Crystal's Wishes

by Crystal Wishes

Delicate Time

"But, Mom!" Crystal whined, hopping from one hoof to the other. "All the mares are going to be looking like this. I don't want to be the only pony at Canterlot Academy that still looks like a filly!"

The braid that she once cherished had been replaced by a fluffy ponytail tied off to the right side, the pink and blonde of her mane mingling in playful waves. Around her hindlegs were pink legwarmers, and a bright rainbow of bangles adorned her forelegs.

Upper Crust raised her brow. The teacup in front of her lowered to the end table beside the couch. "That sort of attitude is not what I would expect from a proper young lady."

Crystal groaned. She raised a hoof to her forehead to calm herself. When she opened her eyes, she smiled, her posture and tone shifting into what her mother expected. "I don't understand the issue, Mother. It's the current fashion."

"Yes, for ponies your age, perhaps." Upper Crust sniffed with distinct disapproval. "But you will be going to events with us, not with ponies your age. Nonetheless, it is not good enough to simply blend in. You must shine, my darling. How else will you find a good stallion? Do you want an average stallion as your companion?"

Ever since the summer break started, her mother had become more and more unbearable about being a 'proper lady', tearing down all the progress their tentative relationship had made. The extensive training was getting to a point where some things were ingrained into her subconscious.

"If the good stallion only notices me because of what I'm wearing, then is he really a good companion at all?" Crystal narrowed her eyes just slightly. "What if Dad had been that shallow and hadn't asked you to the Fall Formal?"

Upper Crust had just been raising her teacup to take a sip when the question hit her and knocked her focus off track. The teacup started to fall, but Crystal's magic caught it before it hit the ground, though the tea had already spilled onto the floor.

Upper Crust put a hoof to her forehead and shook her head. "Crystal Wishes," she said with a sigh. "I need another cup of tea, if you will." She paused, then added, "And you certainly will, after that unbecoming display."

Crystal rolled her eyes and walked into the kitchen, the teacup floating after her. As she set about the task of making a new batch of tea, she grumbled under her breath, "No stallion will ask me to the Fall Formal, regardless of how I dress." She paused to look down at her muddled reflection in the water just before she closed the lid to the kettle. "Not unless they're blind."

Once the kettle heated up and whistled its readiness, Crystal poured it into the teacup. She added a bit of sugar, squeezed out a few drops of lemon, and—just for fun—a sprig of mint. Feeling pleased with her creation, she carried it back out into the living room and offered it to her mother with a smile.

"That's better." Upper Crust brought the teacup to her lips, gently blew on it, and took a sip—which she immediately choked on. "Crystal! Tea is intended to be savory, not sweet!"

Crystal's ears fell and she sighed. "Yes, Mother."

"Try it again. I am surprised that you would still make such a simple mistake after we've worked so hard all summer." She sighed, shaking her head. "A stallion can tell a good mare from a poor one by the quality of her tea. Remember that."

"Yes, Mother." Crystal tried not to drag her hooves as she returned to the kitchen, sighing heavily in defeat. Out of sight, she made all sorts of exaggeratedly irritated faces at the tea kettle, even sticking her tongue out.

"And don't sigh so loudly. It's unbecoming."

Crystal bit back a sarcastic response, instead saying as cordially as possible, "Yes, Mother."

That afternoon, Crystal met up with Velvet and High Horse for a picnic. Every time they found time to get together, it felt like they had all aged a year, and she could hardly believe how much they had all changed.

Velvet had her mane pulled back with a colorful bandanna and slicked up in the most impossible curls. She had even started wearing makeup, her eyelids colored in a bold splash of both blue and purple hues.

Horsey, on the other hoof, seemed to be less rebellious toward her parents, who were undoubtedly pressuring her just the same as Crystal's. She had certainly added volume to her mane, the same as every other pony their age, but it was still straight with only a hint of gentle waves that whispered of defiance.

