Cadence's gaze followed Shining and Silent as they excused themselves to a private discussion. Once they were out of earshot, she turned her head to look at Crystal.
"I'm happy for you," Cadence said, a soft smile on her lips. "Do you remember what we talked about when we first met?"
Crystal pursed her lips while she thought for a moment, then nodded. "Love all of him, for better or for worse. You can't change a pony"—she smiled as she raised a hoof to her chest to feel her fluttering heartbeat—"and you can't change your heart."
Cadence giggled. "That sounds about right!" Her expression sobered and a distant look glossed over her eyes. "I remember when Shining proposed. I was so happy... and so scared at the same time."
"Scared?" Crystal repeated in a quiet voice, the fluttering ceasing rather suddenly.
"Yes, scared." She nodded. "Shining is a soldier first and foremost. He always has been and always will be. I was scared because I didn't know what that meant for me."
Crystal swallowed. "And?"
"We fight sometimes. We don't agree on everything. I think he should work less and he thinks he should work more." The smile returned to Cadence's face. "But at the end of the day, I wouldn't trade away even a minute for the ease of a simpler, safer stallion. His dedication to the guard is who he is, and I love him more than anything."
Crystal's brow furrowed. Her gaze darted about before returning to the mare in front of her and, finally, she smiled. "I think I understand."
Crystal blinked. "So?"
Cadence giggled and reached over to set a hoof on Crystal's. "So, silly, when's the wedding?"
"The—" Heat rose from Crystal's neck to the tips of her ears and she jerked her hooves away. "Lady Cadence, we just got engaged!"
"Oh, come on!" Cadence stuck out her bottom lip. "You're saying you haven't thought about your wedding day before he even proposed? I know I had a scrapbook full of ideas while Shining and I were just dating!"
Crystal waved both hooves, shaking her head. "No, no, no. The closest would be some ideas I saw in wedding magazines while planning my friends' weddings. I mean, yes, I kept the magazines, but not because—I didn't—"
A chime of delicate, bubbling laughter interrupted her. "At least give me something before you go back to Canterlot!" The quivering pout returned. "After all, I gave you such wonderful advice... for free... out of the kindness of my heart..."
"Okay!" Crystal hid her face, grumbling for a moment, then mumbled, "I've always wanted to be married in a rose garden." She swallowed. "Roses are awfully cliche, I know, but they're my favorite flower nonetheless!"
"A rose garden, huh?" Cadence steepled her hooves. "This can happen."
Crystal stood and took a small step backwards. "We just got engaged. It's too soon!" Her ear twitched. "And I think I hear Silent coming this way! We have a train to catch, you know."
Cadence tossed her mane, inclined her head, and bellowed, "On my honor, Crystal Wishes, you shall have your rose garden wedding, whether Silent Knight wants it or not!" When Crystal blanched, Cadence burst into a fit of giggles. "Oh, you're just too much fun!"
"Crystal?" Silent's voice called as his head poked out around the corner. "We should leave if we don't want to miss the train."
"Okay!" Crystal chirped. She turned her head back toward Cadence and bobbed it politely. "Thank you for lunch, Lady Cadence."
Cadence giggled, shooing her with one hoof. "It was my pleasure. Now run along and send me an invitation as soon as you decide on a stationery."
"A—" Crystal tilted her head, pursing her lips and furrowing her brow, and then smiled. "Yes, of course. I promise." She bowed her head once more and turned to hurry after Silent. "Coming, dear!"
Silent smiled when she came into his view. "Ready to go home?"
"Ready? Most certainly not." She sighed, looking around at their glimmering surroundings. "But willing. I have so much to do!"
His ears flicked and he glanced at her. "Oh? Like what?"
She trotted on the tips of her hooves with a happy little giggle. "Obviously, I have to tell Velvet the news! To be honest, she saw it coming. The moment I told her you were taking me to Glimmer World, she said you were going to propose."
"Is that so?" Briefly, his ears folded back. "Then why were you so surprised?"
"Well! I, that is, you see," she sputtered, then glared up at him. "That's a trick question!"
He laughed and held open one of the front doors for her. "I guess it is. I'm just glad you eventually said yes. I got a little nervous there when you just stared at me with big eyes."
"I'm sorry about that. I just..." Her gaze rose to the brilliant blue sky above them and she smiled. "I just had to process the situation first, but I'm all in." She shifted her gaze to him.
He tilted his head. "All in?"
She laughed, pushing herself up to place a quick kiss on his cheek. "It makes more sense if you were there. Come on, let's not miss our train by dallying."
