Corrie sat back and stretched, rubbing her eyes. She’d filled half the page with carefully sketched cubes. That had to be enough for now. The assignment was to fill the whole page, at least two rows of cubes one inch on a side and two rows of cubes a half inch on a side, but she had time. She didn’t have Design Fundamentals again until Tuesday afternoon.
Anyway, right now she felt like if she drew another perfectly straight line she was going to break her pencil in half and throw the pieces out the window. Since it was a mechanical pencil, that would be really difficult. So, relaxation time it was.
She looked around the room, frowning. The other bed and desk were empty. She remembered Edie saying something about being right back; she’d assumed her roommate was going to the bathroom or something. But that had been a long time ago, hadn’t it?
Leila was silent for a long time, her hands no longer stroking Edie’s hair. Edie sat up—this time Leila didn’t try to stop her—and moved into a cross-legged position, next to Leila but at an angle so she could face her.
Leila was staring into space, or maybe up at the trees. She was very, very still—she didn’t even seem to be blinking.
Edie didn’t want to say anything; she was sure Leila must be thinking hard and didn’t want to interrupt her. So she sat quietly, just waiting.
“Now, Edith,” Leila said, “will you answer my question? What has happened while I have been gone? It seems to be a great deal.”
Edie took a deep breath. She wished she could look at Leila’s face while she explained what had happened, but maybe this was more intimate. Clearly, it was more comfortable for Leila.
“Okay. Before I start, how much do you know about the treaty between Thengul and Alienor Chatoyant before the school was founded? You weren’t around then, were you?”
“No, no. I am not quite that old.” Leila laughed.
Edie didn’t want to get up and go over to Leila, to bridge the small space between them. She was upset—she was mad at Leila, and she wasn’t getting answers that satisfied her, so she didn’t want to do what Leila said.
But she also missed her girlfriend badly, and she couldn’t bear to let Leila sit there reaching for her when they were finally together again. So she got up, walked over, and sat down next to Leila, resting her shoulder against Leila’s arm and not letting her skin touch the tree.
As soon as they reached the orchard, Leila sat down, her back to a tree trunk. She looked tired—were those dark circles under her eyes? Edie had never seen her looking anything less than perfect.
Leila gestured at another tree, the one she was facing. Edie hesitated. She had good memories of this orchard—but bad ones, too. And the bad ones had been hidden from her for a long time. She didn’t know how to feel about this place, and she knew even less how to feel about it with Leila there with her.
Edie took a deep breath. Leila didn’t appear happy or excited to see her, but that might not be anything bad. She was just confused. She’d been away for months, and there had been a lot of changes on campus. She’d returned to a world that was different from what she remembered.
“Yes,” she said. “It’s me. I’ve been waiting for you to come back.”
Edie didn’t want to do her homework, but she knew she should. She had plenty to study for, and if she wanted to relax this weekend, she had to get her homework done; she knew herself well enough to realize that if she tried to relax without getting enough done, she’d be anxious about it later.
Besides, Corrie was at her own desk, sighing loudly as she got out some homework, and Edie could hardly be lazy when her best friend and roommate was being studious.