8. WHERE ARE THE DAMN GIRL SCOUTS WHEN YOU NEED THEM?

Hanna sank farther into the squishy cushions of her couch and tried to unbutton Sean’s Paper Denim jeans.

“Whoa,” Sean said. “We can’t….”

Hanna smiled mysteriously and put a finger to her lips. She started kissing Sean’s neck. He smelled like Lever 2000 and, strangely, chocolate, and she loved how his recently buzzed haircut showed off all the sexy angles of his face. She’d loved him since sixth grade and he’d only gotten handsomer with each passing year.

As they kissed, Hanna’s mother, Ashley, unlocked the front door and walked inside, chatting on her teensy LG flip phone.

Sean recoiled against the couch cushions. “She’ll see!” he whispered, quickly tucking in his pale blue Lacoste polo.

Hanna shrugged. Her mom waved at them blankly and walked into the other room. Her mom paid more attention to her BlackBerry than she did to Hanna. Because of her work schedule, she and Hanna didn’t bond much, aside from periodic checkups on homework, notes on which shops were running the best sales, and reminders that she should clean her room in case any of the execs coming to her cocktail party needed to use the upstairs bathroom. But Hanna was mostly okay with that. After all, her mom’s job was what paid Hanna’s AmEx bill—she wasn’t always taking things—and her pricey tuition at Rosewood Day.

“I have to go,” Sean murmured.

“You should come over on Saturday,” Hanna purred. “My mom’s going to be at the spa all day.”

“I’ll see you at Noel’s party on Friday,” Sean said. “And you know this is hard enough.”

Hanna groaned. “It doesn’t have to be so hard,” she whined.

He leaned down to kiss her. “See you tomorrow.”

After Sean let himself out, she buried her face in the couch pillow. Dating Sean still felt like a dream. Back when Hanna was chubby and lame, she’d adored how tall and athletic he was, how he was always really nice to teachers and kids who were less cool, and how he dressed well, not like a color-blind slob. She never stopped liking him, even after she shed her last few stubborn inches and discovered defrizzing hair products. So last school year, she casually whispered to James Freed in study hall that she liked Sean, and Colleen Rink told her three periods later that Sean was going to call Hanna on her cell that night after soccer. It was yet another moment Hanna was pissed Ali wasn’t here to witness.

They’d been a couple for seven months and Hanna felt more in love with him than ever. She hadn’t told him yet—she’d kept that to herself for years—but now, she was pretty sure he loved her too. And wasn’t sex the best way to express love?

That was why the virginity pledge thing made no sense. It wasn’t as if Sean’s parents were overly religious, and it went against every preconceived notion Hanna had about guys. Despite how she used to look, Hanna had to hand it to herself: With her deep brown hair, curvy body, and flawless—we’re talking no pimples, ever—skin, she was hot. Who wouldn’t fall madly in love with her? Sometimes she wondered if Sean was gay—he did have a lot of nice clothes—or if he had a fear of vaginas.

Hanna called for her miniature pinscher, Dot, to hop up on the couch. “Did you miss me today?” she squealed as Dot licked her hand. Hanna had petitioned to let Dot come to school in her oversize Prada handbag—all the girls in Beverly Hills did it, after all—but Rosewood Day said no. So to prevent separation anxiety, Hanna had bought Dot the snuggliest Gucci bed money could buy and left QVC on her bedroom TV during the day.

Her mother strode into the living room, still in her tailored tweed suit and brown kitten-heel slingbacks. “There’s sushi,” Ms. Marin said.

Hanna looked up. “Toro rolls?”

“I don’t know. I got a bunch of things.”

Hanna strode into the kitchen, taking in her mom’s laptop and buzzing LG.

“What now?” Ms. Marin barked into the phone.

Dot’s little claws tick-ticked behind Hanna. After searching through the bag, she settled on one piece of yellowtail sashimi, one eel roll, and a small bowl of miso soup.

“Well, I talked to the client this morning,” her mom went on. “They were happy then.”

Hanna daintily dipped her yellowtail roll into some soy sauce and flipped breezily through a J. Crew catalog. Her mom was second-in-command at the Philly advertising firm McManus & Tate, and her goal was to be the firm’s first woman president.

Besides being extremely successful and ambitious, Ms. Marin was what most guys at Rosewood Day would call a MILF—she had long, red-gold hair, smooth skin, and an incredibly supple body, thanks to her daily Vinyasa yoga ritual.

Hanna knew her mom wasn’t perfect, but she still didn’t get why her parents had divorced four years ago, or why her father quickly began dating an average-looking ER nurse from Annapolis, Maryland, named Isabel. Talk about trading down.

Isabel had a teenage daughter, Kate, and Mr. Marin had said Hanna would just love her. A few months after the divorce, he’d invited Hanna to Annapolis for the weekend. Nervous about meeting her quasi-stepsister, Hanna begged Ali to come along.

