Get ready for the eeriest read of this summer. Today, we’re revealing the cover of Katie Alender’s twisty new novel, The Companion. And this cover.is.CHILLING.
The Companion follows Margot. The other orphans claim she’s lucky. Lucky to survive the horrible accident that killed her family. Lucky to have her own room because she wakes up screaming every night. And finally, lucky to be chosen by a prestigious family to live at their remote country estate.
I hurriedly dumped the contents of my bags into the top two drawers of the dresser. After that, which took maybe fourteen seconds, I wandered back out into the main part of the room and stopped short.
Agatha’s chair was empty.
The whispery silence of the room turned to a roar in my ears.
I looked around but didn’t see her anywhere. And there was nowhere for her to hide.
She was gone.
The door to the hall was closed – I would have heard it open, right? And the bathroom door was wide open, the light on. There was no one in there.
Oh, God, I lost her already. They were going to kick me out.
Deep breath. First of all, I didn’t lose her. She lost herself. Second of all, it wasn’t my job to keep her in one place, was it? What should I have done, commanded her to stay still? Wrestled her to the ground? It wasn’t my fault. Of course it wasn’t.
But I knew I needed to find her before Laura came back.
Could she be hiding under one of the beds?
I stared at the nearest one warily, half expecting Agatha to be hiding under it, waiting to jump out at me when I leaned close. I crossed the room, steeled myself, and knelt down to push away the white dust ruffle and look under the frame of the bed.
Empty. Not so much as a single dust bunny.
I went to the second bed, knelt, and lifted the bedspread. This time, I had no doubt that when I bent down and got my face near the floor, Agatha would come flying out at me like a bat out of a cave.
Some companion I turned out to be. I surveyed the room, wondering if Laura and John would simply send for the car and load me right back up.
I walked over to the open bathroom door and looked inside. The walls were tiled with shining squares of pale blue, the floor a spotless retro checkerboard of white and black. The toilet squatted in the corner by the bathtub –
And as I looked at it, the shower curtain rustled.
Okay, I told myself. This could be a good thing. She’s in the tub. She’s waiting there for you to find her. This might even be her idea of a joke – like she’s hazing you. If she was capable of playing a joke, maybe we could communicate. Maybe it wouldn’t be a creepy one-way friendship. It could be a creepy two-way friendship.
I walked over to the tub, paused, and said, “Agatha?”
Or, you know… maybe it wouldn’t be Agatha in there. Maybe it would be a madman with a huge knife. In terms of what would cause a person to hide in a shower, it seemed a lot more likely that there would be a madman with a knife hiding in the shower than a normal person.
But Agatha wasn’t quite normal, was she?
A spark of shame yanked me back to earth, and I gently pulled the curtain back, trying to figure out what I was going to say to convince her to go sit back down.
The bathtub was empty.
Then I heard a sound – a low bump, the sound of an elbow or knee thudding against something solid.
It was coming from the nurse’s room. My room – the only thing I had of my own in this place. My stomach clenched and I felt an indignant flare of temper. Was this how it was going to be? Would I not be entitled to even a little bit of privacy?
I expected to find her in there, but still somehow the sight of her startled me – her slender form, held stiffly with mannequin-precise posture, standing in front of my small dresser.
As I watched, she removed the last of my things and dropped them carelessly to the floor.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
She looked over at me silently through owlish, indifferent eyes. I felt almost as if we were in a staring contest, but apparently that was just me, because a few seconds later she shifted her blank contemplation to the door of the small cabinet behind me.
“What are you doing?” I asked. But even then, so early in our acquaintance, I knew better than to expect an answer. “Why don’t you go sit down?”
Without so much as the involuntary twitch of a muscle in her jaw, she wandered out of the room. I followed her as far as the doorway and watched her silently return to her chair.
“Are you trying to make me feel like I don’t belong here?” I asked her. “Because if so, don’t waste your energy. I’m never going to belong here.”
I know she heard me – she must have. But she didn’t turn around.
“I probably shouldn’t be here at all,” I said, more to myself than to her.
It was the strangest thing. There was no one else in the room with us, and obviously Agatha didn’t speak – I was looking right at her, so I would have known. She didn’t even open her mouth.
But I had the distinct impression that I heard someone say, “You’re right.”