"Crystal, oh my gosh!" Velvet exclaimed as she threw open the door just after Crystal knocked on it, not even giving her a moment to speak. "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh! I got the letter!"
Crystal smiled, then frowned. "Wait, what? But she addressed the letter I got to both of us. She sent you one, too?"
"Huh?" Velvet blinked. "What? No." She grabbed Crystal's foreleg and practically dragged her inside. "Come on in already!"
"Okay, okay!" She laughed and walked over to sit on a pillow by the coffee table. "What letter did you get?"
Velvet stared at her with a blank expression. Crystal stared back, her brow starting to furrow. Velvet made a slow gesture, as if trying to physically pull the answer out of her.
Finally, Crystal's eyes lit up and she exclaimed, "Oh! Wait, you mean, the letter? From Mares Monthly? Already?!" Her hooves flung to smother a startled squeal. "Oh my gosh, what did they say?! What did they say?!"
Velvet pointed at the letter sitting on the table, all the while grinning nearly from ear to ear.
Crystal turned her head to read it, mumbling under her breath, "Dear Miss Step—we are writing—reviewed the samples—" Her tone rose higher and higher as she continued. "—pleased to write that we would like to interview your client?!" She jumped up and started to bounce around in a circle. "Oh my gosh, Velvet! You did it!" She threw her forelegs around Velvet's neck and hugged her tight.
"Don't get too excited just yet!" Velvet chided as she squirmed against the embrace, though she was still grinning. "You're on your own from here, my esteemed client. You've got to nail that interview first."
"An interview!" Crystal let go of her and turned to look at the letter again. "It says I can drop by their office in Manehattan at my convenience. Well, that's convenient." She settled down onto the pillow, hooking the crook of her foreleg over her muzzle, clenching her eyes shut. "Okay, okay, we can take the direct train to Ponyville, then you head back to Canterlot and I'll take the overnight train to Manehattan. I'll have plenty of time to be back before the garden party."
Velvet sat behind her on the same pillow and leaned backwards to rest against Crystal, back to back. "I thought you didn't go to those?"
Crystal rolled her eyes. "Ugh, I don't want to talk about that. What I do want to talk about, however, is the letter I received."
"Oh, yeah, you mentioned that." She paused, then gasped. "Wait, did you get a letter from Horsey?!"
"Yup!" Crystal puffed her chest. "She's doing really well, it seems. Somepony threw her a welcoming party. Already made friends." She sighed wistfully. "Our little Horsey's all grown up." She inclined her head to peer back at Velvet out of the corner of one eye. "She wants us to come meet her new friends in Ponyville."
"Then what are we waiting for?" Velvet got up onto all fours. "Let's pack your things and get on that train!"
After arriving in Ponyville and getting directions to Savoir Fare's restaurant, Crystal and Velvet walked with their noses in the air. They both wore one of Upper Crust's most ridiculous hats and oversized sunglasses, and they did their very best to not giggle or grin.
"I do say," Crystal said in her best Canterlot elite impression, her voice airy and hollow. "Shall we stop in here for a nip, darling?"
"Yes, this little eatery will do just fine." Velvet straightened her glasses, which were ridiculously big on her.
Crystal set their luggage down beside one of the tables and poked at the pile of hay serving as a makeshift chair. "Oh, my, how—rustic."
Velvet sat down and clapped her hooves, chortling like a goose. "My dear, I believe we are roughing it! How quaint!"
An earth stallion walked out of the restaurant and over to them. He had his blue mane slicked back with what they could only imagine was several hooffuls of styling gel.
"Oh my gosh," Crystal whispered, raising a menu to hide her face, "he looks exactly like Hors D'oeuvre. Do you think—"
"Bonjour, mademoiselles. My name is Savoir Fare. May I start you off with a drink?"
Velvet glanced up from her menu. "Why, I say, do you happen to have cucumber water in this charming little town of yours?"
Savoir Fare raised one brow. "Mademoiselle, you must be from Canterlot." He offered a polite smile. "Oui, of course. We have the cucumber water here in our—'charming little town'."
