A few hours later, Ali and Emily lay on the long leather sectionals in Alis den. Ali was flipping through prom issues of Teen Vogue, Cosmo Girl, and Seventeen, and Emily was leafing through a dog-eared copy of Horoscope Birthday Book, which she seemed to never tire of. MTVs My Super Sweet 16 blared in the background, and the house smelled like the baked chicken and corn on the cob Mrs. DiLaurentis had fixed for dinner. Jason stomped around upstairs, slamming his bureau drawers and opening and closing his closet door. Miserable rock music hummed through the ceiling.
”All these girls look hideous in mint green, ” Ali declared as she turned a page of prom-dress fashion spread. ”Any dress thats the same shade of a scoop of ice cream is not sexy. ”
Emily placed the birthday book on the ottoman. The spine was so worn that the pages splayed open without any encouragement. Emily had been reading the entry for June 6, Alis birthday, for probably the billionth time. ”I think youd look pretty good in mint green, ” she decided after studying the picture of the dress.
”Thats because I look good in any color, ” Ali said, only half joking.
”You do, ” Emily said earnestly, and Ali wanted to hug her. Emily was always good for a pick-me-up. After Aria mysteriously canceled, Ali had called up Emily asking if she wanted to come over here instead. Naturally, Emily had given her an emphatic yes.
Emily doodled a picture of a girl in a prom dress on the cover of the one of her notebooks. Instead of keeping a diary, Emily displayed her thoughts, likes, and dislikes in doodles on her notebooks: On this particular one, shed penned her favorite swimmers name, Michael Phelps, in bubble letters; a picture of the Rosewood Day shark mascot in blue Sharpie; and Alis, Spencers, Arias, and Hannas names in calligraphy, followed by the letters BFF.
The air conditioner kicked on again, fluttering the curtains on the bay window. Ali stood up and pushed the curtains back, revealing the view of the Cavanaughs house across the street. It had been through this very window that Toby Cavanaugh had spied on them last year on the night everything happened.
Emily must have been thinking the same thing, because she cleared her throat. ”I think I saw Jenna today. Maybe shes home from school. ”
”I saw her, too, ” Ali said.
Emily twirled her pen between her fingers. ”Do you ever…think about her? ”
”Not really, ” Ali lied.
”Do you ever think its weird that Toby confessed to something he didn do? ”
Ali yanked the curtains shut. ”He did do it, Em. End of story. ”
”End. Of. Story. ” Ali pointed to the string bracelet on both of their wrists. There were a lot of things shed considered telling Emily since that night. What shed seen just before the firework went off. The discussion shed had with Jenna even before that night. But shed been lying for so long that she couldn start over now. And anyway, the truth wouldn change what had happened.
She tugged at Emilys ponytail. ”Im so glad you could come over tonight, Em. ”
”Totally. ” Emily ducked her head bashfully. ”We haven had a night alone since February. ”
Ali smirked. ”Of course youd keep track of something like that. ” Emily was like the friendship secretary, keeping minutes of exactly how much time they spent together. Sometimes, shed announce that theyd been friends for two hundred and thirteen days, or that theyd spent four hundred minutes on the phone the past week, or that theyd exchanged sixty-seven emails or written a hundred and nine texts, or that theyd shared fourteen secrets.
Emily looked worried. ”Is it weird? ”
”Nah. ” Ali hugged a pillow. ”Well, maybe weird in a cute way. ” If the others were around, Ali might have dogged Emily a little more for it, but when it was just the two of them, she could tell her what she really thought. When Ali was with Emily and only Emily, being so polished and perfect didn matter as much.
Footsteps sounded n the hall, and the girls looked up, Mrs. DiLaurentis emerged in the kitchen in a sundress, a thin leather bankbook in her hands. She stopped short when she saw Ali and Emily in the den. ”I thought you girls were going to the mall, ” she blurted, hiding the book behind her back.
