The next morning, Camille goes over to where Richard is staying, in Wind Gap’s only apartment building. She brings a bottle of bourbon with her. Richard answers the door in his pajama and invites Camille into his messy temporary apartment. He apologizes for being rude, but warns Camille that in trying to protect her sources, she might be protecting the person responsible for the killings. Camille teases Richard, telling him to do just “a little work on [his] own.” He tells Camille that he loves when she gets tough with him, and then kisses her. He begins tugging at Camille’s clothes, but she insists that if they are going to have sex, they’re going to do it her way—her clothes stay on.
Camille and Richard’s unique power struggle—based on information and intellectual currency during their day-to-day dealings—translates into a similar teasing but very real negotiation of power dynamics in the bedroom. Camille has certain rules and boundaries she has developed in order to preserve the secret of her scars, and she will only give Richard what he wants if he acts within those bounds.
Lying together in bed after sex, Richard and Camille continue discussing the case. Richard says he thinks John Keene is the murderer—he was close to Natalie in an “unhealthy way” and has no alibi to boot. Camille asks Richard to give her something on the record, and he in return asks who told her about the biting. Camille tells Richard that Meredith Wheeler told her that Natalie bit her earlobe off, and that Ann bit Adora on the wrist. Camille asks for Richard’s on-the-record statement, but he refuses, and tells her they’re doing things his way.
When Camille at last relents and tells Richard the information that he wants, he responds by upping the power struggle and refusing to give her a usable statement. Richard seems to like Camille a lot, but he is still attempting to wield power over her and subjugate her to his will.
They have sex one more time, and then, in the late afternoon, Camille drives through the rain to Garrett Park, not wanting to go home. She sits in her car watching the rain fall until a car pulls up—Amma and her friend Kylie are inside, and they beg Camille to get in and come to a party with them. Camille refuses at first, but then considers her other dismal options and decides to throw caution to the wind and go along. In the car, Amma convinces Camille to take some OxyContin—as she sets the pill on the Camille’s tongue, Amma calls Camille her “good girl.”
The longer Camille has been in Wind Gap, the worse her decision-making processes have gotten. She has embarked on an affair with a detective in the case she’s reporting, and is now partying—and doing illicit drugs—with her thirteen-year-old sister, endangering both her journalistic and moral credibility.
By the time they arrive at the high school party in one of Wind Gap’s largest mansions, Camille is feeling loose and “game.” When Meredith and John Keene arrive shortly after their group, however, the party is infused with a scandalized, gossipy energy—Camille understands just how many people really think John Keene is the killer, and what outcasts he and Meredith have become.
In some ways, attending the party does actually allow Camille to do some “reporting”—she is able to see what things in a certain part of town that would otherwise be walled off to her are really like, because Amma has brought her along.
Amidst the whispers and jeers from their other classmates, Amma greets John with a syrupy-sweet “Hiiiii, murderer,” causing Camille to feel a rush of sympathy for the boy, but Amma quickly pulls her upstairs into a bedroom where her friends are playing a game in which they pass Ecstasy around in a circle using their tongues. When it is Amma’s turn to pass the pill to Camille, she uses her tongue to force the pill to dissolve. When the other teens protest that Amma cheated, she retorts that Camille could “use a little sunshine,” as she’s had “a pretty shitty life.”
Amma has been alternatingly sickly-sweet and downright violent with Camille—in this passage, she humorously embarrasses Camille while at the same time lavishing attention, affection, and drugs on her.
Camille stands up to leave, realizing she needs to get away from the party before the ecstasy hits. Amma excitedly leaves with Camille, promising her that they’ll find a pool to swim in—when her friends Kelsey and Kylie try to join them, Amma forbids the girls from coming along, and tells them to go back to the party and “help Jodes get laid.”
Amma has, at several points throughout the novel, thrown Camille under the bus in front of her friends—now, though, Amma rejects her friends in order to spend time bonding with Camille.
Amma and Camille walk home hand-in-hand, enjoying the night air as their highs descend upon them. They discuss Adora, and Amma admits that she often hears her mother whimpering Camille, Marian, and Joya’s names in her sleep. Amma also states that every time Adora takes care of her, Amma always likes to have sex afterwards. Camille warns Amma that she shouldn’t “let boys do things” to her, but Amma retorts that sometimes, “if you let people do things to you, you’re really doing it to them.”