“Don’t worry, Han,” Ali assured her. “We’ll outclass whoever this Kate girl is.” When Hanna looked at her, unconvinced, she reminded Hanna of her signature phrase: “I’m Ali and I’m fabulous!” It sounded almost silly now, but back then Hanna could only imagine what it would feel like to be so confident. Having Ali there was like a security blanket—proof she wasn’t a loser her dad just wanted to get away from.

The day had been a train wreck, anyway. Kate was the prettiest girl Hanna had ever met and her dad had basically called her a pig right in front of Kate. He’d quickly backpedaled and said it was only a joke, but that was the very last time she’d seen him…and the very first time she ever made herself throw up.

But Hanna hated thinking about stuff in the past, so she rarely did. Besides, now Hanna got to ogle her mom’s dates in a not so will-you-be-my-new-father? way. And would her father let Hanna have a 2 A.M. curfew and drink wine, like her mom did? Doubtful.

Her mom snapped her phone shut and fastened her emerald green eyes on Hanna. “Those are your back-to-school shoes?”

Hanna stopped chewing. “Yeah.”

Ms. Marin nodded. “Did you get a lot of compliments?”

Hanna turned her ankle to inspect her purple wedges. Too afraid to face the Saks security, she’d actually paid for them. “Yeah. I did.”

“Mind if I borrow them?”

“Um, sure. If you wa—”

Her mom’s phone rang again. She pounced on it. “Carson? Yes. I’ve been looking for you all night…. What the hell is going on there?”

Hanna blew at her side-swept bangs and fed Dot a tiny piece of eel. As Dot spit it out on the floor, the doorbell rang.

Her mother didn’t even flinch. “They need it tonight,” she said to the phone. “It’s your project. Do I have to come down and hold your hand?”

The doorbell rang again. Dot started barking and her mother stood to get it. “It’s probably those Girl Scouts again.”

The Girl Scouts had come over three days in a row, trying to sell them cookies at dinnertime. They were rabid in this neighborhood.

Within seconds, she was back in the kitchen with a young, brown-haired, green-eyed police officer behind her. “This gentleman says he wants to speak with you.” A gold pin on the breast pocket of his uniform read WILDEN.

“Me?” Hanna pointed at herself.

“You’re Hanna Marin?” Wilden asked. The walkie-talkie on his belt made a noise.

Suddenly Hanna realized who this guy was: Darren Wilden. He’d been a senior at Rosewood when she was in seventh grade. The Darren Wilden she remembered allegedly slept with the whole girls’ diving team and was almost kicked out of school for stealing the principal’s vintage Ducati motorcycle. But this cop was definitely the same guy—those green eyes were hard to forget, even if it had been four years since she’d seen them. Hanna hoped he was a stripper that Mona had sent over as a joke.

“What’s this all about?” Ms. Marin asked, looking longingly back at her cell phone. “Why are you interrupting us at dinner?”

“We received a call from Tiffany’s,” Wilden said. “They have you on tape shoplifting some items from their store. Tapes from various other mall security cameras tracked you out of the mall and to your car. We traced the license plate.”

Hanna started pinching the inside of her palm with her fingernails, something she always did when she felt out of control.

“Hanna wouldn’t do that,” Ms. Marin barked. “Would you, Hanna?”

Hanna opened her mouth to respond but no words came out. Her heart was banging against her ribs.

“Look.” Wilden crossed his arms over his chest.

Hanna noticed the gun on his belt. It looked like a toy. “I just need you to come to the station. Maybe it’s nothing.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing!” Ms. Marin said. Then she took her Fendi wallet out of its matching purse. “What will it take for you to leave us alone to have our dinner?”

“Ma’am.” Wilden sounded exasperated. “You should just come down with me. All right? It won’t take all night. I promise.” He smiled that sexy Darren Wilden smile that had probably kept him from getting expelled from Rosewood.

“Well,” Hanna’s mother said. She and Wilden looked at each other for a long moment. “Let me get my bag.”

Wilden turned to Hanna. “I’m gonna have to cuff you.”

Hanna gasped. “Cuff me?” Okay, now that was silly. It sounded fake, like something the six-year-old twins next door would say to each other. But Wilden pulled out real steel handcuffs and gently put them around her wrists. Hanna hoped he didn’t notice that her hands were shaking.

If only this were the moment when Wilden tied her to a chair, put on that old ’70s song “Hot Stuff,” and stripped off all his clothes. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

The police station smelled like burned coffee and very old wood, because, like most of Rosewood’s municipal buildings, it was a former railroad baron’s mansion. Cops fluttered around her, taking phone calls, filling out forms, and sliding around on their little castor-wheel chairs. Hanna half expected to see Mona here, too, with her mom’s Dior stole thrown over her wrists. But from the look of the empty bench, it seemed Mona hadn’t been caught.

