Cheer for Me, Cheerilee

by Written Out

Who would I Teach?

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.
-Buddha saying

The rustling of papers reverberated through the silent office, the whispering noise heard only by the two ponies present. A large mahogany desk separated the pair, nearly lost underneath the mountain of paperwork. Almost a week had passed since Cheerilee had decided she was going to teach again, and she was scheduled to start that afternoon. They just needed to make sure all the paperwork was lined up.

Opposite Cheerilee sat the principal of Ponyville Schoolhouse, his elderly eyes squinting as he tried to read the fine print on a piece of paper in front of him. Cheerilee had never found out his real name; she always just called him “Principal”. As far as she knew, everypony else called him that as well. Including his wife.

The principal nodded in satisfaction before putting the paper aside. Leaning forward and clasping his hooves together, he peered at Cheerilee through the pair of oversized spectacles resting on his snout. “It looks like everything is in order. Welcome back to Ponyville Schoolhouse, Miss Cheerilee.” The creases on his face deepened as a happy smile blossomed brightly on his face. “It’ll be good to have you back.”

“Thank you, Principal,” Cheerilee said, placing the sheaf of papers she was holding down on one of the few bare spots of the desk. She looked up at the clock hanging above the door, the edges of her mouth curving down slightly. Only an hour had passed since they had started. “Is that everything?” she asked uncertainly. “I had thought this would take longer.”

The principal twitched his hoof, waving her concerns away. “Don’t worry about it. This is just a formality, really. A little something to keep those pencil-pushers in Canterlot from getting offended and trying to transfer you away again.”  He chuckled grimly. “Not that there’s anything they can do about it. Not with all four Princesses backing you.”

Cheerilee’s ears flattened against her skull. “Four?” she asked hoarsely. She had known about Twilight, but Twilight was different. She had lived in Ponyville for years, and was just another one of the citizens. The idea that the others might be interested in what she was doing terrified her. To her, they had always been a large presence far removed from her own life. At most, she might see one of them at a distance during some important yearly event, though she had spoken to Princess Celestia once before. Hearing that they were suddenly paying attention to her made her feel like an ant underneath a magnifying glass. “What- what do you mean?” she asked, desperately hoping she had misheard.

“Well,” the Principal coughed, “maybe that’s not completely correct.” He gestured at the bookshelf behind him. There, among books about instructing students and several model ships, three scrolls stood out to Cheerilee’s eyes. They were carefully laid out, the three of them taking up a shelf by themselves directly above and behind the principal’s head. Each had been carefully re-rolled so that anypony who looked would be able to see the insignia on their broken wax seals.

The one on the left was made of yellow paper, almost appearing to glitter a brilliant gold. Its seal had been emblazoned with a bright shining sun surrounded by a wavy stylized corona. The middle one was composed of dark paper, black as the darkest night. The wax had been imprinted with a crescent moon surrounded with twinkling stars. The last one was made of pink paper, and had been adorned with the image of a crystalline heart.

“These came in over the past few days,” the Principal said while Cheerilee stared open-mouthed at the scrolls. “Basically, they’re saying that Twilight has full authority in this matter. Since Twilight personally came to ask me to reinstate you, that indirectly means that the three of them support you as well.” He leaned back in his large plush chair, looking up at the three scrolls. “Though I got the impression none of them knew the others had sent a note.”

“Bu- but why?” Cheerilee stuttered. “Why would they be interested in this? In me? Surely this is too small to interest them!” Princesses Celestia and Luna were two of the mightiest figures in Equestria, and Princess Cadance was the co-ruler of a neighboring empire. When they willed it, mountains moved. Since two of them were literally responsible for controlling the sun and the moon, Cheerilee was pretty sure that wasn’t a figure of speech.

The Principal clasped his hooves together, staring down at them before looking up at her after a few tense seconds. “I understand your feelings. Honestly, I was pretty confused when I got those scrolls before I figured it out. You probably don’t know this, but this is the first time Twilight has used her authority as a Princess for anything.”

“Wait!” Cheerilee said. “That can’t be right! It’s been almost six years since Twilight became a Princess, and I know she’s been going to other countries as a dignitary. So how can this be the first time she’s used her authority?”

