He hugged his father goodbye, and stepped up to sit beside the driver. Spitter, lying on a padded trunk behind, stuck his paws out to rest them on Rejinal’s shoulders. Rejinal had refused to cage him for the trip, but had agreed to a collar and chain for the cat’s own safety.
When they arrived at Valleyville, Rejinal felt a certain smugness at bypassing the first year residence. He found his room in the senior residence, revelling at its relative luxuriousness. Though he had just left quarters much grander, the private wash basin and large window in the room made it seem special. He let Tom put his things away as he wished, and went to find out where his friends were located.
He was pleased to find Davish next door, and Antonio just across from him. Martin was at the end of the hall, suitably close to the stairs leading to the balcony. No doubt he would spend many hours serenading people from there. Bolger was down the hall a bit from Martin. When everyone was semi‑settled, the old dorm‑mates congregated in Rejinal’s room to catch each other up.
After a while, Antonio said “let’s go check out the new crop of gals. Now that we’re seniors, we’re desirable.”
Bolger guffawed. “Perhaps you are, a nobleman with charm and wit. I don’t think anyone would have me. Besides, I have to take first year math again. I really don’t know why I’m here.” Rejinal frowned. “You improved a lot last year with weapons and equitation. Even just passing the rest of the courses gives you a worldly knowledge most don’t have.”
Martin put his hand on Bolger’s shoulder. “I’ll work on matching you up. I already have a sweetheart at home. She sings like a morningbird and makes my songs sound twice as good as they should.”
Bolger grunted, and turned away as if he didn’t care. Davish looked genuinely bored with the whole conversation, and shrugging, picked up a book to leaf through.
“Did you bring spitter?” Antonio asked Rejinal.
Rejinal grinned. Yes. He’s right outside. We can take him to visit the young ladies.” He glanced around the room. “Shall we go?”
Everyone got up except Davish.
“Are you coming?” Rejinal asked.
Still absorbed, Davish said “No, I’ll stay here. I want to read this.”
Rejinal looked amused. “You could take it to your room if you want.”
Davish looked up. “Oh. Yes. I might as well.” He, too, rose, and Rejinal locked the door behind.
Spitter was curled up by the door, and when Rejinal appeared, the cat stared at him resentfully. Rejinal unhooked his chain. “I know, you don’t need this any more.” He stroked the silky black fur and Spitter purred. Suddenly he hissed as a strange hand reached for him.
“Hey!” Antonio protested. “You remember me, don’t you?” Spitter sniffed his hand and let him pat him.
“I’ll have to catch myself one of these,” Antonio commented. The group started off, and Spitter followed.
A screech marked their arrival at the first year dorm. “Ladies, come inside at once! There’s a panther ready to attack!”
Spitter was far from ready to attack, but with the commotion, he crouched and started spitting. Rejinal moved between the dorm and Spitter, and spoke quietly to the animal. Perhaps he should have brought the chain, he thought.
“Mr. Lockseye!” It was the sharp voice of his former dorm minder. “What is the meaning of bringing Spitter here like this? You scared the life out of the new ladies’ minder.”
“I was just going for a walk with my friends, including Spitter.”
“Unchained?” The minder whipped a Stick out of his pocket. Automatically, Rejinal backed up, and Spitter gave a yowl at being stepped on. Rejinal tripped, and with a quick reflex action, managed to avoid falling on the cat. Spitter gave a vicious snarl in the direction of the minder, then disappeared into a nearby patch of bush.
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