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.