Day 687. Another scratch on the wall, another bruise on my skin. Another night of cryinguntil I can’t cry anymore, and then staring at the soil-covered wall until I fall asleep. Anothernight of hoping I’m not pregnant this time. Another day I’m proud to say I lived through. Day687. This always happens to the pretty ones. The ones who wore their hair in long pigtails aslittle girls and carried Tweety Bird lunch boxes to school. It never happens to the loners whodon’t have any friends or the losers who spend their days playing World of War Craft for sixhours straight. It only happens to the girls who everyone knows, and everyone loves. It happensto the one who will actually be missed. Alison DiLaurentis. A-L-I-S-O-N D-I-L-A-U-R-E-T-I-S. I’m surprised I still know howto spell it. I’ve been here so long I can’t count past the number ten any more. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,9, 10. I write it in the dirt. Alison Marie DiLaurentis. I trace the letters with my worn-out fingers.I find myself tracing other names, too. Hanna Marin. Spencer Hastings. Emily Fields. AriaMontgomery. The chubby one. The brainiac. The goody-goody. The freak. Labels I probablycreated. Labels that stuck to the girls like the tree sap that covers your hands after you spend aday climbing the tall pine trees in the woods. I wonder if they’re still called these names. DoesAria still knit woolen bras? Does Spencer still make the honor roll every year? Does Hanna stilleat everything in sight? Does Emily still kiss girls? I wonder, I wonder, I wonder. I wonder aboutso many things. Things I’ll never be able to actually know. Things that will always be an, “Iwonder..” I wonder if I’ll ever get out of here. I wonder if these bruises will ever go away. Iwonder if he got me pregnant this time. I wonder what I look like by now. I wonder. I grasp the hard, concrete walls and drag myself to my feet. Soon I won’t be able to dothis anymore. I’m getting so weak. I look down at my aching hands. They’re covered in soil andbloody blisters. Just grabbing onto the wall has made them even dirtier and bloodier. I inhaledeeply, trying to gather up enough strength to take a step. I won’t be able to take this muchlonger. I’m surprised I’m not dead yet. I definitely feel dead. I shuffle my hard, callused feetacross the filthy ground. They hurt even worse with every step I take. I take another hesitant step,wincing as my chain rattles behind me. The chain is what keeps me here. I’ve been tethered tothe wall for so long now. I don’t have any sense of time left. The only time I see the outside lightis when he comes in to rape me. The rest of the time, I’m stuck in this unlit room, all alone. All of a sudden, I’m angry. Angry because he’s kept me here and done such horriblethings to me. Angry because I couldn’t have prevented this, even if I’d tried. Angry because Iactually deserve to be treated this way. I’ve done such awful things to people and I’d doanything, absolutely anything, to go back and change all of that. And then I’m running. Runningaway from this dreadful place. Running from all that I have to deal with. Running from him. Iforget that I’m attached to the wall and my chain catches, yanking my feet out from under me. Ifall to the ground with a loud thud.
Sitting up, I realize that my ankle is in excruciating pain. My hands grope for the sourceof it and I notice that my ankle and foot is covered in a thick, sticky substance. Blood. I’mfamiliar with blood. He only brings me to the shower every fifteen days. For the other fourteen,I’m bloody all over. But this isn’t the old blood, the dried stuff that’s mixed in with caked mudand urine. This is new blood. Fresh blood. I push my fingers underneath the metal shackle that’saround my ankle. There’s a long gash in my skin. It must’ve chafed and cut me when I tripped. Ijust have to let it bleed. There’s nothing else I can do. As I’m adjusting the cuff so it doesn’t rubagainst my wound, I hear a slight crack. I’ve never heard that before. Metal can’t crack..can it? Irun a finger over the rusted material to find that it is indeed true. Running through the hard metalis a thin line where its surface is beginning to split. A few more hard blows to the chain and itshould break. A few more hard blows and I’ll be free. I crawl around the small room, searching for any rocks that might be lying on the dirtfloor. I can use them to break apart the chain that is keeping me here. There aren’t any. I realizethat the only way to completely break the metal is to repeat what I did to crack it in the firstplace. I stagger to my feet and then start to run again. Once more, I end up sprawled on the floor,my ankle throbbing. But this time it was on purpose. I inspect the metal. I was right. The crack isdeeper. It’s going to work. Breathing heavily, I rise to my full height again. I do this over andover, the crack spreading and deepening each time I fall to the ground. I fall over and over again,the cut in my ankle getting deeper and deeper with each fall. I don’t care about that. I’m focusedon getting out of here. Focused on escaping. Every time I feel myself hit the ground, I wish itwas the last. This hurts so badly. And then one time, it is. I hit the ground…and roll. You can’troll if you’re attached to a chain. Now all that’s left to do is turn the brass doorknob on the wooden door in front of me.The doorknob I’ve never even come close to touching. When I woke up here, I was attached tothe chain. He had just carried me through the door. I push myself up off the ground, standing uponce more. I take a step. I’m not attached to a chain. I’m free. I reach for the doorknob, shiveringwhen the cold brass comes in contact with my skin. This is it. If the door is unlocked, I’m out.I’ve escaped. I’m never going to see this hellhole again. I very slowly turn the knob. The doorswings open. He never even bothered to lock it. He was the only one who came in, and the onlyone who went out. I couldn’t even touch the door from my position in the dark corner of theroom. I take a hesitant step. I’m outside for the first time in a very long while. And it’s just like Iremember it. I’m running. Running past the trees in his backyard. Running past the fence thatsurrounds his home. Running past his house. He spots me from an upstairs window and I see hisdark blue eyes widen. He disappears. A couple seconds later, he’s rushing out of his front door,yelling at me. But I’m too far away for him to catch by now. I’m still running. Running down thestreet, the pavement cutting up the soles of my feet. Running past huge houses with kids playingin their front yards. Running past long driveways with mailboxes at the end of them.
