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.

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 49: Beware

Edie sat still for a moment, thinking. If she went back to Annie’s dorm room now, Annie would probably be there. But what if she wasn’t? Maybe Roe had stayed there and they were hanging out. She wouldn’t want to interrupt that.

Anyway, the idea of leaving Annie’s room, talking to her roommates for twenty minutes, and then just turning around and going back to Annie’s room made her stomach churn. It would be completely obvious to Annie exactly what had happened. That would be humiliating. Better to wait until she saw Annie naturally.

She stood up abruptly. “I have an assignment to do. I’ll go see if Derwen is in her room.”

Corrie and Dawn looked at each other. “Well, you’re putting us to shame,” Corrie said. “I was going to just talk to Lal after class on Tuesday. You could try to catch Derwen then, too.”

“I was going to go to the library early for my shift tomorrow to try to look up the Mary Thomas scholarship,” Dawn said with a grin.

Edie shook her head. “We’re in the same building right now. And if Lin is ready again tomorrow, I want to go back to the conversation with new information, if that’s at all possible.”

Corrie frowned, but reluctantly said, “Yeah, that makes sense. I may as well see if Lal is in her office today.”

Dawn wrinkled her nose. “Fine, I’ll go to the library on my day off. Again.”

“Oh yeah, because you hate the library so much,” Corrie said, and they all laughed.

Edie still felt a lurking guilt, but now that she was doing something she had more energy. She led the way out of the room and toward the stairs. Derwen lived up on the third floor, where the rooms were all singles, except for the corner rooms like theirs.

She realized once she got up there that she hadn’t actually been there before. She’d hung out with Derwen a few times during the semester, but Derwen had always either come to her room or they’d hung out after class. Lately, the faerie seemed to have made some other friends; she and Edie weren’t talking after class.

A guy wearing a towel around his waist stopped when he saw Edie. “Hey, are you looking for somebody?”

“Uh, yeah, my friend Derwen?” At least Edie knew that she was going by Derwen now, not a human name, since they were in a class together.

“Oh, yeah, I know her. 306, I think.” He pointed to a door.

Edie smiled at him. “Thanks.” She walked to the door and immediately felt relieved. The door had a large, hand-drawn poster of an oak tree (at least she thought it was meant to be an oak—the artistry was not the most brilliant) on it, and, above the number, a sign that read “Beware!” in a spooky font. If that wasn’t Derwen’s room, Edie didn’t know what was.

She knocked, wondering if Derwen was even in. But she didn’t have much time to wonder, because Derwen called “come in!” cheerfully.

Edie opened the door cautiously and poked her head in, smiling. “Hey, Derwen. I thought I was supposed to beware. You don’t sound very threatening.”

“Edie!” Derwen laughed and put down the magazine she was reading. She was sitting on her bed in a satin bathrobe, her legs crossed. They were tan and slightly furry. “You never have to beware. Come in, I meant it.”

Edie entered and shut the door behind her. “How are you?” The room wasn’t any smaller than Annie’s, but it didn’t seem to have anywhere to sit. The desk chair held a pile of books and papers, and the corner of the room was taken up with stacks of cushions.

“Good, good. Come in, sit down.” Derwen moved to the right and patted the bed next to her. “What brings you to my humble abode?”

Derwen seemed to be talking differently than the way she used to. Edie wondered if she’d been learning new things from her other friends. Or maybe she was just trying on a different persona, as she seemed to do.

She sat, but she felt like it would be rude to just tell Derwen straight out that she was only visiting her because she wanted to know if she knew anything about a ghost. Instead, she said, “We never hang out anymore. I mean, I know we have our own friends, but it just occurred to me that I hadn’t talked to you in a while except for in class.”

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 48: Wanting

“I wonder if any of the faerie professors who are currently here knew her,” Corrie said. “If she worked with the professors, then they would have known her. At least the magic professors. I could ask Professor Lal.”

“I thought we weren’t going to talk to them. What would you say if she asked why you’re asking about a long-dead student?” Annie asked.

Corrie shook her head. “I’ll think of something. Knowing she was a magic student makes it more important to talk to them. Edie, have you talked to Derwen?”

Edie shook her head. “I haven’t seen her. We don’t hang out as much anymore.” She was privately a little relieved. She liked Derwen, but spending a lot of time with her was, well… it was a lot.

“Okay, I’ll look up the Mary Thomas scholarship,” Dawn said. “Edie will talk to Derwen. Corrie will talk to Lal. Annie will think of more questions, because she’s good at asking questions. And Roe… I guess your job is just to be the go-between with Lin.”

