Averno Field Guide Description[edit | edit source]
A coming of age myth rooted in the folk music and deep woods of the South. Music is by Annalise Emerick, The Brother Brothers, and Abigail Greenwood. Listen to the album that inspired the story here.
Summary[edit | edit source]
Cam and Violet have been friends since childhood, even through the darker times, but as people grow things change. Both of them are worried at the prospect of drifting apart due to college, even with Dahlia and Quinn’s new arrival and friendship. Dahlia’s dream is to pursue art at MassArt, but the lack of financial aid, the weight of lifelong debt weighs heavy on her shoulders. Violet has fallen down a dark path with a shady producer with the promise of a happy future, but she knows very well that the future he swears he'll give her is not guaranteed. While the two girls are struggling, Cam is trying her best to support not only her girlfriend, Dahlia, but one of her best friends as well. While all this is going on, Quinn is slowly trying to piece together the lost and broken history of Averno while worrying about his first and only group of friends.
Synopsis[edit | edit source]
This musical mentions sexually abusive relationships and miscarriages, which will be marked by brackets.
Cam and Violet have been best friends since they were three. The stealing each other’s Polly Pockets, wearing matching princess dresses on Halloween, getting chickenpox together kind of best friends. When they were five, Cam’s father built them a clubhouse at the edge of the woods- a little rickety, not quite waterproof, but theirs. Somewhere along the way, they started a tradition. Every Friday night, they met for sleepovers by the edge of the woods: all summer, every summer, through braces and fights, Supernatural obsessions and even through Violet’s parents’ breakup. Sophomore year of high school, Violet’s mom remarried. Her new stepfather was a pastor- all smiles at the congregation, but a mean drunk in the evenings. Her new stepsister Dahlia was only a month younger than her, all smiles and paint-stained jeans. They became best friends. And Cam and Dahlia? A little more than friends.
Now it is their last summer in Averno. In the fall, Cam will leave for MIT, but for now the three girls still meet every Friday for sleepovers, Polaroid cameras and sleeping bags in tow. On the first Friday of summer, Dahlia gets a call from the office of admissions at Massart- she has gotten off the waitlist. She’s going to art school and it’s only 15 minutes from Cam. Violet, a musician, is the only one left behind. It only takes a little convincing for her to agree to move in with them.
The following Friday, they run into a boy at the supermarket. Floppy-haired and nervous, his freshly pressed bagboy vest, bright nametag reading “Quinn”, and pink vans scream “new to town”. Violet takes pity on Quinn and invites him to their sleepover. Quinn song Cam is hesitant- it’s their last summer together, why bring in someone new now? Why mess up a good thing? But then he arrives with a bag of sugar-free marshmallows, stumbling over his own feet and making anime references and blushing every time he talks. It is like something has clicked into place. Their group is complete.
Summer stretches on, counted not in days but in trips to Angel Island, nights by the campfire, photoshoots and thrift shops and Polaroids on the clubhouse wall. But as sweet as the days are, they are also tinged by secrets. Violet meets a man at one of her shows- a producer. He says he can introduce her to people in the industry. [He gives her money and takes her to his hotel room. She doesn’t really want to, but she has no other options. She’s 18, she has no money, and she can’t stay in Averno. She does what she has to.]
It doesn’t go unnoticed. Matt, her stepfather, doesn’t take kindly to Violet breaking curfew. Dahlia tries to protect Violet, buffer her, but it doesn’t always work. Dahlia tells Cam what’s happening, and Cam flips out on Violet, telling her how risky and stupid she’s being. She doesn’t know the whole story, doesn’t know why Violet is staying out late and coming home with hickeys- she just knows it’s upsetting Dahlia. Violet and Cam don’t talk much anymore.
Cam and Dahlia, on the other hand, spend nearly every afternoon together. Dahlia paints in the late-afternoon sunlight, Cam reads Sappho and the Aeneid to her. Dahlia slips flowers in Cam’s book when she’s not looking, pressed between pages to find some quiet afternoon.
When Violet finds out she’s pregnant, she doesn’t know who to tell.
One Friday in the middle of summer, when the summer air is thick and the gnats buzz over puddles from last night’s rain, Dahlia gets a call from Massart. Her tuition is due in full, and her financial aid barely covers a quarter of it. Cam insists that they will figure something out. Quinn tries to cheer Dahlia up, and Cam pulls out a six pack of the nasty rose cider Dahlia likes.
That night they dance by the fire to bad 80’s music, a tacky multicolored disco ball casting shadows on the trees. Dahlia watches Cam, the way she’s so fearless about everything, but blushes the minute she tries to have a conversation with Dahlia. Tonight, with the firelight on her face, Dahlia thinks that no matter what happens, things will be okay. She slips her hand into Cams, and pulls her away into the trees.
Later that night, the chill has crept back into the air. Everyone’s asleep except Violet, who sits by the dying embers of the fire, the disco ball still spinning away. When she thinks she can’t take the quiet one moment longer, she wakes Quinn up and tells him she’s pregnant.
