By: Aquarian Poet
Laughter filled the breezy air around Ponyville Elementary. A pony or two glanced across the property fence while about their daily routines, and over towards the fillies and colts frolicking about in the schoolyard. The young ponies ran about the grassy area, chasing each other down and giggling at one another's silly antics. Shooting down the slides and swinging up into the air, the children paid no attention to any of the onlookers.
Not even to the two ponies who sat underneath the shade of a nearby oak tree, the sunlight filtering in through the leaves and dancing across their laughing faces.
"Yeah, you wouldn't believe half of the things Little Mac has done! One time we were out exploring Froggy Bottom Bog, when we came across this giant cliff! I'm not kidding, this thing was like, the size of Canterlot Tower! And the bottom was covered in all of these sharp rocks, you could barely even see the mud!"
Fluttershy stared ahead with wide eyes, her apple momentarily forgotten. "What happened?"
"I'll tell you what happened, Butterpop dared him to take a dive off of the cliff and into the bog!"
"What? He didn't…"
"The crazy kid just looked back at us, gave one final 'Eeeeyup.', and dove straight down!"
The young teenager then noticed Fluttershy's face becoming pale. "Oh don't worry, he was fine in the end. Turns out that the swamp is filled with gas, and right before he hit the bottom, he landed on a giant gas bubble, and bounced right back up" –she gestured with a swinging hoof- "landing safely on the other side!" Cheerilee laughed. "Oh I wish I had a camera, Butterpop's face was priceless! She thought the poor kid had died, and that it was all her fault! She ripped him a new one for that little stunt."
Fluttershy gave an awkward smile. "My, he sounds like… fun."
"He's a ton of fun to have around, even thought he's really… quiet. I dunno." Cheerilee frowned. "He... took to his little sister leaving for Manehattan pretty hard. It's not something we like to bring up, and he's always trying to find ways to distract himself. If anything, it's usually him that drags our little posse into half of the trouble we get into."
"I'm sorry to hear that…"
The teenager smiled. "Yeah, don't worry about him too much. Sure, he's a wild card, but he's a really good guy. One of the best friends a pony could ever have."
Fluttershy smiled back to her. "I'd like to meet your friends someday. They all sound very nice."
"Heh. Crazy, you mean?"
"Umm… maybe a little."
The purple pony chuckled, looking to the side as leafy shadows danced across her face.
"Yeah, I'm from a crazy bunch alright." She looked down, her frazzled bangs obscuring her eyes. "I'm not what you'd consider teacher material, either."
"I think you make a wonderful teacher." Fluttershy insisted, sitting up straight.
"You're just saying that."
"Not at all. In fact, I think you're the best teacher I've ever had."
"You're kidding?" she shot the shy filly a skeptical look, slumping as she matched it with a glare (albeit cute) of her own. "You're not kidding. Well thanks kid, but I'm just not cut out for teaching. I don't have the patience."
"You were very patient with me this morning, when I was telling you about what happened to me last night." Fluttershy softly persisted. "You were very kind, and you listened to everything I had to say."
"But did you see the way those kids were… looking at me?" Cheerilee asked, her voice going quiet. "They were laughing at me, expecting me to be some sort of… well, a real teacher. But all I did was yell at them. I'm no good at teaching."
"Well, just keep trying then."
The teenager scoffed. "Hmph. Easy for you to say."
Cheerilee looked at the yellow filly, who was giving her a petrifying look.
"I live in Cloudsdale, a city full of pegasus ponies. Almost every building is separated from each other, sitting on a different cloud, and making it so you have to fly everywhere."
"I don't see how that-"
Fluttershy continued unabated. "My school sits on one giant cloud, so if one of us falls down, they won't fall down all the way, they will just land on the clouds. Well that's where I was when I fell all the way down."
Her voice became sharp.
"I'm one of the worst flyers in my class. In fact, I am the worst. Sometimes I have to ask somepony to help me fly over to a building, like the library, or sometimes even to school. And sometimes… it's really embarrassing for me to ask. And some ponies do laugh at me." She said, her gaze sinking down to her plate on the blanket.
Before snapping back up, a fire glowing in her teal eyes.
"It's hard being a weak flyer in a city full of pegasus ponies, but I keep trying. And every day, I get just a little bit better."
Cheerilee sat silently, listening to the breeze, and to the words the young filly spoke next.
"If they won't listen to you, then maybe... maybe you should try listening to what they have to say... like how you listened to me." she gently offered.
The teenager stared at the young filly, watching as she retreated back into her pink mane, blinking at the unexpected advice she had been given. A small smile started to grow across her face.
"You know what, Fluttershy? You can be pretty assertive when you want to be."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
Cheerilee laughed, wrapping a hoof around the little filly, and drawing her into a hug. "Don't be. That was exactly what I needed to hear. Alright, I'll give it another shot, just for you." she said, pulling back and moving the hair out and away from Fluttershy's modest gaze.
