Chapter 28: ID
Her best hope, she decided, was to go up to the gate anyway and hope the guard there would let her in. With luck, it would be one of the guards she’d met. Before trying it, though, she re-did her ponytail and brushed bits of dirt and leaves off her clothes. There was nothing she could do about her shoes until she got back to her room, but at least she looked less like a disheveled drunk now.
She took a calming breath and walked over to the guard house, using all her willpower not to glance behind herself and see if the creature was following her. Looking paranoid wasn’t going to help her case. Her heart sank as she approached the window and saw an unfamiliar fair-haired man with a mustache, but she forced a smile onto her face anyway. “Hi,” she said as soon as she was close enough to be heard. “I got kind of turned around. Can I get back on campus?”
The guard’s expression didn’t change from the bored one he’d had when he looked up from his magazine. “Where’s your ID?”
She shook her head. “I don’t have it. I didn’t mean to leave campus, I just got turned around in the woods…” She cursed silently as her brain caught up with her words. She shouldn’t have said that. They weren’t allowed to go into the woods.
The guard raised his eyebrows, obviously thinking the same thing. “And just what were you doing in the woods?”
“Nothing,” she said quickly. “Just walking.” There was a rustle behind her, and this time she couldn’t stop herself from glancing back. Between the pools of light at the gate and on the street were dark shadows, and she couldn’t see what might be in them. “Come on, it’s Halloween,” she said, quickly turning back to the guard. “It’s kind of freaky out here. I just want to get back to my dorm.”
The man nodded, and for a second she thought he was going to let her in, but his next words quashed that hope. “That’s right, it is Halloween, and that’s exactly why it’s even more important than usual to keep out people who don’t belong here. Don’t you have any friends with you?”
She shook her head. “They’re… they’re out partying,” she said, improvising a story that she thought would make herself sound innocent and nonthreatening. “That’s not my thing, so I stayed behind, but I got bored. I swear I’m not drunk or anything. All I’ve had tonight was some candy. I’m a freshman, I can’t drink anyway.”
He didn’t look convinced. “Why don’t you get one of your friends to come let you in?”
“I can’t. I left my cell phone, too.” As she tried to think of a way she could contact her friends, she realized that without her ID card, she couldn’t get into the building herself. And it was getting colder. She started to shiver, then with a sudden inspiration, grabbed her keys out of her pocket. “Look, I have keys to my dorm room and my mailbox on campus.” She held them up in the light so he could see them, and would have handed them to him if he hadn’t been on the other side of a glass window. “Why would I have these if I wasn’t a student?”
“Those could be keys to anything.”
Corrie sighed. She’d run out of arguments. She kept hanging onto her keys, though; now that she wasn’t running, a small weapon against faeries was better than nothing. “What do you want me to do? Just wait out here all night?”
He shrugged. “I don’t care. Go back the way you came.”
She started to protest that she couldn’t, then realized that even if she did explain what was going on, he wouldn’t believe her. Resisting the urge to make an obscene gesture at the stubborn guard, she turned back the way she’d actually come from. She couldn’t see anything, but it was still too dangerous, so she went the other way. At least that way she could walk along the iron gate, though it wouldn’t do much good to protect her against faeries on this side.
On both sides, the gate was attached to a tall, thick stone wall. On the “College” side, there was the guard house and a smaller door, but on the “Chatoyant” side, it was just a wall. She was looking at the stonework and trying to decide whether she could climb over when another noise made her jump. She looked back and saw something leafy, branches—or limbs—waving toward her. Without thinking, she began to run again, the wall solid and looming on her right.
She was back in the woods again. After a few hundred feet she stopped, heart hammering, and held her keys out in front of her, looking all around. It was still dark. She couldn’t see anything, and when she managed to quiet her breathing, she couldn’t hear anything either. Maybe what she’d seen had just been a bush, moving in the wind.