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If Memory Serves...
What if, all of a sudden, you could remember every single second of your entire life? And not just the major events everyone remembers—little things, too. Like that you and your best friend first bonded over hating the smell of rubber cement in third-grade art class. Or that the very first time you saw your eighth-grade crush, he was walking through the school courtyard, palming a soccer ball in one hand and an iPod Touch in the other.
But with every blessing comes a curse. With your spanking-new flawless memory, you'd also have to remember every fight with your BFF. You'd relive each time your soccer-loving crush sat next to someone else at lunch. With 20/20 memory, the past could suddenly get a whole lot uglier. Someone who seems like an ally now? Look again—could be they weren't as nice as you thought. A friend you remember as always having your back? Oops! On closer inspection, not so much.
If four pretty girls in Rosewood were suddenly given perfect memories, they might know better who to trust and who to stay away from. Then again, maybe their pasts would make even less sense than before.
Memory's a fickle thing. And sometimes we're doomed to repeat the things we've forgotten.
There it was. The big Victorian house at the corner of the culdesac, the one with the rose trellises along the fence and the tiered teak deck in the back. Only a select few had ever been inside, but everyone knew who lived there. She was the most popular girl in school. A girl who set trends, inspired passionate crushes, and made or broke reputations. A girl who every guy wanted to date and every girl wanted to be.
Alison DiLaurentis, of course.
It was a peaceful early September Saturday morning in Rosewood, Pennsylvania, an idyllic Main Line town about twenty miles from Philadelphia. Mr. Cavanaugh, who lived across the street from Alison's family, strolled out to his yard to get the newspaper. The tawny golden retriever that belonged to the Vanderwaals a few doors down loped around the fenced-in backyard, barking at squirrels. Not a flower or a leaf was out of place . . . except for the four sixth-grade girls who all happened to be stealthily creeping into the DiLaurentises' backyard at the same time.
Emily Fields hid among the tall tomato plants, tugging nervously on the strings of her Rosewood Long Course Swimming sweatshirt. She'd never trespassed on anyone's property, let alone the backyard of the prettiest, most popular girl in school. Aria Montgomery ducked behind an oak tree, picking at the embroidery on the tunic her dad had brought back from yet another last-minute art history conference in Germany. Hanna Marin abandoned her bike by a boulder near the family's shed, devising her plan of attack. Spencer Hastings crossed from her neighboring backyard and crouched behind a carefully pruned raspberry bush, inhaling the berries' slightly sweet, slightly tangy smell.
Quietly, each girl stared into the DiLaurentises' rear bay window. Shadows passed through the kitchen. There was a shout from the upstairs bathroom. A tree branch snapped. Someone coughed.
The girls realized they weren't alone at exactly the same moment. Spencer noticed Emily fumbling by the woods. Emily spied Hanna squatting by the rock. Hanna glimpsed Aria behind the tree. Everyone marched to the center of Ali's backyard and gathered in a tight circle.
"What are you guys doing here?" Spencer demanded. She'd known Emily, Hanna, and Aria since the Rosewood Public Library first-grade reading contest—Spencer had won, but all of them had participated. They weren't friends. Emily was the type of girl who blushed when a teacher called on her in class. Hanna, who was now tugging at the waistband of her slightly too-small black Paper Denim jeans, never seemed comfortable with herself. And Aria—well, it looked like Aria was wearing lederhosen today. Spencer was pretty sure Aria's only friends were imaginary.
"Uh, nothing," Hanna shot back.
"Yeah, nothing," Aria said, looking suspiciously at all of them. Emily shrugged.
"What are you doing?" Hanna asked Spencer.
Spencer sighed. It was obvious they were here for the same reason. Two afternoons ago, Rosewood Day, the elite prep school they attended, had announced the kickoff of its much-anticipated Time Capsule game. Each year, Principal Appleton cut a bright blue Rosewood Day flag into many pieces, upperclassmen hid them around town, and the teachers posted scavenger huntâstyle clues to the whereabouts of each piece in the upper- and lower-school lobbies. Whoever found a piece got to decorate it however he or she wanted, and once every piece was found, the staff sewed the flag together again, held a big assembly honoring the winners, and buried it in a Time Capsule behind the soccer fields. Students who found Time Capsule pieces were legends—their legacies lived on forever.
It was hard to stand out at a school like Rosewood Day, and it was even harder to snag a piece of the Time Capsule flag. Only one loophole gave everyone a glimmer of hope: the stealing clause, which stated that it was legal to steal a piece from someone, right up until the piece's time of burial. Two days ago, a certain beautiful somebody had bragged that one of the pieces was as good as hers. Now, four nobodies were hoping to take advantage of the stealing clause when she least expected it.
The thought of stealing Alison's piece was intoxicating. On one hand, it was a chance to get close to her. On the other, it was an opportunity to show the prettiest girl at Rosewood Day that she might not always get everything she wanted. Alison DiLaurentis definitely deserved a reality check.
Spencer glared at the three other girls. "I was here first. That flag's mine."
"I was here before you," Hanna whispered. "I saw you come out of your house only a few minutes ago."
Aria stomped her purple suede boot, gawking at Hanna. "You just got here too. I was here before both of you."
Hanna squared her shoulders and looked at Aria's messy braids and chunky layered necklaces. "And who's going to believe you?"
"Guys." Emily jutted her pointy chin toward the DiLaurentis house and held a finger to her lips. There were voices coming from the kitchen.
"Don't." It sounded like Ali. The girls tensed.
"Don't," imitated a second high-pitched voice.
"Stop it!" Ali screeched.Pretty Little Liars #6: Killer. Copyright Â© by Sara Shepard . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Excerpted from Killer by Sara Shepard
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