There was a slight chill in the air as summer transformed into autumn. A gentle breeze rustled a tree’s branches, causing pumpkin-colored leaves to glide gently to the ground. Sunset tightened her leather jacket around her body. She crossed her arms over her stomach and exhaled. She could do this. She had to do this.
‘Sometimes I like to recite the periodic table of elements when I’m stressed. Like right before a big test. You should try it.’ Twilight’s voice echoed in her mind, and she pictured her smiling face.
“Hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium…” Sunset whispered.
Marble. Granite. Cross. Tablet. Many memorials laid around her. Epitaphs new with fresh sorrow. Epitaphs faded with age, but still spoke of the heartache of a loved one long deceased. A quiet somberness everywhere.
She dug her arms into her stomach. The moment she dreaded drew closer with each breath. “I’ve got this.” Breathe in. Breathe out. “Boron, carbon, nitrogen…”
You know you can bring one of your friends with you, right? They’re here for you. Sunset knew this was true. All she had to do was go back to the iron gates and ask. But this was something she needed to do herself. She came to that conclusion with her therapist last week.
Of course her confidence was higher then when visiting Twilight’s grave was still a concept in its infancy, but now… Now it felt all too real. It’s okay to have second thoughts. It’s okay to turn around if you’re not ready. But would she ever be ready for this?
“Oxygen, fluorine, neon…”
‘Are… are you sure? I’ll go with you if you need me to.’ Sunset remembered the hesitance in Fluttershy’s voice after she told her that she planned on visiting Twilight alone. But her mind was made up, and Fluttershy knew that her mind couldn’t be changed. ‘Okay. I understand. But would it be alright if the girls and I waited for you by the entrance? We just want to be there to support you.’
That she did agree to, and the thought that her friends weren’t too far away if she needed them brought her some measure of comfort. Just not enough to slow the drumroll in her chest. “Sodium, magnesium, aluminum, silicon, phosphorus.”
And then the world froze, and for the briefest of seconds, Sunset’s heart skipped a beat before redoubling its efforts. “I can do this. I can do this.” Up ahead, sitting under the thick branches of an old oak tree, was a single headstone.
“Sulfur, chlorine, argon, potassium, calcium, scandium, titanium!” Her words fired in rapid succession. You need to breathe. “Vanadium, chromium, manganese, iron, cobalt!” Close your eyes. Deep breaths.
“Right.” Sunset peered at the cloudless sky. You’re strong. You can do this. “I’m strong. I can do this.”
‘My life changed the moment you took my hand that day. You’re my rock, Sunset. And you’re one of the strongest people that I know—Well, it’s true!’
Sunset sighed. “Twi—hmm.” She felt Twilight’s name sit heavy on her tongue. “I think your rock has a few too many cracks in it.”
She closed her eyes, listening to the wind rustle through the leaves. In. Birds cooed nearby. And out. Keep going. No footsteps, no people speaking in hushed tones. She was still alone. Good. If there was anyone near her, she’d probably run out of the cemetery.
Steady. And again. “I can do this.” Take your time. There’s no rush. When you’re ready. Sunset let out a deep breath. “Okay.”
She opened her eyes.
Sunset knelt in front of Twilight’s headstone, vision blurring. But she blinked a few times and her sight cleared. You don’t have to keep it in. It’s only the two of you. She knew and yet she was afraid that if she cried now, that’s all she’d do.
Maybe that’s all that’s needed. Perhaps it’s enough for you to simply be here. Maybe. But there were things she wanted to say. What? The thought caused her pause. Honestly, she didn’t quite know. What could she possibly say? What purpose would words serve?
The angelic white headstone felt cold against her fingertips as she traced the curved letters engraved in its smooth surface. “Beloved daughter and friend,” she said, and didn’t dare to look at the dates written below the text. Too soon. The numbers were too soon.
‘You’ve seen me at my worst. There’s nothing you can’t tell me.’
Just say what’s on your mind. There’s no right or wrong here.
“This is harder than I thought,” Sunset said. “I came here thinking I’d know exactly what I needed to say, but honestly, I don’t know what I expected to accomplish here.”
Are you sure about that?
“It’s been hard without you. To be honest, I never thought I’d be able to do this. Actually”—she lowered her voice—“if it wasn’t for Fluttershy, I… I don’t think that I’d…” Sunset blinked back the tears in her eyes and sniffled.
