Home > Ali's Pretty Little Lies (Pretty Little Liars 0.5)(2)

Ali's Pretty Little Lies (Pretty Little Liars 0.5)(2)
Author: Sara Shepard

“Why would I take it?” Jason answered between bites.

“Well, I can’t find it,” Ali snapped. “Just like I can’t find my piece of the flag,” she said, giving Jason a pointed look.

Jason wiped his mouth with a napkin. “Even if I did know about your stupid piece of the flag, anyone is legally allowed to take it—even the people who helped hide it. The stealing clause, remember?”

“Maybe you took it to give it to someone else.” Her gaze drifted to the second floor.

Courtney stepped away from the railing. Back in the bedroom, she opened the flowered suitcase she’d had since third grade and studied its contents. Inside was a T-shirt almost the same shade of pink as the one Ali was wearing. She found dark indigo jeans that matched Ali’s, too. She slipped them on.

Time Capsule was a long-standing tradition at Rosewood Day, the private school Ali and Jason attended, and finding a piece of the torn-up flag was a rarity for a sixth grader. All weekend, Ali had been boasting about the Time Capsule scrap she’d found—although, technically, Jason had told Ali where the piece was, which didn’t seem fair. Ali had decorated her piece at the kitchen table after dinner two nights ago, giving Courtney, who was watching TV in the den, superior looks. Look how important I am, those looks said. You’re not even allowed to leave the house.

But Ali hadn’t had that look on her face when her flag went missing yesterday. In the privacy of her pathetic little guest room, Courtney had run her fingers over the silken fabric and Ali’s puffy silver drawings—a Chanel logo, a Louis Vuitton design, a cluster of stars and comets. Courtney had drawn a little wishing well in the corner, just wanting to make her mark on something her sister coveted so much. Then I’ll give it back, she’d promised herself. But Jason had gotten to it first. He’d seen Courtney looking at it in her room and rushed in, saying, “Do you really want things worse between you guys?” Then he’d snatched it back before she could say a word.

Courtney was about to shut the suitcase when her gaze drifted to the pamphlet tucked into the suitcase’s pocket. The Preserve at Addison-Stevens, the front said. There was a photo of a bouquet of irises beneath the title. They were the same sorts of flowers her parents had gotten for her grandmother’s funeral.

She opened the booklet and stared at the first page. We assist children and adolescents in developing effective coping skills and building self-esteem to be able to return home and back to school, it read.

Tears sprang to Courtney’s eyes. She’d been in hospital care since she was nine—three whole years. And even though she’d gotten used to the Radley the same way a mouse might get used to living in a cage, she’d seen horrible things she never wanted to witness again. Ever since the hospital announced it was closing its doors and converting into a luxury hotel, Courtney had assumed her family would bring her back to Rosewood to live with them. When her father had driven her here on Friday, he’d said as much—this would be a trial visit that would perhaps turn into something more permanent.

But for some reason, circumstances had changed in the last twenty-four hours. Mrs. DiLaurentis had knocked on Courtney’s door last night and told her to pack her things at once, slipping the pamphlet for the Preserve into her hands. “We think this will be the best thing for you,” she cooed, stroking her daughter’s hair.

Courtney leafed through the pamphlet’s pages, staring at the photos of the patients. They had to be models—they looked too happy. She’d heard terrible things about the Preserve from other kids who had gone there. People called it “death row” because so many kids committed suicide while inside. Others called it “Rapunzel’s tower” because parents left their kids in there for years. No Internet, television, or phone calls were allowed. The nurses were like extras from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and the doctors on staff had no qualms about tying kids to their beds to keep them calm. Parents loved it, though, because the place looked beautiful from the outside. And it was super expensive—it had to be good, right?

But she wasn’t going. She’d been formulating a plan all night to figure out how. Now all the pieces were fitting into place . . . except the opportunity she needed. She hoped one would arise—and soon. Her parents were taking her away in forty-five minutes.

She buried the pamphlet under her packed clothes and wheeled the suitcase to the top of the stairs. Then she walked down the stairs. Something caught her eye out the back window. Four girls were standing behind the bushes, whispering. They looked about Courtney’s age, and she could hear their voices through the screen.

One girl, a blonde in a field hockey skirt and a white T-shirt, placed her hands on her hips. “I was here first. That flag’s mine.”

“I was here before you,” a second girl spouted. She was a little on the chubby side and had frizzy brown hair. “I saw you come out of your house only a few minutes ago.”

A third girl stomped a purple suede boot. “You just got here, too. I was here before both of you.”

Courtney ran her tongue over her teeth. Were they here for Ali’s flag? And they’d made a reference to one girl coming from next door—that had to be Spencer Hastings. Mrs. DiLaurentis had mentioned her name at dinner on Friday, and Mr. DiLaurentis had made a sour face. He’d said Spencer’s parents were such show-offs, building a third addition to their house, converting that perfectly good barn into a luxury apartment for their oldest daughter. As if a bedroom isn’t good enough? he’d railed.

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