The Principal barked out a laugh, which quickly turned into a dry hacking cough. “It’s Twilight,” he explained after he had recovered. “She’d rather stick her nose in a book then meddle in the day-to-day running of the town. Hay, everypony knows she’s far more interested in seeing the others countries and reading their books than she is in actually talking to them. That’s why Celestia sends some diplomats with her to do the actual work.” He waved back at the scrolls behind him. “I think the others just want to support her in this; make sure she doesn’t fail. I’m sure they won’t actually pay any attention to us, so there shouldn’t be any repercussions if something goes wrong.”

Cheerilee swore she heard him mutter “I hope” under his breath, which did nothing to help her suddenly frazzled nerves. Had she known this was going to happen, there would have been no way she would have taken the job. Now, no matter what happened, she couldn’t walk away.

Her head thudded dully on the papers covering the principal’s desk. “I need a drink,” she mumbled. The paperwork didn’t respond.

Cheerilee stood outside of her classroom, her heart aflutter with a mixture of anticipation and dread. This is it, girl. Time for you to stop running. All she had to do was push open the door and everything would begin. She would pick up the pieces of the life she had thought she’d abandoned, returning to the classroom once again. She could already feel it on her; the title of ‘teacher’ fitting her like a comfortable old jacket.

She could hear the voices of her students through the doorway, awaiting her arrival. ‘Her’ students. Cheerilee still couldn’t get over that. The idea was a strange one, and it only intensified her feelings of anxiety. It was like a rainbow, calming and welcoming in the sky, promising clear skies and bright futures after a long and dreary rainstorm. It was also like a hissing serpent, its fangs ready to pierce her skin and spew deadly venom that would wind its way through her bloodstream and seek out her heart.

If it hadn’t been for the knowledge that the Princesses were going to be keeping an eye on her, Cheerilee might have turned and fled at that very moment. As it was, she considered it for only a moment before tossing it regretfully aside. No matter how much the idea of the class might fill her with trepidation, the idea of four angry alicorns on her case was far, far worse.

Hardening her will, Cheerilee slid the door to her classroom open. All conversation in the class abruptly cut off as every eye turned towards her, curious to see who their newest teacher was. Several pairs of eyes widened in recognition, much to Cheerilee’s amusement. Maybe they were as nervous as she was. If so, maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as she feared.

She carefully watched them out of the corner of her eye as she strode to the blackboard, making sure that they didn’t realize what she was doing. The principal had said that this was the oldest group in the school and this was their last year before graduation. Some of them she had already seen during her time in the town, while others she only recognized from five years ago. Sweetie Belle, Twist, and Pipsqueak sat in a group by the windows. Scootaloo sat opposite them, as far from their group as it was possible to get while still remaining in the classroom. A few seats in front of her sat little Dinky, all by her lonesome at the front of the class.

Next, a pair of young unicorn stallions sat In the middle of the class. One was short and rather chubby with a blue coat, an orange mane and tail, and a pair of scissors on his flank. The other was much taller and lankier with an amber coat, a turquoise mane and tail, and a snail for a cutie mark. Both of them stared at her somewhat dully. After wracking her brain for a moment, Cheerilee remembered that the duo’s names were Snips and Snails; Snips was the shorter one and Snails was the taller one.

Finally, way at the back of the class sat a duo of young earth pony mares. They watched her silently, judging her. Cheerilee could already tell these two were going to be a headache in the making. She remembered the duo well. The class bullies, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. How Cheerilee had longed to throw them over her knee and spank them until their bottoms were red. Unfortunately, Diamond Tiara’s father was Filthy Rich, the richest pony in Ponyville, and Cheerilee had often been forced to look the other way while the fillies picked on their classmates.

Diamond Tiara sat back with her rear hooves up on her desk, her coat a light shade of pink. Her well-cared for purple and white-streaked mane gently billowed in the wind blowing in through the open window. The diamond tiara on her flank was matched by the glimmering one adorning her skull, and her bright blue eyes openly sized up Cheerilee as she walked toward the blackboard.