Ms. Marin sat very stiffly next to her. Hanna felt squirmy; her mom was usually really lenient, but then, Hanna had never been taken downtown and had the book thrown at her or whatever.

And then, very quietly, her mom leaned over. “What was it that you took?”

“Huh?” Hanna asked.

“That bracelet you’re wearing?”

Hanna looked down. Perfect. She’d forgotten to take it off; the bracelet was circling her wrist in full view. She shoved it farther up her sleeve. She felt her ears for the earrings; yep, she’d worn them today too. Talk about stupid!

“Give it to me,” her mother whispered.

“Huh?” Hanna squeaked.

Ms. Marin held out her palm. “Give it here. I can handle this.”

Reluctantly, Hanna let her mom unfasten the bracelet from her wrist. Then, Hanna reached up and took off the earrings and handed them over too. Ms. Marin didn’t even flinch. She simply dropped the jewelry in her purse and folded her hands over the metal clasp.

The blond Tiffany’s girl who’d helped Hanna with the charm bracelet strode into the room. As soon as she saw Hanna, sitting dejectedly on the bench with the cuffs still on her hands, she nodded. “Yeah. That’s her.”

Darren Wilden glared at Hanna, and her mom stood up. “I think there’s been a mistake.” She walked over to Wilden’s desk. “I misunderstood you at the house. I was with Hanna that day. We bought that stuff. I have a receipt for it at home.”

The Tiffany’s girl narrowed her eyes in disbelief. “Are you suggesting I’m lying?”

“No,” Ms. Marin said sweetly, “I just think you’re confused.”

What was she doing? A gooey, uncomfortable, almost-guilty feeling washed over Hanna.

“How do you explain the surveillance tapes?” Wilden asked.

Her mom paused. Hanna saw a tiny muscle in her neck quiver. Then, before Hanna could stop her, she reached into her purse and took out the loot. “This was all my fault,” she said. “Not Hanna’s.”

Ms. Marin turned back to Wilden. “Hanna and I had a fight about these items. I said she couldn’t have them—I drove her to this. She’ll never do it again. I’ll make sure of it.”

Hanna stared, stunned. She and her mom had never once discussed Tiffany’s, let alone something she could or couldn’t have.

Wilden shook his head. “Ma’am, I think your daughter may need to do some community service. That’s usually the penalty.”

Ms. Marin blinked, innocently. “Can’t we let this slide? Please?”

Wilden looked at her for a long time, one corner of his mouth turned up almost devilishly. “Sit down,” he said finally. “Let me see what I can do.”

Hanna looked everywhere but in her mom’s direction. Wilden hunched over his desk. He had a Chief Wiggum figurine from The Simpsons and a metal Slinky. He licked his pointer finger to turn the pages of the papers he was filling out. Hanna flinched. What sort of papers were they? Didn’t the local newspapers report crimes? This was bad. Very bad.

Hanna jiggled her foot nervously, having a sudden urge for some Junior Mints. Or maybe cashews. Even the Slim Jims on Wilden’s desk would do.

She could just see it: Everyone would find out, and she’d be instantaneously friendless and boyfriendless. From there, she’d recede back to dorky, seventh-grade Hanna in reverse evolution. She’d wake up and her hair would be a yucky, washed-out brown again. Then her teeth would go crooked and she’d get her braces back on. She wouldn’t be able to fit into any of her jeans. The rest would happen spontaneously. She’d spend her life chubby, ugly, miserable, and overlooked, just the way she used to be.

“I have some lotion if those are chafing your wrists,” Ms. Marin said, gesturing to the cuffs and rooting around in her purse.

“I’m okay,” Hanna replied, brought back to the present.

Sighing, she pulled out her BlackBerry. It was tough because her hands were cuffed, but she wanted to convince Sean that he had to come over to her house this Saturday. She suddenly really wanted to know he would. As she stared blankly at the screen, an e-mail popped up in her inbox. She opened it.

Hey Hanna,

Since prison food makes you fat, you know what Sean’s gonna say? Not it!

—A

She was so startled that she stood up, thinking someone might be across the room, watching her. But there was no one. She closed her eyes, trying to think who might have seen the police car at her house.

Wilden looked up from his writing. “You all right?”

“Um,” Hanna said. “Yeah.” She slowly sat back down. Not it? What the hell? She checked the note’s return address again, but it was just a mess of letters and numbers.

“Hanna,” Ms. Marin murmured after a few moments. “No one needs to know about this.”

Hanna blinked. “Oh. Yeah. I agree.”

“Good.”

Hanna swallowed hard. Except…someone did know.

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