Chapter 18: Inconvenient Interruption
After the concert, Corrie walked with her mom and grandmother back to the parking lot while Edie’s family headed back to the dorm. It was fully dark by then, and the skies were clear. The three-quarters moon was bright over the trees and the sky was spangled liberally with stars. Her grandmother tilted her head back as they walked, smiling. “How beautiful,” she said. “There’s never this many stars visible in the city.”
“I do love the lack of light pollution,” Corrie agreed. “Actually, I think living at college combines the things I like about living in the city with all the things the city lacks. If only you two could come and live here, it would be perfect.” She’d been afraid that coming to this college in the middle of nowhere and being cut off from the city she was used to would be hard for her, but she’d made new friends quickly, and discovered that having them in the same room or next door was even more convenient than having them down the block. And she didn’t have to go as far for things like groceries and movies, either. If she hadn’t kept up her morning runs, she would probably have gained weight by now.
Her grandmother laughed. “I could apply for a teaching position. Do you think they’d let me teach a class on surviving as a liberal arts major? After all, that’s the degree I have, and I obviously turned it into a productive career.”
They all laughed, and in a few moments they’d reached Corrie’s mom’s car, the ugly old Toyota that just wouldn’t give up. Before Corrie’s mom unlocked it, she turned to Corrie and put her hands on her shoulders. “There was one last thing I wanted to talk to you about.”
Corrie went still at the serious expression on her mom’s face. Was this about her father? Did she not have to ask about him after all? She kept quiet, just looking back at her mom and waiting for her to finish.
Her mom took a deep breath. “What’s going on with Paul?”
Corrie felt disappointment and relief at the same time. She wasn’t going to learn anything, but she wasn’t going to have a hard conversation, either.
“Nothing,” she replied. “He’s staying away from me, as always. I keep meaning to talk to Payton and Elena and see if they’ll lift the curse, but… I guess I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.” She’d told her mom about the spell the Circle of the Goddess club had put on Paul, her stalker ex-boyfriend, like she did with everything. She knew she could be very glad her mother actually believed in magic.
Her mom smiled. “Good. I’d prefer you kept it that way, frankly. You don’t need that kind of stress, and maybe keeping away from you will convince him that he actually can live without you.”
Corrie was about to argue, then realized that, as always, her mom was right. She’d just been worried that his will was being constrained and, when the spell was broken, he would come on even harder than before—she hadn’t thought that this separation wasn’t so different than the one she’d expected they would have, of going to different colleges. She smiled a little weakly. “I hope so, Mom.”
Her mom dropped her hands from Corrie’s shoulder, then hugged her. “You’ll call tomorrow?”
“As always,” Corrie promised, hugging her mom back. “Have a safe drive.”
As her mom unlocked the car, she went to hug her grandmother as well. “Stay safe,” her grandma said.
“I will,” she said, then kissed her on the cheek and opened the door for her.
“See you later.” Corrie stepped aside, to the edge of the parking lot, watched them drive away, and then headed back to campus.
At the gates, she encountered Dawn saying goodbye to her family. “Corrie, there you are!” Dawn called. “See you tomorrow,” she said to her family, who greeted Corrie and then went off in the direction of the parking lot. When they had gone, Corrie turned back to Dawn. Her friend’s face had turned serious. “I need to talk to you about something.”
Corrie could see that it was important, whatever it was. “What’s going on?”
“It’s about Edie,” Dawn said, biting her lip. She looked worried. Corrie moved closer to her and they started to go back into the campus. “Well, maybe not about her…”
“Shh,” Corrie said, interrupting her. She didn’t want to, but she’d heard something moving off to the side. Automatically, her hand went to her clover. The moon was not illuminating the wall to their left, where the sound was coming from. She gestured in that direction with her head, and Dawn shook her head. Neither of them could see anything.
Then a man stepped into the moonlight. “Hello, Corrie,” he said.