Corrie was glad that her friends had joined her; it was a pretty nice night, and the sun was still out, but the bright colors of the sunset slowly creeping across the sky still gave her a nervous feeling. Maybe it was that Leila had returned, and now she didn’t know what would happen next. Or maybe it was just that the faerie influence she had learned to mostly understand over the last few months had suddenly gone away.
The gate was still open and there was no sign of a delivery vehicle, so they stood next to one side of the gate, waiting for their delivery. Remembering what Edie had said about Leila getting in through the gate, Corrie felt in her pockets for a four-leaf clover, but she must have left them in her other coat. It didn’t matter, anyway; she wasn’t going to sit down and go into trance right now, and that was the only way she could see the barrier.
The sky darkened, bathing them all in light shading from purple to orange in the sunset. Roe looked up at it, smiling. “That’s a beautiful sunset.”
“Pollution,” Annie said, glancing up at it.
Roe shook her head. “Don’t mess with my enjoyment.”
“Hi there, girls,” came a voice. Corrie tensed as she turned, putting one hand on the bracelet she was wearing, one of the ones they’d made of iron wire last semester to protect themselves against faeries. As soon as she touched it, she felt a cold breeze ruffle the short hair on the back of her neck.
But the woman speaking, and walking up to them, was only one of the school guards; Corrie had seen her around the campus a few times. She was a light-skinned black woman with her hair pulled into a tight bun over her uniform collar. “Are you waiting for a ride?” she asked. “I have to close the gate in a few minutes.”
Corrie relaxed and took her hand off her bracelet. The breeze dissipated. It was probably bringing a cold spell; she would expect a chill in the morning.
“We’re waiting for a food delivery,” Roe said. “We can wait inside by the small door if you want.”
The guard shook her head. “No need. I’ll just keep an eye on you from inside my little cubicle, and if you’re still here when I’m ready to close the gate, I’ll let you know, all right?”
“Sure,” Roe said. “Sounds good.”
“How do you know when to close the gate?” Edie asked.
“Sunset,” the guard said, not sounding as though she was surprised by Edie’s question, even though they’d all been told that the gate closed at sunset.
“But do you wait for the sun to go all the way down, or does it have to be as soon as the sun touches the horizon, or what?” Edie persisted.
The guard raised her eyebrows. “The rules never got that specific. I like to do it a little bit before the sun disappears entirely, so I still have light. They’ve never put any kind of electricity in it, you know, so I still have to come out and haul both sides closed, then lock it.” She patted her belt, where a large ring of keys hung.
Corrie couldn’t begin to guess what each of the more than a dozen keys belonged to—probably one for each building on campus, at least—but she was pretty sure she knew which key locked the front gates. Only that large (as long as the guard’s hand) iron key could lock these huge iron gates.
“When does it open?” Edie asked.
“Sunrise, same way. I hate to be stuck on morning shift in winter. I usually wait for the sun to be pretty high before I unlock it then.” The guard smiled.
“Oh, I bet that’s our food,” Roe said, as a car pulled up to the gates and stopped. She walked toward it.
“Thanks,” Edie said. She smiled at the guard. “I was just curious.”
Corrie said nothing, keeping an eye on Roe, though she was certain that Edie wasn’t just curious. She wanted to know when the gate would be open so Leila could come in. Did she think Leila had left campus? It seemed likely enough.
Roe had finished talking to the driver and was walking back with a large paper bag, so she must have been right. “Food’s here,” she said, coming close enough for the delectable fried smells to reach Corrie’s nose and make her stomach rumble. “Let’s get in and eat.”
“Good plan,” Corrie agreed.
“I might as well lock up now, as soon as you four get back inside,” the guard said. “Stay safe.”
“Thank you,” Annie said. “We will.”
Corrie glanced back over her shoulder a few times as they headed back to Gilkey. It was getting darker, but she could see the silhouette of the guard, pulling first the “CHATOYANT” side and then the “COLLEGE” side of the gate closed. She stood there for a moment, then walked back to the little guard house by the gate, and Corrie knew the gate must be locked.