The sky was darkening as Berry Punch and Sky Star made their way down Ponyville’s main road, and the first stars were just beginning to fleck the sky. Few ponies walked the town’s streets at this time of night, and the ones that were out seemed to be heading home. The two ponies soon passed a building with a flickering neon sign, it read “The Midnight Chug”. Berry looked at the bar longingly. She had never told Sky, but it was hard for her to give up her alcohol addiction. He had no idea the internal struggles she went through, she hid it well. She forced away her yearning, she had left that life behind, and it was for the better. As they left the bar behind, she let out a soft sigh of relief, the temptation was over. Soon Sky Star stopped in front of another building.
“Here we are,” He told her. “My favorite restaurant.” The building was made up of red brick, and a wooden sign stuck out from the wall by a horizontal metal pole. It was white with curly black letters that said “Le Restaurant De L'amour.” Berry assumed it was French or something, but she had no idea what it meant. Sky Star stepped forward and held open the door. “Mares first.” He offered. Berry Punch giggled softly as she walked inside.
“Thank you, Sky,” Berry said graciously. “You’re such a gentlecolt.”
“It’s just the way I was raised.” He replied, blushing slightly. Together the two ponies walked up to the front desk. A very pale brown stallion stood behind it. He wore a white collar with a red bowtie, and sported a curly black mustache. He looked at the two with his muzzle slightly raised.
“What can I do for you?” He asked calmly, speaking with a distinct French accent.
“Table for two, please.” Sky Star said, a friendly smile on his face. The French pony stepped out from behind the desk, picked up two menus, and turned towards a empty doorway.
“Of course, right this way.” He directed before walking through the rectangular space, Sky Star and Berry Punch following a short distance behind. As they entered the room, Berry realized just how fancy it was. The walls were pure white, there were a few windows, each with a silk red curtain. The tables were round and every one was covered with a white table cloth, a vase of flowers as the centerpiece. Each table had petite black legs that were close to the center and curled outward at the ends to support the weight of the eating surface. The chairs had the same delicate frame, and sported fancy red seat cushions. The French stallion led them to an empty table with a chair on either side. Berry walked over to one of the chairs, but before she reached it Sky Star caught her attention.
“Wait!” He called, softly enough not to disturb the other diners but loud enough to make her stop dead. Quickly he dashed past her to the chair and pulled it out for her. It made no sound on the soft carpet. He smiled at her. “A gentlecolt always pulls out the chair for his d-” He suddenly stopped, as if he was afraid he was about to say something embarrassing. Berry smiled at him.
“You mean his date?” She finished for him. Sky Star looked both surprised and relieved, as if he didn’t know Berry also thought of herself as his date.
“Y-Yes.” He stammered, eyes gleaming with barely suppressed delight. Berry sat down and Sky Star sat in the chair across from her. The fancy-speaking stallion leaned in to whisper in his ear.
“She is a fine young mare, mm? It is good to see you are not here alone tonight.” Sky nodded. Berry figured she wasn’t meant to hear that, but she still blushed with self-consciousness. The host pony looked up and spoke in a louder, more professional tone. “Here are your menus.” He deposited the menus onto the table, one in front of Berry and one in front of Sky. “You’re waiter will be here shortly.” He informed before walking away, eyes closed and muzzle raised. The two ponies, now alone at their table, picked up the menus. They were a dark shade of red. The letters were printed in a sparkly gold color, and there were gold-colored tassels on each corner. Berry was surprised, even the menus were fancy. As she looked through the menu, a voice nearby made her look up. Not far from their table, a yellow pegasus mare was standing at another table, a notepad in her hooves. Soon she turned toward hers and Sky’s table. Berry felt like every hair on her mane stood up.
