The life of a filly is essentially time spent with everypony older than you telling you to never, under any circumstance, do something; then, five minutes later, telling you – in slightly different wording – to do that very thing. It was a time, basically, of contradiction. Case in point: don’t keep secrets. But, everypony loves surprises. In order to surprise a pony, you need to keep a secret from them.
It didn’t bother Dinky Doo, exactly, but it was something she’d had an awful lot of time to think about over the past year or so, ever since she’d determined to keep a certain secret from everypony, but especially her mother, since that secret was a surprise, and that made it a good secret. Frankly, Dinky was amazed she’d been able to keep the secret/surprise for this long, but also, in a way, proud of herself.
Dinky, however, forced her mind to stop going over that particular line of thought – though as she neared her objective, she was finding it harder and harder – and instead focused on the chicken in front of her. The chicken was, in turn, focused hard on her.
Being a filly, the juxtaposition of the two did not seem strange to Dinky.
“Okay, Elizabeak,” Dinky said as she stepped closer to the chicken. The chicken took a step back. “Come here girl…come here…come here come here come here!”
Dinky had taken a few quick steps forward, trying to catch the chicken in her hooves, but the white, feathery rogue had proven to be too nimble for the filly. It scampered off, while Dinky, having expected to end up with a chicken in her hooves and instead finding a distinct lack of such, stumbled and fell into the dirt. On the other hoof, her movement had at least made Elizabeak run away from the fence’s gate and sort of in the direction of the chicken coop she had escaped from.
Optimism! Dinky’s mother said it was important to always look on the bright side of things.
“Come back here!” Dinky exclaimed, albeit quietly, as she gave chase to the renegade poultry. Optimism could only take a pony so far, after all. She needed to catch Elizabeak and get her back into the coop before Miss Fluttershy came back over, or else Miss Fluttershy might get angry and her, and then Dinky wouldn’t get her three bits. Had she not been currently chasing a fowl, Dinky might have felt bad about being more concerned about her bits than Elizabeak being back in the safety of her coop. But with her so close to her objective…
(Dinky had been happy when she had learned that word. It somehow sounded more important than ‘goal’ and was easier to say than ‘aspiration’).
The filly leaped again, but Elizabeak proved to be a nimble avian, once more avoiding Dinky’s hooves. The filly considered trying her telekinesis for a moment. Miss Trixie had given her a few pointers on how to improve it, and it had improved by leaps and bounds over the past two months since she had first met the Representative of Luna’s Night Court, but Dinky still wasn’t sure she wanted to attempt it on a living thing. She had a tendency to grip things too hard, and, well, break them. It was happening less and less these days, but still, Dinky knew enough to not seriously consider trying telekinesis on a living creature.
Unfortunately, Elizabeak was just too agile for the filly to catch, too crafty. Staring at her with those beady little chicken eyes like she was mocking Dinky for being unable to catch her. Stupid bird.
Dinky had a secret weapon, though, one she hadn’t brought out yet for fear of the potential repercussions, both to her body and her conscience. But after five minutes of trying to catch Elizabeak and put her back in her coop where she belonged, Dinky had no choice. Sighing, she turned from the hen, trotted over to the left outside wall of the chicken coop, and grabbed the receptacle for her weapon, a sturdy bowl – this she did trust her telekinesis on – then used a hoof to open a barrel and scoop out her weapon: chicken feed.
Not even the much-lauded Rainbow Dash could have moved with the speed that Elizabeak did up to Dinky at the sight and sound of the chicken feed being scooped up and readied for her. Inside the coop, the other chickens in their cages, who had heard the sound, began clucking and squawking as well. They had already been fed, but chickens were voracious little feathered monsters, always hungry for more feed. Always.
Dinky had used to like chickens. Then she’d worked with them.
Walking and using her telekinesis at the same time was hard for the filly, but she managed to accomplish it, moving the bowl of chicken feed into the coop along with her, Elizabeak following and pecking at Dinky’s hooves, trying to get her to drop the bowl of feed so the chicken could feast. Later, she would probably think that this had been excellent practice for her telekinesis. At the moment, all it made her want to do was given Elizabeak a solid buck to her beak.
With effort, Dinky managed to perform her latest trick – holding two things aloft telekinetically at once, in this case, taking some feed from the bowl and putting it into Elizabeak’s cage. The chicken eagerly leapt in after it, and Dinky closed the cage’s door quickly, locking it securely. Elizabeak seemed not to mind as the hen pecked away at her feed, but the remaining chickens were, by now, in an uproar and probably contemplating launching a coup for the coop in order to get their beaks on feed. Sighing heavily, Dinky began using her hooves to give feed to every chicken, making sure none got left out, all the while hoping that Miss Fluttershy wouldn’t come by and see that she was feeding the chickens again, albeit significantly smaller portions than their normal meals. Once finished with her task, the filly rushed out of the chicken coop and closed the door securely.
“Take that,” Dinky proclaimed proudly, as she trotted away from the chicken coop.
Ahh ahh ahh ahhh...
My little pony
Friendship never meant that much to me
My little pony
But you're all here and now I can see
Stormy weather; Lots to share
A musical bond; With love and care
Teaching laughter; It's an easy feat,
And magic makes it all complete!
You have my little ponies
How'd I ever make so many true friends?
Dinky Doo wasn’t quite sure what introverted meant, but she knew that Miss Fluttershy was a shining example of introvertedness (which was probably a word), barely ever interacting with any other pony due to her being extremely, well, shy. In fact, Miss Fluttershy really only ever talked to three ponies that Dinky knew of. The first was Rainbow Dash, the town’s weather manager whom Dinky knew was Fluttershy’s oldest friend. The second was Dinky’s mother, Ditzy Doo, who delivered mail to Fluttershy and also often would run errands in town for the yellow-coated pegasus. And the third was Dinky herself. That, though, was probably only because even a pony like Fluttershy couldn’t possibly be shy around a pony she’d known since that pony was only a few days old.
Dinky smiled across the table at Miss Fluttershy even as she put the three silver bits that she’d given her into her winter cloak, telekinetically. “Thank-you!” Dinky said as she did, though despite her enthusiasm, she kept her voice down. Miss Fluttershy tended to flinch away from loud speaking voices, Dinky had learned.
“You’re welcome,” Fluttershy responded sweetly. Most of what Miss Fluttershy said came out sweetly. There wasn’t a bad bone in her body. Dinky sometimes wondered if that was maybe a problem, though. “Don’t spend it all in one place!”
Dinky was old enough to know that saying that phrase was really more of a tradition than an actual request, so she just smiled and nodded. A thought occurred to her, though, as she did, one that oddly hadn’t come to her despite helping Fluttershy out with housekeeping for about a year now. “Miss Fluttershy, can I ask a question?”
“Of course, dear.”
Dinky considered. “It’s kind of a personal question.”
For a moment, Fluttershy looked almost panicked at the thought of having to answer a personal question, but in a surprising show of resolve, the yellow pegasus steeled herself. “Well, as long as it’s not too personal…”
Dinky shook her head. “I don’t think so. I’m just wondering where you get all your bits from. I mean, I don’t think you have a job like momma or even like Miss Trixie…”
“Oh,” Fluttershy responded, looking much relieved at the nature of the question; apparently she didn’t consider it ‘too personal.’ “Um, I’m independently wealthy.”
Dinky Doo stared. She understood the individual words, but not the phrase. Fluttershy seemed to realize this after a few moments, and explained. “My family, the Poseys, are invested in the weather production for Equestria.”
“Oh, sorry…” Fluttershy apologized, putting a hoof to her mouth. “Um…we own a part of the weather factory in Cloudsdale.”
“Really?” Dinky asked eagerly. Not too long ago, they had learned a little about weather production in school. “What part? The rainbow fountain? The lightning coils?”
“Oh, no,” Fluttershy explained, looking embarrassed. “Um, I don’t mean an actual part. We’re invested in it. It means that any money that the factory makes, my family gets a share of. Um, a large share. A controlling share, actually. Then we put the money we get into the bank, and it collects interest. That means that the banks give us money just for having money.”
Dinky’s jaw dropped at that concept. Suddenly a phrase she’d heard once, the rich get richer, made a lot more sense.
“Oh, but only if they think it’s a safe investment!” Fluttershy explained quickly. “We have to keep most of it in the banks, we can only spend so much each year or else we don’t earn interest anymore, and it only does that because it’s been in there for a long, long time. But, um…yeah. It’s all a bit much back in Cloudsdale, so I live in Ponyville instead and just let my parents and brother and sister handle everything.”
Dinky blinked a few times as she took this in. “Wow,” she intoned. “That’s really neat, Miss Fluttershy!”
Fluttershy beamed. “Thank-you, Dinky Doo. But, um, why – if you don’t mind me asking, that is, I mean – why are you so interested in money all of a sudden?”
Dinky considered telling Miss Fluttershy about her secret. Secrets were hard to keep, after all, but Dinky had once heard Miss Trixie said that a secret stops being secret if more than one pony knows about it. Then again, Miss Fluttershy had been instrumental in Dinky getting to the point she was currently at. When Dinky’s mother had to work on the weekends, Miss Fluttershy foal-sat for Dinky, and Dinky would help Miss Fluttershy around her cottage with all the animals that Miss Fluttershy tended to. Miss Fluttershy had even begun paying her the three bits every week, stating that if a pony did work, she should be rewarded somehow.
A gentle knocking came from the front door to Fluttershy’s home before Dinky could blurt out everything and, by extension, possibly ruin everything. Fluttershy flinched noticeably, looking like she was about to leap for cover, but managed to not flee at Dinky Doo hopped from where she’d been sitting in front of the table and ran over to the nearest window to check outside, quickly spotting the gray-coated, yellow maned pegasus pony, still dressed in her blue mail mare’s uniform despite now being off-shift and the sun nearing the horizon to the west. “It’s momma!” the filly exclaimed happily as she rushed to the door and opened it with her hooves – there was no way she could concentrate on telekinesis right now – and quickly bursting through and nuzzling her mother, who returned the nuzzle eagerly.
Fact: Ditzy Doo was the best mother in the world. There were a lot of reasons for this, and a lot of fillies and colts claimed this about their mothers, but as far as she was concerned, her mother had actual proof, in the form of being the Element of Kindness. Not having the Element of Kindness – actually being the Element of Kindness. Ditzy Doo had tried to explain it to her daughter, and a lot of it had gone over Dinky’s head, but the unicorn filly certainly understood that this was altogether a more impressive feat than simply having the Element.
Eventually, the embrace had to end, and Ditzy Doo pulled away from Dinky and met her eyes. With her right eye, anyway, the other having drifted off, and for that matter Ditzy Doo had to turn her head a little to even get the right one to look at her daughter. Dinky’s mom had something the doctors called strabismus pretty badly, which meant that her two eyes almost never aligned properly without her mother trying really hard. But Dinky didn’t care about that. “Hi, momma!” Dinky exclaimed.
“Hi, muffin,” Dinky responded with a warm smile. “How was everything today?”
“Great! I helped Miss Fluttershy with her chickens since she had to help Mister Fox.”
“Who’s an actual fox, right?” Ditzy asked, looking past Dinky at Fluttershy, who had gotten up from the table and approached the door, considerably more at-ease now that she knew that the pony who had shown up at her door was both already known to her, and expected regardless.
“Yes,” Fluttershy confirmed. “The poor thing had broken his tail, I don’t know how he managed to do it to himself…”
“Probably trying to get at your chickens,” Ditzy theorized.
Fluttershy’s eyes widened, covering her mouth with her front hooves. “Oh, no! Mister Fox would never! He promised me ever since he came here once with a bad ear infection.”
Had anypony else said that, it might have sounded crazy, but both mother and daughter had learned long ago that Fluttershy really could talk to animals; indeed, it was her special talent, signified by her cutie mark of a trio of butterflies. Therefore, instead of seeking out the nearest doctor, Ditzy Doo just nodded. “Well,” she said, leaning down to nuzzle Dinky again, “I’d love to stay and chat, Fluttershy, but I’ve had a long day. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll just get going.”
Dinky was already getting her winter cap and cape. Pegasus ponies like her mother and Fluttershy tended to have a natural resistance to cold weather, but Dinky was a unicorn pony and wasn’t quite so lucky. Winter and snow were fun, but she was eagerly looking forward to winter wrap-up, which would be arriving in only a few short weeks, especially seeing as there had been extra snowfall and cold weather scheduled over the past few weeks since the Longest Night festival and…
…well, Dinky tried not to think about what had happened too much, but in short an evil alicorn had escaped from her thousand-year imprisonment on the sun and made it really hot, like a summer day, outside in the middle of winter, melting a lot of snow. The weather services across Equestria had to make up for that with a colder winter than had been planned for some reason that went over Dinky's head, but which Dinky accepted as "very important."
Fluttershy had nodded at Ditzy Doo’s statement. “Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow.” she looked to Dinky. “And I’ll see you next week, Dinky Doo!”
“Next week!” Dinky promised with a smile.
Dinky and Ditzy turned and left Fluttershy’s cottage at that, walking down from the small hill it was perched on, Dinky sticking close to her mother, something that even the little filly had realized she’d been doing more ever since the Longest Night festival. Dinky had heard some terms like traumatic experience (Dinky understood that to mean ‘something very scary that still scares you even after it’s over’) tossed around in reference to the other thing that the evil alicorn, Corona, had done: kidnapped Dinky and about fifty other foals, holding them hostage in order to make Ponyville do what she said. That had been scary, but at the end of it her mother had saved her and everypony else, and become the Element of Kindness as well. If Corona showed up again, Dinky was certain that her mother would just get Miss Trixie, Miss Carrot Top, and all the other Elements of Harmony, and make Corona go away just like they had last time.
…still, no reason not to stick close to her mother, just in case.
A chill wind chose that moment to sweep across the fields that lay between Ponyville proper and the Everfree Forest, which Fluttershy’s cottage sat near the edge of. Dinky shivered a little at it, and her mother noticed. “Want a ride?” Ditzy asked, kneeling a little so that Ditzy could get on her back, where it was warm and her mother could use her wings to keep cold winds from Dinky’s face.
Dinky paused, however. Her mother had just had a long shift at the post office, and Dinky knew that this was following a long shift yesterday, as well. Her hooves and shoulders and dock would be sore, and she was already more trudging than trotting. Basically, Ditzy Doo looked tired, and Dinky didn’t want to add to that. “I’m okay,” she said, which wasn’t quite a lie, as while she was a little cold, she was hardly freezing. “It’s just a little cold. I don’t want to be a bother.”
Ditzy Doo blinked a few times at that. “Dinky, you’re never a bother,” she said.
“But you had a long workday and – ”
Her mother cut her off with a smile, and leaned forward, nuzzling her. “Dinky Doo, one day not too long from now you’re probably going to be too big for me to carry, and not want me to carry you anyway. I’d like to get in as much as possible while I can.” She smiled at Dinky. “It’s my birthday in a week, you could call it an early birthday gift.”
Dinky waited only a moment more before smiling and nodding, climbing onto her mother’s back and nuzzling her neck and mane. “Happy birthday,” she wished.