Crystal tapped her hoof on the table. "Cucumber water for me as well, darling."
"Oui. A waitress will be out shortly with your drinks." He turned and walked back into the building.
Once they were sure he was out of earshot, they whispered quickly back and forth.
"Oh my gosh, do you think Horsey and he—" Velvet covered her mouth with a hoof.
"No—Do you?!" Crystal lowered her sunglasses to peer over them.
Velvet only gasped. A few moments later, Horsey walked out the doors, carrying a silver platter. She set a glass of water with cucumber slices in front of Velvet and said, "Here you go, Velvet."
"Why thank y—aww!" Velvet pouted.
"And here you go, Crystal."
"Aww, come on!" Crystal snatched the sunglasses from her snout and looked up at Horsey with a puppy dog pout. "Couldn't you at least pretend that you didn't know who we were?"
Horsey broke out into a sheepish grin. "I could hear both of you all the way in there. It's only been a week! Do you girls really think I'd forget your voices?" She glanced down, then back up at them, her grin widening. "Or, y'know, your cutie marks?"
Both mares looked down at their own flanks.
"That's a good point," Velvet muttered. "I was having fun being all snobby, though."
Crystal sighed and pulled her glass closer. "You were a wonderful snob, Velvet." There was a brief pause before both of them looked at Horsey with bright smiles.
Horsey lit up with her own, even brighter smile. She set the tray on the table and hugged both of them. "Oh, Celestia, I'm so happy to see you two! I have to introduce you to everypony. How long are you staying?"
Velvet shrugged. "I can stay the night, but we gotta get Crystal on a train to Manehattan today."
"Manehattan?" Horsey blinked and looked at Crystal. "Why are you going there in such a hurry?"
Crystal twiddled her hooves. “Well, you see, I have an interview with somepony from Mares Monthly."
"Oh my gosh!" Horsey glanced over her shoulder, back at them, then ran into the restaurant. She came back out a few minutes later, no longer wearing a serving apron, just as Crystal and Velvet were becoming concerned. "Okay, we just have to go to Carousel Couture. If you've got an interview, then you'll need to look your best. We can talk once we get there!"
Crystal stood on a platform while the boutique's owner, Rarity, stared at her with a discriminating gaze. "So," she started, but was promptly shushed.
"You simply mustn't move an inch!" Rarity insisted while she rubbed her chin. "I’m creating the most impressive look I can so that your fashion alone will stun the interviewer into giving you that writing job!"
Horsey and Velvet were doing their best to not giggle, but a few sneaked out around their smothering hooves. Crystal stood as still as she could while Rarity's magic tossed various articles of clothing around, holding them up to Crystal and throwing them aside.
"No—no—no—perhaps!" Rarity gasped. "Perhaps indeed! What do you think of this, girls?" She twirled around to look at the other two. "Serious, but chic? Professional, but feminine?"
They immediately put on cool, calm expressions.
"Definitely serious," Velvet said, nodding.
"But still very feminine," Horsey agreed.
A single, simple pink scarf hovered in front of Crystal's neck. Rarity smiled wider. "Yes, yes, it's perfect, isn't it? Not too flashy at all!" She turned back to Crystal. "Now, what ever shall we do with your coiffure?" She moved a hoof in a circle to gesture at the whole of Crystal's head. "This simply won't do, you know. Such bold and colorful fashion went out years ago." She paused to look at each of them individually. "Oh, no offense intended, of course. I went through the phase myself."
"She looks really nice with her mane down," Velvet offered. "And she used to do this cute little braid when she was a filly!"
"Huh?" Crystal tilted her head. "Hmm."
She removed the scrunchie and her mane fell from the side ponytail down to her shoulders. A few locks lifted in her magic's glow and started to weave into two carefully orchestrated braids, ensuring that all the pink tresses were pulled in. The separate strands parted around her left ear in the shape of a heart and met back behind her head to form into a single, combined braid.
Crystal looked back at them. "Like this?"
