Silver Spoon was concerned.
Perhaps 'worried' would have been a bit of a stretch, because she didn't know for certain anything was wrong yet. But when her best friend failed to meet her at the usual spot via their usual route to class, and now twenty-five minutes into the school day, she still hadn't made an appearance, leaving Silver all alone to deal with the usual motley crew...
Yep, something was definitely going on.
The grey filly watched Snips and Snails's predictable buffoonish antics, this time trying to pick their ears and nose with sharpened pencils (didn't they learn ANYTHING from the gum incident?), Button Mash attempting to play his new handheld game Horspocalypse 4 secretly under his desk and the new student Lily Longsocks who seemed to be using her seating apparatus for weightlifting practice.
She also noticed the three empty chairs where the Cutie Mark Crusaders would be positioned. By now, they would be frantically whispering to each other secretly, plotting out their next madcap scheme to earn their special marks, while she and her bestie would attempt to flag the attention of Miss Cherilee to their impudence. She never caught them, of course... Their teacher was a very nice mare, but she did have a tendency to be useless, discipline-wise.
After all, look at how much her and Di had gotten away with over the years as a perfect example.
Still, all that was in another era. Her and her best friend were now fully reformed, swore never pick on anypony ever again and would strive to become role models for the rest of the class to follow now.
The grey filly couldn't be happier.
She'd felt very low for quite some time. Whenever Di had made a 'blank flank' comment to another pony, Silver had remembered the bleak days when she had no individual mark of her own, and the many long, sleepless nights she suffered wondering if she was going to get one at all. She could relate to the struggles of these late-bloomers, and would have dearly loved to have stepped in to tell her friend to lay off them for something that they couldn't help.
Alas, terrified of losing her social status by crossing her bestie, as well as intimidated by a unique hold the pink filly had over her, she never really stood a chance at rebelling and her weak, pathetic self just went along for the ride. Acting as her friend's bullying wingmare, she didn't start many of the conflicts herself, but she certainly didn't make much of an effort to stop them.
What did a wise mare once say? All it takes for evil to triumph was for a good pony to do nothing?
That was her. And she let it go on for far too long.
The odd act of defiance, such as clapping at Granny Smith's fascinating life story in class, much to the chagrin of Di, as well as stealing her shake back from her friend when the pink filly had decided to help herself to it, were noteworthy, but hardly a sea change. She was too much of a lackey, an underling, an enabler, to seriously attempt to overthrow the order of their relationship.
It was predestined. Fate. Written in the stars.
She'd always be stuck underneath Di's pink, oppressive hoof.
How miserable she was.
Despite all her best predictions though, something amazing happened. The cracks finally began to show during the hustings for the school election, when Di decided to publicly berate Silver for daring to mention the obtrusive statue of Di's likeness the pink filly had decided to put on the site of the rusty old playground, once victory was assured. Her bestie had wanted to keep it as a 'surprise' announcement for her winning speech.
Let's just say, talking about putting a stone figure in the likeness of the most disliked pupil in school over the play equipment did not prove to be a massive vote-winner. Who'd have thought it?
The second incident, which was sort of the clincher in the ruination of their friendship, occurred while everypony was engaged in the only way each resident of Ponyville knew how to handle a big, climatic moment. Singing a song. It was after Di's second verse that Silver had nudged her friend on the shoulder, trying to get the pink filly to show the other side of her that Spoon knew existed, the one who genuinely cared about her classmates, the persona which lurked behind the vain shell of arrogance and smug superiority.
If Di had tapped into the nicer part of her nature, the chances are she might actually have stood a fighting chance of winning, despite all of her behaviour in the lead-up to the main vote, which only could be described as 'threatening'. But, unwilling to exhibit anything that could conceivably be construed as a weakness, Silver's request was promptly shut down before the grey filly could even finish her chorus..
That was it. The hopes and dreams of her mothe-of Di, lied in tatters. Nopony was going to vote for a candidate who treated their best friend with such contempt, and so it transpired that the pink filly managed to receive... Count 'em... one vote. From herself.
Even Silver hadn't been tempted to opt for her, her so-called lifelong 'bestie' had crossed a line that day. Coaxing Spoon into picking on innocents was one thing, but cutting off her good advice in the middle of a big musical number?
Their non-existent friendship had been blown to smithereens. It was beyond recovery. Nothing was salvagable among the wreckage. Silver had told Di so, and had walked off alone to forge her own path. She could finally make her own decisions. She was a free filly. She answered to nopony. Her dreams had, at long last, come true...
So, why didn't Silver feel better about her emancipation, then?
Part of it was, she supposed, that she would still miss her first real friend. They may have only connected because they were two of the only youngsters at all the snooty parties they were forced to attend with their well-to-do parentage, but what had blossomed from that awkward starting point was a true kinship for the ages.