The next week, Quinn shows up with a letter he’s found while working at the archives. It’s from Sarah Turner, the daughter of the “founder” of the town- Abraham Turner. Over the following weeks, Quinn finds more letters and the pieces begin to come together. Aster- the witch in the woods. Abraham- The pastor who wants to “purify” Averno. Sarah- caught between the haunting songs of the forest and her family. She’s always believed her father- until she comes face to face with a witch. She leaves the forest different that day. Changed.
One afternoon, Quinn and Violet get to the sleepover early. They haven’t talked about the pregnancy since that night by the fire. Quinn doesn’t want to push- through their Great British Baking Show marathon and their trips to Averno’s only grocery store, he stays quiet. Listening. But today, she tells him she isn’t leaving for Boston with the girls. She’s going to wait a year, have the kid, then join them. But in the meantime, she wants to get an apartment with Quinn. If he wants. Of course, he does. He has never had a best friend before. He’s never had someone choose him before.
The next week, Quinn walks in on Cam and Violet fighting. Violet walks away, leaving Quinn and Cam alone. And suddenly, Quinn is Mad. Cam has had a best friend since she was three. She’s never known what it is to be alone, to have no one to call, to stay home every night. And before he can stop himself, he’s letting it all out, telling Cam that Violet doesn’t deserve all the crap Cam is giving her, that if Cam knew the truth, she would never say any of it, that- but then, just as quickly, the anger is gone. Quinn walks away. Cam is left alone.
Quinn arrives at the clubhouse early- he and Violet are supposed to meet up, go apartment hunting together online. She isn’t answering her phone.
Cam and Dahlia pull up, say that Violet is in the hospital. [She fell down the stairs. The other two girls don’t understand, but Quinn knows the truth.
The next week, Violet isn’t there. The silence is heavy. No one really wanted to come, but they knew if they didn’t it would feel too much like something was broken permanently.
No one can talk about the miscarriage.]
Dahlia and Cam are by the lake when Dahlia gets the call. She hasn’t received any additional financial aid. Cam runs through all the what-ifs in her head- what if she gets a job, what if her parents cover rent, what if they get a loan- but none of it works.
At their final sleepover of the summer, Cam and Violet are the first to arrive. They sit side by side in their old clubhouse. Cam doesn’t know how to talk about it, to say she was just trying to protect them, to protect them all. Violet doesn’t know how to tell Cam all the things she doesn’t know.
Dahlia arrives out of breath. Matt, Dahlia’s father, sent Violet’s mother’s to rehab. Violet can’t breathe. Her mom has been struggling for months now but she never thought- there’s nothing left between them and Dahlia’s dad now. And in that moment, she knows she has to tell them.
One day, Matt overheard Violet on the phone to Quinn. Heard them talking about the pregnancy. She was used to him shoving them around sometimes but…
When she woke up in the hospital, she knew what had happened.
Cam wants to go to the police and Dahlia wants to scream and Violet wants to sleep and mostly, they all just want to be safe. But they don’t have money and they have nowhere to go and Matt is waiting at home so Cam pulls out her secret weapon. The final letter, from the daughter of the man who “founded” the town.
The man who burned Aster’s home in the name of a God he thought he knew, who killed Aster’s daughter to save her from hell. And as Sarah watched her father, she knew now more surely than ever before that there was a devil. But she had nowhere to go and no other choice and her mother just hid whenever her father raised his voice but then suddenly there was Aster.
Aster held out her hand.
She said there was another way.
The forest would always protect her own.
Sarah and Aster disappeared into the wood. The very same forest where Cam, Violet, and Dahlia stand now.
Cam tells them the forest will take them, and somewhere deep inside, they know it’s true. They’ve grown up in the shadow of these oaks. The forest has always been there. It’s time to go home.
Quinn arrives to an empty clearing. He will never be able to say goodbye.
At the end of the summer, when the leaves are just beginning to turn, Quinn goes back to the clubhouse. Polaroids still hang on the walls. A note from Cam to Dahlia is pinned on the corkboard. He packs it all up into boxes, carefully wrapping up each photo, scribbled note, Cam’s rock collection and Dahlia’s art supply box. When he turns around, he notices Dahlia’s sketchbook in the hammock, a little bow tied around it.
There are hundreds of sketches inside. Hundreds of moments from their summer, smudged and inkstained, flower petals and receipts and a four leaf clover taped inside.
Quinn tucks the sketchbook in the last box. He shuts the trunk and drives away. Leaves drift down slowly. The clearing is empty.
List of songs[edit | edit source]
"I'M RADIO REBEL"
"Time of Day"
"The Simple Life"
"Round and Round"
"A Runner And A Singer"
Listen to the full playlist here
List of Characters[edit | edit source]
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- Bittersummer used to be named Sweetbitter, but was changed in early July of 2020 due to trademark purposes.