Sitting up straight beside her, Silver Spoon was her opposite in many ways. While Diamond Tiara was bright and uncontrolled, Silver Spoon was far more stiff and muted. Her coat, mane, and tail were all similar shades of grey. The small pink hairband in her mane, her silver-spoon cutie mark, and the thin-rimmed blue glasses covering her greyish violet eyes were the only notable splashes of colour breaking up the monotonous grey.

Picking up a piece of chalk, she reached up and scrawled her name on the large blackboard at the front of the class. “Good afternoon, everypony,” she said to them. “My name is Miss Cheerilee, and I’m going to be your homeroom teacher from now on.” Her cheeks hurt from the rictus grin locked on her face, but she refused to let it falter in case she revealed her true emotions. “I hope we can get along.”

“-and I was asked to come out of retirement to teach once more.” The afternoon bell went off as Cheerilee finished, calling an end to classes for the day. She had spent the entire afternoon answering questions about what she had been doing and what life in Neigh York had been like. Well, I had expected as much.

 “Perfect timing. Alright, everypony, storytime’s over.” She clapped her hooves together as the class made sounds of disappointment. “Tomorrow, we’ll begin studying the works of Dockvid Hilbert, Poll Dirac, and John von Neighmann and their theories on the role of the observer. Oh,” she called out as the class shuffled towards the doorway, “just a minute, Sweetie Belle. I want to talk to you about something.”

“Ohhhh,” Diamond Tiara teased as she filed out past Sweetie Belle. “First day, and you’re already in trouble with the teacher. Try to stay out of trouble at least a little bit, wouldn’t you? You’re making the rest of us look bad.”

Cheerilee let out a tiny, unnoticeable sigh. Diamond Tiara hadn’t changed a bit.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Sweetie Belle shot after Diamond Tiara’s retreating form. “You don’t need my help to make yourself look bad.” Clearing the doorway for the rest of the class, she waved for Twist and Pipsqueak to go on ahead. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll catch up with you two later.”

The duo filed out, leaving Cheerilee and Sweetie Belle alone in the classroom. Sweetie Belle walked over to one of the front desks, hopping carelessly on it. “So? What did you want to talk about, Miss Cheerilee? Or would you prefer Bright Flowers?”

“Just Cheerilee is fine, Sweetie Belle,” Cheerilee said. She could hear the drumbeat of her heart echoing in her ears as a muscle in her flank twitched rapidly, nearly cramping her leg. She smiled instead, refusing to show any hint of stress. “But we’re not here to talk about me. I wanted to talk about you. Namely, your shoplifting habit.”

“Ugh, not this again,” Sweetie Belle groaned. She fell back against her desk, her head and hindlegs hanging limply over the edge. “Did Twilight put you up to this?” From her tone, she didn’t sound like she particularly cared about the answer. “Did my sister?”

“Nopony asked me to do this, Sweetie Belle,” Cheerilee reassured calmly. “I haven’t even spoken to your sister since I arrived.”

“Oh, that’s right.” Sweetie Belle stretched her forelegs above her head. “Rarity doesn’t get back until tomorrow.”

Cheerilee raised an eyebrow at that. “You forgot that your sister isn’t even in town?”

“Sure, why not?” With a grunt, Sweetie Belle heaved herself to a sitting position. Gripping one of her knees, she pulled it up to her chest, her other hindleg swaying back and forth beneath her like a pendulum. “It wouldn’t matter even if she was in town. Besides, it’s not my job to keep track of what she does. She can do whatever she likes. I don’t care.”

“Is that so?” Cheerilee asked sceptically. A loose strand of her mane drifted in front of her face, and she reached up and smoothed it back into place. “Well, that’s not really important right now. We’re here to talk about-“

“My shoplifting,” Sweetie Belle interrupted, her voice brimming with disinterest. “Yeah, yeah, I heard you the first time. Let me guess, this is the part where I spill my guts? Where I tell you some sob story about how it’s not my fault, how the world has forced me into it? How I’m the victim here, just a victim of circumstance?” A sarcastic smirk grew on her face. “That’s how Twilight tried to spin it. It was almost funny, really, in a pathetic sort of way. She kept consulting her books every time she wanted to ask another question. It was almost worth putting up with her questions to watch her flounder about. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I’m bored and it’s fun. And that’s all I have to say.”