“You know, I used to pick on her the worst out of everyone in school. She was just so quiet and meek. She never fought back. She made it easy.” The words tasted rancid on her tongue. “I gave her hell and yet she was the only one I could think of to call when I needed someone most. Fluttershy is a lot stronger than I gave her credit for. Probably stronger than she gives herself credit for, too.”
Where would she be without Fluttershy? Without the warmth and gentle strength of her hugs when the chill of the past flowed through her veins? Without her smile to help make each day bearable, rekindle the ashes of the phoenix that resided within her heart? She owed Fluttershy a debt she’d never be able to fulfill in a dozen lifetimes.
‘Don’t say that. You’re my dear friend. If you need me, all you have to do is call, and I’ll pick up no matter what time it is. Okay?’ Sunset recalled Fluttershy’s words hours after she’d awoken from a nightmare about the accident that cut Twilight’s life short, a nightmare that occurred with alarming regularity even months after the fact.
Somehow, that time was worse than the others. But Fluttershy… Fluttershy was there on the phone with her in the dead of night. And she was there until the traces of dawn filtered through her blinds and she was able to calm down and rest. Fluttershy. Always there when she needed her. Fluttershy. Her pillar.
“Honestly, I never thought I’d feel that warmth in my chest again. I thought it’d died with you, but…” Sunset paused and her chest tightened. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this.” A twinge in her heart.
She didn’t know.
Yes you do.
Sunset cast her gaze away from the headstone. It felt like she was—betraying Twilight? Why would you feel that way? Is it Because of…
So it is. Ask yourself this: is it wrong to move forward? Is it wrong to love someone again? What would Twilight say?
Sunset sighed resignedly. Exactly. She knew the answer. She didn’t even have to pose the question. Twilight would tell her it was okay. She’d say it with a smile, with an embrace. It was okay to move on. But…
She turned back towards the headstone.
Moving on was hard.
“I’m sorry I ran out on your funeral.” Sunset nodded her head. “Yeah…” A pause. She wiped the tears that rolled down her cheeks. “I just couldn’t face your family or… you. It was a lot to handle, and I couldn’t. That sounds like an excuse, doesn’t it?”
‘I know you, Sunset. I know when something’s wrong. You can tell me.’
“There’s something else. I know what happened that day by the river was an accident. I-I know, but I still blame myself for what happened. Fluttershy tells me it’s not my fault. Our friends, my therapist, your mom, they all try to reassure me that there was nothing more I could’ve done. And I understand that and I’m at least trying to accept fully that I’m not to blame. Yet, a voice in the back of my mind whispers in the quiet that I should’ve done more to stop you, stop us, from going that day.”
‘I've lived my life too long without following my heart. That ends today. Well, tomorrow, technically.’ Sunset heard Twilight’s voice as she remembered the words from her diary.
“We could both be so stubborn sometimes,” Sunset said. “I only wish that my stubbornness won out in the end. Do you think you can forgive me? For your funeral, for not pushing you hard enough to reconsider?”
Sunset waited for an answer that would never come.
She lay down on the grass, peering through the branches and leaves, at the clouds that drifted overhead. Resting her hands on her stomach, she remained in silence. What was the point to any of this? Twilight wasn’t here. Twilight was gone. And no matter how much she spoke, she’d never receive a reply. What was the point?
Peace. A chance to free yourself from the demons you keep chained inside your heart.
Just let it all out.
“All of it?” she asked.
All of it.
“Can I tell you something, Twilight? Something I haven’t told another soul besides my therapist?” Sunset took a deep breath to calm herself. “Here goes nothing. Sometimes I still feel like ending it all. The shadows whisper to me and the poison of action courses through my core. But I fight it. I do it mostly because I don’t want to hurt the ones I love.
“I’ve thought about telling Fluttershy. The thing is that I know she’d want me to. She’s told me that I can tell her anything. But I know if I do, she’ll worry about me more. I don’t want her to worry anymore. I remember the fear in her eyes that night in my apartment.”
The darkness of that night encroached upon the corners of her mind, the night where she stood at the edge of the precipice and almost fell. Sunset rolled on her side and plucked a few blades of wet grass. But it… wasn’t raining. Her fingers brushed against wetness on her cheek. Oh.
“I can’t put that burden on Fluttershy, again. Every phone call I miss, every time I take a few minutes too long to show up at her home, she’ll be wondering—I know she will—if maybe I finally went through with it that time. I can’t do it. No. I love her too much to haunt her thoughts like that.
