You can now get Book 12 of Chatoyant College, Reemergence, as an ebook at Smashwords! As always, it’s pay-what-you-want, so please download it for free if that’s what you want. However, if you want to leave me a tip for the story, paying for the book is a great way to do that!
Edie stood looking at the dirt for what felt like a long time, but couldn’t really have been more than a few minutes. Nothing changed, except that the sounds of dripping overhead became louder. A few raindrops plopped into the dirt, dampening it. The tree no longer protected it.
Finally, Edie turned and began walking directly back toward campus. She was glad Leila had been prescient enough to give her an excuse for not entering through the front gate; she wasn’t sure she could walk all that way right now. She didn’t know how she felt, but she was so shaken that she didn’t want to have to make her way through the dark forest or face anyone.
Edie waited; Leila was taking a long time to respond. Anxiety twisted her stomach, but she clutched her umbrella and said nothing. She wasn’t going to rush Leila into a response.
She didn’t want her to leave, of course. But she knew, at this point, that there was nothing she could do to stop her. So she just wanted to understand. And if Leila was just going back to her tree, why bring Edie with her? Why bring her at all, when she’d vanished so abruptly last semester with the expectation that Edie would just forget her?
It was dark in the woods, the only light coming from the moon filtering feebly through the clouds—and perhaps from Leila’s tree itself. It was quiet, the dripping of the trees still the only sound. Edie waited.
The rain let up later that afternoon, but the clouds didn’t clear away, so Edie didn’t trust it. She and her friends went to the dining hall for dinner, and then she went back to the front gate with all of her rain gear, even though she was very early to meet Leila. She wanted to be sure she didn’t miss Leila or make her wait.
Leila wasn’t at the gate when Edie arrived, so she pulled out the book she’d put in her pocket, making sure that her four-leaf clover and phone were both where she’d left them in another pocket. She didn’t want to get caught without any protection or a way to reach her friends. She’d also made sure that not only Corrie, but also Dawn, Annie, and Roe knew where she was going. She knew Leila wouldn’t hurt her—she was fairly certain of that—but it was still good to know that if she was gone for a long time, her friends would know what to do.
When Edie got back to her room, Corrie was still napping. Edie shut the door softly and tried to be quiet about taking her jacket off and opening her umbrella so it could dry a little, but Corrie stirred, then sat up, yawning and rubbing her eyes. “How long was I out?”
“I’m not sure,” Edie said honestly. “I was knitting. Maybe an hour?”
“Okay, that’s not so bad.” Corrie looked out the window and wrinkled her nose. “It’s this stupid rain. Were you just outside again?”
Edie nodded. “Leila was out there. When I got downstairs, she was gone, but she left me this note.” She held it out for Corrie to read.
Edie knew she should get working on her homework, since she didn’t know what else the weekend might have in store for her, but with the rain still coming heavily down, making shushing noises out her window, she couldn’t get motivated to sit down and focus. When Corrie suggested going down to the common room to watch a movie, she agreed, and Annie and Roe joined them.
It was very cozy and nice, sitting in the common room while the rain continued to hammer down outside (though they could barely hear it from there), nibbling on popcorn and watching a Jane Austen movie. Edie wondered whether they would be able to do the same thing next year. Maybe if she, Dawn, and Corrie got one of those nice suites in Sayer, they would be able to watch TV in their own room. The common area in Sayer had seemed busy—though if each floor had one of those, unlike Gilkey, then maybe different ones would be more or less busy.
Edie’s eyes widened. That was a strange thought. But if Elrath thought it was possible for his brother to be revived, then wouldn’t he be trying to do that, instead of “fixing” the magic himself?
Though she wasn’t sure he liked his brother very much. Alaineth sounded like he had been a terrible ruler, and from what Tom had said, Elrath never even told anyone that he had a brother. He must have liked his sister somewhat, though, or at least wanted her back so he didn’t have to rule, so why wasn’t he trying to bring her back? Maybe because she’d been pretending to be human when she died, and done it on purpose, she couldn’t be retrieved.
But Derwen was shaking her head. “No, it’s not like that. You can’t bring back someone who’s been dead for a long time. We can be restored if we’re not completely dead, but it takes longer and is more difficult the longer and more badly someone has been injured.”
This time, it was easy for Edie to watch Derwen move around the room as she ate her delicious pancakes and fruit. People were giving her a wide berth, even jumping out of her way, as she trailed water across the floor. It was hard to believe that her clothes and hair could have held that much rain, and yet she continued to leave a shining path behind her like a slug.
“Maybe she’s a water faerie like your great-grandmother, Edie,” Corrie said, also watching Derwen.
“I don’t have any urge to go play in the rain,” Edie said. She frowned. “Though I’ve never particularly liked swimming or anything, either. It might just be that I don’t take after her.”
Edie got her pancakes and added some fresh fruit on the side—she wanted to be at least a little bit healthy—and headed back to the table, intending to ask Derwen whether her faerie self was in any way connected to plants. After all, Leila was clearly connected to the plants, but she wasn’t a plant herself… though in some ways her tree could be said to be part of her. Derwen clearly wasn’t a dryad, but maybe she was something similar.
However, when she reached the table, she found that Derwen hadn’t returned yet—but Corrie had, and Roe was sitting next to her. “Oh, hi!” Edie said.
Edie knocked on Derwen’s door and waited for a moment. The door was answered by one of Derwen’s roommates, who squinted at Edie, smiled, and called over her shoulder, “Sarah, your friend Edie is here.”
“What does she want?” Derwen called.
The roommate—Edie still hadn’t learned their names, though they had obviously learned hers—turned back to Edie and raised her eyebrows.
“We’re going to brunch,” Edie said. “Does she want to come along?”