The Zen is Mightier Than the Sword
Aria Montgomery woke up mid-snore. It was Sunday morning, and she was curled up on a blue vinyl chair in the Rosewood Memorial Hospital waiting room. Everyone—Hanna Marin's parents, Officer Wilden, Hanna's best friend Mona Vanderwaal, and Lucas Beattie, a boy in her class at Rosewood Day who looked like he'd just arrived—was staring at her.
"Did I miss something?" Aria croaked. Her head felt like it was stuffed with marshmallow Peeps. When she checked the Zoloft clock hanging over the waiting room entrance, she saw it was only eight thirty. She'd been out for just fifteen minutes.
Lucas sat down next to her and picked up a copy of Medical Supplies Today magazine. According to the cover, the issue featured all the latest colostomy bag models. Who puts a medical supplies magazine in a hospital waiting room? "I just got here," he answered. "I heard about the accident on the morning news. Have you seen Hanna yet?"
Aria shook her head. "They still won't let us."
The two of them fell gravely silent. Aria surveyed the others. Ms. Marin wore a rumpled gray cashmere sweater and a pair of great-fitting distressed jeans. She was barking into her little Motorola earpiece, even though the nurses had said they couldn't use cell phones in here. Officer Wilden sat next to her, his Rosewood PD jacket unbuttoned to his mid-chest and showing a frayed white T-shirt beneath it. Hanna's father was slumped in the chair closest to the intensive care unit's two giant double doors, jiggling his left foot. In a pale pink Juicy sweat suit and flip-flops, Mona Vanderwaal looked uncharacteristically disheveled, her face puffy from crying. When Mona looked up and saw Lucas, she gave him an annoyed stare, as if to say, This is for close friends and family only. What are you doing here? Aria couldn't blame everyone for feeling testy. She had been here since 3 a.m., after the ambulance came to the Rosewood Day Elementary School parking lot and swept Hanna off to the hospital. Mona and the others had arrived at various points in the morning, when the news had begun to circulate. The last update the doctors had given them was that Hanna had been moved to intensive care. But that was three hours ago.
Aria reviewed the previous night's horrific details. Hanna had called to tell her that she knew the identity of A, the diabolical messenger who had been taunting Hanna, Aria, Emily, and Spencer for the past month. Hanna hadn't wanted to reveal any details over the phone, so she'd asked Aria and Emily to meet her at the Rosewood Day swings, their old special spot. Emily and Aria had arrived just in time to see a black SUV mow Hanna down and speed away. As the paramedics rushed to the scene, put a cervical collar around Hanna's neck, and carefully lifted her onto a stretcher and into the ambulance, Aria had felt numb. When she pinched herself hard, it didn't hurt.
Hanna was still alive . . . but barely. She had internal injuries, a broken arm, and bruises everywhere. The accident had caused head trauma, and now she was in a coma.
Aria shut her eyes, ready to burst into tears again. The most inconceivable thing about all of this was the text Aria and Emily had received after Hanna's accident. She knew too much. It was from A. Which meant . . . A knew what Hanna knew. Just like A knew everything else—all their secrets, the fact that it had been Ali, Aria, Spencer, Emily, and Hanna who'd blinded Jenna Cavanaugh, not Jenna's stepbrother, Toby. A probably even knew the truth about who killed Ali.
Lucas tapped Aria on the arm. "You were there when that car hit Hanna, right? Did you get a look at the person who did it?"
Aria didn't know Lucas very well. He was one of those kids who loved school activities and clubs, whereas Aria was the type to stay far, far away from all things involving her Rosewood Day peers. She didn't know what connection he had to Hanna, but it seemed sweet that he was here. "It was too dark," she mumbled.
"And you have no idea who it could have been?"
Aria bit down hard on her bottom lip. Wilden and a couple other Rosewood cops had shown up the night before just after the girls received their note from A. When Wilden asked the girls what happened, they all insisted that they hadn't seen the driver's face or the make of the SUV. And they swore over and over that this must have been an accident—they didn't know why anyone would do this on purpose. Maybe it was wrong to withhold this information from the police, but they were all terrified of what A had in store for the rest of them if they told the truth.
A had threatened them about not telling before, and Aria and Emily both had been punished once already for ignoring those threats. A had sent Aria's mother, Ella, a letter telling her that Aria's father was having an affair with one of his university students, and revealed that Aria had kept her dad's secret. Then A had told the entire school that Emily was dating Maya, the girl who had moved into Ali's old house. Aria glanced at Lucas and silently shook her head no.
The door to the ICU swept open, and Dr. Geist strode into the waiting room. With his piercing gray eyes, sloped nose, and shock of white hair, he looked a little like Helmut, the German landlord of the old row house Aria's family had rented in Reykjavík, Iceland. Dr. Geist gave everyone the same judging stare Helmut had given Aria's brother, Mike, when he discovered that Mike had been keeping Diddy, his pet tarantula, in an empty terra-cotta pot Helmut used to grow tulips.
Excerpted from Pretty Little Liars #4: Unbelievable by Sara Shepard Copyright © 2008 by Sara Shepard. Excerpted by permission.
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