Ali cocked her head. ”We never said that. ”
”Oh. ” Mrs. DiLaurentis looked flustered. ”Well. Don stay up too late, okay? ”
The garage door slammed. Ali waited for her mothers Mercedes engine to start, but it didn . She was half-tempted to go out into the garage and see it was just sitting in her car, talking on her phone—she did that sometimes. Freak.
Bzz. Alis phone vibrated in her back pocket. She had a new text from Nick. Hey cutie, it said. Write anything about anyone on a cabin wall lately?
Alis stomach swooped, and she let out a happy squeal. Sorry, haven met any good kissers, she replied.
”Who are you writing to? ” Emily peeked at Alis phone from the couch.
Ali turned the phone over. ”Someone from hockey. ” She didn want to share Nick quite yet. It was nice keeping it quiet until she was sure something was actually happening between them. Besides, Emily would probably criticize her from moving on too quickly from Matt, breaking his heart. Emily was a softie like that.
She looked up at Emily, taking in her long strawberry-blonde hair, light eyes, and cute, freckly face. ”We need to find you a boyfriend, Em. ”
Emily looked startled. ”We do? ”
”Duh! You haven even had a first kiss! ” She clapped her hands. ”I think I mightve found someone perfect for you. He just moved to Rosewood—his name is Mason Byers. Hes playing on the lacrosse team, so hes sporty, too. And he seems really sweet, Em—hes from somewhere in the South. I bet youd really like him. ”
She jumped to her feet, getting even more and more excited. ”I could call Noel right now and ask for his number. Hes super cute, Em—he has freckles, too. ”
Emily slowly pulled her bottom lip into her mouth. ”Im not interested. ”
Ali placed her hands on her hips. ”You haven even met yet. And hes not a butt-grabber, I promise. ” Once, at a party at Noel Kahns house earlier this year, an eighth grader had squeezed Emilys butt hard, giving her a playful wink when shed turned around to glare at him. Emily had recounted this story to Ali with horror, not realizing that she should have taken it as a compliment.
Emilys expression still didn change. Puzzled, Ali climbed next to her on the couch. ”Whats really going on? ” she demanded.
Emily stared at her freshly painted nails. ”I sort of like someone else. ”
”Really? ” Ali grabbed Emilys knee. ”Who? ”
Emilys eyes darted back and forth. ”I can tell you. ”
Ali burst out laughing. She knew everything about Emily, even the embarrassing stuff: that shed gotten her period at eleven, that shed wet the bed at a swimming sleepover in fourth grade, that shed accidentally grazed an older boys erection during swim practice and hid in the locker room for the rest of the hour, terrified he thought hed meant to do it.
”Is it someone really embarrassing? ” Ali goaded. ”Someone off-limits? Whoever it is, you can tell me, Em. I won share it with anyone, I promise. ”
Emily grabbed a magazine and opened to a random page. ”These shoes are cute, don you think? ”
”Whoever it is, I could help you get him to like you. Seriously. Just tell me, okay? ” Then she leaned her head on Emilys shoulder. ”Ill be your best friend? ”
Emily stiffened under the weight of Alis head. After a moment, she moved away and stood up from the couch. ”I just remembered, ” she blurted, diving for her overnight bag and stuffing it with the pajama pants and makeup bag shed pulled onto the floor. ”I have to do this thing for my mom. ”
”Uh-huh. I forgot. ” Emily slung the bag over her arm and hurried through the kitchen. She shoved her feet into her shoes, which were waiting by the front door, not even bothering to tie them. She glanced back at Ali, who was still on the couch. ”See ya. ”
But the door slammed shut, making the pots and pans hanging over the kitchen island clang together slightly. Ali blinked hard in the silence. What the hell just happened?
She stood up and padded into the kitchen, yanking open the fridge but not pulling anything out. A dog-of-the-month calendar on the wall caught her eye, and she looked at the thirty-one squares that represented May. She and Emily might not have had any one-on-one time since February, but it had been much, much longer than that since Ali had actually spent a Saturday night alone.