Standing outside the condo door and with a nervous flutter in her chest, Crystal looked up at Silent. "How do I look?"
Silent blinked. "Fine?"
Crystal scrunched up her nose and returned her attention to the door. "Maybe she's not even home."
"Maybe she's not," he repeated, one brow raising curiously. "Are you all right?"
She took a deep breath in, then nodded as she released it through her nose. "Yes, of course. I just don't know how she'll react. She's been a little hot and cold about you and me."
The curious look turned into confusion when the other brow raised. "What?"
"No, no, don't worry." She waved a dismissive hoof. "It's not like that! She's just worried that I'll leave her all by herself if I run off and get married."
"Oh. Is that all?" He snorted. "I mean this in the nicest way to myself as possible but I don't think I'm enough to break you two up."
She shot him a playful grin. "Exactly what I told her." She giggled when he faked an offended huff. "Well, she'll find out eventually." Her horn lit up and the lock clicked into place. "I'm home!" she called as she pushed the door open.
Velvet looked up from the little dining table with a bowl of cereal in front of her and an exaggerated look of surprise on her face. "Oh, wow, I had no idea you were home, I definitely didn't hear noise outside the door or—" She blinked once, twice, then a third time and stiffened to attention. "I knew it!" she half-shrieked, half-squealed while both forehooves pointed at Crystal. "He proposed!"
Silent cleared his throat and slipped the luggage off his back. "I'll just leave so you two can be alone."
"Oh, no you don't!" Velvet sprung from the chair toward him and wrapped one foreleg around his neck in a headlock. "You never asked for my blessing!"
Crystal covered her mouth to hide her grin at the look on Silent's face. One brow was raised and his eyes were angled toward her almost as if he wanted to challenge the much smaller mare for dominance, but he finally shrugged and kept his head where it was. "I'm sorry."
Velvet huffed. "Sorry won't cut it. I'm hurt, Silent. Did you think you couldn't trust me with the knowledge?"
"I'm sorry," he repeated.
"Still doesn't cut it! I'm great at keeping secrets!" She ruffled his mane with her free hoof. "I'll remember this next time I'm going to surprise Crystal with something. I won't even give you a hint."
Silent chuckled. "Okay. I'm still sorry. I just figured since you live with her, well. I'm sorry." He rose to his full height, lifting Velvet off the ground a few inches. "Anyway, I actually do have to go." When Velvet dropped down, he hugged her, placed a kiss on Crystal's cheek, then turned toward the door. "Have fun, you two."
"Bye, Siley," Crystal purred more than said.
Once the door shut behind him, Velvet looked at Crystal with a wicked grin. "Siley?"
Crystal felt her face grow hot and she cleared her throat. "It's a couple thing. Couples use nicknames."
"You never gave me a nickname," Velvet teased, the grin falling into a pout. "Why don't I get a nickname?"
"Fine." Crystal snubbed her nose and levitated her luggage into the air, carrying them into her bedroom. "You are now Giftless."
Velvet bounded after her, grin back in place. "Giftless? Aww, you brought me gifts?"
"Not anymore!" One of the suitcases was unzipped and a small, mauve-colored package raised into view. "And to think, I broke the rule and spent more than I should have to bring you back something nice."
Velvet draped herself over Crystal's back like a saddlebag and whined, "Crystaaal, come on, don't be that way! I was only teasing! Come on, what did you get me?"
The package danced through the air as it bobbed over toward a waste bin. "It is this darling little accessory. I had to bribe somepony to go stand in line to get them."
"Aww..." Velvet wriggled from side to side. "That's so sweet! You care about me that much that you'd lower your moral standards and defame yourself with base bribery?" She blinked. "Wait, stand in line?" After another bit of wriggling, she slipped off Crystal's back and walked over to the hovering gift. "What is it, really?"
Crystal smiled and sat down on the edge of the bed. "I suppose you'll have to open it to find out."
With a small cheer, Velvet snatched it out of the air and tore the wrapping away to reveal a small white box. She gasped when she raised the lid and, delicately, lifted one of the earrings that rested inside on a white satin pillow. Like Crystal's, they had two parts: a white gold silhouette and an aquamarine gemstone that hung in the center, both in the elegant shape of teardrops.
"Oh, Crystal, they're beautiful!"
"And quite expensive, so don't go wearing them while you run ab—oof!" She was interrupted by a tight squeeze of a hug, which she returned once she caught her breath.
"I'm serious, they're totally, really beautiful!" Velvet pulled back to frown at her. "And super expensive! These are glimmer earrings, aren't they?"
