Light Step and Twilight talked for hours after that. Light had all sorts of questions about how Twilight was doing, about her friends, and about how she missed Spike. Twilight was happy to have her sister over, though she did wonder where so many questions had come from.
It was flattering, but a little annoying. It almost felt like Light was afraid to leave her alone.
They talked past sunset. Twilight still couldn’t cook, but Light offered to make something, and they chatted while hay fried in a pan. One advantage of a teenager’s metabolism was that Twilight could wolf down three hayburgers in one sitting—and she did. Light had half of one.
“So Linden and Flash Bang are both crying,” Twilight said, mouthing the words around her fries, “and Rack Spin starts crying just because they are. And everypony is glaring at me because I’m not crying, and I’m all, ‘I don’t do that.’ And then Pinkie Pie of all ponies shouts over from the next booth, ‘It’s true she never did!’”
Light Step gave a polite chuckle, and Twilight grinned, pausing a moment to swallow. “And then Flare shouts, ‘Stay out of this, old mare!’ And I’m all, ‘You did not just call my friend an old mare.’ And Flare is all, ‘You think I can’t take you just because you’re a princess?’ And we’re both doing that pegasus dominance display thing. You know, with the…”
Twilight reared up and flapped her wings. Light smiled and nodded. “I know the one.”
“Right.” Twilight settled back down. “So three of us are crying, two of us are fighting, a huge crowd has gathered to watch, and in the middle of it all, Kizmet bursts out of the crowd and shouts,” Twilight mimicked her voice, “‘Oh my gosh, what the heck is wrong with all of you!?’ And we explain this all started when we wanted to get her the best birthday gift, and she screams, ‘So don’t get me anything you crazy horse.’”
Twilight couldn't stop laughing, her smile affixed to her face. Light Step only nodded. “So,” Twilight continued, “it’s like she broke the spell. Suddenly all of us stop crying or shouting and we look at each other and go, ‘we’re all friends. This is completely stupid.’ So we have a good laugh and hug, and go to the malt shop to write the friendship report.”
“Oh,” Light tilted her head. “You still write friendship reports?”
“Only when I learn something.” Twilight twitched her ears -- a little sign of delight. “We all learned that we should take friends’ worries seriously, even if you don’t think they have anything to worry about. And you shouldn’t let your worries turn a small problem into an enormously huge fighting-in-the-town-square ponies wonder if you’re all crazy problem.”
Silence hung between them. Light frowned. The smile didn’t quite fade off Twilight’s face, but the flick of her eyes over her sister made it clear she’d noticed the change. “What’s wrong?”
“Didn’t you learn that lesson already? I remember… wasn’t that back in the day?”
“Oh.” Twilight paused to think for a few moments. “Oh, no. I’ve learned that lesson four times. Once with the original girls, twice with Silver Cordial and the rest of the Canterlot crew, and now with the new group.”
“Do you… you know?” Light gestured vaguely, “Remember…”
“Yeah, of course. I remember all of it. First time, I thought I had to write Celestia every week, want-it-need-it spell, her arriving to save Ponyville, all that.” Twilight finished her fries. “I just didn’t remember it until you reminded me. It’s like how, if I asked you to name every pony you’ve ever met in order of the number of letters in their name, you couldn't do it. But if I showed you a pony you knew you could tell me their name and how many letters it has.”
With her magic, she gathered up all the crumbs and ate them. “The information is all there. It’s just not indexed. If that makes sense. So, I know it, but I didn’t think of it at the time. It didn’t strike me as relevant until you asked.”
“I can make more fries if you want.”
“I would love that.” Twilight’s tone was bright, but she glanced at the clock. “But don’t you have a definitely-not-wife to get back to?”
“Oh, frick.” Light hopped from the table. “I didn’t realize how late it was getting. I should not have run off for this long without telling Double. I need to go.”
“I’ll teleport you back,” Twilight said, trotting up to Light’s side. “It’ll be faster.”
“Thanks,” Light said. But before Twilight could transport them, she went on. “Twilight? I’m… I’m sorry. I know this is intrusive. And you probably get asked a lot. But the story you told. Learning that same lesson over and over. Does that not… doesn’t it bother you?”
“Well,” Twilight laughed, though it was a thinner sound than it had been. “Of course it bothers me. But I fixed it! That’s why I have sticky notes. And binders upstairs for the more substantive things. I have every friendship lesson I’ve ever learned up there, and a lot more things besides. So when I’m being forgetful or having a teenager moment, I can just pop upstairs and check my notes.”
Light bit her lip. “That’s why you say they’re your thoughts.”
“They are my thoughts.”
“And you’re…” Light let out a breath and stared at her hooves. “Are you happy?”
“Heh.” Twilight looked at her own hooves a moment, then laughed at how silly they were both being. “I’m the Princess of Friendship. I get to hang out all day with wonderful ponies who care deeply about me. I don’t ever have to worry about money or getting a job or getting old. I read and I play and I sing in public. And if I do the right thing and believe in the ponies around me, it ends well for me. Every time.”
“That’s not the same thing as, ‘yes.’”
“It’s all I know. And it’s all I’m ever going to know.” She fiddled with her hooves. “But it’s pretty good. So I think I’m happy. Are you happy? With the art and the garden and that bug you refuse to marry?”
“Are you going to bring up the marriage thing every time?”
Twilight twitched her ears. A slight playful note entered her tone. “That’s not the same thing as, ‘yes.’”
“Ah, you got me.” Light offered a weak smile. “Yes, Twilight. I’m happy. I love my art and I love Double Time.”
