Does writing fan fiction make someone who wants to be a serious writer the kind of person who only writes fan fiction? The results of my experiment taking on alternate universe for Aria Montgomery below.
From the journals of Aria Montgomery
If you really want to hear about it—and you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be snooping through my journal—the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield crap.* Unlike my favorite anti-hero, Holden Caulfield, I do feel like going into it. I do intend to tell you my whole story, the full array of events that lead me here, where I rest and where I’ll stay: Radley Sanitarium for the criminally insane.
I grew up to the sounds of my parents’ shouting voices, their angry threats to one another behind closed doors, their inability to grasp the concept that sound travels through wood. They fought as if Mike and I didn’t exist, or like we were deaf, or like we existed and could hear but didn’t matter, didn’t count as people with feelings or needs. They left us with our uncle Sidney on weekends so they could marathon fight without the annoyance of children to cramp their style. They must have known about Uncle Sidney’s unnatural fascination with kids, but they didn’t care. No! You say, Not Ella and Byron Montgomery, they seem like such nice parents. Not without their flaws, of course, but so nice. Well, you’re wrong. They were selfish and they were “occupied,” as Holden says. They never noticed my misery. But somebody did. I was 12 years old, a sixth grader at Rosewood Junior High; I wore Converse and cargo pants, I looked like a little boy. We were on a field trip to Hollis College, touring the library with its majestic pillars and archways. The cool, musty silence filled my heart like a balloon. That’s when he approached me. I didn’t know it then, but his name was Ezra, an English student at Hollis, with bright, deep eyes and the kindest smile. He just handed me a small leather notebook when nobody was looking, put one finger to his lips and whispered, “Shhhh.” Once we had all filed outside, I opened the first page to find a note that read: It will get better. And until then, write about it.
I don’t know how he knew I needed him. That’s the thing about Ezra, he’s insightful and wise. He read the sadness on my face. The anguish. He cared about me, even then. I vowed to find him when I was older and marry him. I knew he would want to marry me, he’d want to save me, take me away from Rosewood, take me to London or Paris where we could spend our days writing in cafés and laughing about our old lives where everyone was so ignorant and small-minded. But my plan was temporarily thwarted when, at fourteen, Alison DiLaurentis, started dating him. My Ezra. They met at a Hollis party, she lied and said she was a student there too, she pretended to love all his favorite books like the manipulative phony that she is. And he fell for it. He fell for her charm—hook, line, and sinker. I was devastated.
But I didn’t let it show, especially not to Alison. I knew how she operated, knew that if she found out I loved him, she would tell him right away, putting some sad spin on it to make me look needy and pathetic. No, if I was going to win this game, I had to keep quiet. I dreamt of driving Ali out of town, getting her out of my way, but I didn’t have a plan. Until one night.
Everybody has a breaking point, and mine came one year after Ali started dating Ezra. I was walking home with Ali after school, acting like everything was fine, when we saw my dad parked in his car. With one of his students. Kissing her. Now, I’d known about my dad’s affairs for years, but this was new for Ali. “You have to tell your mom,” she said.
“Why? If she finds out it’ll destroy her. They’ll get divorced.”
“Aria, if you don’t tell her, I will. It’s the right thing to do.” She glared at me with those judging green eyes, so full of arrogance and condescension. She was always telling us what “the right thing to do” was, but she didn’t have morals, not really. All she ever wanted was to watch us suffer, to watch our lives fall apart. She was an emotional sadist. She thrived off the sorrow of others; I often watched her, tried to find a glimmer of compassion or honesty or goodness in her face, but there was none. Alison DiLaurentis was evil. I had to stop her.
I left my house around sunset that night with a knife buried in my jacket pocket. I know now that I wasn’t thinking clearly, but that night all I knew was years of rage eating me from the inside out and a fierce desire to make it end. If Ali was dead, we could all live in peace. If Ali was dead, I could have my Ezra back.
