Audrina doesn’t know why she doesn’t just head back to bed, but she doesn’t, and she seats herself in the rocking chair in an attempt to finally get some answers. Rock, rock, rocking, she gets herself into the proper state and starts to have a vision. For simplicity, I’m just going to refer to the First & Best as Audrina, without qualifiers. And I’ll be getting through this part as quickly as possible, because…yowsa. It’ll be a short recap, because it feels weird to write this part and then get snarky.
It’s Audrina’s ninth birthday, and she’s excited about going home after school because she’s going to have a big birthday party. Although Lucky has specifically told her not ever to walk home through the woods, Audrina doesn’t want to ride the school bus because Spencer Longtree and his posse of bullies also ride the bus, and they call her names and tell her that she’s ugly. In order to avoid this, especially on her birthday, Audrina decides to take the path through the woods home. It starts to rain, which dismays her since she’s wearing her party clothes (a silk dress and lacy petticoat) and Lucky will be less than pleased if Audrina isn’t perfectly turned out at her party. Not to mention, silk dress? On a nine-year old? To school? Yikes. If that were nine-year old me, that thing’d be covered in sandwich crumbs and pencil shavings and paint and dirt and grass stains. I’m clumsy.
Audrina starts running to avoid the rain, but she stops when she hears laughter behind her. She turns and sees Spencer and his friends coming out from behind some bushes. She tries to run away from them, but one of them grabs her by her long hair and pulls her back. She screams at them to be let go, but Spencer taunts her by saying that she won’t be so high and mighty once she’s been had, and other pleasant things. Audrina threatens to curse them all, saying that Whitefern women with hair like hers are witches, and she screams curses at them. This throws the boys for a moment and Audrina is about to take the opportunity to run when another boy stands up from behind the bushes and Audrina recognizes him. She screams at him to help her, but he runs away. Her chance to escape gone, the boys assault Audrina.
Our Audrina comes back to herself in the playroom and is horrified by what she just saw. The boy in the woods who ran away was Arden. Audrina realizes that she’s been lied to her whole life–the First & Best Audrina was not nine years older than her, and that mysterious something that Arden has always said that he needs to make up for is the fact that he left her sister to be raped and murdered in the woods. Audrina’s memory was full of holes because she knew that, and was trying to block it out. Damian too contributed to her mental state by forcing her to sit in the rocking chair and relive those moments. Audrina gets up, preparing to go back to her room and confront Arden.
As she runs down the hall, one of the gaslights comes on and startles her. A flashlight is shined into her eyes, and as she’s stumbling about disoriented, another flashlight comes on–this one with a prism held in front of it, so that she’s blinded. She screams at Arden, asking if he’s come to finish what they started (oh honey, Arden doesn’t have the brains for something like this), and she flails about the hallway, dazzled by the dozens of prisms that have been strung along it as more lights are turned on. As she passes the stairs, she feels hands hit her back, and down she goes.