Coco Pommel gave most ponies the impression of being smaller and younger than she was. Most of them seemed to react in one of two ways: they either thought she was cute, or they thought they could push her around to get whatever they wanted from her. Coco supposed her pale coat, light blue mane, and open matching blue eyes didn't help counter the impression she gave off, but she liked the way she looked, and keeping her mane short helped to keep it from getting tangled when she worked on clothing or a costume.
Coco was just a small-town Earth Pony, but everypony who ever saw her work told her that she had exceptional skill with needle and thread. Many of them told her she ought to share her talent with the rest of the world, or that she could make a big debut in the fashion world, if only she went to the right place and met the right ponies. Such words made Coco wonder: Where are these miracle towns? In order to answer that, she loaded up on supplies and, with her family's permission, went out into the world.
Nopony had ever mentioned that the world could be so harsh when they told her she could find her successes out in it. Many of the companies she approached to ask if they would sponsor or mentor her turned her away on sight, or simply refused to see her. Even those who did see her work often raised their noses and turned away when she gave them her expectations regarding sales prices. Coco thought her prices were reasonable, given the quality of the clothes she made, and the fact that she lacked any magic with which to make them. The most helpful tip she got was that her design was 'lacking' somehow, and she should go see what the ponies of the fashion world were producing. When Coco asked for clarification, she was immediately turned away.
All these months away from home, and all Coco had to show for it was wasted effort, money, and materials. In fact, she was beginning to run out of materials with which she could make new clothes, and the ones she had made were piling up on her wagon, unsold and unwanted. She had made them so well that she could not take them apart to reuse the material without damaging it. Coco hadn't even reached Neighagra Falls, and she was on the verge of breaking down into tears and quitting!
"Hey Good Lookin,' what's shakin'?" The bright male voice startled Coco back to the present and reality.
"Oh my, I'm so sorry!" She squeaked as she stepped rapidly back from the stallion. She hadn't even realized she had been brooding in the street.
"It looks like you could use some cheer, so let this Cheese Sandwich be your guide!"
"Cheese Sandwich?" Coco looked at the stallion's poofy, cloud-like brown mane, his loud shirt with all the colourful flowers, and his massive smile. "I'm going to follow a..." She couldn't help it: the corners of her lips lifted slightly. "... a Cheese Sandwich?" She guffawed a little, then quickly covered her mouth with a hoof. "I'm so sorry!"
"'Sorry?' For what?" Cheese screwed up his face and waggled his tongue at her. "If I'm not in a town for a wild party, it's to get a true laugh!"
"What's a true...? A sudden twist in Cheese finally put Coco over the edge, and she couldn't help but break out in laughter.
"There, that! That's exactly what I wanted from you."
"Ah-ha-ha! I've never laughed so hard before. Ha! I don't think I can stop..."
Cheese waited, a patient and satisfied smile on his face as Coco continued to roll, laughing and gasping for breath, on the ground. When she finally stopped, there were tears in her eyes, and she had to hold her stomach because it hurt a little from laughing so much, so suddenly. "So, how ya feel now, Sweet Thing?"
"My stomach hurt a little, but I feel good," Coco accepted an extended hoof to help her back up to her own.
"Say, wanna get something to eat?"
"I don't have --"
"I wouldn't want to impose,"
"Oh, dont you worry 'bout that: this Cheese is Equestria's Premiere Party-Planning Pony. I can afford a meal or seven with a pretty gal like you. B'sides, you look like you could use a little something after all that belly laughing. And Gouda do I know that feeling from when I got started!" Cheese started walking, and Coco didn't have much choice except to follow him.
"But I'm not going into party planning,"
"Getting started is about the same for most ponies, regardless of profession. What you need's a big break, but to get a big break you need to be in the right place at the right time. Whether you're lookin' for inspiration or the right connection, it's all about timing."
"But how do I know if my connection won't happen after I leave a place?"
"You don't know," Cheese said, "but eventually your timing will be right. But only if you don't give up and pack it in." They came to a restaurant, and Cheese showed Coco inside. The greeter recognized Cheese, and brought them to a table right away. "This is my favourite place in town," Cheese boasted. "Order anything you like."