Ditzy Doo stood easily and trotted with a notable spring to her step, looking over her shoulder and smiling at Dinky Doo as her wings raised to keep her daughter safe from any stray winter breezes that might come along. “Best gift ever,” she informed her filly.
Dinky Doo’s home was an apartment over the post office. It was small, consisting of only a kitchenette, a room which did double duty as both living room and dining room, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. It was, however, fairly modern, with gas lights and gas heating. The latter was somewhat unreliable, though, so occasionally on very cold nights the living/dining room pulled extra duty as Ditzy and Dinky’s bedroom, since it also had a more traditional wood fireplace. Tonight, though, the heat seemed to be behaving itself.
On coming home, Ditzy Doo had immediately begun preparing dinner, with Dinky helping out as much as possible. Sometimes Ditzy and Dinky had to make do to fairly small meals – Dinky understood that being a mail mare didn’t pay nearly as well as Dinky thought it should have, given that Ditzy Doo helped keep Ponyville in contact with the rest of Equestria – but saving the whole world from Corona had prompted Princess Luna to grant each of the Elements of Harmony a sizeable reward. Dinky didn’t know how much, exactly, but her mother had been rendered speechless at first when Miss Trixie had come by to explain it all, and had spent most of the next few days walking on starlight. Tonight, dinner consisted of a big loaf of bread, almost the size of Dinky’s head, and a larger assortment of vegetables than Dinky had ever seen in one place. Carrots, celery, zucchini, broccoli, tomato (which was a vegetable in Dinky’s eyes no matter what Miss Cheerilee told her), two kinds of lettuce, along with shredded parmesan cheese and croutons, all arranged into a massive salad for the two to split.
(Dinky was less than happy about the zucchini, but being a foal, she had learned numerous techniques to avoid eating it – mostly).
After dinner, Dinky had to go to bed almost immediately, as she had school in the morning. Her mother tucked her in to her bed, and sang a lullaby for her. Dinky pretended to fall asleep, though only slowly so that her mother wouldn’t suspect a thing. Once Ditzy Doo had left her bedroom, however, Dinky quietly climbed out of bed, retrieving two of the three silver bits from her winter cloak, and making her way over to her bedroom’s closet. Inside of her closet was a box, filled with various odds and ends that had caught her eyes as she’d grown up, but more importantly the box covered a loose floorboard. Pulling up the floorboard revealed – thanks to Dinky’s softly-glowing horn – a mass of silver and a piece of paper. Specifically, ninety-eight silver bits, a number that grew by two as Dinky put her newly earned bits into the pile.
It had been hard, so very hard, saving up all this money, rather than spending it on candy and toys like Miss Fluttershy expected her to do. And she did, admittedly, keep one of the three bits she earned for herself every week, which she would spend on whatever she liked.
But this was Dinky’s secret/surprise, or at least it was the secret that was going to help her get the surprise. Dinky had the best mother in the world, and the best mother in the world deserved the best birthday gift in the world. Last year, all Dinky Doo had been able to get for her mother was a hoof-made card. Ditzy Doo had loved it, and Dinky knew that her mother had loved it, but it just didn’t seem like enough. Unfortunately, any real gift required money, which was in an even shorter supply for Dinky than it was for Ditzy Doo, given that she was just a foal who hadn't even earned her cutie mark yet.
Then Miss Fluttershy had started paying her for helping her at the cottage each week when she looked after her, and Dinky had formed a Plan: save the money. Most of it, anyway. But she had to save it secretly, lest her mother realize what she was up to and ruin the surprise. Of course, even Dinky hadn’t known quite what to get her mother, but a few weeks ago, that had changed when Diamond Tiara, from school, had mentioned off-hand to her friend Silver Spoon – and Dinky Doo had overheard – that a brand-new jewelry store would be opening up in Ponyville soon, and that her daddy was going to get her anything she wanted from it as soon as it opened.
Dinky didn’t like Diamond Tiara much, but right then and there she considered the earth pony filly her best friend. Dinky’s mother didn’t have any jewelry, though not by choice; she simply couldn’t afford it. Jewelry was expensive, but surely with a hundred silver bits, Dinky could go into the jewelry store, find something, and then give her mother the birthday gift she deserved.
The unicorn filly picked up the piece of paper in her hooves, torn from a newspaper, and looked it over, double-checking the date of the store’s opening once again. Nothing had changed: the store would be opening its doors for the first time, at 9 AM, tomorrow.
Dinky covered her secret stash once more, and climbed back into bed, thinking thoughts that were nearly as sweet as her mother’s lullaby. Tomorrow, she would walk into Amethyst Star’s Fine Jewelers, buy something – a necklace, or earrings, or bangles, or something – and all her hard work would finally pay off.
Of course, she had to make it through school first.
“Can anypony tell me what the oldest city in Equestria is?”
It was hard to concentrate when one was carrying around a hundred bits at the bottom of one’s school bag, after all.
Not the least of which because Dinky Doo couldn’t have it with her at her desk. She needed to leave it along the classroom’s side wall, along with everypony else’s bags.
“Not quite. Canterlot is a very old city, in fact it was the first city built in Equestria after the three pony tribes came together. But it’s not the oldest city in Equestria.”
Anypony could just take Dinky’s bag if she wasn’t careful. Of course, nopony had a reason to do that. Nopony knew that she had a hundred silver bits in the bottom. It wasn’t something that she advertised, after all; that would potentially spoil her secret, even if she was finally going to disclose the information to somepony today
“How does that work? If it was the first city built in Equestria is has to be the oldest!”
What was especially jarring was that, due to the positioning of the desks in Ponyville’s school house, Dinky could not currently see her bag. There were several students in the way.
“It is the second-oldest, but after Equestria was founded the oldest city was moved inside of it. In fact, this city has the distinction of being the oldest continuously inhabited city in the whole world!”
Nopony could have taken it, though – Dinky’s was watching the room’s entrance like a hawk, and nopony in the way had moved enough to discretely grab it.
“Scootaloo? Can you take a guess?”
Unless a unicorn had telekinetically grabbed it. Dinky wasn’t the only unicorn in class, after all, and some of the unicorns in class were further along with their telekinetic practice than she was, thanks to usually having unicorn older siblings or parents to teach them.
“Scootaloo, you’re asleep, aren’t you? …again.”
“She’s just, um…resting her eyes!”
“Nice try, Sweetie Belle.”
Dinky leaned back, trying to see if her bag was still there. She was not going let a whole year of saving her bits go to waste!
There was a bang, probably the sound of a hoof slamming on a desk, which Dinky jumped slightly at, but didn’t otherwise take notice of.
“Scootaloo, please see me after class.”
“I wasn’t sleeping! I was…um…resting my eyes! Honest!”
“Oh really? Then can you tell me what the oldest city in Equestria is?”
Can’t…see…Dinky scooted backwards as nonchalantly as possible. It’s still there…right…?
“That’s correct, Scootaloo,” Miss Cheerilee said, which sounded utterly bizarre coming from her mouth, and she knew it. “Was that a guess?”
“No,” Scootaloo responded quickly. Miss Cheerilee eyed Scootaloo, and after a moment the pegasus filly looked down, dejected. “Yeah, it was. I’ll see you in a few.”
I mean I know nopony has any reason to take it but that’s usually when the worst things happen, right when you don’t think they will…
“Yes you will. Dinky Doo? Can you tell us why Cloudsdale was so important to early Equestrian history?”
There’s a hundred bits and that’s fifty weeks of work, I don’t want it undone just because somepony like maybe Snips or Snails thought it’d be funny to hide my bag but then they see that there’s money in it and take it and –
Just because nopony knows that there’s a hundred bits in my bag –
“I don’t have a hundred bits in my bag!”
There was a bout of silence when somepony exclaimed that. Dinky blinked. Who else could have had that much money on them? Not Diamond Tiara or Silver Spoon, they didn’t need to carry money around with them since their parents would just get them anything that…
…oh. Wait. That had been her. Dinky stared, wide-eyed, at Miss Cheerilee, as Miss Cheerilee stared back, equally baffled by Dinky’s exclamation. “I mean…um…” Dinky tried. She glanced at the chalk board, saw the words Ancient History written on it, and took a leap of faith. “The Smooze?”
Miss Cheerilee blinked a few times, her confusion seeming to grow. “…that’s correct,” she confirmed. “Among other things, Cloudsdale’s position, high in the Equestrian sky, allowed it to avoid many of the disasters that plagued early Equestria.” She eyed Dinky. “That was a guess too, wasn’t it?”
“Too?” Dinky asked. Had she guessed on an answer earlier without realizing it? “Um…I mean…” Dinky wanted to lie, but she held back the desire. Lying to Miss Cheerilee rarely worked, and Dinky knew lying was bad, anyway. “Yes, Miss Cheerilee.”
Miss Cheerilee looked disappointed, even more so when her eyes fell upon Dinky’s desk and the page of half-completed, mostly incorrect notes that sat there – notes set atop a book titled Arithmetic, the first class of the day. Dinky hadn’t been paying attention since then.
Dinky hated seeing that disappointed look. “Please see me after – ” Miss Cheerilee began, when the school bell rang out, a signal that class was over and lunch break and recess would begin. Technically, nopony was supposed to leave until Miss Cheerilee gave them permission, but the earth pony teacher knew better than to try and stop the classroom of colts and fillies from getting up from their desks and heading towards their school bags. Even the ponies sitting right next to the wall, though, weren’t as fast as Dinky Doo was in reaching her school bag. Dinky let out another sigh, this time a long one of massive relief, as she hefted her bag in her teeth and felt the comforting weight of a hundred bits still pulling it down. She turned to bring it with her over to Miss Cheerilee’s desk, but found herself instead face-to-face with the better part of the foals in class.
“Do you really have a hundred bits in there?” Featherweight asked, eyeing Dinky’s bag dubiously. Dinky let go of it with her teeth, instead opting to hug it close to her barrel, holding on tightly with her front hooves.
“There’s no way!” Silver Spoon objected, as her constant companion, Diamond Tiara, nodded in agreement. “Her mom’s just a mail mare!”
Dinky bristled at that. “My momma’s not ‘just’ a mail mare! Being a mail mare is a super-important job and – ”
“I’ve never seen a hundred bits in one place before!” Archer exclaimed. “Can I see?”
“Did you steal it?” Diamond Tiara asked. “I bet that’s it.”
Dinky’s eyes grew wide. “N-no! My momma has Miss Fluttershy take care of me on the weekends since she has to work all day both days, and I help Miss Fluttershy with her animals and she pays me – ”
“Right…” Silver Spoon interrupted, rolling her eyes. “From what I hear Fluttershy is even poorer than you!”
“No she’s not!” Dinky objected. “And we’re not poor, we’ve got each other – ”
“Dinky Doo,” Cheerilee called from her desk, which Scootaloo was sitting in front of – Dinky idly wondered what the pegasus filly had done this time. “Could you come over here, please? Everypony else please go and enjoy recess – no, Scootaloo, that doesn’t mean you until I’ve talked to you!”
One by one, the other colts and fillies of the class shuffled outside. Dinky made a point of ignoring them as she made her way over to Miss Cheerilee’s desk, bringing her bag with her as she did. Scootaloo eyed it. “Do you really have a hundred bits?”
“Now, Scootaloo, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” Miss Cheerilee said, before Dinky could respond. She looked to Dinky. “Both of you. I know that history class can be boring for some ponies, but it’s important that you learn to focus.”
“Yes, Miss Cheerilee,” Dinky confirmed, again hugging her bag close as she eyed Scootaloo. The orange pegasus filly continued to alternate between looking at Miss Cheerilee, and glancing at Dinky’s bag, though she did at least nod to what her teacher had said. Dinky guessed that there were even odds as to whether or not Scootaloo had actually heard Miss Cheerilee, or if she’d just nodded at the appropriate time.
Cheerilee let out a sigh as she mostly likely reached the same conclusion. “I’m giving each of you extra homework for tonight,” she said. “I want a two page summary of the history of Equestria, from its founding until when the Princesses first arrived. Alright?”
“But that’s, like, a bazillion years!” Scootaloo objected. Apparently she was paying attention, which Dinky privately admitted to herself was surprising.
“It’s about a hundred, Scootaloo.”
Miss Cheerilee looked more disappointed. “Everything you should need is right in your history book,” she assured the filly. “And you two will need to make sure that you do this homework for the test in a few weeks. You, especially, Scootaloo.”
The pegasus sighed. “Okay, okay…” she grumbled.
“Alright, that’s all. You can go outside now; I need to talk to Dinky Doo in private.”
Scootaloo’s wings and ears both perked up at that, as she turned once more to Dinky. “Do you really have a hundred bits?” she asked again, her melancholy at her extra work forgotten – along with, most likely, the extra work she had to do. “That’d be so cool…”
Dinky couldn’t stop herself from nodding. Now that her secret was out, at least to all the ponies here, she may as well take pride in her accomplishment. Toot your own horn because nopony else will, as her mother said (though Dinky understood – now, after trial and error – that the phrase did not refer to the actual horn on her forehead). “Uh-huh!” Dinky confirmed after a moment. Before she knew it, she had opened her school bag, removed the paper bag that had her lunch in it, and was showing off the contents to Scootaloo, while glancing in herself, just in case. She was happy and relieved to discover that, in fact, her bag still contained a few school books and, at its bottom, her hundred silver bits.
The pegasus filly’s eyes widened at the sight. “Wow! What do you have it for? How’d you get it? What are you gonna get with it? I can’t even – ”
“Scootaloo,” Miss Cheerilee interrupted. “I need to talk to Dinky. If she wants to, she can tell you during recess.”
Scootaloo’s head and wings sagged. “Okay…” she moaned, trotting over to her bag and bringing it with her outside of the school house.
Dinky waited for Scootaloo to leave before speaking. “Am I in trouble?” she asked.
Cheerilee offered a slight grin. “Well, for not paying attention in class, yes, but I think I can understand why,” she said, getting out from behind her desk and coming around to Scootaloo’s former school, current treasure bag. Her smile dropped after a moment, however. “But I have to ask, where did you get this all?”
“Miss Fluttershy,” Dinky said. “She pays me three bits every weekend for helping her around her house, and I’ve been keeping and saving up two each week for a whole year now. Secretly. But today I’m going to spend it all.”
Cheerilee nodded. “Your mother mentioned that she leaves you at Fluttershy’s on the weekends…but Dinky, why did you bring it into school? Don’t you think it’d be better – safer – to just ask your mother to take you into town?”
Dinky’s eyes widened, and she shook her head furiously. “Uh-uh! Momma can’t know that I saved all this up! Not ‘till her birthday, anyway. I’ve been saving it all up for her to get her a birthday gift for the end of the week, but if she knows then it’ll ruin the surprise!”
Miss Cheerilee faltered a little at that. “You’ve been saving up money a whole year for that?” she asked.
