Chapter 2

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"Olivia Richmond had everything any girl could ever want. A beautiful house, perfectly straight blond hair, a handsome boyfriend and a close circle of friends. She began her junior year of high school with everything in the world going for her. She had even just received a brand new red Prius for her Sweet Sixteen, and everyone at Weeping Willow High School knew she'd be named Homecoming Queen at the annual fall dance."

I dared not look up to try to catch Violet's eye, but her mention of a new red Prius had caught my attention. How had she known that there was a red Toyota parked in the Richmonds' driveway at that very moment? Had she guessed?

Violet was a noticeably different kind of storyteller than Mischa. She didn't attempt to make her voice sound spooky or scary. Her voice was steady, confident, and she told her story solemnly, as if it was factual. Time seemed to slow down as she assembled the tale. I could hear the Richmonds' grandfather clock ticking at the top of the stairs, hear Candace swallow quietly, two feet away. Olivia's breathing was rhythmic but shallow, and her eyelashes fluttered as if she was dreaming. Violet's locket threw little glimmers of light around the basement as the flames in the fireplace reflected off of it.

"The night before the Homecoming dance, when the Weeping Willow High School football team was clear across the state claiming a victory over the team in Kenosha, Olivia was pulling together the final details for her big date with Pete. She had already found her perfect buttercream-colored dress, and a pair of earrings that would look fantastic dangling from her ears, just barely brushing her tan shoulders. But she was still missing the perfect pair of shoes to match her dress, and time was running out. She announced to her friends after school on Friday that she was going to drive to the mall in Green Bay in search of the perfect pair. After combing the mall and settling on a pair of shoes that weren't ideal, she found that the brand new car she had received for her birthday wouldn't start in the lot. She tried and tried to start its engine, but it just stalled."

"As heavy storm clouds filled the sky, Olivia accepted a ride back to Willow with a classmate from her high school who happened to recognize her car in the mall parking lot. They began the long drive back to their small town down the wooded rural highway as Olivia's mind filled with thoughts about the upcoming Homecoming dance, as well as the new complication of having to get her car towed out of the mall parking lot in the morning. The raindrops falling from the sky turned to hail, and before Olivia and the student behind the wheel could even see what was happening, they were hit head-on by a speeding truck that didn't see them in the other lane. Olivia's ribs were shattered, her internal organs splayed out across the front seat of the wrecked car. Her right arm was severed and discovered twenty feet away from the automotive wreckage after the hail storm. Both of her legs were crushed beneath the crumpled dashboard, pinning her into the front seat, preventing her escape even if she had remained conscious long enough to try to crawl away from the wreck. When the truck driver was able to bring his truck to a skidding halt and rushed to the car to see if either passenger had survived, he had to turn away, because Olivia had also been nearly completely decapitated. Her head dangled from her shoulders by a few cords of muscle and chunks of skin, having been knocked clean off her spine."

"Three days later, as her shocked family and the grieving town of Willow assembled for Olivia's wake, her body lay in a closed coffin, light as a feather, stiff as a board."

I was in such a state of awe from the gruesome detail and calmness with which Violet had brought an end to Olivia's life with words that my mind wasn't even focused on whether or not the game would work. An odd feeling of static had fallen across the room, and out of the corner of my eye I could see that the fire in the fireplace was blazing higher and brighter than it had previously all night, even though an hour ago when I had gotten up to use the bathroom, the logs were already glowing red, lit from within. As we began chanting and Olivia's straight body, her mouth frozen in a frown, began to lift with ease, I began to genuinely feel frightened. An uneasiness had slipped up against me, a sensation that someone—or something—was patiently observing us.

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