Chapter 31: The Word
Dawn grabbed the piece of paper out of Naomi’s hand, her heart beating hard. It could have been worse, yes… but it could have been better, too. Why had she had to use the word “faerie?”
She tried to calm herself down, though the continuing silence between them wasn’t helping. It was hardly the end of the world. She could trust Naomi for certain. They had shared other secrets. Dawn had just been hoping to keep as many of her friends safe as possible, so she hadn’t told anyone about faeries who didn’t need to know.
She wasn’t going to volunteer any information, though. Who knew what Naomi thought of the note. She obviously realized it was important, based on the way she was acting—she wasn’t laughing and she’d actually taken it with her to talk to Dawn. But there wasn’t anything very specific in the note.
Finally, Naomi seemed to give up on Dawn saying anything, and asked a question. “What does it mean?”
“What do you mean?” Dawn countered, stalling while she tried to come up with some kind of explanation.
Naomi pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes—it was a very strange expression on a usually open, relaxed face. “Okay, let’s start from the beginning. Leila is Edie’s girlfriend, right?”
“That’s right.” Dawn wondered if they had ever met. “She’s a theater major… I don’t know if you know her.”
Naomi shrugged. “I’ve probably seen her around. But she’s older, isn’t she?”
“I think so,” Dawn said. She did look older than them—but who knew what the purpose of that was. If she was really a faerie, her appearance didn’t need to change. Dawn began to hope that this could just be a minor problem. Naomi didn’t sound as angry as she looked.
“I don’t know too many people who aren’t freshmen,” Naomi said. “Anyway, I don’t know of anyone named Leila. Why, were you hoping I might have some information?”
“No,” said Dawn. “I just thought you might know her. Uh, sorry I left the note sticking out. I just wrote it to remind myself.”
“But remind yourself of what?” Naomi demanded, her voice rising in pitch. “At first I thought it was something to do with theater. I know there’s been a lot of talk about putting on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, though no one has made any official announcements yet. But neither you nor Corrie has anything to do with theater. And if she’s Edie’s girlfriend, why do you have to talk to Corrie?”
Dawn sighed. She couldn’t think of anything she could say, any excuses she would make, that would calm Naomi down and get her to drop the subject. She would have to tell her the truth. But first, she could at least try to divert her a little. “I’m sorry I left it where you could see it,” she repeated. “It’s nothing to do with you, really. You don’t need to worry about it.”
Naomi crossed her arms tightly across her chest. “But I’m going to worry about it, Dawn.”
Dawn rubbed the note between her fingers, wanting to hide it away, but that might just make Naomi more angry. “Why, though?” she asked, wanting to shift Naomi’s focus away. “Why do you care at all? It’s obviously not for or about you. You could have just left it where it was.”
At that moment a girl from one of the lower floors pushed the door open. Dawn recognized her only vaguely. She looked from Dawn to Naomi, said “excuse me” in a voice so soft Dawn could barely hear it, and walked between them with her head down. Dawn had to take a step back.
Naomi waited for the girl to walk farther away, then sighed. When she spoke again, her voice was quieter, but she still didn’t sound happy. “Well, at first it was just curious. It didn’t make any sense. I thought maybe it was some kind of joke between you and Corrie. But…” She shook her head hard, causing her dreadlocks to whip and bounce back and forth. “You were so shocked when I showed it to you. I can tell it’s something important.” She paused and took a deep breath. “And I don’t like the idea that you’re keeping secrets from me.”
That hit Dawn hard in the gut. She nodded slowly. “I’m sorry, Naomi. I really am. I was keeping it secret to try to protect you, but I guess I can’t do that anymore.” Even if she did succeed in protecting Naomi now, if she had made the mistake of leaving the note behind, how else might she slip up in the future?
“So you’ll explain it?” Naomi asked, dropping her hands to her sides.
“Yes. But not out here.” Dawn unlocked and opened the door to Gilkey, holding it open for Naomi. “I’ll explain once we’re in our room.”