Amma’s worldview is revealed a little more fully in this passage. She eroticizes care and comfort, and at the same time sees sex only as a tool of control. Amma’s complicated way of relating to her friends, to boys, and to Adora is tangled up in her uncertain, half-formed notions of femininity, power, and submission.
Camille tries to say more, but Amma changes the subject. She dreamily states how much she likes Adora’s room, and admires her “famous [ivory] floor,” which was featured in many home design and Southern living magazines years ago. As Amma continues telling Camille about her life, her friends, and the ways in which she’s constantly scrutinizing her own behavior, Camille begins to feel a deep kinship with Amma, even as she realizes how obsessed with power and adoration Amma is.
Even though Amma’s twisted way of relating to Adora, to friendship, and to sex worries Camille, there are other things about Amma that remind Camille of herself—namely, how self-denigrating and obsessed with perfection and detail Amma has turned out to be.
As if reading Camille’s mind, Amma admits that sometimes she’s “a little… off,” lashing out and “hurt[ing]” when things aren’t right. Camille believes that Amma is confessing to self-harm, and tells Amma that there are far better ways to deal with pain, boredom, and frustration than cutting. Amma, clearly at the apex of her high, screams out “I hurt” and “I love it!” as they approach Adora’s house.
This passage seems to point to the fact that Amma hurts herself when she feels “off”—but as the novel will later reveal, Amma’s way of dealing with her own pain is much less steeped in self-loathing and much more focused on securing revenge against those whom she feels have wronged her.
Camille keeps trying to talk to Amma about her confession, but Amma, claiming that Camille is her “soul mate,” only wants to dance, hug, and spin around. Camille agrees, and the two spin in circles until Camille pops her ankle against the curb and begins bleeding. The porch light goes on up the hill, and Amma quietly asks Camille if she wants to sleep in her bed. Camille imagines an idyllic scene, comfortably sharing a bed with Amma, before realizing she’s actually picturing old memories with Marian.
As Camille experiences a moment of ecstatic bonding with Amma, she worries about leaving Marian behind and betraying the memory of the sister she once loved.
Camille tells Amma that she doesn’t want to sleep in Amma’s room, and Amma asks instead if she can sleep in Camille’s. Camille says they should sleep separately, and Amma turns and runs towards the house. Camille, worried that Amma is going up to the house to rat on both of them, follows Amma, calling after her—Amma turns around and runs back towards Camille, smacking into her and knocking them both down.
Camille, knowing Amma, is afraid that Amma will weaponize what she sees as Camille’s rejection of her. Though she’s growing closer with Amma, Camille does not, even for a second, truly trust her.
Amma helps Camille up and gives her a ring that Adora gave to her once—now that Adora “hates” her, Amma says, she doesn’t want it anymore. When Camille assures Amma that Aadora doesn’t hate her, Amma insists she does—just in a “different way” than she hates Camille.
Amma reveals that she, too, feels rejected by Adora—even though Camille has found herself looking at Amma and Adora’s relationship as one of unconditional, intense adoration.
The two girls quietly make their way to the house and up the stairs, and Camille invites Amma into her room. Camille peels her shoes and socks off and begins to undress—but feeling Amma’s stare, she decides to sleep in her clothes. She crawls into bed and closes her eyes, listening as Amma removes all of her clothes and crawls into bed, naked except for her panties. In the darkness, Amma asks Camille if she’s ever felt like she “hurt[s] because it feels so good […] like you have a tingling, like someone left a switch on in your body […] and nothing can turn the switch off except hurting.” Camille pretends to be asleep as Amma runs her fingers over the scarred word vanish on the back of Camille’s neck.
Amma, in this passage, is romanticizing—and perhaps even eroticizing—the feeling of doing harm, to oneself or perhaps even another. Amma is clearly obsessed with Camille’s scars, and has been since she first saw them. Camille feels violated and exposed as she falls asleep with the feeling of Amma’s fingers on her neck.
After Camille falls asleep, she has a dream in which Marian, sweaty and dressed in a white nightgown, comes to her and tells her that it’s “not safe” for Camille in Adora’s house.
Camille’s dream of Marian reflects her own worst fears—that something is very wrong in her childhood home.