The dining court was located in the basement of our dorm, Windsor Hall. A student worker sat near the door. He was running a machine that read the magnetic strip on student ID cards, which worked as the dining court payment system.
I swiped my card smoothly and stopped to watch Rainbow struggle with hers. She managed to get it grasped in her teeth and slide it through the machine. The kid running the payment process looked surprised, but said nothing.
Inside the dining court was a rack of trays and containers of silverware. I grabbed a tray and a handful of utensils. Rainbow stood up on her hind legs, using her wings for balance. She managed to get a tray supported on her front legs. I thought she looked ridiculous.
She glared at me, forcing the smile off my face. I turned away, leaving her to find her own way among the variety of food.
Several minutes later, I was seated at a table near the window. Rainbow came wobbling over, her tray piled high with green stuff. My own meal included a small salad, but also a cheeseburger.
She dropped into the chair across from me.
“Why are you sitting here?” I asked, more out of wonder than malice.
“You’re not going to get rid of me that easily,” she said. “I told you, I can’t afford to pay the single-occupancy price.”
“I know what you mean,” I said, nodding. “When my last roommate moved out, I got the rest of the bill. I can’t do that again.”
“So we’re stuck together?” she said.
I considered that. “If neither one of us can leave, it sure looks that way.”
“Great,” Rainbow muttered. She stuck her nose in the pile of salad in front of her.
I picked up the cheeseburger. Rainbow’s eyes flicked towards me. I slowly raised the sandwich to my mouth for a bite. She looked away, but didn’t say anything.
I took a couple bites, feeling only slightly guilty. I was a little self-conscious about eating meat in front of her, but it had been her decision to sit with me, after all.
“Hey there, Denise! Is this your new roommate?” asked a voice.
I looked up from my food. A girl I recognized had come over to the table. Her name was Brittany. She and I had lived on the same floor for the last few years.
“Hi,” I said. “This is—”
“Rainbow,” said the pony.
“That’s a nice name,” said Brittany, smiling. “You’re really cute.”
“I get that a lot,” Rainbow deadpanned.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you,” said Brittany. “Hey Denise, are you still dating Nathan?”
“Yeah,” I told her.
“He’s a good guy. You’re lucky. Well, I’ll see you later.”
“Goodbye,” I said.
Brittany nodded and smiled again before walking away.
“She used to live a couple doors down from our room.” I said to Rainbow. "I heard she moved somewhere else this semester."
I paused about halfway through my sandwich and picked up my fork to dig into the small plate of salad I had collected.
“What’s that red stuff?” Rainbow asked.
“Oh,” she said, her tone dismissive.
“You don’t like dressing?” I asked.
“It’s just empty calories.”
“You’re eating nothing but plants,” I reminded her. “Your meal is already pretty low-cal.”
“I only eat what’s best for me,” she said. “I’m an athlete, and I want my body to be in top shape.”
“I was on the cross country team in high school,” I said, conversationally. “What sports do you play?”
Rainbow looked at me intently. “I don’t play. I win. I’m the fastest pegasus in Equestria.”
I wasn’t really sure how to respond to that. “That’s…nice,” I said.
Rainbow went on. “I’ve set Weather Patrol records, I’m undefeated in the Cloudsdale Derby, and I was the first pony to do a Sonic Rainboom.”
“I have no idea what any of that means,” I told her.
She stared at me in surprise. Slowly, her eyes dropped back to her meal and she resumed eating sullenly.
I almost felt sorry for Rainbow. Her fame in Equestria didn’t mean squat on Earth. That was all right, I decided. Maybe it would help her study if she wasn’t concerned with being a celebrity.
As I finished the rest of the food I’d picked up, my cell phone beeped. It was a text from Nathan. I got up, grabbing my tray. “I’m going to meet my boyfriend.”
Rainbow nodded once, and I left her sitting there. After dropping off my tray, I went to the front door of the dining court and found Nathan standing there.
I pulled him in for a quick kiss. He smiled as our lips parted, and asked “How’s the roommate?”
I groaned. “Kind of a bitch, honestly. Dealing with her is giving me a headache.”
Nathan laughed. “Well, I haven’t seen you all summer. Maybe I can help you feel better.”
“Oh, hey again, Denise. Hi Nathan,” said Brittany, interrupting us as she came out of the dining court.
We said hello to her as she walked by. Nathan’s head followed her for a moment before I got his attention by tugging his arm.
“So what did you have in mind?” I asked.
He smiled and took my hand. We exited the dining court and headed for his apartment.
A while later, I had made my way back to the dorm. I stood for a moment finishing my smoke before going inside.
Upstairs in the room, the lights were off. The only illumination came from the meager light of the setting sun and the screen of Rainbow’s new laptop. The pegasus sat alone in the dark, staring at the computer. I flipped the light switch on and closed the door behind me.
