Rough beginnings

by Never2muchpinkie


Chapter 4: Broken

Derpy spent hours talking to the photo, staring into Shooting’s face and imagining she was in the halls. Every so often her head would grow consumed with their memories together, and she would begin to cry.

“Knock it off, you idiot!” she’d say when she did this. “Stop crying! Now let’s try it again.” When she couldn’t stand it anymore she put the photo away, figuring she’d have to try again the next day.

She continually ran her hooves across her stomach, occasionally feeling a pressure meeting her hooves. This was the most precious gift he had given to her. Even if she could make herself discard the photo there was no way to get rid of this present. No way that she would accept, in any case. She would live to see her baby. She only had to endure another six or seven months. It was such a small amount of time, but it felt so far away.

If Shooting was actually going to keep his word then the rest of the school year would be quiet. No one would bother her, but she wouldn’t have him either. She didn’t know which was worse.

At school the next day she could hear the whispering and gossip, only making out an occasional word. Shooting was right about that part, at least. Already she could feel a weight threatening to crush her, the fragile pillar of her heart crumbling. She didn’t want to go back to that world. She wouldn’t.

Her fear gave her a sense of clarity. Her baby’s survival was dependent on her survival. She couldn’t afford to snap.

And so when she spotted Shooting Star in the halls in-between classes she found she didn’t want to wait another day. She hadn’t perfected her act yet, but if she appeared distressed he’d question her to find out who had upset her. He wanted to keep things appearing normal between them.

With some effort she forced a smile on her face. “Hey, Shooting Star!” she said brightly.

His head turned to her, and for a split-second she saw his smug grin before he too met her with a smile. “Hey, Bright Eyes! How are things going?”

She dropped her smile, allowing some of her real feelings to show. “Not so good.” She put a hoof on her face. “Some ponies are saying nasty things behind my back.”

“What?” he said flatly, sounding outraged.

“I heard them accusing me of being unfaithful to you. How could they say such a thing? Don’t they know how dedicated I am to you?”

He put his legs out, pulling her into a hug. “There, there,” he said soothingly. “Don’t let them get you down.”

Shamefully she found she enjoyed his touch now, even though she knew it was completely fake. She noticed ponies staring at the two of them.

He pulled her back, looking her in the eyes. “Now then. Who was it that was saying such hurtful things? I’ve already made it plain that anyone who messes with you has to answer to me.”

Derpy could practically feel the shudder go through the hallway. “I… I don’t remember. I only heard them.”

“That’s too bad. I’d teach them a lesson.” Shooting turned to look behind him, all the ponies who were watching their conversation turning away. “Well?” he said sharply. “Does anyone feel like saying anything now? I’m right here, cowards.”

No one moved as Shooting swept his head around. “Well, I guess you’re lucky Derpy doesn’t know who was opening their big fat mouth. I’d better not hear anything else from her about accusations of disloyalty. She would never consider cheating on me.”

“That’s right,” she replied, knowing the response she was supposed to give. “I know better that nobody betrays you. You’re far too strong and powerful to turn against.”

He turned back to her. “You did very good, coming to me like this.” He gave her a peck on her snout. “I’ll see you around. You make sure to come tell me if anyone else tries to pick on you. I’ll ensure they don’t do so again. Okay?”

She nodded. “Okay,” she muttered, her voice quivering ever so slightly as he walked away.

Though he was gone his influence remained. When she turned everyone in that direction seemed to shake in fright, no one daring to look at her. There was no satisfaction in it. She hated the bullying done to her, but renewing the fear ponies had of her just made her feel like a bully herself. She just wanted to be seen as a normal pony. Nothing more, and nothing less. She wanted to be seen as an equal, that she was more than just her eyes.

She skipped her next class, going to the bathroom. She hid in a stall, holding herself, sick and ashamed. She lowered her hooves to her belly, and her emotions settled slightly. “This is all for you,” she whispered. “No matter what it takes, no matter how much it hurts, I’ll do anything just to see you safely born. Even if I feel thoroughly disgusted with myself. Even if I hate what I have to stoop to.”

