Edie half-ran down the steps, only slowing down when she stumbled and had to catch herself on the railing to avoid falling down half a flight of steps. All she could think was that she had to get out of there.
She stopped when she reached the first floor and looked with some longing down the short hall of rooms. She could talk to Lorelei, couldn’t she? Lorelei was always good for talking to. She was so calm and reasonable, she made you feel better. At least she seemed that way to Edie. She never judged anybody. It was what made her such a good RA.
Edie’s face took on the blackest expression that Dawn had ever seen. She might not have been the most cheerful person (that was Corrie, of course), but she never seemed to get angry, either. At least not like this. Edie’s eyebrows had drawn together until there was no space between them. Her eyes narrowed. Her lips tightened and formed into a sneer.
For a moment she didn’t do anything else. Then she got up, gripping her sandwich in one hand, and slammed her jar of peanut butter down on her desk. The loud noise made all three of the others jump.
Leila didn’t get them lost, though. It was fully dark by the time they arrived, the stars beginning to appear as the trees thinned out. Dawn felt as much as saw them pass into the safe area of the woods and relaxed her shoulders. By then she and Naomi had joined the group, walking as close to the others as they could so as not to lose them in the darkness. They hadn’t said anything else, only waited and followed in silence.
“Edie!” Corrie cried, and ran a few steps toward her. Dawn and Annie both followed with alacrity. But then they all stopped again when Leila joined Edie in the doorway. It was dark; Dawn couldn’t see what might be behind them.
But she did see something she’d never seen before. Leila had indeed been hiding something with her hair down earlier. It was subtle, but to Dawn’s Sight, obvious: her ears were delicately pointed and, on the edges, tinged with green.
In a panic, Dawn stepped back, reaching out behind her for something solid. Her left hand hit a tree trunk; her right hand hit something else, something narrow and soft. She was about to shriek when she realized it was someone’s arm. She clutched at it gratefully. “Dawn?” said Corrie, who evidently belonged to the arm. “Is something wrong?”
Dawn couldn’t seem to make her mouth work in order to answer. Instead, she let go of the tree and pointed ahead. Corrie stepped forward and gasped. “What… what is that?” she asked in a shaky voice.
“I think we should just stick to this side of campus,” said Dawn. “This is where we’ve encountered faeries before. And I hate to say it, but we can’t keep looking for too long. Naomi’s right—there’s just too much to search for us to do a really effective job. If Edie isn’t back in the morning, we can enlist the help of Professor Lal.”
“And Professor Strega,” said Roe. “I’m sure she would help.”
“Are you sure we shouldn’t split into groups to search more efficiently?” Naomi asked.
Dawn evaluated the group as they walked outside, heads uniformly bent against the rain. Corrie, Naomi, Annie, Roe, and herself. Corrie and Annie would both probably do just about anything for Edie, as she would herself. She and Corrie were her best friends, and Annie seemed to have a crush on Edie. She probably half hoped that it was true that Leila was a faerie because then they would be more likely to break up, leaving Edie single.
Corrie didn’t even hear her own phone make the ringing sound. The first thing she heard was Edie’s cell phone, sitting on the top of the trunk at the foot of her bed. She snapped her phone shut and Edie’s went silent. Corrie stood up, walked across the room, and picked up Edie’s cell phone, though she didn’t know what she’d do now that she was holding it. Was there some clue as to why Edie had left without her phone? There was no note or anything.
Naomi and Dawn barely looked up when Corrie returned. She dropped herself down on the beanbag chair with a sigh from both her and the chair. “Find anything?” she asked, though she was sure she knew the answer.
Dawn shook her head, then reached the end of a page and looked up. “Where have you been all this time?”
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