“The therapy helps, though. But sometimes my sessions aren’t enough to quiet my head. However, I’ll deal with it! I-I will.”
‘I’ve never had friends before so it’s hard for me to remember that I have people I can rely on.’
Twilight’s voice gave way to Fluttershy’s.
‘We’ll figure it out together, okay?’
Sunset sighed. “I guess I should talk with Fluttershy, huh?” She sat up and pictured Twilight’s presence nodding at her. “Even after all this time, I still have trouble relying on others, trusting in their strength. Friendship. Love. Moving forward. Every day it feels like I’m learning something new about what those words mean. Thanks for listening to me, Twilight.”
Have you figured out why you’re here?
Yes. Though a pang of pain struck her heart upon the realization.
You can do it.
“I, uh, I think I’m going to have to let you go.” She sniffled. “But I’m not sure what I should say.”
Sunset shifted her position and spotted a dandelion next to the headstone. Pinching the plant’s stem, she tugged, and the puffy flower snapped off. Maybe she wouldn’t have to say much at all.
“Did… did you know that there are people that believe dandelion seeds can carry your thoughts to the people you love?” She wiped her nose on the back of her sleeve then twirled the stem between her fingers. “I hope these find you.”
Sunset closed her eyes. All the times Twilight laughed with her on her bed, that awkward smile she had that made her heart sing, joyous occasions radiated from her being and coated each seed. Words she left unsaid mixed with the hopes and dreams that they once shared together, creating a shell around the memories. And with the love contained inside her soul—
The seeds danced in the wind, scattering as far as her eye could see and beyond. And when the last seeds flew out of sight, the chains she carried went with them. For what felt like the first time in ages, a lightness filled her body.
Sunset stood and placed her hand atop Twilight’s headstone. “Goodbye, Twilight.” With those words she turned to leave, but not without one last glance at the headstone. “Would you mind if I come back to visit you again?”
An ethereal image of Twilight formed in her mind, and with it, she heard her voice sweet as a melody, ‘Of course.’
When Sunset returned to the cemetery’s entrance, she saw her friends waiting for her. Her friends with sympathetic eyes and tender smiles. Her friends who’d stayed with her even while she’d tried to push them away. But above all—Fluttershy tucked a strand of hair behind her ear—especially her.
“How are you doing, sugarcube?” Applejack asked.
Sunset nodded. “I feel better now than when I went in.”
“That’s wonderful news, darling!” Rarity said.
Pinkie’s eyes glistened and her lip quivered. “Oh, Sunset!” She threw her arms around Sunset in a spine crushing embrace.
“Hey, Pinkie.” Sunset returned her hug, but that only intensified the vice-grip she found herself in. How long had she been waiting to do that?
Pinkie mumbled into her shoulder.
“I think she’s been holding that one in for months,” Fluttershy said.
A nod from Pinkie.
Sunset ran her fingers through poofy, pink hair. “I’m sorry you had to wait so long. I missed you too. I’ve missed all of you.” She winced. “Too tight.” But welcome.
“Hey, you might wanna consider not crushing Sunset,” Rainbow said.
“Sorry!” Pinkie released Sunset and rubbed her nose with the back of her hand. “I’m just so, so happy to see you that I couldn’t keep it in any longer.”
“It’s okay,” Sunset said. “I needed that.” She looked over at Fluttershy. “Um, do you mind if I have a word with you?”
She nodded, and together they walked out of earshot of the girls. “What is it?” Fluttershy asked.
“I just wanted to thank you.”
“For everything. For staying up with me in the middle of the night and listening to me when I’m an emotional wreck, to being a rock that supports me with unwavering strength. I wouldn’t be here without you.”
“I don’t know about that…” Fluttershy cast her gaze to the ground.
“Well I do.” Sunset grasped her hands, entwining their fingers. “I don’t have words to describe how much you’ve meant to me during this time, but—” she leaned in “—maybe this can express how I feel.” Her lips brushed against Fluttershy’s cheek. “Thank you.”
“Oh my goodness!” A rosy tint colored Fluttershy’s cheeks and a smile alighted her lips. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Don’t say anything. Let’s simply enjoy the moment and return to our friends. Sound like a plan?”
Together they walked hand in hand. Moving forward from this day on wouldn’t be easy, and she knew many bumps remained on her road. But with Fluttershy and her friends, those she loved by her side, Sunset knew she could make it. And that filled her with hope.