By Pen Palomino and Saddlesoap Opera
“Right this way, please,” said Twilight Sparkle “This is Ponyville Day Spa, where citizens of Ponyville come to relax, unwind and experience a bit of luxury.”
“Luxury? In this quaint little place? I hardly think this spa could possibly live up to the standards of luxury to which we are accustomed in Cahn-terlot,” remarked Prince Blueblood from behind Twilight.
Twilight placed a hoof on the door and struggled to maintain her cheery tone. “Well, let’s take a look inside – you may be pleasantly surprised.”
Blueblood scoffed. “I hardly think so!” He trotted up to the door and pointedly cleared his throat.
As Twilight opened the door Prince Blueblood strode in front of the other nobles and through the door. “One side – make way for the Prince! Let’s get this over with,” he exclaimed, cutting off the pleasant greeting Aloe and Lotus, the Spa’s Earth Pony beauticians, had readied for the group.
“Uhhh…” Twilight winced and blushed while looking at the spa proprietors apologetically.
Aloe and Lotus each gave Twilight an understanding smile and turned toward the tub room door. “This is our tub room,” said Lotus, “where de Ponies relax in warm baths with de finest aromat’erapy treatments–” before she could finish she was shoved aside by Prince Blueblood as he heedlessly entered the room.
Lotus stumbled back and crashed into a nearby shelf of glass jars of bath salts. The loud noise echoed throughout the tub room, startling the patrons within – including a timid pale yellow Pegasus Pony with a long, silky pale-pink mane.
The Pegasus let out a tiny “eep” as she lost her balance on the edge of the walkway surrounding the hot tub and fell in with a great splash. The displaced water spilled over the side of the tub, soaking the pompous Prince as he passed.
“Oh, no!” Twilight cried out. “Is everypony okay?”
“Everypony?” cried Blueblood. “What about me? I’m all wet! Have somepony dry me off this instant!”
Twilight bowed her head. “Of course, Your Majesty. Right away.” Aloe nodded toward a room with a sign marked Linens as she helped Lotus to her hooves.
Fluttershy peeked over the edge of the tub from under her soaked pink mane to survey the damage.
“You…!” Blueblood yelled, pointing an accusing hoof at her. “You are responsible for this!”
“I…I…u-umm...” Fluttershy stammered.
“You what? Speak up, you insolent commoner!”
“I-I, *eep!*…I’m s-so sorry! I-It was an accident,” Fluttershy said as she shrank back and hid her face behind her sodden mane.
“An accident? Why, I have never seen such a clumsy, careless oaf of a Pony in all my life!” Blueblood snapped his chin upward in smug disdain.
“Well, well, well…!” a voice came from across the room as a white horned figure with a meticulously coiffed purple mane appeared in the doorway to the aesthetics room. “If it isn’t Prince Un-Charming!” Rarity trotted into the tub room and stomped a perfectly-pedicured hoof to emphasize her distaste.
The Prince stared in shock but didn’t say a word. After a moment he huffed and turned toward the door just as Twilight returned, horn glowing, floating a stack of towels through the air with her magic. “It’s about time peasant-filly!” Blueblood sneered at Twilight. “Take me back to my quarters, THIS INSTANT!”
“Certainly, your majesty,” Twilight replied, with a brief and apologetic backward glance to her friends in the tub room.
As Twilight led Blueblood back to his accommodations, a few of the touring dignitaries softly giggled behind his back before returning to their proper noble behaviour. Meanwhile, the rest asked Aloe and Lotus about the details of their typical fiscal year and any notable clientele.
Meanwhile, Rarity had trotted over to the hot tub and helped Fluttershy out. She was drying her mane with a magicked towel.
“Thank you Rarity,” Fluttershy said softly, “…for standing up for me like that.”
“Think nothing of it,” Rarity said. “But you know dah-ling, you simply must learn to be more assertive at times.”
After leaving the spa Fluttershy felt a rumble in her stomach. “Oh dear,” she said to herself, “I should really get something to eat.”
