Unbelievable Page 38


But Kate would be the new girl. And Hanna...Hanna would be the popular girl.

’’Um, okay. I\'ll think about it.’’ Hanna stood up from the table, scooped up her bag, and walked to the downstairs powder room. Truthfully, she felt kind of...pumped. Maybe this would be awesome. She had the advantage. Over the next few weeks, she would have to make sure that she was the most popular girl in school. With Mona gone, it would be easy.

Hanna felt around in her purse\'s silk-lined pocket. Inside, two BlackBerries were nestled side by side hers and Mona\'s. She knew the cops were looking for Mona\'s second phone, but she couldn\'t hand it over yet. She had one thing to do first.

She took a deep breath, pulled out the phone in the tan suede holder, and pressed the ON button. The device sprang to life. There was no greeting, no personalized wallpaper. Mona had used this phone strictly for business.

Mona had saved every text message she\'d sent to them, each note with a crisp, singular letter A. Hanna scrolled slowly through each of hers, chewing feverishly on her bottom lip. There was the first one she\'d ever received, when she was at the police station for stealing the Tiffany bracelet and necklace Hey, Hanna, since prison food makes you fat, you know what Sean\'s gonna say? Not it! And there was the last text Mona had sent from this phone, which included the chilling lines, And Mona? She\'s not your friend, either. So watch your back.

The only one of Hanna\'s texts that hadn\'t been sent from this phone was the one that said, Don\'t believe everything you hear. Mona had accidentally sent that text from her regular phone. Hanna shivered. She\'d just gotten a new phone that night and hadn\'t programmed everyone\'s numbers in yet. Mona had messed up, and Hanna had recognized her number. If she hadn\'t, who knew how long this would have gone on.

Hanna squeezed Mona\'s BlackBerry, wanting to crush it flat. Why? she wanted to scream. She knew she should despise Mona right now the cops had found the SUV Mona used to hit Hanna stashed in the Vanderwaals\' detached garage. The car had a tarp over it, but the front fender was bashed in, and blood Hanna\'s blood was spattered on the headlights.

But Hanna couldn\'t hate her. She just couldn\'t. If only she could erase every good memory she had of Mona instead their shopping sprees, their triumphant popularity coups, their Frenniversaries. Who would she consult in a wardrobe crisis? Who would she go shopping with? Who would fake-friend for her?

She pressed the bathroom\'s peppermint-scented guest soap to her nose, willing herself not to cry and smear all her carefully applied makeup. After she took a few cleansing, calming breaths, Hanna looked at Mona\'s sent-message box again. She highlighted each of the texts Mona had sent to her as A, and then hit DELETE ALL. Are you sure you want to delete? a screen asked. Hanna clicked YES. A garbage can lid opened and closed. If she couldn\'t delete their friendship, at least she could delete her secrets.

Wilden stood waiting in the foyer he had offered to drive Hanna to the arraignment. Hanna noticed that his eyes were heavy and his mouth turned down. She wondered if he was exhausted from the weekend\'s activity, or if her mom had just told him about her Singapore job too. ’’Ready?’’ he asked Hanna quietly.

Hanna nodded. ’’But hang on.’’ She reached into her bag and held out Mona\'s BlackBerry. ’’Present for you.’’

Wilden took it from her, confused. Hanna didn\'t bother to explain. He was a cop. He\'d figure it out soon enough.

Wilden opened the squad car\'s passenger side and Hanna slipped in. Before they drove away, Hanna rolled back her shoulders, took a deep breath, and checked out her reflection in the visor mirror. Her dark eyes shone, her auburn hair was full of body, and the creamy foundation was still covering all of her bruises. Her face was thin, her teeth were straight, and she didn\'t have a single zit. The ugly, chubby seventh-grade Hanna who had haunted her reflection for weeks now was banished forever. Starting now.

She was Hanna Marin, after all. And she was fabulous.

42

DREAMS-AND NIGHTMARES-CAN COME TRUE

Tuesday morning, Emily scratched at the back of the polka-dotted cap-sleeve dress she\'d borrowed from Hanna, wishing she could\'ve just worn pants. Next to her, Hanna was all dolled up in a red retro swing dress, and Spencer wore a sleek, savvy pin-striped suit. Aria was wearing one of her usual layered getups a short-sleeved black bubble dress over a green thermal shirt, with thick white cable-knit tights and chic ankle boots that she said she\'d bought in Spain. They all stood outside in the cold morning air in an empty lot next to the courthouse, away from the media flurry on the grand front steps.

’’Are we ready?’’ Spencer asked, gazing around at everyone.

’’Ready,’’ Emily chanted along with the others. Slowly, Spencer stretched out a large Hefty trash bag, and the girls dropped things in, one by one. Aria threw in a Snow White Wicked Queen doll with X\'s over her eyes. Hanna tossed in a crumpled-up piece of paper that said, Feel sorry for me. Spencer threw in the photo of Ali and Ian. They took turns pitching in all the physical things A had sent them. Their first instinct had been to burn it all, but Wilden needed it as evidence.

