Caramel descended the stairs into the kitchen the next morning. The smell of apple pancakes wafted up from the stove as Toffee cooked, humming a tune to herself. Grampa Jonagold sat at the table studying the day’s edition of the Equestria Daily layed out on the table.
Caramel quietly sat down across from him, watching his sister prepare the food, and waiting for the daily errand to be issued. He knew full well that his grandfather would think of some useless task for him to do, as he had yesterday, and almost every day before that. He hoped it would at least be a good job this time around. Not like polishing the the apple buckets, or going all the way to Cantorlot for a new pair of eyeglasses.
He looked at Grampa Jonagold out of the corner of his eye, the old stallion seemed engrossed in whatever article he was reading. His light green mane brushed out of his eyes and his dark red coat clean and ready to begin the day. Caramel quickly averted his gaze as the old pony looked up from his paper. Taking a new interest in the cup of lemonade next to his plate.
From behind his small glasses Grampa Jonagold inspected him.
“So..” he started, smacking his lips. “Yer sister here told me you managed to sell some apples yesterday for that farm over in ponyville?”
Caramel looked up. So he’d already asked Toffee about it, hopefully she’d covered well. “Um...Yes sir.” he nodded quickly taking a sip of his lemonade.
“Good, good, I had to make sure. Couldn’t believe it when she told me. You, our little Clumsy Caramel selling forty apples all on his own!”
Caramel choked. “What!?” He shot Toffee a look, but she was hiding her face behind a cabinet door.
“Now don’t be modest boy, yer sister done told me all about it. I bet them Ponyville apples is singin’ your praises. You should be proud!” His Grandfather beamed. “Here I am trying to make you into a workhorse, when it’s obvious what you are!”
“A sales pony!” Grampa Jonagold continued, heedless of Caramel’s protests. “That’s why, today I’ve got a very special job for you. Follow me.”
The old pony got shakily to his hooves. Caramel followed him out to the barn, at a total loss for what to say. He was in over his head now, what was Toffee thinking? He’d wanted to look good, but not that good! What did his Grandfather have in mind?
Grampa Jonagold came to a stop in front of the barn doors and turned smiling to Caramel. “I’ve got a surprise for you, boy. It’s right in here.” He opened the doors with a flourish. Inside something lay under a tarp. It was large and bulky whatever it was. Caramel walked forwards for a closer look. It came up to about his neck, and looked to be rather heavy. He couldn’t begin to imagine what it might have been. But he had a feeling it wouldn’t be good.
“Well go on.” Grampa Jonagold urged. “Take a look at it!”
Caramel hesitantly grabbed the corner of the tarp and pulled. It slid away to reveal a wooden cart. Caramel stared at it in horror. He suddenly had an idea of what his errand for the day would be, and he didn’t like where it was going.
“Surprise!” Grampa Jonagold clapped in him in the back with a hoof. Caramel was quite certain the bruises in that particular area would never get a chance to heal. “After hearing how good you did with the Ponyville Apple’s cart, I thought, ‘Why not use some of that salespony charm for ourselves?’ So I went out this morning before you woke up, and got this baby at a great price! Isn’t that wonderful?”
Caramel just stared.
“Speechless my boy? I totally understand, it’s overwhelming isn’t it? We’re going to make so much money! Good thing too, I still need that hip of mine looked at. Darn thing’s creakier than a metal door at the bottom of the ocean.”
“B-but...But Grampa! I can’t-”
“Wait to get out there and sell some apples?” Caramel found himself being pushed towards the cart. “That’s great! It’s already loaded up, you get this to the ponyville market and go get’em Caramel! I have faith in you boy. Good luck!”
Caramel found himself harnessed to the cart before he knew what was happening. He turned to protest again, but seeing his Grandfather’s smiling face, he found he couldn’t. He works so hard, Caramel thought, I can’t disappoint him....
“Thanks, Grampa...” Caramel said quietly. “I’ll go right now.”
This comment earned him another hoof to the back. “That’s the spirit! Now get out there and sell, sell, sell! Bring us home some bits!”
The cart was heavier than it looked. It was at this point more than any other Caramel regretted the fact that the Ponyville town square was at the top of a hill. It took him half an hour just to lug the cart up.
When he finally arrived, he sat on his haunches for a moment, gasping for breath. What had he gotten himself into? The ponies around here wouldn’t buy anything from him. He knew that from yesterday, and then he’d had Applejack’s cart. With his own cart he’d be lucky if anypony came within 20 feet.
Still, he was here. Nothing to do but set up. Caramel, unloaded some bushels of apples, placing them around the cart in a way he thought might look attractive to the unwary passerby. He found an umbrella wrapped in some cloth. He opened it, and layed it against them, maybe if he looked like he knew what he was doing somepony might buy something. Apples didn’t like being in the heat. Right?
As he turned to look at his work, his head collided with something hard.
“Ow!” yelled a voice. There was the sound of fluttering of pages as a book fell the ground.