Shooting Star was capturing her thoughts again. His soothing voice, promising security; the feel of his legs around her, providing comfort. She knew it was fake. She knew he was only pretending just as she had been. She KNEW it! He had told her quite plainly that he didn’t love her. Even still she didn’t want to accept it. She still felt there had to be a reason behind his behavior.

Shooting was from a wealthy, high-class family and a sports star rapidly growing in popularity and skill. What would happen to his reputation for both if it got out he had gotten her pregnant? While they were dating he had told her that he never brought her to his house because his father wouldn’t approve of his choice of mares. He wanted his son to have a mare that was rich as well. The only exception was when he showed her the dress he had gotten her.

That could be it. He had to break her heart. He didn’t have a choice in the matter. He couldn’t disobey his father with so much at stake. He knew his time was limited with her, so he ensured she would always have something to remember him by. She believed that he hadn’t intended to get her pregnant, but that was also a precious gift from him, wasn’t it?

She rubbed her tummy, starting to find peace. She found understanding for Shooting again. He couldn’t afford to be associated with being the father of her baby. He had to keep up appearances, but she believed that deep down he had a love for her too. One day he would return. If he could get away from his father and dump the mare forced on him to live his life the way he wanted, then they could be together as they were meant to.

She just had to last a little longer. Just a little bit longer. Every day she told herself the same thing. She pushed through day after day and month after month as her belly grew more and more pronounced. Once a week she’d put on a show of having a friendly chat with Shooting. Believing she understood his true motivations her meetings with him weren’t nearly as forced as the first one had been.

She missed him more with each passing day, but she pushed on, determined more than ever to bring her child into the world. If anything happened to his baby she felt it would ruin any chance they had of getting back together. Maybe when her baby was born it would wake him up. When he saw that she was no longer pregnant, when he knew the child they had bore together had come into the world, surely that would be enough to make him reconsider things. Wouldn’t it?

Finally the day came. Her contractions began, and she knew her baby was on the way. Her parents rushed her to the hospital and she was admitted to the delivery room.

At first she was putting all her efforts into listening to the doctor’s instructions, bearing the pain as she pushed. She completely lost her focus at a comment from her father.

“I’m surprised you were in such a hurry to get here. I’d have thought you’d want Shooting Star by your side.”

It took the wind right out of her sails, heaviness fogging her mind. “H-he… he’s not here,” she muttered, trying to stop the tears before despair overwhelmed her. “He’s away in another town to beat down another team at hoofball.”

“Ah, that’s a shame. I’m sure he’s gonna regret not being here to see his first-born.”

Her body clenched, the tears beginning to stream down her cheeks. The pain in her lower body made it nearly impossible for her to keep up the charade.

Thankfully her mother noticed. “Don’t rub it in! You’re ruining her concentration.”

“Oops! Sorry!”

She tried to get her mind back on track, but she wasn’t able to. The memory of him engulfed her, as it had so often in the past, making it hard to focus on anything else. Even the pain diminished. She half-heartedly followed along with the instructions, but a bigger part of her could care less. She just wanted to lose herself in the happy memories of the past. It was the only time when life had felt perfect and truly right. Why couldn’t she have that again?

If she could have one or the other would she choose a life with no bullies or a life without Shooting Star? It was a silly question. Even if Shooting lost his wealth and influence but was still there for her he’d stick up for her. His support would carry her through, his love outweighing the taunts and insults, making her heart complete again.

Occasionally she’d get jerked back to the real world, the doctor snapping at her to focus. She’d comply for a time, lapsing back into the past when she thought it was safe.

It was Shooting’s baby that was about to come out of her. It was his. Wouldn’t that be enough to get through to him? Maybe they could share memories and make new ones.

The hours seemed to pass by at a snail’s pace, but also take no time at all. She didn’t know which was more likely.

Finally, with one last push, she let out one more yell and fell limp, the pressure fading as the sound of crying echoed around the room.

“It’s a girl!” the doctor announced.

Derpy lifted her head slightly, trying to see her. The nurse cut the umbilical cord as they took the baby away for cleaning. She had never felt lonelier in her life. Shooting should have been at her side for this, not just her parents. That was the way things were supposed to go. That he wasn’t there to share the birth of the child they had created together was devastating. Her baby had been with her, growing every day, a reminder of the special event that had created her. Now it was no longer with her, one of the last things connecting her with Shooting Star.