Crystal raised a hoof between them to gently press against Velvet's lips. "Shh, now, it's all right. I sold the sulky." When Velvet's eyes widened, Crystal laughed. "It was too pretentious! And the upkeep of tipping drivers to take me back and forth... It's better this way. My mother doesn't have one and she's still well-respected among the socialites, so that's good enough for me."
Velvet rolled her eyes and pushed the hoof away. "Can we please not get on that topic just yet and go back a few?"
Crystal blinked. "Back a few to... ?"
Velvet, with one brow raised, just pointed at the ring sitting around Crystal's horn. Crystal stared back, doing her very best to keep a straight face, but cracked into a smile first.
"You're engaged!" Velvet squealed, grabbing Crystal's hooves and squeezing them. "How are you able to stay in an audible range?! You should be shattering glass right now!"
Crystal laughed and squeezed back. "I've had days to calm down and stop speaking in high notes."
"Oh." There was a pause before Velvet frowned. "Well, fine. That means it's time to start an ideabook!"
"An ideabook?" Crystal furrowed her brow. "But we just got engaged! Don't you think it's too soon?"
Velvet scoffed. "I'm frankly shocked and appalled that you don't already have one."
Crystal withdrew her hooves to tap them together, her ears folding back flat against her mane. "Weeell, you see, perhaps I don't have a formal ideabook, but..." She swallowed, then slid off the bed and walked over to her dresser. Her magic tugged it open and lifted an issue of Bridal Bridle. "I did keep all of—"
"Perfect!" Velvet cheered, flopping onto the bed. "Let's get started!"
"Not yet!" Crystal dropped the magazine and slammed the drawer shut. "Not yet. Let me just catch my breath first, all right?" She laughed, turning back toward Velvet. "I saw a pile of mail that likely has a word back from Sunset, I have so much writing I want to do after that wonderful trip, and there's an opera I need to attend the day after tomorrow. Then we can get started, all right?"
Velvet eyed her with clear disdain before she finally shrugged. "All right, but on one condition."
Crystal returned to the bed and sat down beside her. "And what is that?"
"While you write about the wonderful trip, you tell me about it." Velvet beamed at her, sitting upright. "I want to know everything!"
Crystal blinked, then smiled softly. "I accept your condition."
Everything was perfect. Velvet was away at practice, steam was rising from a freshly brewed cup of tea, and music was drifting out of the record player. Crystal hummed along with the singer while she scanned all the papers strewn in front of her, including a few letters and some hastily scrawled notes.
"Let's see," she mumbled, raising the cup to take a quick sip. "Where to start..."
Her gaze landed on the letter from Sunset Coffee first and mumbled the words aloud. "Hi Crystal, we're all good to go. Just get a cover to Reindom House sooner rather than later. Once they sign off on it, the real fun begins. Sunset. P.S., we had a great harvest of blueberries this year. If you're in Manehattan anytime soon, you should drop by and try my wife's homemade jam!"
There was yet another picture of his family in the park, this time having a picnic. She smiled. Every time he included a picture, they all just seemed to be so happy.
She took another sip of tea while her magic retrieved a fresh sheet of paper. Of course, the letter had arrived just a few days after she left, so she had to be quick.
I am in need of your wonderful services once again. Please let me know as soon as possible if you have time to meet about my most recent work so that we can discuss the cover. Thank you.
She folded the paper, tucked it into an envelope, and set it on the table by the door to take out later. One down, several more tasks to go. The letter from Sunset was pushed aside as she turned her attention to the others.
To her surprise, there were two separate invitations: one for a small art exhibit and the other, much more importantly, to an advanced showing of Fancy Pants's fall line. Her ears stood straight up while she quickly filled out the RSVP and set it on top of the letter to Painted. To receive an invitation alone was two weeks' worth of bragging rights; to actually attend was several more.
Finally, all that was left were her own notes for Mares Monthly and Cosmarepolitan shorts. So many ideas were swimming around in her head. So many more had cropped up as she wrote the others down. Then, of course, there was still her serial based—albeit very loosely—on Rickety and Riley, which was tentatively titled Autumn Leaves.
She rubbed at her already tired eyes. Where should she spend her time? Which was the most interesting idea? What did ponies want to read? If she could just sit down with Sunset and talk about all of her ideas, then perhaps she'd have some sort of direction.
After a pause, she slowly turned her head to look at the letter from the stallion in question. Just as slowly, she retrieved a sheet of paper and smiled while she started to write what she was thinking. "Brilliant," she muttered after signing her name, then reread what had been written.
Actually, I would love to take you up on that offer. When would be convenient for me to visit you and yours?