Perfect Page 34


’’Okay,’’ Spencer croaked. ’’Where?’’

’’At the Rosewood Day Elementary swings. Our place. Get there as fast as you can.’’

Spencer looked around. She could hoist up her window and shimmy down the face of her house it would be practically as easy as climbing the rock wall at her gym.

’’All right,’’ she whispered. ’’I\'ll be right there.’’

36

IT WILL ALL BE OVER

Hanna\'s hands were shaking so badly, she could barely drive. The road to the Rosewood Day Elementary School swings seemed darker and spookier than usual. She swerved, thinking she saw something darting out in front of her car, but when she glanced in her rearview mirror, there was nothing. Barely any cars passed her going the other direction, but all of a sudden, as she was cresting a hill not far from Rosewood Day, a car pulled out behind her. Its headlights felt hot against the back of Hanna\'s head.

Calm down, she thought. It\'s not following you.

Her brain whirled. She knew who A was. But...how? How was it possible that A knew so much about Hanna...things A couldn\'t possibly know? Perhaps the text had been a mistake. Perhaps A had gotten hold of someone else\'s cell phone to throw Hanna off the trail.

Hanna was too shocked to think about it carefully. The only thought that cycled in a continuous loop in her brain was: This makes no sense. This makes no sense.

She glanced in her rearview mirror. The car was still there. She took a deep breath and eyed her phone, considering calling someone. Officer Wilden? Would he come down here on such short notice? He was a cop he\'d have to. She reached for her phone, when the car behind her flashed its brights. Should she pull over? Should she stop?

Hanna\'s finger was poised over her cell, ready to dial 911. And then, suddenly, the car veered around Hanna and passed her on the left. It was a nondescript car maybe a Toyota and Hanna couldn\'t see the driver inside. The car moved back into her lane, then sped off into the distance. Within seconds, its taillights vanished.

The Rosewood Day Elementary playground\'s parking lot was wide and deep, separated by a bunch of little landscaped islands, which were full of nearly bare trees, spiny grass, and piles of crisp leaves that gave off that signature leaf-pile smell. Beyond the lot were the jungle gym and climbing dome. They were illuminated by a single fluorescent light, which made them look like skeletons. Hanna slid into a space at the southeast corner of the lot it was the closest to the park information booth and a police call box. Just being near something that said Police made her feel better. The others weren\'t here yet, so she watched the entrance for any cars.

It was nearly 3 A.M. Hanna shivered in Lucas\'s sweatshirt. She felt goose bumps form on her bare legs. She\'d read once that at 3 A.M., people were in their deepest stages of REM sleep it was the closest they would come every day to being dead. Which meant that right now, she couldn\'t rely on too many of Rosewood\'s inhabitants to help her. They were all corpses. And it was so quiet, she could hear the car\'s engine winding down and her slow, please-stay-calm breathing. Hanna opened her car door and stood outside it on the yellow line that marked her parking space. It was like her magic circle. Inside it, she was safe.

They\'ll be here soon, she told herself. In a few minutes, this would all be over. Not that Hanna had any idea what was going to happen. She wasn\'t sure. She hadn\'t thought that far ahead.

A light appeared at the school\'s entrance and Hanna\'s heart lifted. An SUV\'s headlights slid across the trees and turned slowly into the parking lot. Hanna squinted. Was that them? ’’Hello?’’ she called softly.

The SUV hugged the north end of the parking lot, passing the high school art building and the student lot and the hockey fields. Hanna started waving her arms. It had to be Emily and Aria. But the car\'s windows were tinted.

’’Hello?’’ she yelled again. She got no answer. Then she saw another car turn into the lot and drive slowly toward her. Aria\'s head was hanging out the passenger window. Sweet, refreshing relief flooded Hanna\'s body. She waved and started toward them. First she walked, then she jogged. Then sprinted.

She was in the middle of the lot when Aria called, ’’Hanna, look out!’’ Hanna turned her head to the left and her mouth fell open, at first not understanding. The SUV was headed straight for her.

