Edie hurried to take a seat; Dawn, the last to enter, hastily pulled the door shut behind them. Lin had adopted the same tense, stiff posture she’d had yesterday when the ghost entered her. This time it had happened much more quickly, though. Could it be that the ghost actually wanted to talk to them?
“Alice,” Annie said. “Thank you for returning to speak to us again.”
Alice turned her head and nodded at Annie. “What do you want?”
“That’s our question for you,” Corrie said.
“But we can take our time to figure that out,” Annie said quickly. “We want to know more about you. You lived—you live here in this dorm room. What is the dorm called?”
“Mary Thomas,” Alice said. “Just like the scholarship.”
Edie raised her eyebrows and wrote that down—she was glad she always carried a notebook with her. She’d never heard of a Mary Thomas scholarship.
“Are you here on that scholarship?” Annie asked.
“Yes.” Alice swallowed and looked down at my hands. “I was lucky to find this place. My family—I want to support them, make life easier for them. If I can learn magic, then I’m sure I can find a way to make money.”
“It will definitely help,” Dawn said. “That’s a great idea. My aunt knows magic and it helps her support herself as a single woman.”
Edie wondered if, like Pru, Alice had gone through a doomed romance with a faerie. Or just a doomed romance with a human student, like the story Sam had told—though, now that she thought about it, there was nothing in that story that made it impossible that the ghost’s lover had been a faerie. He had refused to marry her, even though they loved each other, like Tom had refused to be with Pru.
Was Annie trying to find out whether Sam’s story was true? It certainly matched so far. She was a scholarship student trying to make life better for her family.
“Thank you,” Alice said, but her voice was soft and she looked down at her hands, twisting her fingers.
“Is that what you want to do?” Edie asked. “Support yourself as a single woman?”
“There isn’t anyone you want to marry?”
“Me?” Alice looked up, shaking her head. “No, no. I’m much too focused on my work. I don’t have the time to get to know any men.”
At least she wasn’t getting upset. Edie realized belatedly that it had been a risky question—if she had truly killed herself over a man, thinking of him would likely be distressing. But it seemed that Sam’s story wasn’t quite accurate.
Annie seemed to want to press the point. “Not even a fellow student? You haven’t worked with any young men in your magic classes?”
“I suppose.” Alice shrugged. “I’m friendly with some of the others. But we don’t really speak outside of class. Sometimes I work with the professors. I have been working with them recently, since there’s a big project I want to do.”
“Tell us about that,” Annie said. “Is it an independent study?”
“Yes, it’s the last thing I need to do before graduating,” Alice said. “I need to graduate and return home—my father is ill. The professors agreed that I could graduate early if I was able to prove my mastery of the magical disciplines, but…” Her voice faded.
“Yes?” Annie pressed her. “Tell us about that. It sounds very difficult. How do you prove your mastery? It’s more than taking an exam?”
“No… no…” Alice’s voice was faint. Suddenly Lin went limp again, though this time she didn’t collapse like she had yesterday, but caught herself on the sides of the chair.
She pushed herself upright, smiling faintly. “Sorry if that was a bad time to end the conversation,” she said. “The ghost was getting distressed again, and I didn’t want to risk it freaking out like yesterday.”
“That’s okay,” Roe said. “We don’t want you to overtax yourself. Thank you again for helping. It looks like you’re dealing with it well.”
Lin stood up and stretched, her smile widening. “It’s so freeing to know that I can eject a ghost anytime I want to. Doing it a second time proved that it wasn’t just a fluke. I hope I can keep them out when I don’t want them, too, though I won’t test it with this ghost until we’re done. Do you guys want to try another session later?”
“Yes,” Annie said quickly. “If you don’t mind. We still haven’t figured out how she died or why she’s haunting… or, crap, when she lived. I got distracted with the scholarship conversation. I was going to ask her what year she thought it was.”
“Next time,” Lin said. “I’ll be in touch. Right now I’m going to go have a nap.” She opened the door and left quietly.
“Well, that was a lot more illuminating than our last session,” Edie said, looking down at her notes. “We’ll have to see what we can find out about this Mary Thomas scholarship.”
“That might help us narrow down the timeline, too, if it only existed for a little while,” Dawn said. “Then we won’t have to ask her about the year. Though I guess we should still ask her about Otis Atkins.” They hadn’t been able to find Alice Atkins in the yearbooks at all. They’d come to the conclusion that since the first yearbook they could find was from 1910, she must have lived earlier than that; there was certainly plenty of Chatoyant College history to go through.