To say that Crystal was nervous would be like saying that she was 'just a pony'. It was true, of course, but it did not accurately describe her. She was terrified, so much so that she was pretty sure her heart was pounding so hard against her ribs that they might break. She paced up and down the hall, levitating her notes in front of her and reading them over and over.
"Crystal Wishes?" The principal leaned out of his office to look at her. "You may come in now. Thank you for waiting."
The notes were flung into the air and fluttered all around her as she jolted in surprise. "Yes, Principal Demeanor." Her gaze darted about. She bit her lip, then left the scattered paper behind and walked into the principal's office.
Principal Demeanor was already sitting behind his desk. He looked at her with a calm smile that was neither friendly nor unfriendly. "So, Miss Wishes, what is it you wanted to speak to me about?"
Crystal shifted from one hoof to the other. "I—I—" She swallowed. "I want to start a new club."
He paused, then repeated slowly, "Start a new club?"
"I see." He tapped his hooves together. "What kind of club?"
Crystal closed her eyes just a moment to calm herself. She lifted her head and opened her eyes again. "I'd like to propose an Authors Anonymous club, where ponies can share their stories with others without fear of judgment."
The principal raised one brow. "Isn't there already a writing club?"
She nodded. "Yes, Principal Demeanor, there is. The writing club is solely focused on things like grammar and tips to improve one's writing. There's nothing wrong with that, but nopony is confident enough to share what they've written."
"Hmm. And you think this deserves its own separate club instead of talking to the writing club president?" His gaze held hers firmly. "This sounds more like a club event than an entirely separate club."
Crystal looked down at the floor in thought, then lifted her gaze and shook her head. "I didn't think of that, sir."
The principal smiled. "Then I'm going to have to decline your request, as it is well past the time for creating clubs and I feel this is more suited to the existing club."
"Yes, sir." She nodded. "I understand." She started to back out of his office.
"Oh, and Miss Wishes?"
She froze. "Yes?"
"You may want to pick up your notes or I'll have to cite you for littering." He winked.
She forced a laugh and quickly nodded. "Yes, sir."
Shutting the door behind her, she sighed and shook her head. She was a little embarrassed, of course. Why hadn't she thought of that herself? After all, she wasn't even really sure she wanted to be a club president in the first place. Between all her classes and clubs she was already juggling, plus attending her parents' events, time was scarce enough as it is.
Smiling, her horn glowed pink as she started to gather up the notes she had left behind. Why had she wanted to start a club in the first place? This was much easier and way less work.
Crystal spotted her lunch bag in the locker and turned her head to look at a clock in the hallway. It was still lunch, albeit already halfway over, but if she hurried she could still eat with High Horse. She retrieved the bag, then quickly made her way down the hall and around a few corners to get to the cafeteria.
She had no trouble spotting Horsey, as they typically ate at the same table every day, but she was startled to see Velvet sitting there as well. Why wasn't she off with her other friends?
Velvet spied her and waved both forelegs to usher her over. When she was close enough, Velvet said with her ears folded back, "Crystal! I'm so sorry. I completely flaked yesterday and got caught up with the girls from dance club! I'm really sorry."
"It's okay." Crystal couldn't bring herself to look at Velvet out of guilt for the angry jealousy that burned in the back of her mind. "It happens."
Velvet smiled. "I'll make it up to you, okay?"
"Don't worry about it." Crystal started to open her bag and empty its contents.
"So—" High Horse leaned in. "—how did it go?"
Velvet blinked, glancing between the two. "How did what go?"
Crystal shook her head. "He said no."
"Oh, I'm sorry, Crystal." Horsey reached across the table to put her hoof on Crystal's. "I know you were really excited about it."
Velvet's brow furrowed. "What did I miss? Who said no to what?"
Crystal still didn't look at her. She kept her gaze focused on folding her lunch bag neatly before she raised an apple. "I don't know if I was excited about the club part or the activity part, actually."
"Part of what?" Velvet's tone had a hint of irritation to it.
Crystal sighed. "I talked to the principal about starting a writing club."
"Isn't there already a writing club?" Velvet asked, tilting her head to one side. "And aren't you in it?" She flinched back when she saw Crystal roll her eyes. "What?"
"Nothing." Crystal rubbed her forehead. "I'm sorry. I'm just—" She released a drawn out groan and turned to finally look at her. "How could you forget about us? About me? When it was your idea to meet up at the bakery in the first place!"
Velvet's gaze faltered and her voice grew soft. "I'm really sorry!"
"I know, and I'm not really mad about that specifically." Crystal shrugged. "I had a great time with High Horse that I probably wouldn't have had if you came by."
Velvet tried to smile. "So maybe it's good that I forgot?"
Horsey started to slowly lift a leg over the bench, then the other. The two were too preoccupied with each other to notice that she was quietly escaping to leave them alone.
Crystal shook her head and looked at her again. "How can it be good to forget, regardless of what happened? I thought—" She bit her lip. "I thought we were still friends. That's what I'm mad about."
"What are you talking about?" Velvet's eyes glossed over. "I thought we were, too!"
"Then why don't you hang out with me anymore?" Crystal wasn't sure if it was the sight of Velvet starting to cry or her own feelings thundering in her chest, but she was unable to blink her blurry vision clear.
"Even though I'm making new friends, you're still my best friend!" Velvet shook her head. "Someday, you and Horsey'll be my only friends because I won't have time for anypony else, so I want to have a lot now while I can."
