The rain was exceedingly appropriate. The blue Gelert could
not help but note that, as it poured from the dull gray skies, the endless swatches
of cloud that blotted out all sunlight. So appropriate. She sighed and leaned
back in the seat of the carriage, feeling it roll underneath her as it ran along
the cobbled road. So close now. She had caught sight of the massive building of
sandstone, black, and brick a couple moments ago. The library. Soon the entirety
of the campus would fall away before them as the scattered shops and houses dwindled
away in favor of the halls and dormitories. She had seen this place many times
before. It was a common enough location in Neopia, the Neopian University, the
only place for any sort of higher education. A couple miles outside of Neopia
Central, supported by an array of smaller stores and houses for the students that
preferred to live off campus. She didn’t know whether or not to count herself
lucky that she placed into the Honors program and was therefore in Darrow hall,
on the east end of campus. The rooms were like suites rather than dorm rooms –
a bedroom and teensy living room with their own private bathroom rather than a
shared one among the entire floor. The downside? They were still very small and
shared between four people. She wasn’t sure if this was a good or bad thing.
“Painted in shades of black and gray, rainy
day, rain gray Payne.”
It was a childhood taunt they’d throw at her
as she passed in the hallways. As she grew older it grew a little more out of
use, although she’d find it sneered at her across the classrooms on occasion.
It wasn’t her fault. It really wasn’t. She couldn’t help being smart, she couldn’t
help that the Gray family was rich. She couldn’t help it.
And now. This could be her chance to start over,
her chance to get away, be someone new, be someone different. Everyone said
that these would be the best years of her life. She desperately hoped that was
true. An adult now, ready to get away from the family mansion, on her own. In
a small room with two strangers she’d never met before for the next school year.
Her belongings fit in one carriage, a plain rented one as opposed to the family-owned
one. She didn’t want to draw attention to herself, not now.
She looked out the window, watching the steady
stream of water beat against the glass, puddle in the streets, slick the grass
down like so much hair. She closed her eyes briefly.
“Rainy day, rain gray Payne.”
Pressed against her haunches was the head of
another Gelert, white, her ears trailing across her own ocean blue paws. She
was asleep and had been that way for several hours. Mia, her twin sister. The
two had grown up together and were now the same age. Mia had started as a red
Gelert, then faerie simply because that was the most expensive brush at the
time. Now she was white, at her own request. Like a snowfield, or the sunlight
reflecting off a frozen pond. Payne had never asked to be painted.
Mia stirred and yawned, sitting up in the seat.
She blinked lazily, her ears hanging limp as she took stock of where they were
“We almost there?” Mia murmured.
“Yes. Look, there’s the dorms.”
The two peered out the far window, the girl
practically crawling over her sister. She wasn’t that big of a Neopet, short
and skinny, as if a strong wind would blow her away. Eighteen years old, although
she was commonly mistaken for something around fourteen. It did not bother her.
She tried to keep herself small and unnoticeable, choosing plain colors and
unobtrusive jewelry, just a small silver locket. Mia had bullied her into doing
something different before they both left for college and now the tips of her
ears were bleached a brilliant white. Already the roots were starting to grow
back out though, tiny flecks of blue, like a frozen pond just starting to thaw.
And then there were the eyes, deep gray eyes that appeared to be the essence
of the clouds themselves – the Gray family trademark.
The carriage finally rattled to a stop before
the dormitory. It was a four-floor quadrangle, or four wings of dorms spinning
off the circular center – the cafeteria. The four wings each had a different
name and different themes to them. One was for music students, one was single
occupancy rooms for students with a lot of pets, one was the honors dorms, and
the last one she was not sure about. She threw open the door, pulling the hood
of her navy jacket up over her head and ducked out into the rain, Mia springing
out behind her. An electric Kougra with a badge labeled “Resident Advisor” pinned
to his fur came running out to greet her, a green Lupe at his heels.
“Hiya miss,” he said cheerily, “We’re helping
people get moved in today cause of the rain. Hand your stuff down and I’ll carry
She nodded and ran to the back of the carriage,
digging in the compartment in the back and pulling out one of her trunks. He
lifted this up over his shoulder while the Lupe grabbed her backpack out of
the back with his mouth and took off after him. She grabbed the other trunk
and Mia took up the rear with the last bag as the carriage rattled off behind
her. She was finally here, she was finally on her own.
She found the Kougra inside, leaning on the
trunk and talking with someone at the front desk.
“You’re the lucky one,” he said, flashing white
teeth in a broad grin, “All the other students are taking their sweet time to
get here. Probably because of the rain. That and honor students move in a day
early. So… what’s your name?”
“Gray,” she said, “Payne Gray.”
“Nice name,” he commented, looking over the
list with the other resident advisor, “Ah, here we go. Room 228. Second floor.
It’s in a good location, if I recall.”
The Blumaroo behind the desk nodded. She was
tall and adorned with a purple bow that matched her pink fur, utterly self-assured
in the way she carried herself.
“Near the laundry room, near the food court,”
she said, “although it’s over the walkway. There’s nothing beneath us so it
gets real cold in the winter. There’s a wind that comes straight across campus
and is rather nasty. It’s strangely absent today, but it’ll be back tomorrow.
Oh, believe me, it’ll be back. It’s always strongest after it rains.”
Payne nodded absently, glancing down at Mia.
“Oh, I forgot to introduce myself,” the girl
said. “I’m Leslie. I’m the resident advisor for your floor.”
“Pleased to meet you.”
“Alright. Here’s your keys. Don’t lose them.