Cheerilee walked the lonely trek back to the library alone, her head hanging low and her thoughts scuttling among themselves like so many confused spiders. True to her word, Sweetie Belle had refused to say anything more and Cheerilee had eventually been forced to let her go. She was certain there was something Sweetie Belle was hiding, but had been unable to pry it out of the unwilling mare. At the horizon, the sun cast its final rays as it prepared to be relinquished of the grip of the sky, released into the mysterious unknown that it went to during the night. The setting sun seemed to laugh at her pathetic attempts to understand her student’s psyche, and part of her wished she could follow it to its quiet destination.

Cheerilee slapped herself, realizing how fragmented and disjointed her thoughts were becoming. Alright, get a grip. The sun’s not laughing at you and you don’t wish you could follow it. That’s crazy pony talk. You’re just imagining it. Just… just get some sleep.

“Miss Cheerilee! Wait up!”

Cheerilee sighed as she felt her longed-for bed slipping out of her grasp. All she wanted at the moment was to get back to Twilight’s and succumb to the blissful emptiness promised by those cushy pillows. Even if it was just a mattress on Twilight’s floor, it was still hers. She’d be able to move to her own house once her stuff got shipped in from Neigh York, but she was relegated to floor mattress until then.

A grey blob crashed to the ground directly in front of Cheerilee, throwing up a large cloud of dust and causing the schoolteacher to let out a surprised whinny. The object shifted slighted, and Cheerilee was able to make out enough features to see that it was a grey pegasus with its head stuck in the ground. She sighed. “Yes? What is it, Derpy?”

The clumsy pegasus’ head came free of the ground with a loud pop, and she shook her head as she tried to regain her bearings. Her loose eye rolled around in its socket, and Cheerilee felt somewhat nauseated just watching it. She had no idea how Derpy must deal with it. Cheerilee could see a single solitary letter was sticking out of the feathers of one of Derpy’s wings.

Derpy unsteadily looked around the area, her eyes brightening as they landed on Cheerilee standing directly in front of her. “Ah! Miss Cheerilee. Good evening. I wanted to tell you something.”

There was silence after Derpy’s last words, and Cheerilee quickly started tapping her hoof against the ground impatiently. “Yes?” she asked after a few seconds with a small degree of irritation tainting her voice. “What is it?”

“I forgot,” Derpy admitted, frowning thoughtfully. “It had… something… something to do with… muffins. Something to do with muffins. Hmmmm…” Her wobbly eyeball rolled around until it was looking at Cheerilee. “You don’t happen to have any muffins on you?”

“No,” Cheerilee said through gritted teeth. It was the end of a long day, and she really didn’t need this right now. “If that’s all, then I’ll just…”

“That’s it!” Derpy exclaimed excitedly. “Muffins! Thank you for agreeing to take care of my Muffin! She was so surprised to see you at school today.”

“Really?” Cheerilee asked sceptically, cocking an eyebrow. “I didn’t get the impression that Dinky was more surprised than any of the others.” The class had seemed rather accepting of her sudden return. Cheerilee wouldn’t admit it, but she had been somewhat disappointed.

“Oh, she’s very just shy. When she got home, she was more excited than I’ve seen her in a long time.” Derpy smiled brightly. “I knew I was right to trust you.” She looked up at the setting sun, and her bright smile faded slightly. “Sorry I can’t stay to talk, Miss Cheerilee, but I have to go deliver a message to Miss Cheerilee.”

Cheerilee blinked as she tried to decipher Derpy’s garbled sentence, but as she opened her mouth to say something, the mail pony turned and ran off. Cheerilee groaned as Derpy disappeared around a corner. I could chase her… Nah. Too tired. Bed calls. Staggering towards the library, which she could now see in the distance, she tried to rationalize away Derpy’s bizarre actions. If it’s important, she’ll find me tomorrow. She could be anywhere in town by now.

“Miss Cheerilee! Wait!”

…Including right behind me, apparently. Cheerilee turned to see Derpy running up behind her. “Yes, Derpy?” Cheerilee asked patiently. “What is it?”

