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Page 68

It was so nice to see her having fun with other girls. For the first time since we came to Baneberry Hall, Maggie looked happy, even when she shot occasional glances to the corners of the room.

Those fearful looks grew more pronounced when the girls got ready for bed. While Petra engaged in a half-hearted pillow fight instigated by her sister, Maggie merely sat there, her gaze flicking to the corner by her closet. And when I lined them up to take a picture with the Polaroid camera, she appeared more focused on the wall behind me than the camera’s lens.

“They’re down for the night,” I announced to Jess after I’d turned out the lights in Maggie’s room and retired to my own. “Whatever else they need, Petra can take it from here.”

I collapsed on the bed, an arm flung over my eyes. I would have plunged immediately into sleep if something hadn’t been weighing on my mind since dinner.

“I think we should take Maggie to see someone.”

Jess, who had been applying moisturizer at her vanity, gave me a look in the mirror. “As in a shrink?”

“A therapist, yes. Clearly, something’s going on with her. She’s struggling with this move. She has no friends and doesn’t seem to want to make any. And all this talk of imaginary friends—it’s not normal. And it’s not a plea for attention, either.”

In the mirror, Jess’s face took on a wounded look. “Do you plan on throwing that back at me every time we discuss our daughter?”

“That wasn’t my intention,” I said. “I was just making a case for why we should send her to someone who might be able to help.”

Jess said nothing.

“Either you have no opinion on the matter,” I said, “or you don’t agree with me and just don’t want to say it.”

“Therapy’s a big step,” she finally said.

“You don’t think Maggie has a problem?”

“She has imaginary friends and trouble making real ones. I don’t think we should punish her for that.”

“It’s not punishment. It’s getting her the help she needs.” I sat up and moved to the edge of the bed. “These aren’t typical imaginary friends, Jess. Miss Pennyface and Mister Shadow. Those are scary names, given to them by a scared little girl. You heard what she called them—ghosts. Imagine how terrified she must be.”

“It’s a phase,” Jess insisted. “Brought on by this move and all the things that have happened with this house. I worry that sending Maggie to a shrink will make her feel like an outcast. To me, that’s a far bigger concern than something she’s going to grow out of as soon as she gets used to this place.”

“And what if she doesn’t grow out of it? What if this is a legitimate mental disorder that—”

A scream cut me off.

It came from Maggie’s room, shooting down the hallway like a bullet. By the time the second scream arrived, Jess and I were already out of our bedroom and running down the hall.

I was first to reach Maggie’s room, colliding with Petra, who had burst into the hallway. She wrapped her thin arms around herself, as if trying to ward off a sudden chill.

“It’s Maggie,” she said.

“What’s wrong?” Jess asked as she caught up to us.

“I don’t know, but she’s freaking out.”

Inside the bedroom, Maggie began to shout. “Go away!”

I ran into the room, confounded by what I saw.

The armoire doors were wide open, and all the dresses Jess had hung there were now scattered about the room. Hannah was up to her neck in her sleeping bag, mute with fear, scooching backward like an inchworm.

Maggie stood on her bed, shrieking at the open armoire.

“Go away! Go away!”

In the hallway, I heard Petra telling Jess what had happened.

“I was asleep,” she said, the words tumbling out. “Hannah woke me up yelling, saying Maggie had just pulled her hair. But Maggie said she hadn’t. That it was someone else. And then I heard the wardrobe door open and things flying out of it and Maggie screaming.”

Maggie remained on the bed. Her shouts had devolved into an earsplitting wail that refused to die down. In the corner, Hannah’s hands shot out of the sleeping bag and clamped over her ears.

“Maggie, there’s no one here.”

“There is!” she cried. “They’re all here! I told you they’d be mad!”

“Sweetie, calm down. Everything’s okay.”

I reached for her, but she slapped my hand away.

“It’s not!” Maggie cried. “He’s under there!”

“Who?”

“Mister Shadow.”

It wasn’t until her voice died down that I heard an unidentifiable noise coming from under the bed.

“There’s nothing down there,” I said, hoping to convince myself as well as Maggie.

“He’s there!” Maggie shrieked. “I saw him! And Miss Pennyface is right there!”

She pointed to the corner behind her closet door, which I saw had also been opened. I didn’t remember it being that way when I came into the room, even though it had to have been.

“And then there’s the little girl,” she said.

“Where is she?” I asked.

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