“Then we have to pick people you don’t really know.” Zach leaned forward and gazed around the room. He pointed to Mrs. Byers, Mason’s mom, who was decked out in head-to-toe Kate Spade. “Know anything about her?”
Amelia, who had been watching them both, groaned. “Her? She’s as generic as they come! Soccer mom, drives a Lexus. Snore.”
Zach clucked his tongue. “That’s where you’re wrong. She looks like your regular upscale suburban housewife, but she likes her boyfriends young.”
“What makes you say that?” Spencer asked incredulously.
“Look.” Zach pointed at how Mrs. Byers was eagerly filling the cup for Ryan Zeiss, one of Mason’s lacrosse teammates. Her hand lingered on Ryan’s shoulders for a long time. Too long.
“Whoa,” Spencer whispered. No wonder Mrs. Byers always volunteered to be the team’s travel mom.
Then it was Spencer’s turn. She looked around the room, trying to locate her victim. Mrs. Zeigler, Naomi’s polished mother, glided across the cheerful black-and-white checkerboard floor. Bingo. “She gets secret Botox treatments,” Spencer said, pointing.
“Oh puh-leease.” Amelia rolled her eyes. “All of these women get Botox. Some of the kids probably do, too.”
“. . . under her arms,” Spencer added, remembering how, a few years ago, Mrs. Zeigler always had visible sweat stains on her T-shirts whenever she raised her arms to clap for a field hockey goal. This hockey season, however, those sweat stains had magically disappeared.
“Nice.” Zach whistled.
They went around the room, making up more secrets. Zach pointed to Liam Olsen and said he was cheating on his girlfriend, Devon Arliss. Spencer zeroed in on a Goth-looking caterer and said she was a huge Justin Bieber freak and French-kissed his portrait every night. Zach said that Imogen Smith looked like the type who’d secretly had a sexually transmitted disease, and Spencer hypothesized that Beau Baxter, her hot, reclusive costar in Macbeth, had affairs with older women. And then Amelia pointed halfheartedly at someone in the crowd. “Well, she looks like the type who hooks up with teachers.”
Spencer squinted at who she was talking about and almost gasped. It was Aria. After the girls started hanging out again, Aria had told Spencer and the others everything about her affair with Ezra Fitz, her English teacher. How could Amelia know that?
Then Amelia turned her beady little pea eyes on Spencer. “So what’s your secret?”
“Uh . . .” A chill ran up Spencer’s spine. Suddenly, Amelia seemed weirdly intuitive, like she already knew. Jamaica. How I got into Princeton. What I did to Kelsey. There were definitely a few things Spencer had done she wasn’t proud of.
Zach rolled his eyes. “Don’t answer her. We all have some secrets we don’t want to share—including me.”
Shortly after that, Amelia wandered off into the party to talk to a couple of girls she recognized from candy striping. The party devolved into a giant drunken Finnish clog dance, with the cheesy polka music blaring and Aria and the new exchange student girl dancing wildly at the center.
A glass and a half of schnapps later, Spencer and Zach were still playing She Isn’t Who She Seems.
“Sean Ackard’s a serial masturbator,” Spencer posited, pointing.
“That woman in the head-to-toe Gucci buys all her designer clothes on Canal Street in New York,” Zach countered.
“Celeste Richards loves the smell of her own farts.” Spencer giggled.
“That new Finnish girl is actually a drag queen.” Zach wailed.
“Lori, Kendra, and Madison are into orgies!” Spencer cried, referring to the three soloists from masterworks halfheartedly clogging in the corner.
She was laughing so hard tears flowed freely down her cheeks, probably smearing her mascara. She and Zach had moved closer on the steps again, their legs touching, their hands brushing often, their heads occasionally lolling onto one another’s shoulders.
Eventually, the party began to break up, and everyone started for home. The two of them collected Amelia and piled back into Zach’s car. Spencer took control of Zach’s iPod and blasted St. Vincent, singing along to “Actor Out of Work.” Amelia sat in the back and sulked.
Zach pulled up to the Hastings curb and yanked up the emergency brake. Spencer turned to him, both sad that the night was ending and jittery because this was the moment she’d waited the entire evening for—the goodnight kiss. Surely Zach would get out of the car and walk her to her door—away from his sister.
“You know, we never figured out a wager for your little Secrets game,” Spencer said in a silky voice. “And I think I won—I definitely figured out more secrets than you.”
Zach raised a brow. “Au contraire. I think I deserve the prize.” He leaned closer to her, and Spencer’s heart pounded hard.
Amelia groaned loudly and jutted forward from the backseat. “Would you guys stop flirting? You realize we’re like one romantic date away from becoming stepsiblings, right? If you two hooked up, that would practically be incest.”
Zach stiffened and moved away from Spencer. “Who said anything about hooking up?”
Ouch. Spencer shot Amelia the nastiest glare she could muster. Way to ruin the moment.
When she turned back to Zach, he pecked her politely on the cheek. “Call me. We should do brunch at the Rosewood Country Club. Tons of people have secrets there.”
“Uh, absolutely,” Spencer said, trying not to sound disappointed.
