Cami was the bravest person that Ash had ever known. Other than the idea of encountering a real, live zombie in the graveyard, she hardly seemed to be afraid of anything – not stray dogs, or scary movies, or thunderstorms. She was not afraid to speak up when she thought something was wrong. She wasn’t even afraid to stand up to her own mother.
“I have exactly two fears,” Cami told him. “Like, I am deathly afraid to swim.”
“To swim?” Ash’s mouth fell open. “Why on earth would you be afraid to swim? It’s easy, once you learn how.” Cami shrugged. She had never learned to swim, she explained. And so Ash took her to the public water park, where he jumped right into the pool and began to splash around. “Come on in!” he called. But Cami would not budge from the side of the pool, where she stood shivering, paralyzed with fright.
“I can’t do it,” she said, shaking her head. “I can’t.”
Cami’s other fear, Ash learned, was of being all alone. As her mother was rarely home, Cami spent a great deal of time at the Chowdhury house. Pretty soon, it was like she was part of the family. Ash’s parents helped Cami with homework and treated her like she was one of their daughters.
When Ash was around Cami, it made him feel brave, too. He felt like he could do or be anything he wanted. He could be a superhero, flying around and saving the world from danger. He could be himself, laughing and playing video games, and talking about how much he loved to bake. Cami didn’t mind.
And so, the summer when Ash first began to notice his parents’ strange behavior, Cami was the first person he went to. “I think that something’s wrong with my mom and dad,” he said.”I think maybe they’re sick.”
As he spoke these words aloud, a cold claw of of fear gripped his insides. He thought about the way both his parents had been so tired lately, and how his father had been taking so many days off work, and somehow he just knew it – something was terribly wrong. Something that even superpowers couldn’t stop.