Alison slid out of the car and closed the door as quietly as she could. She was, strictly speaking, not supposed to be out of the house, but she'd persuaded her parents that an hour, disguised, couldn't hurt. They'd given in, listing conditions – she wasn't to speak to anyone, she was to keep to herself, it was preferable that she disguise herself, and loaned her the car with dark-tinted windows to protect her while she drove.
She'd put in the dark brown contact lenses and bundled her hair almost painfully under a hood, smiling bitterly at the irony of disguising herself when soon, she'd be pretending to be someone else.
Now, at the graveyard, she picked up the bunch of flowers that she'd had her mom get from the store earlier. The cellophane rustled noisily and she cringed, slightly paranoid that the sound would carry to someone nearby.
It didn't, and she was grateful for the dark skies and drizzle of rain that meant most people would be indoors. The charcoal-grey hoodie blended in and her rectangular reading glasses – luckily with just plain glass – made her look completely different. For all the stupid things she'd done, Courtney had at least had the habit of experimenting with her looks. No doubt the glasses were part of an attempt to look smarter, that was always the way.
They pinched the bridge of her nose, but she wasn't about to complain: after all, Alison DiLaurentis would never be caught in old glasses. True, she was Courtney to everyone right now, but the principle was the same.
She wove her way through the graves, noting idly old inscriptions or admiring flowers. The cap of the water bottle in her hand dug in, and she tossed it aside.
Finally, she reached her destination. Mona van der Waal.
The headstone was basic, with the same kind of generic inscriptions: loving daughter, popular student. It was odd to think that Mona had impersonated her, dying at seventeen for the sake of revenge. That nerdy girl who'd loved yo-yos and Fear Factor lay beneath her feet, and it was almost like she'd died for Alison's sake – trying to right a series of wrongs.
She hadn't remembered Mona being especially popular back when she'd ruled the school – then again, nor had Hanna, and look how she'd turned out. The crinkle of a piece of paper jolted her out of her thoughts, and she tugged it from her pocket. Oh yes, the print-out she'd made. A before and after of Mona: dork to gorgeous in less than four years.
Gorgeous to A in less than two. Alison had to admire that kind of drive. She'd bet that Mona had been faking her friendship with Hanna for more than one year.
Kneeling down, she removed the dry and dying flowers from the vase, tipping away the water and replacing them with fresh water and flowers.
"I… I feel like I should apologize for what my sister did. She took over my life and then targeted you. I suppose it was too easy being me."
The words felt odd on her tongue. She'd been lying to nurses and doctors for months, and now her parents. Telling the truth felt strangely liberating, and with a quick glance around to make sure no-one was near, she continued.
"It's because of her that you got hurt like you did, the night they tried to prank the Cavanaughs. She was sick, you know. She didn't want to go into hospital for treatment, so she tricked our family and I had to go in her place. I've only got out a little while ago."
She had to be careful what she said. This was cathartic, and she paused to think over the irony: telling lies to psychiatrists and truths to a dead girl. A dead girl she'd never liked, at that.
"I did some research and found out what you did. You used my initials to fool them for months. I admit I was pretty pissed off at first. Still, it was genius. You got your revenge really nicely, though I am sorry that you died for it. Maybe if you'd lived… who knows? You could've joined me and we could work together. That's what I'm going for: revenge. They wrecked my life like they wrecked yours."
She paused. No, that wasn't right. They hadn't just wrecked Mona's life, they'd ended it. At least, Spencer had. Alison would make sure she paid for it.
"By the way, well done on the make-over. I found a photo online. It was taken around your birthday, and you looked good. I'm glad you got the popularity you wanted. I feel like I should give Hanna my approval of her new makeover. I suppose it'd be like indirectly giving you the approval. I know she would've liked me to see her, all popular and beautiful. I have, by the way. She looks good, but not exactly happy."
A quiet buzzing interrupted Alison's thoughts, and she sighed in part disappointment, part frustration. No doubt her freedom was up.
Sure enough, the screen of her dad's ancient phone read Mom, and she knew without even opening the message that it would be the summons for her to return home.
She paused to send her reply to her mom –on my way now – and turned off the phone.
She leaned down and wiped the dust away from the headstone, rearranging the flowers a bit. Old habits, she thought with some amusement. I've still got things to get in order and plans to make, and I'm fussing with flowers.
"Well, I'm going to carry on what you did. I'm going to be the new A. I'm going to finish off my own revenge. Maybe someday there'll be four more plots in this cemetery."