"Ooh!" Rarity clapped her hooves. "How cute!" Her voice lowered while her hoof raised to rub her chin again. "I'll have to remember that little trick. It could come in handy with my next fashion line." She paused when she felt all their eyes on her and laughed nervously. "I mean, is that all, darlings?"
Crystal looked over at Horsey and Velvet with one brow raised. They shrugged, and she nodded.
"Wonderful! The scarf will be seven bits, if you please."
After paying and leaving the boutique, Crystal looked down at the pink scarf tied around her neck. "We just spent a half hour so I could walk out with—with a scarf?"
Horsey grinned sheepishly, her magic carrying their luggage. "She's the best designer in Ponyville, and it does look really cute on you."
Velvet bounced with each step she took. "Since the mane was my suggestion, does that make me a designer, too?"
"Let's not waste any more time," Crystal diverted, giggling. "I have two hours before I need to be at the train station. You still haven't introduced us to your new friends!"
At the first house they visited, a little pink filly answered the door.
"Hi Horsey!" the filly exclaimed, then looked at Crystal and Velvet with wide eyes. "Ooh. Pretty mares!"
The two giggled while Horsey explained, "These are my friends from Canterlot."
"Oh, okay! My name is Piña Colada!"
Crystal glanced at Horsey curiously, who shook her head, halting any questions.
"Is your sister around?" Horsey looked over the filly to peer into the house. "I was hoping to—"
"Here!" a slurred voice came from elsewhere inside the house before a plum-colored mare stumbled into view. "I'm here, yeah." She smiled. "'Sup?"
Horsey smothered a playful grin. "Berry, aren't you hitting the bottle a little early?"
"Pfft." The mare dismissed her with a vague wave of her hoof. "Ha ha, very funny. Thanks a lot for the great first impression with your friends." She turned her gaze toward Crystal and Velvet, her cadence unmistakably drunk. "I'm Berry Punch. It's nice to meet ya."
"And these are the girls I told you about from Canterlot, Berry." Horsey patted Piña Colada on the head, smiled at Berry, and waved. "Anyway, we've got to get around town before Crystal has to leave, but I'll see you later!"
As they walked away, Horsey explained in a quiet voice, "She makes wine for a living and has a speech impediment, so it seems like she's dipping into the goods, if you know what I mean."
"Oh," Velvet started, her ears drooping. "Now I feel like a jerk for giggling."
Horsey shook her head. "It's okay. She makes fun of herself more than any of us. She came up with her own nickname, too—Pinot Noir."
They made a circuit around town, Horsey introducing them to three more mares once she tracked them down: Cloud Kicker, Sassaflash, and Golden Harvest.
As they started toward the train station, Crystal sighed. "All of your friends seem really nice," she said, smiling at Horsey. "So I guess you're here to stay?"
"Yeah." Horsey looked down at the ground. "Life here is just so much better than in Canterlot."
"I'm glad." Velvet nuzzled her cheek against Horsey's.
Horsey turned her head to smile at Velvet, then at Crystal. "You both are still my best friends no matter what. And Crystal, I'll have my hooves crossed for your interview!" Her smile widened. "That's so exciting!"
"And nerve-wracking," Crystal mumbled. "I've never done an interview before."
"Don't worry about it." Horsey nodded and stopped to set down Crystal's luggage once they were at the station. "I mean, your talent is writing, so it's not like you can be bad at it. You're kind of guaranteed to succeed, right?"
Crystal glanced at her cutie mark, frowning playfully. "I certainly hope so, otherwise I'm lodging a complaint against Celestia."
The three girls laughed and exchanged hugs. Once the train arrived, there was another round of hugs and well-wishing, then Crystal stepped on and took a seat. She waved at them through the window, smiling when they waved back.
This was it. This train was going to take her all the way to Manehattan and there was no turning back. Well, of course, she could bail and just not go to the interview, but how could she do that after Velvet worked to get it for her? She drew her hoof across her chest, muttering the foalhood sing-song promise under her breath. No matter what, she was going to make Velvet's efforts worth it.