Chapter 4

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He couldn't believe he would actually do that. Going to Alison DiLaurentis's funeral. Her of all people. It would just rise questions of everybody who saw him. Which would be everyone who also attended. He hadn't Eve really known her. And with her body being found it also wasn't any good material for his novel anymore. Who would want to read about something like that? It was boring. But maybe that was exactly the reason why he felt like he had to come. Like that, he could just 'close this case' and move on. Find a new inspiration. Something. Anything. Lost in his thoughts he hadn't noticed that, instead of entering the 'main room' of the church, he had turned right and went up the stairs to the window where he had also been standing before his grandparents' funeral. Apparently, old habits did die hard. He looked at the colorful glass. There we're memories connected with it. And not exactly good ones. He turned around, about to just go and face the consequences later, when he heard a silent sob coming from the stairs that led further up. Intrigued, he went back to see who was there.
"Aria?", he asked surprised. There she sat, hugging her knees, crying. She looked up. Her face was wet, her make up ruined, but he couldn't help but still find her beautiful.
"Mr. Fitz", she said in a small voice. "What are you doing here?"
And that was the one question, he didn't quite want to answer.
"Erm...", he said.
Aria inhaled sharply.
"It's fine. You don't have to tell me. You don't know me."
She was right. But that didn't change the fact that for some reason, he wanted to tell her. Even though he knew he shouldn't.
"Was she a friend of yours?"
She nodded.
"She was."
She was?
"How did you know her?"
"School. Or Kindergarten. I can't remember. She was just always there. But ever since middle school, when we were both 'new' for the first time, we were friends."
Why did she tell him these things? She knew him just as much as he knew her. Maybe she needs someone to talk to? But she surely had friends, family. People who knew her. But maybe that was the problem? Ezra didn't know. But with this statement there was also another question that was imposing. He knew Alison had lied about her age. But... Aria was sixteen. So that would make Alison seventeen at maximum. So when they had, well, interacted, she was fifteen in the best and fourteen in the worst case. Fourteen! How the hell did she pretend to be eighteen? And Eve more so, how the hell could he have been so stupid as to fall for it? She'd been a kid. Suddenly he was even more relieved that they never tool their relationship to the next stage.
"Hey, are you okay?"
Arias voice pulled him out of his thoughts.
"You are so pale."
"Oh...", he said.
"Yeah... Yeah, I'm fine."
"You knew her too, right? That's why you're here."
Well, she was very observant at the least.
"I did", Ezra confirmed.
Should he tell her? He looked at her and all he saw we're her eyes, waiting for him to answer. Or not. She was leaving it completely up to him. And he did want to tell someone, he supposed.
"We were in a short relationship", he said slowly. " Don't judge! She pursued me. We would often just sit around and talk or eat. She told me she was eighteen", he added a little bitterly. "And you believed her?" Aria asked incredulously.
"Wait! Don't answer that. That sounds exactly like her. Of course you did." Ezra nodded a little defeated.
"Of course."
After a few moments, she broke the silence.
"You're not the first, you know."
After shooting her a questioning look she elaborated.
"To fall for her games. She played about everyone she ever met. And with great success I might add." "Didn't you say she was your friend?" He was confused.
"She was. But that doesn't change the facts that remain. You won't find many people to disagree with me when I say she was a manipulative bitch."
"I don't understand. Why were you friends with her then? You don't seem like someone who would want to be associated with that kind of thing." Aria sighed.
"You are right. There were more than enough moments in my life when I asked myself why I didn't just end the friendship."
"So why didn't you?"
"Please don't take this the wrong way, I wasn't friends with her because of that, but I liked being popular. I liked that there were all kinds of people wanting to be near me in the small hope to become a member of our 'circle of five' or whatever you want to call it. Maybe it makes me a bad person, but I liked the attention. I really liked being popular. And Ali wasn't someone you wanted to have as an enemy. She could make your life a living hell if she wanted to. It was an honor to be chosen by her. But the actual reason why I stayed her friend, why I didn't even see a lot of the stuff that I do now, is a different one. Alison. She has this wonderful unique ability to make you feel very special." "I think I know what you mean."
Ezra gave her a small smile to ease her nerves. She seemed nervous and she was chewing on her lower lip. He couldn't help but think that it was cute, but he didn't want her to have a sore, bloody lip tomorrow. Even though it probably was already too late for that.
"Is that why you stayed with her? Even though she was at least six years younger then you?"
It was time to honor his principles once again. Aria told him a lot of things. He owed it to her to be honest. "The moment I found out, I broke it off. She was just so young. But I don't know... I think the main issue I had was not her age but the fact that she lied about it. I know it is morally questionable for most people to date a fifteen-year-old at twenty-two, but I really liked her. She was mature. I mean, she did manage to fool me into thinking she was three years older." "Did you love her?"
"Honestly? I don't know. I knew so little about her. But she intrigued me. And if she had been older or maybe if she just hadn't lied about her age, I think I could have. If she really was the person I, well, kind of knew. After I found out, I wasn't really sure anymore. Because you see... she lied once, she could very easily do it again."
"I understand."
Ezra cleared his throat. "Erm... I think we should go down."
"You're probably right", Aria said.
She stood up and went towards the stairs.
"Are you coming?", she asked.
He hesitated.
"Don't you think there will be questions when we come in together?"
"...and you are right again."
She smiled.
As she made her way down, he grabbed her by the wrist.
She froze.
"It was nice talking to you. It really was."
She blinked and nodded once, then went away. As he realized what just happened, Ezra cursed himself under his breath. He let her come close. This information about Alison. He had never shared it with anyone before. Not even his best friend from college, Hardy. What was it about her that made him want to open up? Suddenly him going to this funeral seemed like a not so good idea. Maybe it was just because he wasn't ready to deal with the whole lot of questions he would be getting. How could he explain why he came without telling what he just told Aria? He felt pretty secure she would keep this to herself. But that wouldn't get him anywhere if people started asking and he was stupid enough to tell them. It happened once, it could happen again. Well, he could say it was out of solidarity. But that didn't feel right either. Alison may have been very different from what he had thought she was but now she was dead and in death, she should get at least some respect. Because he didn't doubt what Aria had told him. And from that he could be sure there were a lot of people out there who still didn't like her. Dead or not. He had to make up his mind quickly. Either staying or leaving. Before the service began. After looking out the window and brooding for the better part of five minutes, he still hadn't made a decision. He came to the conclusion that he would just go down and do what his feeling told him was right. So he descended the staircase and passed the door that led to the 'main room'. He was sure there was an actual term for it, but even if he had heard it before, he couldn't remember. Just standing there felt pretty stupid, but he didn't come just so he could be afraid and leave again.Problem: He didn't have the courage to enter. But just as he was about to leave, he changed his mind. He wasn't a coward. He wanted to pay his respects to Alison, despite everything. And he knew that if she was here at this very moment, she would laugh him right in the face, mocking him. And dead or not, he wouldn't give her that satisfaction. Imaginary or not. All right. He would just sit in the back and be quiet and hope nobody noticed and/or recognized him. Yeah, that would do. And if someone asked, he would just improvise an answer. He was good with words. After all, there was a reason he became an English teacher. And it certainly wasn't the utter joy of correcting essays and the like.

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