The Happiest Mare in Equestria
Sunfire is a 26-year-old mare living in Dodge Junction, and although she doesn't know it, today she is the happiest pony in Equestria.
She wakes to the first rays of the sun, to a gentle breeze through the open window, to a black-throated sparrow chirping happily on the windowsill. Her lover is resting against her back, his foreleg stretched across her barrel.
Morning can wait, so she nestles into his warmth and closes her eyes for a few more moments of blissful sleep.
Morning can wait no longer. Sunfire arches her back and cracks her neck, then pushes the blankets off herself. Down the hallway, she glances into the second bedroom where her daughter is still soundly in Luna's embrace, then outside, where the rising sun paints the distant mesas.
She takes a deep breath of the new morning air and smiles. There's some smell of earthiness to it, as well as a potpourri of floral perfume—rains came last night, and the flowers are blooming in celebration.
The stove takes little fussing before it comes to life, and by the time her lover comes into the kitchen and nuzzles the back of her neck, she's got eggs scrambling in the cast-iron pan, and nine-grain toast cooking alongside.
Her daughter has a different opinion of the tableau before her. “Eww, gross.”
Sunfire rolls her eyes, then leans her head back and kisses her lover on the lips before turning her attention back to breakfast.
The scrambled eggs are light and fluffy, the butter melts perfectly into the toast, and her daughter doesn't resist a quick mane and tail brushing before hurrying out the door for school.
Without being asked, Star Spur starts washing the dishes.
“You going to work today?”
Sunfire shrugs. “Don't gotta. I was thinking about staying home and doing some spring chores.”
“It's not spring any more.”
“So it's a bit late, so what?” She's in too good a mood to let projects that had slipped by bother her.
She helps him dress, knotting his kerchief and making sure his sheriff's badge is square on his hat, then gives him a kiss as he walks out the door. Unlike her daughter, he did object to his mane being brushed, but she won in the end and he leaves the house with no tangles.
He's not a proper sheriff yet, but he’ll be promoted one day. She knows it in her heart.
The temptation to lie back on the couch and spend the day reading a potboiler almost overcomes her, but the book can wait. It's not like she hasn't read the same story dozens of times, after all.
She rummages around in the shed until she finds a can of whitewash and a brush. Spring is a time for changes, and even if it's not spring any more, so what? There's plenty of paint left from the fence-painting party, certainly enough to freshen up her bedroom.
Even before the bristles on the brush are wetted, she feels accomplished. The bed and the wardrobe are away from the walls, and she took the time to sweep all the little dust-bunnies that had gathered unseen under them. If she pushed things back, the room would be cleaner.
She could do that and relax . . . the book can wait.
Sunfire pries the top off the can and dips the brush in. The tops of the walls are almost but not quite out of reach; if she braces her forehooves on the wall and stretches, she can get right up to the crown molding.
One wall finished, and she steps back to admire her work. No streaks on the molding, no drips on the floor, not even any paint in her hair or on her nose.
I could have been a painter.
She turns the idea over in her mind. In big cities like Manehattan and Fillydelphia, she'd heard that there are ponies who do nothing but paint. In fact, there were bridges where ponies constantly painted, starting at one end and as soon as they'd reached the other, they began again so that the bridge didn't rust and fall down.
How would she feel if she woke up every morning and had to paint the house anew? She wouldn't like that very much. Painting was to be done in the spring, or maybe the early summer if it didn't get done in the spring. The walls of the bedroom wouldn't fall down if they weren't painted.
There's only a little paint left in the can when she's done, and she could put the lid back on, but Sunfire's in a painting mood, and three walls of the chicken coop get painted before the can runs dry.
It's hard to read chickens, to know what they’re thinking, but she’s sure their clucks indicate that they’re happier with their mostly-painted coop. She knows she is.
Lunch is bread and cheese and a bowl of alfalfa sprouts and it's delicious. The perfect thing for a so-far perfect day.
She's just finished up when there's a knock on the door, and the mailpony sticks her snout in. “Got a letter from your sister, I thought you'd want to know right away.”
