Throughout the school week, Crystal prepared herself for flirting. After a weekend of planning with the girls, she was ready to give it a shot, though exactly how she was going to find Midnight Poem was another matter entirely.
They shared no other clubs or classes, and she knew so little about him that she didn't have the faintest idea on where to look for him. She could never spot him in the cafeteria or the halls between classes, either. She resigned herself to waiting until the next club meeting, and that suited her just fine, as it gave her time to daydream. She would flirt with him and not be confused or creepy. She would be cute and he'd be charming. It would be perfect!
"Crystal Wishes, the assignment was to write the sentence on the board," the calligraphy club president said from over Crystal's shoulder. "Not, well—"
Crystal blinked and looked down at her parchment. Scrawled across it was, in perfect cursive that became sloppy toward the end, the sentence 'The quick brown fox jumps over the Midnight Poem' followed by a heart. She blushed and scratched out the words as quickly as she could. "Sorry! I was distracted!"
"I see that." The club president flashed a knowing smile. "Try to stay focused for another half hour, all right, lovebird?"
A couple of nearby eyes turned on her and she ducked her head as her whole face turned red.
"Oh, Celestia," she muttered. "Just kill me now."
However, the princess of the sun did not seem to be answering prayers that afternoon, as Crystal survived the rest of the calligraphy club without injury to herself, other than her pride.
"All right, everypony," the club president said, clearing her throat. "We'll be switching to brushes next week. I think we've all mostly gotten quills figured out. It's about time for a new challenge before the year is over!"
Crystal sighed as she started to put away her supplies. Calligraphy and tea were most important to her mother and least important to herself, though she certainly liked tea club more. She was at least permitted to experiment with new and interesting flavor combinations that her mother would hate, and that gave her a rebellious satisfaction.
Calligraphy, however, was extremely dull. She tried to get excited by reminding herself she was getting practice for signing books, but it didn't lessen the boredom by much.
She paused just before she had put away her inkwell. Her quill lifted out of her bags and dipped its tip into the ink, then wrote in her fanciest lettering on a scrap piece of paper: Crystal Wishes. She smiled, proud of her signature, then finished putting everything away.
Finally, it was nearing the end of the school day. Crystal excitedly trotted down the halls toward the writing club's room. As usual, Midnight Poem was sitting in the seat at the back of the class in the corner, looking down at his notebook and writing something. She giggled to herself. Well, they certainly had that last part in common.
She cleared her throat as she walked over to take the seat beside his. He looked up at her and blinked a few times.
"Oh, good afternoon, Crystal Wishes." He smiled.
She waved a hoof in a playfully dismissive way. "Please, call me Crystal."
His smile softened and he nodded. "All right, Crystal."
There was a moment of silence as they stared at one another, each waiting for Midnight to say something. She cleared her throat.
"So," she started, gaze darting about. "are you nervous about getting your story back today?"
"Hmm?" He shook his head. "No, I didn't write a story. I wrote a poem."
Crystal waited for him to say anything else. She leaned in expectantly, then gave up and asked, "Are you nervous about getting your poem back?"
Midnight tapped a hoof to his chin as he hummed thoughtfully. "I don't know if I'm nervous about that." He looked at her. "What about you?"
"Very," she admitted in a soft voice. "Velvet's the only one who's really read my work. Well, my serious work. I have no idea what to expect."
"I wouldn't be too worried." He smiled again. Though it was hard to tell with his dark coat, his cheeks seemed to flush. "You're talented and smart."
Her heart skipped a beat. "But—"
"And hopefully, once you get your reviewer comments back, you'll be confident, too. You owe it to yourself to be proud of your work."
She gazed at him before ducking her head and hiding her eyes behind her bangs. All of the cute, witty lines she had prepared vanished and her mind drew a blank. "I—I hope so, too."
"All right, fellow word slingers!" Bright Orange called out, interrupting the moment between them.
Crystal looked around, startled to see how many ponies had wandered in without her noticing. She fidgeted some in her seat and did her best not to glance at Midnight.
