Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 58: Otis

Saturday, November 11

Dawn was very disappointed that her friends had managed to actually get Alice’s full story without her present. When Roe managed to get in touch with Otis Atkins, she insisted that they all had to be there when Alice got to speak to him. Link had given Otis Roe’s phone number, and Roe had given Otis the basics of the situation, but they needed him to talk to Alice himself. Between his schedule, Lin’s, and everyone’s classes, it had taken them a few weeks to schedule something.

Finally, though, they all crowded into Annie’s room one more time and watched Lin sit in the chair and brace herself. She waited a moment, then frowned, her eyebrows drawing together quizzically. Dawn would have thought it was Alice who was confused, except this still seemed to be Lin’s expression. Was Alice somehow failing to show up?

Lin’s eyebrows lifted. “It’s okay,” she said softly. “I came here today to help you. I won’t come into this building unless it’s to help you.”

Then she gasped, closing her eyes, and when they opened again it was Alice who looked through them. She looked around. “Is it time? Really?”

“It’s time,” Annie said, smiling.

Roe took out her phone and dialed, setting it to speaker so they could all hear it ring. Then a male voice on the other side said, “Hello? Roe?”

“Hi, Mr. Atkins,” Roe said. “We have someone who wants to talk to you. Will you identify yourself?”

“Yes, of course. My name is Otis Atkins. I’m named after my grandfather, who was named after his father. I have an aunt named Alice Norburn. She was named after her great-aunt, Alice Atkins, who died while she was attending Chatoyant College.”

Alice gave another gasp and began to cry. “I’m Alice Atkins.”

“I know,” Otis said. “It’s amazing to be able to speak to you. I wish my grandfather could be here to witness this.”

“Your father is my brother Otis’s son?”

“Yes. He never knew you, of course, but he grew up hearing stories of his brilliant aunt.”

Alice cried harder. “I’m not brilliant. If I was, I wouldn’t have… I would have found a way to learn the spell I needed, instead of having it blow up in my face. I would have returned to help my family.”

Dawn felt sorry for Alice in her obvious difficulty of thinking of herself as dead. It made sense—she was here and talking to them, wasn’t she? And yet, of course, if she weren’t dead, she wouldn’t be a ghost forced to possess a medium in order to communicate. From what Dawn had learned about attitudes toward death in her sociology class, she couldn’t be sure that she wouldn’t feel the same way as Alice after she died. Though, of course, she hoped she wouldn’t be forced to become a ghost.

“But from what my grandfather told me, Otis was very proud of you,” Otis said. “He was so impressed that you had worked hard enough to be able to go to college, and to not even have to pay for it. He never went to college himself, but you inspired him to work hard. Do you remember where he was working when you went to college?”

“Yes, of course. He was an assistant at Nickelson’s Shoe Store.”

“Well, that store went on to be the Atkins Shoe Store.” Otis’s voice was warm.

Alice swallowed hard. “Really?”

“Yes. My great-grandfather owned that store. My grandfather turned it into a franchise—seven stores throughout the state. My father inherited the franchise and ran it well, but decided to send me to college. To the same college you attended. I learned so much here, but I never imagined that the ghost I heard about, haunting the girls’ dorm—Mary Thomas was all girls then—was actually my great-aunt.”

“So my family… they did all right without me?”

“Yes, from what I know. Otis worked hard all his life, but his children never wanted for anything. I don’t know exactly what happened with your sister Grace, but she married and had seven children, so I assume she was happy, too.”

Alice gave a watery chuckle, but her tears seemed to have stopped. “Grace always doted on children. I’m glad she got what she wanted. What about my father?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know. My grandfather never spoke about his own grandfather. But the family didn’t fall into ruin. All his descendants have happy lives.”

“Your life is happy?”

“Very much so. I retired a few years ago from my job as a lawyer. My father sold the shoe stores, and the money was divided between my three daughters. I have two grandchildren now and another on the way. Maybe if it’s a girl, I’ll ask them to name her Alice.”

“Oh, no, you don’t have to do that,” Alice said quickly. “I’m so happy to hear you’re all doing well. It’s… it’s all I could ever ask for.”

“Would you like me to come visit you?” Otis asked. “Perhaps when the students here are on a break?”

“I… no. You don’t have to do that.” It was plain from Alice’s face that she didn’t like the idea of her great-grandnephew visiting her. Dawn agreed that it was a strange thought. If she had lived, they would have never met unless she had lived a very long time indeed. “You won’t be able to see me, after all, and I can’t ask for any more of this medium’s time.”

“Oh. Yes, that makes sense. Still, it’s good to know that you’re there.”

“Thank you so much for speaking to me, Otis,” Alice said.

“Thank you for speaking to me,” he said.

“Can I ask a question?” Corrie put in.

“Certainly,” Otis said politely.

“When you went here, you heard stories about the ghost, right? How come you never investigated?”