“Jonagold wrote me a letter?” They'd been inseparable as fillies and then she’d moved away and they’d sort of drifted apart, an unfortunate effect of adulthood. Just seeing the address on the back of the letter brings back happy memories: Jonagold, Cortland Way, Ponyville.
For a moment she's lost in the past, enough so that she doesn't notice as the mailmare takes her leave. Sunfire slides an opener across the flap, her mind on the past, on the games of hide-and-seek in the orchards, of the smell of apples strong in her nose.
Of her first kiss, recounted in hushed whispers in Jonagold's bedroom, of helping her sister dress for the Senior Dance and wondering if she'd have a date when it came her turn . . . she did, and she had a foal besides.
She reads the letter twice and then pens a reply, the words coming to her mind with no effort. Sometimes it was hard to think of what she should say; should she apologize for not writing sooner? For not visiting as often as she could? Today, she is giddy with happiness and paint fumes and her printing is neat and the quill flows across a page, two pages, three pages.
Sunfire folds them neatly and addresses an envelope. Sunfire, North End, Dodge Junction. There is still time to trot down to the post office, to buy a stamp, and maybe she'll get a glimpse at Star Spur at work.
The market is enticing. The market is always enticing and she's got enough food at home, there isn't anything she really needs, but she's in town so why not browse a bit before heading back? Her daughter might be home or might not be, but she's a big filly and will be fine without adult supervision for a while.
Sunfire gets lost in gossip and bartering and a brief glimpse of Star Spur down at the far end of the stalls and she really doesn't need carrots but this bunch is really fresh, just came in on the train today. She should have worn her saddlebags.
Star Spur's kerchief is loose, and she could go over and fix it for him, but she decides that it's rakish. Makes him look more handsome.
She blows him a kiss and flicks her tail as she leaves the market, a bundle of carrots balanced on her back.
Cornflower has her nose down in her homework, her reading glasses perched at the tip of her snout. Seeing her like that always gives Sunfire an unsettling feeling, like she's the filly and Cornflower is the mare.
Most of the time, her vision isn't a problem for her; besides, she's got great distance vision. She struggled with homework until she got diagnosed with hyperopia, and reading glasses fixed her right up.
“How was school?”
Cornflower shrugs. “Meh.”
Cornflower sticks out her tongue. “Mostly, yeah. We learned about ancient Equestrian history, like when the E.U.P. was formed.”
“Ah, yes, I remember those days.” Sunfire grins. “Back then, we were living in caves, and I had to walk uphill to school through barrel-deep snow, carrying my sister on my back.”
“Sure you did.” Cornflower rolls her eyes. “Tell me, oh ancient one, who founded Manehattan?”
“Half Moon,” she says.
'How did you know that?”
“I went to school, too. Everypony who's went to school knows that.”
“Fine.” Cornflower pushes up her glasses and looks around the kitchen before locking eyes on her mother. “Are you going to marry Star Spur?”
“I might.” If she wasn't in such a happy mood, she wouldn't have been as forthcoming.
“You should. I like him.”
A brief thought that she isn't being a proper mare flashes through her mind, and she ignores it. Dinner could have been prepared as she helped Cornflower with her homework, but the stove remained cold, untouched.
Instead, the family sits on a woolen blanket under the fading light of the setting sun. Not in some exotic location, simply at the border of their land.
Dinner is a picnic; the main course is fresh carrots which had arrived just that morning by train, fresh carrots which had been bartered for and carried home on Sunfire's back. As a side, nine-grain bread. A bottle of red wine, cellared for three years, serves as the aperitif, and a small bottle of apricot brandy that Star Spur provides is the dessert.
The two adults huddle together on the blanket, their eyes on the sky and their minds elsewhere. Off on the desert hardpan, Cornflower has her farsighted eyes to the sky, studying the stars as they appear one-by-one and then by the dozens as the last light of the day fades. Unasked, but not hanging heavily between them, is the question of marriage. The future will bring what it brings; they are all living in the moment, watching as a shooting star traces across the vast sky.
Sunfire is a 26-year-old mare living in Dodge Junction, and although she doesn't know it, today she is the happiest pony in all of Equestria.