*Ding Ding Ding Ding!*
Cheerilee drew away from the filly, the two looking back to the schoolyard where the young colts and fillies were hastily filing back through the school entrance, laughing and yelling along the way. She stood up, and silently began collecting the various plates and leftovers into a basket aside the small blanket. Fluttershy took notice, and quickly assisted her.
Twenty seconds later, and the basket was in the young filly's mouth, who was looking back up to her mentor-for-a-day.
"Alright kiddo, let's give this another shot. You ready?" she asked, looking wearily from the school to the yellow pegasus. Fluttershy nodded back up to her, confidently glowing with pride. Cheerilee smiled.
"Then let's do this."
"I can't believe he jumped the fence!"
"Wanna come over after school, Daisy?"
"I'm still hungry…"
"Did you see how high-"
The chattering classroom full of children suddenly went silent, as everypony in the room turned towards the opening door. The young ponies held their breath as Cheerilee slowly walked into view, trotting up to the teacher's desk in front.
The substitute teacher glanced back, watching young Fluttershy take her place in the back of the room, her white-coated friend giving her a quiet greeting.
"Welcome back, class. I hope you all enjoyed your lunch break."
The young ponies kept silent. Cheerilee exhaled, and put on a gracious smile.
"Before we continue on with study hour, I wanted to say a few things." she said, trotting to the front of the desk, and looking the children in the eyes.
"First of all, I wanted to apologize… to all of you, for yelling at you this morning."
The class remained silent, watching the teacher with wide, tentative eyes.
"I feel awful for how I've treated you all. I've never taught a class before, and I let my nervousness get the better of me. But that was still no excuse for how I acted earlier today, and I'm very, very sorry." the teenager finished, looked down to the floor, and scuffing a hoof across the carpet.
"Aww, we forgive you, Ms. Cheerilee." a young filly piped up from the back.
"Yeah, you're not so bad."
"I guess your hair isn't that weird."
Amid the quiet admissions and speaking, the pink-maned pony grinned at the class before her, blushing lightly as the children murmured their agreements. After the classroom went quiet once more, Cheerilee spoke up in a more reassured tone of voice.
"Secondly… well, I'm new at being a teacher, as I'm sure you all can tell. I'm not very good at... teaching. But you all seem to know how things are run here pretty well (She looked back at Fluttershy, who was giving her a reassuring smile), so if you have any advice for me, I would be very grateful to hear it."
The class went silent for a moment longer, before hooves started rising into the air.
"Alright, go ahead Spice."
"Well, sometimes Mr. Peppertail lets us go home early when he wants to be nice."
The teenager brought a hoof up to her face as the class cheered aloud in agreement, jumping out of their chairs.
"Alright, don't push it." she growled.
"Settle down, please." She gestured for the colts and fillies to sit back in their seats, waiting for them to quiet down.
"Now let's try this again. Umm… you there. What's your name?"
"Carrot Top, m'am."
"Well Carrot Top, did you have a suggestion?"
"Well, maybe you could… tell us about yourself?"
"Yeah, tell us about yourself!"
The purple teenager stared blankly ahead, as a memory resurfaced across the palette of children and desks before her.
'Alright class, we're going to do a little activity to get to know each other better.' Mr. Peppertail called out to the class…
Her gaze journeyed towards the back of the classroom, to the furthermost desk occupied by an inattentive pony.
A young, purple earth filly sat in the back, shyly toying with her pink mane amidst the shuffling of hooves and desks.
And then towards Fluttershy, who was listening to the white-coated pony talking excitedly.
"Don't be shy Cheerilee, go ahead and join the others."
She smiled, knowing exactlywhat she needed to do.
"I think I've got a better idea. Today is study day, right?" she asked, scanning the classroom and gathering the attention of the children. "How many of you have homework that you can work on until the end of class."
Two hooves went up.
"And how many of you would rather do something else?"
All of the hooves shot into the air. The purple-coated pony let out a barking laugh. "I guess I didn't really have to ask. Okay class, I have an idea for what we can do today! Go ahead and clear your desks, put your papers and books away."
A minute of noisy shuffling later, and Cheerilee spoke up again.
"Once you have everything put away, go ahead and move your desk to the wall, to whichever one is closest. Let's make a large space in the middle of the classroom.
The children all abandoned their desks in a flurry of activity, and began moving them across the brown-thatched carpet. Fluttershy let out a small squeak in the back when she felt her desk moving on its own accord, quickly noticing the purple-maned filly pushing the desk, and her along with it.
"Well you were taking so long, darling."
Seconds later, and the young ponies were all sitting in or besides their desks, lined up against the bookshelves and windows lining the room, all looking to their smiling teacher.
"Alright class, everybody come sit down in the center of the room, and form a large circle."
