Chapter 59: Friends
Edie ran down the stairs as fast as she could without fear of tripping down them. When she threw open the front door to the dorm, Leila was standing right there with the umbrella. The rain only dripped on Edie’s head a tiny bit between the door and the umbrella. She wrapped her arm tightly around Leila’s waist and leaned into her, smiling. “There you are, dearest,” Leila said before Edie could even greet her, wrapping the arm that wasn’t holding the umbrella around Edie’s shoulders. “Where have you been all day?”
“You’re one to ask,” Edie retorted, but she was too happy to see Leila (and with an umbrella!) to be mad about anything now. “I was looking for you earlier, and I couldn’t find you anywhere.” It crossed her mind that Brandon, in his invisibility, might have followed her out, but she decided that Leila would know if he was there. She could allow herself to relax and enjoy her time with her girlfriend.
“This afternoon? I’m sorry about that. I was resting.” Leila started to walk slowly away from the dorm, guiding Edie along with her. Edie was happy to go anywhere she wanted. “I have to rest more now that the days are getting shorter and colder. That’s why leaves go away, to conserve energy.”
“Really?” Edie tilted her head up to look at Leila’s face, but she was intent on wherever they were going, her eyes distant. “I didn’t know your tree affected you that much.”
“It does not affect me.” Leila glanced down at her, eyebrows raised. “Nor do I affect it. We are one and the same.”
Edie frowned, confused. “Then why didn’t you know when I was there earlier today?”
Leila shook her head. “I do not know. Why were you there?”
Edie suddenly felt guilty. She’d known Leila didn’t want her going to the market, but had headed there anyway, and brought all her friends along to an unsafe place. “Uh… I’ll tell you, but please don’t be mad at me.”
Leila’s expression didn’t change. “I will not be angry if you tell the truth. Why would I be angry?”
“Well, I sort of went against something you told me. I shouldn’t have, and I wish I hadn’t.” She explained the events of the day, compressing them as much as possible—it had, she realized (especially now that her body was relaxing), been a very long day. She couldn’t look at Leila when she described how they’d gotten through the illusion on the path. She mentioned Dawn’s involvement as little as possible, since she knew Leila didn’t like humans with the Sight, but described how Brandon had helped them. “Professor Lal said you must have put the illusion there,” she finished. “I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”
Leila stopped by a low stone wall, which Edie recognized as enclosing a sort of courtyard in front of the theater building, and leaned against it, detaching herself from Edie to do so. “It is not entirely your fault. I should have told you the path was there to avoid. I am glad none of you ate or traded anything, though.”
“Me too,” said Edie. “We were lucky. Professor Lal and Brandon were both there to help us.” She took a deep breath. “I’m glad you’re not mad.”
“I will never be angry with you for something that is not your fault.” Leila took Edie’s hand again. “Come.”
Edie relaxed, her heart rate slowing down. She’d been anxious, though, thinking about it, she hadn’t had any reason to be. “Where are we going?” she asked, not really worrying about the answer.
“Inside,” Leila said. They walked up to the door, and Leila unlocked it with her ID card. She ushered Edie in first and furled her umbrella, not seeming to care about the rain that soaked her hair and clothing as she did. When she stepped inside, though, it was all dry.
Leila led Edie up to the lighting room, where they had in the past spent time with her friends. They were all there now—Chris, Genesis, Donna, and Zoila, talking and giving them waves and smiles in greeting. Edie felt as though there was a stone in her stomach, but gritted her teeth even as she offered a cheery wave back. She had no right to be disappointed. She hadn’t asked Leila what her plans were, and she’d tried not to have any expectations. But she’d thought, especially after spending the night together, that Leila would take her somewhere they could be alone. Still, she sat down in the spot opened for her, accepted the soda Chris passed her, and tried not to impute any meaning to the fact that Leila was sitting across the room.
She relaxed with the girls—her friends as well as Leila’s—and hoped her other friends were doing the same.