Roe grinned. “I like this division of labor.”

“See you guys later, then.” Dawn headed out the door, Corrie right behind her. Edie hurried to follow them.

Corrie glanced back at her on the stairs with a grin. “You aren’t going to stay behind and chat with Annie?”

Edie swallowed, her throat suddenly feeling tight. Corrie’s grin faded, and the three of them were quiet on the walk back to their dorm room.

That ended as soon as they shut the door to their room. “What is going on with you and Annie?” Corrie asked, putting her hand on Edie’s shoulder in a comforting manner.

“We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” Dawn said.

Edie shook her head. “No, I…” She sighed and sat down on her bed. “Maybe I should talk about it. I don’t know what to say. Annie asked me out—“

“Yes!” Corrie interrupted.

“But I haven’t given her an answer, and I don’t know what answer to give,” Edie finished.

“Oh.”

Dawn pulled out Edie’s desk chair and sat on it. “How long ago was this?”

“It was…” Edie tried to think, then sighed. “Over a month ago. I know, I’m awful.”

“You’re not awful,” Corrie said. “You’re just confused. Is this about Leila?”

“Yes. No? I don’t know. I keep thinking about Leila, but it’s not like I think Annie is going to treat me the way Leila did.”

“You didn’t think Leila was going to treat you the way that she did, either,” Dawn pointed out.

Edie nodded, her mouth twisting into a half-smile at the mirroring of her own thoughts earlier. “But it’s silly, right? I just fell into a relationship with Leila without knowing anything about her first. Annie is obviously different.”

“Do you like her?” Corrie asked. “I mean, as more than a friend?”

“I don’t know,” Edie said miserably, hiding her face in her hands. “I want to.”

“If you want to, then you don’t,” Corrie said.

“Then you should probably say no,” Dawn said.

“I thought you guys were going to tell me to date her,” Edie said.

“Well, obviously I think you two should date. But if you’re not all in for it, it doesn’t make sense.” Corrie touched Edie’s shoulder again. “You know her well enough by now to know whether you’re into her, so you don’t have to date her to figure that out. And she’s liked you for so long, you don’t want to get things started unless you’re ready for something serious.”

There was a lump in Edie’s throat again as she remembered how clear and serious Annie had been about her feelings. She swallowed and nodded. “So you think I should say no.”

“I hate saying it!” Corrie threw her hands in the air.

Dawn smiled and pushed Corrie a little. “But despite what we may have been hoping, the most important thing is to do what’s best for both of you. And yeah, it’s probably best if you say no. You don’t want to keep her waiting for an answer that may never come.”

Edie put her elbows on her knees and rested her forehead on her fists. “I wanted to tell her yes. I wanted to make her happy.”

“Better to make her sad now and get it over with than stretch it out,” Dawn said.

“I agree with Dawn,” Corrie said. “Even if you do decide someday that you want to date her—I’m not ruling it out—you don’t want her to be waiting around for you to change your mind. You should both be living your own lives.”

Edie lifted her head to wrinkle her nose at Corrie. “How are you this obsessed with me dating Annie?”

“You’re perfect for each other!”

Dawn rolled her eyes. “Until now she’s only had me to talk to about it. I admit, I kind of thought you two were meant to be together for a while. But I think the fact that you didn’t immediately say yes to her proves that this is not the time. The time may come, or it may never come, and that’s okay.”

Corrie put her arm around Edie’s waist and rested her head on her shoulder. “I’m sorry if I’m stressing you out. You’re making a smart decision. I’m the one suggesting dumb decisions. But dumb decisions seem to work out for me. Look at Charlie.”

“I think that was a smart decision.” Edie tilted her head so it rested gently on Corrie’s. She decided not to mention the arguably dumb decision Corrie had made in dating her ex, Paul, who had turned into a stalker. “You’re right. Thanks for talking through this with me. Now I just have to break the news to Annie.”

“That, you’re on your own for,” Dawn said.

“It would just be mean to bring my other friends to tell her that,” Edie said. “Even if I was giving her a different answer.”

She actually felt a little bit better now that she’d made the decision. She had probably known that this was going to have to be her answer all along—maybe Annie had even known it, too, but hadn’t wanted to push her. She’d just been trying to find a way to change her answer. Now that she’d given up on forcing herself to do something she knew was wrong, she felt relieved.

She just had to actually give that answer to Annie. She was dreading it a little, but she would get it over with soon. Whenever she could find a few minutes alone with Annie, she would do it.

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 47: History

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?”

“If necessary.”

“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.

