At school the next day, Violet couldn’t stop talking to her new friends about the woods.
‘My stepdad is a bit of an idiot,’ she told her friends. ‘He insisted me and my mom go with him on a walk and once we were in the middle of the forest, without anyone around, he started telling us horror stories.’
‘What kind of horror stories? Suzy asked. ‘Come on, I want to hear more.’
‘Yes, tell us more. Although I have also heard horror stories about that place. I don’t think any of it is true though.’ This was Tiffany, also listening with baited breath.
‘I don’t know anymore than that,’ said Violet. ‘He just said I should never go alone because there have been stories of people disappearing. Do you know anyone who has ever disappeared?’
‘Of course not,’ Suzy said. ‘But I would love to go to the woods. Let’s go together girls. What about Saturday. We could meet at Violet’s house, take a picnic. Maybe have a seance, pretend to be witches, hahaha just kidding Violet, you have gone white! Let’s meet for a walk, Saturday.’
The girls agreed to walk on Saturday.
‘We can go to the waffle house after,’ said Danny. The arrangements were getting better and better.
Violet was feeling bad though.
She had Tara’s phone. She had no idea where Tara was. Maybe she was in trouble. Although, that was silly and she was just feeling guilty. Tara was somewhere with her parents, whichever place her parents had forced her to go to! Just like she had been forced to come to this place.
Still, something niggled at Violet all day long. Her conscience was getting the better of her. She decided that when she got home, she would try and find out what happened. And she would come clean with Damien. She would tell him who she was. And then she would find out what had happened to Tara.
When Violet got home, her mom had made a delicious apple pie.
‘Sorry mom, ‘ she yelled as she ran up to her room. ‘I have so much work, an important project. Keep me a piece please…’
She picked up Tara’s phone and checked her messages. There were two messages from Damien.
‘Hey you beautiful girl…’
‘Back from school yet? Let’s chat, I’m missing you…’
She replied, saying ‘Later, alligator. I have something important to do.’
And then, she slowly, and carefully, started going though Tara’s friends. She looked at the names, the pictures and if there had been any messages between Tara and her friends.
This was odd.
Tara had Suzy’ number in her phone. She also had Tiffany’s. And Danny’s
They’d all said they didn’t really know her.
Violet kept scrolling until she found a conversation between Tara and a friend, Jennifer. The last text had been two weeks ago, when they had arranged to meet for ice-cream. Right here, in town!
Violet decided to send Jennifer a message. Not knowing what to send, she just typed one word.
And almost immediately, the phone rang. Not a text, not a message, but an actual phone call. It was Jennifer. Violet had no choice, she had to pick up the phone.
‘Hello,’ she said. And then, oh my gosh, a torrent…
‘Tara, what the hell. We have all been worried sick about you. There are entire search parties out there looking for you. Where have you been, your mom is besides herself with fear, where are you, I am besides myself with fear, it’s been two weeks, not a word from you, what is…’
Violet was aghast. Tara was missing? Her family didn’t know where she was? Her friends didn’t know where she was. This was far worse than she had ever imagined. She felt ill, literally ill.
Violet ran to the bathroom and threw up. She was sweating. She was in trouble, huge trouble, and she didn’t know what to do. She could still hear Jennifer’s voice shrieking into the phone.
‘Tara, Tara. Talk to me. Why have you gone so quiet? Has someone kidnapped you? Have you run away from home. Please tell us what is going on, please please. Should I call the police? Where are you?’
Oh my goodness. Violet wanted to run downstairs and tell her mom everything. She wanted to quickly call Damien and tell him everything too, how she had been lying and cheating but hadn’t meant for anything bad to happen. She was just playing along but now she had found out that Tara was missing.
She didn’t know what to do. Should she talk to Jennifer? Or should she slam the phone down?
She slammed the phone down, which in hindsight may not have been the best idea. She started texting Damien but of course the phone started ringing again. Names were popping up on the screen. Jennifer. Steve. And then, most awfully, one word.
Tara’s mom was looking for her.
Violet imagined her own mother looking for her, desperate to know where she was. She imagined if Damien knew the truth. He would also be worried sick. She felt like throwing the phone outside, outside into the forest. Argh, the forest. She was meeting her girlfriends on Saturday to go for a walk. That’s what she decided. She would tell her girlfriends. And they would tell her what to do.
Except, she couldn't wait until Saturday. Violet felt distraught, desperate. She had put the phone on silent but now she started panicking. What if the phone could be traced? Maybe the police were going to arrive at the door. Maybe they were already on their way!
Violet told herself to calm down. If somebody was going to trace the phone, they would have done it ten days ago. Tara had been missing for a while now.
And Violet felt she had to try and find her and find out what had happened to her. Her friends must know more than they were letting on, she thought. Suzy, Tiffany and Danny. They were sure to know more than they had told her. She decided to send them a message and ask if they could meet earlier than Saturday.
She created a group text.
‘Hey new girlfriends. I’m feeling a bit bored. What about if we meet at the forest right now? Let’s all take a break from our schoolwork. Come over and we can meet there in half an hour. My mom is going out and she’ll be really happy for me to have company.’
The girls all replied immediately.
‘Great idea, Violet. I’m just grabbing something to eat. See you soon.’
‘Fab thinking Vi, see you thirty minutes.’
‘Oooh, I was just looking to get out my school work. Okay, on my way.’
Violet felt relieved. She felt even more relieved when her mom yelled to tell her she was going to do the shopping. Phew, now she didn’t have to worry. She knew her mom would be furious that she was going into the forest. But she had to talk to the girls. She had to find out what they knew about Tara, and where she could possibly be.