Edie stood looking at the dirt for what felt like a long time, but couldn’t really have been more than a few minutes. Nothing changed, except that the sounds of dripping overhead became louder. A few raindrops plopped into the dirt, dampening it. The tree no longer protected it.
Finally, Edie turned and began walking directly back toward campus. She was glad Leila had been prescient enough to give her an excuse for not entering through the front gate; she wasn’t sure she could walk all that way right now. She didn’t know how she felt, but she was so shaken that she didn’t want to have to make her way through the dark forest or face anyone.
Besides, the woods felt even more threatening than they usually did at the moment, now that Leila was gone. Edie clutched her umbrella, wishing she had one of her steel bracelets on. At least she had her jacket, so she could find a four-leaf clover in her pocket. She stopped under an evergreen tree and fished around in her pocket until she found it.
Holding the clover didn’t change the dark, wet forest around her, but it did make her feel a little safer. If faeries tried to use glamour to hide their approach, she would still see them.
After a few minutes of walking, the forest seemed to brighten around her, even though the sound of the rain was stronger than ever. She realized that she must have passed into the land that belonged to Chatoyant College and turned, reaching out into thin air. Sure enough, her fingertips bumped against an invisible barrier; she was inside the border again.
She took a deep, shaky breath, resting her fingers against the barrier. There was no going back now—not that she could have gone back to the way things had been before Leila had left.
It probably hadn’t been possible to go back to that at all this semester, or maybe ever. Maybe Leila had always intended to leave. After all, she hadn’t even thought Edie would remember her to miss her. Edie’s relationship could have been doomed from the start.
It hurt to think that. But it didn’t hurt as much as it had when she’d realized that Leila was gone at the end of last semester. Maybe she really had gotten used to it.
She turned back toward campus, knowing she didn’t have far to go. Nothing approached her as she walked out of the woods; nothing but the rain. As soon as she’d left the trees, she put up her umbrella and hurried toward the path to Gilkey.
She saw no one as she entered, either, or on the stairs. She was glad to not have to speak to anyone, but it still felt lonely. The hall was quiet when she reached the fifth floor, and she put her hand on the handle of her dorm room door, expecting it to be locked and everyone to be out.
But when she pushed down, it opened easily, and inside was light and warmth—Corrie, Dawn, Roe, and Annie were all inside, sitting on the floor and playing a card game, all of them turning their faces and their smiles toward her.
Edie smiled back, taking all of them in, and closed the door behind her with a contented sigh. Leila might be gone, but at least Edie knew where she belonged.
“Are you all right?” Annie asked.
Edie nodded, somewhat surprised to find that she was. She put her clover back in her pocket and hung her jacket and umbrella to dry. “I am okay, actually. But Leila’s gone.”
Annie and Corrie both gasped. “Back to Faerie?” Corrie asked.
“I don’t know,” Edie said. “But wherever she went, I think she’s gone for good. She took her tree with her.” Annie put her hand over her mouth.
“I didn’t know she could do that,” Dawn said.
Edie shook her head. “Neither did I. But the tree’s gone, as though it never existed.” She sat down to take off her boots.
“I’m sorry, Edie,” Roe said, frowning. “My visions let you down. I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming.”
“It’s okay. I did see it coming. We didn’t need a vision to explain it.” Edie sat down on the floor between Corrie and Annie. “Want to deal me in?”
“Take over my hand,” Annie said, holding out her cards. “I was just thinking I should go downstairs and make popcorn. By the time I get back, we’ll probably want to start a new round anyway.”
“Thanks,” Edie said, taking Annie’s cards, which were warm from her small hand. “Popcorn sounds delicious.”
“This probably won’t take too long,” Corrie added, grinning. “I’m about to beat all your asses.”
“Not if I can stop you,” Roe said, drawing a card from her hand. “Hurry with that popcorn, Annie.”
“Be right back,” Annie said. She smiled, and Edie smiled back.