I run until I see a house I recognize. A gigantic, white house with blue shutters. Whosehouse is it? Mine? My neighbor’s? My friend’s? I don’t remember. I don’t care. I recognize it.Someone who remembers me must live here. I run up to front door, banging on it with my fists. Iglance behind me. He’s still running. Running after me. I scream, slamming my hands againstthe hard wood of the door. I want to say words, but I can’t. I haven’t spoken in all the time I wasthere. He forbade me. If I uttered a single word, he would beat me. I learned not to speak whilehe was in the room. After a while, I stopped speaking at all. And now that I want to speak, Ican’t. I don’t remember how to. All of a sudden, the words come back to me. I don’t forgetanymore. I remember. “HELP!” I scream. “HELP ME!” A girl opens the door. She looks a lot like Hanna. Hanna Marin. The chubby one. But itcan’t be Hanna. This girl is skinny, and beautiful. Hanna wasn’t beautiful. I rush past her, intothe house. I run straight forward, collapsing onto the large staircase. I pull my knees up to mychest, rocking back and forth. I’m safe. I’m okay now. He can’t get me. He can’t come insidehere. The girl slowly shuts the door. She turns around to face me. Her blue eyes are wide and shelooks scared. Horrified. “Hanna, what was that?” comes a voice from the side of me. I peer over the tops of myknees, looking in the direction of the voice. Another girl comes into the room, followed by twoothers. The girl in front is short. She looks like Aria. Aria Montgomery. The freak. But Aria hadstreaks of pink in her hair. This girl doesn’t. She looks at the girl who opened the door. Then shelooks at me. She has the same expression on her face as the other girl. Her dark brown eyeswiden and she gasps quietly. The other two girls do the same. Voices fill the room. Loud voices. Is that her? It can’t be her. It’s impossible. She’s dead.She can’t be back. She died. She’s not here. I’m dreaming. You aren’t dreaming; I’m here too.The voices get louder. It isn’t her. It can’t be. Who else would it be? Just some girl! Louder. itisn’t her! Give it up, Emily! It HAS to be her! Louder and louder. It IS! She’s DEAD, SPENCER!WELL, SHE’S SITTING RIGHT THERE! APPARENTLY, SHE’S NOT DEAD! So loud that Ican’t take it any longer. I scream at the top of my lungs, flustered by the noise. The voices stop. The girls turnaround. They look at me. I think they realize that they were loud. The short one walks over tome. She kneels down in front of me and sets her hand on my knee. I shudder, pressing myforehead into my kneecaps. She takes her hand off. “Ali? Is that you? Alison?” Alison. AlisonDiLaurentis. A-L-I-S-O-N D-I-L-A-U-R-E-T-I-S. I nod, shaking with fear. “It’s okay. I won’thurt you. I’m Aria. Remember?” I nod again. “He’s coming! Coming!” I shriek, my eyes fillingwith tears. “No, he’s not. You’re okay. You’re safe.” I’m safe.I’m safe. I’m safe now. It’s been a year since all of this happened. A year since I escaped. It turnsout I was in a shed in his backyard for almost two years. They had people searching for me. Butafter a while, they gave up because they found my body. It wasn’t really my body. It was another
girl’s. He had done things to her to make it look like it was me. He. Stanley Adams. He’s in jailnow. He’s going to be in jail for the rest of his life. I live with my parents again and I’m starting12th grade in the fall. My friends have forgiven me. For the most part, that is. I’m starting toreturn to normal life. Normal as in the way it was before I disappeared. My life will never benormal. I go to a psychologist twice a week. I can speak in full sentences again. I know whatcomes after ten. Eleven. Eleven comes after ten. Aria doesn’t knit woolen bras anymore, but shedoes knit scarves. Spencer still makes the honor roll. Every single year. Hanna doesn’t eateverything in sight. She’s as skinny as ever and she exercises a lot. And she’s beautiful. Almostas beautiful as I am. Emily does still kiss girls. Well, one girl. Me. We’ve been together for threemonths now. The bruises did go away. I’m not pregnant. They say I will never be able to be. Idon’t wonder these things anymore. I know them.