Rainbow gave me a look. “I thought you were only going to be gone for a little while. I had to go down to the front desk and borrow a key to get into the room.”
I shrugged. “Freshman lesson. Never leave the room without your key.”
Glancing at her computer, it looked like she’d managed to get the power cord connected and the USB cable for the external mouse plugged in. A wooden pencil sporting tooth marks lay on the desk. At the moment, the screen displayed the simple default background.
“You look confused by that,” I said. I collected a change of clothes and my shower kit, preparing to head to the bathroom and freshen up.
The pegasus looked at me. “I’ve never used a computer before.”
Her statement stunned me, and I stopped on my way out the door. I had never considered the possibility that someone would not have computer access in this day and age. Our technology was making its way over to Equestria, but apparently slower than I had thought.
“You should have bought a Mac,” I told her. “They’re easier to learn.”
“I was told to get what I did,” said Rainbow, slightly annoyed. “Those of us with real college majors need them.”
“Animal Science is a real major!” I shot back. “And anyway, what’s the difference if you still don’t know how to use it?”
Rainbow gritted her teeth. “Then teach me,” she said quietly.
“Um.” I wasn’t sure which one of us felt more awkward now. “I was just about to go take a shower. I’ll, uh…be right back.” I slipped out the door before my face could get any redder.
A few minutes in the shower didn’t clear my head, but I did realize something. Going back to the room was going to be incredibly awkward. I dried off and put on fresh clothes. Okay, deep breath. Let’s go teach a pony how to use a computer.
Rainbow looked up as I came back into the room. She didn’t say a word as I put my things away and pulled over my chair.
“All right,” I said, brushing some wet hair out of my face. “What are you trying to do?”
“A little box popped up and told me that the computer wants to connect to the internet,” she replied.
“Do you have an ethernet cable?” I asked.
She looked confused. “A what?”
I gestured to the internet jack on the wall. “You have to plug the computer into that.”
“So, the internet comes in through a wire?” she asked.
“It can also be wireless,” I told her.
“Then why are you asking for a wire?”
“We don’t have a router in the room.”
Before Rainbow could ask what that was, I said, “The stores are probably closed by now, so you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to get a cable. However, if we go downstairs to the lobby, there’s wireless internet there.”
I shook my head. “Nevermind, that won’t work. They only have armchairs down there. There’s no place to put the mouse, and I’m not sure you have enough lap to use a laptop computer.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Rainbow defensively.
“You’d have to sit like a person in the chair and balance the computer in front of you on your back legs. I don’t know if that would be comfortable, but I do know that you’d look ridiculous.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do, then?” she asked.
“Do you have a map of campus?” I asked her. “I’ll show you where to go.”
Rainbow rummaged in the folder of information that was given to all freshmen and pulled out a sheet a paper with a black and white map printed on it. I grabbed a pen and circled an area in the southeast portion of the map. “This is Chauncey Hill Mall. Go down there tomorrow and look for a store called RadioShack. Ask them for a seven-foot Cat 5e cable.”
I wrote down the item she needed to buy, just in case she forgot. I distinctly remembered what kind of cable was needed, because of a conversation I had with my previous roommate when I was on the receiving end. Chen may have slacked on her paperwork, but she was a computer whiz.
I returned to my own desk and spent a while on Facebook reconnecting with friends that I hadn’t seen since the end of the previous school year. Rainbow explored her computer a little, but seemed to get frustrated and shut it off. She stretched out on her bed and opened a book. I saw that it was Amelia Earhart’s autobiography, The Fun of It.
“Is that a good book?” I asked.
“I like it,” said Rainbow. “Twilight recommended it to me. I don’t know how she stumbled on it. Amelia was here at Purdue for a while, and she sure liked to fly.”
Rainbow glanced at the cover of the book. “I like the title, too. Twilight said it sounded like something I would say.”
A book about a human was not what I expected a pony to be reading. I’m not sure what I would expect a pony to read. Misty of Chincoteague, maybe?
Changing the subject, I said, “You’ve mentioned Twilight a couple of times. Who’s that?”
“She’s a friend of mine who lives in Ponyville. She’s probably the smartest pony I know, but also kind of neurotic. She schedules her life by the month, and she plans down to the minute.” We both laughed.
I powered down my computer for the night and stood up, yawning. “I think I’m going to bed,” I said.
Rainbow glanced out the window and at the clock. “Yeah, all right.”
She put her book away. I flipped the lights off and climbed into bed.
Well, we still weren’t friends. I didn’t know if we were ever going to be, but one day together hadn’t resulted in murder, so things were looking up. What would that even be, equinicide? Not the kind of thing I needed to be thinking about right before bed.
Luckily, I didn’t have to. Rainbow’s voice pulled me away from the thoughts.
Was this an olive branch? Was she actually trying to patch things up between us? She certainly deserved a chance. It hurt to admit, but I’d been kind of a bitch, too.