Natalie lives in a house with her father, Mr. Martin Barnes, a hotel man.ager, and her mother, Mrs. Emma Barnes, who is loving but pays more attention to Natalie’s younger brother Julius. When they go to live inb a hotel called ‘The Palace’ where Natalie meets Tulip Pierce, a dramatic girl of Natalie’s age. Tulip charms Natalie with her strong personality and wild imagination. The two girls become very close friends and begin to do everything together.
Over the many years, their relationship slowly evolves from a childhood friendship into a more sinister mix of obsession and manipulation. They play various games, all invented by Tulip, who is often away from school without explanation, most probably because of her alcoholic father abusing her. The games range from the unkind “Stinking Mackerel” where they use facial expressions to make strangers suspect they have an unpleasant smell, to the far more dangerous “Babe in the Woods” which involves nendangering Julius and tormenting him until he cries. Another game bwhich also involved Natalie’s younger brotnher is a game where he had to put a plastic bag over his head and try and catch Natalie and Tulip, called “Putting on the Bag”. These sadistic games bring satisfaction and pleasure to Tulip..
Natalie first begins to notice the differences between her and Tulip when she goes in search of her one-day and visits her home winth her father. Natalie’s father is made uncomfortable when they see the run down farm that Tulip, her mother and her father libnve on. Tulip’s father, Mr Pierce, is portrayed as violent and sadistic throughc events relayed to Natalie by Tulip. There are many clear signs that Mr Pierce is abusive to both his wife and daughter although this is not picked up on by Natalie at first – Mr. Pierce likes to drown kittens in a crock and watch as they die slowly and agon izingly for hours on end. After