Emily’s phone bleated again. Gayle. A beep followed. Six new voicemail messages, the screen announced. (cont) tl.gd/hh8h99— Sara Shepard (@sarabooks) mayo 23, 2012
By the sixth message, Gayle had figured it out. “This was a set-up, wasn’t it?” she growled. “You had (cont) tl.gd/hh8hg2— Sara Shepard (@sarabooks) mayo 23, 2012
Emily’s phone bleated again. Gayle. A beep followed. Six new voicemail messages, the screen announced.
“Maybe you should listen to those,” Hanna whispered.
Emily shook her head, her lips trembling.
“Put the call on speaker,” Aria suggested. “We’ll listen with you.”
Drawing her bottom lip into her mouth, Emily did as she was told and played the first message. “Heather, it’s Gayle,” a harsh voice blared through the car. “You haven’t returned my calls in days, and I’m worried. You didn’t have the baby a few days early, did you? Were there some complications? I’m calling Jefferson to make sure.”
“Who’s Heather?” Spencer whispered nervously.
“It’s the fake name I gave everyone this summer,” Emily said. “I even applied for my job under the name using a fake ID I bought on South Street. I didn’t want anyone making the connection that I was Alison DiLaurentis’s best friend. Someone might have told the press I was pregnant, and then my parents would’ve found out.” She stared at her phone. “God, she sounds really pissed.”
Gayle’s second message followed. “Heather, it’s Gayle again. Okay, I called Jefferson—that is where you’ve scheduled your C-section, right? No one on the staff will tell me what’s going on. Can you please pick up and tell me where the hell you are?”
The tones of the third and fourth messages from Gayle increased in intensity and frustration. “Okay, I’m at Jefferson now,” Gayle said in the fifth message. “I just talked to an orderly, and they didn’t have any record of anyone named Heather in the maternity ward, but then I described what you looked like and she said you are here. Why didn’t you call me? Where the hell is the baby?”
“What do you want to bet she bribed the orderly?” Emily murmured. “So much for checking in under my real name to throw Gayle off the scent.” Checking in under Emily Fields had been a risk—even though Emily gave a PO Box in Philly as her address and planned to use her babysitting savings to pay the hospital bill, what if, for some reason, her parents called Jefferson and found out she’d been there? But since Gayle knew her only as Heather, using her real name seemed like an easy way to momentarily confuse her.
By the sixth message, Gayle had figured it out. “This was a set-up, wasn’t it?” she growled. “You had the baby and you left, didn’t you? Was this your plan all along, bitch? Did you plan to scam me from the start? Do you think I give out fifty-thousand-dollars to just anyone? Do you think I’m an idiot? I’m going to find you. I’m going to hunt you and that baby down, and then you’ll be sorry.”
“Whoa,” Aria whispered.
“Oh my God.” Emily flipped her phone closed. “I should have never promised her anything. I know we gave it back, but I should have never taken her money in the first place. She’s crazy. Now do you guys see why I’m doing this?”
“Of course we do,” Aria said quietly.
The infant started to whimper. Emily stroked her tiny head, and then, steeling herself, pushed open the car door and stepped into the chilly air. “Let’s do this.”
“Em, don’t,” Aria opened her own door and grabbed Emily’s arm just as Emily toppled against the side of the car, clearly in pain. “The doctor said you shouldn’t strain, remember?”
“I need to get the baby to the Bakers,” Emily pointed woozily to the house.
Aria paused. A truck horn honked far in the distance. Over the sound of the car’s chugging engine, she thought she heard a brief, high-pitched laugh.
“Fine,” Aria decided. “But I’ll carry her.” She grabbed the baby seat from the back. A distinct smell of baby powder, lotion, and new skin wafted up to greet her, bringing a lump to her throat. Her father, Byron, and his girlfriend, Meredith, had just had a baby, and she loved Lola with all of her heart. If she looked too long at this baby, she might love her just as much, too.