“I, well—“ He gave a little cough. “I did, once. A friend and I, along with our girlfriends, who were living in Mary Thomas, tried to have a little seance. But the ghost tipped over our candles. Nearly set Mary Lou’s dress aflame.”

Alice’s hands flew to her mouth. “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“No worries. I didn’t think much of it, really. I didn’t know who you were, and you obviously didn’t know who I was.”

“No, I… suppose not.”

There was a moment of silence. Then Roe spoke. “Mr. Atkins, do you have anything else to say to Alice?”

“Ah, just that she should feel free to get in touch with me at any time. You have my phone number?”

“Yes, I do. And Alice knows how to get in touch with me. Thank you.”

“Goodbye, Alice.”

“Goodbye, Otis,” Alice whispered. She covered her face with her hands for a moment, then when the hands lowered, it was Lin’s face looking out at them once more.

Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 57: Nothing Came of It

Once they had explained the whole story to Dawn, Annie yawned, covering her mouth unsuccessfully with her hand. “Well, now that we’ve accomplished that,” she said, “I think I’m going to go have the sleep of someone with a very light conscience.”

“That sounds good,” Corrie said. “Sleep well.” But she wasn’t looking at Annie. She looked at Edie and raised her eyebrows very pointedly.

Edie swallowed. If she didn’t do it now, she would never live it down. “I’ll come with you.”

“Oh,” Annie said, her cheeks going pink. “Yeah, okay.”

“I need to call Link,” Roe said, following them out of the room. None of them spoke on the walk back to Mary Thomas. Even after they parted with Roe, Edie stayed silent; she didn’t want to say this in the hall where anyone could hear them.

Once they reached Annie’s room, Annie sat on her bed and looked at Edie expectantly. Edie took a deep breath and sat on Annie’s chair. She couldn’t make this more intimate by sitting on the bed.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I can’t give you the answer you want, so the answer has to be no. I don’t want to make you keep waiting.”

Annie looked down. “I can’t say I’m surprised.”

“I’m sorry,” Edie said again.

“It’s okay.” Annie lifted her head with what looked like an effort. “I’d rather a clear ‘no’ now than going on a date with you only to find out that you were just doing it because you felt bad, not because you liked me.”

“I wouldn’t do that to you!”

“I know.” Annie smiled. “I trust you.”

Edie lowered her head, embarrassed. “I wish I could give you a yes. You deserve to be loved. But I… I’m not ready, I guess. I don’t think you’re anything like Leila, but I can’t help thinking about her anyway.”

“Yeah, that makes sense. She really betrayed you. Was she your first girlfriend?”

“Yeah. I had crushes in high school, but… nothing ever came of any of them.” Edie shook her head. She didn’t want to think about those, either.

“What about you?”

“I’ve never actually dated anyone.” Annie sighed. “I had the same experiences in high school. I even joined my school’s Pride organization because I had a crush on the president, but I don’t think she ever really noticed me.”

Edie’s eyes widened. “You had a Pride organization? I’m jealous. My school never had anything like that. I was the only out lesbian there. There were a couple of gay guys, too, but things didn’t go well for them.”

“Things didn’t always go well for the Pride folks at my school,” Annie said. “But I guess we were a little more open-minded. We organized a couple of protests and stuff. I don’t think anything ever came of it.”

“I don’t know if I’ve ever asked this. How did you end up at Chatoyant College?”

“Oh, my family has always gone here. Haven’t I mentioned that? My parents met here, and three of my grandparents went here. My cousin Jack graduated a few years ago. Almost everyone in my family knows how to do magic.”

“Oh wow, you never said anything about that! So you knew what you were getting into.”

Annie shook her head. “None of them said anything about the faeries. Well, to be fair, when I went home for Thanksgiving last year I asked if they knew why the woods are off-limits, and if they’d heard about anything weird happening, stuff like that. None of them seemed to know what I was talking about, and this summer when I told them all about the faeries coming out, they were all shocked.” She laughed. “I don’t know if my mom has gotten over her favorite professor being a faerie yet.”

Edie grinned. “Which was her favorite professor?”

“Unbelievably, Professor Rook! It sounds like he gets a lot more interesting when you get into the higher levels of magic. My mom has always talked about how much she loved his Extending Life class.”

“Wow. What was it like to grow up with magic?”

Annie shrugged. “It didn’t seem very different to me. My parents and grandparents always looked younger than my classmates’ parents and grandparents. There was that one time in elementary school that I had two friends over and we all climbed onto the same branch of a tree. It broke, but because my mom was watching, none of us got hurt—not even a scrape or a bruise.”

“Didn’t their parents think that was weird?”

“I don’t remember,” Annie said. “I don’t even know if they told their parents. I probably wouldn’t have, if I’d done something stupid and almost gotten hurt. I do know my mom yelled at us.”

Edie nodded. “I probably wouldn’t have told my parents, either.” She took a deep breath and sat back in the chair. She still felt bad about not being able to give Annie the answer that she deserved, but it was really nice to be able to sit and talk with her so naturally. She was glad she hadn’t broken their friendship.

Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 56: Compulsion

Edie raised her eyebrows and looked at Corrie. Was she thinking what Edie was now thinking? If Alice could learn what she did wrong with her spell, maybe she would be able to stop haunting Annie.

“Corrie, do you think Lin would be okay with it if Alice used her body to leave?” Corrie said.

Roe nodded. “If she doesn’t like it, she can just expel her, remember.”

“Is that what happened?” Alice touched her shoulder. “This is a medium… yes, I remember learning about them. That makes sense. I didn’t like being shoved out… but when the space returned, I had to enter. It was half a compulsion, half desperation to make someone actually understand me.”

Edie bit her lip. No wonder Lin didn’t like being around ghosts, if they were even in part compelled to enter her body and use it. That fit with what they had seen, too. If Alice had been given free choice as to whether to possess Lin—well, the ghost they had tried to communicate with a few weeks ago wouldn’t have done it, not when she could just continue scaring people.

“Do you want to try it?” Annie asked. “If you want to stay in the building, that’s perfectly understandable. You’re safe here. But you’re safe out on campus, too. The worst that will happen to you is Lin—the medium—expelling you again.”

Alice took a deep, shuddering breath. “Let’s try it. What do I have to lose?”

She stood and took a step forward. She seemed unsteady on her feet, and Roe held an arm out. Alice took the arm and balanced herself, then moved forward to the door.

Edie quickly got up to follow, as did Annie and Corrie. They made an odd little procession as Alice, moving like a decrepit old woman, walked down the hall on Roe’s arm, with the other three following close behind.

Alice stumbled on the steps, but by the time she’d reached the bottom, she seemed to have regained her balance. By the time they reached the front door, she hardly seemed to need Roe’s arm anymore. She reached out for the handle, but pulled her hand back, hesitating.

“Here,” Annie said. She stepped forward and opened the door.

Alice let go of Roe’s arm and took a step through the door. Her right side, then her left, moved out into the reddish light of the setting sun. She turned to face them, smiling, her hands spread wide. “Here I am.”

Edie couldn’t help grinning. It was a surprisingly beautiful sight. But suddenly Alice gasped, put her hand to her forehead—and then she was Lin again.

“What happened?” asked Annie, running forward. “Did she get pulled back into the building?”

“No,” Lin said, shaking her head and taking a step back. Roe held her hand out, but Lin made a gesture as though to ward her off, and Roe stepped back as well. “I expelled her. I was tired of it. I didn’t want to be moved around.”

“I’m sorry,” Corrie said, walking out of the building as well. Edie followed. “I thought it was worth a try, and that you would expel her if you didn’t like it.”

“And I did,” Lin said, holding her hand out now to stop Corrie. She took a deep breath. “It’s all right. I felt the ghost use my body to stand up, and I chose to let it happen. It just went far enough. I’m going now. I’ll talk to you later, Roe.”

They watched in silence for a moment as Lin walked away, then glanced at each other uncertainly. “Well, it doesn’t sound like she hates you for dragging her into this,” Annie said to Roe.

Roe grinned. “No, I guess not. At least she learned something!”

“I wonder if Alice will talk to us now,” Corrie said thoughtfully. “I mean, using tarot cards or something. We might not have to go through Lin.”

“Let’s try it,” Edie said.

Corrie looked around. “Do you think she’s out here still?”

“If she’s not, then she’s probably back in my room,” Annie said. “And I have tarot cards there. Let’s see… didn’t you say she did some knocking when you were first trying to talk to her?”

“That’s right,” Corrie said. “Alice, if you can hear us, please knock on the door once.”

They were silent for a moment. All Edie could hear was someone shrieking with laughter on the other side of the building.

“Back inside, then,” Annie said, leading the way.

They headed back in to Annie’s room and shut the door. “Alice,” Annie said clearly, “if you can hear us, please knock once.”

They were silent. This time Edie heard a very distinct knock. They all grinned at each other.

“Alice,” Corrie said, “if you know any other way to communicate with us, please knock once.”

This time they were answered with silence. Annie rummaged through her drawer and came out with a box of tarot cards. She shook the cards out into her hand and spread them onto the bed. “Alice, if you can, please pick out a tarot card to communicate with us.”

The cards rustled, as though in a strong breeze. Several of them flipped over, and then they sprayed in every direction—similar to how they had swirled the first time Corrie had tried to communicate with the ghost, but without as much force, so even though a few of them hit Annie, they fell down harmlessly.

Edie took a deep breath. “Alice, are you frustrated? Please knock once for yes, twice for no.”

There was a knock. Edie nodded. “You’re having trouble controlling the cards?”

Another knock.

“That’s what I thought,” Edie said. “This must be very frustrating for you. I’m sorry. We’ll try to come up with another way to communicate with you.”

