Edie ran up the steps to the second floor of Mary Thomas, only slowing down when someone she vaguely recognized flattened themselves along the wall as though she was going to barrel over them. Embarrassed, she switched to a fast walk. At least she wasn’t far from Annie’s room now.
She hesitated at the door, then knocked gently. If Annie was napping or something, she didn’t want to disturb her.
Annie’s voice was soft at the best of times, but Edie was used to it by now, and so she could make out the words from the other side of the door. “Who’s there?”
“It’s me, Edie!”
“Edie!” Annie seemed to hesitate, then said, “Come in, it’s open.”
Edie opened the door cautiously. “Are you sure? I don’t want to bother you.” It was a narrow but bright room; she could see Annie lying flat on her back in bed on top of the blankets, her pillow under her knees instead of her head. There was a massive bandage on her chest that made Edie cringe in sympathy and concern.
“You’re not bothering me. I’m trying to rest, but I’m bored. Just close the door.”
“Sure.” Edie pulled the door shut behind her and took the chair that was already pulled up by Annie’s bed. She looked around cautiously. She wasn’t sure if this was the room that Elrath had been in last year—it was identical from the inside, but that might have just been how all the rooms looked. The iron bed frame would have been comforting evidence of protection if she hadn’t seen a faerie use one last year.
“How are you feeling?” she asked, looking down at Annie’s pale face. But Annie was always pale.
“I’m mostly fine. It hurts a bit.” She gestured at her chest. “I took some Tylenol, since Ginny said that was okay, but it isn’t killing the pain.”
“Shouldn’t you go back to see her if it still hurts this much?”
“No, I’ll be okay. It’s been feeling better since I’ve been lying here.” Annie grimaced. “I’m just not looking forward to going to class this afternoon.”
“You’re injured. That’s a lot like being sick. Surely the teacher will understand if you skip.”
“I can’t believe you’re encouraging me to skip class.” Annie grinned.
Edie couldn’t help smiling back. “Even I miss class if I’m sick.”
“Well, I’m not sick. I’ll take some more Tylenol before I get up, and then I’ll lay down again after class.”
“Do you want me to bring you anything? I could sneak something out of the dining hall so you don’t have to go down there for dinner.”
Annie opened her mouth, closed it again, and then said, “Actually, I guess that would be nice. Just some pizza or something. I feel weird about having people bring me stuff, though.”
“Oh, it’s just me. You’d do the same if I were the one sick or injured.”
“Yeah, I would. Anytime.” Annie smiled up at Edie. Her eyes were pale and shining. Or maybe her face just seemed shiny from sweat? It was really warm from all the sunlight coming into the room.
Edie looked up at the window. The blinds didn’t block the light all that well at this angle. But it would be nice and dark in here at night, like in Edie’s room; both faced east.
“Edie, there’s something I need to ask you,” Annie said.
“Sure,” Edie said, still looking at the bright sunlight.
“Will you go out with me?”
Edie blinked several times. Then she looked down at Annie. Her expression hadn’t changed, except maybe that her smile had grown a bit fixed.
“What?” It wasn’t a very good answer, but she couldn’t have heard Annie correctly, could she?
Annie swallowed. “I’m asking you out on a date.”
Oh. She had heard her correctly, then.
She still had no idea what to say. She really liked Annie, of course. She was one of her closest friends—after Corrie and Dawn. And she was hardly unattractive. Edie wanted to say yes just to make her friend happy, and because she was so flattered that Annie was interested in her, of all people. But she didn’t think those were very good reasons. And a large part of her was panicking at the thought of dating anyone, after how badly things had gone with Leila.
Then again, Edie knew for sure that Annie wasn’t a faerie, so there wasn’t really any chance of a relationship with her imploding the way it had with Leila. And another part of Edie thought that going out with Annie would be a really fun adventure.
“Uh,” she said, licking her lips nervously, “can I have some time to think about it?”
Some expression Edie didn’t recognize flickered across Annie’s face. But all she said was, “Sure, of course. Take as much time as you want.”
Edie nodded. She felt that she would need some time. She had no idea what to say now.
They sat in awkward silence for a few more moments, until Edie glanced at Annie’s clock and realized what time it was. “Oh no, I’m sorry, I have to get to History of Magic! I’ll come back later, okay? With pizza.”
Annie grinned. “Yeah, don’t worry about me. I’ll see you later.”
Edie gathered up her things and turned to go. Then she stopped, puzzled. “Didn’t I close the door when I came in?” She was sure she remembered doing that. She didn’t want the entire hall overhearing their conversation—and considering how it had gone, she was especially embarrassed to think that they might have been overheard.
“Oh, yeah, you did. It opened while we were talking. It does that sometimes.”
Edie looked back at Annie, who had picked her head up to look at the door. “Are they supposed to do that? It seems like a hazard if there’s a fire. They have all these doors to protect from fire, like at the ends of all the halls.”
“I don’t know.” Annie put her head back down. “Roe’s door does it, too, and some of the other people on this hall. I think it’s just an old building. Maybe they don’t shut all the way.”
Edie pushed the door shut. It made a satisfying click and, when she pulled on the handle without turning it, the door didn’t budge. “It seems like it’s shut all the way.”
“There are drafts sometimes. Maybe they’re just strong enough for the door. The rooms get cold spots sometimes, have you noticed that?”
“I… yeah, I have noticed that.” She remembered a chilly breeze when they’d come to this building to speak to Elrath. She hadn’t been able to find an explanation for it.
Cold spots and doors opening for no reason. They could both have perfectly mundane sources… but after the story they’d heard, she had to think they added up to a ghost.
“Don’t you have to get to class? I don’t want you to be late on my account,” Annie said.
“Right! Sorry! I’ll see you later,” Edie promised again. She turned the doorknob, opened the door, and closed it firmly behind her before rushing off down the hallway.