• Published 4th Sep 2014
  • 1,802 Views, 241 Comments

Ghost of a Rose - Noble Thought



Roseluck goes on a journey through her past to discover what her future holds.

  • ...
9
 241
 1,802

Chapter 3: Scent of Roses

“I don’t understand.” Rose stared at the courtyard of the hospital—at what she could see of it from atop the hill up the lane. “Why—” Why am I dead? Why can’t I remember... anything? Why... “W-why is everything so foggy?”

Pinkie watched her for a long moment, brow furrowed. Then she smiled and shook her head. “It’s not foggy, silly.” She paused and leaned over to one side, looking closely at Rose, then poked her side. “Oh.”

“Oh?” Rose glanced at her friend, then at her own hoof, and back at herself. Her body seemed solid enough, but the fog persisted. When she waved a hoof through the air, the fog didn’t so much as stir, no matter how hard she waved her leg in the air.

“Um. How do I say this?” Pinkie reached out to stop Rose’s leg. “It’s you, Rose. It’s not foggy. Trust me.”

“Why?” She brushed her leg over Pinkie’s and set it back to the ground. “I mean, why does it look foggy?”

Pinkie shook her head. “I think it’s because you forgot almost everything.” Pinkie pointed down at the misty figures barely visible in the hospital’s courtyard. “They did too, I think.”

They milled about, sometimes stopping to look around or appearing to listen to something that wasn’t there. Eventually, they all wandered into the hospital or meandered away elsewhere. Occasionally one would come up to their perch above the town or down from the top of the hill to wait in the courtyard.

“Can—” She pushed a hoof at a passing apparition, which shied away from the touch but didn’t otherwise react. “Can they remember again?”

“I thought I told you that already...”

Rose snapped her head around and saw Pinkie smiling, though it didn’t reach her eyes. “Not. Funny.”

“Just a little afterlife humor.” Pinkie’s forced smile wavered, then drooped. She sighed. “There still have to be smiles to be found here, somewhere. I can’t believe that happiness died with us.” She smiled again. That time Rose did see the smile reach her eyes. “Maybe we’ll find some in your memories.”

“So I can remember.”

Pinkie shrugged. “I hope so. I won’t lie, Rose. I don’t know how hard it’ll be to remember.” She touched Rose’s shoulder gently and nodded away from the hospital. “When you ran away from me, you left... something behind. Memories, I think, looking like your cutie mark. Some of them smelled so sweet I wanted to dive in.” She stood up. “But they weren’t my memories.”

“I’m sorry I ran away.” Rose sighed. “Why did I run away?”

“Because it hurt. I saw it, but I wanted so much for you to find peace that I ignored it. I’m so sorry I pushed you.”

Rose shook her head. “You were trying to do what you thought was best. I wish I could remember why it hurt so much.”

“I still remember...” Pinkie shook herself and bumped up against Rose before turning around. “Come on.”

Rose stood with her and looked out over the town. Her own memories were a maze of holes and ragged edges of half-remembered things. An image of a stallion and a filly—the former clearer than the latter—danced at the edge of her mind. She was so absorbed in trying to remember and recapture the memories surrounding those two images that she almost missed Pinkie’s whisper.

“I hope my friends can still smile.”


Pinkie led her through the town along a set of unspoken directions that made little sense to Roseluck. Occasionally, the other mare would stop and look at her quizzically before moving on.

At first, Rose would ask: “Why did we stop?”

And Pinkie would answer: “Just checking.”

But after a while of not getting a satisfactory answer, Rose stopped asking, and Pinkie smiled hopefully whenever they did stop.

Her own thoughts occupied much of the winding trip through the town, as buildings and shops loomed and faded away before she could place their looks in the tatter of memories that were left to her.

Those memories were a balm and a bane, reminding her of things she had lost and would never again experience. The forgotten feeling of sunlight on her coat, and the laughter of her father and friends hurt the most. She could also remember the isolation she’d felt when her mother passed away, and her father’s weakening health. But there were happier days in college with Goldie, and her other friends, their ways long parted. Then there was her life afterwards, idyllic and peaceful, but missing the something special that made everything special.

Everything shattered into fragments of painfully isolated imagery that tugged at her heart for reasons she was afraid to guess at—and longed to know.

“Why is everything so...” She shook her head and tried to clear out the foggy feeling, but it persisted and sunk into everything she looked at. “Why did I forget?”

Pinkie walked a little closer until she was almost shoulder to shoulder. “Because it hurt, I guess. Not everypony can deal with that kind of pain. Just keep trying to remember, and let me know if you see anything.”

She sighed. “It’s not easy, Pinkie. How could I have... let them go? I still don’t understand that.”

“I dunno either. Just that you did. They’re still out there, waiting for you.”

The sound of their hooves on the cobbles of Ponyville didn’t echo in the silence, and the eerie lack of anything else for her to pay attention to except for Pinkie and the sound of their passage was wearing on her patience.

“Why is it so dead?”

Pinkie quirked an eyebrow at her.

“Dumb question.” She snorted. “I wish they would just show up, so that I can—” A smell, standing out amidst the odorless quality of the dead world, tingled in her nose.

“Rose?”

It was a cloyingly sweet scent and so familiar that she could see the shape of the rose... and more. The images in her mind grew stronger the longer she stood there smelling it.

“Do you smell that?” Rose lifted her nose into the air and turned in a slow circle, eyes closed as she sought the scent of a rose—the only smell in her world.

