Home > Wanted (Pretty Little Liars #8)(12)

Wanted (Pretty Little Liars #8)(12)
Author: Sara Shepard

Pushing past a knot of nerdy freshman girls watching a rerun of Glee on an iPhone, Hanna kicked open the front door and strutted inside. It looked like a Hallmark factory had thrown up in the lobby. The walls were slathered with white paper cupids, red heart-shaped streamers, and gold foil bunting. Next to the auditorium doors were giant candy-heart fixtures the school put up every year. FIND LOVE, said the first heart in wedding invitation–style calligraphy. AT THE VALENTINE’S BALL, said the second heart. THIS SATURDAY, said the final one. There were little bite marks in the corner of the last heart, probably from a rodent that had gotten into the storage closet where the hearts were kept for the rest of the year. Details about the dance were on pink flyers in a big woven basket, including the mandate that in honor of Valentine’s Day, everyone must wear something red, pink, or white—even the boys. Because of the recent tragedy, ticket proceeds would go toward the newly established Jenna Cavanaugh fund, which would sponsor the training of Seeing Eye dogs. Interestingly, all traces of the Jenna Shrine that had been in the lobby yesterday had vanished. Either the Rosewood Day staff had gotten too many complaints of how depressing and disturbing it was, or now that Courtney was here, Jenna’s death was yesterday’s news.

A fit of giggles arose from Steam. Hanna turned and saw Naomi, Riley, and Kate sitting at one of the tile-topped café tables, nursing aromatic mugs of herbal tea and picking at warm cranberry-bran scones. There was a fourth girl there, too, with a heart-shaped face and huge blue eyes.

The milk steamer on the espresso machine hissed, and Hanna jumped. She felt transported back to sixth grade, when Naomi, Riley, and Ali had been joined at the hip. Of course it wasn’t Ali sitting shoulder to shoulder with Naomi and Riley, looking as though they’d been friends forever. It was Courtney.

Hanna walked over, but just as she was about to sit in the only empty chair at the table, Naomi plunked her enormous Hermès bag on the seat. Riley piled her green Kate Spade on next, and then Kate flung her studded Foley + Corinna hobo on top. The bags teetered like a Jenga tower. Courtney pressed her cranberry-colored tote to her chest, looking conflicted.

“Sorry, Psycho,” Naomi said icily. “That seat’s taken.”

“I’m not psycho.” Hanna narrowed her eyes. Courtney shifted in her seat, and Hanna wondered if the word psycho made her uncomfortable. She’d been in those hospitals, too.

“If you’re not psycho,” Kate teased, “then why did I hear you screaming in your sleep last night?”

The girls tittered. Hanna bit down hard on the inside of her cheek. If only she could somehow record this on her phone and show it to her father. Then again, would he even care? After the press conference, she’d waited for him to knock on her bedroom door to discuss what had happened. It used to be their regular thing—they’d talked for hours when Hanna didn’t make junior cheerleading, when she worried that Sean Ackard would never like her, and when he and Hanna’s mom decided to get a divorce. The knock never came, though. Mr. Marin had spent the evening in his office, seemingly unaware that Hanna was in major distress.

“Why don’t you sit with Skidz?” Riley teased. The other girls cackled. “He’s been waiting for you!” She pointed across the room.

Hanna followed Riley’s bony, witchlike finger. Mike was slumped at a back table right next to the bathroom, slurping from a tall paper cup of coffee and staring at a piece of paper. He looked like the only puppy at the pound who hadn’t found an owner. Hanna’s heart twisted. He’d sent Hanna a bunch of texts the previous night; she’d meant to write back, but she hadn’t gotten around to it. She wasn’t sure what to say. It didn’t matter that the underwear in the photo wasn’t his—everyone believed it was, just like everyone believed she was psycho. And nicknames stuck at Rosewood Day. In seventh grade, Ali had dubbed Peter Grayson “Potato” because he was shaped like Mr. Potato Head, and kids still called him that today.

Mike looked up and noticed her. His face brightened and he waved a pink flyer. On it were the words ROSEWOOD DAY VALENTINE’S DANCE.

She wanted to move closer to Mike’s table, but if she sat with Mike—and especially if she agreed to go with him to the Valentine’s Day dance—she’d be Psycho forever. Her little trip to the Preserve wouldn’t be an unfortunate faux pas but a defining moment in her high school career. She wouldn’t be on the A-list for house parties or picked for the prom committee—the only committee at Rosewood Day worth vying for. She wouldn’t go with the right people to Jamaica or St. Lucia for spring break, which meant she wouldn’t have a spot in the beach house in Miami during Junior Week in June. Sasha at Otter would stop holding clothes for her, Uri wouldn’t be able to squeeze her in for last-minute highlights and blow-dries, and she’d transform back into dorky loser Hanna overnight—the weight would pile back on, Dr. Huston would put braces back on her teeth, and the LASIK eye surgery would suddenly stop working and she’d be stuck with the wire-rimmed, Harry Potter–style glasses she’d worn in fifth grade.

That could not happen. Ever since Ali rescued her from oblivion, Hanna had vowed to never, ever be a loser again.

Hanna took a deep breath. “Sorry, Skidz,” she heard herself saying in a taunting and high-pitched voice that sounded nothing like her own. “I shouldn’t get too close. Germs and all.” She smirked.

Mike’s lips parted. His skin paled as if he’d seen a ghost—the Ghost of Bitchiness Past, maybe. Hanna whirled around and faced Naomi, Kate, Riley, and Courtney. See? she wanted to scream. She could make sacrifices. She deserved to be part of their group.

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