My surprise was genuine when I first got that invitation while picnicking with my friends.
Princess Celestia cordially invites you to the wedding of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and...my brother?
I felt an uncomfortable mix of feelings as I read those words. Foremost was a sense of betrayal. It hurt that the first I ever heard about my brother’s wedding was from the invitation to the event just days before. But quick on the heels of that initial reaction came another feeling. One that made me even more confused and upset: jealousy.
Princess Mi Amore Cadenza? Who in the hoof is THAT?
My friends went our separate ways soon after I finished reading the letter. Everyone else was excited and eager to prepare for our trip to Canterlot. I went back to the library and left Spike to pack while I locked myself in my room to think.
I didn’t like the way I was feeling. I didn’t like that I was jealous. Even worse was the fact I didn’t know why I felt that way. Or rather, I knew but I didn’t want to admit it.
As I brooded, unpleasant thoughts bubbled to the surface. Ideas and half-formed fantasies that I believed I had beaten and locked away suddenly emerged.
I know that my friends think I’m naïve. Despite my efforts to be more sociable, they still see me as a shut-in bookworm; they think I’m as innocent as Fluttershy. Perhaps even more so. They think my only love is for my studies, my textbooks, my magical research. They can’t imagine me, the “egghead” ever having romantic feelings.
But they’re wrong. I have felt love. Not just the kind that exists between close friends. Not the physical lust that Rarity’s cheap paperbacks describe or the knightly platonic love in all the fairytales Fluttershy reads. Real love. The kind that burns in your chest, and every moment you see the pony you love is a drink of pure, cool water. The kind where you feel incomplete without them. The kind where you would do anything for them, but that’s okay because you know they’ll do anything for you. It’s just that I’d chosen to forget about it. And I succeeded. Until now at least.
A memory popped unbidden into my head at that moment. I saw myself as a filly, years before I’d started studying under Princess Celestia. Even then I loved reading, though my interests ran more towards fiction at that age. My family was gathered around our fireplace, enjoying its warmth and each other’s company.
My mother was reading a story to me. It was an utterly generic children’s story, about a prince who slew a dragon to rescue a princess, but I loved it all the same. At the end they married and rode off into the sunset together. I sighed happily as my mother closed the book’s cover. She smiled at my contented expression and asked me a question.
Do you want to find a prince and live happily ever after one day Twilight?
I looked back up to her and beamed as I gave my answer.
I have a prince already! It’s Shiny!
I punctuated my proud announcement with a hug and a kiss on Shining’s cheek. My brother recoiled and gagged melodramatically, fearful of getting cooties from his baby sister. Upset at his antics I pouted as only a precocious little filly can. My parents watched and laughed fondly at my adorable misunderstanding. After all, to a foal that young marriage is something that happens between two ponies who love each other, regardless of the relation.
The memory fades, swiftly replaced by a different one.
I am older, an adolescent nearing marehood. I wander the grounds of Princess Celestia’s school, my nose buried in the pages of a heavy textbook held aloft by my telekinesis.
My ear twitches as it picks up a soft giggling. I lower my book and peer discretely over its edge. The light laughter is coming from a circle of three unicorn fillies, all of them my age, who are huddled together behind a large rose bush. Every now and then one of the fillies pokes their head through a gap in the bush, then turns back to the others and the giggling renews.
Tilting my head in curiosity I approach them.
What are you looking at?
The fillies, caught red-hoofed, yelp and scramble to look innocent. One of them with a steel gray coat, the leader I presume, recognizes me first. She instantly relaxes as she sees it is not a teacher.
Oh, it’s just Smarty-pants Sparkle.
I ignore the barb, having heard many far worse than it. My curiosity remains however, and I ask again.
What are you all looking at?
The three fillies share a glance and begin whispering amongst each other. Having reached a consensus the leader faces me again and speaks to me in a low voice.
Okay, you can look, but you have to keep quiet about it.
I nod and set my book down on the grass. I approach the bush and poke my head through the bush as I saw the others do. From my concealed location, I have a perfect view of a gang of unicorn colts playing, their horns glowing as they telekinetically bat a hoofball through the air.
I voiced my confusion at why this sight would be so fascinating.
I don’t get it.
The gray filly groaned in exasperation and pointed a hoof at one of the colts.
Him! Argent Flame!
She and her two sycophants sighed dreamily in unison.
He asked me out on a date.