She was alone. All alone in a dark hole. The ache from her loins throbbed. Her mind was growing hazy, the words from the others growing slurred. Her vision was blurring. She couldn’t muster up the will to fight. She felt tired. So tired.

She’d accomplished what she meant to, hadn’t she? Her baby had been born. She’d protected it. Now it wasn’t reliant on her any more. She just wanted to rest in the blackness, her eyes growing so heavy.

The device attached to her began beeping faster as her vitals slowed. She heard garbled words and talking, sounding so quiet although in her dim vision she could see they had to have been shouting.

Why couldn’t they just leave her be? Couldn’t they see she wanted to sleep, to escape into the darkness of her soul?

In desperation a nurse pushed a bundle into her hooves, a head sticking out of it.

Derpy strained her eyes, the blurry foal beginning to come into focus. As the two met eyes Derpy felt a rush of love and affection flooding her body, tears running down her face. She was now a mother! She didn’t want to leave her baby so soon. She wanted to live just a bit longer, to keep seeing the magic of what she had wrought. The beeping of the monitor slowed as Derpy regained her senses, the world coming into focus again. Even the ache in her loins was fading.

Derpy looked over her child: the yellow mane and yellow eyes, much like her; a horn like Shooting Star; her coat was lighter than her own gray, but close to hers. Much to her relief her baby’s eyes were straight. That was what was most important to her.

“She’s so tiny,” Derpy said in wonder, gently rubbing her hoof through the filly’s mane. “So beautiful.”

“Are you alright, Derpy?” asked the doctor. “You gave us a scare.”

She nodded. “Yeah. I’m not going anywhere. My baby needs me.”

“That’s good. So what about a name?”

Derpy once more stared into her baby’s eyes, love flowing through her again. “Dinky,” she said firmly, the name coming to her as easily as if she had always known it. “My sweet baby Dinky.”

Taking the foal out of her wrapping she held Dinky on top of her, fur to fur. She nuzzled her baby, tears of joy still coming down her eyes. “Hello, my sweet little baby. My little Dinky. You’re so cute.” She ran her hooves over Dinky’s back in gentle circles as she kept speaking to her newborn.

Dinky was still too young to smile, but Derpy could just feel that Dinky was enjoying the attention, her efforts to help her child feel loved and accepted succeeding.

Soon enough Dinky let out a yawn, falling asleep. For a time she just kept her legs in a protective position around Dinky’s back, a tender feeling growing stronger and stronger from the warmth of her child against her, and seeing her moving up and down as she breathed.

Shortly after that fatigue set in. She was happy her baby was safe, but she could use some rest herself. The nurse lifted the baby up, wrapping her back up in the blanket and moving her to the newborn room.

She was moved to her own room as well. She sank gratefully into her bed, straining to keep her eyes open as she looked over at her parents, pride in their eyes.

“Our first grandchild!” her mother cried out.

Derpy forced a grin, her eyes closing for a few seconds.

Her father chuckled. “Well, I guess we can save the celebrations for later.” He gave her stomach a quick rub. “Get some sleep, honey. We’ll wake you up if there’s anything you need to know.”

She was only too happy to comply. She was exhausted. She didn’t know it was that painful to give birth.

A few days later, after checking Dinky over and assuring she was healthy, they all went home.

Motherhood was certainly a new experience for her. On occasion she had foalsat to earn some extra money, but nothing compared to actually having her own baby.

She took a few weeks off of school to recover and bond with her child. Bon Bon and Lyra stopped by to drop off her homework. It gave them a convenient excuse to see Dinky, and they gushed and ooh’d and aah’d over her, and Derpy couldn’t help but feel pride.

She was more or less content, but something was gnawing at her. Sometimes as she looked into Dinky’s face she’d see the parts of her she inherited from Shooting Star. Sometimes when she noticed it she’d be filled with joy, hoping that her dream would come true, hoping that the knowledge he had a child would move him to do the right thing.

