Cadance returned home with a sigh. That was one of the most eventful days she's had at work in recent memory! She took out her phone and sent a text.
Can you hold on for a few moments? I want to get settled in. - Cadance
Sure. I've got time. - Radiant Hope
Cadance went up to her room, then changed into more casual clothing. She walked out with a smile, her book in hand, feeling relaxed. Dressing nice for the public was all well and good, but sometimes comfort overrode style. She ate a quick dinner, then entered the living room with her phone in hand as she dialed up Radiant Hope. She put it on speaker, then set it down on a coffee table as she waited for an answer. A moment later, the dial tone stopped. "Hello!"
"Hello," Cadance said. "I just want to start off by thanking you for being there to help break up that fight."
"You're welcome. I shudder to think how far things would have escalated had neither of us arrived."
"Lemon did see you today, didn't she?"
"Of course she did," Hope said. "One session alone isn't going to solve everything, so it's not entirely surprising that she still has issues with Sour."
Cadance sighed. "Oh, if only it were that easy."
"If it really was that easy, I'd probably be out of a job," Hope said, then laughed.
Cadance snickered. Hope was all business within the walls of Crystal Prep, but once out side those confines she had quite a sense of humor! It was one of the many things that Cadance loved about her. Despite the moment of levity, however, she sighed and put a hand to her face.
"Something on your mind," Hope asked.
"How many more fights in the halls will we have to endure before the Friendship Games, Hope? I... I don't know how much more of these hostilities I can take!"
"Cadenza," Hope said. "You've done well to endure after all these years. It's just a few more days. Don't forget that you have everyone's support as well."
Cadance smiled warmly. She felt so fortunate to have a friend in Hope. "Sometimes I do forget, Hope. Sometimes I get so hyper-focused on taking down that damned-"
Cadance blinked, then sighed heavily. "See what I mean? I can get all worked up just...just thinking about her!"
"Maybe you need-"
"Don't say it, Hope. I refuse to take a vacation until I'm well settled in as Crystal Prep Academy's fourth principal!"
Hope sighed. "I just don't want you to have a meltdown."
Cadance took a deep breath, then exhaled, calming down slightly. "I understand, and I appreciate your concern." She laughed mirthlessly. "I'm sorry for continuously cutting you off."
"No worries, Cadance," Hope said. "I totally get where you're coming from. I want all of this hyper-competitive madness to end just as much as you! But I have a feeling the wait will be worth it."
Cadance ran a hand through her hair. "I sure hope you're right. I'd hate for us to have put so much stock into this only for it to blow up in all our faces. We'd end up back at square one, or even worse!"
"I shudder to think, but let's not go there until we absolutely have to."
"Agreed," Cadance said with a nod.
"Speaking of 'going there'..."
Cadance nearly bolted upright. "How many times do I have to tell you and Luna, Hope?! I'll tell everyone when I'm good and ready!" Hope, Luna and even Neighsay had time and time again wanted her to tell the rest of S.M.I.L.E. that she was Amore's daughter. They had argued that if she told everyone she was the daughter of the woman whose legacy the agency was working hard to restore, they'd be behind her one hundred percent! Cadance, however, argued that revealing her lineage would lead to the revelation that her true motivation behind creating S.M.I.L.E. wasn't just bringing Crystal Prep Academy back to calmer times...
...It was also about revenge. Revenge for her mother. For Crystal Prep. For the injustice carried out that day. Cadance steeled herself, then opened her book to the pages she swore to look at as infrequently as possible.
Verdict of the Jury
We, the Jury, find Abacus Cinch not guilty on the count of the First Degree murder of Amore, the former Headmistress of Crystal Prep Academy.
Cadance had written around the verdict the names of those who served on that jury, and the things she would do to them if she ever, ever found them again. Damn that woman...damn her father! Damn influence! She screamed in rage and slammed her fists on coffee table, then broke. Tears she hadn't realized she'd held back all day began flowing.
Why? Why did this have to happen to such an undeserving woman? Why was that... that monster in her mother's old office, when she should either be dead or rotting in a jail cell?!
What if the worst-case scenario happened? What if everything did blow up in their faces?! Cadance would have to endure that fucking smug sneer of Cinch's for the rest of her life!
"MI AMORE CADENZA!"
Cadance snapped to attention, then sniffled.
"Hit any number on your keypad so I know you can hear me."
Cadance hit the number seven.
"Okay, good," Hope said, then sighed in relief. "You know the drill. One number for yes, two numbers for no. Understand?"
Cadance hit the number one.
"...You looked at it, didn't you?"
Cadance remained still for several moments, then hit the number zero.
"Dammit, Cadenza," Hope whispered. "You always get so worked up when you look at that report. For the life of me, I'll never understand why you kept it."
Cadance sniffled again.
"Cadance...I love you like a sister, you know that?"
Cadance took a deep breath, then exhaled. "Yes," she said shakily. "I do."
"Get some sleep, and we'll talk tomorrow, okay? I'll even come over to keep you company. How does that sound?"
Cadance smiled. "It sounds good to me. See you tomorrow."
"Yep. See you then."
Cadance hung up and went straight to bed, emotionally drained.