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.”