But other times she’d grow sad and feel sick inside, wanting to cry. It was the part of her that was afraid that things would never be the same, and neither would her life.

Even through those negative feelings Derpy felt no anger toward Dinky for evoking those emotions. She was just an innocent baby, after all. She bore no responsibility for what had happened between her and Shooting Star.

She deflected questions about him, claiming she wanted to keep Dinky to herself for the time being, as she didn’t want her baby to get overwhelmed with too many new things at once.

When she returned to school she got plenty of stares. Her long absence and the reduction of her tummy had to make it obvious what had happened. Even though she knew what was expected of her she was terrified. She knew she had to go see him and put on another performance, but this time she didn’t think she’d be able to handle it.

Before when they had put on their act she had had no expectations. She had buried her emotions to keep herself going for the sake of her unborn child. Now Dinky was born, and she didn’t want to raise her child alone. She wanted Dinky to have both a mother and a father figure in her life. There wasn’t anyone else she was interested in.

On the other hoof she didn’t want to get her hopes up. She’d been hurt so many times for not being able to give up her feelings. Hadn’t he made it perfectly plain that he didn’t love her? That he had another mare he felt was more worthy of him?

Even so, she didn’t want to give up her desire. Even if he didn’t love her, wouldn’t it be enough to just have him close? To know that her child was well taken care of? He could spoil her and teach her to be confident like he was. She’d temper that with empathy so Dinky wouldn’t become arrogant. They could give her the best of both worlds.

She put her head up against a locker, her emotions threatening to explode right there in the hall. Hot tears were already streaming down her cheeks. Why did things have to be so difficult? She had made a mistake. How long was she going to be punished for it?

“Derpy.”

A chill went down her spine. It was the last pony in the world she wanted to see. She turned to see Shooting Star there, a neutral expression on his face. Not concerned, but not smug either.

That hot, sticky feeling of shame burned in her stomach. She stared down at the floor, wiping her eyes. “What is it, Shooting?” she said emotionlessly.

“You’ve been gone for quite a while. I wondered if something happened to you. I was a little worried.”

Her face flushed red, sure he didn’t mean it. “Well… now you know something didn’t.”

“Sure it did. You had a baby.”

“And?”

“How is the little rodent?”

She saw red for a moment at the belittling title, but she didn’t lose control. “She’s doing fine.”

“Glad to hear it. And you?”

“The same. There were no complications. We’re both healthy.”

“I see. Well, that’s all I wanted to know. Just because I don’t love you that doesn’t mean I want to see my little puppy get hurt. Take good care of the kid, won’t you?”

With that he continued on his way.

Derpy looked after his retreating back. She wanted to just let him go, but her hooves moved like she was being controlled by someone else.

She stopped in front of him. “Wait!” she cried out.

His hoof rose for a second like he was going to just walk around her, but then it went back down. He said nothing, his face a mask.

“Please! Isn’t there anything I can do?” she cried out, tears once more running down her face. “I want you back! I’ve never wanted anything more in my life.”

His eyebrow went up. “I feel I’ve been perfectly clear on the subject. There’s nothing more to discuss.”

As he went to move around her she grabbed him. “I know that! I know what you said. But I don’t care! I don’t care if all you do is use me for my body. I don’t want to raise our child alone!”

She slid off him onto the floor, staring up at him, shaking and desperate. “Please…”

Shooting put a hoof through his hair, shaking his head. “Honestly, now. This is getting pathetic. Offering up your body just to get me to spend some time with you is just sad. Have at least SOME pride in yourself, won’t you?

“As hard as it is to settle for second best, there are other stallions beside me in school. Go find someone more on your level.”

Derpy curled up into a ball on her side, squeezing herself. “But I don’t want someone else.”

His horn glowed, lifting her up in the air and putting her back on her hooves. “I’ve been perfectly blunt, so why can’t you seem to understand?”

Derpy stood on shaky hooves, and likely would have fallen back down if Shooting wasn’t still holding her up. “So why bother checking up on me at all? Don’t you care at all?”