She made her way to the Bistro in the middle of town and sat at a patio table outside. The Bistro was humming with the sounds of the crowd socializing over lunch during the midday rush.
Fluttershy waited patiently but the Bistro’s waiter, Horte Cuisine, continuously walked passed her without the slightest acknowledgement.
“Umm... sir? Uhh…excuse me…?” Fluttershy said meekly.
Horte walked past her without a word again and again as he went back and forth between the Bistro’s main dining room and the patio area with dishes and tabs.
Fluttershy eventually gave up on lunch. As she got up to leave Fluttershy felt something strike her rear and she toppled over on her side, followed by a hail of dishes crashing to the ground and a tripped-up waiter.
“OH NON! My apologies madame,” Horte exclaimed, getting to his hooves and dusting himself off. “I did not see you zere!”
“Oh, not at all – I should have been more careful. I was just, umm, leaving. Excuse me.”
Fluttershy got to her hooves and slowly walked away with her head down. Embarrassment heated her cheeks, and frustration curled her mouth into a frown. It was the same as always. She was ignored. Utterly invisible. Incredibly unimportant.
The marketplace was bustling with ponies busily shopping, selling and generally going about their daily errands. Fluttershy’s tummy rumbled as she approached the end of the line-up at the Sweet Apple Acres Apple Cart. Fluttershy took her place at the back of the queue, thankful that there were only a few ponies ahead of her.
A sudden crash from behind Fluttershy was followed by a squeal, which escalated to a tiny wail. Fluttershy turned to see a broken flower pot and a mess of soil and broken stems next to an upset little foal crying her eyes out. A mare was attempting to console her. Fluttershy left the queue to offer some assistance.
“There there, little one,” she said, her tone gentle and sympathetic. “It’ll be alright.”
“Alright? Alright?!” the Mare scolded. “Who do you think you are? My foal was careless and now she’s gotten all dirty right before dinner! And I’m probably going to have to pay for that plant too!”
Fluttershy retreated with a tiny “eep” and apologized, before returning to the line at the apple cart…which was now significantly longer.
She sighed and took her new place at the back. Mere moments later, she felt a tap on her shoulder.
“Hi there, sorry to bug ya, but do you mind if I go ahead of you? I am sort of late for a date.” The brown stallion nodded at his hourglass Cutie Mark as if it were an actual timepiece.
“…Oh. Um, I guess that’s okay.” Fluttershy stepped aside and let the stallion go ahead.
Fluttershy patiently waited for her turn, her hunger pangs worsening all the while. At long last the line cleared and Fluttershy trotted up to Applejack.
“Hey there, sugarcube! What can I getcha?” the Earth Pony asked with a friendly smile.
“Excuse me!” a voice chimed in just as Fluttershy was about to place her order.
The Mayor of Ponyville approached from down the street. “I have a town council meeting to get to and haven’t had lunch! Can you imagine how hungry I am?”
Fluttershy sighed and said “…I sure can.”
“Good! Then you won’t mind if I just squeeze in ahead of you, will you dear? I won’t be a moment!”
“Thanks!” The older sand-coloured mare cut Fluttershy off and shoved in front of her. “Let’s see…I will take two apple fritters, six golden delicious and six red…”
“It’s just that I missed lunch, too, and a lot of Ponies have already gone ahead of me…” continued Fluttershy, but the Mayor’s authoritative voice drowned her out completely.
“…Oh – also that pie, some juice and that lovely apple cinnamon coffee cake!”
“Alrighty ma’am, that’ll be 10 bits.” Applejack loaded a bag and exchanged it for the Mayor’s money. “Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?”
The Mayor trotted away. Applejack turned back to Fluttershy. “Wow! Busy day t’day. So…what’ll it be Shy?” Applejack looked down, and saw the bare shelves around her. “Oh…woops.”
Fluttershy whimpered softly.