“Tell her I want the hay salad sandwich.” Berry told Sky Star in a panic. “I have to go to the mare’s room.” Berry zoomed off before the waitress arrived, leaving Sky staring, dumbfounded, after her. She found the bathroom without difficulty, swinging the door open in her haste to escape. She stood, panting, in the center of a plain public restroom, with three sinks and four stalls. She had never expected that the pony waiting their table would be her old friend Bright Shine, who, along with Amethyst, left her after many failed interventions. Berry knew contact with her former friend would be too awkward, especially after so many years.
She stood on the dark tiled floor, calming down as she regained her breath. Her anxiety subsiding, Berry Punch realized that she really did have to use the bathroom. She walked into the stall and closed the door behind her.
Berry emerged from the stall and walked over to the sink to wash her hooves. She pressed her hoof on the soap dispenser, muttering angrily as she realized it was empty. She moved over to the next one, which still had a bit of soap left in it. As she washed her hooves, Berry was not impressed by the bathroom’s maintenance. She dried them with a paper towel and walked to the door. Warily, she peeked outside and was relieved to find Sky Star alone, no yellow pegasi in sight. With a sigh of relief, she walked back to the table. Sky looked at her with concern in his eyes.
“Are you okay?” He asked. “You left in a big hurry. Are you sick?” Before she had time to answer, he leaned over and planted a hoof on her forehead. “No fever.” He observed.
“I’m fine,” She answered awkwardly. He didn’t seem convinced.
“Well, anyway, I told her what you wanted."
“You didn’t tell her my name, did you?” Berry exclaimed.
“No, why?” He answered, looking confused.
“She-” Berry was interrupted when Bright Shine returned, a tray on her back with two plates on it. I can’t use the “mare’s room” excuse again!, She thought, beginning to panic. Thinking fast, she quickly pulled the menu up, covering her face from view.
“Here you are,” Bright Shine said, bending her head back to distribute the plates. “A hay salad sandwich and apple tenders with our signature daisy dipping sauce. Anything else?” Berry, though she couldn’t see her, was surprised that Bright Shine seemed to have grown out of her high-speed voice. She spoke like everypony else now. Sky Star gave Berry a sidelong glance and she shook her head, not removing the menu from her face.
“We’re fine, thank you.” He dismissed the waitress, who nodded and walked away. Berry dared to peek from her protective menu.
“Is she gone?” Berry whispered.
“Yes,” Sky Star confirmed. “What’s wrong? Do you know her?”
“Sh- She’s an old friend. We had a falling out a long time ago, I really don’t want to talk about it.” She told him awkwardly. Being the gentlecolt that he was, he didn’t pry, but simply nodded understandingly and began to eat his meal. Berry took a bite of the sandwich. She remembered her mother used to make this kind for her at lunch. A pang of sadness hit her, and she struggled to keep herself calm, a single tear trying to fight its way out of her eye. Berry Punch thanked Celestia that Sky Star was too busy with his apple tenders to notice. She didn’t think she had it in her to explain Ruby’s tragic death. They finished their meals at the same time and spent the rest of their date talking about things ponies talk about on dates. Sky Star finally changed the subject.
“It’s getting late, we should probably get going.” He observed, looking at the clock on the nearby wall, which said 11:23 PM. Sky Star left the money in the little black book Bright Shine had left when she brought the meals and both ponies left the restaurant. They walked in silence, careful not to disturb Ponyville’s sleeping citizens. Both ponies were exhausted by the time they reached the observatory. As soon as they walked in, they said goodnight and walked up the stairs to their separate rooms.
Berry Punch almost stumbled on the way to her bed. As she climbed in, something glowing above her caught her eye. For the first time she noticed that the stars painted on the ceiling mural were made from glow-in-the-dark paint. Berry was impressed. Whoever this Fingerpaints pony was, she really knew how to make a great painting. That was the last thing she thought before sleep hit her like a stone.
As the pink pony slept, a dark figure appeared in her doorway. Head down, it crept across to the nightstand and placed something on it before tip-hoofing back to the door and out of sight.