The nights were still a bit chilly, but the winds were light and the streets were clear, so Broken Spoke decided to take a chance: “May I walk you home?”
“Always the traditionalist, I see,” Twist replied. “Even though you don’t have any idea where I live.” She peered at him from over the top of her glasses. “Uh, you don’t have any idea where I live, right?”
“Not a clue. That’s why I sent that letter to your office.” He grinned. “I’d make a really terrible stalker.”
She laughed. “You lose points for efficiency, but you score for persistence. That’s worth something.”
“Have I been that much of a bother?” he asked.
“Not tonight. You were utterly charming, every step of the way.”
“I thought I might have been out of practice.”
“I’d be suspicious of anypony who sounded like he’d been practicing all day,” said Twist. “It’s about a twenty-minute walk. This way.”
They set off down the street, the blue stallion and the ivory mare, looking for all the world like they’d always been together.
“So,” said Twist, “what’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get back home?”
“Write a letter to Pinkie Pie, to thank her for helping to make this evening possible,” he answered. “Did I tell you we met when I was a colt? We were doing the tourist thing, and she caught us coming out of the train station, like she was the welcoming committee or something.”
“She pretty much is,” Twist said. “How is she these days?”
“Just like the rest of us. A little older, a little slower, but hanging in there.”
“Is she still the bearer of the Element of Laughter?”
“I think so. It’s been a while since I even thought about the Elements of Harmony. You think maybe we’re spoiled after all these years?”
Twist pondered for a moment. “I haven’t had any problem adjusting to the absence of chaos.”
Spoke laughed. “You win this round.”
“It’s something I learned to live with. In those days, all six of the Elements of Harmony lived in Ponyville, so we got to see them on a regular basis. Inspirations to us all, when they weren’t trying to one-up each other, and sometimes when they were.”
“Pinkie’s the only one I ever met. Then again, I was way out in Baltimare.” He shook his head. “So many things I missed, all those years.”
“Nopony can keep up with everything. It all happens too fast. I could swear I was thirty last year, or maybe the year before. Now look at me.”
He looked at her. “You don’t have to tell me twice.”
They turned onto Haflinger Road. A couple of carriages out and about, but not much in the way of hoof traffic.
Twist glanced over at Spoke. “A bit for your thoughts?”
“They may not be worth that much,” he said.
“Well, I was trying to boil it down to three words, but turns out it’s not as simple as that.”
They came to a halt. “It’s not those three words, is it?”
He nodded. “Afraid so. Something somewhere, though, is blocking me.”
Twist smiled. “If you don’t mind my playing amateur psychologist here—”
“Go right ahead.”
“What’s blocking you is your superego, which recognizes the truth of the matter.”
“You’re in love. I’m convinced of that. But you’re not in love with me, really; you’re in love with the idea of me, what I represent to you. You’ve had all these years to create an image. A sort-of-pretty filly was nice to you once, and your brain took that idea and galloped off with it.”
“I never was all that interested in looks,” he said.
“That statement is almost never true. And it’s absolutely never a compliment. Think about it.”
Spoke thought about it. “I guess you’re right.”
“Like I have any business complaining about it after having my face redone,” Twist said.
“Who decided that dating and mating had to be so damned difficult, anyway?”
“I think it was inevitable. There are no perfect matches out there. Just us poor, imperfect ponies, trying to catch a little bit of happiness while we can.”
He sighed. “There are times when I think it might be too late for some of us.”
“It’s only too late,” Twist declared, “if you want it to be.”
It was nearly midnight when they turned the corner into a cul-de-sac. “Last duplex on the left,” said Twist. “It’s small, but it’s cozy. And no, I’m not inviting you in. I have rules about that sort of thing on a first date.”
“At the moment,” Spoke replied, “I’m just happy it counted as an actual date.”
“And you may as well know this too. Three weeks ago I got unceremoniously dumped.”
“Somepony was fool enough to let you get away?”
Twist shrugged. “It’s a long story.”