“Shewt, I’m sorry sugarcube. With all those Ponies cuttin’ ahead o’ you, I got sold right out. Ya shoulda put yer hoof down sooner!”
As Fluttershy walked home she nibbled on wild berries and the occasional daisy as she came across them. Stressed and somewhat saddened by the day’s events, she stopped at the edge of a pond and looked at her reflection.
“Is there something wrong with me?” she asked the Fluttershy in the water. In the distance a frog hopped onto a floating lily pad, causing a ripple in the pond which made the reflection seem to nod in reply. Fluttershy frowned. “Maybe I should learn to be more assertive…”
Just then the ground shook and a herd of rambunctious foals came running down the path, laughing, shouting and shoving at one another.
“Wait!” Fluttershy said. “Let me get out–” Fluttershy had only half-spread her wings when the foals stampeded into her, knocking her aside…and into the pond.
“…of your way.” Fluttershy shook a few minnows out of her mane and sighed morosely.
The next morning, Fluttershy woke up an made her way to the kitchen.
As she carefully prepared a mix of grated carrots and oatmeal for Angel the Bunny and herself, Fluttershy thought of the afternoon before and how humiliated she’d felt when Prince Blueblood yelled at her. She couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if Rarity hadn’t been there.
You know dah-ling, you simply must learn to be more assertive at times. Her Unicorn friend’s words echoed in Fluttershy’s memory.
The day’s other events had only served to hammer Rarity’s point home.
“I’ll do it!” Fluttershy exclaimed as a startled Angel spit oatmeal and carrots across the table. “I will be more assertive!” Fluttershy stomped a hoof on the table, causing the breakfast bowls to bounce and overturn.
Angel shot a dirty look at Fluttershy. “Oh…! Um, r-right after I clean up this mess.” Angel nodded and then hopped away.
Fluttershy sighed as she went to fetch a rag.
Twilight Sparkle galloped around gathering the necessities for the busy day ahead, while Spike brought up the rear and checked the items off a list.
“Aged sparkling apple juice.”
Twilight paused as she carefully levitated the dusty bottle into a carrying bag. “What are the odds these posh Ponies will give the Princess a good review of Ponyville..?” she mused, half to herself.
Spike see-sawed a paw. “Ehhh, maybe four in ten,” he said. Twilight frowned.
A gentle knock sounded from the front door. “Spike, could you get that?” Twilight asked. “I need to find the cue cards for my farewell speech.” Before Spike could reply, Twilight ran to the next room.
Spike headed over to the door and opened it. “Oh, hi Fluttershy,” Spike said. “What’s up?”
“Hello Spike – i-is Twilight here? I need help with, um, something.”
“Sure, but I don’t know how helpful she’ll be. She’s running around like a chicken with its head cut off!”
“Oh, no!” gasped Fluttershy in horror. “That’s just awful. That poor little chicken…!” Spike rolled his eyes.
Twilight once again appeared in the main room of the library. “Hi Fluttershy. Sorry I can’t talk long, but I have to get to Sugarcube Corner to send off the dignitaries before Pinkie Pie unleashes the Pony Pokey...or worse!”
“…Oh. Okay, Twilight – I’ll be quick. I just wanted to ask if you could help me be, um, more…more assertive.”
“Ah! That’s easy. Ask Spike to fetch you Seven Superb Steps to Supreme Self-Esteem. It’s a great reference and a good place for you to start. But now I gotta go! Bye!” Twilight ran out the door, slamming it behind her and leaving Fluttershy hoofing nervously at the wooden floor.
“Thank you?” she said to the closed door.
“Any luck yet, Spike?” Fluttershy called up to the baby dragon perched at the top of the ladder leaning against the massive bookshelf on the west wall of the library.
“Not yet, Fluttershy!” Spike answered. “It should be here somewhere though...”
Spike and Fluttershy continued to peruse the section in search of the book Twilight had recommended, but to no avail.
When he ran out of shelves to search, he moved on to the stacks of tomes piled on Twilight’s writing desk. As he rummaged through the cluttered desk a folded piece of paper fell to the floor and landed open.