“Hello, Miss Cheerilee,” Derpy said cheerfully. “I’ve been looking for you all over town. I’ve got a message for you from Neigh York. Express stuff, very important.” Digging out the letter that Cheerilee had spotted early, she passed it over to the bemused schoolteacher. Her wings flared out, and she took off into the sky. “See you later!”

As Derpy vanished over a nearby building, narrowly avoiding crashing into a smokestack, Cheerilee looked over the letter she had just received. The postmark told her it had come from Neigh York. Strange, she thought, tearing it open, I wasn’t expecting any letters. There was only a single piece of paper inside, which she promptly unfolded.
“’Dear Miss Cheerilee,’” she read aloud. “’Current resident of one Miss Sparkle’s residence’, blah, blah, blah…” Skimming the letter, she skipped ahead until she found the actual message. “Ah, here we go. Let’s see… ‘We at the Neigh York Postal Service regret to inform you that, because of a filing error, your package had been accidently… shipped…’ WHAT?” She gripped the letter firmly between her hooves, staring at the page as if she could change the meaning of the words if she glared at them hard enough. Her gazed sped along the page, taking in only small tidbits of information at a time. “’…no fault of our employees…unfortunate and unprecedented mistake…truly regrettable…returned to you at no extra expense…Crystal Empire…’”

“You… you…” she sputtered, her eyes bulging at that last line. With a snarl, she crumpled the letter into a ball and threw it as hard as she could at the side of a nearby building. “YOU SHIPPED EVERYTHING I OWN OUT OF THE COUNTRY?” she yelled at the wad of paper. “HOW DO YOU EVEN DO THAT?”

The crumpled letter fell to the ground, ignoring her angry outburst. With a final huff, Cheerilee stormed away from the discarded message. Grumbling to herself, she stamped up to Twilight’s house, bringing her hooves down on the steps as hard as she could with every step. It didn’t help her situation, but it made her feel a little better.

Can’t believe this, she fumed. That’s not just some little package, that’s everything I own! What’s with this ‘some clerical error’ nonsense? You don’t just send everything a pony owns on a cross-country trip on a whim. I swear, if I ever get my hooves on the pony responsible for this, I’m going to-


As Cheerilee opened the library door, a wave of noise and confetti blasted out to greet her. A party popper went off right in front of her, its colorful streamers hitting her like a sharp slap to the face. Four individuals stood in the library, waiting to greet her. Inside, Cheerilee saw Twilight, Fluttershy, Applejack, and Spike standing together underneath a giant banner that read in bright glittering letters; “CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR FIRST DAY OF CLASSES, CHEERILEE!”

Cheerilee stared blankly at the scene in front of her for several seconds before slowly and firmly closing the door. That’s it, she decided. I’m sleeping in the bushes.

Turning away from the doorway, she instantly found herself bumping nose to nose with another earth pony. “Yah!” Cheerilee exclaimed in surprise, backing away from the new pony. Unfortunately, the library door opened when she bumped it – she must not have shut it as firmly as she thought – and she found herself backpedaling into the library.

The new pony bounced into the library after her. Her unkempt mane and tail flailed around with every hop she took, her legs acting more like springs then any proper limb possessing bones. Her mane, tail, and coat were all a bright shade of pink, her baby blue eyes and balloon shaped cutie mark the only interruption in the visual assault on the senses. “Happy surprise party, Cheerilee!” the persistently perky pony proudly proclaimed. “Were you surprised? I knew you would be!”

Recovering from her surprise, Cheerilee gave the pink pony a flat look. “Yes, Pinkie,” she said drolly, her lips quirking at the other’s antics. “I was very surprised.”

“Oh, I knew you would be!” Pinkie proclaimed, bouncing excitedly around Cheerilee. She rambled on, her mouth moving at a mile a minute. “I wanted to throw you a larger party, maybe invite everypony in town, but Twilight said you would prefer something smaller. I thought that was strange, why would anypony want anything small when bigger is obviously better? But that’s okay; that just means I’ll have to do something even bigger when your class graduates.”