“Yup!” Dinky’s teacher apparently needed a moment to digest that fact, which confused Dinky. Why wouldn’t she have saved up for her mother? “It’s just…last year I made her a card in arts and crafts, and it was nice and all, I guess, and she was really happy, but I’m pretty sure I misspelled a word or two and my drawing was awful and there was too much glitter, and momma liked it but I know she just liked that I made her a card and not the actual card. So this year I’m getting momma a necklace, or bangles, or earrings, or something nice!”
Cheerilee stared a few moments more. “I have a toothache,” she noted.
Dinky frowned. “Maybe you should go see Doctor Minuette,” she suggested, naming Ponyville’s resident dentist.
“…maybe,” Cheerilee confirmed, then shook her head to clear it. “Nevertheless, Dinky, I wish you had told me about this at the beginning of the day. If you were so concerned about all this money that it was distracting you in class, I could have held onto it for you.”
“Oh,” Dinky said, scratching the back of her head with one hoof. “Yeah…I guess I could have done that…” In fact, it probably would have made her life much easier, or at least prevented her from having extra homework to do tonight. Miss Cheerilee was an Element of Harmony too, just like Dinky’s mother, after all – specifically, the Element of Laughter – and had helped Dinky’s mother save Dinky from Corona, and incidentally save the world in the process. She was completely trustworthy.
“It’s alright. But would you like me to hold onto it for the rest of the day?”
Dinky nodded, passing her bag over to Miss Cheerilee, who took it easily in her teeth and put it into one of her desk’s larger drawers, locking the drawer securely afterwards as Dinky watched. “There we are,” Cheerilee said. “Just come to me after recess for any books you need.”
“Okay!” Dinky confirmed, as she grabbed the paper bag that contained her lunch from where she’d left it with her telekinesis. She’d learned to only grab on to part of a delicate object, in this case the top of the bag, in order to avoid squishing whatever was inside of it. Usually.
“And let me know if anypony is bothering you too much during recess,” Cheerilee continued as the two made their way to the door. “Don’t be surprised if you’re suddenly the most popular filly in school…”
Dinky nodded in confirmation as Cheerilee opened the school house’s door – and Dinky Doo and Cheerilee found themselves looking straight into the eyes of the dozen or so colts and fillies of Ponyville’s elementary school, who hadn’t gone far from the schoolhouse, least of all since Scootaloo had come out and, from the looks of things, confirmed the existence of Dinky Doo’s hundred silver bits.
The colts and fillies stared back.
“I’m going to just have lunch inside,” Dinky decided, backing away a few hoof-steps. She didn’t get far.
“I wanna eat inside too, Miss Cheerilee!”
“’Cause the sun’s too bright!”
“Where’d you get all those bits?”
“Gah!” Dinky exclaimed as the stampede hit.
Ditzy Doo would have had to commit some kind of treason to get fired from her job. After three years of working at the post office, she may not have been a post master quite yet, but she was utterly indispensable. She knew every job and could cover for anypony, knew every delivery route by heart, could find any missive, no matter how lost it was, in record time, had never failed to complete her route. The hours were long, yes, and sometimes seemingly random from week to week; and yes, the pay was awful, but she had basically in all other ways had turned the post office of Ponyville into her own little Castle Doo, with Ponyville as her fiefdom and herself as its duchess, and little could truly make her unhappy while she reigned.
Her current task – delivering mail along the longest route in Ponyville, this following two very long, very tedious shifts of running the office over the weekend – was making a serious attempt at it, though.
“Soon as I’m post master…” Ditzy grumbled as she trudged away from Fluttershy’s, which had been the halfway point of her route, “soon as I am…every route in Ponyville is being redrawn. Especially this one. Who lays down a route that goes from the Everfree to Sweet Apple Acres?”
Ditzy paused as she considered her own question. “Not a word, me,” she insisted, knowing full well what blond-maned, gray-coated, wall-eyed foal of a pegasus had done so, as she’d convinced post master Silver Script to add Fluttershy’s cottage to this route, as it was Ditzy’s typical one, and Fluttershy would accept mail and deliveries from nopony else.
Well, it wasn’t all bad, at least. She had a relatively short shift today, and tomorrow off. Tomorrow she could sleep in as late as she wanted – Dinky was more than old enough to make her own breakfast – and when she was up, could spend the whole day with Dinky Doo, do anything that her daughter wanted…
Ditzy Doo’s thoughts trailed off as she noticed somepony galloping up the road. Slowing her trot, she saw that it was, of all ponies, Trixie. The blue-coated unicorn, Ponyville’s new Night Court representative, was dressed in her normal ensemble of a wizard’s star-studded, purple hat and cape, but more importantly her eyes were wide in slight panic.
Ditzy Doo liked Trixie. For one thing, the unicorn had seemed to take a shining to her daughter, had helped Dinky develop her nascent telekinesis, a task that Ditzy, being a pegasus, was almost completely unable to help in. For another, Trixie was the Element of Magic, and had helped save the world alongside Ditzy and the other four ponies who had ventured into the Everfree Forest two months back.
Two months? Had it really only been that long?
In any event, seeing Trixie panicked like this was enough to get Ditzy worried. “Trixie?” Ditzy asked, as the unicorn skidded to a halt in front of Ditzy Doo. “What’s wrong?”
Trixie tried to speak, but could only suck in air for a few moments – unicorns were frail compared to the other two pony tribes to begin with, and Trixie was frankly used to a life of relative comfort and luxury in Canterlot. She waved off Ditzy’s concern with one hoof, however. “Nothing!” The unicorn swore when she could speak. “Nothing. Everything’s fine. Everything’s in hoof. In hoof. Fluttershy has chickens, right?”
Ditzy stared. “Trixie, normally you’re a lot better at lying than this.”
“Lying?” Trixie asked, eyes wide. “Moi?”
“Vous,” Ditzy confirmed.
“Alright, I’m lying, but it’s almost certainly nothing permanent as long as Fluttershy has chickens and I get them to Lyra in…” beneath her hat, Trixie’s horn glowed as she closed her eyes, “soon.”
“In soon?” Ditzy echoed, concern mounting. Lyra was another Element holder, in her case, Loyalty.
“Yes. Chickens? Fluttershy?”
“What did you do to Lyra?”
“Probably nothing but I don’t really have time to explain it. Unless Fluttershy doesn’t have chickens. Then I guess I have time.”
Ditzy’s concern peaked at that. “Yes, she has chickens – ”
“Great!” Trixie said, getting ready to set off again.
“Wait!” Ditzy interrupted. “You’ll probably need me to talk to Fluttershy if – ”
“See, that assumes I’m asking permission, which I don’t have time to do,” Trixie said as she took off at a gallop, horn glowing. As Ditzy watched, Trixie seemed to be rubbed out of reality by a blue glow, the glow itself fading from sight within moments. “Don’t worry!” A voice, now without an obvious point of origin, called back. “All I need are a few chicken feathers!”
Ditzy stared down the road, blinking a few times. She raised a hoof to start chasing down Trixie, or at least to tell Fluttershy of what Trixie was up to, but considered how that scenario would probably play out.
“Fluttershy,” Ditzy Doo explained as calmly as possible, “Trixie is stealing chicken feathers.”
“Wh-what?” Fluttershy asked, looking into her chicken coop. “B-but I don’t see her!”
“That’s because she’s invisible. In fact, she could be standing right next to you now.”
“Eep,” exclaimed Fluttershy, before she fell over, dead from fright.
Ditzy Doo shook her head. Fluttershy didn’t need to know that a pony she was already irrationally afraid of, whom she believed hated her for completely unfounded reasons, could turn invisible. Sighing, Ditzy Doo turned back to her mail route. Trixie almost certainly wouldn’t have done anything too horrible to Lyra, and Ditzy strongly suspected that whatever she had done involved spellcasting, something that Ditzy wouldn’t have been able to offer much help on anyway. She’d finish her route as quickly as possible, then see what was going on.
At least that's my surrealism quota for the day, Ditzy Doo supposed.
Dinky Doo had picked up a second tail to compliment the normal one on her dock. This second tail consisted of most of the colts and fillies from school, following close behind her as she trotted from the schoolhouse at the end of the day. In fact, the only missing filly was Diamond Tiara, whose father had picked her up at the end of the school day, and Dinky had a feeling that she’d be seeing her fairly soon.
The remaining foals would probably have been swarming around her rather than merely following, but walking next to Dinky was Miss Cheerilee, who had decided that Dinky shouldn’t be carrying a hundred bits around on her own without a chaperone, something that, given the effect it was having on everypony in school, was probably a good idea.
Not that it prevented them from trotting up alongside of her in groups of twos and threes and asking, of course.
“So what’s it really for?” Featherweight asked.
“I told you,” Dinky insisted, “it’s a surprise for my momma.”
“But not all of it.” Snips insisted. “You’re not gonna spend all of it just on your mom, right?”
“I’m gonna try! It’s my for my momma’s birthday!”
“That’th tho thweet!” Twist – an earth pony filly who had difficulty with her s’s, and who also wore thick glasses – exclaimed. “What are you going to get her? I bet your mom would look great with bangleth!”
“If you don’t mind my advice, Dinky,” Miss Cheerilee piped in, “I wouldn’t get bangles. They look pretty, but they tend to chafe the fetlocks.”
“Okay!” Dinky confirmed, happy for the advice – she certainly wasn’t sure what her mother would want most, but eliminating something that would be uncomfortable to wear was a step in the right direction, at least.
“But really, all of it?” Scootaloo asked, wings buzzing as she galloped in front of Dinky, though she kept moving so that Dinky wouldn’t have to stop. “Think about what you could get with that. Like a scooter! I'd get a new scooter."
“Did yours break again?” Sweetie Belle asked her friend, calling out from behind Dinky Doo.
“No, but if I could have two scooters I bet I wouldn’t wear ‘em out so fast,” Scootaloo observed.
By now, the impromptu field trip was reaching its destination. They had reached Ponyville’s town center, and were on the same street that Amethyst Star’s Fine Jewelers had set up. Surprisingly, despite it being a new building, it had been built to match the general rustic aesthetic of Ponyville, a two-story building with a thatched roof. The front of the building had large glass windows, however, displaying a variety of finely wrought necklaces, bangles, earrings, horn-rings, and other jewelry, mostly wrought from silver and with all manner of gemstones set into most of them. The store displayed price tags with daunting numbers on them, but the store also had a banner on it reading Grand Opening - 25% off everything!
“Miss Cheerilee, how much is that?” Dinky asked, pointing at the banner.
“It means everything is reduced by a quarter in price,” the earth pony explained. “So if something had cost a hundred bits, it now only costs seventy-five, for example. That’s actually pretty lucky, Dinky, because – ”
“’Cause now you can keep twenty-five bits for yourself!” Scootaloo helpfully filled in.
“Or,” Miss Cheerilee continued, “you could buy something that would normally cost about a hundred and thirty bits, for just a hundred bits.”
Dinky’s eyes widened at that, and a broad grin split her features. “That’s great!” She exclaimed, putting her hooves to the window as she looked over the jewelry in the window with that new tidbit of knowledge. She spotted a pair of earrings and a horn-ring both within that price range. The horn-ring she couldn’t really get her mother, of course, but the earrings, maybe – and who knew what else was inside?
“Okay, class,” Cheerilee said, turning around to face all the foals. “I think we should leave Dinky Doo alone to make her decision, and I doubt Miss Amethyst Star would like a whole classroom of foals showing up without intending to buy anything.”
The foals all looked somewhat disappointed in that, but did begin breaking up, leaving to head to their respective homes. Scootaloo lingered a moment more, however, along with Sweetie Belle. “I guess it is pretty nice, what you’re doing for your mom,” the filly admitted after a moment. “I’d still want a new scooter or something.”
“Yeah, but this is for my momma’s birthday,” Dinky said. “It’s important.”
“I guess,” Scootaloo repeated, as she and Sweetie Belle turned around and took off. “See you tomorrow!”
Dinky waved goodbye, then turned and looked to Miss Cheerilee. “Okay,” she said. “Thanks, Miss Cheerilee.”
“Anytime, Dinky,” Cheerilee responded. “Would you like me to come in with you and help you decide?”
Dinky thought a moment, then shook her head. “No thank-you. I think I want to decide for myself.”
“I can understand that. I’m sure whatever you pick, your mother will love it.”
Dinky nodded at that, though inwardly she was grinning. “Okay. See you tomorrow, Miss Cheerilee!”
“Tomorrow,” Cheerilee confirmed, turning around and trotting off.
Dinky, meanwhile, turned around and back to the door. She felt like she was standing at the edge of a lake that she knew was going to be cold, but that she was going to jump in anyway. “Here we go…”
Dinky had earlier denied that she and her mother were poor, but, well, that had been an impulsive lie. She knew that money was ‘tight,’ that they ‘couldn’t afford to waste it,’ and all sorts of other things that her mother said to her that really meant that they were poor, or at least they had been prior to Ditzy Doo being rewarded for saving the world. Dinky didn’t know exactly what they were now, but she did know that her mother’s penchant for being careful with money hadn’t just disappeared just because money wasn’t as ‘tight’ as it had been. Dinky was used to her mother browsing in the market, always seeking out the best deals, and never buying something until she’d confirmed that it was definitely what she wanted. Therefore, Dinky had not been expecting to walk into Amethyst Star’s fine Jewelers and immediately set eyes upon the perfect birthday present for her mother.
But Lo and Behold: there it was. The inside of the shop was set up with a U-shaped trio of display cases, with the opening of the U being the wall with the door. And straight across from the door, in the exact center of that display case, right at Dinky Doo’s eye level, there it was: a necklace, with a bright silver, almost white, thin chain, which held a pendant with a yellow gem in it, cut to be eight-sided, and which was either the same color as her mother’s eyes, or so close that Dinky couldn’t tell the difference.
Price: 127 bits, but Miss Cheerilee had said, with everything reduced by one-quarter in price, that she could buy something that normally cost up to a hundred and thirty bits, so Dinky would even have bits to spare. Not quite enough to buy a scooter, but that was alright as Dinky didn’t want a scooter anyway.
Dinky had only just finished opening the door, had only just heard the bell on it ring, but somehow Dinky knew that necklace was what she was going to get for her mother, regardless of what else was in the store that she could afford.
“Hello, welcome to – ” A bright, cheerful voice began from behind a display case as Dinky finished walking in. Dinky looked, and saw a purple-coated, purple-maned unicorn, with a trio of brilliantly cut gemstones as a cutie mark, standing there. On the other side of the display case was an earth pony stallion wearing a jacket and tie, and standing next to him, a certain pink-coated filly – Diamond Tiara, and the stallion was her father, Filthy Rich. Those two looked surprised to see Dinky.
The unicorn behind the counter, however – probably Amethyst Star herself – had a look pass over her face, on seeing Dinky Doo, that didn’t take Dinky long to recognize – anger, or something even beyond that, firmly directed at the filly. Dinky backed up in fright at the intensity, but even as she did the unicorn shook her head, and the look disappeared, replaced by one of surprise at her own emotion, and regret.