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 46: Banana Bread

Sunday, October 15

Edie was not sure she was entirely awake, but Corrie had dragged her and Dawn to breakfast anyway. She’d done an extra long run and was starving, and somehow couldn’t bring herself to eat alone. She’d promised to let Edie sit down while she got breakfast for both of them.

So she was confused when the person who sat down across from her with a bowl of cereal and a huge smile was not Corrie, but Roe. Annie sat down next to her with her own bowl of cereal, also looking cheerful. Edie blinked blearily at them.

“Are Corrie and Dawn coming, too?” Roe asked.

“Um, yeah,” Edie said. “They’re just getting breakfast.”

“Are you okay?” Annie asked, peering at her.

Edie tried unsuccessfully to suppress a yawn. She covered her mouth. “Corrie made me get up,” she said. “I guess I was up late reading.”

“Must have been a good book.”

Edie nodded, but before she could tell Annie about the fantasy novel she was reading, Corrie and Dawn returned. Corrie had two plates and put one down in front of Edie. “I figured chocolate chip banana bread would cheer you up.”

“And a glass of milk,” Dawn added, putting it next to the plate.

Edie grinned and picked up her fork. “I guess that’s worth getting up in the morning for.” Just the smell of the banana bread made her feel a little more awake.

“Hi, guys!” Corrie said to Roe and Annie as she and Dawn sat down. “I didn’t know you were joining us.”

“We’re just glad you’re here,” Roe said, grinning widely again. “Guess what?”

Dawn stopped with her fork in her omelette. “Did you find something about Alice Atkins?”

“Better,” Roe said. “Lin wants to help some more. She said after a good night’s sleep she actually wants to face a ghost again. She’ll try to let this session be longer, but she’s mostly looking forward to being able to expel the ghost when she wants to, so we have to try not to upset the ghost like we did yesterday.”

“That’s great!” Corrie said.

Between the food and the good news, Edie was starting to feel human. She took a swig of milk to wash down the banana bread. “I guess we have to try not to ask the ghost about being dead again. When are we meeting Lin?”

“I’m supposed to call her when we’re done having breakfast and she’ll meet us in Mary Thomas,” Roe said.

“So hurry up,” Annie said with a laugh. She’d already shoveled down her bowl of cereal.

“I’ll do my best, but it’s hard not to slow down and savor this banana bread,” Edie said, taking another forkful.

“I’ll help it go faster.” Annie leaned forward with her spoon and scooped off a piece of Edie’s second slice of banana bread. They all laughed, but Edie thought she saw Corrie and Dawn give each other a significant look.

The banana bread became a lump in Edie’s throat and she looked down at her plate, working hard to swallow. She still owed Annie an answer, and she hadn’t exactly been spending a lot of time thinking about it. She’d been distracted by school and the ghost… and every time she tried to think about giving Annie an answer, any answer, her brain shied away from it. She didn’t want to tell her no and hurt her. But she found it hard to tell her yes when every time she noticed a new tree that was starting to change the colors of its leaves, she thought of Leila and how she’d vanished at the end of last fall.

She didn’t think she was afraid the same thing would happen with Annie. Her friend had been around since the beginning of their freshman year, and—barring the time she had been kidnapped by faeries—had never shown any signs of disappearing, and she was certainly never dishonest. Unlike Leila.

But there was the undeniable fact that Edie had never thought Leila was hiding anything, being dishonest, or likely to disappear, until she actually did.

She ate as much banana bread as she could manage. She was the last to finish breakfast, and they all gathered up their dishes and returned them to the dishwashing area. As they walked out of the dining hall, Roe made a phone call, and by the time they reached Mary Thomas, Lin was waiting for them in the front hall.

Annie smiled at her. “Thanks for doing this again.”

Lin nodded. “I’m excited but I’m also pretty nervous, so let’s get started as quickly as possible.”

“Do you think the ghost will actually return?” Corrie asked Lin as they climbed the stairs. “What if she’s mad about the way you kicked her out?”

“I don’t know,” Lin said. “I’ve never been able to do that before, so this is all new territory to me. How was the haunting last night?”

“It was actually fine,” Annie said. “I slept through the night.”

“Me, too,” Roe said. “But I guess that doesn’t mean she wasn’t out bothering other people.”

“It doesn’t seem likely that she got so upset that she left the building,” Dawn said.

“If she hadn’t gotten that mad before,” Annie said, taking out her key and unlocking her door, “then I doubt it’s even possible.” Edie shivered.

“I don’t think they can leave the buildings or locations they’re tied to,” Lin said, going in and sitting down on Annie’s desk chair again. “I guess that’s one of the problems with being a ghost. You’re trapped. Oh—I think she’s here.”