“That’s because it’s the only one, dear,” Franny says.
“How long has it been there?”
“Since last evening,” Theo says. “Ben installed it during the campfire.”
At first, the name is unfamiliar to me. Then I remember the groundskeeper. No wonder he was acting so strangely when gathering up those easels.
“Why did he put it there?”
“To keep an eye on Dogwood, of course,” Franny says.
Since we’re on the topic of surveillance, I’m tempted to tell her that someone might have watched me take a shower this morning. I don’t because I’m not entirely sure there was. It would also require me to reveal just how I know about the crack in the shower wall. That’s a conversation I’d like to avoid at all costs.
Instead, I say, “That doesn’t answer my question.”
But it does, actually. Only the answer is an unspoken one, left for me to infer on my own. The camera is trained on Dogwood because I’m staying there. That’s why it was installed last night. They didn’t know it was the cabin I’d be occupying until after I’d arrived.
Franny looks at me from across the table, her head tilted, concern glowing in her green eyes. “You’re upset. And probably offended. I can’t say I blame you. We should have told you immediately.”
The slight throb of a headache presses against my temples. I chalk it up to confusion and too much hastily swallowed prosecco on an empty stomach. But Franny is right. I am upset and offended.
“You still haven’t told me why it’s there,” I say. “Are you spying on me?”
“That’s putting it a bit harshly. Spying.” Franny smacks her lips in distaste, as if just saying the word has soured her tongue. She takes a tiny sip of prosecco to wash it away. “I like to think it’s there for your own protection.”
It’s Theo who answers. Hearing it from him forces a huff of surprise from my lungs.
“Back when I was getting ready to reopen the camp, we did background checks on everyone staying here for the summer,” Franny says, exhibiting more gentleness than her son. “I didn’t think it was necessary, but my lawyers insisted on it. Instructors. Kitchen staff. Even the campers. We found nothing to be concerned about. Except with you.”
“I don’t understand,” I say, when really I do. I know what’s coming next.
A pained expression crosses Franny’s face. It strikes me as exaggerated and not entirely sincere. Like she wants me to know just how much it hurts to utter whatever she’s about to say.
“We know, Emma,” she tells me. “We know what happened to you after you left Camp Nightingale.”
I don’t talk about it.
Not even with Marc.
The only other people who know what happened are my parents, who are all too happy to avoid discussing those horrible six months when I was fourteen.
I was still in school when it began. A gangly freshman desperately trying to fit in with all the other prep school girls. It wasn’t easy. Not after what had happened that summer. Everyone knew about the disappearance at Camp Nightingale, giving me the kind of notoriety no one wanted anything to do with. My friends started pulling away from me. Even Heather and Marissa. My life became a form of solitary confinement. Weekends spent in my room. Cafeteria lunches consumed alone.
Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, I saw the girls and everything truly went to hell.
It was during a class trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A hundred schoolgirls tittering through the halls in a parade of plaid skirts and haughty insecurity. I had broken off from the group in the wing of nineteenth-century European paintings, roaming the labyrinth of galleries, dazzled by all the Gauguins and Renoirs and Cézannes.
One of the galleries was empty, save for three girls standing in front of a work by Gustave Courbet. Young Ladies of the Village. A massive landscape painted mostly in greens and golds and populated by four women. Three of them appear to be in their late teens. The young ladies of the title, casually elegant with their afternoon dresses, bonnets, and parasols. The other girl is younger. A peasant. Barefoot, kerchief on her head, apron around her waist.
I stared, but not at the painting. I was more interested in the girls studying it. They wore white dresses. Plain and subdued. They stood straight-backed and completely still, as poised as the young women Courbet had created. It was almost as if they had just emerged from the painting itself and were now curious to see how it looked without them.
It’s beautiful, one of the girls said. Don’t you think so, Em?
She didn’t turn around. She didn’t need to. I knew in my bones that it was Vivian, just as I knew the other two were Natalie and Allison. I didn’t care if it was actually them or their ghosts or figments of my imagination. Their presence was enough to terrify me.
You seem surprised, Vivian said. Guess you never pegged us as art lovers.
I couldn’t summon the nerve to reply. Fear had silenced me. It took all the strength I could muster to take a step backward, trying to put some distance between us. Once I managed that first tiny step, others followed in quick succession. My legs propelled me out of the gallery, saddle shoes tapping loudly against the parquet floor. Once I was safely out, I risked a glance behind me.