Emily Fields stood in front of the Gray Horse Inn, a crumbling stone building that was once a Revolutionary War hospital. The current-day innkeeper had converted its upper floors into an inn for rich out-of-town guests and ran an organic cafe in the parlor. Emily peered through the cafes windows to see some of her classmates and their families eating smoked-salmon bagels, pressed Italian sandwiches, and enormous Cobbs salads. Everyone must have had the same post-funeral brunch craving.
”You made it. ”
Emily swung around to see Maya St. Germain leaning against a terra-cotta pot full of peonies. Maya had called as Emily was leaving the Rosewood Day swings, asking that she met her here. Like Emily, Maya still had on her funeral outfit—a short, pleated black corduroy skirt, black boots, and a black sleeveless sweater with delicate lace stitching around the neck. And also like Emily, it seemed that Maya had scrounged to find black and mournful-looking stuff from the back of her closet.
Emily smiled sadly. The St. Germains had moved into Alis old house. When workers started to dig up the DiLaurentises half-finished gazebo to make way for the St. Germains tennis court, they uncovered Alis decayed body underneath the concrete. Ever since then, news vans, police cars, and curiosity seekers had gathered around the property 24/7. Mayas family was taking refuge here at the inn until things died down.
”Hey. ” Emily looked around. ”Are your folks having brunch? ”
Maya shook her thick brownish-black curls. ”They went to Lancaster. To get back to nature or something. Honestly, I think theyve been in shock, so maybe the simple life will do them some good. ” Emily smiled, thinking of Mayas parents trying to commune with the Amish in the small township west of Rosewood.
”You wanna come up to my room? ” Maya asked, raising an eyebrow.
Emily pulled at her skirt—her legs were looking beefy from swimming—and paused. If Mayas family wasn here, theyd be alone. In a room. With a bed.
When Emily first met Maya, shed been psyched. Shed been pining for a friend who could replace Ali. Ali and Maya were really similar in a lot of ways—they were both fearless and fun, and they seemed to be the only two people in the world who understood the real Emily. They had something else in common: Emily felt something different around them.
”Cmon. ” Maya turned to go inside. Emily, not sure what else to do, followed.
She trailed Maya up the creaky, twisty stairs of the inn to her 1776-themed bedroom. It smelled like wet wool. It had slanted pine floors, a shaky, queen-size four-poster bed with a giant crazy quilt on top, and a puzzling contraption in the corner that looked like a butter churn. ”My parents got my brother and me separate rooms. ” Maya sat down on the bed with a squeak.
”Thats nice, ” Emily answered, perching on the edge of a rickety chair that had probably once belonged to George Washington.
”So, how are you? ” Maya leaned toward her. ”God, I saw you at the funeral. You looked…devastated. ”
Emilys hazel eyes filled with tears. She was devastated about Ali. Emily had spent the past three-and-a-half years hoping Ali would show up on her porch one day, as healthy and glowing as ever. And when she started receiving the A notes, she was sure Ali was back. Who else could have known? But now, Emily knew for certain that Ali was really gone. Forever. On top of that, someone knew her squirmiest secret—that shed been in love with Ali—and that she felt the same way about Maya. And maybe that same someone knew the truth about what theyd done to Jenna, too.
Emily felt bad, refusing to tell her old friends what her notes from A said. It was just…she couldn . One of As notes was written on an old love letter that shed sent to Ali. The ironic thing was that she could talk to Maya about what the notes said, but she was afraid to tell Maya about A. ”I think Im still pretty shook up, ” she finally answered, feeling a headache coming on. ”But, also…Im just tired. ”
Maya kicked off her boots. ”Why don you take a nap? You aren going to feel any better sitting in that torture contraption of a chair. ”
Emily wrapped her hands around the chairs arms. ”I— ”
Maya patted the bed. ”You look like you need a hug. ”
A hug would feel good. Emily pushed her reddish-blond hair out of her face and sat down on the bed next to Maya. Their bodies melted into each other. Emily could feel Mayas ribs through the fabric of her skirt. She was so petite, Emily could probably pick her up and spin her around.
