It's a new record for the fastest anyone has gotten kicked out of Buckhorn sleepaway summer camp.
Privileges are revoked. Parents are called. Lectures are given.
The head counselor Carl Levin pulls the sisters by their arms into his "office," a little open-air shack with a canvas sheet strapped down overtop. Haley insists Carl has had it out for them since day one. Olive points out that it's day two.
The shack offers little privacy from the rest of the campers as Carl shouts at the girls. He shouts until his face goes red – redder than it seems his sunburn should allow. The girls wait patiently at the other end of his tirade. Olive braids her hair. Haley watches a grasshopper butting against the window screen.
"This was the last straw," Counselor Levin says, jabbing a finger at Haley's nose. She can't help but notice that he has a fly stuck in his hair, buzzing idly in the June heat.
Mom and Dad are furious about having to make the two-hour trip into the smoldering desert just two days after they dropped the girls off. This isn't the first time Haley and Olive have gotten themselves kicked out of summer camp – this isn't even the first time they've gotten themselves kicked out of Camp Buckhorn – but this is the quickest they've managed it. As they re-pack their tent, sleeping pads, and duffel bags into the back of their parents' van, the manager of Buckhorn sleepaway summer camp makes it clear that Haley and Olive are not welcome back.
When they get home, Mom and Dad tell Haley and Olive not to bother unpacking.
The next few days are a flurry of arguments, sudden plans, and phone calls to old friends and neighbors who might be available to take two unruly girls for the rest of June, July, and August. There are no takers.
"We could stay home alone," Haley suggests. Dad doesn't think the girls are ready to behave with supervision, let alone without. Mom agrees.
The phone calls broaden past friends and neighbors to very old friends, friends Mom knew in college, friends from Dad's old law firm, neighbors from their previous neighborhood, the far reaches of their extended family. Mom and Dad make it clear that they're not cancelling their cruise for this.
"We could come on the cruise with you," Haley suggests. Mom and Dad are not willing to consider the ramifications of confining their short-tempered daughter and her... bizarre sister on a seabound vessel.
As the phone calls broaden further through the distant reaches of their family connections – to sorority sisters, to cousins of cousins of cousins – Olive remembers a place where they were sent years ago, a place where people and things that no longer belonged could find a place to fit in.
A house beside an old inn whose door must remain closed. A house where a woman named Lila once told Olive that, whenever she needed a place to catch her breath and find herself, she would be in good company. Olive had never intended to go back – she recalls being terrified all throughout the last summer she spent in old, haunted Echo Valley. And yet, as she recalls Lila's offer, something about that restless old inn sticks in her mind.
Mom and Dad are browsing their contacts book when Olive makes a timid suggestion.
And that's how it all begins.