"I have received all of the stories back from everypony and am ready to return them, so today will be a self-guided lesson." Bright Orange gestured to the stack of papers on the desk, each bound with a ribbon. "I will remain at the front of the class, so if you all would like to come up in succession, that would be most appreciated." He walked around the desk and took a seat. He crossed his hooves in front of him on the desk, looking around somewhat curiously. "So, who shall begin?"
There was a shared hesitancy among the ponies until one stood up and walked up to the desk. Bright Orange looked past the stallion at the others with a brow raised almost sternly, but his gentle smile kept him from seeming too serious.
On cue, everypony turned to their neighbor to chat or focused their attention on their notebooks, giving the two at the front of the class a fair amount of privacy. The stallion quietly indicated which story was his own and returned to his desk. As he put the bound papers in his saddlebags, another pony went to the front.
Crystal's hindhoof tapped the ground nervously. She watched as the number of stories in the pile dwindled down before she couldn't wait any longer. She got up out of her seat and went to the front of the room. The remaining stories were spread across the desk, only their titles visible.
Bright Orange smiled wider when he noticed her. "I wondered when you would decide to wander up here, Crystal Wishes! I hope this works out for everypony. I am on tenterhooks waiting to hear if this helps confidence within the club or not!" He tapped his hooves together. "All of that aside, please take yours."
"Thanks!" Her gaze wandered over the titles until she recognized her own and lifted it up. "It'd be great if it works out."
Crystal returned to her seat and sat there for a moment in complete stillness, the bound papers placed upside-down so the title, Secrets of the Heart, was hidden. There were no secrets about her heart in that moment. She was nervous. What if the reviewer hated it? Was she really ready to read negative criticism?
She took a deep breath and retrieved one of her textbooks. She opened it up and stuck her story inside it to act as a cover so that she could read with some privacy. Her heart raced as she turned the pages to find the comments.
Wow, what a way to start a story. Your characters are unique, and I really enjoyed the way you characterized them in the context of the story. Your writing is quite good and reads smoothly. Suffice it to say I've really enjoyed what I've read so far, and I hope to see more in the future. Seriously, that was excellent. May your creative spark burn ever more brightly! You owe it to yourself to be more confident.
The noise around her suddenly vanished into deafening silence as realization hit her like a runaway carriage. She read the last words a few times before her head turned slowly and woodenly toward Midnight Poem. He wasn't looking at her; actually, it seemed like he was making a great effort to look at everywhere but her.
"I know!" He raised his hooves and nearly fell backward out of his seat as he put some cautious distance between them. "It was a coincidence, I swear! I started reading it and I just saw you behind the words. I wasn't completely sure, of course, but, well, it just seemed like something you'd write." He swallowed, his gaze flickering to her. "And, well, I'm guessing I was right?"
Crystal stared at him. Words escaped her. She had a confusing mix of embarrassment and doubt bubbling in her chest. "You were." She stared at the comments he had written. "So, you wrote this so I'd have more confidence?"
"No! Well, yes, but I meant what I said—wrote." He reached out a hoof and set it on her shoulder. "It was really good. I wrote my feedback as I was reading, and I didn't start to think it might be you until I was halfway through." He smiled. "I'm glad I got to read your story."
She glanced at him, away, then back at him. "What did you like?"
His face lit up. He pulled his hoof back and tapped them together. "The characters in your story were believable. I felt like I could run into them here in the real world, not just in literature." He hesitated. "If I had to be honest—"
Her heart sunk. "What?" All of the scenes raced through her mind. Which was it? What didn't he like?
Midnight looked up at the ceiling. His dark cheeks were darkened further by a red flush. "It made me a little sad."
"Sad? But it has a happy ending!" Her horn lit up as she frantically flipped the pages. "Doesn't it? It's supposed t—"
He shook his head. "No, no, no, it's not that at all." He grinned lopsidedly. "I just, ah—I wish I could be more like Arid Silver. He was bold and charming and certainly wouldn't have been too shy to ask you on a date."
Crystal's ears perked straight up. Her face turned red and she looked around the room, then back at him and tried to smile. Her heart fluttered with excitement. Carefully thinking her words over, she scooted in her chair to lean in toward him and said, "Well, you practically just did, so why not go ahead and ask?"