There was a pause, then another knock, and the girls all laughed.

“Alice, while we’re thinking, do you want to try one other small thing?” Corrie asked. She paused, but there was no response. “I was thinking that you could follow us to our dorm—me and Edie, that is.” She gestured at Edie. “If you are able to leave the building without the medium, you can let us know once we’re there, and then we’ll know you can move around campus on your own.”

Edie held her breath for a moment. Alice knocked. She grinned.

“Great!” Corrie said. “Let’s go!”

She led the way back down the stairs and out of the building; Annie and Roe came with them, too, plainly curious. They didn’t go quickly, in case Alice couldn’t move quickly without a body. Inside Sayer, they went up the stairs and into Corrie and Edie’s room.

Dawn looked up from her desk when they entered. “Hey, there you are,” she said. “Where have you been?”

“Shh,” Edie said.

Corrie closed the door carefully behind them and looked around. “Alice?” she said. “Are you here?”

For a moment Edie thought they had failed. Then there was a knock.

Edie and Annie cheered. Corrie and Roe high-fived. Dawn stared at all of them. “What the heck did I miss?”

Edie looked at Corrie, and all of them started to laugh.

Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 55: Hope

Edie had no idea what kind of spell Alice could be talking about, and she didn’t want to interrupt to ask. It must have been ritual magic; maybe Annie would understand it.

“I lit the candles—I used fire magic to light them all at once. Do you know how to do that?”

“Yes,” Annie said. “I’ve learned elemental magic. I don’t know any spells like the one you’re describing, but that makes sense, since I’m only in my second year.”

Alice looked down. “Yes, it would be too advanced for you.”

“What did it do?”

“What did it do?” Alice’s voice grew sharp. “It was intended to reveal to me the paths to other worlds. Each color of agate should have risen up into a bright ribbon to follow, and at the end of each I should have found the door to a certain world. Blue for heaven, black for hell. I cannot tell what the other colors should have been.”

Edie’s breath caught in her throat and she clutched her notebook tightly. If she had known this spell, would it have shown her the way to Faerie? She had looked so long—had the knowledge been with Alice all along?

It didn’t matter now, though. If Leila was there again, she didn’t want Edie following her. And it sounded as though the spell hadn’t worked for Alice, so it probably would not have worked for Edie, either.

“That’s not what happened,” Annie prompted her.

“No,” Alice said. “I pulled the power to myself in the center of the circle, as the spell indicated, and then pushed it back out to the edges of the circle. But it backfired on me. I remember… I remember great pain.” Her voice faltered. “And the next thing I remember, my room was clean and empty, not mine any longer, and I could not communicate with anyone. I don’t even know how long it has been.”

“What year was that?” Annie asked softly.

“1879.”

“It’s been more than a hundred years.”

“I thought as much.”

“It’s not your fault,” Corrie said. “We’ve found books with bad instructions for spells, too.”

Alice shook her head. “I overreached. I asked for too much. I…” She reached out into the air, as though she could grasp whatever it was she had been trying to reach for. “I thought I was ready for my time here to end, but I was not. I had not learned what I needed to learn.” She shook her head, then dropped her hand back into her lap. “If I had simply waited, perhaps I would have been too late for my father, perhaps not. And now I will never know what happened to my family.”

“I think we can help with that,” Edie said, lifting her head. They didn’t have Professor Strega anymore to help track down family members—but Alice’s family were all humans. They didn’t need a faerie with special knowledge to track down secretive faeries. If they could get on a genealogy site, or find any living relatives of Alice Atkins, they could probably get more of her family’s story.

“What? How?”

“We can look for living relatives today. Did you have… well, I guess you wouldn’t have known him, since he wasn’t been born, but we found an Otis Atkins who went to Chatoyant College in 1965.”

Alice gasped, putting her hand to her mouth. “Otis is—was—my brother’s name.”

“So if this Otis was named after his grandfather, or if the name was passed down, then he’s probably a relative,” Corrie said. She turned and grinned at Edie. “Good thinking!”

“We’ll try to find him,” Edie said, “or any other living relatives you might have. Can you tell me your other family members’ names? Or where they lived?”

“It would probably help to know what years they were born,” Annie added.

“Otis was born in 1861,” Alice said in a faraway voice. “Our sister Grace was born in 1867.” She told them the names of their father and mother, uncles and aunts and cousins, and Edie wrote it all down carefully. It seemed to take her more time to remember the locations where they had lived, but she said they were all fairly close together in the next state to the south. Edie hoped they were still in that area. That would make it easier to track down anyone who remembered Alice.

“Does this help?” Annie asked.

“Yes… thank you.” Alice bowed her head for a moment, then lifted it again. “You have given me some hope. I have never had hope before.”

“I have another question, if it’s not too difficult,” Corrie said.

“Please. You have helped so much, I can hardly begrudge you another question.”

Corrie took a deep breath. “Are you able to leave this building?”

