging Saks shopping bags. They were all brunettes.
Hanna had been seeing a lot of phantom flashes of blond hair lately, and was constantly haunted by the eerie feeling that it could be Mona Vanderwaal, her old best friend. Mona had died almost two months earlier, but Hanna still thought of her many times a day—all the sleepovers they’d had, all the shopping trips they’d gone on, all the drunken nights at Mona’s house, giggling over boys who had crushes on them. Now that Mona was gone, there was a huge hole in Hanna’s life. At the same time, she felt like an idiot. Mona hadn’t really been her friend—Mona had been A. She’d ruined Hanna’s relationships, aired her dirty laundry, and tortured her for months. And BFFs definitely didn’t hit BFFs with Daddy’s SUV.
After the shoppers passed, Hanna noticed a familiar dark-haired figure just outside Pinkberry, talking on a cell phone. She squinted. It was Officer Wilden.
“Just calm down,” Wilden murmured into the phone, his voice urgent and distressed. His brow furrowed as he listened to the person on the other end. “Okay, okay. Sit tight. I’ll be there soon.”
Hanna frowned. Had he found out something about Ian’s body? She also wanted to ask him about the spooky hooded figure she’d seen in the woods the night of the party. Whoever it was had loomed over Hanna so threateningly, and, after a moment, the person had raised a finger to his lips and whispered shhh. Why would someone shush Hanna unless he’d done something awful—and didn’t want to be seen? Hanna wondered if the person had something to do with Ian’s death. Maybe he was A too.
Hanna started to stand, but before she could push her chair away from the table, Wilden jogged off. She sank back into her seat, figuring he was just busy and flustered. Unlike Spencer, Hanna didn’t think Wilden was hiding anything. Wilden had dated Hanna’s mom before she moved to Singapore to take a new job, and Hanna felt that she knew Wilden a little more intimately than the others. Okay, so finding him fresh from her shower wrapped in her favorite Pottery Barn towel was more awkward than intimate, but he was essentially a good guy who was looking out for them, right? If he thought A was a copycat, maybe A really was. Why would he mislead them?
Still, Hanna wasn’t taking any chances. With that in mind, she pulled her brand-new iPhone out of its calf leather Dior case and turned back to the girls. “So. I changed cell numbers, but I’m not giving it out to just anyone. You guys have to promise not to pass it around. If you do, I’ll know.” She eyed them seriously.
“We promise,” Riley said, eagerly pulling out her BlackBerry. Hanna sent them each a text with her new number. Really, she should’ve thought about getting a new phone number much sooner—it was a perfect way to A-proof her life. Besides, getting rid of her old number was a way of freeing herself from everything that had happened last semester. Voilà! All those shitty memories were gone for good.
“So anyway,” Kate said loudly after the girls finished texting, bringing the attention back to herself. “Back to Eric. I’m over him. There are plenty of other cute guys right under our noses.”
She jutted her chin in the direction of the atrium. A group of Rosewood Day lacrosse players, including Noel Kahn, Mason Byers, and Aria’s younger brother, Mike, were lingering by the fountain. Mike was gesticulating wildly with his hands as he told a story. He was too far away for them to hear what he was saying, but the other lacrosse boys were hanging on his every word.
“Lax boys?” Hanna made a face. “Tell me you’re joking.” She and Mona once made a pact never to date anyone on the lacrosse team. They did everything together, from studying to working out at Philly Sports Club, the grimy gym at the back of the King James, to eating nasty Chick-fil-A. Hanna and Mona used to joke that they also secretly had group sleepovers and styled each other’s hair.
Kate took another sip of her mint tea. “Some of them are seriously hot.”
“Like who?” Hanna challenged.
Kate watched the boys as they passed M.A.C., David Yurman, and Lush, the store that sold a million different types of handmade candles and soaps. “Him.” She pointed at one of the boys on the end.
“Who, Noel?” Hanna shrugged. Noel Kahn was okay, if you liked rich boys who had no inner censor and were obsessed with jokes about testicles, third nipples, and animals having sex.
Kate chewed on the stirrer in her mint tea. “Not Noel. The other one. With the dark hair.”
Hanna blinked. “Mike?”
“He’s gorgeous, isn’t he?”
Hanna’s eyes boggled. Mike, gorgeous? He was loud and annoying and uncouth. Okay, so maybe he wasn’t a total dog—he had the same blue-black hair, lanky body, and ice blue eyes as Aria did. But…still.
Suddenly, a possessive feeling began to course through Hanna’s veins. The thing was, Mike had been following Hanna around like a lost puppy for years. One weekend in sixth grade when Hanna, Ali, and the others were sleeping over at Aria’s house, Hanna had gotten up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. In the dark hall, a pair of hands reached out and groped her boobs. Hanna yelped, and Mike, then in fifth grade, stepped back. “Sorry. I thought you were Ali,” he said. After a pause, he leaned in and kissed Hanna anyway. Hanna let him, secretly flattered—she was chubby, ugly, and lame back then, and it wasn’t like she had tons of guys fighting over her. Mike was technically her first kiss.
Hanna faced Kate. She felt like a pot bubbling over. “Hate to break it to you, sweetie, but Mike likes me. Haven’t you noticed the way he ogles me at Steam every morning?”
Kate ran her fingers through her chestnut hair. “I’m at Steam every morning, too, Han. It’s hard to know who he’s looking at.”
“It’s true,” Naomi interjected, brushing some wisps of her growing-out severe blond haircut. “Mike looks at all of us.”
“Yeah,” Riley said.
Hanna pressed her French-manicured nails into her thigh. What the hell was going on here? Why were those two so solidly on Team Kate? Hanna was the queen bee.
“We’ll just have to see about that,” Hanna said, puffing up her chest. Kate cocked her head, as if to say, Oh yeah?