“Hey, what’s that?” Spike said, picking up the leaflet and giving it a look. “Hey, Fluttershy – check this out!”
“Oh? What is it, Spike?” asked Fluttershy, turning to face the baby Dragon. “Did you find the book?”
“No! Even better!”
Fluttershy rushed over and Spike presented the paper to her. It was an advertisement which read Gain More Self-Esteem Today with Advanced Assertiveness Audio Lessons!
“It says here that you can send away for this record that tells you everything you need to know about how to be more assertive, and that you can do the whole program in just one day!” Spike proclaimed excitedly. “They even have rush delivery!”
“I don’t know, Spike,” Fluttershy said. “This isn’t what Twilight recommended.”
“I know, but we can’t find that book anywhere and Twilight isn’t here to help. Besides this promises results way faster than Twilight’s book.”
“Well,” Fluttershy mused, “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try it.”
“That’s the spirit!” said Spike. “I mean, c’mon – what’s the worst that could happen?”
Fluttershy’s week began the way it usually did. She sang to herself and the animals in her care as she floated around the property tending to their needs. She was spreading chicken feed when a loud *CRASH* followed by an “Ooof!” startled her out of her routine.
Fluttershy rushed to the front of her cottage to find the cause of the commotion. As she rounded the corner she saw Ditzy Doo, the town’s Mailmare, flat on her back on the front stoop. Her golden eyes were turning in opposing circles.
“Oh my!” Fluttershy exclaimed “Are you okay?”
The grey Pegasus shook her head and got to her hooves. “Sowwy,” She said. “I don’t see how close stuff is so good sometimes.” She gave Fluttershy a warm smile and a long, cross-eyed look before finally remembering what had brought her to the cottage. “SPECIAL DELIVERY!” she shouted happily.
Ditzy Doo opened her mail bag and hauled out a square parcel that was much larger than a letter. The corners were badly bent. Ditzy proudly presented the package to Fluttershy and quickly took to the air.
“Thank you!” Fluttershy shouted after Ditzy, but her mousy voice didn’t reach the shakily-soaring Pegasus.
Fluttershy opened her package to find its contents consisted of a record and a letter. She unfolded the letter and read it.
Dear Fluttershy, it began. Fluttershy’s name was mouthwritten into an empty space in the mass-produced form letter. Congratulations on taking the first steps to better yourself and your life! Please listen carefully to the disclaimer track on the disc before proceeding with the steps to becoming a new and better you.
World-renowned motivational speaker
and Doctor of Pony Psychology
“Oh wow!” Fluttershy beamed. “World-renowned, Angel! That means this Doctor is really good.”
Angel looked somewhat less than convinced as Fluttershy set the record on her phonograph.
As the needle touched the record loud screeching and popping noises came through the speakers. Fluttershy instinctively clamped her hooves over her ears and clenched her eyes shut as Angel yanked his ears down by the tips, pulling them to the sides of his head.
Fluttershy finally took the needle off of the scratched and skipping record and examined it.
“Oh, no!” she exclaimed. “The record was damaged during delivery!” She squinted at the record’s cracked outer edge. “Well, I guess I won’t be missing too much if I just skip the beginning…”
Angel crossed his front legs and stared up at his keeper disapprovingly.
“Oh, Angel, it’s okay – really,” said Fluttershy. “I just need to make the best of a bad situation.” She experimented with the needle’s position until she could hear the voice of Whoopdee Doo.
The key to assertiveness is in knowing what it is you want out of life. I bet you are asking yourself – Self! How can we get on the right track?
“Ummm…” Fluttershy put a hoof to her chin, trying to think of an answer.
Well the answers are simple: Seize the moment! Stay focused! AND DON’T LET ANYPONY GET IN YOUR WAY!
“Oh! Well, that doesn’t sound very nice,” Fluttershy exclaimed, taken aback by the Doctor’s brash shouting.
