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.”

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 40: Answer

Edie’s heart thudded low in her chest. She had known this conversation was going to be about that question. “I’m sorry I haven’t answered you yet.”

“It’s not just a casual question to me. I want to… I want to make sure you understand.” Annie took a deep breath, looking down at her hands. “I really, really like you. I’ve liked you for a long time. Ever since the four of you rescued me from the faeries, and I saw how brave and powerful you are when something is really important to you.”

“I’m not, though,” Edie said, feeling small and confused. “I’m not brave or powerful you are.”

Annie’s mouth curved in a tiny smile. “You are to me. You’re a very special person.”

Edie flinched and took half a step back. Leila had always told her that she was special. It had turned out not to be something about Edie herself, but about her ancestry. She had a faerie great-grandmother, and that was all that had seemed to interest Leila. She knew Annie didn’t—couldn’t—mean it the same way Leila did, but she still didn’t know what to say.

Thankfully, she wasn’t expected to respond. Annie was still going. “Maybe you don’t see it yourself. That’s okay. What I’m trying to tell you is, you’re incredibly important to me. It’s been really hard to say or do anything because I’ve been afraid of ruining our friendship.”

Edie sucked in a breath. “I don’t think anything you could do or say would ruin our friendship.”

“So I haven’t screwed it up by asking you out?” Annie finally dared to look up.

Edie had to smile. “Not at all. Unless I’ve screwed it up by failing to give you an answer.”

Annie swallowed. “I’ve been wondering if your lack of answer is meant to be an answer in itself.”

Edie shook her head quickly. She wanted to reach out and take Annie’s hand, but was afraid that would send the wrong message, when she just meant to be comforting. “It’s a struggle for me. I really like you as a friend, and I think dating you would be fun. But at the same time, I’m kind of freaked out after what happened with Leila. I know you’re not at all like Leila—in some ways you’re really the opposite of her—but she really hurt me and I’m afraid that if I date anyone else, I’ll just worry all the time that it will end up the same.”

Annie took a deep breath, her shoulders relaxing and her hands falling away from each other. “Okay. I get that.”

“You do?” Edie wasn’t sure that she got it herself.

“Yeah. You were scared and hurt, so you think the same thing will happen again, even though it isn’t logical.” Annie gestured at the building around them. “I’m happy to be living in Mary Thomas because there’s so much iron here, even though I know it doesn’t fully keep faeries out, and despite the ghost. It’s still better than being kidnapped by faeries and forced to play in their orchestra of evil.”

Edie relaxed and smiled at Annie. “And yet you face Mardalan in class three times a week. I think you’re the brave one.”

Annie laughed. “Maybe.”

“And you asked me out despite being so nervous about it.”

“Oh, well, that’s Roe’s fault.” Annie rolled her eyes. “She forced me into it.”

It was Edie’s turn to laugh. “She did? How?”

“She was going to tell you about my crush if I didn’t say anything,” Annie said. “And I know she would do it. That probably would have been even more awkward.”

Edie wanted to say that would have been okay, but then she imagined what things would be like if she had seen Annie again, knowing Annie had a crush on her but not actually having a conversation with her to get to the bottom of things. “Yeah, that’s true. I’m glad it worked out the way it did, even if I still don’t have an answer for you.”

“I’m willing to wait. As long as it doesn’t mean you want to stop being friends with me.”

“I meant what I said earlier. We are willing to do whatever we can to help you, because you’re our friend. Nothing we just talked about changes that.”

“Okay. Well, thanks.” Annie smiled at Edie again. “Now that we’ve had that conversation, I’m going to go take a nap while the sun is still up and the ghost is unlikely to bug me.”

“Good plan.” Edie grinned and waved to Annie as she headed up the stairs, then went back outside.

She took a deep breath of the cool night air. They had to help Annie. They had to do whatever it took. She deserved it.

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 39: On the Rocks

Saturday, September 30

Edie ate pudding off a spoon, trying to hide her smile as Corrie slowly and torturously pronounced a sentence she’d learned in her introductory French class. Corrie stuck her tongue out and shook her head at the end of it, then turned to Edie. “Well, how did I do? Did any of that make sense?”

Edie put her spoon back in her pudding. “Sorry, I charge twenty dollars an hour for French tutoring.”

Annie and Dawn both laughed. “Can you afford those rates, Corrie?” Dawn teased. “Usually all you have to do is offer Edie a new book or some yarn.”

“I’ll accept the equivalent of my rate in books or yarn,” Edie said hastily, and all four of them laughed.

“I don’t think French is my thing,” Corrie said, flopping her head on the dining hall table dramatically. “Maybe I should leave it to you, Edie.”

“Oh, come on!” Edie said. “You’re just starting out. At least give it a full semester.”

“But if I drop out now, I won’t get a negative on my transcript,” Corrie said. “I don’t think I can face the midterm.”

“Someone has to learn French with me,” Edie said. “I want to study abroad in France for a semester, but I don’t want to go by myself.”

Annie stopped grinning and looked down at her plate. Edie winced inwardly. She didn’t know what exactly she’d said just now to upset Annie, but she felt like she was walking on eggshells with her ever since she’d asked her out. Edie knew she owed her an answer, and things would be uncomfortable between them until she gave that answer, but she just didn’t know what she wanted to say.