With minimal whispering, the class complied. Cheerilee sat down in the circle besides two of the children, taking a deep breath and preparing to continue with her plan, when she noticed something. Looking back to the far corner of the room, she saw the young pegasus pony reaching up into a shelf for a piece of paper. Cheerilee frowned.
"Fluttershy, are you going to join us?" she called to the filly, who jumped and let out a small squeak, staring wide-eyed at the teenager, and to the circle of children who stared back at her.
"Oh. Um... yes, I-I'll just be a moment." she replied, giving her a pleading look. The older pony nodded, winking.
"Take your time." She then turned to the class, all of which were staring back at the filly. She cleared her throat.
"Okay then, eyes on me please. Let's get started, shall we?"
The class turned to face her. Taking a deep breath, she continued.
"Alright, since I'm sure none of you want to spend the rest of the day sitting in silence, we're going to take the time to get to know each other better. Some of you wanted to get to know me better, but I think it would also be helpful to me if I got to know each one of you as well." she spoke, some of the children shuffling quietly on the spot.
"So, here is what we are going to do. I'm going to pick a pony at random, and whoever I choose gets to stand up and speak. You can tell us your name, your favorite hobby, and if you have your cutie mark, you can tell us about how you got it. Tell us as much as you want to about yourself."
Many of the children began sporting smiles, whispering excitedly to each other.
And one last thing, I'll be watching for whoever sits still and behaves the best while their classmate is speaking. Whoever behaves the best will get to go next after they have finished. Sound like fun?"
The class cheered, raising their hooves and stomping the ground in anticipation of the new game.
"Then let's get started! Hmm… alright, you there." She pointed to the young cobalt filly sitting quietly across the circle, nodding as the young pony stood up with a victorious smile.
"My name is Drizzle, and my favorite… what was that word again?"
"A hobby is an activity that you enjoy. What is your favorite thing to do?"
"Oh! I like playing in the rain with my friends! And… oh yeah! I got my cutie mark last week during the pegasus pony's rain storm!" she exclaimed, turning to the side, and proudly displaying her cutie mark: a gray storm cloud with a number of raindrops.
"Really? What happened?
"Well, um, I was at Dewdrop's house, and we were playing in the puddles outside. And then, well, we both heard somepony crying. We found a little kid hiding under a tree, and he looked really scared. We asked him what was wrong, and he said he didn't like the rain, or the lightning. He said that it was scary. He told us where he lived, and Dewdrop went to go get his mommy."
The little filly beamed. "I told him that there wasn't anything to be afraid of, that it was fun to play out in the rain. And, well, after a little while, he wasn't so scared anymore. We both got to play around in the puddles, and it was a lot of fun! And then Dewdrop came back with his mommy, and he had to leave. But he wasn't so sad anymore, he was really happy, and… that made me really happy. And then I got my cutie mark!" she exclaimed.
"Aww, that's so sweet!"
"That was a nice story."
Cheerilee grinned at the young pony, who was blushing under the weight of the unexpected praise from her fellow classmates. "How special! Only... it sounds to me like your cutie mark means more than just playing out in the rain, don't you think?"
The filly blinked. "W-whaddya mean?"
"Well, look closely at your cutie mark. What do you see?"
The pony looked back. "Umm… a cloud? And rain?"
"Yes, but look closely at the cloud."
The circle of children leaned in closer to get a better look as the young filly squinted down towards her flank. "I-It's got… two colors?"
"Very good! Now tell me, have you ever heard the phrase 'Every cloud has a silver lining?'"
One of the children beside her suddenly raised his hoof. "Ooh! Ooh! I have! It means that even though something looks bad, there's always something good that can come out of it!"
Cheerilee nodded. "That's right! And it sounds to me like you taught that very same lesson to that young pony, doesn't it Drizzle?"
The young pony looked down in embarrassment, shying back to her haunches while trying to conceal a wide, blush-adorned grin. "I-I g-guess so. I'm not sure."
"Well I think you did. Being able to find the positive things in life is a very special talent. I don't know very many ponies who can see the bright side of a dreary situation, let alone help another pony see the good things." she smirked.
"The few that I do know who can, I try and keep very close to me, because those kinds of ponies make the best friends."
The young filly sat back down, ducking her head down and timidly trying to conceal the delight that threatened to split the smile she could not help wearing, as the children continued chatting silently to themselves, staring at their suddenly-shy classmate.
"Quiet down, everypony. Alright then, thank you Drizzle. That was a lovely story. Now, who should I pick next?
"Oh! Me next! Me next!"
"No, pick me!"
"What? I'm quieter than you are!"
The two kids ceased their yelling, looking at the frowning substitute.
"If you can't keep quiet, then you'll just have to wait until the very end."
The colt and filly turned away from each other with a pout.
"Alright…" she pointed to a cherry-coated filly with a pepper-shaker cutie mark. "You've been very quiet this whole time. Go ahead and introduce yourself."
"Oh, okay! Uhh… my name is Spice!"