“Of course. I’m not a monster. It’s not just you. I wouldn’t want a baby even with my new girl. I’m slowly on my way to the top. I’ve got a great career as a hoofball player ahead, and if all goes well with her she’ll talk her dad into agreeing to the merger of our companies. My name and stardom is gonna go through the roof, and I don’t need a little rodent underhoof getting in the way.

“I checked up on you, so I’ve done all I’m willing to do for you. Of course if you want some money to help care for that thing than by all means all you have to do is ask. Besides that, I’m done.”

He picked her up in the air, taking her to an empty classroom like before.

Derpy let out a squeak, but she was quickly set down on the teacher’s desk.

He got right up in her face. “Now, for the last time, stop bugging me. I’m not going to say it again. I have absolutely no interest in you or that thing that came out of your womb. Be a good little pup and obey your master.” He rubbed her head, chuckling. “Okay, Bright Eyes?”

He left the room, closing the door behind him.

Derpy gulped, her eyes glazed over. She held herself, silently crying.

She knew she shouldn’t have done it. Why hadn’t she just let things go? Why hadn’t she just let him be?

Hopping off the desk she headed for home, a weight on her heart. She went right to her room, not answering the call of her dad.

Rage ripped through her, obliterating her sadness. Didn’t she deserve to be treated better than that? She wasn’t a dog. He wasn’t her master. She didn’t have to take it.

He was going to be there whether he wanted to be or not. He loved his reputation too much to let it go. What if she accused him of abandoning the family he helped create? A deep sense of satisfaction began to overtake her anger. She had a card that his power and money wouldn’t be able to overturn. She could ruin him as completely as he ruined her.

All it would take is a simple DNA test. She could tell his father and let Shooting take the backlash for his deplorable behavior, or for mating with such a “low-class rube.” She could tell the tale around school. Little by little she could destroy everything he valued. Once everyone turned against him and public opinion shifted he would be left with no other options but to return to her.

A twisted grin crossed her features at the thought of both revenge and getting what she wanted. Her eye twitched a bit. They didn’t have to love one another, but he was going to be there for his kid. She laughed, a hysterical, high-pitched mix of all her mixed feelings.

All that remained was to sever one of the final ties to him. She sat at her desk, pulling out their photo. She put her hooves on the top of it, a smug grin on her face as she prepared to rip it in half, her eye still twitching.

Her emotions shifted again, this time to fear. He had called her by his nickname for her and offered her money. He had also scolded her for offering her body to him for his time. Wasn’t he still looking out for her? Did she really want to risk making him hate her just for some personal satisfaction? Maybe he would come around. He just needed more time.

Her hooves began to shake. Time passed, but still the photo remained unharmed as she stared at their happy faces. She wanted so badly to be back at that time. She held the photo to her chest, her emotions flowing free again. “Shooting!”

Derpy felt like she had entered another world. She tried her best to keep her mind off of Shooting as the months went on, but it was difficult, especially when she looked at her daughter. Dinky was the only thing that she still lived for. When she felt like giving up, when she felt like it wasn’t worth it to get up, when life felt overwhelming… there was Dinky. She was such a precious little thing, a being of pure love just looking for a target to unleash it on. Hugs and kisses and babbles and cuddles and laughs. Everything Dinky did filled her with purpose, the desire to simply see one more smile, to hear one more laugh, to make sure her daughter grew up feeling loved.

On the other side of things, though, was fear and guilt. Dinky was a gem and wasn’t much trouble, but her relationship with her parents suffered. She stayed in school because she wanted to set a good example for her child, but that meant leaving Dinky with her parents most of the day so she could go to class and finish up homework and other projects.

She felt so scared and offended when Dinky called her mother “mama.” She felt betrayed. She couldn’t blame Dinky. She was too young to understand. It was her own fault for not spending enough time with her child.

She made more of an effort to connect with her daughter, with the result that she only wound up more exhausted every day as she tried to keep Dinky near her and away from her mother. A part of her was angry at her mother for not correcting Dinky. Her daughter was one of the few things that kept her going every day. Didn’t her mother understand that?

That anger only made her feel guilty. Of course her mother didn’t know that. Her parents thought that everything was great. She had wondered sometimes how Shooting had completely fooled her for so long. Now she understood.

