It was exactly as she had imagined. Everything about the moment was perfect: the sun was bright, yet not blindingly so; a breeze drifted by, just strong enough to catch in her mane; their eyes met, and the world fell away. She was a first-year and he was a senior, but in that instant, his gaze told her that things would work out. A smile broke across her lips and she tried to hide her face as he walked over and whispered in her ear,
"Crystal, class is over."
Crystal blinked a few times.
"Hello? Equestria to Crystal?" A hoof waved in front of her face, separating her from what she had been writing in her notebook.
She looked up to see Velvet smiling at her. "Huh?"
"You were just sitting there, staring. Are you fantasizing again?"
Crystal smiled sheepishly and closed the notebook, giving a small nod. "I can't help it. I'm so distracted that I can't even write straight." She giggled. "Stallions from all over Equestria come to this school, and some of them are really—" Her gaze wandered off as a few of their male classmates walked by. She finished in an airy voice, "dreamy."
Velvet laughed wholeheartedly and slapped Crystal on the shoulder. "Well, why don't you introduce yourself?"
"What? Oh, no!" Crystal cleared her throat and gathered her belongings. "No, I couldn't just do that."
"Then how do you expect to meet your stallion in shining armor?"
"Shining armor?" Crystal mused aloud as they walked together, out of the classroom and down one of the halls. "You know, there is something pretty appealing about a stallion in uniform."
Velvet glanced at a group of the hoofball players hanging out near their lockers and she grinned. "I'll agree to that." She quickened her pace. "Come on! If we're late to theater club, Horsey might have to partner with a stranger, and you know how she is about that."
Crystal fell silent as Velvet filled the conversation. So far, theater club consisted of mostly partnered recitals. Velvet was pushing Crystal to partner with High Horse while she herself used the opportunity to meet new ponies. In fact, Horsey and Crystal were spending a lot of time together while Velvet socialized with others. Although she'd never tell Horsey, she kind of felt lonely without Velvet around as much.
"There you two are!" Horsey rushed over to them, a slight trill of panic in her voice. "Something awful is happening!" She glanced behind her at the other ponies waiting for the club to begin. "They're pairing us up with stallions. Mandatory!"
Velvet gave an excited squeal. "Really?! There you go, Crystal! Now's your chance!" She bumped Crystal with her flank. "Go find your prince!"
Crystal stumbled forward a few steps and shot Velvet a frown, receiving an innocent smile in return. "Why are we pairing with stallions?"
"Because today we're going to practice for Julimare and Romehorse." Horsey's ears fell. "I'm not comfortable with this at all!"
Crystal froze, her cheeks hot and red. "Really? What scene?" She leaned in toward Horsey, grabbing her by the shoulders to keep her from flinching away. "What scene?!"
"I don't know!" Horsey blinked a few times. "I'm sorry!"
Crystal let go of her and started to pace. "This could be big, or it could be nothing. Horsey, you're going to have to flee. It might be the infamous kiss scene, and you have to save your kiss for 16-Bit!"
It was Horsey's turn to flush. Without another word, she ran from the auditorium. Velvet couldn't help a giggle, though she tried to cover her mouth to hide it. "You take romance so seriously, Crystal!"
"The first kiss is of the utmost importance," she said in a serious tone while her eyes surveyed the ponies in attendance. "If they're going to have us reenact the kiss scene, then she can't be here."
Velvet laughed louder as she walked past her and down the steps toward the stage. "Really? Well, what about you? Are you ready to give away your own first kiss for theater club?"
Crystal's mind went blank. She hadn't even thought about that. Her gaze started to wander to the door when—as if somehow sensing her desire to flee—the club president called, "Crystal Wishes, please come to the stage so we can begin!"
"Oh, ponyfeathers," she muttered under her breath and trotted down the steps.
It turned out the scene was rather tame and involved no touching of any kind. Though she was relieved, she found herself in another quandary as ponies started to pair up. She blinked a few times and looked around.
"Um, hi, I—" She winced as the stallion, not noticing her, was approached by another mare. "Oh, uh." She cleared her throat and looked at another. "Hi, I need a partner."
"Sorry, I just paired up." He smiled and nodded his head at the mare beside him.
"That's fine!" She took a step back. "Good for you! I'll just—" She looked around and sighed. "—give up, I guess."
Standing alone, she stood out more than ever, and that caught the club president's attention.
"Hmm." The club president, Spectrum Splatter, walked over. "Don't worry, Crystal Wishes. We'll just have a stallion run through the lines twice. We're fresh out of partn—oh!" She smiled and, strangely, she had a distinct look of fiery amusement burning in her eyes. "Aha! Wait, there is one after all."
Spectrum cleared her throat, then raised her voice to call out over the mares and stallions chatting excitedly with one another, "Silent Knight!"
Crystal followed her gaze. Off to the side and standing somewhat out of view was a white pegasus stallion. He wore the school's recognizable hoofball jacket and held a hammer in his mouth. When he lifted his head and looked over, he merely raised one brow in response.
"I think the props can take a break," Spectrum said sweetly. "Why don't you actually engage in some of the acting today?"
Silent Knight lifted a hoof and pointed at the hammer, a serious look on his face. Spectrum's smile fell.
