An Understanding Heart
Standard disclaimer: This is a not for profit fan work. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is copyright Hasbro, Inc. I make no claim to any copyrighted material mentioned herein.
Chapter 5: Tea with Rarity
Open Book took the envelope from Sweetie Belle’s hoof and opened it. The invitation to tea was scribed with beautiful calligraphy on thick, cream-colored paper. There was a slight floral aroma on the paper.
The earth pony smiled. “I would be delighted to have tea with your sister. But I’m afraid I’ll need directions to her boutique,” he said.
“I can take you there!” Sweetie Belle volunteered.
“That’s kind of you,” Open Book said. “But I’m afraid it will be just me and your sister for tea. After you take me there, why don’t you look for your friends? They’re probably around town somewhere.”
Sweetie Belle glanced back at the counselor. If he had heard her friends’ earlier shenanigans, his face didn’t give anything away.
One of the reasons Sweetie Belle liked staying with her sister was that the walk to school didn’t take long. At the end of the short walk, she opened the door to Rarity’s shop. “Sis?” she called.
Open Book’s eyes were drawn to the elegant unicorn mare, fussing over the precise arrangement of a teapot and two teacups on a dainty table. She lifted her head and smiled. “Welcome to Carousel Boutique,” Rarity said. “You must be Open Book.”
“I am. And that must make you Miss Rarity. Allow me to thank you for the kind invitation,” Open Book said. He turned to Sweetie Belle and nodded. She departed.
“It is my pleasure,” Rarity replied. “It’s not often we get visitors from Canterlot.”
The counselor examined the fine tea set. It clearly wasn’t something used every day. “I may live in Canterlot, but I’m a simple pony,” Open Book said. “I’ve never been to the Grand Galloping Gala. You won’t find me at an embassy party or a red carpet premiere. But I do appreciate a good cup of tea.”
“As do I,” Rarity said. “It’s not often I get a chance to share a cup of tea with another pony. Sweetie Belle, the poor thing, hasn’t yet grown to appreciate tea.”
“That’s not uncommon for young ponies. Bitter flavors are an acquired taste,” Open Book commented.
Rarity poured a cup of tea for her visitor. “Cream? Sugar?” she asked.
“One sugar cube, please,” Open Book said. Rarity obliged.
Open Book stirred his tea and took a sip. Rarity had good taste in tea. He set his cup down. “As much as I’m enjoying this tea, I’m here to talk about Sweetie Belle.”
“Of course,” Rarity said. “I merely thought, why meet in some dreadfully utilitarian office, when my boutique is so much more comfortable?”
“And an excellent idea it was,” Open Book said. “Miss Cheerilee suggested I either speak to you or to your parents, and they appear to be out of town right now.”
“Oh, yes, they do enjoy their travel,” Rarity said. “Let me put it this way, Sweetie Belle has her own room here, and by now, more of her belongings are here than in her actual bedroom back home.”
“So what is Sweetie Belle like? What are her talents?” asked Open Book.
“It’s hard to say,” Rarity said. “She seems to enjoy fashion, and quite often is doing something with my cloth and accessories. So you could say she is without peer at getting underhoof. The number of times she’s interfered with my work is hard to count.”
“How is your relationship with your sister?” Open Book asked cautiously.
The unicorn’s magic enveloped the teaspoon, and she concentrated on stirring her tea. “It’s better,” Rarity finally said. “Maybe a year and a half ago, we had a bit of a falling out. It started when she tried to make breakfast, and only succeeded in burning juice and liquefying toast. Then she used some of the gems I needed for a time-sensitive order, messed up my workspace, and ruined a sweater. We both said some things that we regretted.”
“And what happened afterwards?” asked the counselor.
“First, I realized I had overreacted a bit, and then I realized it was not worth losing a sister over,” said Rarity. “I joined my sister in a little sister-sister competition that Applejack ran at her orchard, but I participated in secret. I hid under the mud, and Sweetie Belle thought the whole time she was running with Applejack.” Rarity set down the tea. “It took four spa treatments before I felt clean again, but it was worth it.”
“And things have been better since then?” asked Open Book.