It made her sick to her stomach how fluent she became in lying to their faces, making up all sorts of excuses for why they never saw Shooting Star anymore. She’d go out, taking Dinky with her, claiming she’d been to see him.

She felt so fragile, like a strong breeze would snap her in half. Every time she saw Shooting Star in the halls she longed to touch him, to hold him, to make up some story of someone being mean to her so he’d hold her again for just a short time, even if he didn’t mean it.

She felt diseased, like there was something inside of her that was inherently wrong, that kept her from other ponies. The more lies she told the deeper the sensation grew. She felt so depressed, and she had no one to turn to. There wasn’t anyone she could tell about what Shooting had done to her. She had seen too well while they were dating that it was too dangerous to confront him, and she doubted any of her friends or family would be able to hold themselves back once they learned the truth.

She didn’t really want revenge. That wasn’t important to her. It was becoming increasingly clear that Shooting had no intention of returning to her, and she had only herself to blame for how things had turned out. All that she could really do was continue to help Dinky in her maturation.

She still couldn’t bring herself to throw away the prom photo, but she moved it from her dresser to a box in her closet so it wasn’t so easy to get to, with the end result that she looked at it far less.

The happier she grew with Dinky the more she felt guilty towards her parents. Despite all their help she moved out as soon as she was able, partly because she didn’t want them monopolizing time with her daughter and partly out of pride. She didn’t want to ask Shooting for help, even if he would throw her money to care for Dinky. She wanted to prove him wrong, that she wasn’t just a dog.

She also grew increasingly fearful as Dinky grew. Her first year was a roller-coaster ride, but Derpy felt she was getting the hang of motherhood. Dinky was starting to move beyond just one or two little words at a time. She was beginning to form sentences. Her memory was getting better as well.

Ordinarily those things would be a cause for celebration, to know that her daughter was growing up normal. However, there was a darker aspect to things. Eventually Dinky would spill the beans and break the illusion she had carefully crafted. Her parents would ask Dinky about how her day with Shooting had gone, and Dinky would have no clue what they were talking about. Eventually the truth would come out.

She kept putting it off, hoping for just one more day of peace, that her daughter didn’t grow too fast, but in the end it wasn’t a secret that could be kept forever. And when she was forced to own up to all her lies… what then?

Maybe… maybe she could just tell the truth. She could insist that she didn’t want to pursue vengeance, and that she was simply happy with having her little girl. They’d be disappointed in her, but they would most likely focus more on Shooting’s actions than hers. Not that she thought she deserved to escape the consequences, but she was growing tired. Oh so tired. Even Dinky, as wonderful and cuddly as she was, couldn’t nullify the pain she was suppressing forever.

She was growing sick of lying, of telling tall tales and betraying the trust of everyone that cared for her. She was in a constant state of anxiety, forced to smile and pretend everything was alright when inside she was screaming and crying and wanting to ask for help, as well as knowing any day Dinky would tell her parents that she had no idea who her father was.

It would be a huge weight off her shoulders if she could just come clean, then her parents would be more supportive of her, as they would know Shooting wasn’t going to be there to take care of her. But days passed and still she didn’t tell them. It always felt like the wrong time. She was tired, or they were in too good a mood, or Dinky was being particularly fussy, or they weren’t home. Once she realized that she was prolonging things with more endless excuses and lying to herself she just felt more disgust for what she was.

One afternoon she told herself NO MORE! Her parents were out on a date. She was sitting in the couch facing the front door. Dinky was having a nap in her room. She was going to wait there until they returned, and she wouldn’t accept any more postponements. She waited and waited and waited, but they didn’t return, long past the time they had said they would be back.

And then life showed that it wasn’t done toying with her yet. There finally came a knock at the door. She hopped up out of her seat. Maybe they had forgotten their key, or they had gotten delayed.

She opened the door, seeing a pony in a blue suit, a somber look on his face as he twirled a hat in small circles with his magic.

“Hello?” she said to the stallion. She had seen him around town, but she didn’t remember his name.

“Derpy, there’s been an accident… your parents are dead.”

Her eyes became little dots as all feeling left her body.