You are probably some little shrinking violet thinking “Oh no, that doesn’t sound very nice,” Whoopdee Doo continued. But if you don’t start standin’ up for yourself AND GRABBING LIFE BY THE TAIL, you will end up 35 years old living in a WAGON, DOWN BY THE RIVER!
“Well that doesn’t sound so bad…” Fluttershy said as she turned to Angel. “I like the river.”
Oooh, but Whoopdee, the river is nice, The recording took on a mocking tone. Well Lahhhdee-Buckin Da! That is exactly the kind of attitude that gets you trotted all over!
Fluttershy’s ears drooped.
So, right now you’re gonna go and get a piece of paper and write those steps down. SEIZE the day, stay FOCUSED, and don’t let ANYPONY get in your way. Write ‘em down. No sense using your paper for doobie-rollin’ anymore!
“What’s a doobie?” the confused Fluttershy asked no one in particular.
Now sit yourself in front of the mirror and repeat the three steps until something sinks in! Then go out, grab the world by the tail, pull it down and wrap it up, and put it in your pocket, so you won’t have to live in a WAGON! DOWN BY THE RIVER!
Fluttershy sat in front of the mirror as the record had instructed and began to chant the mantra.
“S-Seize the day,” she started in a quiet tone while she stared at her reflection. Her reflection stared back, which she found intimidating. “eep!” she squeaked, looking away.
She gulped and tried again, giving the mirror a sidelong glance. “Umm…seize the day.”
Say it with more conviction you little foal! Whoopdee Doo’s voice rang out from the phonograph, now playing side B of the record.
“Seize the... day?” Fluttershy tested the words again.
“Seize the Day!”
Again you sissy!
“Seize the Day! Stay Focused!” Fluttershy’s soft voice rose in volume.
Come on! Grab the world by the tail!!
“Seize the Day! Stay Focused! Don’t let ANYPONY get in my way!!” Fluttershy hovered in midair and swung her front hooves out in a wide sweeping gesture.
Now you’ve got it! The voice on the record congratulated. Now the world is yours for the taking! So go out and get it!
“I WILL!” Fluttershy declared, her voice filling with a new and confident edge. She trotted outside and headed for town, slamming the door behind her. Angel hopped up to the window and watched his keeper leave the cottage wearing a large frown on his small face.
This concludes Whoopdee Doo’s Advanced Assertiveness Audio Lessons, the record continued to the room now occupied by one lone white bunny. Once again, these scenarios are exaggerated for motivation and encouragement purposes. Angel’s ears perked up. Please exercise caution and discretion when applying these new coping tools…
Angel smacked himself on the forehead with his front paw. He grabbed the letter which accompanied the record and ran for the door. The small white bunny frantically hopped up and down until he finally reached the handle. The door flew open with the little white bunny swinging from the latch. Angel kicked hard and jumped out onto the walkway. He took off after Fluttershy as fast as his legs could carry him.
Fluttershy`s tummy rumbled as she wandered Ponyville; She glanced at a sign advertising the Bistro’s famous daisy sandwiches. “Seize the day,” She whispered to herself.
She trotted up the walkway to the patio and sat down at a table. Horte Cuisine was just as busy as he had been the day before. “Stay focused,” Fluttershy reminded herself under her breath.
Horte Cuisine busily trotted past Fluttershy, apparently ignoring her once again.
“Ahhh-HEM!” Fluttershy loudly cleared her throat.
“Oh! Pardonnez moi, Madame,” Horte exclaimed. “I weel be right wiz yew.” He trotted back to the main dining hall. Upon returning to the patio Horte trotted right past Fluttershy. Again.
Rarity’s words echoed once again in Fluttershy’s mind. “Don’t. Let. Anypony. Get. IN MY WAY!” Fluttershy gritted her teeth, stood up, pounded her front hooves on the table, took a deep breath, and:
“HEY!” she bellowed. “DON’T YOU DARE IGNORE ME AGAIN!”