"Alright Spice, what is your favorite hobby?"
"I like to cook!"
"Oh, is that so?"
"Yep! My grandpa's a famous cook, and every time we go over to his house, he makes us something really, really yummy, so I wanted to be just like him, and make really yummy food for my family too!"
Cheerilee smiled to herself. She knew where this was going.
"Aww, that's nice. So how did you get your cutie mark, then?"
"I-I got it after our family reunion, when my Grandpa was talking to me about… about not giving up."
She blinked. Maybe not. "What happened?"
"Uhh… well, Grandpa gave me a recipe for… curry, and he told me to make it for the reunion."
"Well… i-it wasn't that great. I mean, I used too much spice, and…"
"…everyone started choking when they ate it. We had to move the reunion to the hospital."
Cheerilee snickered into a hoof, holding in her amusement better than the majority of the circle, until a pair of fillies burst out into a fit of giggles, prompting the entire classroom to erupt in mirth.
And through the riotous laughter, she failed to notice the young, yellow pegasus still sitting in her desk in the back, silently writing on a piece of paper.
"…but doesn't it hurt?"
"Sometimes. But you usually can't feel anything, you get used to them really fast. Sometimes I even forget that I have braces!"
"Whoa, that's crazy."
"That'd be really scary to have those in your mouth!"
"Well, I'm sure that some of you might have to get braces when you get older." Cheerilee commented, many of the children cringing. "Oh but don't worry, it only hurts for about a week, and only a little bit after. But trust me, it will definitely be worth it. Just wait a year or two, and you'll have a beautiful smile!" she smirked. "Perfect for getting yourself a date with a cute pony, which I'm sure will be something you'll all be interested in by that time."
"Eww! Boys are gross!"
"Eww! Girls are gross!"
The two ponies looked at each other.
"Take that back!"
"Take that back!"
"No you take that back!"
"No you take that back!"
"Alright you two, that's enough." she chided. The two children stopped their argument, looking away from each other with a huff.
"Hmm… what else? Well, I enjoy hanging out with my friends, and visiting the library every now and then. And…" she trailed off, scanning the entirety of the class.
"And what?" a cream-colored filly asked.
"I… I think… I think I enjoy being a teacher." She stated. The circle of children watched her intently, going silent as Cheerilee retreated into her frizzy mane, unconsciously fondling one of her hairclips.
"I-It's been a really weird day for me. Like I said before, I've never been a teacher. I-I've never even babysat for anypony before, so I had no idea what it would be like to take care of a whole classroom of kids."
She continued, her voice gaining conviction.
"But you know what... it's really not that bad. I've… I've actually had a lot of fun today, getting to know you all and helping you realize a little more about yourselves. And I've come to realize something about you kids."
She sniffed. "You're all... all so very, very wonderful."
The children looked at the teacher-for-a-day with big eyes, as she turned to look at the filly straight across from her.
"Drizzle… just like the little filly from your cutie mark story, I wasn't so sure about something I'd never tried before. Sometimes it can be very hard to see the brighter side of things." She looked down. "When Peppertail asked me to teach the class, I… well, I didn't know what to expect. I wasn't so sure that it would be a good idea."
She met the eyes of every one of her students, her voice cracking.
"But you all showed me just how much fun it could be working as a teacher. And in the short while that we've spent learning about each other, I've learned a lotabout myself. I've learned that I really, really enjoy spending time with you all. I think… I think I'd like to be a teacher someday."
"And here I thought you'd never grow up."
The teenager let out a shout, nearly jumping out of her leg warmers at the unexpected remark, quiet and deep from the open doorway. She watched as an aged-looking pegasus pony walked inside the room.
"M-Mr. Peppertail, you're back!" Cheerilee exclaimed, catching her breath. The circle of fillies and colts remained silent as the elderly pegasus addressed the class.
"Yes I am. Hello class, it is very good to see you all again. I'm sorry to have left you all on such short notice, but I had an important… errand to run." he stressed lightly, wearily looking back to the doorway with a frown.
Two more pegasus ponies walked into the classroom, causing the yellow filly sitting in the corner of the classroom to gasp.
"Ms. Squall! Coach Cumulus!"
The former turned to address the young filly. "Why hello there, Fluttershy. We've all been wondering where you'd flown off to. Well, dropped to, in your case." she nickered lightly.
"Hmph." her companion grunted.
The old pegasus glanced sideways at the ponies, but said nothing. He then turned back to the recovering teenager.
"Well Cheerilee, thank you for watching my class for me. They weren't too much trouble now, were they?"
The purple pony perked up as she was addressed. "Oh, not at all. They were all very well-behaved. No trouble at all!" she exclaimed.
The elderly pegasus smiled, and then faced the circle of children, who were watching him fixedly. "And how did you all fare with Cheerilee as your substitute today? Did she behave well, too?" he asked, eyes twinkling.