Alice looked slightly taken aback. “I do not know. I have never tried.”

“Really? Never?” Edie asked. “You were never so upset you tried to get out of the building?”

Alice frowned and put her fingers to her temple. “I… I can’t be sure. There are so many things that don’t seem to match. Memories that stop and start before they should.”

“Is there anywhere you would go, if you could leave?” Annie asked.

Alice nodded. “If I could leave, I would go to my family… but I do not know where they are now, of course.”

“I wonder if you can leave the building but not the campus,” Corrie said. “If you could leave campus, you would probably have done that way at the beginning of this and gone to your family. Is there anywhere else on campus you would go?”

“No… not that I can think of. Perhaps to the library, to see if there are any books that would explain to me exactly what I did wrong.”

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 54: Reverse the Process

Wednesday, October 18

Edie truly meant to talk to Annie, but it wasn’t easy to get her alone. They didn’t have any classes together, and when they met for meals, they were always with their other friends. With the ghost hanging around, Edie didn’t want to just show up at Annie’s dorm room, so she hoped that the opportunity would come up naturally.

However, it didn’t come up before Wednesday, when Lin met them for dinner to say that she was ready to work with the ghost again. No one wanted to take any more breaks than they had to from talking to the ghost, so after dinner they all headed to Annie’s room. Corrie had suggested waiting for Dawn to finish her shift at work, but Lin didn’t want to stay up that late. Corrie tried calling Dawn to see if she had any updates about the newspapers she’d been looking at, but she didn’t answer—no surprise, if she was working—and they decided it would be okay if they didn’t wait for her.

Lin set herself up in the same way as the last two times and, as before, it was easy to see once the ghost entered her. Alice looked around with wide eyes. “You’re here again. You really want to talk to me?”

“We’ve wanted to talk to you for a while,” Annie said. “A lot of people have.” They’d all agreed to let her be the one to talk to the ghost unless it was necessary for someone else to say something; she seemed to have the best way with Alice, upsetting her the least.

“I didn’t know that.”

“A few weeks ago, my friends tried to talk to you,” Annie said, speaking slowly and carefully, as though thinking through her words as she came up with them. “You seemed to get really upset. You threw their cards at them and, when they followed you out into the hall, you made an illusion so they thought they were going to fall through the floor.”

“I—“ Alice covered her face with her hands. “I’m so ashamed.”

“It’s okay,” Annie said gently. “You can tell us about it. We won’t judge you.”

“You won’t be angry?”

“Definitely not.” Annie looked around at the others.

“No, I won’t be angry,” Edie said. Corrie and Roe agreed with her.

Alice lowered her hands into her lap and twisted her fingers together. “I used to try to talk to people. But they couldn’t hear me, or they couldn’t understand me. There didn’t seem to be any way to make them understand me. This is the first time I’ve been able to have a real conversation with someone. This…” She waved one hand in front of her face. “I don’t know what is happening right now, but I’m grateful that it is. But I started to get really upset when people tried to talk to me, because I couldn’t, and I’m so angry with myself.” Her last few words were half-lost in a wail.

“That’s perfectly understandable,” Annie said. “It must be stressful to be unable to talk to people when you just want them to understand you.”

“That’s not it,” Alice said. “I’m angry with myself for messing up. I reached too far. I wanted more than I was ready for, and I lost everything.”

Edie was pretty sure Alice was referring to how she had died—but she couldn’t be certain. In their last two conversations, Alice had seemed to get upset at the idea that she was dead, so Edie didn’t even know if she understood that she was a ghost. But what did she think was going on, if she couldn’t accept the idea that she was dead?

“I ruined everything for my family,” Alice continued bleakly. “And I can’t do anything to fix it.”

“What happened?” Annie asked. The whole room seemed hushed. “Maybe we can help you fix it.”

“You can’t reverse the process. You can’t…” Alice put her head in her hands. “I know there’s no magic that does that.”

Maybe she did understand that she was dead, but couldn’t bring herself to say it. Edie hoped Annie would be able to keep talking around it. It was a little confusing.

Annie shook her head. “I know that. But maybe we can help you fix the mistake you made.”

“How can anyone do that?”

“I don’t know, but I have no chance of figuring it out if I don’t know what happened.”

“All right. All right.” Alice seemed to shake herself, straightening up. “I needed to graduate. I needed to do a final project. I had to prove myself to the magic professors, to show them that I knew everything I needed to know. I found a spell in a book that I thought would be perfect, but of course I had to test it myself and be sure I understood all the parts before I could perform it in front of them.”

“That makes sense,” Annie said.

Alice nodded. “So I gathered all the components in my room, here.” She gestured at the room. “Juniper branches, candles, agate and amethyst crystals. I arranged them in the prescribed circle.”

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 53: Bad Luck

Corrie didn’t have a lot of hope that Professor Lal would be the one on duty, but she headed over to the magic building anyway. Somewhat to her surprise, Professor Lal’s door was ajar and the light was on inside. Corrie glanced around the hallway, but no one else seemed to be there. She knocked lightly on the door.

