By the time that Arianna left the house that morning, Luke was already sat in front of the lake. It had reached the point where she would just expect him to be there, hunched over, waiting for the sea creature to come greet him. Days when Luke wasn't there were less often and usually only came when he had some unavoidable family matters to deal with at home. Mostly, he'd wake up before his parents did to avoid this, leaving them notes assuring them that he'd be back in time for school.
However, it seemed that not even Loosha woke up as early in the morning as Luke did.
Arianna sat on the ground next to him, offering out a packet of humbugs (she had come prepared), which Luke gratefully took one of, before he went back to his study of the water's surface. It would probably be another long day, so Arianna decided to make conversation.
“Tony and I are always happy to have you,” she started, “But don't you think that it's a bit pointless coming up here at this time, when Loosha doesn't even wake up until later.”
“I think she wakes up early on,” Luke replied, “She just doesn't come to see us until around now.”
“What makes you say that?” asked Arianna.
“She gives the impression that she's eaten first. But I could be wrong. Everything we know about her is just what we see when she's here with us,” Luke answered, before sighing and adding, “I wish that we could follow her and learn more about her, but she goes too deep into the water for us to swim. There'd be no way for us to get the means to go down there without telling other people about Loosha.”
“And that's a definite no,” Arianna glumly concluded.
“It's a pity, but you can only imagine what some people might do if they discovered her,” agreed Luke.
By this point it didn't even need to be said. From everything they'd seen, the Bardes and their friend had formed the impression that Loosha was the last of her kind. Or at least that there weren't any more like her around here. If other people knew of her then there'd be no question that scientists would come, trying to force her into an environment where they could study her. And if not scientists, then some selfish person who would try to make a profit out of her in some way.
“What about that lady from in town? The one who studies fish. She seems nice,” Arianna suggested.
“She is nice and would probably know enough about marine life to learn more than we can. But she's still a scientist and would probably tell others in time. And we can't be sure that everyone will be nice,” Luke debated, “It's better if we learn about Loosha on our own.”
Nodding, Arianna replied, “I suppose so.”
Any further discussion was put on-hold for the moment, as Loosha's head started to emerge from the water. She was a large blue-grey creature with a form that would almost be fitting to the image of a Lock Ness Monster, only wider in most places, and she towered over both Luke and Arianna easily.
Upon seeing them, Loosha bleated happily and swam closer, ever intrigued by the prospect of food. Thankfully, Luke had come prepared and took a few pears out of his bag to feed her with. Pears were a type of food that Tony had discovered Loosha ate not long after they'd first met her, though in truth it seemed there were few things Loosha wouldn't eat. He tossed them over and Loosha skilfully caught them in her mouth, darting her head this way and that. After which, she chewed them noisily for a few moments, before coming closer to see if there were more. The two stepped a side, allowing Loosha to nose at the bag for long enough to determine that there wasn't, after which she settled down and allowed Arianna to walk over to stroke her.
As she ran her hand down the underwater creature's neck, Arianna would almost pretend that she could hear Loosha purring, like a cat, when in actual fact she knew it was just a soft hum. Either way, the noise was an indication that Loosha was content.
“And how are you today?” Arianna cooed.
Having not heard her, Luke muttered, “She's been eating reeds, I could see some of them clinging to her teeth when she caught the pears. And judging from the mud stuck to her, I believe that she's been swimming in the marsh further around the lake. You know, I think she goes there a lot. Maybe it'd be worth heading across there in the mornings to see if she does appear at the marsh before she comes to see us.”
He went on like this for a while, reeling off ideas he had about Loosha based upon her behaviour, like he always did. None of this was information that Arianna hadn't heard before, so she only half-listened, being more content just to be there with Loosha.
“You really want to learn from her, don't you?” she said, when there was enough of a gap in Luke's chatter.
“Yes, I do. If I didn't then I wouldn't be at the lake here to see her every day,” he confirmed, and realising that statement had an awful implication that he hadn't intended, added, “That isn't to say that I wouldn't come see you and Tony! The two of you are great friends and I like coming here. I just wouldn't be at the lake specifically.”
“I know what you meant,” Arianna assured him. She seemed to be giggling at a private joke now; “Do you know what they call someone who wants to learn from someone else?”
“Um, I can think of a few names,” mumbled Luke, not liking where this was going.
“An apprentice,” she proclaimed.
Luke frowned; “Please don't say what I think you're going t-”
“You're Loosha's apprentice!” Arianna laughed.
Luke was about to argue, but then he noted how happy Arianna looked as she leaned against their aquatic friend, chuckling away at her little joke. Although Loosha had no idea what they were saying, she sensed Arianna's happiness and bleated in return. It almost felt as if she was laughing as well.
Arianna was a very sickly girl. With each day she was alive, Luke and Tony were thankful, because they never knew how much longer she had left. She refused to get help, claiming there was nothing anyone could do and becoming angrier with each time either of them suggested it. All she wanted was to live each day as best she could and being in this garden made her feel best. There was something about being here with Loosha that always brought a smile to her face.
As time went on, Luke came to realise that seeing her smile so genuinely was the best thing he could ask for. And if him being Loosha's apprentice was what made her smile, then that is the title that he would go by for as long as she wanted.