“I’ll look forward to it,” Cheerilee said, picking up a nearby cup and filling it with punch. Much to her surprise, she actually was looking forward to it. Pinkie’s parties could cheer anypony up.

Loud music blared from a corner of the library, and Pinkie’s ears perked up as her head swivelled around to look at it. “Ohh!” she said excitedly. “I love this song!” Bounding over to a corner of the room, she grabbed Twilight and Fluttershy and dragged them out onto the dance floor. Within seconds, the three of them were dancing away. Well, Pinkie was dancing away. Twilight was doing some sort of uncoordinated flailing that Cheerilee would be unwilling to call dancing no matter how much alcohol she consumed and Fluttershy quickly snuck away from the other two.

Speaking of alcohol… Cheerilee looked around at the row of drinks until she found what she was looking for. Swapping out her punch for a cup of Sweet Apple Acres’ alcoholic cider, Cheerilee downed the whole thing in one go. “Ahhhh…” she said, coming up for air as she poured herself another cup. “That’s the stuff.”

“Enjoying yourself?” A drawling voice with a twang of an accent asked as another cup of cider vanished down Cheerilee’s throat. Stepping into Cheerilee’s field of vision, Applejack walked up to the drink table and poured herself a cup of punch. “Pinkie knows how to throw a party, don’t she?”

“Yeah,” Tossing back another cup, Cheerilee felt a happy warmth wash over her. By Celestia, I needed that, she thought as she regretfully put her cup down, not willing to give herself fully over to the embrace of drunkenness.

Applejack smirked at Cheerilee’s flushed expression. “Rough day?” she asked.

“Yes!” Cheerilee groaned. “I just found out that all my stuff was accidently mailed out of the country, so I’m going to be stuck with Twilight and Spike for now.” She looked around the room, the reminder making her notice the absence of one adolescent dragon. “Speaking of which, where is Spike? I know I saw him earlier.”

Applejack gestured at the stairs with the cup in her hoof. “He went upstairs. I don’t think he knows how to act around you. I think he’s scared of you, to be honest.” She laughed at the disbelieving look Cheerilee gave her. “I know, I know, sounds ridiculous, right? Why would a dragon be afraid of you? But he’s really not good around ponies that aren’t in our little circle. Hay, I think he might be worse than Fluttershy.”

“I’m standing right here.”

Applejack wheeled around to look at the pegasus standing behind her. Her smile withered slightly from the baleful look shot at her from Fluttershy’s one visible eye. “Oh… um… hey Fluttershy,” she stuttered. “I didn’t see you there… Uh…” She quickly started shuffling away. “Well, love to stay and chat, but I see Pinkie’s set up some cupcakes so… Yeah!” She sped off, her tail practically tucked between her legs.

Fluttershy glared after Applejack for a second before her façade cracked and she giggled. “Oh, that was mean of me. I’ll have to apologize to her later.”

Cheerilee chuckled. “She’ll be fine. She’s a tough mare.” Something occurred to her, and she banged her hoof on the table. “Oh, that’s right. Fluttershy, I had a talk with Sweetie Belle this afternoon.”

A pained expression appeared on Fluttershy’s face. “I see…” she said quietly. “And what do you think?”

Cheerilee’s hoof tapped repeated against the table, creating a dull beat that undercut the music blaring from the far corner. “I don’t know what to think,” she admitted at length. “So much has changed about her. And… about me.”

“Do you still believe in her?”

“I…” Cheerilee stood in silence as she pondered, Fluttershy remaining quiet and motionless, watching Cheerilee to see what her reaction would be. After nearly a full minute had passed, Cheerilee reached out and poured herself another shot of cider. Tossing back the drink, she planted the cup on the table with a loud thud. “Yes,” she said after another long pause. “Yes. I do.”

Fluttershy smiled. “I’m glad to hear that. I’ll meet you tomorrow after school’s finished. I’ll try to explain what I can then.”

Before Cheerilee could respond, Pinkie’s head popped out from underneath the table between them. “Heeeey,” she said. “What are you two wallflowers doing back here? Come on! Enjoy the party!” Hustled onto the dance floor, Cheerilee gave up and gave herself over to the music. The rest of the night passed in a pleasant blur of drinks and games.