“I’m…I’m sorry,” the unicorn said, slowly and non-threateningly walking around from behind the display case, but she didn’t get any closer to Dinky. “I’m sorry, it’s just…you look like somepony I…” she shook her head again. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
Dinky blinked a few times, before realizing that she had a front hoof raised, ready to bolt away in fright. Slowly, she set it back down onto the ground. “O-okay,” she said softly.
“What’s your name?”
“Well, Dinky, I’m Amethyst Star, but you can call me Sparkler, if you like. Everypony I know does.”
Dinky just nodded.
“Why’d you come in here?” Amethyst Star asked. “Are you lost?”
Dinky took a few more moments to take in Amethyst Star. She didn’t look angry anymore. In fact, she looked ashamed that she had gotten angry at Dinky for no good reason, and she seemed to be nice now. Cautiously, Dinky took a few steps forward, and shook her head, summoning up her enthusiasm again – admittedly, it wasn’t very hard. “No. I’m here to buy something!”
There was a snort, and Dinky was reminded that she and Amethyst Star weren’t alone in the building. Glancing, she saw Diamond Tiara rolling her eyes. “Right,” the filly said. “I’ll believe that you have a hundred bits when I see them with my own eyes!”
Still recovering from the adrenaline of Amethyst Star’s shock, Dinky decided she’d had just about enough of Diamond Tiara. “Okay!” she exclaimed, using her telekinesis to lift her bag off her back, grasping its bottom in her hooves, and turning it over. A few books and papers came spilling out, but more importantly, so did a hundred silver bits, each stamped with the image of the Princess of the Night on one side, and the Equestrian coat of arms on the other. Many of them were old or dirty or worn, but there was no denying the pleasant sound of a hundred silver coins spilling out onto the floor.
Dinky realized what she’d done only after she’d smiled triumphantly at the sight of Diamond Tiara’s jaw dropping. She blinked rapidly a few times as well, looking quickly to Amethyst Star and wondering if she’d managed to make the much older and larger and scarier unicorn angry again by making a mess of her floor.
Instead, however, she noticed that Amethyst Star – Sparkler – had a hoof to her mouth, hiding an amused chuckle at Dinky’s response to Diamond Tiara’s challenge. After a moment, her horn glowed lavender - almost the same color as Dinky's own aura, in fact - and she easily hefted the hundred coins, books, and papers off of the ground telekinetically, and slid them all neatly back into Dinky’s bag.
“Okay, Dinky,” Sparkler, as she wanted Dinky to call her, said. “Let me just finish up with Mister Rich, here, and then we’ll see how I can help you. Okay?”
Dinky suppressed a sigh of relief. She decided that as scary as Sparkler had seemed at first, it was definitely just an accident on the other unicorn’s part; she hadn’t meant it, seemed honestly sorry, and just seemed nice in general. “Okay!” she responded.
“…and so that’s how I have all these bits,” Dinky finished explaining to Filthy Rich. She had to admit, she was getting a little tired of telling the same story over and over again, even if it was a relief to no longer have her secret all to herself.
Filthy Rich nodded slightly as Dinky finished talking, and stamped his hoof on the floor after a moment, causing Dinky, Sparkler, and Diamond Tiara to all jump slightly. “Well, I’ll be!” he exclaimed. “Little filly, that kind of frugalness and forward-thinking is the foundation of good business! I wouldn’t be surprised if your special talent relates to banking or accounting with that kind of ethic!”
Dinky had an image pass through her head of her stuck behind a desk, crunching numbers and double-checking figures and trying to balance ledgers (whatever all that meant) and singing to herself about her fate. “I spend my life accounting with figures and such; to what is my life amounting? It figures, not much!”
The unicorn filly wasn’t sure where the words to the song came from, but they seemed apt. “That’d be…nice,” she said politely to Filthy Rich. Behind the counter, Sparkler once again hid her laugh behind a hoof as she used her magic to magnify the gems in a necklace that Diamond Tiara was inspecting. Dinky had been worried that Diamond Tiara might take a liking to the necklace that Dinky was after, but fortunately all of her choices had the same thing in common – blue gemstones, and not yellow like the one Dinky had her eyes on. She had passed right by Dinky’s own choice without even acknowledging it.
Filthy Rich nodded. “It sure would. Equestria couldn’t exist without the paper-pushers, little filly. It’s not the most glamorous job, but it pays the bills.” He smiled at that, and waved a hoof as though pushing the idea aside. “Of course, you’re still a filly. No need to worry about that quite yet.”
Dinky shook her head, as Sparkler and Diamond Tiara both came back up to the two of them, the proprietor carrying a necklace in her telekinesis. “Alright, Mister Rich, your daughter’s made her choice, and a very nice one at that,” she said. “This is one of my best pieces that I made just for my opening in Ponyville: sparkling pale blue sapphires set in sleek sterling silver, and with radiant eighteen-karat gold plating on a delicate link chain, also sterling silver.”
“Gold?” Filthy Rich asked worriedly, leaning down to inspect the necklace. Nopony wore gold; it was too much like the radiant, wrathful sun.
“Whitened gold, of course,” Sparkler amended. “I was originally planning on using platinum for this piece, but I was already reaching my budget as it was with the sapphires. Nopony but a dedicated metallurgeon with an extraordinarily keen eye would be able to tell the difference. It is one of only two of this kind that I’ve made; the first one, which did use platinum, is currently in the collection of the Vicereine Twilight Velvet.”
Dinky regarded the necklace. It was beautiful, but then again so was everything else in the store, and Dinky wasn’t used to jewelry and so had no real concept of what went well with what; however, Dinky was surprised that Diamond Tiara had chosen such a small necklace. The pendant that the sapphires were set into was barely an inch in diameter, if even that much.
“This piece costs seven hundred seventy bits.”
“Er,” Filthy Rich said, “is that with or without the…?”
“It is with the twenty-five percent off, yes.”
Oh, that explains it, Dinky thought. Diamond Tiara must have been looking simultaneously for sapphires, and very high price tags. “Please, daddy?” Diamond Tiara asked her father, rubbing her head against the point of his shoulders. “Please please please please?”
Filthy Rich could not stand against such an onslaught. “…well, why don’t you and Dinky go and look around the shop some more while Miss Star and I talk about it, okay?”
Diamond Tiara nodded fervently, doing little to hide a smile over what she knew was the triumph of her cuteness and power over her father. Filthy Rich seemed to realize this as well, but looked like he was going to make at least a token effort of trying to haggle the price of the necklace down. Sparkler had rolled her eyes at the knowledge that she’d have to haggle; neither Filthy Rich nor his daughter saw, but Dinky did, and it was her turn to hide a slight giggle as she wandered over to the necklace was going to be getting for her mother.
To her surprise, Diamond Tiara actually did join her; she’d been expecting the earth pony filly to instead pick her own jewelry display to stare at. “Is that what you’re getting for your mom?” she asked.
Dinky nodded. “The gem matches my momma’s eyes, and the silver my momma’s coat.”
Diamond Tiara stared down her nose at the necklace, appraising it. “Not really all that much to look at, is it?” she asked.
Dinky frowned. She’d been hoping that Diamond Tiara was going to be nice; apparently her hopes had been misplaced. “I don’t have a daddy paying for me. I’ve only got a hundred bits. But I know she’ll love it!”
Diamond Tiara again considered Dinky Doo, the bag that was once more on Dinky’s back, and the fact that there was a hundred hard-earned bits inside. “Did you really not steal all those?”
“No! I had to work! I cleaned up around the house and outside with chickens and I used to like chickens but now I hate them ‘cause they’re mean and they smell and they go to the bathroom everywhere. But I earned every bit!”
The earth pony filly blinked at that. She looked like she’d needed, for posterity’s sake, to ask once more, just to be sure, and finally seemed satisfied with the answer. “I…guess it is pretty nice, that you’re spending all that money on your mom. And that you could save it all up.”
It took Dinky several moments to realize that her jaw was hanging open, and she needed to use a hoof to close it. Diamond Tiara had just – begrudgingly – complimented her. Diamond Tiara noticed her shocked expression, and scowled as she stomped a hoof. “Look, I’m just saying what it is, okay? Just acknowledging it. It doesn’t mean anything!” After a moment of considering, she leaned in close, eyes narrowing. “You better not tell anypony in school that I said that!”
Dinky nodded, willing to agree to that demand in return for Diamond Tiara showing that, somewhere, she really did have a heart, or at least something that resembled one. She turned back to the display case, wondering if she should pay Diamond Tiara a compliment in return. Even as she thought that, words came tumbling from her mouth:
“Scootaloo said the exact same thing.”
For a moment, Diamond Tiara’s coat seemed to be red rather than pink. “No she didn’t!”
“Yeah she did. Just a few minutes ago. Those exact words: ‘I guess it is pretty nice.’”
“I’m not like Scootaloo! Not even just saying the same things! Scootaloo just falls asleep in class and doesn’t do work and she thinks she’s so cool on her scooter but she’s not.”
Dinky had a feeling that there was something more complex than she, or Diamond Tiara for that matter, fully understood driving Diamond Tiara's words, and so decided to drop it. “Okay…”
“Princess?” Filthy Rich’s voice inquired. Dinky and Diamond Tiara both turned to look, and saw that Filthy Rich had finished his conversation with Sparkler, the latter of whom was sliding Diamond Tiara’s necklace into a small box, as well as using magic to wrap up another box, the contents of which were a mystery to Dinky Doo.
Diamond Tiara, for her part, smiled brightly as she galloped up to her father “Thank you thank you thank you!” she gushed, which even Dinky could tell was part of a well-planned and perfected routine. She immediately, however, had eyes on the other box. “What else did you get me?”
Sparkler wasn’t fast enough this time to hide her burst of laughter, though she did manage to keep it to a single ha. Filthy Rich turned to glare at her, but by the time he did Sparkler already had managed to put on a straight face and focus intently on wrapping the box up. “…no,” he said after a moment. “Something for your mother.”
Surprisingly, Diamond Tiara didn’t seem distraught by the idea of her mother also getting a present. She just nodded as Filthy took the bag containing his purchases into his teeth. “Now, if anypony asks,” he said on the way out, “I spent seven hundred bits on your mother and a hundred and fifty on you, okay, honey?”
Dinky didn’t get to hear how that conversation continued as the door to Sparkler’s store closed. Now free from having to keep up appearances, Sparkler laughed aloud at what she heard Filthy Rich saying on his way out as she made her way over to Dinky from behind the counter, and Dinky joined in. “That foal,” Sparkler said as she looked down at Dinky, “is the best example of a ‘daddy’s little filly’ that I have ever seen. She plays him like a half-jangle kazoo. Is she always like that?”
Dinky nodded, or started to before recalling the recent past. “Not always,” she conceded, though she couldn’t keep herself from adding “but usually, yeah.”
Ditzy Doo had given up on walking and instead flown over to Sweet Apple Acres, giving her hooves a much-needed break, if not her shoulders or dock as the muscles on both were necessarily worked out by the flapping of her wings. It meant that she was delaying the entire middle of her route, of course, but she had decided that the trade-off was necessary to prevent her from collapsing on the street somewhere. Her oath, she reasoned as she slid several envelopes into the Apples’ mailbox, didn’t mention anything about delays, after all.
Neither Rain, nor Sleet, nor Dark Of Night, nor Glare of Day, shall keep me from the swift completion of my appointed rounds.
“Oh, shut up,” Ditzy demanded of herself as she took wing again, sailing away from Sweet Apple Acres and back towards Ponyville proper, though she would land while still outside of town to prevent herself from crashing into things. “That line could be interpreted any number of ways. If swift completion was the goal than this route would be split in half and divided amongst two ponies.”
Of course, it was split in half and divided amongst two ponies before I –
“Shut up, me,” Ditzy said again. She realized that she was talking to herself, and worse, interrupting and responding. Still, as long as she was cognizant of both those facts, she was reasonably certain that she didn’t need to worry. Probably. Maybe she would stop talking to herself, just in case…
“Hi, Miss Doo!”
Ditzy blinked as she stopped her forward flight and instead hovered in place, looking down at the ground that was some fifty feet below her. It wasn’t easy with only one eye pointing down, her strabismus currently making her left eye keep an eye on the few clouds overhead. Still, she spotted her caller quickly enough: a straw-colored earth pony filly with red hair, wearing a large bow in her hair.
“Applebloom?” Ditzy asked as she came down, making sure to give the youngest scion of the Apple family plenty of room as she did, as Ditzy’s depth perception wasn’t the best and –
“Yikes,” Applebloom noted, as Ditzy picked herself up off of the ground, shaking her head. “You okay there?”
“Yeah, I’m used to it,” Ditzy admitted with a sigh. Depth perception. The bane of her existence. She’d misjudged the distance from where she’d been to the ground, and more importantly the distance of her hooves to the ground, and…well, like she’d told Applebloom, she was used to it by now. She shook her head again to clear it, looking to the filly. Something was nagging at the pegasus’ mind at the sight of Applebloom, but she wasn’t sure what. “Aren’t you running late from school? Did it get out late?”
“Naw, it was on time, but everypony in class followed Dinky into town to Amethyst Star’s – oops.”
Ditzy Doo’s brow furrowed. Amethyst Star? She knew that name from…somewhere. For the life of her, she couldn’t place it, though for some reason she got a sinking feeling in her stomach at the sound of the name. “Why were you following Dinky?”
“Um, Ah think it was supposed to be a secret, Miss Doo,” Applebloom admitted, tapping her hooves together. “Or a surprise, really. But, uh..." she leaned in close. "Yer gonna love it, Miss Doo. But ya didn't hear that from me, okay?"
Ditzy looked over Applebloom, who seemed completely earnest. It wasn't hard to figure out that Dinky was probably getting something together for Ditzy's upcoming birthday. The thought of her filly having somehow garnered help from her entire class managed to dispel the worry that Ditzy felt at the name 'Amethyst Star.' “Okay, then.”
“Uh,” Applebloom pressed. “You really didn’t hear nothin' from me, okay? Ah don’t want Dinky mad at me for spoilin’ the surprise.”
“I don’t think Dinky can get mad at anypony,” Ditzy assured the earth pony filly. “Chickens, sure, but not a pony.”
“She got real mad at Scootaloo that one time…”
Ditzy vividly remembered pulled hair, ruffled feathers, mud, noodles, something about Dinky saying that a certain idol of Scootaloo’s wasn’t so great, and all in all the one time Dinky had ever seriously gotten in trouble at school or needed a punishment from Ditzy. “That was a year ago, and they get along fine now.” The latter was especially impressive seeing as Dinky had, by all accounts, lost the fight.
“Ah guess that’s true. See you later, Miss Doo!”
“Later, Applebloom,” Ditzy returned as she turned around, ignoring the slight ache in her hooves as she trotted away, head down in thought.
Amethyst Star…Amethyst Star…she knew that name. Ditzy stopped her pace after a moment, closing her eyes. She didn’t precisely have a photographic memory, but once Ditzy committed something to memory, she rarely forgot it. Obscure things like a name she’d probably only heard once or twice usually needed some digging, though…
…a stairwell, in a house in Fillydelphia. White plaster walls. Pictures hanging on the walls as Ditzy Doo followed Castor Cut upstairs, hips swaying and wings standing upright since she knew what was coming once they reached the bedroom…
…stopping at the top of the stairwell, focusing on one picture. Castor Cut, with a mare Ditzy didn’t recognize…and a yearling filly, nearly a mare in her own right, standing between them.
“Who’s this?” Ditzy had asked, giggling slightly even as she spoke. She was maybe a little tipsy. Just a bit.
Castor Cut was an older unicorn (but not too old! Middle-aged), but that hadn’t bothered Ditzy since they’d met. Who cared about age? He’d saddled up alongside Ditzy, guiding her away. “Come on, Ditzy, you don’t want to know that…”
“No, I do,” Ditzy had insisted. “I really do. I doo. I Ditzy doo…”
Castor had been at least as tipsy as her, and the sight of her pouting – dock still shaking back and forth a little, tail swishing around – had been enough to convince him. “Well,” he said. “My wife May Ball, and my daughter, Amethyst Star. Sparkler. She prefers Sparkler. It’s a nickname.”
Ditzy stared a moment…then giggled. “Ha!” she’d laughed, as she’d turned and rushed into the bedroom. “You’re old…”
“Really?” Castor Cut asked as he followed Ditzy through the door, across the floor, and to the bed. “Could an old-timer do this…”
Ditzy’s eyes snapped open, wide as dinner plates, mouth hanging open. “No,” she breathed, turning around and galloping after Applebloom. “No no no no no! Applebloom!”
The filly hadn’t gone far, and turned around to see Ditzy Doo baring down on her. The filly gave a yelp and shrank back. Somehow, Ditzy managed to reign in her panic. “Applebloom,” she repeated. “I’m not mad at you, I promise you’ve done nothing wrong, but I need you to tell me: did you say Amethyst Star?”
Applebloom stared at Ditzy. “It’s…it’s supposed to be a surprise – ”
“I don’t care if – !” Ditzy began to shout, but forced herself to stop. She closed her eyes. “Applebloom, please. I’m sorry, but I need to know. It’s very, very important.”
Applebloom paused a moment more, before nodding. “Yeah,” she confirmed. “Amethyst Star’s Fine Jewelers. New store opened up in Ponyville.”
“And Dinky is there?”
“Yeah – ”
Ditzy didn’t hear if Applebloom had anything else to say as she turned around, wings beating as she took to the air, intent on breaking her personal rule of never flying inside of Ponyville. “No, no, no, please Luna no…”
“I’m sorry again about the look I gave you when you came in,” Sparkler said as she opened the glass case that Dinky’s objective was located in. “You just…well, for a moment, anyway, you looked a lot like somepony I know.”
“You don’t like that pony very much,” Dinky surmised.
Sparkler nodded. “She…well, it’s a long story.” She smiled down at Dinky. “You’re, like, the polar opposite of her, though, from what I can tell. Seriously, I’m getting a toothache.”
Dinky frowned. “Well, there’s a dentist’s office just a few buildings away. Doctor Minuette could probably help…”
Sparkler laughed as she levitated out the necklace, passing it off to Dinky’s hooves for her to look over in greater detail, so as to make sure that she was certain of her intended purchase. Up close, the necklace looked even more beautiful and perfect for her mother. “I meant that you’re just so sweet,” Sparkler explained. “Get it?”
Dinky thought a moment before enlightenment struck. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “That’s what Miss Cheerilee meant, too!”
“Probably,” Sparkler confirmed, before nodding her head to Dinky. “So. How does it look up close?”
“I try,” Sparkler said nonchalantly, prompting a laugh from Dinky. The two made their way over to the cash register.
A stray cloud had somehow made its way down low over Ponyville; a pegasus named Cloud Kicker had been about to buck it out of existence when Ditzy Doo came crashing through it, destroying it in the process. The sudden lack of anything to buck threw off Cloud Kicker’s balance in the sky, causing her to crash into one of the town’s iconic thatched-roof homes.
Even if Ditzy Doo had noticed, she probably wouldn’t have cared at the moment.
Ditzy’s eyes were focused forward, an act that stung her eyes and made them water if she did it for too long, but she ignored the pain. Theoretically this should have much improved her flying, but her panic coupled with the fact that she simply wasn’t used to seeing the way ponies without strabismus did actually managed to make things worse – but she was in no state to realize this. Flying low through Ponyville, she smacked into two wooden street signs, splintering one and breaking another one entirely. She didn’t notice the pain, but the impacts did force her to the ground. She was up and galloping a moment later, then taking to the air once more, head snapping left and right quickly as she read the signs of businesses, looking for the name that had incited her to panic.
Dinky looks exactly like me, just with a horn instead of wings! She cried out internally. My name was on the front page of every newspaper in Equestria just a few weeks ago! She has to know that I live in Ponyville and she’s going to see Dinky and…and…
Ditzy didn’t turn in time to avoid crashing into a lamp post. This, being made of metal, didn’t bend or break, but the glass of the lantern itself did. Ditzy was already up and moving before she could be cut by it, though, looking around desperately for –
There. She saw it, tucked in comfortably between a sandwich shop and Windowpane’s Window Repairs: Amethyst Star’s Fine Jewelers.
“I’ll just wrap this up…” Sparkler said as she slid the necklace into a box, then got wrapping paper behind her. Dinky, meanwhile, was fishing out the bits from her backpack, using her telekinesis to heft them in stacks of ten and lay them out as neatly as possible on the countertop. She was going to have four bits and seven and a half jangles – the copper, smaller units of currency, with ten jangles to a bit – left over, according to Sparkler.
Dinky smiled, despite the precise nature of lifting up bits and laying them on the counter. She was nearly there. Once she had her mother’s present, all she’d have to do was wait for her birthday…
“Okay,” Sparkler said, getting a quill from an inkwell as she finished wrapping the necklace’s box up, as well as a small card. “Who’s this being made out to?”
“My momma!” Dinky said happily. “Just write, happy birthday, momma! Love, Dinky Doo.”
“Short and simple,” Sparkler said with a smile as she wrote. “Those are the…wait. What was your second name?”
Dinky’s eyes were closed in concentration as she separated and counted out her bits, so she didn’t see the look that Sparkler had affixed her with. “Doo,” she said as she set down the last stack, this one of six bits, one of which would be broken down into the jangles that Sparkler would owe her. “Like Ditzy Doo! She’s my momma, you’ve probably heard of her since she saved the world…”
Dinky’s voice trailed off as she had looked up to Sparkler. The unicorn was staring at her, her expression completely unreadable as she seemed to be flipping through every emotion there was.
“But…” Sparkler said at last. “Does…does that mean you’re my…?”
The door to Amethyst Star’s Fine Jewelers was thrown open. Dinky and Sparkler both looked to the entrance after leaping simultaneously in shock, both dropping the items they had been holding…
Dinky’s eyes widened. “Momma!” she exclaimed, recognizing the panting sight of her mother in her mail mare’s uniform. Her hat was missing, and her eyes were focused forward. Dinky saw her surprise falling apart in front of her eyes. “No!” Dinky exclaimed, taking a few steps forward. “Momma, you can’t be here! You’re ruining the surprise – ”
“You!” Sparkler exclaimed. Dinky blinked at the intensity; looking behind her, she saw that Sparkler’s face was contorted in rage. “You! What are you doing here, you home-wrecker?”
Ditzy Doo dashed forward, placing herself between her filly and Sparkler. “Not here,” Ditzy begged. Dinky’s eyes widened. She’d expected…she wasn’t sure what she’d expected, but she certainly hadn’t expected the pained, submissive voice that her mother was using. “Please, not here, not in front of Dinky. She doesn’t know, Sparkler – ”
“Don’t call me that!”
“Amethyst Star. Not in front of Dinky. Please. Please.”
Sparkler stared at Ditzy, then down to Dinky. She closed her eyes, horn glowing brightly. Ditzy Doo flinched, wings spread wide as she moved to shield Dinky, but all that happened was Sparkler shoved the bits that Dinky had taken from her bag back into it, then hurled the bag to the ground in front of Ditzy.
“Get out,” Sparkler spat. “Now.”
“Okay,” Ditzy said, again almost sounding like she was apologizing as she grasped Ditzy’s school bag in her teeth before slinging it over her shoulders, adding it to the mail bags she was already carrying. “Okay. Thank-you – ”
Ditzy didn’t need more encouragement, it seemed, as she used her wings to guide Dinky from the store. The unicorn filly’s eyes were wide as she tried to process what had happened. It had been so fast…
“Momma?” Dinky asked, as the door to the jewelry store closed, and Ditzy stood still. More than a few ponies were standing outside of it – and it looked like a tornado had passed through Ponyville right up to Amethyst Star’s shop. The Ponyvillians were staring at Dinky and Ditzy as the emerged “Momma, what happened? Why was Sparkler mad at you? Momma – ”
Dinky had trotted up to look her mother in the eyes – and immediately wished she hadn’t. Ditzy’s eyes were tearing up fast, already releasing a deluge. “Momma? Why are you crying? What happened?”
Ditzy didn’t immediately respond, instead breathing in deeply and releasing her breath only slowly, rubbing tears from her eyes as she did. “N-nothing,” she lied, transparently. “Come on, Dinky. We need to go home.”
Dinky blinked, as her mother began trotting off. “But…but you’re supposed to still be working! And you were crying! Why?”
“Home, Dinky,” Ditzy repeated, not looking over her shoulder. She didn’t need to, as Dinky was following close by, still trying to figure out what had just transpired.
“Dinky,” Ditzy Doo said, breaking the silence that had lingered between the two of them for the past hour, ever since her mother had returned to their apartment and gave her mail bags to another pony to finish her route, promising to make up for it later. “What were you doing at Amethyst Star’s?”
Dinky didn’t look up from where she’d been sitting, on the cushions of the living room’s couch, staring at her hooves and trying to figure out what had happened. On the floor was her school bag, still laden with the hundred bits. She did blink a few times at the question, though, unsure how to answer it. Was everything ruined? Her surprise? A year of hard work, gone, just like that? Surely her mother had seen Sparkler scoop up all of the bits and put them in Dinky’s bag…but the question was phrased as though she hadn’t noticed that.
That meant there was still some way to salvage this. Somehow. “I…it was a new store,” she lied. It tasted like bile was filling up her throat and mouth even as she did, but she continued anyway. “I wanted to check it out.”
Dinky didn’t look to her mother. She didn’t have to; she knew that her mother’s wings would be sagging, her face a look of resigned sadness. Ditzy Doo always knew when her daughter was lying to her. Dinky had never lied about something so big before, though, and never in such an outright way. Until now, her worst ‘lie’ was that she was spending the money that Fluttershy was giving her every week on candy or toys, and even then that was technically still true, just not the whole truth, and Ditzy had never questioned it before.
Dinky heard movement, and a few moments later she felt her mother sitting down on the couch next to her, though she seemed almost careful not to touch Dinky. “I have tomorrow off,” Ditzy said. Her mother was forcing her voice to be bright. “We…we should do something. Go to a play, maybe. Or Cloudsdale is nearby this time of year! You’ve always wanted to go, right? I could take you there! We could go to the Cloudiseum and see – ”
“I have school.”
“You could skip it. One day won’t hurt. I’m sure Miss Cheerilee will understand.”
“I can’t fly.”
“I could carry you. I don’t mind – ”
“You knew Sparkler,” Dinky interrupted, as she felt something rising inside of her. It was hot and bright and yet somehow cold and dark at the same time, and Dinky didn’t like it very much, but didn’t stop herself from letting it rise. “You knew Sparkler! How come Sparkler hates you, momma? What happened?”
Dinky spun around to face her mother. Ditzy Doo had recoiled at her daughter’s outburst, wings raised high in surprise. She had previously had only one eye focused on Dinky, the right one, but at Dinky’s outburst both had come into focus. After a few moments of silence, she looked away from her daughter, closing her eyes tightly, wings sagging.
“I…Dinky, I’ll tell you. I swear to Luna, I’ll tell you, tomorrow. Just give me one more day, Dinky. Please. Please.”
Dinky opened her mouth to shout again, but faltered at the state of her mother, who once more looked like she was on the verge of tears. It was all Dinky could do to stop herself from throwing herself at her mother, hugging her and promising her a million more days of not knowing if she’d just wouldn’t cry.
But she didn’t. “But I know something’s wrong, momma,” she said. “If we do go to the Cloudiseum or a play or whatever I won’t be able to have fun, ‘cause I know something’s wrong. And you know something’s wrong too.”
Ditzy Doo closed her eyes. “I…I know,” she said softly. “I know…okay.” She took in a deep breath, and let it out slowly, focusing herself, though the focus was ruined as soon as she looked to her daughter again. She steeled herself anyway. “This…this has to do with your father.”
Dinky blinked several times at that, eyes widening. Dinky Doo knew, of course, that she had a father, or at least had possessed one at some point. She’d asked her mother about him a few times, but she’d always told Dinky that she’d tell her when she was older. “Does Sparkler know him too?” Dinky asked.
Ditzy nodded. Her wings were twitching slightly in agitation and discomfort, but she pressed on. “Amethyst Star – Sparkler – is the daughter of a unicorn named Castor Cut. And…and so are you.”
The unicorn filly looked down, taking this in. “My father’s name is Castor Cut,” she said. “And…Sparkler…Sparkler’s my sister? But then why – ”
“Half-sister,” Ditzy interrupted. “Castor Cut is your father and Sparkler’s, but I’m not Sparkler’s mother – she’s only a few years younger than me. Sparkler’s mother is named May Bell. Castor Cut’s wife.”
Dinky considered this, trying to fit the pieces together in her head. Her mother was giving her time, at least. It almost felt like a math problem, one where there was something that wasn’t adding up. “But…but why would Sparkler hate you?”
Ditzy Doo looked like somepony was hitting her every time Dinky asked a question. She looked down, away from her daughter again. “When I first met your father,” she explained, “I was barely more than a filly. I mean, I was almost a full-grown mare, in another few months it was going to be my birthday…but I didn’t really act like it. I just went to parties, came home late, didn’t do my homework, I was a superficial, stupid pony.”
“What does superficial mean?”
“Um…shallow. Anyway…when I first met your father, it was at a bar in Fillydelphia. He’d been fighting with his wife and just wanted to relax and unwind, and I was in heat so I also wanted to relax.”
Dinky nodded a little. She’d yet to have what being in heat meant explained to her in detail. All Dinky knew was that every autumn for about a week, her mother would get agitated and moody, and often needed to take time off of work, and alternated between not wanting to be around any stallions, and wanting very much to be around them. She’d had only the bare bones basics of it explained to her – that being in heat meant that her mother’s body was very receptive to becoming pregnant, but nopony would explain to her how that happened yet. Her questions were always answered with a very awkward ‘when you're older’ no matter who she asked.
“So we talked,” Ditzy Doo explained. “We danced, and we…we had fun together. Adult kinds of fun.”
Again with not telling her what that meant. “I don’t get it, momma,” she said flatly. “What’s so bad about that?”
Ditzy bit her lip. “It…it wouldn’t have been so bad, Dinky, if it had just been for a single night, and then forgotten about. Bad, but not so bad. But like I said, Dinky, Castor Cut was married, and…and what we were doing, it’s only supposed to go on between two married ponies, or at least two ponies who are very much in love and who aren’t married to some other ponies, like my friends Lyra and BonBon.”
Dinky thought a moment. “Okay…” she said. She didn’t have a lot to go on – she had frustratingly little, in fact – but she accepted that her mother didn’t want to go into the details of whatever it was Castor Cut and her were doing. Dinky didn’t understand why, though.
“I kept seeing Castor Cut for months, and he kept seeing me. But we had to do it in secret. We didn’t want Castor Cut’s wife finding out, or his daughter. Because, Dinky, he still loved May Bell, he just…hadn’t been getting along with her.”
“So you were helping, then!” Dinky exclaimed. “If you were helping him relax and – ”
Ditzy shook her head. “No. No, I was making things worse. Because rather than talking with May Bell and trying to work through his problems, or else divorcing her because the two just couldn’t get along, he’d just come and see me. It was really the worst possible choice he could have made…but I let him do it. I even encouraged it.”
Dinky stared, uncomprehendingly. Her mother…the kindest, sweetest mare in the whole world, the Element of Kindness – had been acting like that? “Wh…why, momma?” Dinky asked in a small voice.
Ditzy’s lip was trembling. “I…I was selfish. I wanted your father all to myself. But I didn’t want to have to deal with the fallout from him getting a divorce, even though that was not my choice. I thought it was because I loved him, but it was really only because he made me feel good and I was being selfish. It’s not the same thing. But then something unexpected happened. Something that meant that Castor Cut had to choose between either me or his wife.”
“Me,” Dinky surmised.
Ditzy blinked. “Y…yes,” she said, unnerved by her daughter’s leap of logic. “I became pregnant with you…I’d actually been pregnant with you since just shortly after Castor Cut and I had met, but didn’t realize it until about three months later. And…and that’s when Castor Cut told me that we weren’t going to see each other anymore. He had to choose between his wife and daughter, or me and you. He chose his family.”
“But…” Dinky objected to that. She felt tears stinging her eyes. “But…but I’m his family too! Aren’t I?”
Ditzy just looked sad. She didn’t have tears in her eyes, though, as she moved over on the couch, sitting closer to Dinky and putting a wing around her daughter, holding her close. To her infinite relief, Dinky pressed herself tightly against her mother, eyes wide as she tried to understand what her mother was telling her. “Your father,” Ditzy said, “wanted to…to just ignore that he and I had ever been together. Find a reset button and just push it. And I didn’t have the courage to try and stop him…but, well, Dinky, pregnancy isn’t exactly something you can hide. My parents found out, and they found out who gotten me pregnant…the next month or two was just a disaster for me, for Castor Cut…my parents tried to make Castor Cut take responsibility, dragged me to his front door - his wife and his daughter watching the whole thing - and put me in display and were going to bring him to court, but I didn’t want to see him ever again, so I packed up my things and took my savings and moved to Ponyville. I don't know what happened to Castor Cut, but it wouldn't surprise me if he and May Bell got a divorce."
Dinky was staring at her hooves. Tears still stung at her eyes, but she wasn’t really crying…the tears just came and fell as she tried to understand what her mother had explained. “S…so that’s why Sparkler hates you,” Dinky surmised.
“And…and that means that I’m a mistake. That I shouldn’t of ever been born – ”
“Don’t say that,” Ditzy interrupted fiercely. “Don’t you ever even think that, Dinky Doo. You are not a mistake. You weren’t expected. You were a surprise. But I have never thought of you as a mistake, Dinky, and I never will, and you never should either. You are the best thing to have ever happened to me. You’re sweet, you’re kind, you’re hard-working, you’re smart…you’re everything anypony could ever want from a daughter. I don’t deserve you.”
Dinky looked to her mother in disbelief. “Yeah you do!” she exclaimed. “You’re the best momma ever! You work real hard and teach me how to do things and you saved me and everypony else from Corona…”
“Dinky, that’s just what’s expected of mothers. That’s how they’re supposed to act, what they’re supposed to do, for their daughters.”
“Maybe,” Dinky said, wiping away the tears from her eyes. “But you do it better, momma. It doesn’t matter what you used to be like.” She fixed her mother with a pointed stare. “So don’t ever even think that, momma. I learned to be sweet and kind and hard-working and smart from you.”
Ditzy stared at her daughter for a few moments, before her lip began to tremble. She drew Dinky into a tighter hug with her wing, and leaned down, nuzzling her daughter. “Not your smarts,” she insisted. “You didn’t get that from me. Not your father, either. That’s all you, Dinky.”
Dinky began to respond to that, but after a moment decided against it – words would only cheapen the moment, she knew. Instead, she leaned into her mother’s nuzzle, and let silence reign between the two of them.
Internally, however, Dinky felt determination come over her. I need that necklace, she told herself in no uncertain terms. If momma really doesn’t think that she deserves me, I need to show her how much she’s wrong…but Sparkler won’t sell it to me. I need to find some way to trick her into not knowing that she’s selling it to me…
Dinky had to keep herself from reacting as she hit upon an idea. Of course! I know exactly who could help me out! But…but I have to hurry. Dinky glanced at the clock on their living room wall. It was just past three PM. If Sparkler’s jewelry store was anything like every other shop in town, then she’d be closing at five, and Dinky wasn’t sure if she’d have time until her mother’s birthday. She needed to act fast. But…but that meant she’d have to…
Dinky closed her eyes, simultaneously steeling herself and fully thinking through everything she had to say so that she wasn’t making things up on the spot. “Momma?” Dinky asked.
“I need to go over to Scootaloo’s house,” Dinky lied. “She needs help with her with homework. We have to write a paper on early Equestrian history.”
Ditzy looked her daughter over, eyeing her. Despite the gravity of their previous conversation, she seemed to switch gears easily. “And?” she asked expectantly.
How does she do that? Dinky asked herself. The lie was ninety percent true and her mother still knew something was up. But that was why Dinky had held back a little. She looked away, feeling some genuine embarrassment. “It’s…um, it’s because in history class today, me and her…we weren’t paying attention. So Miss Cheerilee gave us a paper, and I said I’d meet her at her house.”
The gray pegasus ruffled her wings a little. “Not paying attention in class?” Ditzy asked, her voice full of maternal concern.
Ditzy Doo sighed, looking to the clock. “Alright. But be back by five. I think we should have dinner together…and plan what to do tomorrow.”
“Okay!” Dinky promised, as she grabbed her school bag telekinetically, then retrieved her winter cape and hat, heading towards the door of their apartment, though not before sparing a moment to plant a firm kiss on her mother’s cheek, lest she start to suspect anything.
Dinky did not like all the lying she’d been having to do recently – surprise or no surprise, it was beginning to weigh on her conscience, and she didn’t like that she was starting to make choices based on trying to sell her lies – most of all to her mother. But it would all be worth it. She was certain of it.
If there was one pony she could count on to help her out – one pony who would be able to put on an act of buying a necklace for herself but secretly actually buying it for Dinky Doo, and not let Sparkler know, one pony she could trust to want to help her – then that one pony was the Representative of the Night Court of Luna, Miss Trixie Lulamoon.
Fortunately, Scootaloo’s house and Trixie’s home were in the same direction, so Dinky didn’t need to worry about her mother watching out the window. As Dinky approached the iron fence that surrounded the Residency – only chest-high on an adult pony, but one which towered over the unicorn filly – she took note of the fact that it had been fixed up nicely. After the Longest Night, the Residency had been a complete disaster from ponies who were very mad at Trixie for reasons that Dinky didn’t fully understand, but all the damage seemed to have been repaired, making the place good as new – especially the front window that looked into Trixie’s office, which had needed to be replaced a second time afterwards when the replacement furniture had arrived and somehow a couch had ended up going through it.
Dinky passed through the front gate and felt herself smiling. This would be easy –
The door to the Residency flew open, Trixie dashed out of it, then closed it behind her, horn glowing brightly as a cerulean aura surrounded her door. Something banged into it from the other side, hard.
“That sounded like it hurt,” Trixie noted. She was wearing her hat, but not her cape, and clutched in her telekinetic grip was a book stuffed full of notes written in hurried script.
“BonBon?” a voice, with no owner that Dinky could see, asked. It sounded like Lyra Heartstrings, one of Trixie’s and Ditzy Doo’s friends and the Element of Loyalty, but something was…off…about it. “You okay, sweetie?”
“She’s fine. Earth pony,” Trixie said, glancing straight up as she turned around, and noticed Dinky for the first time. Her eyes widened a little. “Oh! Dinky!” she exclaimed, blinking a few times. There was a notable pause before she added “hi!”
“Hi, Dinky,” Lyra’s disembodied voice added, from next to Trixie.
Dinky stared. “Hi,” she responded, slowly creeping forward and looking to where Trixie kept talking. “Miss Heartstrings?”
“You can just call me Lyra,” the voice said.
Dinky jumped in surprise at the sound of a voice from nowhere. “That’s…it’s really weird talking to nothing…”
Trixie’s brow furrowed at that, and her horn glowed as she waved a hoof. In front of Dinky, Lyra seemed to materialize from nothing, a bright grin on her features.
“My horn is not that short,” Lyra said – without moving her mouth. Dinky looked to Trixie in confusion.
“Illusion,” Trixie explained to the filly, before looking back to the image of Lyra – or rather, some point in space above the image of Lyra. “And yes it is. And we don’t have time to argue right now.”
“Did…did you turn Lyra invisible and now can’t make her not invisible, and only you can see her?” Dinky asked, as she mulled over the information in front of her. “And make her giant, since you keep looking up to talk to her?”
There was a pause, as Trixie looked to her side, and presumably Lyra looked back. “Sure,” Trixie said after a moment. “That’s what happened.”
Dinky eyed Trixie. “No it isn’t,” she objected to the obviously transparent lie.
“No it isn’t,” Trixie echoed, as she began walking towards the front gate, Dinky following and the illusion of Lyra keeping pace, trotting along normally, though her bright grin didn’t move and her movements were exaggerated, more like a puppet moving than a pony. Trixie opened the book in front of her, looking it over. “Look, we’ve narrowed it down to just these three, all we need to do is – ”
“The last ritual took half an hour and it didn’t even do anything!” Lyra exclaimed. “The train leaves in fifteen minutes!” There was a pause. “And my hooves are freezing! Or whatever these things are called!”
Trixie glared at Lyra again – the real Lyra – but then stopped walking and frowned. “I feel I’m forgetting something – ”
Dinky turned around at the sound of glass and wood breaking, and saw a cream-colored, blue-and-pink maned earth pony rising from the garden in front of the Residency. Before Dinky could react, BonBon – Lyra’s mare-friend – had cleared the iron gate and landed almost on top of Dinky Doo, a look of pure rage on her face – but a look which was, fortunately, not directed at the filly, instead focused first to her left, then her right, as though she was looking around for prey.
Dinky, for her part, was confused at earth pony confectionist’s actions, though after a moment she saw why the earth pony was looking around rather than taking her anger out on somepony – Trixie and the illusion of Lyra had disappeared.
“Where’d she go?” BonBon demanded. She looked down to Dinky, her gaze softening a little. “Dinky Doo? Sugar? Where did Trixie go? I’ll give you free candy for a month if you tell me.”
Dinky knew that it was wrong to lie. She also knew that it was wrong to be an accessory to murder.
“That way,” she told BonBon, pointing down the street. In a flash, BonBon was off.
Dinky wasn’t surprised when, as soon as BonBon was out of sight, Trixie seemed to bleed back into reality, the invisibility glamor she’d woven over herself falling off of her in a blue mist that quickly dissipated into nothingness. She didn’t re-create the Lyra figment, instead looking to Dinky. “Thanks,” she said. “I owe you, kiddo.”
“She is going to be so mad at me…” Lyra’s voice mourned.
Dinky looked to Trixie. “I…I actually came needing a favor,” she said. “See, there’s this new jewelry store, and I need to get something there today for my momma but my momma can’t know or else – ”
“We don’t have time,” Lyra’s voice interrupted.
The blue unicorn looked to the invisible Lyra, then back to Dinky. “We don’t,” Trixie said, a pained tone to her voice. “I’m sorry, kiddo, I really am, but me and Lyra need to hoof it…leg it…whatever…to the train station. She has a show in Canterlot she can’t miss.”
Dinky stared, wide-eyed. “But…” she objected. “But, I need – ”
“I’m sorry, I'm so sorry,” Trixie said, as she turned and began galloping off towards Ponyville’s train station. “I’ll make it up to you, I promise!”
Dinky tried to object again, but it was too late, as the unicorn mare was already off, presumably with the invisible, giant Lyra in tow. “But…” Dinky tried, though unlike Trixie, she really was speaking to empty air. “But…what am I supposed to do now…?”
“Are you him?” The blue-coated, yellow maned stallion of the three pegasi that were standing at the front door demanded of her father. He wasn’t particularly large, even compared to Castor Cut, but there was a cold fury in his eyes that terrified Sparkler. Standing near him was a pegasus mare, with a lime green coat and dark green hair, who’s was matching the stallion’s gaze evenly. Standing between the two, looking down, was a gray coated, blonde pegasus mare, though she looked only a few years older than Sparkler at most. Her eyes were yellow, but not aligned correctly – one was glancing upwards of its own volition, while the other remained focused downwards. Sparkler had only a glimpse of them, though, before the young mare squeezed her eyes shut. From the looks of things, they were a family.
“No, wait – ” Castor Cut begged, as Sparkler watched from the hallway, her mother coming up alongside her. They had been having lunch, but the banging on the door had interrupted them.
“Dad, I don’t – ” the young pegasus tried.
“Ditzy, be quiet,” the stallion ordered, though he didn’t take his gaze off of Sparkler’s dad. “Are you him? Are you the reason my Ditzy Doo is pregnant?”
“Castor?” Sparkler’s mother, May Bell, asked, rushing forward at the stallion’s words. Sparkler could only stand in shock at the accusation. “What is he on about?”
Castor Cut looked to the blonde pegasus mare, then to his wife, and back to Sparkler, mouth opening and closing, trying to work. “N-no, I – ”
“Don’t deny it!” The older mare shouted. “Don’t you even dare! She’s barely more than a filly, you sick – ”
“Castor?” May Bell asked. “Is…is this…?”
“It is, ma’am,” the pegasus said, jabbing a hoof at Castor Cut. “Your husband was sleeping with my daughter, and now she’s pregnant and he is trying to shirk responsibility – ”
“How – what?” May Bell demanded, “Shut up. Just shut up! You’re lying!”
“Don’t you call my daughter a liar!” the green mare cried.
The gray-coated, pregnant pegasus was looking between her parents “Mom, please, I don’t want to do this – ”
“Shut up, you, you little…Castor, how could you? We’re married, for Star’s sake!”
“May Bell, I didn’t ever mean – ”
“Didn’t mean? What? Was it an accident that you were sleeping with my Ditzy for three months? She’s barely more than a filly, she’s disabled – ”
“I’m not disabled, dad! It’s just my eyes! I knew what I was doing – ”
“This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening – ”
“Your husband is going to support my daughter. He’s going to support her foal. He’s going – ”
“He is going to do no such thing for that harlot!”
“Don’t you dare call my daughter that!”
“I’ll call her what she is! Castor, how – how could you do this to me? To Sparkler? Don’t you love us?”
Sparkler couldn’t look away as her family fell apart.
“I – ”
“No! Shut up! I – I don’t want to hear you. I don’t want to see you anymore! I thought we were getting better, but I…I want a divorce!”
“May Bell – ”
“I’m taking Sparkler and we’re going to my sister’s in Canterlot. I don’t ever want to see you again!”
Amethyst Star blinked a few times, and realized that she’d run out of paper on the ledger she was writing on several moments ago, and she was now writing on a display case, covering it in black ink. She scowled at it, grabbing a cloth and cleaning it off. Memories of that day – of what her father had done – of the several years in Canterlot that had followed – were exactly what moving to Ponyville was supposed to be helping her escape from.
The worst part of it all was that it was remembered advice from her father that made Sparkler keep soldiering on through the day. She couldn’t remember the exact words, but it was something to the effect of, everypony falls down, but nopony ever accomplished anything by staying down.
Moon and stars, she hated her father all the more for that. She had his eyes, his cutie mark, and now she had his voice in her head? “That’s a recipe for a healthy pony,” Sparkler noted aloud, to the empty store.
In spite of it all, though, it was good advice, and thankfully nopony who came into her brand-new store after her run-in with Ditzy Doo seemed intent on asking her what had happened. She was able to keep her temper surprisingly under control as she went about her business for the day, even managing to hit her sales estimate as she closed up her shop at five o’clock, just as the sun was beginning to touch the horizon, heralding the safe – if chilly – arrival of the night. It took longer than expected, though – she’d probably have to look into getting an assistant.
“Tomorrow will be better,” Sparkler stated simply after she had finished gathering up all the jewelry in the display cases and putting it into her store’s safe, along with the money she’d made for the day, wondering all the while how she’d gotten into this mess. All she’d wanted was to get away from everything, get away from her father and her mother and the drama created by that – that home-wrecker – and try and start fresh. Ponyville had seemed ideal.
Of course, apparently it had seemed ideal to a certain gray-coated pegasus as well. Sparkler hadn’t known that, not until two months ago – not until all the lease papers had been signed and the inventory ordered, not until after she’d reached what amounted to the point of no return.
Not until Corona had escaped from the sun, and Ditzy Doo had somehow managed to become an Element of Harmony. Sparkler had hoped that she would have been able to go longer without running into Ditzy Doo, and had certainly not expected to learn about Dinky Doo, and everything that her existence implied…yes, she’d known that Ditzy Doo had been pregnant, but to actually see the little filly in front of her – to have talked to her…
But Sparkler wasn’t going to focus on that. No. She was going to go upstairs, into her new home, and put on a record of something loud and mind-numbing, and plunge herself into a book or magazine or some such, and just forget everything that had happened today. She just had to double-check the lock on the front door. Before she could, however, there was a knock at it. Sparkler frowned at the sound as she approached it, as she could see nopony on the other side through the door’s small window…
Opening the door, Sparkler gasped slightly at the chill that rushed to greet her – between simply closing her shop, and actually doing everything to clear up the shop for the night, the sun had set, and this night was looking like it was shaping up to be a cold one indeed.
But her gasp grew to a shout of surprise when she saw who had knocked on the door, and she recoiled as though the filly unicorn who had done so was a snake rearing up and ready to strike.
Dinky Doo leapt backwards a few feet as well at Sparkler’s reaction, but no further, and quickly recovered – far faster than Sparkler herself. The two unicorns were silent for several long moments after that, just staring at each other.
Sparkler broke the silence first. “What are you doing here?” she demanded. She tried to keep her voice calm and collected, and to her own ears it sounded like she’d nearly – nearly – succeeded.
Dinky stared a moment more before answering. “I want to buy that necklace.”
“You can’t,” Sparkler answered immediately, without thinking.
Dinky Doo took a step forward. “But it’s my momma’s birthday in just a few days,” she said. “I’ve saved up all year and please, Sparkler – ”
“Amethyst Star. My name is Amethyst Star.”
Dinky paused at that, then took another step forward. “Please, Amethyst Star. I saved up all year for my momma.”
Sparkler had actually begun to shiver from the chill seeping into her store with the door open, but at the mention of Dinky Doo’s mother, a hot rage boiled through her. “No,” she stated firmly, still trying to remain calm despite her anger. “I’m not – not to that – look, I don’t know how much you know about your mom – ”
“My momma told me everything today,” Dinky stated.
Sparkler stared. “Yeah. I’m sure. Her side. What, did she say dad – my dad – took advantage of her?”
Dinky shook her head, which surprised Sparkler. “Momma said that what she did was wrong, and that it’s her fault, and that she shouldn’t of done it and she’s sorry and it wasn’t fair to you or your mom – ”
Sparkler bristled at that. “She doesn’t get to apologize!” she exclaimed, whickering and stamping her hooves in anger. “I don’t want her to apologize! I want that whore to go to the sun and burn!”
Dinky stared wide-eyed at Sparkler’s proclamation. “That’s a horrible thing to say,” the filly stated.
Sparkler blinked at that. She – well, she hadn’t been thinking when she’d said that. But even if she had been, she wouldn’t of expected such a measured response from Dinky Doo. Amethyst Star closed her eyes. “Go away. Leave me alone. Find something else for your mother.”
“No. I want that necklace!”
Sparkler sneered despite herself, using magic to start closing the door. Dinky leapt, though, and the older unicorn was only barely able to stop the door from slamming into the filly as she placed herself firmly on the door’s threshold. She didn’t seem to care that she’d very nearly caused Sparkler to injure her. “You’re not getting it!” Sparkler shouted in spite of herself. Some part of her couldn’t believe that she was seriously attempting to chew out this little filly.
Dinky matched her glare. “But it’s perfect for my momma and I saved up all year! I didn’t do anything wrong, there’s no reason to – ”
“I’ll give you all hundred bits. Keep the change!”
“No. You’re not getting it! She’s not getting it!”
“I have friends. They’ll buy it for me!”
“I just won’t sell to little fillies and colts, then.”
“Not them,” Dinky stated. “I have adult friends. Miss Trixie or Miss Cheerilee or Miss BonBon could buy it for me and you don’t know who they are or maybe Miss – ”
“I do now, since you told me their names.” Sparkler observed. At the moment, she was too angry to dwell on the name 'Trixie,' other than to let out a slight mental groan and make a note to make sure her store was insured against flooding.
Dinky’s mouth clamped shut at Sparkler's point, and her glare switched to look almost mollified. Sparkler had to fight hard to stop a burst of laughter at seeing such a rapid change of attitude. “I have other adult friends, too,” Dinky stated firmly.
“Then I’ll take the necklace down. I won’t sell it to anypony. What then, huh?”
Dinky thought a moment. “I’ll get something else,” she decided. “I saved up for a whole year! I can save up longer! If I have to miss my momma's birthday, than fine, I'll get her something else, but I'm gonna buy something nice for her to show her how great she is! Unless you don’t want to sell anything to anypony, you’ll have to let me – ”
“Okay, that’s it,” Sparkler stated, glancing behind her, towards her own deep blue, hooded winter cloak. She grasped it magically and brought it over to her, wrapping it around herself, before looking back to Dinky and grasping her telekinetically as well. Dinky yelped as she was hefted into the air, and Sparkler stomped out of her shop and into the night, carrying Dinky behind her. “We are going to the town hall and somepony is going to – ”
“I told you to call me Amethyst – ”
“Ow! Miss Star! You’re hurting me!”
Sparkler’s eyes widened at that, as she released her telekinetic hold on Dinky and turned around rapidly, hoping the damage wasn't too great. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, sometimes I grab things too hard, I didn’t mean – hey!”
Dinky, as soon as she’d been set back down and was free from Sparkler’s lavender aura, had dashed into her store, letting out a slight squeal of triumph. The older unicorn followed as quickly as she could, horn glowing as she chased the filly in. Dinky had run up to the display cases, not noticing that they were empty until she’d come right up to where the necklace she wanted was normally kept and she found it devoid of any jewelry. Before Sparkler could grab the filly with her hooves or teeth – she wasn’t trusting her telekinesis right now, just in case Dinky hadn’t been lying about Sparkler accidentally hurting her – she had dashed off to the left, causing Sparkler to stumble and land on the floor.
“Get back here, you little – !” Sparkler exclaimed as she stood up in time to see Dinky dashing behind the display cases. Sparkler gave chase, but the filly was an agile thing despite having much shorter legs, easily avoiding Sparkler’s clumsy grab attempts.
“I chase chickens every weekend! You can’t catch me!” Dinky said as she ran to the back of Sparkler’s store, and right up to the safe. Unfortunately, she now found herself in a small room, an office, with the only means of exit being the way she had come in. On realizing this, she turned around, wide-eyed as she realized that the door was blocked.
Sparkler was panting despite her chase being only a brief one. Dinky, for her part, didn’t seem out-of-breath at all, but then she was a little filly. Bursts of energy were second nature to her. “Alright, you little reprobate,” Sparkler said. “I’ve got you. We’re going to the town hall. Somepony there is going to get in contact with your mother and she’s going to come and pick you up and, hopefully, ground you for the rest of your life.”
“No!” Dinky exclaimed, tears in her eyes. “If you do that then momma will know about the hundred bits and she’ll want to know why I came back, that it was for the necklace! That’ll ruin the surprise! I saved up all year for my momma, kept it all secret from my momma even though I hate lying to her and I don’t want it to be for nothing!”
Sparkler blinked at the sight of Dinky Doo breaking down into tears. Where before the filly had shown a remarkable amount of stoicism, her inner reserve of maturity had apparently, at last, run its course. The filly was bawling now, openly and without shame in the way that only foals and the truly broken could, having fallen back onto her haunches and just letting her tears fall.
“I…I just…I just want my momma to be happy!” Dinky sobbed. “She works so hard and she’s so kind to everypony, and…and ponies make fun of her for her eyes and she just laughs it off and she saved the whole world…and then you came along and ruined everything!”
Sparkler took a step back at that, as her eyes narrowed. “I ruined everything?” the older unicorn demanded. “Your mom’s the one who – ”
“Momma was happy before she saw you and I didn’t know about my father but it didn’t matter ‘cause I had my momma but now you’re here and my momma’s not gonna be happy anymore because she made a mistake and you won’t forgive her even though she’s sorry, and you’re supposed to forgive somepony when they’re sorry, Scootaloo forgave me when I called Rainbow Dash lazy and stupid after I said I was sorry and now we’re friends!”
“I don’t want – ”
Whatever Sparkler didn’t want was drowned out by Dinky’s tears. The filly had run out of words by this point, was just crying her eyes out, somehow convinced that it was Sparkler’s fault, even though Sparkler was the victim here, she was the one who’d had her family torn apart by Ditzy Doo. All she was doing was not selling a single necklace to this filly! It wasn’t like she was purposefully trying to make Ditzy Doo’s life miserable! She would have been perfectly content to have simply never interacted with the pegasus beyond hateful glares whenever they saw each other…
…but none of that changed that there was a wailing filly in her office.
Sparkler grit her teeth, then closed her eyes. “Fine. Fine! Fine! Just – just stop crying!” Sparkler stomped past Dinky Doo, going up to her safe and using her horn to turn the two combination locks. Dinky didn’t stop crying entirely, but she did tone things down as she watched Sparkler open her safe and start flinging jewelry around as she dug through it, before finding the necklace and taking it out. By the time she did, Dinky was already struggling to open her school bag, sniffling as she poured out her bits.
“Fine!” Sparkler exclaimed again, tossing the necklace to the floor at Dinky’s hooves. “Here! You want this? Take it! And I’ll take these,” she used her telekinesis to scoop up the hundred bits that Dinky had poured onto the floor, “And I’ll keep the change because of all the trouble you caused. There! You have the stupid necklace! Happy?”
Dinky blinked, staring at the silver chain and yellow gem that lay before her, lip still trembling, a confused look on her face. “N…no…” she said softly.
“Well why in Luna's name not?” Sparkler asked. “Oh, what, did you suddenly realize that breaking into my store is a bad thing? You feeling bad about calling me mean? I’m not the mean one! I’m the victim! S-so are you! You should hate your mom as much as I hate my dad!” Sparkler stomped a hoof. “H…he cheated on my mother! They’d been married for years and years and I was his daughter and I looked up to him so much, I became a jeweler because he was, and he just forgot about all of that and went out and slept with some ten-bit whore and didn’t think at all about what it was going to do to his marriage! And then you were born! My dad cheated on my mom and abandoned you! And your mom, she…she…”
Dinky stared at Sparkler, as the older unicorn realized that her breaths were coming in short, quick gasps, hyperventilating with rage – or so she thought until she felt wetness on her snout. Her legs gave out at the sensation, as did her telekinesis holding the coins aloft, and the unicorn fell to her knees, head hanging as she, unlike Dinky, fought against her tears while it rained silver all around her.
“It’s not fair,” Sparkler cried hoarsely. “I didn’t do anything wrong…I was a good daughter…I loved him…it’s not fair…it’s not fair…”
Sparkler heard hoof-steps, and glanced up to see Dinky approaching her. The filly leaned in, nuzzling Sparkler. Despite herself, the older unicorn leaned into it, and it was then that any control she had over her emotions just slipped.
She cried, and cried, and cried. She cried more tears than she knew she had. Every few minutes, just as she was about to finish, just as she thought she had a hoof on things, she’d start again, sometimes because she remembered a happy time with her father – often for no reason at all. Occasionally a word or phrase, such as ‘daddy’ or ‘it’s not fair,’ would slip out, but more often than not all her throat could produce was sobs.
“I just…” Sparkler said at length, when at last the tears seemed to ebb, “I…I just want my family again…I want my mom…and my dad…I want them in the same room without shouting at each other…without it being a court room…”
“Maybe that’ll happen someday,” Dinky offered, as the filly continued to nuzzle Sparkler.
Sparkler shook her head. “N-no it won’t. They hate each other now…” the older unicorn leaned back, looking Dinky over. She really did look like a miniature, wingless, horned version of Ditzy Doo, at a glance…but up close, Sparkler could see a slight purple tinge to the filly’s coat – a legacy from her father. A connection to Sparkler. This filly, no matter what Sparkler wanted, was her half-sister. Was her family. Sparkler wasn't sure what that meant, what that was supposed to mean...but maybe, she was supposed to find out.
Slowly, her legs shaking, Sparkler got to her hooves. “C-come on,” she intoned, wiping tears from her eyes. “L…let’s get that necklace wrapped up.”
“Happy birthday, Ditzy Doo!” Everypony else exclaimed.
“Happy birthday, momma!” Dinky instead shouted, as her mother blew out the candles on her birthday cake, which had been baked in the shape of, and with frosting dolled up on it in such a way as to suggest, a blueberry muffin. There was a cheer as the candles flared and died.