“They have,” Rarity said. “Still, I do have responsibilities. I have a business to run, so I can’t spend every day with my sister. When I have a big order, I can’t have her in the shop.”
“Irrespective of any problems she caused in the past, when it comes to design, how is Sweetie Belle’s work?” Open Book asked.
Rarity took a measured sip of her tea. “Sad to say, lacking that spark, that special something seen in haute couture,” she explained.
“Is fashion the family business?” Open Book asked.
“Heavens, no,” said Rarity. “Our parents are simple Ponyvillains. You’ll never hear their names spoken amongst the elite of Canterlot high society. But they’re perfectly happy with that.”
“Your talent with fashion is apparent even to an amateur like me, Miss Rarity, but how is it related to your cutie mark?” asked the counselor, motioning to the gems on the unicorn’s flank.
“I suppose one could say my talent is merely related to gem finding, but my love of fashion was obvious to me even as a filly,” said Rarity. “My early work lacked something. It wasn’t until I discovered my first cache of gems that I saw how the intersection of gem and fabric could turn a marvelous dress idea into a stunning masterpiece. It was then when I knew I would be a fashionista.”
“If Sweetie Belle is trying to be like you, when her talents lie elsewhere, that could explain why she is having so much trouble,” said the counselor.
“Whatever do you mean? She’s out with her friends almost every day, trying to earn their cutie marks,” said Rarity.
“Do you think their efforts are likely to succeed? What were their last trips about?” Open Book queried.
“I’m not sure,” said the unicorn. “I could probably remember the last few things they’ve borrowed from me for their crusades. A handful of sapphires, a bolt of cloth, a dozen needles… these were all separate days, mind you… a ponyquin, my cat Opalescence… those poor fillies… some old dishes….”
“That sounds rather random,” Open Book interrupted. “I’m not sure if their crusades are likely to reveal their special talents.”
Open Book finished his cup of tea. “How is Sweetie Belle’s magic?” he continued, changing the subject.
“She’s working on lessons right now. She may have been a bit slow to master the basics, but I think she’ll develop normally,” Rarity explained.
Open Book wrote down some notes. Family talents and magic appeared to be dead ends for Sweetie Belle. “Do you remember the school talent show, about two years ago?” asked the counselor.
“Ah, yes, a memorable performance,” Rarity said. “If I remember correctly, Sweetie Belle worked on the costumes and the set design.” Rarity noticed the counselor looking at her expectantly. “Not her talent,” she finished.
“What do you mean?” said the counselor.
“The costumes looked like a poor imitation of a particular style that we ponies should forget ever existed. Let us never think of the hair bands from my youth. And the set fell down all around them. It’s a miracle somepony wasn’t hurt,” Rarity said.
“What did she do best that day?” said Open Book.
“She showed good humor when the audience took their attempt at a ‘wicked rock ballad’ as a joke,” Rarity said. “And speaking of that, I later learned that Sweetie Belle wrote most of the song herself.”
“Perhaps her talent lies in writing? Or music?” offered the counselor.
Rarity’s eye twitched as she remembered her sister’s past writing efforts for the school newspaper. She took another sip of tea to calm her nerves. “I’m not particularly familiar with her musical talents. She takes piano lessons at home, but there’s no room for a piano here. And she has a nice singing voice,” Rarity said.
“Did she pursue music after the talent show?” asked Open Book.
“Well, the Cutie Mark Crusaders won the talent show’s award for best comedy act,” said Rarity. “Even though they knew they weren’t trying to be funny, they attempted some legitimate comedy performances afterwards. They were not successful. But no, I don’t think my sister incorporated music into any of those performances. Then they were off to whatever dangerous adventure attracted their attention next.”
Open Book took some final notes. “I think that’s all the questions I have for now,” he said.
“Would you care for another cup of tea?” Rarity asked.
“I would love another cup of tea,” Open Book said.
As Rarity poured, she asked, “Where are you staying while in Ponyville?”
“I’m staying with the town librarian, Miss Twilight Sparkle. Miss Cheerilee said she insisted on hosting me,” Open Book explained. “And I think I’d like to talk to her too.”