Alyssa rubbed her eyes. She was so sick of studying she didn’t know what to do. She kept reminding herself that there was only one test left, but for some reason that didn’t cheer her up.
The desk lamp cast a glow over her textbook, but the rest of the room was dark. The sounds of Casey’s deep breathing were issuing forth from under the covers, along with the gentle snores of Miranda, one of their other roommates. Casey and Alyssa had bunk beds on one side of the room, while Miranda and Windy had bunk beds on the other side. Alyssa had the top bunk because Casey was afraid of heights. Sure, she may have banged her head into the ceiling once or twice—or a million times—but Casey couldn’t help her phobia.
Alyssa pushed her chair back. She felt suddenly claustrophobic—she wanted to get outside. She grabbed her Styler and her room key before slipping quietly out the door in her nightgown.
The hallways were dark and silent. Her bare feet made no sound on the floor as she passed through the spacious lobby, heading toward the glass entrance doors. Once she had them open she breathed in deeply and happily, stepping out onto the entryway. The night air was chilly; she wrapped her arms around herself as she stepped off the entryway and onto the front path. She didn’t particularly feel like leaving the school grounds; instead, she pointed herself east and walked across the front yard of the school, heading toward a large flight of stairs built into a cliff. She descended it and walked over to where the water flowed gently alongside the cliff, passing by the statue onto which graduates etched their hopes and dreams. A cargo ship had once crashed here, and they had never gotten around to fixing the fence. She settled herself to sit on the edge, dangling her feet out over the water. A breeze played with the ends of her hair.
“What are you doing?”
She started and quickly scrambled to her feet, trying to ready an excuse. Instead of a teacher, however, she saw Ian, looking handsome as ever in his Ranger uniform, hands tucked into his pockets as the moonlight washed over him. A Prinplup stood behind him.
“Oh, Ian…it’s you.” She put a hand on her heart and smiled. “I was afraid it was a teacher or something.” She sat back down the way she had been. “How’d you get in here, anyway?”
Ian lowered himself carefully to sit beside her. He tucked his heels onto some rocks and leaned forward, placing his elbows on his legs and lacing his fingers together, watching his hands. Prinplup wandered around, checking out the nighttime Pokémon that played around the school grounds. “I scaled the wall.”
“Wasn’t that hard?”
He shrugged. He seemed subdued.
“Why did you come here?”
Ian looked up at the stars without moving the rest of his body. “I come here to think.” He dropped his head again. “Everything was so innocent here. I feel like my thoughts are clearer when I’m dealing with them here.”
Alyssa looked over at him. Something was troubling him, all right…but what was it? “What’s wrong?” she asked, concerned.
Silence stretched between them. “Nothing you need to worry about right now.” He bent lower and began removing his shoes. “Shouldn’t you be in bed?”
“Probably. I have my last exam tomorrow. But I just felt so…enclosed in that tiny space of a room. I needed to get out here, where it’s bigger.”
“I know what you mean. What was that?” he snapped, twisting around. Prinplup made a reassuring noise and gestured with its flipper toward a Zigzagoon. Alyssa blinked.
“Wait…Ziggy?” she said incredulously. The Pokémon made a noise of glee and rushed over to her, climbing into her lap and snuggling up. It was the same Zigzagoon she had met on the beach two days ago.
“It’s following you around,” Ian said. “That’s the second step.”
“I can’t make you my Partner Pokémon yet,” Alyssa told it. “You’ll have to wait until I become a full-blown Ranger.”
Alyssa sighed. Sure enough, the little thing was slumbering peacefully in her lap. She scratched between its ears.
The two sat there for a while longer, a Ranger and a Ranger Student, both looking up at the stars and contemplating their own thoughts. After a while, Alyssa sighed and stood up, scooping Zigzagoon up with her. “I’ve got to get to bed,” she told Ian. “Can you take care of Ziggy for me?” She bent and placed the Pokémon in his lap. Ian gently stroked its head and nodded before looking up at her.
Suddenly Alyssa was very aware that she hadn’t brushed her hair and that she was wearing a nightgown. She crossed her arms and hugged herself.
“Well, hope I’ll see you soon.”
“Are you cold?”
“What? Oh—a little, but it’s no big deal.”
Ian shifted Zigzagoon to the ground beside him and stood up, removing his long-sleeved Ranger jacket and wrapping it instead around her. Most Rangers had short-sleeved jackets. She wondered vaguely why his was different, but mostly she felt ecstatic that he was so close to her and touching her shoulders.
“So much,” Alyssa replied softly.
“Good. I wouldn’t want you to be cold.”
“Hm? Oh, right—cold. Yeah. I was cold.” She smiled. “Well, I guess I’ll see you later.”
He nodded. “Right.”
And Alyssa turned and walked off. When she got to her room, she fell asleep using Ian’s jacket as a blanket.
To: dingdongbelle, dancing_through_life
Subject: Place to stay!
I called my parents and they said you can stay there for the week. It’s in two weeks, you guys. I’d better be seeing you! It’s in the morning, remember!
Sorry I can’t have a longer email, but I’ve GOT to study. ONE MORE TEST TO GO!!!
P.S. Hey Cassandra. I know about Belle’s Pokémon already. XP