“Then I’m happy you’re happy.” Twilight’s horn glowed. “Let’s get you home.”
That night, Double Time couldn’t stop screaming. She transformed into ponies that were twisted and terribly wrong, and when Light hugged her anyway, she shook like a leaf in her lover’s embrace. Shouting, crying, she warned that she was probably going to kill Light during the night, and begged Light to kill her first.
But Light refused, hoping that Double would recover by morning.
And in any case, that’s not what this story is about.
The next morning, Twilight woke up precisely on time, hopped out of bed, and read the collection of sticky notes on her vanity mirror. They reminded her not to overbrush her hair (so her OCD wouldn't ruin her schedule), not to blow off her government responsibilities because they involved talking to social ponies (she had anxiety), and not to freak out if she got a little teenage acne.
She never got teenage acne. That was a perk of being an alicorn. But she always worried she would. The note reminded her not to.
Then she read the instruction list taped by the door, considered the sticky notes on the dresser, and went downstairs to make breakfast. She hesitated in front of the coffee machine, and glanced at the tea cabinet instead.
But she had to trust her system. She made coffee, smiled when she drank it, and then made some pancakes to go with it. There was a note on the pancake plate, but she frowned and put it to one side. She didn’t have time to deal with it. She needed to go hang out with her friends.
It was while hanging out with her friends that Twilight discovered a serious problem. That problem’s name was Diamond Shoal.
He was everything a sixteen year-old wanted in a stallion. He was handsome, had a shiny tail, and tousled his mane so it looked wild. A faux-leather jacket gave him a “bad colt” air, but one more associated with adolescent rebellion than actual criminality. While he was far from academic, he was very intelligent, and could usually be found with a book in his pockets. He favored books of poetry, of the sort that made stallions sound deep. And he liked magic.
Diamond Shoal was Rarity’s son.
Of course, Twilight knew better. She had known better. It wasn’t any malice, ignorance, or selfishness that lead her to ruin, but simple misfortune.
She’d had to deal with a friendship problem that day. Some jerk of a stallion from Saddle Arabia had gone off on Kizmet as a “drug pusher” when she tried to sell her special brownies at the bake sale to rebuild the Ponyville clocktower. She was devastated, and was going to give up on her dream of opening her own store. But Flare ran and got Twilight, and together, the two of them sang a proper magic pony musical about hard work and standing up to bullies and responsible cannabis consumption. It was a jaunty little tune, and all of Ponyville sang the chorus.
At the end, Twilight felt amazing. Nothing melted her cares away so much as helping a friend. Kizmet sold out her entire stand, saved the clocktower, and even saved one brownie for Twilight. Twilight pretended to nibble on a corner while avoiding consuming any of it. She fooled nopony, and both of her friends laughed and gave her a hug.
Then, Diamond Shoal walked past their group and said: “Hey, Twilight.” No title. No princess. Just Twilight. “Anypony ever tell you you’ve got a beautiful singing voice?”
“Um.” She blushed hot under the sun. “I mean. Probably. I sing a lot of musicals. I mean, ponies say they like them. Which kind of counts. But I don’t think anypony has ever said that. Exactly. Eh heh.”
“Oh.” He thought it over a moment. “Well, they should. Cya around.”
He flicked his tail behind him as he left.
“Oh, this is bad. This is very bad.” Twilight shoved open the doors to her castle with both hooves and flew into the main entrance hall. She drew in a breath and bellowed at the top of her lungs: “Spike!”
But Spike wasn’t there.
“Agh. Stupid.” Twilight rubbed her face with a hoof. “Stupid stupid.” She flew up the steps, zipped through the empty halls, hurried past the main library doors. The main library was for research, pleasure reading, and hanging out with her friends. She flew to the special library at the end of the hall. The one with the door that locked.
It was filled with binders. The binders themselves were covered in sticky notes, as were the pages within them. Yellow paper stuck out in all directions. First, she picked up the binder labeled “Family.”
Spike isn’t your assistant anymore, read the first page, in large print characters that were impossible to overlook, he went to the dragon lands to learn pyromancy from Ember.
Stuck to that first page was a sticky note, You were very sad about this when it happened, but you cried a lot then and got over it. You don’t have to be sad about this now if you don’t want to.
Under that was another note, It’s what you wanted for him. He has to become his own dragon, not just your lackey.
Twilight drew in deep, panting breaths. She stared at the page and the text upon it. “I don’t need a note to remember that,” she snapped at the air.
So she put the family binder away, and picked up another one labeled “Romance.” The white pages within were full of mature, sensible advice on healthy relationships. Every sheet was pasted over with yellow.
Do not flirt with teenagers! No matter how young you look or feel, you are THIRTY THIRTY-TWO THIRTY-FOUR OLD. It’s creepy!
I know it feels like you’re in love but you’re not. Your brain hasn’t matured enough to feel true romantic love. You have teenage hormones. Remember Cadence talked to you about this?
Any pony who falls in love with you will eventually get bored. No matter how good the act is, the show never changes.
DO NOT IGNORE THE OTHER NOTES. Remember what happened when you kissed Koipur?
She read the notes. She thought about what they said. She remembered her life, and her adventures, and every colt she’d ever kissed. She remembered Koipur, a seventeen year old colt who she thought was so mature.
And then she thought about Diamond Shoal when he smiled at her, and how he kept his tail cut short. Like a little brush.
She screamed and threw the binder against the wall. It exploded into a shower of white and yellow paper.