"But it looks so expensive!"
"That's okay: I threw a couple parties here that were attended wall-to-wall, so the owner gives me a deal. Seriously, anything you want on that menu, you can consider it yours."
"If you insist..."
"Oh yeah, I do!"
Cheese didn't talk much until after they had both placed their orders. "So, what profession are ya diving into, Missy?"
"My name is 'Coco. Coco Pommel.'"
"'Coco,' huh? That's a sweet name. Literally! Oh, but go on,"
"I'm good at making clothes, so I'm trying to break into fashion."
"Really? Got any fashion tips for Cheese?"
"I don't know..."
"Oh, go on. I don't mind." Cheese had the biggest grin on his face.
"Well, okay, then. Your shirt is... the tiniest bit too loud."
"Yes. All the colours make it hard to look at."
"So what does Coco Pommel, fashion artist on the rise, suggest?"
"Oh, I don't know about that," Coco said, blushing. When she realized that she was blushing, she felt herself redden more deeply, and she covered her face with her hooves. Cheese put his hooves gently over hers, and slowly, gently pulled them away.
"Hey, no hiding from Cheese," he said softly. "How 'bout a smile?" He demonstrated with his own face.
Too close! Coco tried to pull away, but Cheese was right there, and suddenly he was making funny faces again. Coco startled and froze for a moment, then she started laughing again. Ponies at the tables nearby started laughing too, then someone stopped and said 'hey, why're we laughing?' which only made more ponies laugh.
When Coco finally stopped laughing, she could no longer feel the heat of her blush. She sighed, and looked across the table at the stallion sitting there. It seemed he knew just how to tickle her to pick her up out of a foul mood. "My recommendation is a solid colour. Maybe blue,"
"Like the cheese?"
"Yes, thank you. Do you do this sort of thing for everypony?"
"Just the ones I like especially well, although I do find it hard to turn away from turning a frown the right side up. So, what's your plan from here?"
"I don't have one," Coco smiled wistfully. "I was about to give up and go home."
"But not anymore?"
"That's Gouda! Anywhere you wanna go?"
"Ponies keep telling me I should go see what the real fashion designers are making,"
"You are a real fashion designer, if you're working with clothes, Coco. It sounds to me like you're lookin' for Manehattan, though. It's a touch city, but if you can make it there, as they say, you can make it period." Cheese flashed a smile. "It's my hometown, you know."
"I didn't know that, or anything much, about you, really."
"That's okay, but if you wanna know more, and you wanna get to Manehatten, why not travel together?"
"You're going to Manehattan too?"
"No, I'm going all over Equestria! A couple of days or a week in one town or city, then on to the next to see the sights and throw as many parties as I can. That's what this Party Pony does." Cheese took out a map. "I'll be goin' through Hollow Shades to Fillydelphia, and from there to Manehatten before I drop down to Baltimare and Detrot, and then I'll swing back west toward Dodge Junction and Appleoosa."
"That sounds like quite the journey,"
"I'll just keep goin' round and round throughout Equestria, trying to surpass my last party every time, 'cause I have to surpass the original Party Pony who inspired me."
"I didn't know you had somepony else inspiring you,"
"I didn't mention it earlier? Her name is Pinkie Pie, and she lives in Ponyville."
"Don't look so disappointed, Coco. Two Party Ponies together for too long's a bad idea any way you slice it. But then, I don't stay in one place, but I do move around to spread the cheer. So how 'bout it? Wanna come with me part of the way?"
"I'd like that, Cheese Sandwich."
"This Cheese won't stand alone then, Coco Pommel. At least not until after Manehattan."
"And if Manehattan isn't the right place for me, maybe I'll come with you even further."
"A traveling fashion party? Now there's a theme I haven't done!"
"Did I just inspire you by accident?"
"Yup, 'cause you never know when it'll happen!"
Coco laughed again. She hadn't realized it before, but she liked Cheese. Maybe not like like, but she liked how he made her laugh.