Cheerilee looked at the old pony with wide eyes, slowly leveling them to the young fillies and colts, wilting on the spot as she recalled her episode during the morning hour. She sat silently underneath Peppertail's quiet stare, steadying herself for the inevitable criticism.
"She was the best teacher EVER!"
The class roared in agreement, prompting the slouching pony to shoot her head up in shock and disbelief.
"She was so cool!"
"Yeah, Ms. Cheerilee totally listened to us!"
"She's really nice, too!"
"I love her hair!"
"Can she come back tomorrow? Please?"
The roomful of young ponies all cheered in tandem once more, pleading and jumping up and down in anticipation.
Peppertail looked back to the purple pony in the back. "Well, Miss Cheerilee?" he asked impassively, the corners of his mouth turning upward.
With tears in her eyes, the thunderstruck teenager beheld the class of children, all looking at her with big, wide eyes full of eagerness and anticipation. She slowly swept her misty gaze over each and every one of those fillies and colts, children that she had come to know so well in such little time.
And back to Fluttershy, sitting alongside her peers in the circle, who looked at her with earnest hope.
"I'd love to." she choked.
The children cheered aloud, many jumping to their feet and rushing over to the weeping pony, enveloping her in a teetering group hug. Soon the rest of them followed, moving in to hug the baffled teacher, and eventually burying her under the mass of joyful ponies.
"How touching." Ms. Squall remarked, idly examining a hoof.
The children finally drew away from the purple pony, still tearful from her unofficial initiation, when Fluttershy walked up to her friend. The two looked at each other, and threw themselves in a tight embrace.
"I'm so happy for you, Cheerilee."
"Thank you, Fluttershy. For helping me with… with everything."
The classroom's occupants all turned to the source of the noise; the pegasus mare who beheld the scene with ill-concealed apathy.
"How sweet. I hate to break up such a tender moment, but I would like to get back to Cloudsdale sometime soon, as I'm sure Fluttershy would as well." Ms. Squall commended offhandedly. "Now, come along Fluttershy. I'd like to get back before the banquet ends."
Her companion merely grunted in agreement.
Fluttershy nodded with a frown, standing up and trotting towards the doorway. She looked back.
"I'll... I'll work every day to become a better flyer, so I can come back to Ponyville and visit you, Cheerilee." she stated boldly. Cheerilee sniffed, wiping a hoof across her muzzle and smiling.
"I'll see you in no time, then. Goodbye Fluttershy."
The young pegasus squeaked as she was barreled over by a flash of white and purple.
"WHAT?" Rarity cried aloud. "You're not staying? But… wait! No! You can't leave me here! You can't leave meeeeee-hee-hee-hee-heeee!" she wailed, clinging to the filly's legs. Fluttershy smiled nervously.
"I-I'll visit you too, Rarity."
The female pegasus snorted, walking out of the classroom behind her fellow winged partner. Peppertail's eyes narrowed, watching them trot through the doorway, his ears flat back against his head. A gentle tapping brought him out of his glowering, looking down towards the yellow filly. She motioned for him to lean towards her, and whispered something into his ear.
The aged pegasus' eyes wandered over to the desk at the far corner of the room, where a solitary piece of paper lay face-down. He smiled.
The yellow filly beamed, and slowly walked to the doorway, glancing back.
"Oh, um... thank you for h-having me as a part of the class. I-It was very nice. Um… I-I have to go now. Bye... everyone." Fluttershy softly called out, breaking into a run after the two pegasus ponies before any tears could leave her eyes, the voices of the classroom calling back to her.
The two teachers grinned at each other as the school bell rang one final time, the young fillies and colts gathering up their affects and hustling out the doorway, many of which had chosen to say and wave their goodbyes to their substitute for the day.
"Bye Ms. Cheerilee!"
"Yeah, see you tomorrow!"
The smiling teenager waved back at them. "Bye kids, see you all tomorrow!" she called out, as the last one made her way out of the room. The elderly pegasus pony trotted to the far end of the empty room, looking fondly towards the doorway.
"I'd say I was impressed with your accomplishments today… but I'd be lying."
Cheerilee stood frozen behind the teacher's desk. The old pony turned towards her, a wide smile across his aging face.
"That would imply that I had low expectations for you to begin with."
The teenage filly felt her legs give out from under her, and she half-collapsed across the teacher's desk, sending books and papers shooting forward onto the floor.
"You can't do that to me, old-timer. I'm too young to have a stroke."
Letting out a throaty chuckle, Peppertail waited until Cheerilee regained her composure. As she bent down to gather up the mess, he casually swept a hoof across a nearby desk, causing a single piece of paper to twirl forward, and join the throng of scattered documents.
"You know, you could have at least warned me that you were planning on starting a new subject today, or told me what it was. Heck, the kids didn't even know what they were supposed to learn next." Cheerilee grumbled from underneath the table.