When it was Emily\'s final turn, she stared down at the last thing she held in her hands. It was the letter she had written to Ali not long after she\'d kissed her in the tree house, not long before she died. In it, Emily had professed her undying love for Ali, pouring out every possible shred of emotion that existed in her body. A had written over some of the words, Thought you might want this back. Love, A.

’’I kind of want to keep this,’’ Emily said softly, folding up the letter. The others nodded. Emily wasn\'t certain that they knew what it was, but she was pretty sure they had a good idea. She let out a long, tortured sigh. All this time, a little light had been burning inside of her. She had hoped that somehow, A was Ali, and that Ali somehow wasn\'t dead. She knew she wasn\'t being rational, she knew Ali\'s body had been found in the DiLaurentises\' backyard along with her one-of-a-kind Tiffany initial ring on her finger. Emily knew she had to let Ali go...but as she curled her hands around her love note, she wished she didn\'t have to.

’’We should go in.’’ Spencer tossed the bag in her Mercedes, and Emily followed her and the others through one of the courthouse\'s side doors. As they entered the wood-paneled, high-ceilinged courtroom, Emily\'s stomach flipped. All of Rosewood was here her peers and teachers, her swim coach, Jenna Cavanaugh and her parents, all of Ali\'s old hockey friends and they were all staring. The only person Emily didn\'t immediately see was Maya. In fact, she hadn\'t heard a word from Maya since Hanna\'s party on Friday night.

Emily put her head down as Wilden emerged from a group of police officers and led them to an empty bench. The air was taut with tension and smelled like various expensive colognes and perfumes. After a few more minutes, the doors slammed shut. Then the room fell into dead silence as the bailiffs brought Ian down the center aisle. Emily clasped Aria\'s hand. Hanna put her arm around Spencer. Ian wore an orange prison jumpsuit. His hair was uncombed and there were enormous purple circles under his eyes.

Ian walked up to the bench. The judge, a stern, balding man who wore an enormous class ring, glowered at him. ’’Mr. Thomas, how do you wish to plead?’’

’’Not guilty,’’ Ian said in a very small voice.

A murmur went through the crowd. Emily bit down on the inside of her cheek. As she shut her eyes, she saw the horrible images again this time with a new killer, a killer that made sense: Ian. Emily remembered seeing Ian that summer when she was Spencer\'s guest at the Rosewood Country Club, where Ian used to lifeguard. He\'d sat atop his lifeguard stand, twirling his whistle like he didn\'t have a care in the world.

The judge leaned over his high perch and glared at Ian. ’’Because of the seriousness of this crime, and because we have deemed you a flight risk, you are to remain in jail until your pretrial hearing, Mr. Thomas.’’ He banged his gavel and then folded his hands. Ian\'s head slumped down, and his attorney patted him comfortingly on the shoulder. Within seconds, he was marching out again, his hands cuffed. It was all over.

The members of the Rosewood community rose to leave. Then Emily noticed a family down front that she hadn\'t seen earlier. The bailiffs and cameras had blocked them. She recognized Mrs. DiLaurentis\'s short, chic haircut and Mr. DiLaurentis\'s handsome, aging leading-man looks. Jason DiLaurentis stood next to them, dressed in a crisp black suit and a dark checked tie. As the family embraced, they all looked incredibly relieved...and maybe the slightest bit repentant, too. Emily thought about what Jason had said on the news: I don\'t talk to my family much. They\'re too messed up. Maybe they all felt guilty for going so long without speaking. Or maybe Emily was just imagining things.

Everyone lingered outside the courthouse. The weather was nothing like that sublime, cloudless fall day of Ali\'s memorial service just weeks earlier. Today, the sky was blurred with dark clouds, making the whole world dull and shadowless. Emily felt a hand on her arm. Spencer wrapped her arms around Emily\'s shoulders.

’’It\'s all over,’’ Spencer whispered.

’’I know,’’ Emily said, hugging back.

The other girls joined in on the hug. Out of the corner of her eye, Emily saw a camera flash. She could already imagine the newspaper caption: Alison\'s Friends Distraught but at Peace. At that moment, a black Lincoln idling near the curb caught her eye. A chauffeur sat in the passenger seat, waiting. The tinted back window was rolled down the tiniest crack, and Emily saw a pair of eyes staring straight at her. Emily\'s mouth fell open. She\'d only seen blue eyes like that one other time in her life.

’’Guys,’’ she whispered, clamping down hard on Spencer\'s arm.

The others broke out of their hug. ’’What?’’ Spencer asked, concerned.

Emily pointed to the sedan. The back window was now closed, and the chauffeur was shifting the car into gear. ’’I swear I just saw...’’ she stammered, but then paused. They\'d think she was crazy fantasizing that Ali was alive was just another way to cope with her death. Emily swallowed hard, standing up straighter. ’’Never mind,’’ she said.

The girls turned away, drifting back to their own families, promising to call one another later. But Emily remained where she was, her heart pounding as the sedan pulled away from the curb. She watched as it cruised down the street, turned right at the light, and disappeared. Her blood chilled. It couldn\'t have been her, she told herself.

Could it have?


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