Which didn't have wards.
I nearly gasped. The Court had strong wards. I'd seen no ghosts. The airport, which was part of the human world, had no wards. I'd been bombarded with ghosts there. I'd also seen flashes of them on the plane - which was unwarded when we were in the air.
I looked over at Alice and Christian. They were just about finished. Could she be right? Did wards keep out ghosts? And if so, what was going on with the school? If the wards were intact, I should see nothing - just like at Court. If the wards were broken, I should be overrun - just like at the airport. Instead, the Academy was somewhere in the middle. I had sightings only occasionally. It didn't make sense.
The only thing I knew for sure was that if something was wrong with the school's wards, then I wasn't the only one in danger.
I COULD HARDLY WAIT for my day to end. I'd promised Lissa I'd hang out with her and the others after school. It should have been fun, but the minutes dragged by. I was too restless. When curfew came around, I split off from them ran back to my dorm. I asked the woman at the front desk if she could call up to Dimitri's room - off-limits to students - because I had an "urgent" question for him. She had just picked up the phone when Celeste walked past.
"He's not there," she told me. She had a large bruise on the side of her face. Some novice had gotten the better of her - some novice who wasn't me. "I think he was going to the chapel. You'll have to see him tomorrow - you can't be there and back before curfew comes."
I nodded meekly and acted like I was heading for the student wing. Instead, as soon as she was out of sight, I headed back outside again and ran to the chapel. She was right. I wasn't going to make curfew, but hopefully Dimitri could make sure I got back without getting in trouble.
The chapel's doors were unlocked when I reached them. I walked in and saw all the candles lit, making all the gold ornaments in the room sparkle. The priest must still be working. But, when I stepped inside the sanctuary, he wasn't there. Dimitri was, however.
He sat in the last pew. He wasn't praying or kneeling or anything. He just sat there, looking quite relaxed. Although he wasn't a practicing member of the church, he'd told me he often found peace there. It gave him a chance to think about his life and the deeds he'd done.
I always thought he looked good, but just then, something about him nearly made me come to a standstill. Maybe it was because of the background, all the polished wood and colorful icons of saints. Maybe it was just the way the candlelight shone on his dark hair. Maybe it was just because he looked unguarded, almost vulnerable. He was normally so wound up, so on edge ... but even he needed the occasional moment of rest. He seemed to glow in my eyes, kind of in the way Lissa always did. His normal tension returned when he heard me come in.
"Rose, is everything okay?" He started to stand, and I motioned him down as I slid into the spot beside him. The faint smell of incense lingered in the air.
"Yeah ... well, kind of. No breakdowns, if that's what you're worried about. I just had a question. Or, well, a theory."
I explained the conversation with Alice and what I'd deduced from it. He listened patiently, expression thoughtful.
"I know Alice. I'm not sure she's credible," he said when I finished. It was similar to what he'd said about Victor.
"I know. I thought the same thing. But a lot of it makes sense."
"Not quite. As you pointed out, why are your visions so irregular here? That doesn't go along with the ward theory. You should feel like you did on the plane."
"What if the wards are just weak?" I asked.
He shook his head. "That's impossible. Wards take months to wear down. New ones are put in place here every two weeks."
"That often?" I asked, unable to hide my disappointment. I'd known maintenance was frequent but not that frequent. Alice's theory had almost provided a sound explanation, one that didn't involve me being insane.
"Maybe they're getting staked," I suggested. "By humans or something - like we saw before."
"Guardians walk the grounds a few times a day. If there was a stake in the borders of campus, we'd notice."
Dimitri moved his hand over mine, and I flinched. He didn't remove it, though, and as he did so frequently, guessed my thoughts. "You thought if she was right, it would explain everything."
I nodded. "I don't want to be crazy."
"You aren't crazy."
"But you don't believe I'm really seeing ghosts."
He glanced away, his eyes staring at the flickering of candles on the altar. "I don't know. I'm still trying to keep an open mind. And being stressed isn't the same as being crazy."
"I know," I admitted, still very conscious of how warm his hand was. I shouldn't have been thinking about things like that in a church. "But... well... there's something else...."
I told him then about Anna possibly "catching" Vladimir's insanity. I also explained Adrian's aura observations. He turned his gaze back on me, expression speculative.
"Have you told anyone else about this? Lissa? Your counselor?"
"No," I said in a small voice, unable to meet his eyes. "I was afraid of what they'd think."
He squeezed my hand. "You have to stop this. You aren't afraid of throwing yourself in the path of danger, but you're terrified of letting anyone in."
"I... I don't know," I said, looking up at him. "I guess."
"Then why'd you tell me?"
I smiled. "Because you told me I should trust people. I trust you."
"You don't trust Lissa?"
My smile faltered. "I trust her, absolutely. But I don't want to tell her things that'll make her worry. I guess it's a way of protecting her, just like keeping Strigoi away."
"She's stronger than you think," he said. "And she would go out of her way to help you."
"So what? You want me to confide in her and not you?"
"No, I want you to confide in both of us. I think it'd be good for you. Does what happened to Anna bother you?"
"No." I looked away again. "It scares me."
I think the admission stunned both of us. I certainly hadn't expected to say it. We both froze for a moment, and then Dimitri wrapped his arms around me and pulled me to his chest. A sob built up in me as I rested my cheek against the leather of his coat and heard the steady beating of his heart.
"I don't want to be like that," I told him. "I want to be like everyone else. I want my mind to be ... normal. Normal by Rose standards, I mean. I don't want to lose control. I don't want to be like Anna and kill myself. I love being alive. I'd die to save my friends, but I hope it doesn't happen. I hope we all live long, happy lives. Like Lissa said - one big happy family. There's so much I want to do, but I'm so scared ... scared that I'll be like her.... I'm afraid I won't be able to stop it..."