She walked to the front door, avoiding the patches of snow and ice on the sidewalk. As she fumbled for her keys, her cell phone chimed. She pulled it out, hoping it was a text from Zach. Can’t wait to see you without my sis next time, perhaps. Or, even better, I did want to kiss you. I hope I can soon.
But it was a message from an anonymous sender instead. The schnapps immediately drained from Spencer’s head, leaving her feeling instantly sober. She looked around, searching for two eyes peering through the bushes, a figure moving through the trees. But there was nothing.
She took a deep breath and pressed READ.
Hey Spence. Everyone has secrets, indeed. And guess
what? I know yours. –A
On Wednesday afternoon, Emily stood in front of Steam. As usual, every stool in the café was taken. Naomi Zeigler, Riley Wolfe, and Kate Randall held court under the big Italian poster of La Dolce Vita. Kirsten Cullen and Amanda Williamson stood at the counter and argued over which cupcake they wanted to split.
Students swept down the hall, heading to lunch or their next classes. First, Emily spotted Hanna through the crowd. She had a faraway smile on her face, seemingly oblivious to the people around her. Then, almost a split second later, Spencer rounded the corner, talking loudly to Scott Chin, one of her yearbook coeditors. “I had an amazing time at the Kahns’ smorgasbord last night, didn’t you?” she said.
And next, possibly because Emily was thinking about her, Aria strutted down the hall, arm in arm with that new exchange student from Finland who was living with Noel Kahn.
Not a single one of them glanced at Emily. The horrible A note in Ali’s mailbox seemed a zillion miles from their thoughts. Why couldn’t Emily forget about it, too?
Chloe emerged through the clot of students. Emily waved. “Hey!”
As Chloe ran toward her, Emily felt a happy rush. This was their first lunch together, but since Emily had visited Chloe on Monday they’d friended one another on Facebook, commented on each other’s posts, and had a lengthy IM chat last night before bed, gossiping about people in their classes, teachers to avoid, and the long-standing rumor about how the A/V supply room was where horny couples went to have sex.
Chloe looked Emily up and down, a smirk on her face. “Now, where have I seen that outfit before?” She gestured to Emily’s Rosewood Day uniform plaid skirt and white blouse, then fingered her own identical blue blazer. “It’s so bizarre to go to a school that enforces uniforms. We look like members of a cult.”
“I’ve had to suffer through it for twelve years,” Emily groaned. Then she turned toward the cafeteria. “You ready?”
Chloe nodded, and Emily followed the crowd of kids into the cafeteria, which was rapidly filling up with students. As they walked through the food lines, Emily gave Chloe a brief run-down. “The sushi is good, but don’t get the chicken teriyaki—it comes out of a can.”
Emily selected a Caesar salad and a package of pretzels and put them on her tray. “The pasta bar is okay, but for some reason only kids in band and orchestra eat pasta. No one else.”
“What about soft pretzels?” Chloe pointed at the pretzel rack.
“Pretzels are fine,” Emily said vaguely. Actually, the big soft pretzels used to be Ali’s signature lunchtime food in seventh grade. Once they became part of Ali’s clique, Emily, Aria, and Spencer ate pretzels, too, and lots of girls in their class copied them.
A charred smell wafted out of the kitchen then, reminding Emily of the fire in the Poconos. Even though the flames had reached the tops of the trees, even though the police had sworn over and over that there was no way Ali could have survived the explosion, Emily still had a horrible feeling Ali had gotten away. The very night after it happened, she’d had a dream about finding Ali in the woods beyond her parents’ cabin, covered in burns. Ali had opened her eyes and stared straight at her. “You just dug your own grave, Emily,” she said laughingly, reaching out to claw Emily with catlike talons.
“You coming?” Chloe called, staring at Emily inquisitively.
Emily looked down. She’d stopped dead in the cafeteria line, lost in thought. “Of course,” she said, scurrying through the checkout.
They found a seat by the windows. Pure white snow blanketed the practice fields.
Chloe pulled out her phone and pushed it across the table to Emily. “Look at this picture of Grace. My mom sent it to me this morning.”
On the screen was a photo of Grace with Cheerios all over her face. “Adorable,” Emily cooed. “You must just want to eat her up every day.”
“I do.” Chloe beamed. “She’s just so pudgy and cute. It’s so fun to have a little sister.”
“Was she . . . planned?” Emily blurted, surprising herself. She squeezed her eyes shut. “Sorry. That was really nosy.”
“Nah, everyone asks it.” Chloe took a bite of pretzel. “She was and she wasn’t. My parents always wanted me to have a sibling, but it was pretty hard for them to get pregnant again. When Grace came along, they were both stunned. She saved my parents, though—they were having problems before this. Now, everything’s great.”
“Oh.” Emily feigned fascination with a piece of chicken in her salad, not wanting to make eye contact. “What were things like with your parents before Grace?”
“Oh, the usual crap.” Chloe stuck a straw into her can of ginger ale. “Bickering, rumors of cheating. My mom is a classic over-sharer, so I heard way more than I should have.”