"Can you believe it?" Velvet beamed at Crystal and Horsey before she settled down on her corner of the blanket. "Next week, we start at Canterlot Academy!" She clapped her hooves together. "I'm so excited! No more Canterlot Prep School for us mature mares!"

Crystal's gaze flickered off to the side, but she smiled nonetheless. "Did you know that not every town has an academy?"

Horsey nodded. "Yeah! In Ponyville, ponies our age have jobs already."

"Wait, really?" Crystal blinked. She looked down at her hooves. "I don't think I'm ready to be an adult."

"Me neither." Velvet giggled. "I just want to make friends, have fun, and still enjoy doing ballet before it becomes a job and I don't have any time for friends or fun."

Crystal raised a brow. "What're you talking about? How can something you love not be fun?"

This time, it was Velvet's gaze that faltered. "You know what I mean."

"Anyway," Horsey said, clearing her throat. "So, what clubs are you two thinking of joining?"

Crystal smiled. "I might join the writing club."

Just talking about it made her heart start to race. It had been pretty easy to enjoy writing when there was no pressure to share it. The idea of being in a club with other ponies who wrote, looking at each other's' work, realizing how far she had to go before she could call herself a writer, and—

"'Might'?" Velvet asked, pulling her back to the moment. She scrunched up her nose. "Why in Equestria would you not?"

"Oh, all right, I will join it." She laughed softly. "I was also thinking of joining theater, just for something different."

"Oh! I was thinking about theater as well!" Velvet clapped her hooves together. "Horsey, you should join, too! That way we'll have some time together for sure!"

Horsey nodded, staring down at her sandwich. "Okay. What else?"

"I'm going to join the dance club, of course." Velvet held her cup of punch in both hooves and lifted it up.

Crystal's ear twitched in slight annoyance at the sound of Velvet slurping the drink like a foal, but she just tried to smile wider to cover up her irritation.

"I was also looking at the varsity cheerleading team," Velvet continued. "I don't know if I have what it takes, but it can't hurt to try out!"

Crystal lifted her tiny sandwich. "Good for you!" She took a bite, dabbed her lips with a kerchief, then looked at Horsey. "What about you?"

"Well, I guess I'm joining theater with you two." Horsey giggled. "I, um, well, was thinking of…" She trailed off in a mumble.

Crystal and Velvet leaned in toward her, heads tilted curiously.

She started to flush. She sat up on her haunches, tapped her hooves together, and looked at them with an almost guilty expression. "You'll laugh at me."

"I promise we won't," Crystal said with a serious expression, crossing a hoof over her chest. Velvet nodded and repeated the gesture.

Horsey sighed heavily. The blush across her cheeks grew darker as she said in a quiet voice, "I want to join the LARP club because there's a stallion I like that I know is going to be in that club."

"Really?!" Crystal and Velvet exclaimed together.

"Who is he?" Crystal's eyes were wide and almost sparkled with interest.

"How did you meet him?" Velvet grinned.

Horsey hid her face. Her ears folded back as the blush crept all the way up to them. "I overheard him and his friends at Sunridge Sweets a couple weeks ago talking about the club. I've kind of had a little crush on him—well, since a few years ago, I guess, so I feel like this is finally my chance."

Crystal was bubbling with elated giggles as she squirmed, pressing her hooves to her cheeks. "That's so cute! It'll be a dream come true, I'm sure of it!"

Velvet snickered. "Yeah, you'd know! You're the expert!" She nudged Crystal's side with her elbow.

Crystal's excitement died down as quickly as it erupted and she shot Velvet a look. High Horse noticed—just as she seemed to notice every silencing glance Crystal gave Velvet in situations like this—and her gaze fell.

Crystal tried not to show the guilt she felt; though they had been friends for years by that point, she would only admit to loving writing itself and not the particular, specific subject of romance.

"Well, I have to get back to my piano lessons," Horsey said as she got up onto all fours, rolling her eyes. "Apparently that's what my mom is really into right now."

"Okay! I guess the next time we see you will be the first day of school." Velvet practically wiggled with excitement. "I can't wait!"