The tires squealed. She smelled burnt rubber. Hanna froze, not sure what to do. ’’Wait!’’ she heard herself say, staring into the SUV\'s tinted window. The car kept coming, faster and faster. Move, she told her limbs, but they seemed hardened and dried out, like cacti.

’’Hanna!’’ Emily cried. ’’Oh my God!’’

It only took a second. Hanna didn\'t even realize she\'d been hit until she was in the air, and she didn\'t realize she was in the air until she was on the pavement. Something in her cracked. And then pain. She wanted to cry out, but she couldn\'t. Sound was amplified the car\'s engine roared, her friends\' screams were like sirens, even her heart pumping blood sounded wet in her ears.

Hanna rolled her neck to the side. Her tiny, champagne-colored clutch had landed a few feet away;its contents had sprung out like candy from a burst piñata. The car had run over everything, too: Her mascara, her car keys, her mini bottle of Chloéperfume. Her new BlackBerry was crushed.

’’Hanna!’’ Aria screamed. It sounded like she was coming closer. But Hanna wasn\'t able to turn her head to look. And then it all faded away.

37

IT WAS NECESSARY

’’Oh my God!’’ Aria screamed. She and Emily crouched down at Hanna\'s contorted body and started yelling.

’’Hanna! Oh my God! Hanna!’’

’’She\'s not breathing,’’ Emily wailed. ’’Aria, she\'s not breathing!’’

’’Do you have your cell?’’ Aria asked. ’’Call 911.’’

Emily reached shakily for her phone, but it slid out of her hands and skidded across the parking lot, coming to a stop by Hanna\'s exploded evening bag. Emily had begun panicking when she picked Aria up and Aria told her everything about A\'s cryptic notes, about her dreams, about Ali and Ian, and about how Spencer must have killed Ali.

At first, Emily had refused to believe it, but then a look of horror and realization washed over her. She explained that not long before Ali went missing, Ali had confessed that she was seeing someone.

’’And she must have told Spencer,’’ Aria had answered. ’’Maybe that\'s what they\'d been fighting about all those months before the end of school.’’

’’911, what\'s your emergency?’’ Aria heard a voice say on Emily\'s speakerphone.

’’A car just hit my friend!’’ Emily wailed. ’’I\'m in the Rosewood Day School parking lot! We don\'t know what to do!’’

As Emily cried out the details, Aria put her mouth against Hanna\'s lips and tried to give her mouth-to-mouth like she\'d learned in lifeguarding class in Iceland. But she didn\'t know if she was doing it correctly. ’’C\'mon, Hanna, breathe,’’ she wailed, pinching Hanna\'s nose.

’’Just stay on the line until the ambulance gets there,’’ Aria could hear the 911 dispatcher\'s voice say through Emily\'s phone. Emily leaned down and reached out to touch Hanna\'s faded Rosewood Day sweatshirt. Then she pulled back, as if she was afraid. ’’Oh my God, please don\'t die....’’ She glanced at Aria. ’’Who could have done this?’’

Aria looked around. The swings swayed back and forth in the breeze. The flags on the flagpole fluttered. The woods adjacent to the playground were black and thick. Suddenly, Aria saw a figure standing next to one of the trees. She had dirty blond hair and wore a short black dress. Something in her face looked wild and unhinged. She was staring right at Aria, and Aria took a step back across the pavement. Spencer.

’’Look!’’ Aria hissed, pointing to the trees. But just as Emily raised her head, Spencer disappeared into the shadows.

The buzzing startled her. It took Aria a moment to realize it was her cell phone. Then Emily\'s Call Waiting lit up. One new text message, Emily\'s screen said. Aria and Emily exchanged a familiar, uneasy look. Slowly, Aria brought her Treo out of her bag and looked at the screen. Emily leaned over to look, too.

’’Oh no,’’ Emily whispered.

The wind abruptly stopped. The trees stood still like statues. Sirens wailed in the distance.

’’Please, no,’’ Emily wailed. The text was only four chilling words long.

She knew too much.

A


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