The next morning, Rainbow was gone when I got up. Glancing at her schedule, I saw that she wasn’t scheduled for any classes until later in the day. Once again, I wondered where she could be, but knew it wasn’t my business.
Tiffany, the resident assistant, came by and reminded me that the whole floor was invited to eat dinner together that evening. I did not particularly get along with her, or any RA for that matter. Most of them were waaay to perky.
I said that I would mention the dinner to Rainbow. Tiffany smiled and said she would be looking forward to it.
With a little while to spend before my own classes started, I grabbed a couple of old magazines that I’d picked up from the Animal Science student lounge. The dorm room could use a little decoration. Working carefully with scissors and tape, I cut out a few pictures of cute animals and stuck them to the wall above my desk.
I carefully avoided pictures of certain animals. Equestrian ponies were significantly different from ponies and horses native to Earth, but in the interest of being less awkward, I decided not to bring the issue up. I don’t know how I would feel if Rainbow was posting pictures of a species that looked human, but was considered livestock.
I had heard that in the early days of human-pony interaction, some species-based misunderstandings had happened. Luckily, it seemed like everyone and everypony had now come to terms with it. I had even heard of a pony rodeo rider.
There was some time before class, so I stepped out to have a cigarette. I saw Rainbow cantering towards me from the west, which was opposite the direction of the academic buildings. She almost looked like a human jogger.
“Good morning,” I called to her. She stopped nearby, wrinkling her nose slightly at the cloud that I and the other people standing around the ashtray were producing.
“A little exercise before class?” I asked.
“Yeah.” Rainbow nodded. In a different tone of voice, she said, “Working out would be better for you than smoking.”
I shrugged. It wasn’t the first time I had heard that. Rainbow shook her head and went inside the building.
“Friend of yours?” asked the guy standing next to me.
“Roommate, actually,” I said.
He laughed. “Bet you’ve got stories to tell.”
“Lots,” I told him. “And we haven’t even lived together a week.”
He and I chatted a little more. I’ve always been amazed at how easily casual conversation can be struck up when you share a common vice with someone. I made it to the filter and flicked the butt into the ashtray.
In the dorm room, I found Rainbow hard at work filling out job applications.
“Can I help?” I asked.
She didn’t look up. “I’ll let you know.”
I grabbed my books and backpack, and headed for the door. As I was going down the front steps of the dorm, I suddenly remembered the call from Twilight Sparkle. I debated whether to turn around, but decided that I could tell Rainbow later.
As I walked, I thought about my roommate’s comment regarding smoking. Before the doorways to the other universe opened, there were no cigarettes in Equestria. The thought of a colorful pony smoking almost make me laugh. Just as quickly, the emotion was gone. There are very few smokers who haven’t considered quitting, but doing that takes more effort than just going with it. I knew from experience.
I returned to the room that afternoon. Rainbow was there, experimenting with something that I didn’t recognize. It appeared to be a plastic band that fit over her hoof and had a small hook on it.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“One of my professors is working on these,” she said. “He wants to patent the idea and sell it to ponies. He calls it a dexterity enhancer.”
“Not a very catchy name,” I said.
Rainbow shrugged. “He just asked me to try it out for a while.”
She moved her hoof over to the keyboard of her computer. The tip of the hook stuck out just enough to tap on the keys.
“I think it makes it easier to type,” said Rainbow. “It’s still not very fast, but better than poking with a pencil.”
“What if you had two of them?” I asked, miming a typing action with both hands.
“Hmm. That might work.” Rainbow held up the device to look at it.
“Now that I think about it, that thing reminds me of something from an old cartoon,” I said. “The Claw.”
Rainbow didn’t understand the reference, and I didn’t push it.
“The RA stopped by earlier,” I said. “The whole floor is going to dinner tonight. It would be good to go and meet the neighbors.”
“Like a party?” asked Rainbow.
“I suppose so,” I told her.
She nodded. “All right. Let’s go.”
All the girls on the floor met up and left as a group. To get a little variety, we went somewhere besides the dining facility in the basement of the dorm. Just across the street was another dining court. I remembered too late that all the different kinds of meat were served up from a counter just inside the front door.
Rainbow had been talking with several of the girls from the floor as we stood in line. I may have been the only one who noticed the pony turn slightly green as she smelled the roasting meat. I carefully slid between her and the meat counter. She mumbled a few words of thanks.
The group of us sat down at a couple of tables on one side of the building. There was an area nearby for students to make their own little pizzas. A buffet-style table was set up with toppings to pick from. I steered Rainbow away from it, as most of them were meat.
I was beginning to think this was a bad idea. This dining court was much less vegetarian-friendly than the one attached to our dorm. Rainbow ended up only getting a bowl of cereal.
“Is that all you’re eating?” asked one of the girls.
“I’m not very hungry,” the pegasus replied.
“So Rainbow, tell us a little about yourself,” said RA Tiffany. I gritted my teeth against the perkiness exuding from her.
Rainbow ran through a brief autobiography, similar to when I first met her. She looked like she enjoyed talking about herself, but once again seemed miffed that none of her accomplishments meant anything to Earth dwellers. She didn’t like it at all when someone mentioned how cute she was.
“What’s your major?” asked Tiffany.
“Aero Engineering,” replied the pony. “What about you?”
“Communications,” responded the RA.
“Pfft, not a real major,” I said. Rainbow smiled. Tiffany acted like she hadn’t heard.
“Aren’t there a couple of other freshman here?” I asked, diverting the conversation. Rainbow gave me a look of thanks for distracting everyone from the cute talk.
I watched her try out the claw-like device strapped to her hoof. Using the hook, she was able to snare a paper napkin and pull it out of the dispenser. There was some residual milk around her mouth from the cereal, and she wiped it off as easily as someone without fingers could manage.
The dinner carried on for a while longer. People left when they felt like they’d had enough. Rainbow and I were neither the first nor last to go.
“Thanks,” she said as we walked out of the dining court.
“For what?” I asked.
“For helping me out,” she answered.
“Not for inviting you to meet everyone?” I asked.
“You didn’t look like you were enjoying yourself,” Rainbow said.
I laughed. “True. Well, I guess we all need some help now and again. You’re welcome.”
We made it to the dorm and went upstairs.
“I’m…not really used to needing help,” admitted Rainbow.
“I won’t make it a habit, then,” I assured her.
I opened the door to the room and walked in. I glanced at the phone, finally remembering that I had something to tell Rainbow.
“Oh, your friend Twilight called yesterday,” I said. “You weren’t here.”
“Why did you wait until now to mention that?” she asked, sounding mildly irritated.
“Sorry,” I said, embarrassed. “She didn’t leave a number to call back, or I might have remembered sooner.”
Rainbow rubbed her chin. “I didn’t think Twilight had a telephone. Maybe she didn’t leave a number because she was just borrowing it.”
I shrugged. “Anyway, we chatted for a little while.”
“About what?” asked Rainbow.
I suddenly realized that I’d talked myself into a corner. “Um, well, about you.”
She looked at me suspiciously. “What did she tell you?”
“Well, you didn’t want to give me information about your citizenship application. I didn’t want you to get denied. I was just trying to help.” My words got quieter and more pathetic under the influence of the glare Rainbow was giving me.
“I don’t believe this,” she said. “That was personal information!”
“I’m sorry! Why don’t you want to talk about being a fighter pilot?” I knew I had interfered with her privacy, but I couldn’t understand why Rainbow wanted to keep something like that hidden. I had told her my own dreams for the future. It wasn’t like her goals were embarrassing or something.
Rainbow glared at me. “I’m leaving.”
She stalked out the door and kicked it closed behind her.