Sorry for the short chapter. It's kind of an in-between chapter.
Cadence stepped out of the carriage, letting Florence hold her hoof only because they were at the palace, and, to Princess Melody, proper behaviour was of utmost importance, especially at the Palace, or around ponies other than family members.
The Palace grounds were scattered with rich, elegant mares and stallions, with a couple of shy, or perhaps simply well-behaved, fillies and colts, and even fewer awkward young mares and colts of Cadence's own age. Most of the ones she did see were there by choice, and walked with muzzles in the air and servants trailing behind them, ready to show off their wealth and grandeur right alongside their parents.
Cadence didn't particularly like the ponies like that, in fact, she usually made a point of avoiding them. She especially disliked her cousin Prince Blueblood, whom most of the other mares in her school giggled over nonstop, because he refused to even socialize with people below his rank. The stupid foal wasn't even really a prince. It was simply an honor which his scholarly, kind, and un-showy father was awarded, but which Blueblood adopted as his own, because, being who he was, it "only seemed the logical thing to do." Cadence rolled her eyes at a few of her classmates, who stood in a tight bunch, comparing tiara prices and giggling stupidly about boys.
Then she spotted another mare from school. She was a plain, coffee brown colour, with a soft, flowing baby-blue mane. Cocoa Belle, Cadence thought her name was. Cocoa was about a year younger, and she only went to the Academy because she had won a scholarship from something called Poise Class at her old school. She was quiet, and rather like Cadence herself, disapproving greatly of the gossipy mares, preferring to keep to herself. Cadence pushed through the thin crowd, leaving her parents to make small talk with some wealthy Fillydelphian, and said hello.
"Do I know you?" Cocoa Belle said, squinting suspiciously. Cadence tossed her hair out of her face, mentally noting that she would never wear that manestyle again before replying.
"I go to the Academy too. I'm a year ahead of you though." Cadence saw a slight hardening in Cocoa's expression, she obviously thought Cadence was another gossip. "I-I'm not like the rest of the class though. I don't only care about showing off my money."
Cocoa looked at her, a bit fearfully, and said slowly, "You're the girl who won the fundraiser, aren't you? You're Candle Light."
"No. I'm Princess Cadence, but please just call me Cadence. I don't like being reminded that I'm related to Blueblood."
Cocoa Belle smiled slightly. "Yeah, I see your point there. He's pretty awful, isn't he?"
"You don't know the half of it. He's even worse when he's not in public. Sorry to change the subject, but did you participate in that fundraiser we had?"
"Didn't we all have to? I wasn't in your group though. But I heard you still fillysit for the Sparkles. How is it?"
Cadence was a little surprised. "You know them?"
"Yeah. Shini--Twilight's brother and I were foalhood friends before the moved here from Fillydelphia. Have you met him?" Now that Cocoa had warmed up, she seemed to know more than what appeared at first glance. Cadence struggled to keep her face neutral as she spoke.
"We've met. He sometimes comes home when I'm babysitting."
"He's pretty cute, isn't he? We went out for a while, but he broke up with me when he started going to Guard School. Weird, huh?"
"I guess. I never really noticed," Cadence lied, heart thumping. Just then, the trumpet fanfare sounding the beginning of the feast began, and she was able to make a quick escape. "Well, I'm supposed to go in with my parents and the sit next to Bluebrat for dinner. See you later!" She hurried out, to begin her painfully boring evening with her royal pain of a cousin.
But Cadence's mind was awhirl with thoughts of Cocoa Belle's conversation. Shiny had had a marefriend? What if he had one now? Maybe he was only being friendly. She was able to go through the entire evening without noticing, and still the questions haunted her into the night when she went to bed. Cadence tossed and turned, hideous nightmares, both realistically heartbreaking and bizarrely random, laced her sleep with charred and blackened fears and sorrows.