Edie shook her head. She wasn’t sure if she understood what Leila was getting at. “Are you just telling me that it would be hard for you to change? That’s okay. I can help you. You know I’m here for you, whatever you need.” She reached out, trying to take Leila’s hand, but Leila didn’t let go of the yearbook.
Leila shook her head. “I do not wish to change who I am. I would have to become a different person.”
“Just change one little thing at a time,” Edie said. “It doesn’t even have to be something that feels like a change. I mean, you’ve been pretending to be a student a lot—you were for most of last semester, anyway. What’s the difference?”
“I could not return to my tree every night.”
Edie frowned. That was actually a pretty strong objection. If Leila were a student, she would be assigned a room in a dorm, and her roommates would expect her to be there every night. If she talked to her roommates—or even just let them think she was spending the nights with Edie—they might not care… But there had been at least two nights in the fall semester when Lorelei had needed to check and make sure everyone was safe. The first time, Annie had been missing, and the second time, Naomi had been missing—though she’d just been with her boyfriend. The same thing would probably happen with Leila. Edie wouldn’t mind lying for her, knowing that she’d been at her tree.
“I think you could manage it,” she said. “You’d just have to leave before sunset. You could come back in the morning any time you wanted. And I’d help you with it.”
The corner of Leila’s mouth turned up, but it didn’t really look like a smile. “Perhaps.”
“Look, what did you like about college last semester? What made you pretend to be a student?”
Leila really smiled this time. “I wanted to find a girlfriend. That’s no longer something that I need to do.”
Edie smiled back, feeling a little flutter in her chest at the idea that Leila had come to campus looking for her. Not her specifically—but as she remembered from the day they’d met, Edie had been just the sort of person she wanted.
Though now, she had to wonder whether that was entirely for the right reasons.
“Well, you found one,” she said. “And she’s on campus. It’s going to be a lot harder to see me if you’re limited as to when you can get on campus.”
“True,” Leila said, turning away to replace the yearbook in its spot.
Encouraged, Edie remembered another thing that Leila liked about Chatoyant College. “You like acting, don’t you? I remember you really wanted to play Titania last semester, and all your friends were in the theater program. Why don’t you sit in on a theater class or two? You know the professors don’t ask questions if someone wants to come and watch, or even join in.”
“I… hmm. I suppose they would not object, most of them.”
“You wouldn’t want to come to my class, but maybe one of the higher-level classes, where they actually do stagecraft and stuff.”
Leila turned and walked to the back wall of the room, looking at the pictures displayed on it, including the fragment of the treaty that had given Edie and her friends so much trouble the last few weeks. “Why would I not want to come to your class?”
Edie wrinkled her nose. “It’s not a lot of fun, really. We’re performing scenes from the plays that the playwriting students wrote, and… well, I’m sure they’re not all really bad, but the ones I’ve read are bad. I really don’t like having to act in it.”
Leila laughed, a lovely, tinkling sound that never failed to make Edie feel warm inside. “Ah, yes, terrible plays, the bane of every actor. I suppose all of you will have to get used to them.”
“That’s one of the problems, though. No one else seems to think they’re so bad.” Edie walked over to the books and looked through the glass cover at the very old ones. “And maybe that’s part of the reason all the other students, and the professor, seem to think I’m crazy.”
The room was quiet for a moment. “They think you are ill?” Leila asked.
Edie turned to see Leila facing her, arms crossed over her chest. “I think so. The students all laugh at me, and the professor tried to send me to a counselor. He must have heard something about faeries but think I’m making it all up, or… something like that.” She shrugged, feeling uncomfortable. She’d told her friends about this, and they all agreed that it was unpleasant to have the teacher think she was crazy, but there was nothing she could do about it except get through the class.
She could always go to the counselor and try to explain that she wasn’t crazy, but that might be dangerous.
“I should go,” Leila said, looking down.