“Come in,” Lal said.

Corrie opened the door and walked inside. Lal was bent over her desk, a pen in one hand, reading something. “Hi, Professor Lal.”

Lal looked up at her, eyebrows arching. “Hello, Corrie.”

“If you’re busy, I can come back later.”

Professor Lal put down her pen and shook her head. “I am not busy. Do you have some concern about class? You are doing remarkably well—though, I should not say remarkably.” She smiled and stretched her arms above her head. “You are doing precisely as well as I expected, given how you performed in your introductory class, and your control is growing every day.”

Corrie grinned. She hadn’t come here expecting or even hoping to be praised, but it sure was nice, especially coming from such a strict teacher. “It’s not about that. It’s just some research I was doing, and I was curious. You’ve been at this school for a while, right?”

“A hundred and fifty years, on and off.”

Corrie nodded, hoping Lal wouldn’t ask her about what the research was. “Did you ever know a student named Alice Atkins?”

“Atkins.” Lal tapped her lower lip with her finger. “I remember an Otis Atkins. Alice Atkins… the name does ring a bell, but I don’t think I taught her. Of course, I can’t guarantee that I have memorized the names of all the students I have ever taught.”

“No, that makes sense.” Corrie was sure that if Professor Lal had taught a student who had died on campus, that would be seared into her memory. Corrie would certainly always remember the names of Elrath, Sean, Payton, and Elena, and she had barely even known Sean.

Then again, what if Professor Lal had taught Alice Atkins, and it turned out that she hadn’t died on campus? Maybe she was just tied to Mary Thomas because she had been a student there; maybe she’d died years after she graduated and returned to campus. That would help explain why the magic professors seemed to be so certain that there was no ghost in Mary Thomas.

“Maybe Alice Atkins was Otis’ little sister, and he told her not to take any of your classes when she came here,” Corrie suggested, grinning at the idea.

Professor Lal shook her head at Corrie. “I do not think so.”

“What about the Mary Thomas scholarship? Were you around when they were doing that?”

“Yes, I left the school for a time not long before Miss Thomas died, but I remember it had been her intention to leave her house and her money to the school. When I returned, they were giving out a scholarship in her name, and I remember two or three girls who received it before the money ran out.” She pursed her lips. “There was said to be some bad luck associated with the scholarship. I can’t recall why.”

Corrie raised her eyebrows. Maybe Alice had died at the school after all. “That’s weird. Why would a scholarship be bad luck?”

“It was given to girls who could not have attended a college otherwise. Perhaps they were not all well suited to this particular college.” Professor Lal shook her head. “I can’t tell you any more than that, Corrie. What is this research related to?”

Corrie bit her lip. “It’s just personal. I read that Alice Atkins made some contribution to magical theory, and I thought—“

“Corrie.” Professor Lal leveled an unamused look at her. “If this was about magical theory, I would know about it. Who is Alice Atkins?”

“I don’t know,” Corrie said truthfully.

“Are you following that ridiculous story about a ghost in Mary Thomas again?”

Corrie tried to control her annoyance. “Why are you so sure there isn’t a ghost in Mary Thomas?”

“I have personally investigated the story more than once, as have several other professors on this campus. We have seen absolutely no evidence of such a thing. Perhaps you should stop chasing nonsense and focus on your schoolwork instead.”

Corrie nodded, taking that as a dismissal, and left the office, frowning. She hardly saw the campus around her as she walked back to Sayer. How could the ghost have hidden her existence so thoroughly from the professors, when she was so very obvious to Corrie, her friends, and especially Lin?

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 52: Microfilm

Dawn hurried back down the stairs and waited for Eric to finish checking books out to a student, then approached him. “Hey, do you have the keys to the microfilm cabinets?”

“Yeah, of course. You need them?” He leaned forward and, though Dawn couldn’t see what he was doing, she knew he was pulling the ring of keys off their hook on the desk.

“Yes, please. Thank you.” She smiled when he put them in her hand, then went off to the cabinets.

She’d never actually opened the cabinet holding old West Ashburn Gazettes before, but she knew which it was, and when she found the right key, she started opening drawers to find the right year. Of course, the most recent were at the top, and she had to go down several drawers before finding 1910.

Once she got down there, she realized that the newspaper must have been published more frequently than monthly that long ago. There were a lot more rolls per year than she expected. She grimaced, wondering whether to start at the early end or the late end.

If the money had run out for the scholarships at some point, then earlier was more likely. And Alice had mentioned the dorm and the scholarship, but not the person, so she had likely not been at the school while Mary Thomas was alive, so 1873 was the likely earliest year.

Dawn took a deep breath and searched for 1873. There were four rolls of microfilm for that year. She took them all out of the drawer, locked the cabinet, and headed for the microfilm machine.