"Well, if you had waited a few seconds longer before coming in this morning, they would have."
Peppertail chuckled as a disgruntled Cheerilee re-emerged from the desk, rubbing her head. "Well, we were supposed to review classroom safety procedures, but perhaps you should review the lesson first."
"Oh aren't you so clever." she grumbled, picking up the last piece of paper, and putting it atop the stack, when she saw one more being slipped underneath the pile.
"You forgot one." Peppertail remarked, walking up next to her, a gleam in his eye. Cheerilee watched him warily.
"I know that look, old-timer. What are you thinking?" she asked. The pegasus smirked.
"Well, now that you mention it… I'm somewhat exhausted from my little trip to Cloudsdale. I was not kidding when I said we were reviewing safety procedures today, and I was not expecting to spend the night grading papers." the pegasus said with a pout, looking up to the ceiling. "Why, I had even scheduled an evening at the spa, and I-"
"Alright, alright. I get it" Cheerilee interrupted, bringing a hoof up to her eyes. "I'll grade the papers tonight. And don't worry, I told them to write about anything they wanted, so I'll go easy on them."
Peppertail smiled, reaching his hoof out to tousle Cheerilee's frazzled mane, the teenager crying out at the sudden gesture and backing away.
"Ahh! Okay, if you do that even once in front of the kids, I'll kick you out of your own class!"
The pegasus pony snorted, cracking a wry grin. "Oh don't worry. There are plenty of other ways to get back at my number-one troublemaker. I still haven't forgotten your little... graduation prank."
Cheerilee stifled a chuckle, her hair tossing about. "I still can't believe you thought that was Vinyl Scratch. Like she'd ever play a prank on you, let alone..."
She trailed off, fighting the inevitable onslaught of laughter with much less success as the aging pony's ears flattened behind his head.
"Don't you have somewhere else to be right now? I'm sure your friends have all been wondering where you've… been all day." he growled, as Cheerilee burst out into laughter.
"Hahaha! Fine, fine, I'll get outta your mane." she giggled, throwing the stack of papers into her saddlebags. "I'll see you around." she called behind her as she trotted out of the classroom.
She stopped, sparing a glance to the elderly pony, who gave her a gentle smile and a nod.
Cheerilee smiled back, her demeanor softening. "No, thank you." she half-whispered, walking out the door.
The small town of Ponyville lay under a blanket of tranquility and darkness. The stars, having finally made their grand appearance once more, spread their soothing glow across the dim setting, caressing the rooftops and doting on many of the sleeping residents through uncurtained windows...
And shining through an open doorway, through which a weary pony trotted through, just as quickly disappearing as the pony shut the door behind her with a muffled *click*.
The heavy-lidded teenager trotted through the modest living room, and up a winding flight of stairs, arriving at the first door in the hallway. Pushing it open, she walked inside the candlelit bedroom, kicking the door closed with a back leg and dropping her bags.
"I'm too young for this."
Cheerilee moved over to the dresser, and began unfastening the various facets of her attire. Placing her hair clips in a small bowl and her leg warmers atop of the dresser, she turned her attention to the saddlebags. Picking them up, she carelessly threw them on top of her desk, the resulting *thud* not affecting her in the slightest.
Blowing a few stray strands of hair from out of her face, she sat down and opened the satchel. Reaching down and pulling out the stack of papers, she set them down and took the top most paper to read aloud.
"Carrot Top: The New Teacher's Hair."
"I think that the teacher's hair is weird. It is really fuzzy, and it reminds me of my mom's favorite scarf, or my friend's cat, or Rarity's mom's cat, or pink bacon, or..."
The teenager trailed off, silently simpered at the long, half-page list for a moment, before breaking into a thoughtful grin.
"I love her hair!"
"Well... ten points for honesty. After all, it's what helped to get her cutie mark." she sighed, picking up a quill and marking the number on top of the paper, reaching for the next...
Three hours later, and she was almost finished with the pile. Drearily she reached for one of the remaining pages.
"I swear, if I read one more paragraph about my hair, I'm gonna lose it."
Inhaling deeply, she took a look at the paper before her. She noticed a block of (very) small writing going down to the bottom of the page. She flipped it over, and found the same diminutive text reaching towards the edge of the paper. Blinking, she took the next one off of the pile, giving both sides a once over. Sure enough, they were written by the very same filly.
The third paper, thankfully, only spanned one and a half pages.
"What kid could possibly have written so much about... oh, of course." she ended, bringing a hoof up to her face. She took the first paper, and resigned to read it aloud.
"Rarity: The... Development of the Fundamentals of... Marisian Hourte Couture?" she read in tired disbelief.
"The social and economical strain in the Rein-aissance Era caused even the most basic of a seamstress' materials to become incredibly scarce, instigating a new appeal for functional… yeah, that's great. Ten for… something." she groaned, marking the paper and tossing the pages on top of the pile.