They pulled away, pausing a few inches from each others faces. Mayas eyelashes were coal black, and there were tiny flecks of gold in her irises. Slowly, Maya tilted Emilys chin up. She kissed her gently at first. Then harder.
Emily felt the familiar whoosh of excitement as Mayas hand grazed the edge of Emilys skirt. Suddenly, she reached underneath it. Her hands felt cold and surprising. Emily eyes shot open and she pulled away.
The frilly white curtains in Mayas room were open wide, and Emily could see the Escalades, Mercedes wagons, and Lexus Hybrids in the parking lot. Sarah Isling and Taryn Orr, two girls in Emilys grade, sauntered out of the restaurant exit, followed by their parents. Emily ducked.
Maya sat back. ”Whats wrong? ”
”What are you doing? ” Emily covered her unbuttoned skirt with her hand.
”What do you think Im doing? ” Maya grinned.
Emily glanced at the window again. Sarah and Taryn were gone.
Maya jiggled up and down on the beds creaky mattress. ”Did you know theres a charity party this Saturday called Foxy? ”
”Yeah. ” Emilys whole body throbbed.
”I think we should go, ” Maya continued. ”It sounds fun. ”
Emily frowned. ”The tickets are $250. You have to be invited. ”
”My brother scored tickets. Enough for both of us. ” Maya inched closer to Emily. ”Will you be my date? ”
Emily shot off the bed. ”I… ” She took a step backward, stumbling on the slippery hooked rug. Lots of people from Rosewood Day went to Foxy. All the popular kids, all the jocks…everyone. ”I have to go to the bathroom. ”
Maya looked confused. ”Its over there. ”
Emily shut the crooked bathroom door. She sat on the toilet and stared at the print on the wall of an Amish woman wearing a bonnet and an ankle-length dress. Perhaps it was a sign. Emily was always looking for signs to help her make decisions—in her horoscope, in fortune cookies, in random things like this. Maybe this picture meant, Be like the Amish. Weren their lives maddeningly simple? Didn they burn girls at the stake for liking other girls?
And then her cell phone rang.
Emily pulled it out of her pocket, wondering if it was her mother wanting to know where Emily was. Mrs. Fields was less than pleased that Emily and Maya had become friends—for disturbing, possibly racist reasons. Imagine if her mom knew what they were up to now.
Emilys Nokia blinked, One new text message. She clicked Read.
Em! Still enjoying the same kinds of *activities* with your best friends, I see. Even though most of us have totally changed, its nice to know you
e still the same! Gonna tell everyone about your new love? Or shall I? —A
”No, ” Emily whispered.
There was a sudden whoosh behind her. She jumped, bumping her hip on the sink. It was only someone flushing the toilet in the next guest room. Then there was some whispering and giggling. It sounded like it was coming from the sink drain.
”Emily? ” Maya called. ”Everything okay? ”
”Uh…fine. ” Emily croaked. She stared at herself in the mirror. Her eyes were wide and hollow, and her reddish-blonde hair was disheveled. When she finally emerged from the bathroom, the bedroom lights were off and the shades were drawn.
”Psssst, ” Maya called from the bed. Shed laid seductively on her side.
Emily looked around. She was pretty sure Maya hadn even locked the door. All those Rosewood kids were eating brunch downstairs…
”I can do this, ” Emily blurted out.
”What? ” Mayas dazzlingly white teeth glowed in the dimness.
e friends. ” Emily plastered herself against the wall. ”I like you. ”
”I like you, too. ” Maya ran a hand over one bare arm.
”But thats all I can be right now, ” Emily clarified. ”Friends. ”
Mayas smile disappeared in the dark.
”Sorry. ” Emily shoved on her loafers fast, putting her right shoe on her left foot.
”It doesn mean you have to leave, ” Maya said quietly.
Emily looked at her as she reached for the doorknob. Her eyes were already adjusting to the dim light, and she could see that Maya looked disappointed and confused and…and beautiful. ”I should go, ” Emily mumbled. ”Im late. ”
”Late for what? ”
Emily didn answer. She turned for the door. Just as she suspected, Maya hadn bothered to lock it.