Horsey hugged Velvet first, then Crystal, and trotted off home.

Velvet's smile fell into a stern frown and she turned on Crystal almost predatorily. "Crystal, you're ridiculous." She sighed. "We've all been friends for so long. You know, High Horse thinks you don't actually like her."

The kerchief Crystal kept at the ready fell as she looked at Velvet, startled. "She what? Why would she think that?" She turned her head to look at the retreating figure, her brow furrowed as she considered calling out to her.

"Because she knows you're keeping a secret from her. It hurts her feelings."

"Oh." Crystal's ears drooped. "I didn't know she felt that way." It was a lie. Of course she knew. How could she not?

Velvet got up and started to pack the remains of the picnic back into the saddlebags. "Well, now you know. She told me in confidence, but I can't stand to see friends hurting." She smiled at Crystal and put a hoof on her shoulder. "I know you'll make it right. You always do."

Crystal was quiet as she helped Velvet pack, then sat back down. When Velvet gave her a curious look, she explained, "I'm just going to sit here for a while. It's a nice day."

"All right." Velvet slipped the saddlebags onto her back. "I'll see you at school." She nuzzled her cheek against Crystal's affectionately, then trotted away.

Crystal waited until she could no longer hear the fading hoofsteps before she dropped her head down and closed her eyes. "I'm a terrible friend," she muttered.

She remained there as the sun started to dip down toward the horizon. Her mind was a blank slate; she wanted to mull over the issue, but she just felt drained of energy. All that buzzed in her mind was the indistinct sound of guilt.

The sky shifted hues and once it reached an orange-pink color, she got up and started the walk home with a heavy heart and no answers for how to fix things.

Waiting for her in the living room were both of her parents. Jet Set had a small frown on his face, while Upper Crust looked fashionably uninterested.

"Crystal, you're late." Her father tapped a hoof against the floor. "You know how important it is to your mother and I that we sit down and help you decide on what clubs you'll join."

Crystal smiled, lifting her head and putting on proper airs. "I'm so terribly sorry, Father. I got caught up in my picnic with Velvet and High Horse."

Jet Set walked over to the couch. Strewn across the coffee table were countless flyers, each for all of the different clubs that Canterlot Academy offered.

"It's good to socialize," he said, his tone lighter, "but you're going to need to widen your social circle, you know."

"Yes, Father." She followed after him while Upper Crust took the chair opposite them. "Anyway, I know for sure that I want to join the writing club."

Jet Set nodded. The writing club's flyer was already moved off to the right side of the table, away from the others.

"Of course! It is your talent, after all. I do hope you'll consider the color guard when you're eligible in your sophomore year." He smiled. "Your mother was wonderful in it. In fact, that is where I first saw her as the beautiful mare she is, putting all of her passion into her flag."

He looked across the table at Upper Crust, who blushed ever so faintly, and he added, "It would be nice to make it a family tradition."

Crystal blinked as she glanced between them. "Really? I knew Mom was in the color guard, but I didn't know that part of the story." Her gaze fell to the flyer. "I suppose it can't hurt." She smiled. "Oh, I want to join theater, because Velvet and High Horse will be in it, and…"

By the end of the evening, Crystal found herself with five clubs to join over the course of her academic career: writing, theater, color guard, calligraphy, and tea. She tried to feel excited about the list and the opportunities it held, but instead she was filled with a sense of dread.

Perhaps Ponyville had it right—she knew what she wanted to do, so why waste her time in lessons and clubs unrelated to her talent?

Her gaze landed on the color guard flyer while her parents went into the kitchen to prepare dinner. She smiled, her cheeks heating up. Then again, maybe she would meet the stallion from her dreams. Her hoof traced the design on the flyer as she started to imagine her parents' story as her own: her true love attending the performance, their eyes meeting, interrupted only by the fluttering of her flag as it spun around.

She couldn't help a small squeal as she trotted toward and up the stairs to her room. Canterlot Academy could be her own dream come true!