"Yes, yes, I know you said you just wanted to do props and not actually perform, but this mare here needs a partner, and you can't just build props all year without any participation in our recitals."
They exchanged an unrelenting, silent staring contest before the pegasus dropped the hammer and walked over to stand beside Crystal.
Spectrum smiled with clear self-satisfaction on her face. "Good!" She made her way to the front of the stage and hopped down to take a seat in the first row. "Okay, everypony, line up so each of you gets a turn."
Crystal's cheeks were red and she found it hard to stay still with a stallion so close to her that was totally her type. She stole a quick glance up at him to get a better look at his features.
He had his blue mane slicked up and back, a few strands resting forward against his ears, which were notable in of themselves. Her gaze returned to him to get a better look, lingering this time. The very tips of his ears were—fluffy? She couldn't help but tilt her head. Was that word appropriate to use with a stallion's ears?
She nearly fell forward when the mare behind her nudged her ahead. "Hey, pay attention, will you? The line's movin'!"
"Sorry!" She hurried to regain her balance and place beside Silent Knight. She had to focus now that she realized she and he were only a few ponies away from their turn. Could she do it? Could she recite those famous lines to this complete stranger? Her heart raced and she started to fidget in place.
Finally, it was their turn. The pegasus's expression remained focused, yet emotionless. He stood, not quite facing her, but not quite facing the front, either. All in all, he seemed completely uninterested in the task.
Crystal took a moment to find her voice. Her gaze wandered to everywhere but at him. "Oh, Romehorse, Romehorse! Wherefore art thou Romehorse? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I'll no longer be a Capubit."
She raised her eyes, a part of her hoping to meet his.
He hadn't moved. He didn't seem like he was going to speak, either.
Crystal cleared her throat, hoping to get his attention and prompt him into action. Instead of a response, his eyes darted to her, then looked away again.
Perhaps he had forgotten his lines? She glanced around, then whispered, "Shall I hear more…"
His ear twitched in acknowledgment. Her brow furrowed. Was he mute? Was that why he was called Silent Knight? Surely, if he were mute, then Spectrum wouldn't have put him on stage.
Smothered snickers started to fill the awkward silence.
Crystal bit her lower lip, then moved to stand beside him, opposite of the front of the stage, and called out in the most masculine voice she could, "Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?"
The snickers rose into brief laughs. She couldn't help a small grin herself as she resumed her spot. Silent Knight looked down at her, brow raised again, but didn't seem inclined to stop her as she continued her lines, then hopped back out of view beside him.
Even Spectrum laughed as Crystal bellowed, "I take thee at thy word! Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized; henceforth I never will be Romehorse."
"All right, all right, that's enough!" Spectrum wiped a tear from her eye and waved the other hoof. "I think we get the point."
Crystal faced the front, gave a small curtsey of her forelegs, and trotted out of the spotlight. Silent Knight seemed to follow after her, but when she stopped and turned to address him, he kept going, heading back to the prop he had been putting together.
Her heart started to fall until he stopped, turned his head, and nodded at her.
Crystal lit up. "You're welcome!" He didn't acknowledge her further, and that was fine with her, as Velvet suddenly hugged her from behind.
"That was hilarious!" Velvet giggled. "In my opinion, you're a shoe-in for playing Romehorse."
"Oh, ha, ha. Thanks." Crystal nudged her off, rolling her eyes. "That really helps my self-esteem."
Velvet giggled again and walked with her over to the auditorium seats. "Horsey's gonna be really sad she missed that. That was priceless!" She glanced around, then leaned in closer to her. "Now, your partner was good-looking!"
Crystal nodded. "Oh, super. But he's really focused on—something. I'm not sure what, but it's definitely not theater or mares." Her gaze drifted over to the darker part of the stage where she could just barely make the stallion out as he worked. "I don't really think he's on the market."
"What a shame! Oh well." Velvet sighed. "So, I failed my cheerleading tryouts this morning."
Crystal's expression dropped and she turned to face her completely. "What? I'm so sorry!"
"It's fine. Ballet and cheerleading are two completely different worlds! It was fun, though. It also means I have some free time in my schedule, which is good, because the girls in dance club want to get together to practice outside of club hours!"
Crystal hesitated and took a quick intake of air. She had to be happy for her friend, even if she wanted to be selfish. Velvet had always wanted a bigger circle of friends than Crystal was comfortable with, and she just had to be okay with that.
"That's great, then." Did she sound sincere? She hoped so.
"Yup!" Velvet stretched her forelegs over her head. "Why don't you, Horsey, and I get together at Sunridge Sweets after school sometime? It's been a while since we hung out there."
"I'd like that a lot." Crystal turned her attention back to the stage as the last pair finished reciting their lines. "I need to spend more time with Horsey."
"Mm. Well, yeah, but"—Velvet frowned—"what you really need to do is just be honest with her. I think it'd be a good first step, anyway."
Crystal's gaze fell to the floor, then slowly raised back up. "I'll try. No promises, but I'll try."
She spent the rest of the club hours hardening her resolve. Horsey was a friend, just like Velvet. If she couldn't let a friend know about her true passion, then how could she ever make a career out of it? She nodded to herself.
First thing she'd do when she saw Horsey at Sunridge Sweets would be to tell her the whole truth.