“I’m sure you are.” Mona started digging through her purse and pulled out the camel-colored Miu Mius from Saks. They weren’t in their box, and the security tag had been ripped off them. She dangled them in front of Hanna’s face. “I was going to give these to you as a present. But forget it.”
Hanna’s mouth fell open. “But…”
“That thing with your dad happened three days ago, and you never told me about it,” Mona said. “And now you’re lying to me about what you’re doing after school.”
“It’s not like that at all…” Hanna stuttered.
“It looks that way to me.” Mona frowned. “What else are you lying about?”
“I’m sorry,” Hanna squeaked. “I just…” She looked down at her shoes and took a deep breath. “You want to know why I was at the Y? Fine. I went to Virginity Club.”
Mona’s eyes widened. Her cell phone rang in her bag, but she made no motion to get it. “Now I hope you’re lying.”
Hanna shook her head. She felt a little nauseated; Burberry smelled way too much like its new perfume.
“I want Sean back.”
Mona burst out laughing. “You told me you ended it with Sean at Noel’s party.”
Hanna glanced into Burberry’s window and nearly had a heart attack. Was her butt really that chunky? She suddenly had the same proportions as dorky, fat Hanna of the past. She gasped, looked away, and looked again. Normal Hanna stared back. “No,” she told Mona. “He ended it with me.”
Mona didn’t laugh, but she didn’t try to comfort Hanna, either. “Is that why you were at his dad’s clinic, too?”
“No,” Hanna said quickly, forgetting that she’d seen Mona there. Then, realizing that she might have to tell Mona the real reason, she backtracked. “Well, yeah. Sort of.”
Mona shrugged. “Well, I sort of heard Sean broke up with you from somewhere else, anyway.”
“What?” Hanna hissed. “From who?”
“Maybe in gym. I don’t remember.” Mona shrugged. “Maybe Sean started it.”
Hanna’s eyesight blurred. She doubted Sean had told…but maybe A had.
Mona considered her. “I thought you wanted to lose your virginity, not prolong it.”
“I just wanted to see what it was like,” Hanna said softly.
“And?” Mona pursed her lips mischievously. “Give me the dirt. I bet it was hilarious. What did you talk about? Did you chant? Sing? What?”
Hanna frowned and then turned away. Normally, she’d have told Mona everything. Except it stung that Mona was laughing at her, and she didn’t want to give her the satisfaction. Candace had so plaintively said, This is a safe space. Right now, Hanna didn’t feel she had the right to give up anyone’s secrets, not when it looked like A was giving up hers. And why, if Mona had heard a rumor about her, hadn’t she said anything? Weren’t they supposed to be best friends? “None of that, really,” she murmured. “It was pretty boring.”
Mona’s face had held a look of expectation; now it wilted in disappointment. She and Hanna stared at each other. Then Mona’s cell rang and she looked away.
“Celeste?” Mona said when she answered. “Hey!”
Hanna chewed nervously on her lips and looked at her Gucci bracelet watch. “I have to go,” she whispered to Mona, gesturing toward the mall’s east exit. “My dad…”
“Hold on,” Mona said into her phone. She covered the receiver with her hands, rolled her eyes at the Miu Miu shoes, and shoved them at Hanna. “Just take these. I actually kind of hate them.”
Hanna backed away, holding the stolen shoes by their straps. All of a sudden, she kind of hated them too.
NICE, NORMAL, FAMILY NIGHT AT THE MONTGOMERYS’
That night, Aria sat on her bed, knitting a stuffed owl out of mohair yarn. The owl was brown and boyish-looking; she’d started it the week before, thinking she would give it to Ezra. Now, that obviously wasn’t happening, so she wondered…maybe she’d give it to Sean? How weird was that?
Before Ali went missing, she kept trying to set Aria up with Rosewood boys, saying, “Just go over and talk to him. It’s not hard.” But for Aria, it was hard. She got around a Rosewood boy and froze, blurting out the first idiotic thing that came out of her mouth—which, for some reason, was often about math. And she hated math. By the time she’d finished seventh grade, only one guy had spoken to her outside of class: Toby Cavanaugh.
And that had been scary. It was just a few weeks before Ali went missing, and Aria had signed up for a weekend arts camp, and who should show up in her workshop but Toby. Aria was astounded—wasn’t he supposed to be in boarding school…forever? But apparently, his school broke for summer vacation earlier than Rosewood Day’s did, and there he was. He sat in the corner, hair over his face, snapping a rubber band against his wrist.
Their drama teacher, a wispy, frizzy-haired woman who wore a lot of tie-dye, made everyone do a drama exercise: They paired up and shouted a phrase to each other over and over, getting into a rhythm. The phrase was supposed to change organically. They had to go around the room, partnering with everyone, and Aria soon found herself in front of Toby. The phrase for that day was, It never snows in the summer.
“It never snows in the summer,” Toby said.
“It never snows in the summer,” Aria said back to him.
