Clare K. R. Miller

Chatoyant College Book 12: Chapter 54: The Open Gates

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When Edie got back to her room, Corrie was still napping. Edie shut the door softly and tried to be quiet about taking her jacket off and opening her umbrella so it could dry a little, but Corrie stirred, then sat up, yawning and rubbing her eyes. “How long was I out?”

“I’m not sure,” Edie said honestly. “I was knitting. Maybe an hour?”

“Okay, that’s not so bad.” Corrie looked out the window and wrinkled her nose. “It’s this stupid rain. Were you just outside again?”

Edie nodded. “Leila was out there. When I got downstairs, she was gone, but she left me this note.” She held it out for Corrie to read.

Corrie blinked at the note several times. “She wants to meet at sunset?”

“Before sunset.”

Corrie handed the note back, looking out the window again. “It must be because of the gates closing—it definitely has nothing to do with the light outside.”

Edie smiled. “I think she wants to take me off campus.”

Corrie nodded, running her fingers through her hair, which was getting to be shaggy—she was letting it grow back out after she’d had her head shaved in December. “Well, I think you should go now, then.”

“Do you think so?” Edie sat on her bed and grabbed her phone from her desk. “I don’t know if she’ll be there.”

“She said at least ten minutes. This is a lot more than ten minutes.” Corrie grinned. “And I don’t want her dragging you around after dark—it’s always dangerous to be in the woods, but it’s more dangerous then, and I don’t want you getting stuck.”

“I won’t get stuck,” Edie reminded her. “I’ll be able to go in through the barrier… but I don’t want to wander into the faerie court.” She frowned, thinking it through. “Maybe now is a good time.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t go right away when you saw the note,” Corrie said.

Edie held up her phone. “I didn’t want you to get worried and be unable to get in touch with me.”

Corrie stood up, stretching. “Well, good. Bring your phone with you. Maybe the rain will stop while you’re out there.”

Edie looked outside. “Maybe that’s what Leila wanted to wait for.” She stood up and reached for her jacket again. “But I’ll go see if she’s there. You’re right, it would be better to go before sunset.”

She gathered up her things, wrinkling her nose at the dampness, and headed back down the stairs. She was glad she’d had a lot of practice going up and down these stairs—her calf muscles were a lot stronger than they used to be. If this had happened at the beginning of the year, she probably would have decided to wait just so she didn’t have to do the stairs again.

A big group of girls and a few guys were using the common room as she passed, making a lot of noise in the kitchen. She wondered what they were making. Cooking was probably a good rainy-day activity.

The rain showed no signs of letting up as she went outside. She opened her umbrella and headed for the gate to the college.

She was disappointed but unsurprised as she came close but saw no one. Leila expected her to arrive closer to sunset; she wasn’t here now. Edie looked on both sides of the gate anyway, checking just to make sure, but she saw no sign of flaming hair.

“Are you okay?” the guard in the gatehouse called to her over the rain.

Edie walked closer. It was the same guard they’d had a conversation with a few weeks ago, who’d told them about closing the gates at sunset. “I was supposed to meet someone here. You didn’t see a girl with red hair, did you?”

The guard shook her head, smiling. “I might have seen her go past half an hour or so ago. I think she got tired of waiting.”

Edie sighed. “Yeah, probably. What time does the gate close tonight?”

“Sunset’s supposed to be around eight. If the rain hasn’t let up by then, I’ll go out at exactly eight, because at this rate there won’t be any way to tell whether the sun is still out or not.” The guard gestured at the sky, and Edie, glancing up, understood what she meant: the day was light enough that the sun was obviously still up, but with suck a thick cloud cover, she couldn’t see the actual position of the sun at all.

And something else bothered her—she hadn’t realized that the same guard she was talking to now would be the one to close the gates. That meant she would see Edie leave with Leila, and she would probably remember. If Edie didn’t return through the gate, would she notice?

“Thanks. I guess I’ll be back then.”

“Leaving campus, or bringing her in?”

“Uh, we haven’t decided yet.” Edie had a strong feeling that Leila wanted to go off-campus, but what if the reason she wanted to meet before sunset was so that she could come in and not be trapped beyond the barrier? She had to leave her options open.

“All right, well, stay safe.”

Edie smiled. “I will. Thanks.” She headed back to her dorm, shoulders hunched against the still-soaking rain.

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