“So how come Roe didn’t eat with us tonight?” Dawn asked. Edie inwardly thanked her for breaking the awkward silence, whether or not she’d done it on purpose.

“She’s out with Link,” Annie said.

“Oh, so their date did get rescheduled?” Edie asked. “Good, I was a little worried after last week. She didn’t seem too confident about it.”

Annie sighed. “She hasn’t told me a lot of details, but I think their relationship might be on the rocks.”

“Again?” Corrie asked. “They certainly seemed to have made up last semester…”

“Yes, and things were fine over the summer, but not as much now. He might still be living on campus, but he’s working—he’s more like an adult than a student. And I think he feels a little bit less needed now that Troy is doing so well on his own, so he’s grumpy about that.”

“That sucks,” Edie said. “I mean, not that Troy is doing so well—I’ve seen it and it’s great. But Link should feel better now that he isn’t needed.”

Annie nodded. “And he definitely still wants to get married, and she is definitely not ready for that. It probably doesn’t help that she hasn’t been sleeping well, either.”

“Is she having more disturbing visions?” Dawn asked. “Like with the teeth last semester?”

“No, it’s just the ghost.” Annie grimaced.

Corrie frowned and put down her drink. “We need to do something about that. I’d say we should try to communicate with her again, but it obviously backfired last time.”

“I caught Lal in the hallway the other day and tried to talk to her about it, but she brushed me off,” Annie said. “The professors seem really determined not to believe that there’s no ghost.”

“I guess we just have to hope that we learn something in Ritual Magic,” Dawn said.

Annie put her head in her hands and groaned theatrically. “So we have to hope for Mardalan to be a competent teacher. Great.”

Edie and Corrie both laughed, and then they all started to gather up their dishes—Edie had finished her pudding, though she would have been tempted to get more if they hadn’t all seemed ready to go. Dawn and Corrie led the way out of the dining hall, but as they were heading out into the cooling evening, Annie touched Edie’s elbow, distracting her from the brilliant yellow and orange that the leaves were turning.

“Can I talk to you for a few minutes?”

Edie swallowed, feeling that something inside her was twisted, but she nodded. They split off from Corrie and Dawn when the path branched—Edie wasn’t even sure if her roommates noticed her going a different way—and headed to Mary Thomas.

Annie stopped just inside the door and headed over to the left to stand by one of the thick, lead-paned windows that let light into the lobby. “I don’t want to go back up to my room just yet,” she said with a sigh, touching her temple with her fingertips.

Something inside Edie squeezed. “You’re welcome to sleep over in our dorm again,” she said. “I don’t know if anyone else is planning to spend the night in someone else’s room, but we can figure something out…”

She trailed off as Annie shook her head more and more vigorously. “I can’t do that,” she said.

“We don’t mind helping you get some sleep,” Edie said, but she strongly suspected that it was hopeless.

Annie sighed again, glancing around the deserted lobby as though to make sure no one else was there. “Maybe you don’t understand, Edie,” she said, looking down at her hands and then clasping them in front of herself. “I couldn’t sleep when I stayed over in your dorm, either. It wasn’t the ghost then. It was you. I couldn’t relax, being that close to you, without knowing.”

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 32: Illusion

“Right,” Corrie said. “If the building is not in imminent danger, I guess we can.” She took a deep breath. “We found the ghost—there wasn’t anything to see, but she knocked to communicate with us. She wouldn’t use the tarot cards, though, and she wouldn’t communicate very clearly. She ran out into the hall—Edie figured that out, since she felt the cold wind.”

“Cold spots,” Annie said. “I thought I’d noticed those, but I wasn’t sure.”

“We followed her to try to communicate with her more,” Corrie said. “But she still wouldn’t say anything. Then she started bending the floorboards. It looked like we were going to fall through the floor if we stepped forward. I’m getting more skeptical of the magic professors’ assertions that ghosts can’t hurt us.”

Continue reading “Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 32: Illusion”

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 31: Buckling

“I think she might have left the room, if the cold air was her,” Edie said. “It felt like she went… right through me.” She shuddered again. It wasn’t a pleasant thing to think about, much less to feel.

“Let’s try the hallway, then,” Corrie said, getting to her feet. “That is where Roe’s vision took place, after all.”

“I just hope she hasn’t gone downstairs to harass Annie some more,” Dawn said.

Edie led the way back out into the hall. She looked up and down it, but of course she didn’t see anything.

Continue reading “Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 31: Buckling”

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 30: Knocking

Saturday, September 16

Edie looked left and right at her friends. They both nodded at her, and she nodded back at them. Then, shoulder to shoulder, the three of them started up the stairs.

They had talked to Annie; she had agreed that it was a great idea to try to communicate with the ghost and figure out why she was bothering Annie, if she even knew. She had also agreed that it was best if she stayed out of the way, so she and Roe were hanging out in Roe’s room. Edie, Corrie, and Dawn could call them if they felt they needed help, but otherwise they were out of the way.

Edie was glad. If the ghost had a problem with Annie specifically, she was not in the line of fire right now. And if the problem was just with anyone in that room, now there would be three of them to contend with.

Continue reading “Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 30: Knocking”