I studied feverishly, doing my best to prepare for finals. I had to take a few of them before I could go home.
Finals week was exactly what it sounded like—no class, just exams. My classes had worked out to give me a spread of tests throughout the week. Rainbow had been luckier. She only had one exam to take. The pony sat at her own desk, reviewing textbooks before she had to go to the exam building.
“I don’t know why Break has to be almost a month long,” she said. “I know there are a lot of holidays in there and it’s the dividing line between semesters, but it seems kind of wasteful.”
I shrugged. “Christmas Break is tradition.”
“I thought it was Winter Break,” said Rainbow.
“Well, that’s the nice non-offensive name.” I laughed. “What can I say? I’m a traditionalist.”
“I’ve never understood the concept of human religion.” Rainbow shook her head. “None of you can agree on anything.”
“I don’t think either you or I has time at the moment for me to explain it to you,” I said.
She looked at me suspiciously. “You wouldn’t try to convert me like some of those crazy evangelists that sometimes come to campus?”
I laughed. “I wouldn’t know where to begin.”
“I’ll never get the idea of faith,” said Rainbow.
Confused, I asked, “What do you mean?”
“Well, I’ve met the Princesses,” explained Rainbow. “There isn’t much need for faith if you know your deities exist.”
“That’s…interesting,” I said.
Rainbow shrugged. “Religion in Equestria is nothing formal. Pretty much we let Celestia and Luna handle things, and then hold ceremonies in their honor. If they happen to show up to the party, so much the better.”
“It’s completely different than any other religion I’ve ever heard of,” I admitted. “I kind of wonder if people would convert to, uh…Equestrianism because of that faith thing you mentioned. I suppose with my religion it can be difficult to go through the motions and just take things for granted.”
“Well, it’s not too difficult to join us,” chuckled Rainbow.
I startled to laugh in response, but a sudden thought struck me. “Do you have religious terrorists in Equestria?”
The pony thought for a moment. “Not that I’ve ever heard of. But what if some of these whackos from Earth move in? Would they try to kill the Princesses?”
We were both silent for a moment. “This is depressing,” I said. “Let’s say religion is off-limits for discussion from now on.”
“Yeah,” Rainbow agreed. We both went back to studying for a while. When it came time, she left to take her exam.
After she was gone, I pulled out the project I had been working on for a while. It had taken me a lot of thinking to decide what to get Rainbow for Christmas. I eventually settled on a scarf. I wouldn’t have to worry about it fitting correctly, it was useful, and I made it myself.
The crochet was finished. I debated wrapping it, but figured there was no need if I was just going to give it to Rainbow directly. I glanced at the picture of the Blue Angels fighter jet taped to the wall over her desk. The scarf was striped navy blue and yellow to match.
I turned back to my schoolwork to pass the time while I waited for her to return.
It was much later when Rainbow came back. She’d been gone several hours longer than her exam should have taken.
“Here,” said the pony, thrusting a small cardboard box into my hands. It was a package of nicotine gum.
“You didn’t have to do this,” I said, surprised.
She grinned at me. “You weren’t going to. Even if you get addicted to this instead of cigarettes, that’s still a step in the right direction. If you haven’t quit by the end of Winter Break, I’ll have to take more drastic measures.”
“Um, what are those?” I asked.
She leaned forward, smiling. “I’ll make you come to Ponyville for Spring Break and you’ll go cold turkey.”
Well, that was certainly an incentive. I wondered if she’d picked up the “cold turkey” phrase before or after Thanksgiving.
“You still didn’t have to spend money on me,” I told her. “I thought you were saving for flight lessons.”
“Yeah.” Rainbow nodded.
I paused with realization. “You didn’t.”
“The flight school will still be there in the spring.” The pony shrugged. “If it makes you feel better, I spent more money on myself than I did on you.” She showed me a brand new cell phone. The artificial claws on her hooves seemed to be able to manipulate the buttons well enough.
Rainbow said, “Twilight thinks she can get me a grant for communications expenses. That’ll put me back on track for flying lessons quicker.”
“Well, it was a very nice Christmas present,” I said. “Thank you.”
“I didn’t do it for Christmas,” she told me. “I did it because you’re my friend.”
“As it happens, I got you something, too.” I grabbed the scarf and presented it to her.
Rainbow’s eyes lit up. “This is great. I like the colors. Thanks a lot.”
She looped it around her neck and began packing up some of her things. “Anyway Denise, I stopped by to give you that and to say goodbye. I have to get to the airport. The FAA agreed to let me fly out of here, but I have to depart at a certain time.”
“I’ll walk with you,” I said, grabbing my coat. The two of us went downstairs. There was a thin layer of snow on things, and the wind blew it around. I stuffed my hands in my coat pockets, making a mental note to get some gloves. If I slipped on the ice and my hands were in my pockets, there would be nothing to break the fall but my face.
We didn’t talk much while we walked. I was a little too chilly for words. Rainbow didn’t seemed to mind the cold too much, but I still felt better knowing she had the scarf and whatever minimal warmth it might give her.
After pausing in the control building to file a flight plan, Rainbow led me back outside. “It’s easier and faster for me to fly to the nearest doorway back to Equestria. I don’t know why they want to be so picky about letting me do it.”
I shrugged. “Government. Anyway, it’s been a good semester.”
I leaned forward to give her a fist bump. To my surprise, she pulled me in for a hug. I put my arms around her in return. She was softer and warmer than I expected, although I didn’t say anything for fear that she would interpret it as a comment on her cuteness.
As we separated, Rainbow said, “Thanks. For everything.”
“It was great having you as a roommate,” I said. “See you next semester.”
Rainbow nodded and took a step back, spreading her wings. After a few checks to make sure she was ready to go, the pegasus took the air. She waved, and turned in the direction her flight would take her. I watched until she was out of sight.
I turned to head back to the dorm, chewing a piece of the nicotine gum while I walked. It didn’t taste that great, but was actually better than cigarette smoke.
I smiled to myself. It had taken a lot of effort from both of us, but this relationship was working out. I’d found in Rainbow a roommate I could trust who genuinely cared about me.
College roommate assignments are random chance. Sometimes you get lucky with who they put you with. Sometimes not.
And sometimes, you get a friend.