I look at the colt she’s gesturing to but see nothing to elicit such a dramatic swoon and voice my skepticism.
One of the other fillies pipes up this time.
Come on Twilight, even you must have somepony you’d be interested in dating.
I paused to consider it some more, but came to the same conclusion.
No. I really don’t.
The leader of the trio rolled her eyes and scoffed.
Pfft, figures. Smarty-pants Sparkle’s so much better than us she doesn’t even need a coltfriend. Whatever.
The three turned away from me and resumed their spying, paying me no further mind. It was clear that nothing productive could come out staying, so I shrugged and walked away, carefully dusting my book off as I left. But the words of the three fillies began to niggle away at me.
I knew from the countless texts I’d read on the subject that it was normal for a filly my age to start seeking romantic relationships. I wondered why it was that I didn’t feel any such desires.
Deciding that the best way to address this was through rational analysis, I thought about what came into my mind when I thought of a nice colt. Naturally I turned towards Shining Armor. I used him as my exemplar and began to measure other colts I knew against him. But whenever I found a colt I might have a remote interest in dating, I compared them to my brother, and found that they fell woefully short.
I know they’ll never connect with me the way he does. They’ll never know just what to say to make me laugh when I feel sad. Their smiles will never compare to his silly-looking but honest grin. I’ll never feel as safe as I do when he wraps his forelegs around me. I won’t love them as much as I love him.
Concluding that I simply hadn’t met anypony that was right for me yet, I soon forgot about the incident.
Another few years flash past as a third memory surfaces. It is a few months before I discover the prophecy of Nightmare Moon and the Princess sends me to Ponyville.
I had allowed myself the rare indulgence of a break from my studies and decided to spend it visiting my brother on the other side of Canterlot, at the Royal Military Academy.
I am roaming the large yard at the heart of the academy. In spite of the map I picked up at the security gate, I am lost. As I aimlessly search for the barracks, a voice calls out to me.
I turned towards the familiar nickname, eager to see my brother again. I stop short as I catch sight of him for the first time in nearly a year.
The brother in my memories was a lovable, if somewhat clumsy, goof. He was all lanky height and awkward limbs.
The colt, no that’s not right, the stallion approaching me is anything but awkward. He moves with a purposeful and surefooted gait, head held high and proud.
My brain dimly registers that he is not wearing his armor or uniform. His body is left deliciously bared before me. It looks like he just came back from training because his coat glistening with sweat, casting every part of his body into sharp relief under the summer sun. His chest has grown broad and his legs are similarly thick with muscle.
And his smile. Oh Celestia, that smile. His grin is open and honest, hiding nothing. You look at him and you know he’ll never lie to you, never keep secrets from you. Unlike me.
He reaches me and hugs me tight, his strong forelegs wrapping easily around my neck. As he holds me, I note that he is taller than I remember. The strong line of his jaw now easily clears my head and the tip of my horn. With only our coats separating us, I can feel smooth muscles rippling beneath his skin. I blush fiercely. Thankfully he doesn’t seem to notice.
Shining breaks the hug and his grin stretches a bit wider. He turns and motions for me to follow, enthusiastically chattering away about his experiences training to join the Royal Guard.
His greater height has also given him a longer stride, and I find myself drifting behind him. Try as I might, I cannot keep my eyes from drifting down his neck, along the shifting planes of muscle on his back and towards his well-toned flanks. I watch, transfixed as the muscles in his rear move against each other in interesting ways. My gaze starts to drift even lower…
I catch myself, acutely aware of the fact that I am ogling my own flesh and blood.
It was then that I realized it.
I was in love with Shining Armor.
I was in love with my brother.
Shocked at the revelation, I froze in place. Shining noticed I had stopped and my disturbed expression. He asked if I was alright. Claiming that my stomach was upset, which was half-true, I hurriedly excused myself. I left my bewildered brother behind as I rushed back to my rooms at the Royal Palace.
I immediately ran into the bathroom as intense nausea came over me. I felt like I would throw up. I bent over the sink and nearly dry-heaved.
I was terrified. Was there something wrong with me? Was I sick? Or crazy? How could I feel this way about my brother?
This is a secret I’ve never shared with anyone. Not my friends, not my family, not Spike, not even Princess Celestia. How could I? What would I say? That I was in love with Shining Armor? In love with my brother in a way siblings definitely should NOT feel? As accepting and open-minded as the ponies in my life are, this is one taboo I doubt anyone will be willing to tolerate.
