Back to my house we ran, where we stayed in the driveway and mulled over the events of the day. I did, anyway — Xena sat with her back pressed up against the garage door and scrolled through the pictures she’d taken on the hike. I didn’t know how she could be so calm.
I skated restlessly back and forth while Xena flicked idly through her photos. I ranted the whole time. “I don’t understand what happened. How could Claire just disappear like that? She didn’t fall behind, and I don’t think she passed us — did she? Do you think we should call the police, since Mom and Mrs. Fairfax aren’t helping?”
Xena nodded. “That sounds like a good plan,” she agreed.
But I don’t think she was actually listening. She was too busy scrutinizing her pictures to be paying attention.
“Xena!” I groaned. “Please listen. Claire’s missing. Now is not the time to look at your pics!”
She glanced up briefly, her jaw tight, before returning to her camera without a word.
Silently, I skated back and forth for several more minutes. Then a horrible idea came into my mind. I couldn’t shake it.
Do you really think . . .?
No — Claire’s been around forever! It’s not possible. Her parents are wrong. Your parents are wrong.
I pondered the awful thought until I just had to share it with Xena.
With my skateboard under my arm, I crossed the driveway and leaned against the wall beside Xena. I took a deep breath and toyed with my braids. “Xe . . .?” I started.
“Yes?” She didn’t bother looking up from her camera.
“You know how my mom said she didn’t know who Claire was? And neither did the Fairfaxes? What if –” I could hardly get the words out. It was far too outlandish to be real. “What if, um, Claire wasn’t real?” I spit out the rest of the words in a rush. “Like if she was a ghost or something. Or we’re dreaming, or going crazy.”
“She’s real, Steph,” Xena stated matter-of-factly. “One: ghosts aren’t real. Two: if we’re dreaming, we’re both having the same dream. Three: most crazy people don’t know they’re crazy. Therefore, if you think you’re going crazy, it’s unlikely that you are actually going crazy.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. Xena had a point.
I was about to continue skateboarding when she exclaimed, “Hey, look at this!” She tilted her camera so I could see the tiny screen. On it was a blurry picture:
Part of me appeared in the left side of the photo. The rest was tawny pine needles. However, near the top of the right side was a dark hole in the ground. In the hole was a fuzzy object. I gasped when I recognized it.
Claire’s compass necklace.
Claire Fairfax never went anywhere without her necklace. On the day that she was born, when she was in the hospital, someone had left it as an anonymous gift. Her parents had found Claire in her bassinet, like a tiny, shriveled-up chicken in a roaster, with the compass necklace inside her little fist. Someone — a nurse, perhaps? — had given the necklace to the baby and left. The weird thing was that it didn’t even point north.
“I don’t remember taking this picture,” Xena told me. “I think I must have accidentally hit the button when I was freaking out over Claire’s disappearance. We should go get the necklace, right?” She blinked back tears as she explained, “So . . . so she’ll have it when she comes back.”
I nodded. “Plus, it might be a clue!” Not a very good clue, maybe, but the only one we had.