Midnight swallowed. "All right." He looked directly at her with a weak smile. "Would you go on a date with me?"
A giggle bubbled up from her chest. "Sure." She rested her chin on her hoof. "When and where?"
After fumbling through some vague plans, they had a date. He would come by that Saturday to pick her up and the rest would be a surprise, much to her delight. She could hardly wait for club to be over before she trotted on the tips of her hooves out of the classroom. She stood by her locker, glancing up and down the halls in barely contained anticipation.
"Where are they?" she muttered. "Come on, come on."
"Crystal!" Velvet surprised her with a hug from behind. "Well? How did it go? Did you ask him out?"
Crystal squirmed out of the mare's embrace to turn and face her. She tried not to give herself away by smiling too wide. "Nope."
"What?" Horsey asked as she walked over to them. "Did I hear that right? You didn't ask him out? After all our planning?"
"Nope, I didn't ask him out." Crystal danced from one hoof to the other, her smile growing wider.
Velvet tilted her head in confusion. Then, slowly, a smile formed on her own lips. "Oh! You seem awfully excited for somepony without a date!"
Horsey gasped and jumped up and down. "Did he—"
"Could it be—"
"Yes!" Crystal finally squealed. "He asked me out!"
The three girls squealed and bounced up and down. Velvet and Horsey hugged her from both sides.
"You'll have to tell us everything!" Horsey exclaimed as she stepped back. "When is it?"
"Saturday." Crystal nuzzled her cheek against Velvet's before they pulled apart. "He's going to come by to pick me up on Saturday."
"Then let's all meet up on Sunday and you can spill all the details!" Horsey clapped her hooves together. "Let's meet at Velvet's house so we can have celebratory cake."
Velvet's eyes widened. "Ooh, yes! I'll have my dad bake a date cake!" She grinned and winked. "It'll have dates in it! Get it?"
Crystal laughed and waved a hoof in her face. "You're so silly." She sighed, then nodded. "Okay, Sunday, let's meet for lunch at Velvet's house."
At the end of the week, Crystal hopped in a circle around her bedroom and sing-songed, "I'm going on a date to—mo—rrow! My first date!" She sat down in front of the vanity and squirmed, hardly able to contain herself. "Oh, I need to look my best."
Curlers lifted up out of a basket and started to wind locks of her mane tightly into several rolls. "I wonder where we're going to go?" She sighed dreamily as her magic worked on her mane. "I can't believe it. My first date!"
A knock came from the door. "Hello?" called her mother's voice from the other side.
"Yes, Mom?" She stared at the reflection of the door as it opened and she smiled.
"I couldn't help but overhear that you seem to have a date." Upper Crust walked over, her magic taking the curlers and setting them aside to replace them with a brush. "Tell me about this stallion."
Crystal giggled. "He's shy and a little reserved. But I think he'll come out of his shell with a little coaxing. Oh, and he's a poet."
Upper Crust raised her brow. "A poet?"
"Yes." She nodded and repeated, "A poet."
"What about his family?" She brushed out a few knots in Crystal's mane before rolling in another curler. "Who are his parents?"
Crystal was quiet for a moment as she thought the question over. "I don't know, but I'm sure they're fine, Mom."
Upper Crust paused. Her hooves lowered. "What do you know about this poet?"
Another moment of thoughtful, cautious silence. "I know that he asked me out on a date and that it would be rude to turn down a willing stallion."
Her mother nodded and continued her primping and preening. "You've been paying attention to your lessons well, I see."
"I learned from the best, Mom."
"What a good girl." Upper Crust patted her on the head. "Well, I hope you have a pleasant date. Please do let me know how it goes when you come home."
"Yes, Mom." She looked up at her. "I'm going to go to bed, now."
"Of course." Her mother took a step back and started out of the room. "Remember to wear something nice, darling."
Crystal tried not to sigh. "Yes, Mom." Once her mother had left and shut the door, she allowed a quiet groan. "Yes, Mom. Yes, Mom. Yes, Mom." She rubbed her forehead with a hoof. "Such a nag."
Flopping onto the bed, she hugged a pillow to her chest and curled around it, closing her eyes. She started to smile. Her very first date. She couldn't possibly be more excited!