Unable to consult with anyone, I forced those thoughts down into the back of my head and chose to forget.
I hardly ever visited Shining after that day, afraid of what perverse feelings might emerge if I were to be in close contact with him again. I waved off his invitations for lunch, cited my endless assignments during holidays, sent apologetic birthday cards explaining my unfortunate but unavoidable absence.
I dove into my studies, even more so than before. I never went on a date. I never even so much as looked at a stallion romantically, fearful of what sick, wrong thoughts of my brother would intrude if I did.
I carried on in this manner for years, denying and ignoring what my heart was telling me, until that day. Until I got that wedding invitation and realized I had never truly moved on. That my feelings for my brother hadn’t gone away. Instead they had fermented in the recesses of my mind.
The impromptu trip down memory lane ends, and I am back in the present, sitting on my bed in the Ponyville Library.
My miserable mood lingered for the rest of the week. Soon enough my friends and I were on the train to Canterlot. I watched the landscape flash past, my thoughts still in turmoil. The weird alchemy of jealousy and hurt and utter confusion left me feeling raw anger.
The instant the train pulled into Canterlot, I hopped onto the platform and took off for the palace.
I saw Shining Armor on the ramparts, passing orders on to his guards. He was still as handsome as he was the last time I saw him. He struck an even more impressive figure clad as he is in his ceremonial armor.
Launching into a verbal assault I ranted at him about not telling me of his marriage, carefully dancing around any mention of my personal attraction to him.
The uncomfortable mix of emotions churning around my head was momentarily swept aside as Shining explain his fiancée was in fact my old foalsitter Cadence. My excitement at seeing her again quickly dampened as she looked down at me condescendingly and dismissed me with hardly a thought. Suddenly my jealousy flared up again as I remembered that this was the mare who was taking my brother from me. Only now I felt justified in my dislike because she was being cold and callous.
As much as it shames me to admit it, I felt a surge of relief whenever I saw Cadence being rude to my friends. Because that meant I justify my envy to my friends and to my own guilty conscience. I could mask my forbidden feelings as just sisterly concern. Looking back, I’m not sure where genuine suspicion ends and petty jealousy begins. Maybe I was just looking for an excuse to hate Cadence, maybe I really did notice that her behavior was really strange. I can’t be sure anymore.
On the evening before the wedding, I joined my friends for a drink at a Canterlot café. In my mind a half-baked plan was taking shape. If I could convince them that something was wrong with Cadence, maybe I could stop the wedding or at least delay it long enough to…to do something.
Bet I can guess what you're all thinking! Cadence is the absolute worst bride-to-be ever.
My confidence fell as I saw my friends refute my evidence one by one.
Think maybe you're being just a tiny bit possessive of your brother?
My friends and the more-rational part of my mind murmured their agreement with Applejack’s words. I didn’t want to admit to myself that I was envious of Cadence. Feeling betrayed and defensive, I lashed out reflexively and stormed off.
I am not being possessive, and I am not taking it out on Cadence! You're all just too caught up in your wedding planning to notice that maybe there shouldn't even be a wedding!
Without my friends’ support, I decided to confront Shining I headed straight to my family’s house in the city. My brother’s happy greeting died on his lips as he saw I was upset.
We need to talk. I think you're making a big-
I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. Ultimately it didn’t matter because Cadence interrupted us and pulled Shining Armor into the reading room. I followed and watched through the slightly-opened door. I gasped as I saw Cadence’s horn glow a sickly green and blast Shining Armor with a stream of magic that sent his eyes rolling in their sockets.
I gasped and ran off to get my friends. I felt at once vindicated and relieved. Here was proof that my protectiveness of my brother wasn’t just out of my sick attraction to him, it was because Cadence was genuinely, demonstrably evil.
But to my dismay, my friends were all excited by the prospect of being bridesmaids to hear my claims of Cadence’s malevolence. And my attempts to denounce her before my brother and Princess Celestia failed miserably as well.
I had never seen my brother angry before, let alone angry at me. He glared at me with such contempt I thought I might catch fire on the spot. Every word he spoke was like a punch in the stomach or a dagger in my heart.
And you can forget about being my best mare. In fact, if I were you, I wouldn't show up to the wedding at all.
I began to think that maybe I was wrong. Maybe my perspective was being skewed by my own feelings. Maybe I was seeing what I wanted to see.