“I have time.”
“I’d bet you know Mayor Treadwell.”
“Met her once at a Chamber of Commerce gathering, a couple of years ago,” said Spoke. “I wouldn’t say we’re good friends, but we’re aware of each other’s existence.”
“She’s engaged now, to Cheerful Giver, the head of United Neigh.”
“Now her, I’ve never met.”
“We took a couple of post-graduate classes together at Manehattan, and we’ve stayed close. Coltfriend of the moment was reading about the engagement party in the paper, and he grumbled about how this sort of thing was setting a bad example.”
“What? Too many taxpayer bits spent on frivolity? That’s the usual complaint we hear in Baltimare.”
“Oh, he’s fine with money being spent, as long as some of it is being spent on him.” Twist gave out with a snort. “He’s just hung up on fillyfoolers in high places.”
“And you call me a traditionalist,” Spoke said. “This stallion sounds positively prehistoric.”
Twist sighed. “And I jumped to Cheerful’s defense, as sarcastically as I could. ‘I can assure you,’ I said to him, ‘the Mayor has made a good choice. Cheerful and I go way back.’ You could see his forehead wrinkling from halfway across the room.”
“Indeed. He called me several unpleasant names, of which ‘fillyfooler’ was the mildest, and stormed out of the café, never to be seen again.”
“If you ask me, you’re probably better off without him.”
“Oh, undoubtedly. But it’s taking me longer than I expected to get used to being unattached again.” She winked. “Although I did keep his toothbrush. It’s really good for cleaning the inside of the toilet-bowl rim.”
Spoke laughed. “A little something to remember him by.”
“And that’s the hard part, you know? For a while, it was wonderful. And it turned horrible in just a couple of minutes one morning. You never get used to that.”
“I wish there was something I could do to help,” he said.
“Just being with me tonight helped a lot,” Twist told him. “I had a much better time than I really expected.”
“Happy to oblige.” He bowed. “We must do this again sometime.”
“Not right away,” she said. “I have to let all this sink in, and then patch up my heart one more time.”
“I have the patience of an immortal,” Spoke replied. “I just hope she doesn’t have mine.”
Twist laughed, and gave him a quick kiss. “The night after Winter Wrap-Up, there’s a reception at Town Hall. Not quite black tie, but formal-ish. Miss Twist requests the presence of Mr. Spoke. Seven-thirty.”
“I’ll be there with bells on,” he said.
“Maybe a little more … formal than that,” she teased. “See you then?”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
She gave him one last smile, and popped open the door. “Good night, and have a wonderful trip home.”
“I will,” he promised. He waited until she closed the door, then trotted back up the street. For some reason, he didn’t feel the slightest bit tired.
The next afternoon, he went to the Post Office to drop off the letter to Pinkie Pie that he’d written on the train; in return, they gave him a week’s worth of incoming mail. When he got home, he was sorting through the stack, when he happened upon an official-looking letter in a City of Baltimare envelope. This can’t be good, he thought, and then he read:
Dear Mr. Spoke:
It’s been several days since we’ve seen you around town. Is something wrong? Please let us know what’s happened to you.
Needful Way, Ph.D.
Department of Social Services
City of Baltimare
He scrawled across the bottom:
Dear Dr. Way:
Nothing whatsoever is wrong. Thank you for paying attention.
And right about the time Celestia was scheduled to raise the sun, he was down at the harbor on the same old bench.
The yellow unicorn filly was right on time. “Hi!”
“Hello yourself,” said Spoke. “Could you give this to your mom for me?”
“Sure can!” She dropped it into her backpack, which was a yellowish orange, he noticed.
“Thank you,” he said. “Have a good day.”
“You too,” said the filly.
As she disappeared around the corner, Spoke thought: Someday she’ll have a Very Special Somepony. And as he started back up the hill, he realized that not once in his life had he ever said such a thing about himself.
So he said it, out loud, and he thanked Celestia for providing such a stirring background to what was going to be a beautiful morning.