Glancing at the clock on the wall, Cheerilee smacked her head down on the desk in frustration, and exhaustion. Maybe the old pony wouldn't mind if she missed the first hour. Or the second.
Were substitutes were allowed to hire sub-substitutes?
Exhaling, she shook herself awake and took the final page, sliding it in front of her... blinking as the unexpected name abruptly sent sparks through her weary mind.
There was no title. Quickly scanning over the paper, she noticed a pattern of broken lines and rhyming endings.
It was a poem.
Holding her breath, she read the words on the paper before her:
I fell to a world where flowers were blooming
With birds flying high and animals grooming
We all became such very good friends
I felt so happy, I thought it would never end
But when they left, I was all alone
I couldn't fly myself back home
I walked through a creepy forest at night
Full of scary creatures that wanted to fight
But some ponies found me, and made sure I was safe
And though I was grateful, I didn't have faith
That any of the pegasus ponies would find
A filly in a town of ponies of all kind
But then I made a new friend, I heard her say
That everything was going to be okay
She told me that she knew of a way
To get me back home by the end of the day
So I followed her to school with a smile on my face
And I found a magical, wonderful place
A classroom of ponies of every kind
Not one of them had been left behind
Two pegasus ponies, wings at their sides
Were not expected to soar through the skies
Some of the ponies had horns on their heads
But weren't asked to magic the pages they read
Here on the ground, where ponies don't soar
Where being yourself means something more
I learned about the magic that kindness can bring
And how it changes everything
And even though I'm leaving, I will
Always remember what I learned in Ponyville
But most of all what my friend taught me today…
"…that a little bit of kindness goes a long way."
The flow of words ceased their escape from the stricken pony's mouth, the silence of the room broken only by the sound of a hoof sliding the paper away from her, so that the trickle of falling tears would not stain the precious parchment.
Cheerilee looked out of her window from across the room, where the light of the moon mingled on the floor with the candlelight's warmth, blurry to her vision. The dim outline of Cloudsdale hung in the moonlit sky far above the quiet town.
Unbelievable, how one little filly could have changed her entire viewpoint on life, in a single day.
Smiling through her tears, she took the quill in her mouth once again, and wrote a shaky "10" on top of the paper.
*Sniff* "I hope Peppertail won't mind making a delivery for me tomorrow." she whispered quietly.
The teenager set the page on top of the rest of the papers after gently setting her quill down. With another small sniffle, she blew out the candle on top of her desk, the room filling with a muted moonlit glow that skirted along her hooves as she walked over to her bed, silently sliding underneath the covers, heavy-lidded and content. Sleep was coming for her now, and it would come easy, because she knew exactly who she wanted to be.
She was going to be a teacher, with or without her cutie mark.
And as that final thought drifted through the fog overcoming her mind, she finally succumbed to a blissful sleep, paying no attention to the tingling sensation on her flank.
"Horseapples, I'm late!"
Cheerilee bolted down the streets of Ponyville, barreling past bystanders and other bewildered ponies in her mad haste to reach her destination, sparing no time for apologies. Up ahead, she could hear the school bell tolling, signaling the start of the first hour.
"I can't believe this! I'm already graduated, I thought I was done worrying about being late for school!" she cried in disbelief.
Flinging the school doors open, she raced to the doorway and ran inside, coming to an abrupt halt. Fourteen sets of eyes stared back at the heavily-panting pony, eyeing her cautiously.
"Uhh... good morning, class?"
"Good morning Miss Cheerilee!"
The teenager exhaled. "Right, thank you. Alright then, how about we... say, where's Mr. Peppertail?" she asked, looking around the room.
"We haven't seen him."
She looked towards the teacher's desk. "Guess I'm not the only one who's late today." she sighed. Walking towards the wooden support, the young teacher unfastened her saddlebags and dropped them unceremoniously on the floor, sparing a glance to the clipboard on the desk.
"Well, I guess it's up to me to take roll, then. Hmm... Apple Fritter?"
The purple pony snapped her head up at the quiet voice, her vision flying towards the back of the room, where a small, yellow pegasus filly sat in her desk with a timid smile.
Abandoning the clipboard, and the rest of the classroom forgotten, she raced towards the desk, papers flying in her wake as she enveloped the small pegasus pony in a crushing hug.
"Fluttershy! I... what are you doing here? I thought you were going back to Cloudsdale?"
"I did, but... well, Mr. Peppertail told me to tell you to look on the desk last night." she said, blushing.
Cheerilee blinked. "Last... night?"
She hastily turned around and galloped back to the desk, scanning over the various papers and books until she found a sizable note sitting atop a pile of papers, slowly reading the contents aloud.
By now you are probably wondering where I am. To make a long story short, I took the liberty of making another trip up to Cloudsdale to have a word with Fluttershy's school counselor about… a number of things. We've made some special arrangements for your new… student." she read, hesitantly. She looked up to the yellow filly, who was beaming up at her from the back of the room.