She might have felt obliged to participate in Di's merciless bullying of those 'less fortunate' than themselves, but there were plenty of better times too which didn't involve such barbarity. Meeting celebrities in Manehattan, days at the spa, clothes shopping in Canterlot, money fights...
Those were the things she missed. Not mocking disabled fillies. Not turning family members against each other.
And definitely not being told to shut up, when you're about to reach your musical crescendo.
Seriously, that still really ticked her off.
Another reason Silver felt so lousy about the way things turned out was Di herself. She knew the real pink filly, behind the mask she had persisted on wearing every day. The one you could have fun with. Hang-out. Just chill, with no feeling of pretentious sense of entitlement.
If not for that mother of hers, things could have been different. Silver didn't like speaking ill of any of her friends's parents, but from what she'd seen and heard of Spoiled, it was perfectly understandable why Di acted the way she did.
She'd even caught her bestie crying silently to herself, due to all the pressure she was put under 24/7. She'd asked the Silver to keep a lookout during her tears, in case that over-sized magenta nose came snooping, for the punishment for acting like such 'a wimp' was indescribable.
No beauty products for a week. The horror!!
Silver had tried to help. "Talk to your father", she'd suggested, at which point Di had rolled her eyes and muttered a comment along the lines of him being as much use as a two-legged pony in an apple-bucking contest.
"Don't listen to your mother" was the next idea from Silver, and the pink filly had looked at her friend as if she was insane. Among all the shouting, Spoon could just about make out the fact that Di's mother was the only parent she saw when away from school, and any attempt to disobey orders didn't even bear thinking about.
"Have you SEEN my mom when she raises her voice? She's scary." Di had visibly shivered after saying that.
Silver knew she wasn't kidding.
Why couldn't there be more mothers like her own Silver Sterling? Yes, the grey filly might be dragged around to a lot of meaningless functions she couldn't give a hoof about, but at least she was able to express herself. To choose her own friends. To be bad at something, and still be forgiven. Di's mother was the opposite of all of that, and it made Spoon sick to her stomach to see what her bestie had to tolerate just to maintain Spoiled's impossible standards.
This was the main cause of Silver's anxiety, while she continued to stare at Di's vacant spot. The pink filly had actually done it, she'd braved the rapids of her mother's ire by daring to stand up to her in public, and won back Silver's friendship as a result. (Of course, the profuse apology she'd offered and a bit of mutual fence mending, both physical and metaphorical, had helped smooth things over, too).
As an added bonus, after the playground had been built, the Crusaders cutie-marks had miraculously appeared, followed by Silver and Di attending the biggest cute-cenera ever to be held in Ponyville. Needless to say, both reformed fillies had a great time...
But even in the middle of all the partying, the celebrating and watching Pinkie somehow squeeze her entire frame into an empty punch bowl, there was something gnawing at the back of Di's mind. It was the kind of thing that only a best friend could pick up on. Silver could see it in the pink filly's eyes all night, even when the duo at their most joyous.
She didn't have to ask Di what was on her brain... It was 'her'.
Want a clue? Seven letters. Starts with 'S', ends in 'D'. Rhymes with 'boiled' as in: This particular mare would be 'hard-boiled' after her daughter chewed her out in front of a large crowd, and as soon as Di got home, who knows what could've happened?
"Have a sleepover at my place." Silver had suggested "Hopefully, by tomorrow, she'd have cooled down, and you can talk to her properly." The grey filly almost laughed at her own words. If she didn't believe that outlandish scenario, why should Di?
"No" came the implacable reply. "I'm going to have to face her at some point, and there's no better time than now, while I'm on a high. I'll be fine, don't worry about me, Silv. I'll see you tomorrow, I promise." Those were the last words exchanged between the two, as Di ambled her way to her mansion, while a nervous best friend looked on.
Was she really 'fine'? What had happened between Spoiled and her daughter that night? Silver was desperate to know. In hoofsight, she should have stopped by the Rich estate on her way to school. Made sure everything was alright. Trotted to class with Di from there. Things would have been 'fine' then, and she wouldn't have this thousand-pound weight that currently resided on her head.
She averted her eyes, to the also empty chairs which usually housed the furry posteriors of Scootaloo, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle. Surely them being late too was just a coincidence, right? Even if Di and the Crusaders had made up, she couldn't imagine them hanging out together, not straight off the bat. There was too much history there, too many differences, it would be a gradual thing, this whole friendship malarkey.
Her, Di and the Crusaders could find out what the two groups had in common, and then, they could organise a playdate based on an enjoyed shared activity. Maybe, somewhere further along the line, the two wealthy fillies could spend the day at the CMC clubhouse, provided they gave it a thorough clean first.