Just as I approached the Dilaurentis driveway, I saw someone standing across the street. It was Alison in her long, red coat, staring creepily at her own house. I ducked out of sight so I could approach her from behind. I didn’t want a confrontation, I just wanted her to be dead. Trembles shook me as I walked, and threatened to tear me apart. I tried to keep myself together. Just one quick motion, I told myself, and it will all be over. I took the knife out of my pocket, pulled my arm back and—
She grabbed the knife from me, pale-faced but with a steady hand.
“Who the hell are you?” she demanded.
“What do you mean? It’s Aria.” We stared at each other. I couldn’t understand how moments ago I held a knife pointed at one of my best friends and now she had it pointed at me. And how could she not recognize me? “Ali?”
“No,” she shook her head and sighed as if relieved, flushed with new understanding, “I’m not Ali. I’m Annie. Her twin.”
“Ali has a twin?”
“She doesn’t know about me.” Annie’s smirk was so eerily like her sister’s, so wrought with disdain.
“How is that possible?” I struggled to catch my breath.
“Why were you going to stab Ali?” she brushed away my question with her own.
“I wasn’t,” I lied, “I was just trying to scare her. It was a joke. She’s big on practical jokes. Games. A good scare. That sort of thing.”
“You don’t have to pretend with me,” she said, “I want her dead too. Well, kind of. Maybe not dead, but definitely gone.”
“Why do you?”
“She’s evil and she’s ruining my life.”
“That’s fair. Let’s go somewhere more. . .private. I’ll tell you everything.”
Hesitantly, I followed her into the woods across from the DiLaurentis home. We’d been walking for maybe ten or fifteen minutes when we came to a rock. This is where she’d tell me everything, and where we’d come to meet for years, in secret, as a team. Here’s what I learned that night: When Ali and Annie were born, the DiLaurentis family was very poor. Poorer than you’d ever expect from such a pristinely cookie-cutter group. Mr. DiLaurentis had lost his job after showing up drunk one too many times, and Mrs. DiLaurentis had never worked. They lived off food stamps and were constantly on the verge of eviction from their one-bedroom apartment outside Ravenswood.
Finally, they were evicted. Homeless. They felt scared and stuck and didn’t know what to do. Out of desperation, despair, and maybe a touch of madness, they gave up one of their twins. Annie. They wrapped her in a blanket and left her on a doorstep, they left her to fend for herself before she was even nine months old. Annie spent her childhood going from one foster home to another, each one more extravagantly abusive than the last. She grew up neglected and unloved, vowing to find her true family and finally experience happiness. But when she did find them, as a thirteen-year-old, she learned that they were happy without her, that they had blocked her out of their memories, that they had grown rich and never bothered to track her down. She couldn’t believe how they had let her suffer all those years. And why her? Had they chosen her at random to go live a life of squalor and violence? She was just as deserving of the life her twin sister Ali got to have, that was supposed to be her life too!
My heart broke for her. Hearing about the foster families upset me the most: one where she had to live in a cage in the basement, one where she was punished by having to sleep outside during winter. All of this while Alison was treated like a princess, her every whim indulged by parents with guilty consciences. We talked for hours that night, devising a plan that would benefit us both: we’d taunt, torment and threaten Ali until she couldn’t take it anymore, at which point, she would leave town. She’d go into hiding because our threats would tell her to, and she wouldn’t tell anyone where she was because if she did, we would kill her.
For a long time, we’d let people wonder what had happened to her, we’d let them believe she was dead, and then it would be revealed that she was still alive, at which point Annie would come back pretending to be Ali and claim the life she always wanted. She’d say “Poor me, I was run out of town by cruel threats from an anonymous source! No, I have no idea who it was. But I’m safe now. I’m home for good.” With the way we would scare the real Ali, there’d be no risk of her turning up ever again. Annie could have Ali’s life, the life that should have been hers, and I could have Ezra.
Chasing Ali out of Rosewood wasn’t easy, but we did it. We did it with cleverly haunting messages designed to make her feel isolated and helpless. We signed them “-A.”
“A” is not for Alison. “A” is for Aria, “A” is for Annie, “A” is for Alpha, always in control, always all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere and nowhere all at once, finally taking back what we know is rightfully ours.
More later, bitches.
*This opening paragraph is a play on the opening paragraph of Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger.