Tenderheart opened her refrigerator door and fumbled through its contents until she found a juice box hidden near the back. She then closed the fridge door and passed the cold treat down to her timid daughter waiting patiently behind the kitchen counter.
“Th-thank you, mommy...” murmured Fluttershy, taking the juice box from her mother’s mouth.
“You’re welcome, Fluttershy.” Tenderheart smiled. “Now, run along, please. Mommy just needs to tidy up a little in here. You can go watch TV, if you want to that is...”
“Ok...” replied the little filly. “Thanks again, mommy.”
“You’re welcome, sweetie.”
Tenderheart kissed Fluttershy on the forehead before turning back around and reaching for her cleaning supplies. Fluttershy quietly walked out of the kitchen and into the living room of her humble cloud home. She turned her head towards the couch, with the family TV sitting on a small table in front of it. The shy little pegasus wasn’t interested in watching it though. She remembered the times when her mother would warn her about all the bad, violent programs on the network that she should always avoid.
Even if she did feel like watching it, she would never watch it on her own. Occasionally, she and her wonderful mother would lay down on the couch together and watch a movie or two before falling asleep into each others hooves. It warmed her heart knowing that she was blessed with such an amazing pony who loved her and cared for her so.
Fluttershy turned away from the TV and continued across the living room until she reached her bedroom on the far end. She opened the door and walked inside, not even bothering to turn on the lights; she hardly ever did, except for when night time rolled around, but even then she would just use her heart-shaped night light to guide herself to bed, if she hadn’t already fallen asleep that is. Otherwise, her mother would have carried her to bed like so many times before.
Fluttershy’s bedroom was actually the biggest one in the house. Gifted by her mother on her fifth birthday, her room was originally the master bedroom, with plenty of space where she could play with all of her puzzles and toys, which were also gifted by her mother, but there was another reason for her mother giving up the spacious bedchamber. It wasn’t for the extra play space, nor for the slightly bigger bed, but rather out of the kindness in her heart, and the secret gift that came with it.
As Fluttershy approached a set of large double doors on the other end of her bedroom, she could feel a warm heat radiating off the wooden surface, whisping smoothly off her face like a gentle summer breeze. She then gripped one of the handles, conveniently lowered to suit her height, and began pulling with all her might.
As tasking as it was for her small stature, the door eventually gave way and slowly creaked open. Warm, orange light immediately flooded the room. Fluttershy shielded her face to protect her eyes. When she felt that it was safe enough to look, the little filly uncovered her face and opened her eyes, revealing an extraordinary sight she knew all too well.
Before her stood a large, open balcony that gave way to a beautiful evening sunset, slowly dipping down behind the tallest mountain in all of Equestria: Mount Canterlot. The many far away hills and valleys of the extensive kingdom dotted the landscape, stretching onward as far as the eye could see. Flocks of birds few high and far above them, travelling in intricate formations, making the picturesque scene look like a delightful illustration out of a little foals storybook. Thankfully, the noisy ambience of Cloudsdale wasn’t around to disturb such an awe-inspiring sight.
While the city of the pegasi wasn’t too far away, her mother had decided to build a cloud home of her own when Fluttershy was born, adding a “cloud lawn” later on so she wouldn’t be confined to the house most of the day. The balcony was added sometime afterward. Fluttershy liked that about her mother; willing to do anything to make her daughter happy. It was a bit overwhelming for Fluttershy to be receiving such thoughtful gifts, but despite her charitable nature, they were gifts, and from her mother no less, the most caring pony in the entire world.
Fluttershy walked out onto the terrace and plonked down onto the soft cloud surface. She then poked her little plastic straw through the tiny hole on her juice box and began to sip, relishing in the sweet taste of apples, grapes, and other delicious fruits as they flowed across her taste buds.
The evening was simply delightful; a tasty beverage in her hooves, the warmth of the setting sun brushing against her face, and to top it all off, a wide, sweeping view over all of Equestria. There was nothing else in the world that could make this evening better than it already was...
...except for her mother, of course.
Fluttershy looked over her shoulder and smiled at Tenderheart as she walked over and sat down beside her.
“H-hi, mommy...” whispered Fluttershy, nuzzling her mother’s leg as a form of greeting.
“Hi, Fluttershy,” replied Tenderheart, cheerfully nuzzling her daughter’s neck in return. “Watching the sunset again?”
“Mhm.” Fluttershy nodded. “It’s beautiful. Just like you, mommy...”
Tenderheart blushed, feeling her heart leap with joy at the sound of her daughter’s voice.
“Can I watch with you?” asked Tenderheart. “If you...want me to, that is...”
Fluttershy nodded, taking another sip from her juice box.
Tenderheart shifted in place before lowering herself down onto on her stomach, tucking her back legs underneath her.
Together, the mother and daughter pair watched as the last tidbits of the sun slowly began to dip below the horizon. The first stars of the night faded in as the yellowish hue of the sky cleared away with the sun’s departure. Eventually, the last morsels of the sunset finally disappeared, replaced by the rising of Luna’s glaring moon.
Far below on the surface of the earth, the creatures of the day returned to their respective abodes to slumber while the beings of the night awoke from their own period of nocturnal rest. Even though they were high above the ground, Both Fluttershy and Tenderheart could faintly hear the chirping of the crickets, the ricketing tweets of the cicadas, and the coos of the night owls in the forests below as they each sang the songs of their people for all the world to hear.
“Mommy? Can I ask you a question?” murmured Fluttershy.
“Of course, Fluttershy. What is it?”
“Have...have you ever felt like you’re...all alone sometimes?”
“All alone?” Tenderheart raised a curious eyebrow. Fluttershy nodded, slowly.
Tenderheart put on a worried frown when Fluttershy began to sniffle all of a sudden. The little filly looked away from her mother, quivering in the cold of the night. Deeply concerned, Tenderheart pulled Fluttershy close, who then snuggled into her warm neck fur.
“If there’s something wrong, you can tell me, Fluttershy,” whispered Tenderheart into her daughter’s ear.
“W-well...” Fluttershy began to sob, burying her head deeper into her mother’s neck.
“Did something happen at school today?”
Fluttershy nodded again.
“W-we were h-having another flight test t-today and...”
“Th-there were these...two other p-ponies. Wh-when it was my turn for the t-test...I flew through some c-cloud rings and...”
“Yes? It’s ok to let it out, Fluttershy. I’m here for you...”
“...I-I f-fell...and everypony just s-started to l-laugh at me!”
The floodgates were opened as Fluttershy began to sob even louder now, openly crying tears of sadness while her mother consoled her by softly hushing her and gently rubbing her back.
“It’s ok, Fluttershy. Just let it all out...”
“No! It’s not ok!” Fluttershy yelped, still clinging onto her mother while a river of tears poured down both sides of her face. “It never s-stopped! Everywhere I went, everypony just pointed and l-laughed at me! I’ve never felt so embarrassed in all of my life!”
Fluttershy plunged her tearful face back into Tenderheart’s neck. The caring mare continued her efforts to comfort her daughter with gentle musings.
“I j-just wanted to d-disappear, so I wouldn’t have to look at them anymore...”
“I don’t want to go back...” murmured the still-sobbing pegasus. “I don’t want to be embarrassed anymore, and never again! I’m a terrible flier, and they know it...”
“Fluttershy! Don’t ever say that about yourself!” said Tenderheart, pulling her daughter away and looking straight into her tearful eyes. “You’re a great flier! I know it, and so do you!”
“N-no! I’m not a great flier! My wings...they’re too small for them to be...useful...I’m useless. I can’t fly fast, fly high, or even take most of the tests because the teachers always count me off the list out of sympathy. That’s...that’s why I don’t have any friends...”
Tenderheart was taken aback by the state of her daughter’s depressed mind. As she lay there, staring at Fluttershy’s somber, tear-laden face, her motherly instincts kicked in. Flashbacks of her old flight school memories started to zip past her eyes; some happy, some sad. It was only when she put two and two together did she figure out exactly what needed to be done.
“Fluttershy?” murmured Tenderheart.
“Y-yes?” Fluttershy sniffled.
“Do you see this cutie mark of mine?” Tenderheart gestured to her flank, where a cutie mark depicting the head of an white bunny with long ears was clearly imprinted onto her backside.
“And do you remember when I told you how I got it?”
“You w-were the first in your class to get one...why?”
“Well...” Tenderheart started to smile. “I lied!”
“You...lied?” Fluttershy gasped quietly.
“Mhm.” Tenderheart giggled under her breath. “I’m not one for lying, but your dear mother isn’t as great as she said she was. In fact, I wasn’t the first to get my cutie mark in flight school. I was the last by far!”
Fluttershy wiped her eyes free of stray tears, staring back at her smiling mother with a surprised look on her face. “R-really?”
“Really. Believe it or not, Fluttershy...but when I was your age, I was just like you!”
“I was a very shy pony when I was in flight school, so much so that I even had my own mother worrying about me, day and night. I wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t popular, and I wasn’t exactly the greatest flier alive. I was afraid to talk to other ponies because I thought that they would make fun of me, and even I had my fair share of mean words in my class...”
“But that’s the...problem. I-I’m too shy, a-and I’m too afraid to...talk to anypony, not even my teachers. I-I don’t want to make you worry about me...”
“Fluttershy, I’m always worried about you, but that’s because I love you!” Tenderheart hugged her daughter tightly. “I worry about you every day, Fluttershy, but there’s nothing for you to be afraid of! You’re a very special pony, even when you think you’re not!”
“Everypony is unique. You are unique, Fluttershy, and no amount of insults or hateful words could ever take that away from you!”
“When I was in flight school, I was faced with the same problems. I had no friends, and I was too shy to try and make new ones, but one day, a pegasus I had never met before showed me the way to breaking out of my shyness and to start making friends on my own. Her name was Rainbow Drops, and she helped me stop the hurtful insults and regain my confidence. It didn’t change who I was, but by the time I graduated, I had made dozens of new friends, including her.”
“B-but...how is that supposed to help me?” asked Fluttershy, nearly on the verge of tears again. “You had somepony helping you, but I’m still all alone. I can’t even help myself...” Fluttershy sulked.
“Yes, you can! Don’t you see, Fluttershy? All it takes is confidence, and a little bravery. Have you ever heard of the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” “
“They’re gonna break my bones?!” Fluttershy squealed in terror, cowering behind her mother’s mane. “Please don’t let them hurt me, mommy!”
“Settle down, Fluttershy,” Tenderheart sighed. “It’s just a saying, and its meaning is quite the opposite.”
“The opposite?” whispered Fluttershy, stepping out from behind her cover.
Tenderheart picked up Fluttershy with ease and cradled her in her hooves.
“It means that nopony, no matter what they do, could ever hurt you on the inside, right where it counts.” Tenderheart gently placed a hoof on Fluttershy’s chest, directly over her heart. “There is nothing that anypony could do to you to change who you really are. You’re a very special pony in your own special way. Remember that, Fluttershy...remember that.”
Tenderheart was nearly on the verge of tears herself as she ended off her motivational speech with another gentle, lasting kiss to her daughter’s forehead.
Fluttershy was speechless. All of her worries seemed to vanish into the ether as her mother continued to hug her tightly. Minutes passed by in a blur as the night grew ever darker. The little filly’s tears of sadness had dried up long ago, replaced with a bright, adorable smile as a wave of emotions overtook her mother.
Fluttershy looked up at Tenderheart’s smiling face, whose eyes started to quiver when the timid pegasus spoke three, simple words.
“Thank you, mommy...”
“You’re welcome, Fluttershy...”
Fluttershy happily nuzzled her head into her mother’s chest. All of her sadness was driven away, replaced by the warm feelings of love for her mother. Tears flowing down her face, Tenderheart leaned down and nuzzled the top of Fluttershy’s head. The mother and daughter pair continued to exchange affectionate caresses until Tenderheart broke the silence.
“Well...I guess we should be heading to bed. Don’t forget, you leave for summer flight camp in a week. I’m sure you will meet new friends there...”
“...can I finish my juice first? I-If that’s ok with you...”
“Of course, Fluttershy.” Tenderheart smiled.
Tenderheart lowered her daughter to the ground before lowering herself back down onto her stomach. Fluttershy walked back over to her juice box, picked it up, and carried it back to her place, where she rested her head head on her mother’s side and made herself comfortable. The two turned their heads up to the black and blue skies above, where the beautiful stars that dotted the heavens glittered like fine crystal.
“Do you still love me, even after what I said?”
Rather than speak the words, Tenderheart curled up into a ball, wrapping her neck around her sweet little angel, sealing her in a blanket of warmth. Before long, they both fell asleep, right there on the soft balcony floor, dreaming pleasant, happy dreams of each other, and the eternal, caring bond they shared as mother and daughter.