Everypony on the bistro’s patio stopped and stared along with Horte Cuisine, who had a shocked and embarrassed look on his face. “Oui…?” he asked cautiously, “what…can I ‘elp you wiz, Madame?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” said Fluttershy, rolling her eyes and then locking her fierce cyan gaze on the waiter. “How about some SERVICE? I would like a daisy sandwich – with no crusts – on oat bread, and an apple juice. And the juice had better be fresh from Sweet Apple Acres and not some preservative-filled swill from Manehattan.”
Horte froze in mute shock for a long moment.
“Today?” Fluttershy chided.
While Horte Cusine turned and galloped to the door of the dining room to place the order, everypony else sat staring in stunned silence.
“What are you all looking at?” Fluttershy scolded.
In an instant, everypony snapped out of their stupor and turned back to their meals.
A short while later Angel Bunny breathlessly bounded up the walk to the Ponyville Bistro. Fluttershy was nowhere to be found, but the air was still filled with murmurs and gossip about her recent display.
“Zut alors!” said a waiter as he hoofed at a small pile of bits on a recently-vacated table. “She did not even leave a teep!”
Angel sighed and left the bistro to continue his search.
Fluttershy continued her errands after lunch. She came across the Sweet Apple Acres cart and trotted over to join the back of the line.
After a short while a mare approached with a fussy foal; Fluttershy did her best to ignore them. But then she felt a tap on her shoulder.
“Excuse me,” the mare asked, “I have a lot of errands to run and my little one is really agitated. Would you mind if we skipped ahead in line?”
Seize the day! Stay Focused! Don’t let anypony get in your way! Fluttershy thought to herself. “I’m afraid I would mind,” she said firmly. “You see, ma’am, I have errands to run too.”
The mare seemed disappointed at first and then annoyed, but before she could appeal to Fluttershy, the rosey haired Pegasus turned her back and continued to wait in line.
The mare trotted off to tackle other items on her to-do list. Fluttershy smiled proudly.
Soon after the line began to move, and another familiar Pony approached the apple cart. The older mare went straight to the head of the line and proceeded to speak to the cart’s orange Earth Pony proprietor.
Fluttershy craned her neck slightly, straining to listen in; it seemed Ponyville’s Mayor wanted to schedule a meeting with Applejack later to discuss a supply contract for the school’s cafeteria. Good for her! thought Fluttershy.
But then, with her business concluded, the Mayor began placing an order.
“HEY…!” Fluttershy called out, outraged by the Mayor’s audacity.
The Mayor and Applejack turned to see the yellow Pegasus standing apart from the other Ponies in line. She stood in a wide, aggressive stance, with her teeth clenched, her head low and her Dragonfire-bright cyan eyes staring out menacingly from between pink strands of mane.
Fluttershy thrust a front hoof in the Mayor’s direction, singling her out, and shouted: “Just because you sit in an office overseeing the town’s political issues doesn’t give you the right to trot all over everypony!”
Fluttershy pointed at the queuing Ponies at her side, “All of these Ponies were here waiting for their apples before you showed up, and most of them probably voted for you! So the least you can do is go stand at the back of the LINE!”
The Mayor of Ponyville thrust her chin skyward. “Well!” she said stridently, “I suppose I can find some lunch elsewhere.” She huffed and trotted away.
The Ponies in the line were speechless. Those who were acquainted with the usually meek and virtually inaudible Pegasus wore expressions of shock and confusion, and the rest, simply shock. After an awkward pause, both groups shook it off and returned to waiting in line.
A short while later, Fluttershy reached the front and approached Applejack’s stand.
“Heya there Fluttershy. That was really, um...” Applejack started to trail off before finding her words again. “…Really sumthin’ back there. Is there anything ya wanna talk about, Sugarcube?”
“Oh, goodness no.” Fluttershy replied friendlily, “I’m just working on my assertiveness.”
“Oh! Well, that’s a good thing I s’pose...”
