Edie felt a wave of panic that she immediately told herself was irrational. It was really unlikely that she was in trouble. Unless she’d done something… no, if she’d done something to make everyone laugh at her and the professor get upset with her, she would remember it.
Still, she felt quite nervous as she put her bag back on a chair and turned to the professor, waiting for the other students to leave. They seemed to file out quickly, though she was sure she heard laughter hanging in the air behind them.
“Sit down, Edie,” Professor Somerville said, gesturing at one of the folding chairs that was still out from class. He sat down himself, smiling at her and crossing his legs.
Edie had a strong feeling that he was putting on a show to make her feel more comfortable. She would have thought an acting teacher would be able to do a better job actually making her feel comfortable by acting in the right way.
But maybe he just didn’t know her well enough to pick the right thing, and he was acting in a way that would make most people comfortable—and Edie definitely wasn’t most people. She sat down on the chair he’d indicated, trying not to show how nervous she was.
“There’s no need to be anxious,” he said, still smiling. At least he could see through her as well as she saw through him. “You’re not in any kind of trouble. I just wondered if there was anything I can do to help you.”
She hadn’t been expecting that and frowned, her eyebrows drawing together. “Help me? I’m doing okay in class—right?”
“Yes, absolutely,” he said, waving away her concern. “You’re one of the hardest workers we have, even if it’s obvious that the one-act plays aren’t quite to your taste.” She noticed that he didn’t say she was any good at acting.
He continued, “But if you need someone to talk to, I’m available, all right? If there’s anything that’s frightening you, or that you don’t think you can deal with on your own, you can always come to me or one of the other professors. Or if you don’t want to talk to someone you have to see every week in class, I can help you find someone totally unbiased.”
Edie stared at him. She was even more confused now. Was he talking about faeries? Did he know about them? If that was what he meant, why didn’t he come out and say it? They were alone in the classroom. Or was he afraid of listeners?
She swallowed. Maybe he knew about faeries, but wasn’t sure if she did, so he was trying to be circumspect about asking. Then again, if he didn’t think she knew, why was he asking her, specifically, if she needed help? Maybe he was aware that she was part faerie and figured she would be more likely to see things that other people didn’t.
He was obviously waiting for her to say something, but she was still thinking. “Thank you,” she managed, trying to give herself a little more time. The strangest thing was that he was offering to talk. Talking about faeries wasn’t going to help her much. Unless this was about Leila? But Leila wasn’t frightening her.
“I’m okay,” she said. “Unless you’re trying to give me romantic advice, but I’m not sure that would be appropriate.”
That got a real laugh out of him. “No, not exactly. Well, here, let me see what I can do.” He got up, walked to the podium that he sometimes used as a desk, and tore a piece of paper out of a notebook. He walked back and handed it to Edie. “This is one of the school counselors. It’s free to make an appointment with her, or you can even just talk to her on the phone.”
Edie stared at the paper. It had a name, Louise Hoult, a phone number, and a room number in the administration building. A school counselor?
She felt her eyes widen as she realized what was going on.
The professor thought she was crazy.
Maybe he had been talking about faeries—but he was being circumspect about it because he didn’t believe in them. He thought she was having some kind of schizophrenic hallucinations. How had he heard about it? Did this have something to do with the end of the treaty? The magic must not be protecting people from knowledge of faeries anymore, but his mind was still trying to protect him from actual belief.
At least that explained something else. If everyone in her theater class thought she was crazy, no wonder they kept laughing at her. It was really mean of them to do that, but now she knew.
She took a deep breath and decided to just go along with it. Trying to explain things would just dig her in deeper. “Thank you, Sol. I’ll keep it in mind.”
“I’m glad to hear it, Edie. And keep up the good work.”
She stuffed the paper into her bag and hurried out, wondering if she could find Leila now that it was afternoon. Or maybe she should just go back to her room. That conversation had her feeling really stressed, and she needed some time to decompress.
As she walked back toward Gilkey, she heard her name being called and spun around, her heart in her throat—but it was just Annie, jogging up the path toward her. Edie relaxed immediately, all the stress vanishing from her muscles.
“Heading back to Gilkey?” Annie asked with a smile. “Let’s walk together.”