Her stomach was rumbling, but she tried to ignore it. She was in the middle of something, and she could eat when she was done.

She loaded the first roll and turned the wheel slowly but steadily, skimming headlines. Surely if a student had died on campus, there would be a dramatic headline.

Then again, she thought uneasily, had there been any headlines when students had died at the end of last semester? No one’s parents seemed to have heard about it, which argued that it had not made the news. Had the college deliberately suppressed it? If so, chances were good it wasn’t the first time.

Still, she’d gotten this far. She wasn’t going to give up now.

She skimmed through all of 1873, then returned the rolls and got the ones for 1874. And 1875. She was starting to feel a little sick with hunger, so she promised herself she would go get lunch after she went through 1876.

Her patience was rewarded, sort of. Her heart jumped into her throat when she saw a headline that read “Mary Thomas scholarship recipient.” She had almost turned past the whole article; she carefully reversed until she was back at the headline.

The full thing read. “Emma Ardern, first Mary Thomas scholarship recipient, graduates with honors.” Dawn was disappointed that it wasn’t about Alice, but read the article anyway.

Emma Ardern had been a West Ashburn local, which was apparently part of the reason she was given the first scholarship. She was the granddaughter of immigrants, and her family had always worked in factories, until now. The Mary Thomas scholarship had allowed her to go to college and learn “all the womanly arts that our obscure local school can provide.” Dawn smiled, imagining how Emma Ardern’s life must have been changed—as well as that of her whole family—once she had her education.

Alice must have had the same experience.

The end of the article briefly mentioned that the next Mary Thomas scholarship had been awarded to a girl from the next state to the south, but it didn’t include her name. Obviously, if she wasn’t from West Ashburn, the Gazette wasn’t nearly as interested in her.

Still, that helped Dawn narrow things down. If there had only been one Mary Thomas scholarship recipient attending the school at a time, not one per year, there could only have been a few of them—no more than ten, if the scholarship had ended before 1910, and she was sure it hadn’t been mentioned in the yearbooks.

Feeling more cheerful, if no less hungry, Dawn returned the microfilm and gave Eric back the keys. Later she would come back and look at 1877. Maybe then she would find Alice Atkins.

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 51: Mary Thomas

Dawn walked slowly to the library, trying to plan her approach. She didn’t know where exactly to look for information on the Mary Thomas scholarship—the library just seemed like the obvious first place to start. But she’d never been able to find a book on the history of Chatoyant College itself, as useful as that would have been. If anyone had written down the college’s history in any more detail than what was in the orientation materials, the faeries had probably suppressed it.

So what about the Mary Thomas scholarship? She could check the history section. If there was anything about Mary Thomas herself, it was probably there. At the very least, finding out when Mary Thomas had lived would give them the earliest years that Alice Atkins could have lived.

If she didn’t find anything useful there, she would check the library computers. They might be able to show her articles that had information on Mary Thomas or the scholarship. All else failing, she could try searching the internet. It would be harder to filter out references to the dorm—Mary Thomas would have died long before the internet was a thing, and the dorm was still around—but it was worth a look.

Having decided, she entered the library, waved at Eric, who was at the front desk, and headed upstairs to the history section. It was a big one, but after more than a year spent shelving books all over the library, Dawn knew the sections well enough to narrow down her search. There were books about the specific area. If Mary Thomas had lived on campus, or nearby, maybe she would be mentioned in a local history.

Dawn skimmed through three books before coming across a reference to Mary Thomas. In great excitement, she flipped to the page that the index referenced. It said that she was a great philanthropist who had donated her house to her beloved college to be turned into living space for students.

Dawn frowned. That explained why the dorm looked like a house that had been chopped up into dorm rooms—but it didn’t tell her when Mary Thomas had lived, or even what her relationship was to the school. If she had been a student, then why would her house have been on campus? They couldn’t have moved it from somewhere else, could they?

She read the previous few paragraphs, but they were not illuminating. She turned back to the beginning of the chapter and read there, but couldn’t even figure out what the chapter had to do with Mary Thomas.

Finally, she flipped to the beginning of the book and found the copyright page. It had been printed in 1910. That didn’t tell them any more than they already knew—Alice must have lived earlier than that.

Disappointed, she returned the book to the shelf and looked through the next few. Finally, the last one seemed to have several pages about Mary Thomas. Dawn bit her lip, trying to control her excitement as she found the pages.

The first page had a large, though blurry, image of what was apparently Mary Thomas. The picture was in black and white, but the woman was wearing a light-colored dress, staring straight at the camera, with her hair pulled back in a bun.

Dawn read the following pages. They briefly described the life of Mary Thomas, who had been first a student, then a professor, then the president of Chatoyant College. It had been during her years as president, 1857-1872, that she had built a house on campus. This book didn’t mention her giving the house to the college, but it did say that she had left money to the college in her will to fund a scholarship.

