Chapter 3

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Aria closed the door behind her and let her purse fall on the floor. It made a 'thump' and for a moment she couldn't help but worry if her books were okay.
Oh boy! This very first day would hopefully be the worst. Otherwise it was possible she didn't survive.
Not on her own.
She went to the fridge, grabbed a soda, picked up her bag and went up to her room. She closed once again the door behind her and let herself fall on the bed.
Who would have thought that school could be so emotionally exhausting? And with no homework, there was nothing she could do but brood about the recent events. The one thing that bothered her even more than feeling like a complete stranger in her hometown was the text she got during lunch.
Why? Why her and not the others? Admittedly, she didn't know if she was the only one receiving that text, but it was very specific, so it was the only logical conclusion. But even more important was the question of how? There was only one person besides herself that had known about her dad and was not directly involved, but this one person was most likely dead. Yeah, well.
Apparently she wasn't.
Only thinking about Alison made Arias heart go heavy, so she tried to change the topic. She didn't do it intentionally, but somehow her thoughts seemed to wander to her new English teacher all by themselves. Suddenly noticing the lack of sleep of the last nights, Aria had not had the strength anymore to push him out of her mind and she fell asleep.

When she woke up she was confused at first, then, the moment she realized what she had been dreaming about, her cheeks started burning. At least there was no one around to see her this time.
She heard a knock on the door, and as none of her family were home, she had no other option but to get up and open the door. But seriously, if that was Mike and he had forgotten his key again she couldn't guarantee she wouldn't be angry. She could sympathize with her parents more and more.
It knocked again, a little more persistent now, and with a sigh, Aria went downstairs.
Annoyed, she opened the door and she was about to start scolding her brother when she noticed it wasn't him across her.
"Er... Hey Emily. What are you doing here?"
"Oh, hey. I was hoping we could talk?" Aria was caught a little by surprise, considering the scene that took place just mere hours before at school. But who was she to deny? She had no valid reason and she kind of missed having someone to talk to.
"Sure", she said. "Is it okay if we stay outside? Our house is still a big mess." "Of course."
Emily smiled. She seemed to be nervous, Aria noticed. Well, whatever it was, she would try her best to help. After all, Emily was the closest to a friend she had right now and she was not one to just walk away when others came to her. She led Emily to the swinging chair on her porch and they sat down.
"So... What is it?", Aria asked.
Emily cleared her throat a little uncomfortably.
"I'm sorry for just stopping by. I know you guys are probably stressed out with the move and everything."
Aria smiled.
"Any time Em. Come on. You know that!"
Emily nodded faintly and inhaled a sharp breath.
"Somebody left a note in my locker today."
Oh... okay. So maybe she wasn't the only one. But better be sure, right? "From 'A'?", she asked.
"You too?"
So Aria was right. Not that that was necessarily a good thing. Or was it? After all it could mean that...
"Do you really think it's her? Is it possible?"
"Only Alison could have known", Emily said in a quiet voice.
"What? Known -- known what?"
She couldn't help but ask, even if it probably was not the most intelligent thing to do in this situation.
"It was...", Emily started.
"...Personal?"
Of course it was, Aria thought to herself, the only confirmation she needed being the look on her friends face.
"I really believed she was dead." "Yeah", Aria assured. "Yeah, we all did."
"Could she really be back?"
There was undeniably hope in Emily's voice. Was it possible? The signs definitely pointed in the direction.
"I think she is playing with us", Aria said thoughtfully.
"Why would she do that?" Okay. In Aria's mind that much was clear.
"It's Alison that we are talking about here. I mean, wasn't that her favorite sport?"
" Should we tell someone?"
Good question. Normally that would also be the one and only logical conclusion. If there weren't that one tiny little problem.
"I don't... I don't know about you, but I... I can't."
And that was not because she was embarrassed. Okay, maybe she was, but that was not the issue. If she told, she had to tell everything. And as much as her dad deserved it, it would pretty surely end in some kind of the 'public eye'. After all, Rosewood was a small village and therefore, not many interesting things happened, aside from Ali's disappearance, but that has been over a year, if just slightly. Also, gossip traveled really fast, and she didn't know if she or her family could handle all that negative attention. "I'm glad you're back." Emily broke the silence.
"It's funny...", Aria said slowly. "I mean, even though I grew up here, I feel like a total outsider."
There. She told someone. Maybe they could be friends again. Aria knew she shouldn't get her hopes up, but she just couldn't help it in that moment. It felt so good to have someone to talk to, even if it was just about the smallest things.
"Me too...", Emily said.
Okay, that was unexpected. But well... she had been away for a year. And if they really weren't friends without Alison, it was absolutely possible for Em to feel excluded. Even though she had her swim-team. And that much she also said.
"I know...", Em answered. "But we're not that close. I mean, we're a team and all and we get along fine, but it's just not the same."
Aria nodded in understanding. What they had had, had been special. Emily looked at her watch.
"Oh crap! I should've been home for ten minutes already. My mom comes home at six thirty and I'm in charge of dinner. I'm sorry..." She grimaced.
"No harm done", Aria laughed. "I have enough to do myself. You see, I was supposed to start unpacking. Just, I fell asleep."
"Well... you can at least still blame the jet lag."
"You're right. And you know what, I will do exactly that!" The girls got up and hugged. Admittedly, the moment was a little awkward, but well... All things took their own time.
"Bye Em!" Aria called after her as she mounted her bicycle and rode away. "Bye!"
With a smile on her face Aria went inside again. She had a lot to do, a lot to worry about, but she also had something to look forward to. And she would work towards their friendship. Not just Emily, but Spencer and Hanna as well. It may be partly her fault that they weren't close anymore. After all, she was the one who left. But it had also been her parents' decision and there was no denying that it had been good for her family. And to forget about all that crap with her dad. And there we are with the worrys again Aria thought. The point was, she would work for their friendship and today had showed her, that it was far from impossible to restore what had once been there. Or something like that...

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