Flawless. (Book Two)

Five: A House Divided.

y, but no one was looking at her…or explaining why Ian was scarfing down Thai food in their kitchen. Spencer pulled up a chair to the corner of the table and started to spoon some lemongrass chicken onto her plate. ”So, um, Ian. You
e having dinner with us? ”

Mrs. Hastings looked at her sharply. Spencer shut her mouth, a hot, clammy feeling coursing through her.

”We ran into each other at the, um, memorial, ” Ian explained. A siren interrupted him, and Ian dropped his fork. The noise was most likely coming from the DiLaurentises house. Police cars had been there nonstop. ”Pretty crazy, huh? ” Ian said, running a hand through his curly blond hair. ”I didn know so many cop cars would still be here. ”

Melissa elbowed him lightly. ”You get a big police record, living out there in dangerous California? ” Melissa and Ian had broken up because hed moved across the country to go to college at Berkeley.

”Nah, ” Ian said. Before he could go on, Melissa, in typical Melissa fashion, had moved on to something else: herself. She turned to Mrs. Hastings. ”So, Mom, the flowers at the service were the exact color I want to paint my living room walls. ”

Melissa reached for a Martha Stewart Living magazine and opened it to a marked page. She was constantly talking about home renovations; she was redecorating the Philadelphia town house their parents bought her as a reward for getting into U Penns Wharton School of Business. Theyd never do anything like that for Spencer.

Mrs. Hastings leaned in to see. ”Lovely. ”

”Really nice, ” Ian agreed.

A disbelieving laugh escaped from Spencers mouth. Alison DiLaurentiss memorial service was today, and all they could think to talk about was paint colors?

Melissa turned to Spencer. ”What was that? ”

”Well…I mean… ” Spencer stuttered. Melissa looked offended, as if Spencer had just said something really rude. She nervously twirled her fork. ”Forget it. ”

There was another silence. Even Ian seemed to be wary of her now. Her dad took a hearty sip of wine. ”Veronica, did you see Liz there? ”

”Yes, I spoke with her for a while, ” said Spencers mother. ”I thought she looked fantastic…considering. ” By Liz, Spencer assumed they meant Elizabeth DiLaurentis, Alis youngish aunt who lived in the area.

”It must be awful for her, ” Melissa said solemnly. ”I can imagine. ”

Ian made an empathetic mmm. Spencer felt her lower lip quiver. Hello, what about me? she wanted to scream. Don you guys remember? I was Alis best friend!

With every minute of silence, Spencer felt more unwelcome. She waited for someone to ask how she was holding up, offer her a piece of fried tempura, o at least to say, Bless you, when she sneezed. But they were still punishing her for kissing Wren. Even though today was…today.

A lump formed in her throat. She was used to being everyones favorite: her teachers, her hockey coaches, her yearbook editors. Even the colorist, Uri, said she was his favorite client because her hair took color so nicely. Shed won tons of school awards and had 370 MySpace friends, not counting bands. And while she might not ever be her parents favorite—it was impossible to eclipse Melissa—she couldn bear them hating her. Especially not now, when everything else in her life was so unstable.

When In got up and excused herself to make a phone call, Spencer took a deep breath. ”Melissa? ” Her voice cracked.

Melissa looked up, then went back to pushing her pad Thai around her plate.

Spencer cleared her throat. ”Will you please talk to me? ”

Melissa barely shrugged.

”I mean, I can …I can have you hate me. You were completely right. About…you know. ” Her hands shook so badly, she kept them wedged under her thighs. Apologizing made her nervous.

Melissa folded her hands over her magazines. ”Sorry, ” she said. ”I think thats out of the question. ” She stood and carried her plate to the sink.

”But… ” Spencer was shocked. She looked at her parents. ”Im really sorry, guys… ” She felt tears brimming at her eyes.

Her fathers face bore the tiniest glimmer of sympathy, but he quickly looked away. Her mother spooned the remaining lemongrass chicken into a Tupperware container. She shrugged. ”You made your bed, Spencer, ” she said, rising and carrying the leftovers to the massive stainless-steel fridge.

”But— ”

”Spencer. ” Mr. Hastings used his stop talking voice.

Spencer clamped her mouth shut. Ian loped back into the room, a big, stupid grin on his face. His sensed the tension and his smile wilted.

”Come on. ” Melissa stood and took his arm. ”Lets go out for dessert. ”

”Sure. ” Ian clapped a hand on Spencers shoulder. ”Spence? Want to come? ”

Spencer didn really want to—and by the way Melissa nudged him, it seemed she didn want her to, either, but she didn have the chance to respond. Mrs. Hastings quickly said, ”No, Ian, Spencer is not getting dessert. ” Her tone of voice was the same one she used when reprimanding the dogs.

”Thanks anyway, ” Spencer said, biting back tears. To steel herself, she shoved an enormous bite of mango curry into her mouth. But it slid down her throat before she could swallow, the thick sauce burning as it went down. Finally, after making a series of horrible noises, Spencer spit it up into her napkin. But when the tears cleared from her eyes, she saw that her parents hadn approached to make sure she wasn choking. Theyd simply left the room.

Spencer wiped her eyes and stared at the nasty gob of chewed-up, spit-out mango in her napkin. It looked exactly the way she felt inside.

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