Cheerilee continued on with a shaky voice.
"The counselors and her parents have seen fit to allow her to attend Ponyville Elementary for the time being, and have arranged for a daily escort to assist her in getting to and from the school grounds, until she is able to make the trip by herself. I'm fairly certain you won't mind having an extra student for the time being.
On another note, I think I sprained something during my second trip, so I'll be taking a few days off to... recuperate, up here in Cloudsdale. I can imagine that you would be worried for my well-being, but rest assured, I'll manage."
"I had Fluttershy's escort deliver the note for me, and add her name to the morning roster for you. I'm sure you won't mind taking control of the class for a few more days. I've also left a list of subjects that you can choose from to fill the allotted time.
Take good care of my class, and let them know that I miss them.
She read the final line to herself.
P.S. I wasn't kidding about the spa trip yesterday. You owe me the refund.
The teenager chuckled, setting the note aside and turning back to the clipboard, calling out the remainder of the names on the roster. After she was finished, she looked back up to the multitude of confused colts and fillies.
"Alright class, before we get started with the day, I'd like to introduce you all to our new student. I'm sure most of you remember having a new classmate with us yesterday, correct? Well, this here is Fluttershy, and she will be joining us for the remainder of the school year."
The class burst out into greetings and gossip (A white-coated filly in the back let out a squeal) as the shy filly retreated into her mane, albeit with a grateful smile.
"Alright children, that's enough. Give her some space." She called out cheerfully to the excitable group.
"Now I'd like you all to take the time sometime today to introduce yourself to our new student, we want her to feel welcome here. She is a very dear friend of mine, and I'm sure you all would be able to learn something from her." she stated.
"Oh yes. She is a very bright pony for her age." she responded, smirking as the young filly retreated further into her mane with a blush.
"You know, it was young Fluttershy here that helped me to realize something very important just recently. Something that has changed my life… completely. "
Cheerilee then walked out from behind the desk and turned to the side, displaying her newly-adorned flank to the classroom of gasping children. Three flowers with smiling, yellow faces had appeared, adorned with pink petals.
The very same colors as the young pegasus filly beaming brightly at the sight.
"A little bit of kindness goes a long way…"
The clouds of dust had finally settled around the peaceful setting. The sunlight was shining farther into the room, lightly dusting the dresser in front of the reminiscing mare, and bathing the room in a warm, welcoming glow.
Fluttershy finally drew her gaze away from the picture frame, wiping away the tears that had made themselves known during her moment of remembrance, looking back to the aging parchment in her hooves.
So much had happened since that momentous day in her life. The yellow mare smiled through the trails of tears that continued to flow down her cheeks as she was flooded with the memories of those days in earth pony school.
She and Rarity were to become devoted friends within days of their first meeting, Rarity being the one pony who truly respected her quiet disposition enough to accept her as her best friend. And Cheerilee would never let her forget just how much she had changed her life, much to her grateful embarrassment.
But she would never let herself forget just how much her experience in Ponyville changed her, and the kindness that she had experienced from the friends she made that day.
The young manticore in the forest, who repaid her trust in full during her friend's fateful quest for the Elements of Harmony.
Rarity, who had designed (and eventually crafted) a beautiful dress for her on the spot, soon to become her best friend for life.
And Cheerilee, who showed her that a truly kind pony will go out of their way for a friend, and do whatever it takes to help them find their way home.
The tenderhearted pegasus wiped away the final wave of tears, letting out a light, breathy laugh as she recalled the events that eventually led to her decision to move into the pleasant town of Ponyville. Her one, true home, where she would be forever surrounded by the ponies that loved and respected her for who she was.
Where she would never forget.
A gentle tapping on her leg brought her back to the present. She glanced down to see Angel looking up at her from underneath a miniature chef's hat, gesturing towards the stairs.
"Thank you Angel, I'll... be down in a moment."
She sighed fondly as the small rabbit hopped down the stairs, setting the poem down on top of the desk aside the growing piles of papers and books. Trotting towards the staircase, she took one final glance at the picture frame resting atop of her butterfly bedspread, where two happy fillies stared up to the ceiling.
A quick breakfast, and she would finish tidying up here, so she could go out into that wonderful world with a smile.
To live her gentle credo.
Thanks to everypony who stuck with this story to the end. I know I haven't been very consistent with updates, but as far as I can tell, it's all downhill from here. My new laptop is making the writing process much smoother, and everything is coming out of production at a steady pace.
Remember, updates come every two or three Saturdays in the morning, usually after the next new episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic! So read at your leisure, and please... let me know what you think of this story. A little feedback makes a big difference!
And finally, a big shout-out to all the readers from Equestria Daily, and to everyone who voted this story up! 6-Stars! You ponies are amazing! Thank you all!
Next on "The Pony Poetry Series:"
"Pinkie Pie's Lullaby"