“Thank you. I feel like a new Pony.” Fluttershy smiled proudly. “Could I have some apple fritters and a large bottle of apple juice?”
“Sure thing, ‘Shy,” said Applejack nervously. She packaged the goods. “Four bits, please.”
Fluttershy paid for her wares and trotted away with the package hanging from her mouth.
A few moments later a concerned purple Unicorn trotted over to the cart from a nearby corner.
“Hi Applejack,” said Twilight Sparkle. “So…what was that all about?”
“I dunno, Twi, but somethin’ stranger than an orange in an apple tree is goin’ on with her.”
“I think so too–” Twilight stated before being interrupted by a tug on her tail.
Twilight and Applejack looked down to see a small white rabbit with a lock of streaked tail in one paw and waving a crumpled piece of paper with the other.
Twilight Sparkle magicked the paper up from Angel’s grasp and held it in front of her face.
“What does it say, Twi?” Applejack asked
“…Uh-oh,” Twilight responded. “We need to find Fluttershy. Now.”
Fluttershy sat by the river bank eating an apple fritter and sipping from her juice as she enjoyed a calm and peaceful break from the day’s self-improvement. I never thought being a better me could be so exhausting, she thought to herself.
She let out a sigh, lay down on her belly and looked at her reflection in the water. I hope it’s working…
Just then, the quiet splendour of the moment was shattered by the sounds of raucous laughter and a chorus of off-key singing voices:
♫On a quest to find out who we are♪
♪And we’ll never stop the journey♫
♫NOT UNTIL WE HAVE OUR CUTIE MARKS!!!!♪
Fluttershy cringed as the last line of the song erupted from the lungs of the three caped foals; the little orange Pegasus seemed particularly deafening. As the trio neared, they inhaled for an encore.
Fluttershy leaped to her hooves, turned to face the foals and bellowed: “QUIET!!!”
“Huh?!” the three startled crusaders said in unison.
“Um…is everything okay, Fluttershy?” Scootaloo asked as she approached the weary yellow Pegasus.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Fluttershy replied. “I’m just trying to relax. Please, go play somewhere else.”
“Are you sure? “ Sweetie Belle asked.
“Yeah,” added Apple Bloom, “you don’t look okay, an’ mah big sister Applejack always says...”
“I SAID I’M FINE!” Fluttershy snapped. “I told you to leave me alone! What – do you think you’ll get your Cutie Marks for butting into my business?!”
“Now hold on justa minute!” said a voice from above. “You need to cool off!” A crack of thunder and a sudden short downpour followed, concentrated squarely on Fluttershy’s head. The yellow Pegasus squealed in shock, and stood drenched and sputtering in the shower’s aftermath.
A sky-blue rainbow-maned Pegasus hoped down from the tiny low-hanging cloud upon which she’d been napping and stood between Fluttershy and the Cutie Mark Crusaders. She narrowed her eyes. “Now…are you gonna tell me what’s wrong with you – and why you are takin’ it out on little fillies – or do you wanna to pick a fight with someone your own size, ya big bully?!”
Fluttershy’s jaw dropped. Bully?! she thought to herself.
“Well…?” Dash demanded.
Fluttershy fell to her knees. “You really think I am a bully?”
“If tha shoe fits, sugarcube,” said a voice from behind Fluttershy.
Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash and the Cutie Mark Crusaders all turned to see Applejack and Twilight Sparkle approach with Angel Bunny riding on her back.
“…B-But I was just trying not to be weak anymore,” Fluttershy said. She hung her head. Her dripping mane flopped forward and hid her face.
“But you weren’t weak Fluttershy,” Twilight offered, “…at least, not in any way that counts.”
“It’s true,” Applejack agreed. “We’ve always been able to count on ya when it was time ta step up. Ya don’t need no bad advice from a record ta be strong.”
“You know about that?” Fluttershy asked in a meek whisper from between the strands of her sodden mane.
“Yes,” Twilight said as Angel hopped off her back and presented Fluttershy with a crumpled form letter from a world-renowned Pony Psychologist. “Angel showed us this.”