Then, if they really wanted to make an audacious move, Di and Silver could invite the Crusaders to one of the posh parties they were regularly invited to. The troublesome trio might just wreck the place, going by past evidence. At least it would liven up what were usually staid, boring affairs, though...
Besides, seeing Scootaloo as a frilly filly in a dress would be worth the price of admission alone.
The thought brought a snigger from Silver, but she knew she shouldn't laugh. After all, she owed a great debt to the Crusaders herself, not only for showing her bestie the right path to take in life, but also helping her pluck up the courage to stand up to her friend as an equal, rather than something to be wiped off the bottom of your hoof. Now Di and Spoon were equals in their friendship, and things were much healthier all around.
In fact, on account of their new, exclusive cutie marks, she was even pondering whether to enlist their help in properly understanding her own, the same way they'd assisted Di in deciphering her's. Silver had always been confused by her symbol of a spoon with a heart, ever since it had appeared when...
Suddenly, a commotion at the door of the classroom caused the grey filly to cease her free-thinking, and glance up in surprise. She looked up at the clock. Had she REALLY been day-dreaming for five straight minutes? She hoped she wasn't turning into Sweetie Belle...
At the sound of Miss Cheerilee rising from her seat, there was chaos all around. Writing implements taken out of various orifices, and hastily put back. Video games switched off, and unceremoniously thrown in waiting bags. Lifted desks dropped so quickly, that they were bound to leave an impression on the floor.
Their teacher saw who it was causing a ruckus, and her initial look of surprise as the door was opened was quickly replaced by an expression of... Care? Warmth? Empathy? Whoever it was, was definitely not going to be in trouble for being late...
Being late!! Realising who it could be, Silver immediately stretched her neck to see if it could be the best friend who's safety she'd been whittling about since she dropped her off last night.
Those behind the door made their way into the room. There was Apple Bloom, looking as rustic as ever. She seemed determined to have a word with the teacher about something, as she headed straight over to Miss Cheerilee without a second thought.
And, as always, just loitering a few feet away, was the unmistakable twin forms of Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo. They were standing further apart than usual, though. Maybe the orange pegasus had forgotten to shower that morning, the grey filly thought. Ha, ha.
ENTERING SILVER SPOON'S INTERNAL THOUGHTS.
'Oops, better not say that to her face, Silv, you're better than that now. Besides, you don't really want an out-of-control Scooter connecting with your jaw at a record speed, do you?'
'No sign of Di, then. Oh well, maybe she'll arrive later. Her school stuff is on her desk, anyway, so she must be expected in at some point. I'm sure she's fine, she can take care of herself...'
'Wait a second, what's that strange pink and brown filly-shaped thingie between Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, almost hiding in the shadows? It seems to have a bandage on one foot. It's covered in patches of dirt. It has the most unkempt mane I've seen for a long time. And it's wearing a ribbon. just like Apple Bloom's.'
'Is a new Apple joining the class? Wait til' Di gets a load of this! It's a good job she's reformed now, else she'd really go to town on this scruffy, frightened new student!'
' Wonder if she has her cutie mark yet? She's skulking down so low, I can barely see it. Ah, there we go! Scooterloo just moved her tail a bit, Now I can see the mark in all it's glory...'
'A five pointed tiara.'
'Well, definitely not an Apple, then. I don't see that having anything to do with...'
'No, it can't be...'
'Let me just pinch myself...'
'Am I still daydreaming...'
'I'll wipe my glasses...'
'Perhaps they're a bit fogged, it is a little hot today...'
'Put them back on, Now everything should be...'
'No, I'm still seeing the same thing!'
'It can't be her.'
'Did she lose a bet?'
'No, The losing stakes would be too high for her.'
'Is it fancy dress day...?'
'No, I don't see any other pony in costume.'
'Does she look like that?!'
'Calm down, Silv.'
'Stop breathing heavily...'
'You can ask her when she sits down...'
'I'm sure there's a perfectly logical explanation for this...'
'(Celestia knows what it could be, though)'
'Okay, Apple Bloom's finished talking to Miss Cheerilee...'
'Apple Bloom is asking Di to come forward to speak to the teacher...'
'Is it just me, or do they seem unusually close?'
' Di seems to be hobbling a little.'
'Must be her injury...'
'Another thing to inquire abou...'
'Wait just a second, Silv...'
'When Apple Bloom asked Di to join her in front of the teacher just a second ago...'
'Did Apple Bloom just call her... Di?!'
'My special nickname for her...'
'It took around a year of being her best friend...'
'For me to start calling her that.'
'She's been on good terms with Apple Bloom for a day now...'
'And they've already reached that stage?'
'How did this happen?'
'What is going on?!'