You need to stop beating yourself up someday. Did she? It was an accident. Did that matter? Sunset leaned forward on the bench and peered down the street. Her gaze bounced between the people around her, people she knew. Yet, from where she sat, they might as well have been strangers. Their smiles were foreign and routines that she'd seen them perform countless times before struck her as strange.
Sunset sighed. Maybe she was the strange one, not them. After all, she wore a fake smile solely to prevent people from asking if she's okay. Are you okay? A question she'd heard countless times in the past couple weeks, and every time she heard it, she always replied with a halfhearted, “I'm fine.” Even though she was anything but.
Maybe if she kept up the lie, she'd start to believe it. Wouldn't that be nice? But you'd never let that happen. You couldn't.
What good would it do her, anyway? A lie was still a lie. And the reality Sunset found herself in wouldn't change. “It should've been me,” she whispered. “Why couldn't it have been me?” Tears filled her eyes. Not again. It felt like all she did anymore was cry. She blinked repeatedly and the tears subsided.
Escape your pain and have your friends mourn you instead. No one wins with that scenario. At least Twilight would be alive to—mourn you too. Did you even consider that? That she might feel the same way about your death as you feel about hers? Would you want to pass your pain onto her?
No she wouldn't. Sunset slumped. Why did she think that'd be a good idea? How stupid of her. You're not stupid. You simply need hel—rest. You know that's not what you need. She rose from the bench and headed in the direction of home. You're sinking. Do you even realize it? But she pushed those thoughts away. How much longer can you stay afloat? The words echoed in her mind. How much longer…
A bell chimed, and Sunset stopped to avoid bumping into someone leaving the Sweet Shoppe. The smell of fresh baked pastries wafted out the door, causing her stomach to rumble. You should eat something. But she turned her head away from the cafe. What would be the point?
“Sunset, is that you?”
A voice from inside the cafe. But who called her? Go in and find out. No, she needed to continue home. It'd be rude if you don't see who spoke to you. No one said you had to stay long. She stepped inside and saw a woman behind the counter, eyeing the entryway.
The woman smiled warmly at her. “I thought it was you,” she said.
Sunset couldn't help but give the woman a slight smile in return. “Hi, Missus Cake,” she said with a small wave.
“It's good to see you. I haven't seen you around since”—Sunset saw the joy in Mrs. Cake's eyes flicker—“well, in a long time. How are you doing?”
She wished people would stop asking her that question so she'd no longer need to answer. “I'm fine,” Sunset said.
“That's good. So are you on your way to school?”
“Uh, yeah…” A small lie, but she didn't want to tell Mrs. Cake that she was on her way home and give the impression that she was—not actually better at all.
“You're going to be late.”
“I guess.” Sunset shrugged.
“Well, no matter. It's good that you're starting back!” Mrs. Cake smiled. Maybe that made her lie better. Doesn't that make it worse? Sunset turned around, leaning against the display case to avoid looking at Mrs. Cake's genuine smile over her disingenuous words. Big mistake.
Because she saw the couch and the patrons on it. Only she didn't see them. She saw her friends and all the times they sat together, laughing and talking lazy afternoons away. Saw Twilight push her glasses higher on the bridge of her nose whenever they slid too low…
The last time she came here was still fresh in her mind. It'd been a little overcast that day, but she was with Twilight. So it might as well have been a perfect, sunny day. 'Hey, Sunset. Can we go to our spot? I have something I want to tell you.'
Ever since the accident, she'd wondered what Twilight wanted to tell her.
Ever since the accident, she'd wondered why Twilight couldn't tell her whatever she wanted to say here.
Ever since—was someone talking to her? “Sorry, what did you say?” Sunset asked.
“I wanted to know if you ate breakfast,” Mrs. Cake said.
“Oh, uh, no.” In truth, she hadn't been eating much at all. Did it show? Worry reflected in Mrs. Cake's eyes. “I just forgot. That's all,” she said. Another lie, but what harm could it do if it made people worry less about her?
“Let me grab you something from the display, then.”
Mrs. Cake raised a hand, silencing her before placing a white paper bag on the counter. “I won't take no for an answer.”
“How much do I owe you?”
With a shake of her head, Mrs. Cake pushed the bag closer to her and said, “Nothing.”
“Are you sure?”
“Don't worry about it, sweetie. Now hurry on to school.”
“Missus Cake…” You should tell her.
Sunset shook her head. “Thank you,” she said, taking the bag. Why make her worry?
“You're welcome.” There was a pause before she said, “Are you sure you're okay?”
No. Her eyes watered briefly before she blinked. “I'm fine,” Sunset said, and to her credit, she managed to keep herself in check.
She was about to leave when she heard Mrs. Cake's voice. “Don't be a stranger. It was nice to see you again.”
Sunset waved back to her, offering a slight smile to reassure Mrs. Cake that she was fine. And it worked when she saw her smile back. Or is she faking it like you, only smiling for your benefit as you are for hers? Did it matter as long as people stopped asking how she was? The bell chimed when she left the cafe, and her false smile faded. But isn't people asking how you are exactly what you need?