Ditzy Doo was not normally one for parties, but after the shock she’d received earlier in the week, she was for once perfectly willing to just let herself go in the collective will of everypony present, each of whom seemed determined to make this her best day ever. The gathering was relatively small, at least – in addition to Dinky, there was Lyra and her marefriend BonBon; Trixie, who was doing her best to remain on the other side of the table from BonBon at all times for some reason; Carrot Top, Raindrops, and Cheerilee, who together rounded out the Elements of Harmony; and Silver Script, the post master of Ponyville. They were all gathered in the party room of Sugarcube Corner. Against all odds, Pinkie Pie, Ponyville’s Party Pony Par Excellence, was not present, Ditzy’s friends having somehow arranged things with the Cakes to have her be occupied somewhere else in Ponyville for the day. This suited Ditzy Doo fine – Pinkie’s perpetually positive attitude could become grating very quickly.
“What’d you wish for?” Silver Script asked as Trixie used her magic to grasp a knife and began cutting into the cake, though not before looking at it thoughtfully for a moment.
“What could I wish for?” Ditzy asked, a bright smile on her face as she looked around the room. “I have everything I want right here.”
“Ow, momma!” Dinky said, smiling brightly as though she had finally figured out a particularly vexing math problem. “Toothache!”
Ditzy laughed at that, even as the cake and the slices were moved aside for the moment while Trixie worked on them – still pondering the knife a bit too closely for Ditzy to be entirely comfortable with the situation, but Raindrops seemed to be keeping an eye on her – and instead everypony got their gifts ready.
“Okay, this one first,” Ditzy said, taking out a long, thin package. “From…Silver Script?” Ditzy unwrapped it with hooves and teeth, and found it to be a plain brown cardboard tube, closed at both ends. Opening one, she took out a large sheet of paper – a map of Ponyville in exacting detail, with a multitude of lines drawn across it in various colors, numbered one through thirty-three.
Raindrops, who had come up behind Ditzy Doo, looked it over. “I bet it’s what you’ve always wanted,” she observed in a dry voice.
“It is!” Ditzy exclaimed as she looked over the map, then glanced to Silver Script. “New routes? When do they start?”
“Next Monday,” Silver Script answered proudly. “You will not believe how much the Postmaster-General didn’t want the routes in Ponyville re-organized – I have no idea why, it’s not like she has to deal with them – a but I convinced her in the end. Your routes are in green.”
Ditzy looked over the map again. The new routes were, more-or-less, now all of roughly the same length, and could be split nearly evenly amongst the seven mares and stallions who delivered the mail in Ponyville. It would take a little bit to commit them all to memory, but this, at least, meant no more stupidly long trips – and the green routes even all had, as their end point, Fluttershy’s cottage.
“Thanks,” Ditzy said, rolling up the map and sliding it back into its case, then passing it over to Silver Script. “What’s next…” the package she held was small, wrapped up in bright purple, star-studded paper, and… “is…is it glowing?”
“Oh! Mine!” Trixie said, setting down the knife and coming over to the collective of ponies. “And yes, I made the paper glow. Just a little.”
Ditzy considered asking why, but then again she suspected she knew the answer – even in wrapping gifts, Trixie, without even realizing it, saw it as a competition: it was just who she was. The mare resisted shaking her head and chuckling knowingly, instead opening the present and finding herself looking at a paperback book, entitled De Ditionibus. She looked to Trixie, asking the question with her eyes.
“Of Sovereignties,” Trixie translated. “Don’t worry, it’s just the title that’s in Old Unicorn, the rest of the book is in modern Equestrian. And you probably know it better by the title The Sovereign.”
Ditzy was silent for another moment. “Um…no, actually, I don’t.”
Trixie blinked several times for that. “Really? By Silver Raventongue? Never heard of it?”
“I have,” Lyra stated, casting a slight glare at Trixie.
“So have I,” Cheerilee noted, then looked to Ditzy Doo. “Trixie, why would you think that Ditzy would want a book on power-politics? Especially this one?”
Trixie whickered. “I like it. It’s my second-favorite book after Don Rocinante.”
“Explains a lot,” BonBon noted under her breath.
Trixie didn’t hear her, instead looking to Ditzy Doo. “It’s a great read, even if you’re not going into the Night Court, or any kind of politics. It’s not just one of my favorites, it’s one of Princess Luna’s, too. And look!” she used her horn to open the book to a random page. “Large print!”
Ditzy offered a slight smile. Being afflicted by strabismus as she was, reading the small text size of most books was difficult for her to do, at least for a prolonged period. The large print at least showed that Trixie’s heart was in the right place. “I’ll read it, I promise,” she said. “Thank-you…”
Ditzy’s voice trailed off when she heard the door to Sugarcube Corner open, and looked up out of curiosity – several ponies had come and gone already, of course, given that the Cakes still had a business to run, but despite being in a separate room of the bakery, from where Ditzy was sitting, she could clearly see the entrance and countertop. It was mostly just to see if it was anypony she recognized. And, as it turned out, it was.
Amethyst Star, wearing a deep blue winter cloak, stared at Ditzy Doo. Ditzy Doo stared back, her eyes coming into focus as she did.
Everypony else gathered noticed the change of atmosphere immediately, looking to the unicorn that had entered, then back to their friend. Ditzy realized that she hadn’t told anypony what had happened earlier in the week.
This was bad. This was going to be very bad. There were only a couple of things that Amethyst Star could do right now, and absolutely none of them would end well for Ditzy. Not that it was anything less than what she deserved. Ditzy braced herself for the inevitable –
“Sparkler!” Dinky exclaimed happily, bounding on over to the older unicorn. Amethyst Star’s gaze was torn away from Ditzy Doo’s at the exclamation, as she watched the filly come up to her. “What are you doing here?”
Amethyst Star did something then that Ditzy would never of, in a million years, anticipated – she smiled down at Dinky. It wasn’t much of a smile, but it was an honest one as she leaned down so that she was looking the filly in the eyes. “Are you kidding?” she asked in a soft voice. “After everything that happened? I want to see how this goes as much as you.”
Ditzy realized that she was standing, wings slightly flared, only when Amethyst Star looked back to her, gaze lingering for a moment, before she looked over everypony else as well. “Um…hi,” she said. “My name’s Amethyst Star, I just opened a jewelry shop a few blocks from here. I…I won’t be long, I’ll be out of your manes in a few minutes.”
“You’ll be out a lot sooner than that,” Raindrops said, taking a few steps forward, muscles tense as she looked between Amethyst Star and Ditzy Doo. “I don’t think Ditzy wants you here.”
Amethyst Star’s eye twitched slightly at that, and she opened her mouth to say something – probably something pejorative – but then a filly who’s sense of self-preservation was apparently on the ebb positioned herself between her and Raindrops.
“Just a few minutes, Miss Raindrops?” Dinky asked, as she closed her eyes and her horn glowed. From the collection of presents waiting for Ditzy, a small, rectangular one came out, decked in floral-pattern wrapping. With effort – she was doing this from a further distance than she was used to – she levitated the gift over to her mother. “Sparkler helped me with momma’s present.”
“She what?” Ditzy asked, eyes wide in shock and confusion. “But…I…what?”
Amethyst Star just waited, as did Dinky. At length, Ditzy took the present in her hooves – eliciting a slight sigh of relief from Dinky as she released the present from her grip – and slowly opened it, cautiously, like there was a ticking time bomb inside. Instead, all she saw was a black case, though emblazoned with a silver, stylized A.S. Jewelers on it. Opening the case, Ditzy found herself staring at a yellow gemstone, the color of which matched her eyes, set into a light silver pendant, with a matching thin chain. She took it out delicately with one hoof, blinking and still confused.
“Wait,” Carrot Top objected, looking over the necklace. “That’s from Dinky?”
“How?” Silver Script asked, looking to the foal.
Dinky smiled brightly. “I saved up all year!” she explained. “I help out Miss Fluttershy every weekend, and she gives me three bits, and so I spend one and saved two, and so then I had – ”
“Wait,” Ditzy interrupted. “Wait, wait, wait. The bits you were saving up? Under the floorboard?”
Dinky stared at her mother in shock. “You knew?” she demanded.
“I clean your room, Dinky, of course I knew. I didn’t know what you were saving up, for, though. Not…not for me, I didn’t think you were…” Ditzy hung the necklace on one of her wing’s feathers as she came up to her daughter, drawing the unicorn filly into a deep, tight hug. “That’s…that’s so…Dinky, why would you go through all that effort for me?”
Dinky pulled away from her mother, looking her in the eyes. “Because I love you, momma,” she said, as though she were stating a basic fact of existence, like water being wet. “I didn’t know what I was gonna get you at first, but then I heard that Sparkler’s jewelry store was opening and I know you didn’t have any jewelry so I thought I’d get you something from there, and – oh!” she exclaimed, putting her front hooves to her mouth. “Momma, I’m sorry for lying about why I was in Sparkler’s, but it was supposed to be a surprise so I couldn’t tell you and I’ve lied to you all year about what I was spending my money on, too, and I’m sorry, and then I lied about going to Scootaloo’s ‘cause I needed to talk to Sparkler and I’m sorry – ”
“It’s okay, it’s alright,” Ditzy assured her daughter, drawing her into another hug. “I just…” she looked to Amethyst Star, still utterly confused.
The pink unicorn was watching, again with a slight smile on her face. “Okay, then,” she said. “I…I guess I better go. Leave you to your party. I guess…happy birthday?”
After pausing for a moment more – as if unsure as to whether or not leaving things on that note was enough – the unicorn turned around, heading for the door of Surgarcube Corner. She was half way out before Ditzy Doo managed to speak. “Wait!” she exclaimed. Amethyst Star paused, looking back over her shoulder at Ditzy. The pegasus’ mouth opened and closed a few times before she was able to say something intelligent. “Can…can I talk to you? For a few moments? Outside?” Amethyst Star nodded, stepping outside but leaving the door open as Ditzy stood up, looking back to her friends. “Just – just wait here, I won’t be long.”
“Wait!” Dinky exclaimed, before her mother could go outside. Ditzy did so, and Dinky again closed her eyes, concentrating hard as she took her mother’s necklace from where she had it suspended on a wing, undid the delicate clasp at the back, and strung it around Ditzy Doo’s neck, before at last closing it again. Upon doing so, the filly let out a long breath, wobbling back and forth slightly at having performed such fine manipulation with her nascent telekinesis. She nevertheless offered a bright grin as she looked up to her mother. “Happy birthday, momma!”
Ditzy forced a smile – the intent was genuine enough, but somehow she just couldn’t summon up the emotion for a real smile right now, not with Amethyst Star sitting just outside. Dinky didn’t seem to notice, however. “I’ll be right back, muffin,” she promised, heading outside.
The silence that stretched between Ditzy Doo and Amethyst Star was palpable enough to of been cut by a knife, and not even a particularly sharp one at that. Ditzy had, between where she’d been standing and the door, come up with a million ways to begin the conversation, but all of them fled her mind the moment she stepped outside and set her eyes on Amethyst Star. The unicorn was, for her part, looking at everything other than Ditzy Doo, right front hoof scuffing the dirt and lingering snow beneath her as the awkward moment stretched and stretched.
“I’m sorry,” Ditzy finally blurted. Amethyst Star jumped slightly at the sudden break to their silence, and finally looked directly at Ditzy Doo. Like most ponies, she saw the pegasus’ strabismus, tried to look at Ditzy like a normal pony, and failed by overcompensating, staring intently at just one eye. Ditzy didn’t let that bother her, though, as she pressed on. “I’m sorry for what I did, Amethyst Star. I…I was young, and I was stupid, but that doesn’t excuse anything. It’s my fault, and I’m sorry.”
Amethyst Star’s face remained neutral for several moments, before looking away. “I…” she began, then closed her eyes. “I talked to Dinky. We’ve actually talked a lot over the past week…she told me you're sorry. Told me I should forgive you. But I can’t. I just can’t.”
Ditzy nodded. “I don’t blame you. What I did to you and your mother can’t ever be forgiven – ”
“I didn’t say that,” Amethyst Star interrupted. Ditzy started at that, blinking several times, as the unicorn looked back to her. “I can’t right now. But maybe one day.” She glanced at Sugarcube Corner, into through its window, where she could see Dinky Doo. “I haven’t talked to my dad in years…and I’m not too big a fan of my mom, either. She wasn’t exactly blameless in driving my dad away. It’d be nice to have some kind of family in Ponyville…even if it was a just a half-sister. If that’s alright,” she added quickly, looking back to Ditzy Doo. “I mean…I’d like to get to know her better. And…and you, I guess. She loves you more than anything, so you’d kind of have to be part of the equation.”
Ditzy Doo’s mouth was hanging open slightly. After a moment, she shook her head, grasping that she had actually heard everything Amethyst Star had just said, that it hadn’t been a hallucination. “Of…of course,” she said. “Of course. Dinky seems to like you…that’s enough for me.”
Amethyst Star nodded. “Okay,” she said. “Okay. Let’s just leave it at that, then – ”
“Momma!” Dinky Doo exclaimed. The two older mares nearly jumped out of their coats at the sound, as they both turned and saw Dinky standing at the door to Sugarcube Corner, eyes wide. “Momma! Miss Trixie was telling Miss Carrot Top that for the Eventime she wanted to put on a magic show like she did for the Longest Night, only this time without Corona interrupting, and she was thinking of doing something really cool and complicated and she says she’d need an assistant and then I reminded her that she owes me a favor and now she wants me to be her assistant! Can I, momma? Please? Please?”
Amethyst Star couldn’t stop herself from letting out a long groan. “Trixie…” she moaned. “Stars, I really picked this town well, didn’t I?”
Dinky’s look of jubilation turned to one of concern and exasperation. “Do I have to try and make things better between you and Miss Trixie too?” she asked.
Amethyst Star and Ditzy Doo both burst out laughing at that, as well as the look on Dinky’s face. The filly smiled brightly at the sight. “It’s a…well, not a long story,” Amethyst Star said. “But…well, I guess in hindsight, it’s kind of funny, actually. Trixie probably wouldn’t think so, though.”
“Can I hear?” Dinky asked. “You could come in and tell me. We have cake in here! Well, Miss Raindrops was saying that she might eat it all if we wait too much longer.” Dinky’s eyes widened. “You two have to come inside quick before she does! It’s your birthday cake, momma!”
Ditzy laughed again at that, trotting into Sugarcube Corner and nuzzling her daughter as she did. “I’ll stop her. And I’ll make sure she saves a piece for everypony.” She paused a moment, looking to the older unicorn. “And…if you wanted, Amethyst Star, you could come in. I’m kind of curious about that Trixie story myself.”
Amethyst Star was still a moment, considering Ditzy, and Dinky. “Cake,” Dinky intoned in a serious voice, as though that was the only convincing that the older unicorn needed. At length, she smiled. “Call me Sparkler,” she said, as she trotted into Sugarcube, closing the door behind her. “And as for what happened with Trixie, well, it was about a month before the Longest Night, at an ice palace…”