"Hanna! Give me the shoes back!" I screamed as Emily and I chased after Hanna into the forest behind Emily's backyard.
Hanna, Emily, and I had secretly met up at Emily's house to plan what to get Spencer for her birthday. I had brought with me a pair of shoes I had seen at the mall the day before that screamed Spencer Hastings. As soon as I saw them, I knew I had to buy them for her. Emily still was undecided on what to get her. Hanna had bought her a book on how to prepare for college, as a joke, and a charm bracelet.
To my surprise, immediately after picking them up out of the shopping bag at Emily's house, a loud scream escaped Hanna's lips and she lunged for the shoes.
"Those are adorable." She exclaimed, never once removing her eyes from the gold platforms. Hanna spent the next five minutes gushing over the shoes, while Emily and I kept rolling our eyes at her.
As soon as I turned my back from Hanna and the shoes I heard a rustling. I turned back to the girls, but Hanna and Emily, along with the shoes, were gone.
And here Emily and I were, chasing Hanna through a dark forest, in an attempt to get the shoes back.
"Hanna!" Emily called out, her voice echoing through the tall trees.
A crunching of leaves, and then silence, was all that was heard.
"It came from over there!" I exclaimed, as I ran deeper into the forest, towards the sound. My breathing came quicker as I ran faster and faster, looking everywhere and anywhere for a speck of bright pink from the sweater Hanna had been wearing.
"She's not here." Emily ran up behind me, frantically looking around the dark trees.
"Here, why don't you go that way," I pointed to my left. "And I'll search over there?" I pointed towards my right.
Emily nodded in agreement, before running off into the depths of the trees.
"Hanna?" I called again as I started walking in the opposite direction of Emily. I whipped my head around as soon as I heard a crunch come from somewhere ahead of me.
"Hanna?" I called, as I moved a branch out of my path so it would not hit me.
I stopped moving when I heard no answer.
All of a sudden, I heard another rustle of leaves come from behind me. Someone was definitely there. My breathing started getting faster and I felt my palms getting sweaty. Hanna was really playing a great game.
"Hanna, seriously! Fine! You can keep the shoes! Can we just get out of here?" I hollered into the forest ahead of me.
I shook my head, as I got no response.
"Ew." I muttered, as I stepped over a large pile of wet orange leaves, trying my hardest to make sure that I did not get my boots soaking wet. I let out a sigh as I looked around the forest again. A glimpse of movement caught my eye. I squinted my eyes in an effort to see whatever it was, better. However, whatever or whoever it was, had disappeared as quickly as they had came.
I followed the path I had taken into the forest as I headed out of the dark woods.
I had given up. Hanna had won. I shook my head at the nonsense of the whole incident. Obviously it had been wrong of me to believe that Hanna would not get what she wanted. She was Hanna Marin, after all.
I trudged back through the damp forest, stepping over wet piles of colorful leaves, and moving branches out of my path.
All of a sudden, I felt a strong impact to my head. I sucked in a breath, as immense pain radiated throughout my body. A soft moan of pain escaped my lips as everything around me started spinning and becoming a blur. I let out another moan as my eyes slowly started closing. Before I knew it, my body crumpled to the ground and everything went black.
I let out a sigh as I finished reading the last sentence of the essay in my hands. I had assigned one of my classes to compose an essay on a theme of their choice on the latest novel we were reading. Clearly, however, I did not make myself clear enough, for the paper in my hands was about death, a theme that did not occur even once in the story. Although she had written a very good paper, she completely missed the goal of the assignment. After writing a big C on the top of the paper, I set it aside. I picked up my coffee mug and took a large sip.
I glanced at the time on my phone: 6:48. Aria had said she wanted to come over at seven, meaning I had just enough time to finish grading the last three essays.
I opened up a new text message and quickly composed a message to Aria.
Can't wait to see my beautiful girl tonight! –E
Smiling to myself, I pressed send and leaned back in my chair.
We had been planning to come out to her parents, but the timing just never was right. After talking with Ella the night Aria and her friends were taken to the police station, I had begun to have fears about Ella and Byron's reaction to my relationship with Aria. It had been a few weeks since that night, but every time the chance came up to reveal our relationship, something or someone got in our way.
"Good! Because they're mine now!" I laughed loudly into the air as I skidded to a halt across the piles of leaves. I bent down, putting my hands on my knees as I regained my breath. After a moment, I decided that it was time to go back. Stepping through the piles of dirt and leaves, I followed the path I had taken on the way to the spot I had ended up in.