If you lock yourself out you can get a lockout key at the front desk here. But
we get mad if you do that too many times. Although…”
And here Leslie leaned over the desk. Payne
leaned closer to make the conversation private. Mia and the green Lupe just
sat and waited patiently with their loads.
“You won’t need to use the lockout key. If you
have a card of some sorts you can force the lock. Maintenance has never bothered
to fix that. I had that room freshman year and locked myself out all the time.
My roommate – she’s a Mynci – finally figured out how to force it. Never got
in trouble from the front desk again.”
“Isn’t that unsafe?”
“Nah, hardly anyone knows about that. Just don’t
go talking about it, okay?”
Payne shot her one last hesitating glance before
picking up the trunk again and following the boy across the lobby to the stairs.
Up one flight, into the cream brick hallway with rows of identical gray doors.
He stopped at the one marked 218 with two brightly decorated construction paper
signs on it. One read Payne and Mia, the other read Maria and BlazeFast.
“Our roommate?” she asked the boy as she unlocked
He edged past her and deposited the trunk on
the floor, his pet dropping her backpack beside it.
“Aright, I’m off to help the other students.
Have fun, Miss Payne.”
And he shot her another smile and vanished off
down the hallway.
“You,” Mia announced as she dropped her own
load and started inspecting the room, “are an idiot.”
“Why?” Payne asked, also examining the room.
Plain white walls, a window with a large tree from the courtyard filling the
view, brown branches nearly black in the damp. Four desks lining the walls,
four chairs taking up the remaining room, giving the two barely enough room
to walk. Shelves just above the desks, two closets on opposing sides of the
room right by the door. To their left, a doorway into the bedroom where two
more closets took up the end, a window at the other end, and two sets of bunkbeds
on the wall. Another closed door from the living area lead to the bathroom.
“How Spartan,” Payne muttered. “Now why am I
“Because!” Mia cried. “That Lupe. He was obviously
good-looking and you didn’t get his name! Or did you fail to notice him smiling
at you? Do we need to get you glasses?”
Payne looked at her sister, shocked.
“Excuse me!” she cried in indignation. “You’re
supposed to not comment on those kind of things.”
“Hah. I can do what I please. Now let’s start
unpacking. I want top bunk.”
“There’s no ladder.”
“You climb up the frame. I can do that. So I
want top bunk.”
“I guess I’ll take bottom bunk. Why do I get
“Because you’ll fall out.”
“I will not!”
“You have in the past,” Mia retorted sharply
and with a cackle started dragging the trunks into the bedroom area.
With an inward sigh Payne followed her sister,
popping open the trunk with one paw, pulling out some bed sheets with her teeth.
Dark blue. A picture of Jeran on the comforter.
It took several hours before the room was arranged
to their satisfaction. After that Payne retreated to the bottom bunk, staring
out the window, watching the rain, a diary in her lap. She had only written
the date in sparking blue ink, nothing more.
“Excuse me?” a small voice inquired from the
Mia leapt up from her spot on the ultranova
rug in the middle of the floor.
“Yeah, com’n in!” she cried and a Darigan Moehog
laden down with bags staggered in, dropping them on the floor and looking about
“I’m Maria,” she finally announced and Payne
slid off the bunk bed, landing in a crouch.
“Mia,” she said, studying the other girl, “Mia
Mist Gray. And my sister, Payne Rain Gray.”
Blue mane intricately braided, her wings pierced
with golden hoops, faux purple glasses over her eyes, rhinestones glinting merrily.
Behind her was a mutant Ixi, long green ears, yellow eyes, and long tail and
shock of black fur on the back.
“Wow! That’s a name. Oh, this is BlazeFast.”
“Yo,” the Ixi muttered, edging into the room
and looking around.
“This is Payne,” Mia said, ushering her sister
“Geez, we got a Jeran fan?” BlazeFast said,
looking at the posters on the wall.
“Yes. Is that…?”
“Awesome! We can be friendly rivals!” Maria
exclaimed, throwing her stuff on the bottom bunk and digging around.
She pulled out a Kass poster, unrolling it and
throwing it on the ground face-up, followed by a Darigan banner.
“Meridell and Darigan. This should be interesting,”
Maria commented, “BlazeFast actually wanted to be painted Darigan, too, but
the brush is way too expensive for her.”
“Maria,” the Ixi said edgily, “Please.”
“So you two know each other?” Payne asked quickly
to change the conversation.
“Yeah. We’ve been best friends for a looooong
Maria continued to dig through her stuff, pulling
out more items. A desk lamp, pens and notebooks, and that was about it. Her
friend joined her and as she unpacked Payne wished she could sink into the dirt,
noting the cost of her ultranova and Jeran suite compared to BlazeFast’s ragtag
“So um, I guess we’re roommates,” she said,
trying to start up another conversation.
“Yep. We’ll have a good year. I need bottom
bunk, by the way. I roll out of bed.”
“So. What’s your major?”
“And… Mia, was it?”
“I’m gonna be majoring in Battledome Theory!”
the Gelert declared proudly, “Weapons, statistics, all the good stuff. Absolutely
no practical application beyond battling.”
“Like that’s something to brag about,” BlazeFast
muttered from where she was standing on hind legs to look out the window, “I
plan to get myself an education. Early childhood education for NeoPets. Maria
is the same, except specializing in math for older pets.”
“Those poor kids,” Mia said mournfully.
“Tell me about it!” the Ixi replied with an
Payne looked startled for a moment, then laughed.
Roommates and friends already. This would be a good year.
To be continued...