They stared at one another in confused silence before Crystal dropped her head, her bangs falling to hide her eyes. "I'm sorry, Velvet. I guess I doubted you because I was jealous."
"No, I'm sorry, too." Velvet threw her forelegs around Crystal's neck and hugged her tight. "I was being selfish. I wasn't even considering the way you might feel at all. I—I just assumed that you knew we'd always be friends, no matter what."
"We will. I know we will, but—" Crystal buried her face into Velvet's shoulder and closed her eyes. "Sometimes, and it doesn't have to be all the time, I just need you to spend time with me, okay? Nurture our friendship just like you do with other ponies," she mumbled softly.
"I can do that. I promise." Velvet squeezed her tighter, then let go. "We should probably go figure out where Horsey ran off to, though."
"Oh, gosh, we completely ignored her." Crystal laughed and rubbed at her eyes. "I hope she's okay." She looked around the cafeteria.
Velvet slid off the bench. "She and I are in the same class after lunch, which is almost over anyway, and you haven't eaten a thing. You eat and I'll take care of Horsey." She started to walk away, then paused, turned around, and quickly hugged Crystal one more time before trotting off.
Crystal looked down at her lunch with a small frown. She wasn't hungry anymore, though she knew she should eat anyway. She managed to take a few bites of her sandwich before putting everything back in the bag to save for later.
After her last class, she headed straight for the room where the writing club met. The nervousness from the morning returned, but she kept her head high. She was already this far, so she had to at least see it through. As usual, the club president, Bright Orange, was standing at the chalkboard preparing the on-board notes for that day's discussion.
He had a brilliant, emerald green mane and a smooth goldenrod coat that stood out against the dark chalkboard. Like Velvet, he had come to Canterlot from Manehattan, but unlike her, he had not left to escape bullying. He was only there to study at Canterlot Academy and would return to his hometown after graduation.
"Bright Orange?" Crystal asked as she stepped toward him. "May I have a word with you?"
He turned his head to look at her. He blinked a few times and then smiled. "Ah, Crystal Wishes! I always have time for dialogue. What is it that seems to be troubling you?"
Crystal took a quick intake of air and said, "I had an idea. I like being in this club, but I think it might be helpful if we had an anonymous way to share our work."
"Oh?" He inclined his head at a curious angle, though the smile didn't leave his lips. "It is quite onerous to keep things anonymous, you know. How do you propose we implement this idea?"
Crystal looked away from him and muttered under her breath, wishing she had brought her notes. She returned her gaze to him and said slowly, "My idea was to have a box that ponies could put their story into, with the first page just being the title, then you distribute them at random. The readers could write their feedback and include that with the story they return to you. Then ponies could come to you after club hours to get their story back."
Bright Orange rubbed a hoof along his chin. He made a small, thoughtful humming noise as he looked at his unfinished notes on the chalkboard, then back at her. "You know, I think today's agenda has changed." He picked up an eraser and started to clear the board. "Today, we shall commence an anonymous authors' event! Hmm. Authors Anonymous has a nice cadence to it."
Crystal lit up and tried not to grin. "I think that's a perfect name. Thank you so much, Orange!"
Facing away from her, he said, "Think nothing of it. I am sure everypony will welcome the change of pace!" He wrote 'Authors Anonymous' in large, decorative letters across the top of the chalkboard, then began to write the process in a much more eloquent way than she tried to explain. He had a knack for finding just the right words.
"I hope so!" She trotted happily over to her usual seat. She set down her bags and pulled out her notebook.
There was only one other pony there that early: Midnight Poem, a unicorn stallion that usually kept to himself. He had a dark blue coat that almost blended with his black sweater. He pushed his bangs, which were only a few shades lighter than his coat, behind his ears and got up from his seat to walk over to Crystal.
"If you want," he said in a quiet voice, startling her upright. He rarely spoke to her, or anypony for that matter. "I can read over your work and give you some feedback." He winked. "Anonymously, of course."
Crystal closed her notebook and looked at him, her brow furrowed. "How would that be anonymous at all?"
He laughed softly. "It wouldn't. I was joking."
She blinked a few times, glanced at her notebook, and put a hoof on it almost protectively. A part of her knew that, by having her guard so visibly up, she was being suspicious, but there was no way somepony she barely knew was reading her work. At least, not just yet.
He seemed to notice this, but leaned in closer despite her standoffish behavior. "It can't be that bad, Crystal Wishes! You always have such insightful comments. And it is your special talent, after all."
"Just because I'm good at something doesn't mean it's good." She frowned. "What if my talent was stacking firewood? I'd be good at it, sure, but it's not very impressive."
He held the close distance between them before he pulled back with a small sigh, though he still smiled. "I understand now. You want the anonymous story sharing because you're not confident in your own writing, not because of other ponies in the club."
Her ears fell. "Um—"
"Don't worry." He stood up out of the chair. "I hope it helps you gain that confidence. I'd really like to read your writing."
Crystal tilted her head one way, then the other. "Huh?"
He looked over his shoulder to smile at her and her heart skipped a beat. The look on his face was one she had described several times. It was strong, confident, and inviting. One brow was raised to add a bit of mysterious intrigue.
Was this her moment? Their eyes were locked, neither looking away, and neither noticing that he was taking one too many steps until he stumbled over a chair. He grumbled under his breath and faced away, rubbing his leg with one hoof.
She couldn't help a small giggle. Maybe she was just imagining things. Maybe he was just being too polite to look away and she was being creepy. However, when he glanced at her again and smiled lopsidedly, she blushed and looked down at her notebook, hiding her face behind a hoof.