“A record?” said Rainbow Dash. “That’s why you were being such a jerk?”
“I didn’t mean to be!” Fluttershy turned to the Cutie Mark Crusaders. “Oh, girls…I am so sorry for how I treated you. I had no idea I was acting like such a meany.”
“Why don’t we all go back to your place and talk about it?” Twilight said.
Back at Fluttershy’s cottage, the Cutie Mark Crusaders laughed and chased chickens outside while Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy listened to the record from the point where Angel set the needle and for the first time Fluttershy heard the conclusion of the lesson and its recap of the damaged earlier disclaimer.
“Oh, my!” Fluttershy exclaimed. “I didn’t know! I’ve been such an awful brute. Can you ever forgive me?” Her cyan eyes were huge and watery.
“Of course we can!” said Twilight. “But next time you feel like you’re having trouble dealing with bullies, be careful you don’t turn into one. There are other ways to work on standing up for yourself.”
Fluttershy nodded. “I will, Twilight. I know now that I shouldn’t try to be somepony I’m not. But I’m still going keep working on being the best me I can be.” She smiled a small but determined smile.
“YAY! This calls for a PARTY!” shouted a high, boisterous voice from the doorway, where a pink, frizzy-maned Earth Pony seemed to have appeared out of thin air.
“This is all very nice, but I am not sure I really needed a party,” Fluttershy said as she gingerly took a cupcake from a tray balanced on Pinkie Pie’s bowed head. The pink marvel had gathered a sizeable crowd at Sugarcube Corner in a matter of minutes.
“Oh sure you do, Fluttershy!” Pinkie Pie insisted. “Everypony needs a party now and then! And I’ll take any chance I can get to throw one!” Pinkie gleefully bounded away without dropping a single crumb from her cupcake-tray-hat.
“My goodness but that Pony has impressive posture,” Rarity said from next to Fluttershy. “If only I could get her to trot with that kind of poise.” Rarity turned to face her Pegasus friend. “I must say dah-ling, I am terribly sorry if I made feel that you needed to change. I feel just awful for making you feel bad about yourself.”
“It’s okay Rarity – I really shouldn’t have let things get out of hoof like I did,” Fluttershy said. “But that’s in the past now. So, um, why don’t we just enjoy the party..?” Her tone grew softer and more hesitant as she finished the request.
“You’re the boss!” Rarity said sunnily, and levitated a slice of cake off of a nearby platter. Both Ponies shared a laugh. “But you know dear, I too have had my own run of poor self esteem from time to time.”
“You have?” Fluttershy questioned.
“Oh yes Dah-ling, everypony does. In fact, after Photo Finish chose to make you a star and not me I got a tad... jealous.”
“Oh.” Fluttershy shifted uncomfortably, her pupils contracting from imagined camera flashes.
“So, when my ego didn’t recover right away I swung by Twilight’s and borrowed a book from Spike that really helped.” Rarity continued, “Seven Superb Steps to Supreme Self-Esteem! I am sure Twilight wouldn’t mind at all if I passed it on to you next.”
“Oh really?” Fluttershy giggled “That would be…nice.”
Dear Princess Celestia,
Today I learned that even though your friends may have faults, those faults are a part of who they are. You should help them to overcome them as you both grow and learn, but quick fixes are never the answer. If you have a friend with a problem, it is best to listen, be supportive, help when it is needed…and always make sure that what you say is what you mean to say!
Your Faithful Student,
Twilight set down her quill and looked up from her spot at a small table in the corner. As she surveyed the assembled crowd, she couldn’t help but overhear a pair of Ponies talking next to a punchbowl at her side:
“Say Ditzy,” said the magenta-maned dark-pink Earth Pony, “you should try this record I got. It’s by a world-renowned Pony Psychologist, and it helped me a lot. You may not know this about me, but I used to have a drinking problem…”
Twilight winced. “Uh-oh.”