“It never snows in the summer,” Toby repeated. His eyes were sunken and his nails were bitten down to the quick. Aria felt twitchy standing this close to him. She couldn’t help thinking about Toby’s ghoulish face in Ali’s window just before they hurt Jenna. And how the paramedics pulled Jenna down the tree house ladder, nearly dropping her. And how, a few days later, when they were at the Firework Safety Benefit, she overheard her health teacher, Mrs. Iverson, say, “If I were that boy’s father, I wouldn’t just send him to boarding school. I’d send him to jail.”
And then the phrase did change. It became, I know what you did last summer. Toby was the one to say it first, but Aria shouted it back a few times before she realized what it really meant.
“Oh, like the movie!” the teacher cried, clapping her hands.
“Yep,” Toby said, and smiled at Aria. A real smile, too, not a sinister one, which made her feel worse. When she told Ali what had happened, Ali sighed. “Aria, Toby’s, like, mentally deranged. I heard he practically drowned up in Maine, swimming in a frozen creek, trying to take a picture of a moose.”
But Aria never went back to drama class.
She thought again about A’s Post-it. Wondering who I am? I’m closer than you think.
Could A be Toby? Had he sneaked into Rosewood Day and stuck that Post-it on Ali’s case? Had any of her friends seen it? Or perhaps A was in one of her classes. Her English class would make the most sense—the timing of most of her notes revolved around them. But who? Noel? James Freed? Hanna?
Aria paused on Hanna. She’d wondered about her before—Ali could have told Hanna about her parents. And Hanna was part of The Jenna Thing.
She flipped through the Rosewood Day facebook—the directory that had just come out today of all her classmates’ names and phone numbers—and found Sean’s picture. His hair was sportily short, and he was bronzed like he’d spent the summer on his dad’s yacht. The boys Aria dated in Iceland were pale and floppy-haired, and if they had boats, they were kayaks that they used to paddle to the Snaefellsjokull glacier.
She dialed Sean’s number but got his voice mail. “Hey, Sean,” she said, hoping her voice wasn’t too singsongish. “It’s Aria Montgomery. I, um, I was just calling to say hi, and, um, I have a philosopher recommendation for you. It’s Ayn Rand. She’s like, super-complex but really readable. Check it out.”
She gave him her cell number and IM screen name, hung up, and wanted to delete the message. Sean probably had tons of non-spastic Rosewood girls calling.
“Aria!” Ella called from the bottom of the stairs. “Dinner!”
She threw her phone on her bed and slowly walked downstairs. Her ears pricked up at a strange beeping noise coming from the kitchen. Was that…the oven timer? But that was impossible. Their kitchen was done in a retro-1950s style, and the stove was an authentic Magic Chef from 1956. Ella rarely used it because she was afraid it was so old, it might set the house on fire.
But to Aria’s surprise, Ella did have something in the oven, and her brother and father were at the table. This was the first time since the weekend that her whole family had been together. Mike had spent the past three nights at various lacrosse boys’ houses, and her dad, well, he’d been so busy “teaching.”
A roast chicken, a bowl of mashed potatoes, and a dish of green beans sat in the middle of the table. All the plates and utensils matched, and there were even place mats. Aria tensed. It seemed way too normal…especially for her family. Something must be wrong. Had someone died? Had A told?
But her parents seemed untroubled. Her mom pulled a tray of rolls from the oven—which, miraculously, wasn’t on fire—and her dad sat quietly, flipping the op-ed pages of the New York Times. He was always reading: at the table, at Mike’s sporting events, even while driving.
Aria turned to her dad, whom she’d hardly seen since Monday at the Victory bar. “Hey, Byron,” she said.
Her father gave Aria a genuine smile. “Hello, Monkey.” He sometimes called her Monkey; he used to call her Hairy Ape, too, until she told him to stop. He always looked like he’d just rolled out of bed: He wore holey, thrift-store T-shirts, Philadelphia 76ers boxers or plaid pajama pants, and old shearling-lined slippers. His dark brown bushy hair was always crazy messy, too. Aria thought he resembled a koala bear.
“And hey, Mike!” Aria said brightly, ruffling his hair.
Mike recoiled. “Don’t freaking touch me!”
“Mike,” Ella said, pointing at him with one of the chopsticks that usually secured the bun in her brownish-black hair.
“I was just being nice.” Aria stopped herself from shooting Mike a standard sarcastic retort. Instead, she sat down, unfolded her embroidered floral napkin onto her lap, and picked up a Bakelite-handled fork. “The chicken smells really good, Ella.”
Ella spooned potatoes onto everyone’s plates. “It was just one of those things from the deli counter.”
“Since when do you think chicken smells good?” Mike snarled. “You don’t eat it.”
That was true. Aria had been a vegetarian ever since her second week in Iceland, when Hallbjorn, her first boyfriend, bought her a snack from a food cart that she thought was a hot dog. It was to die for, but after she ate it, he told her it was puffin meat. Ever since then, whenever meat was in front of her, she always imagined a cute baby puffin’s face. “Well, still,” Aria said. “I do eat potatoes.” She shoved a steaming hot spoonful into her mouth. “And these are awesome.”