Caramel’s head was spinning. That voice was familiar, but he couldn’t place it, he waited for his vision to stop swimming, and looked around. The purple unicorn from the previous day sat rubbing her head.
“Twilight!” he yelled, he was on his hooves immediately. “Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry! Are you hurt? It was my fault. Oh Celestia, I am so so sorry. I didn’t mean it. Of course...you know, I’d never mean to hurt you.” No...wait..that sounds weird. “Or anypony really! “he quickly interjected. “Do you need help?”
Twilight looked up. “Oh Caramel, hello. I’m fine really. Don’t worry, it was more my fault than yours. I should really choose between reading and walking.” She nodded to the book that had fallen to the ground in the collision. “I didn’t see you.”
Caramel raced over retrieve the book. The cover was filled with words he couldn’t fathom the meaning of. He offered it to Twilight, who floated it into her saddlebag. “Oh no, I was setting up the cart. I should have been paying more attention. Really, it’s my fault. You know me, Clumsy Caramel.”
Why did you tell her that nickname? His brain screamed.
Twilight laughed. Oh Celestia she had a great laugh.... “Fine, I guess we’ll share the blame.”
“Um..yeah.” Caramel chuckled. “I guess so.”
Twilight looked past him at the cart. “That’s not the same setup you had yesterday is it?”
“Oh, uh, no. Grampa Jonagold bought us our own cart this morning. We could use the money.”
“So it’s new is it? Well you should have a grand opening sign.” She gestured to the crowd. “To draw in customers. I’m sure Applejack could help you with it.” Twilight smiled. “If she doesn’t mind the competition that is.”
Caramel stared at her for a moment. It was only the second time he’d seen her smile and he was quite sure he never wanted to stop seeing it. Wow she was pretty. Perhaps he should have brought that book he’d thought of...but she was already reading a book. It suddenly dawned on him that she ran the library. Applejack had mentioned it once before. Would she need books? Maybe something else...
Caramel realized he’d spaced out for a moment.
Oh no... he thought. If he replied now, would it be awkward? Maybe if he acted like he hadn’t heard her she’d repeat it, then he could reply...but that might make him seem uninterested in what she had to say...Why was this so hard?
He chose to reply. “Oh, me? I’m no competition.”
Twilight looked briefly at his cart. “Well your apples look pretty good. I’d say you might give her a bit of a run for her money. How about I help?”
Caramel’s heart was beating three times faster than it should have. “H-huh? Oh! That’s not really necessary, I couldn't...I mean..”
“I’ll be your first customer. Come on, we’ll set the tone for the day.” She smiled again.
He would have jumped into a volcano if she’d asked.
“Okay...” he said dreamily.
Twilight picked out two Golden Delicious apples, and set them on the counter. “How much is that?”
Caramel suddenly remembered he had neglected to ask what the prices were before he’d left the farm. He really didn’t want to charge her, but if he returned home empty hoofed, his Grandfather would be disappointed. Caramel didn’t want to see that.
Twilight fished the money out of her saddled bag and set it on the counter. Grabbing the apples. “Thank you.”
Caramel floundered for a moment. “O-oh no, thank you!”
“Good luck, Caramel” Twilight turned to leave.
Caramel thought for a moment. Twilight was so kind to him, she’d been his first customer two days in a row. Did that mean she liked him? He thought. It seemed like she liked him. But did she like him, or like, like him? Maybe she was just being charitable...he thought. Perhaps she saw that he was a screw up, and everything she said was out of pity....
He sighed, looking up as she walked away. That was probably it. There was no way in the wide world of Equestria she’d ever like him.
You don’t know that. Said a little voice in his head.
Yes I do. Caramel thought back.
If she was doing this out of pity, would she have remembered you name? And bought apples from you twice?
Well there’s only one way to find out.
Caramel’s mouth was open before he knew what was happening.
“Twilight!” he called.
She turned. “Yes?”
Caramel’s face turned bright red. Curse that voice, there was no turning back now.
“Um...are you..busy this afternoon?”
Twilight pondered for a moment. “Not really, why do you ask?”
Caramel’s face got redder. “Um...well you see...I was wondering....If...you know...you had nothing to do....if you would.....you know.... kinda....” His voice petered out.
This time it was Twilight’s turn to blush. “Oh! Oh you mean....if I’m not doing anything...you’d like to...”
Caramel resembled a tomato at this point. He nodded.
Twilight’s face got just as red as Caramel’s. “Oh....oh my..”
His heart sank. She was going to say no. He just knew it. “Well...if you don’t want to... I understand...I’ll jus-”
“I’d love to!” she blurted out. Twilight quickly covered her mouth with her hooves. Surprised at her outburst.
Caramel got that now familiar, ‘out of his depth’ feeling.
She nodded again.
His heart nearly burst in his chest.
A final nod. “Um.... S-see you then?”
“Um...yeah...” Caramel said. He didn’t dare move in case he woke up.
“Good...” said Twilight.
“Good..” said Caramel.
To Be continued.