Then Cadence marched up to me, placed a comforting hoof on my head. I managed to choke out an apology. Her eyes flashed green and she hissed.
You will be!
Before I could react she had raised a ring of viridian fire around me and I felt myself sinking through the ground and as my eyes passed beneath the floor, everything went dark.
I awoke in some kind of cavern, disoriented and thoroughly terrified. Suddenly Cadence’s face appeared on a crystal nearby mocking me with her laughter. As scared as I was, when she threatened my brother, my anger shoved my terror aside.
Don't you dare do anything to my brother, you... you monster!
I focused my magic and fired a bolt of searing energy at the laughing facsimile, ducking as it ricocheted back at me leaving a scorch mark on the ground inches from my head. The image of Cadence continued taunting me. I channeled more power into my horn and this time fired a concussive blast that shattered the crystals rather than be reflected by them. Cadence’s laughing face appeared and disappeared around me until I broke through into another chamber
Please! Don't hurt me! Twilight, it's me! Please, you have to believe me.
I almost didn’t. All my repressed anger and jealousy was begging to be released. I felt power swirling around my horn, righteous fury fueling my magic and begging to be loosed. Thank heavens I came to my senses and saw it was really Cadence.
Whatever my feelings were, I knew there were bigger concerns now. With Cadence, I confronted her doppelganger and uncovered a changeling conspiracy to conquer the city.
Eventually the changeling invasion was repelled and order was restored to Canterlot. Soon the wedding planning began again in earnest. I helped with as much enthusiasm I could gather, knowing that every moment that passed was bringing us closer to Shining’s wedding.
Finally the ceremony was underway once more and I stood by Shining’s side, watching Cadence walk down the aisle, resplendent in her wedding dress.
As Princess Celestia gives her speech, the still-rational part of my mind observes that this is a joyful moment for Shining Armor and Cadence. And I should feel happy for them.
So then why is it that when Shining Armor kissed Cadence at the altar, I still felt like a hot coal is burning in the pit of my stomach? Why is it that I still think of what it would be like if it were me up there? To feel his lips press against my own? If it were me getting my happily ever after with the finest stallion I know?
It’s Cadence. The real Cadence this time. The mare that Shining Armor fell in love with. Yet I don’t feel any better. Somehow it was easier knowing Shining Armor was under the control of a spell. At least then I could imagine I had a chance, even if it was just the faintest of hopes. But this? This is real. My brother’s getting married.
No, is married.
And whatever mad dreams I had are shattered.
I grin as the guests come up to me to pass on their congratulations and hope my smile doesn’t look as forced as it feels. I nod my head in agreement when Rarity gushes about how perfect Shining Armor and Cadence look together. I lie to my friends, my parents, even the Princesses themselves and I say how happy I am for the new couple.
And I’ll keep on lying. Because maybe, if I repeat the lie enough times, I can convince my own heart that it is the truth.
The celebration starts to wind down as the night darkens. Princess Luna raises the moon and it shines bright over the castle grounds. All the guests gather one last time to see the newlyweds off. I step out of the crowd and open the door of the carriage, bowing as Shining and Cadence approach.
Cadence smiles at me in wordless thanks and gets inside first. My heart races as my brother pauses before stepping into the carriage. He turns to me and grins. For one beautiful moment, the world shrinks. It is just me my brother, and his silly, goofy grin. Just for me. I try to burn that into my memory so that even as he leaves, I can hold onto that one tiny part of him. I am so concentrated that I nearly miss what Shining is saying.
Twilight! None of this would've been possible without you, little sis. Love ya, Twily.
My heart starts screaming again, demanding that I do something to make him stay, to say something, anything. To confess my feelings to him, regardless of all the ponies around us.
I don’t. I can’t. Instead I just say…
Love you too, BBBFF.
But I can never tell you just how true that is.
He hugs me close. I pray that he doesn’t feel my heart pounding against my ribcage as we embrace. I almost don’t let go. I want to stay like that. To keep holding onto my brother. To the stallion I love.
We pull apart. I close the door of their carriage behind them. And he pulls away.
My friends circle around me, as if expecting me to say something. So I do.
Now this was a great wedding.
I watch them disappear over the horizon, the clanking of the horseshoes trailing their carriage echoing in my ears. My friends tell me there are tears in my eyes, but they assume those are simply tears of joy.
I brush my hoof against my cheek. It comes away wet.
I hadn’t even realized I was crying.