They had the early end, then, at last. Alice Atkins must have attended the college sometime between 1872 and 1910. That was still almost forty years, though, and Dawn didn’t know how to find anything else about her.

The book didn’t mention how long the Mary Thomas scholarship had continued, nor anything about its recipients. Dawn flipped to the beginning, wondering what kind of book this was. Apparently, it was a history of prominent people in the state. She turned to the Mary Thomas pages again and read that she had been the daughter of a well-known judge and had spent her inheritance mostly attempting to fight for women’s rights. The previous pages were about her parents.

Dawn had to guess that the author of this book hadn’t been interested in the recipients of scholarships, only those who had given them. She checked the index again and skimmed through the book, but there were no other references to Chatoyant College. Most prominent people who were associated with the school—if there were any others—probably tried to hide their association, since the school wasn’t well known.

She put away the book, thinking. Where could she find out what had happened in those years? The library was organized by subject, not year.

The answer came to her quickly. Newspapers were organized by year. The college had a modest collection of local newspapers on microfilm. The West Ashburn Gazette only came out monthly, but if a student had died on campus, that would have to be newsworthy.

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 50: Dismissal

“Oh, I hope you don’t think I’m neglecting you. I didn’t mean to.”

Edie shook her head. “I’m sure it’s just as much my fault as yours. I guess I have been a little distracted, actually.”

“More distracted than in previous semesters? But everything’s so safe now.” Derwen rolled her eyes.

Edie grinned and relaxed a little. That was the Derwen she knew. “That’s kind of the thing. They didn’t tell us anything about ghosts in the protection class. Actually, they basically said that ghosts exist but are nothing to worry about, and that obviously isn’t the case.”

“Ghosts? Really?” Derwen pulled her legs up onto the bed, turning more toward Edie. Her grin was eager. “Where are you hearing about ghosts?”

“In the Mary Thomas dorm.”

Derwen’s face fell slightly. “I can barely even go into that building. I would have thought it was the safest dorm on campus, with all that iron, but obviously not after what happened to Elrath.”

Edie shook her head. “So it really is full of iron? I thought it looked like there was iron in the furniture, but then Elrath was living there last year. He always freaked me out, but that was a little freaky, too.”

“Right? I don’t know how he could live and sleep there. But I guess it is a safe place, since Gerlina didn’t kill him until he’d left.”

Edie nodded. “That’s right, he was found on the grass.”

“It’s not his ghost, is it?”

Edie took a deep breath. She’d never even thought of that possibility. Good thing, too, or she would have been even more scared earlier. “No, it’s the ghost of a girl who was a student a long time ago, as far as we can tell. We’re not sure yet how she died or why she’s haunting the building. You’ve never heard of the ghost?”

“It does sound kind of familiar.” Derwen’s eyes moved from Edie’s face to the ceiling as she thought. “What does the ghost do? Makes weird sounds and knocks stuff over?”

“Exactly. There’s a cold spot where she is, too.” Edie had felt it earlier today, though she had been too distracted to make the connection. “And she opens and closes doors, too.”

“Huh. I don’t remember hearing about that, but… yeah, a long time ago, I heard about the ghost.”

“How long ago?”

Derwen tucked her knees up against her chest, wrapping her bathrobe around them. Her eyes seemed bigger than before. “I’m trying to remember. It’s all a muddle, you know. It wasn’t last time, or the time before that. Maybe… a hundred years ago, or more.”

Edie nodded. “That makes sense. We looked in records of the last century and didn’t find her, though they’re not perfect. You didn’t know about her when she was alive? Or shortly after she died?”

“No. I mean… do you really think it’s real?” Derwen laughed, though she’d seemed entirely willing to believe that the ghost existed a few moments ago. “That there’s a person who died and she became a ghost?”

“Isn’t that where ghosts come from?”

Derwen shook her head. “No, Lal would know if there was a real person. This is just a story.”

Edie frowned. “A story that’s persisted for over a hundred years?”

“Stories have power,” Derwen said. She slid her legs out again and stood up. “Anyway, I have to get ready for my shower. I’ll see you in class, okay, Edie?”

“Sure,” Edie said, standing up and taking a step toward the door. “Maybe we can get lunch beforehand or something.”

“Yeah, sure.” Derwen walked to the door and held it open for Edie. “Have a good one.”

“You, too.” Edie left the room and watched Derwen close it behind her, totally confused. Derwen had seemed to believe in the ghost, then turn around and dismiss the idea that it could be real. Her focus seemed to be the fact that Professor Lal didn’t believe in it.

Was this a faerie thing? Was that why the magic professors dismissed the idea of the ghost—because faeries and ghosts didn’t get along or something?

No, Ginny was too smart to go along with a story like that just because it was what the other magic professors said. And she had dismissed the story, too. There must be something that the professors just weren’t seeing.

Or maybe something that Edie and her friends weren’t seeing. She couldn’t dismiss that idea entirely. Frowning, still confused, she walked back down to her empty dorm room.