I let out a small shriek and held the shoes tighter in my right hand as I heard a crunch of leaves come from behind me. I whipped my body around as I looked for the person who made the noise. Upon seeing no one, I continued walking, much slower this time. I jumped as I felt something lightly touch my hair, causing my hand to quickly fly to the top of my head. I shook my head as I removed the bright red leaf from my blonde hair.
"Aria? Emily?" I called, as I walked closer towards the edge of the forest.
"Hanna!" I heard a voice exclaim. I quickly ran towards it, before I was almost knocked backwards from the impact of running into another body. I pulled the loose strands of hair that had stuck to my lip-gloss away from my lips. I looked up and was met with the face of Emily. The look of relief on her face quickly turned to that of panic, as she asked, "Where's Aria?"
"I thought she was with you." I shrugged. "You two were trying to chase me, after all."
"Yeah but we split up looking for you!" She exclaimed.
"Aria!" I called out, as I cupped my hands around my mouth.
"Aria!" Emily screamed.
Emily and I shared a look of panic when the next minute passed with no response.
"What should we do?" I asked frantically.
"Go back in there!" Emily cried, as she sprinted back into the forest.
I carefully set the shoes down on the table of the patio set, not wanting the beautiful shoes to get dirty, before making a mad dash behind Emily.
"There's her footprints." Emily breathed.
I scrunched my eyebrows together and put my hands on my hips. "How do you know those aren't mine?"
"Because they're about the size of my hand." Emily looked at me in disbelief, referring to Aria's small size, before walking deeper into the forest.
"Yeah, okay." I rolled my eyes at her as I followed her, making sure not to step into any piles of leaves.
"There's her phone!" Emily cried a moment later, as she bent down to retrieve the phone from the dirt. "And there's… footsteps!"
She quickly stood up and shoved the phone into my hands, before following the footsteps and not once looking back.
I clicked a button and the screen of Aria's phone lit up. My heartbeat sped up as a text from Fitz was shown on the screen.
I let out a small laugh and looked at the phone mischievously. They could never keep away from each other, and I had to admit, their relationship was, in one word, hot. If Aria weren't dating Mr. Fitz, I would totally take him.
I could not stop myself from opening up the text.
"Can't wait to see my beautiful girl tonight! –E" It read.
"Aww." I cooed. They were just so damn cute!
All of a sudden, I heard a blood curdling scream come from somewhere ahead of me. I almost dropped the phone in my hands as I ran towards the direction of where the voice had come from.
"Emily?" I yelled, as I saw Emily's body curled over something on the ground.
"Emily!" I cried out, as I ran towards her.
I let out a scream at the sight in front of me. There Aria was, lying on the ground, her body sprawled out on the dirt floor. Her mouth was slightly agape, and a little bit of blood had trickled down her forehead.
"Oh my God!" I cried, as I bent down beside Emily. "Aria! Aria!" I shook her shoulder viciously, in an attempt to wake her up.
I tried to control my shaking body as I watched Emily place two fingers on Aria's neck, in an effort to try to detect a pulse.
"It's barely there!" She breathed heavily, as she grabbed Aria's phone from my hands.
Suddenly, she stopped moving. "Why were you going through Aria's texts?"
I opened my mouth to respond, but no words came out. "Well…"
"Oh, just forget it!" Emily exclaimed, before quickly dialing a number. "Call Aria's parents and tell them to meet us at the hospital. I'll call an ambulance!"
I nodded and quickly did as I was told.
"Should we leave her here and just wait here, or try and move her body back to the backyard?" I asked, turning back to Emily.
I frowned as I looked at the time again. Aria was supposed to be here twenty minutes ago. She never had replied to the text I had sent her earlier either.
I shook my head. I was just overreacting and being my overprotective self. I had every reason to worry, though, right? It was my job to make sure that Aria was always safe. I knew she depended on me, since she always came to me for advice and comfort when she was hurting.
My cell phone rang a moment later, indicating a text. I jumped up from the chair I was sitting on and quickly snatched the phone up from the coffee table. My heart skipped a beat as I saw the sender of the message: Aria. Smiling widely, I quickly opened up the message. However, the smile on my face quickly disappeared as my brain processed the words on the small screen in front of me.
Ezra, it's Hanna. Aria's hurt and is being taken to the hospital. Meet us there, I know she would want you there.
I wordlessly stared at the text for a moment, before I grabbed my coat and headed out the door. Was she okay? How badly was she hurt? Why hadn't Hanna said anything more?
Suddenly, another thought struck me. What were Aria's parents going to say when they saw me at the hospital with them? Surely they would wonder why I was freaking out about a former student being in the hospital! I shook my head. At this point, I really didn't care. All I cared about was Aria, and that she was going to be okay.