There! She started off at a canter. As the scent and the images it evoked grew stronger and more vibrant, the dim world grew brighter, the fog began to lift, and she sped into a gallop.


Goldie had planned something. It wasn’t like it was hard to tell—not with her enormous grin and the way she was giggling while trying to explain why in the name of the stars above Roseluck had to deliver the variety of roses to each address in order. It wasn’t making a lot of sense. She smelled daisies and lilies behind the false cover of Golden Harvest’s giggles.

“If this is for manipulating you and Applejack...” Rose groused with all the conviction of a scolded filly. She wasn’t really upset, but it did irk her that her housemate—and longtime friend—was keeping her from her normal morning routine.

“Oh, no. I’m happy as an apple pie about that.” Her friend smiled and glanced at the door. “But you’d best be going. You don’t have much time to get to the first—”

A knock sounded at the door.

Goldie held a hoof up, badly covering her broadening smile. “I wonder who that could be.”

Rose rolled her eyes. “As if I don’t know already.” She sighed as she opened the door, and stopped. It wasn’t who she thought it would be.

Post Haste, the mail pony on their route, stood at the door, envelope held in the crook of his ankle.

She stared... at his eyes, molten brown chocolate eyes; at his coat, the color of buttercream and scotch; at his mane, curly and unruly as a tangle of roots and just as brown. She knew what he looked like. Stop staring! You see him every day, silly mare. Still, she couldn’t.

Goldie’s snorting giggle broke her away from her trance.

He shook his head and looked away. “Postcard f-for Roseluck.” He blushed faintly, holding out the photograph of herself and her closest friends.

She took it from him, a little tingle travelling up her leg when she touched his. “Thank you, Mr. Haste.” She waited until he’d retreated down the walkway to stand, not exactly inconspicuously glancing back, before she read the card.

What goes around, comes around.

She shot a glare back at her housemate, who was trying, with a falsely innocent front, to hold back a bevy of laughs. “Don’t choke yourself, Goldie. I am so going to get you back for this.”

She tried to feel upset at being manipulated, she really did, but Goldie’s smiling good nature kept her from reaching any kind of anger. At least nothing beyond mild annoyance at having her morning routine interrupted. She tried to hold onto the front of aggrieved pride, but her fluttering heart got in the way.

It wasn’t that she was upset. Far from it. She’d been eying Post Haste for some time. He was a handsome stallion, even if he was shyer than a newly clipped cutting. No, she wasn’t upset, but it was embarrassing that her crush had been so apparent to her friends. Sidelong glances that she’d meant to keep private apparently hadn’t been, and the secret, lingering stares weren’t.

Roseluck rolled her eyes and set the postcard on the hallway table underneath the picture of the three flower mares of Ponyville as fillies. She took a moment to fiddle with the picture, and recover from the flustered nerves prickling up and down her legs.

The butterflies dancing in her stomach refused to settle down. She sighed. Stop. You... still have flowers to deliver. That made sense. I’ll just deliver my flowers. And hope I don’t make a fool of myself. She smiled and opened the door to a glorious spring day, where maybe love would bloom.

Down at the end of the walkway to the front stoop, Post Haste was still trying to maintain the look of checking which address was next in his mailbag. It wouldn’t do to let him stand there forever.

“Don’t forget to deliver all of the roses!” Goldie called after her from the open window.

Rose flicked her tail at her friend’s voice, full of barely contained laughter.

It’s fair, I guess, she thought, glancing over the addresses tied to the single roses in the basket at her side. We did the same thing to Applejack and Goldie, and what goes around, comes around. She laughed and pranced a few steps forward before calming herself back down. Serenity. Serenity...

Roseluck caught him glancing her way a couple of times on her way down the walk. Thoughts of her own stares made her wonder how inconspicuous her own looks were to him. Was I that obvious?

“Probably.” She smiled at Post as she trotted up to him.

Post startled and looked up from his mailbag. “What?”

Rose shook her head. “Post Haste, right?” As if you didn’t know already.

“Yes, ma’am!” He touched a hoof to his hat, with his name stamped on the silver bridge over the brim.

Right. “So...” She nodded down the lane to her first destination. “I—” She reached back around to nose one of her roses. “I have some roses to deliver, Post. And you have a full mailbag.” Because pointing out the obvious...

“I do.”

“Then...” Rose coughed and glanced at him, then took a step down the lane to her first destination, and felt a tension along her neck relax when he started off in the same direction. The sound of their hooves and the gentle whisper of a morning breeze were the only sounds for the length of several houses.

“You know this is a setup, right?” She glanced at him.

He didn’t look back immediately. “Yeah.” His blush was almost invisible underneath his creamy coat, and when he looked up, he couldn’t meet her eyes.

Curious.

“I’m sorry about this. My friends...” She shrugged, glancing back once to her home, where Goldie was trying to be nonchalant about watching them. She shook her head and trotted along with him down the lane.

The silence between them grew uncomfortable, and the tension in her neck grew more pronounced.

“So...”

“Um...”

She looked at him, at the way he tried not to look at her while obviously looking at her, and laughed. “Sweet sisters. I didn’t think it would be this bad on the other side.”

“What?” He stared at her for a long moment, and she could almost see the cart wheels turning, delivering conjecture to reason. “Other side of what?”

“Of a setup.” She giggled and danced sideways to bump into him. “I feel awful now for what we did to Applejack and Goldie.”

“They did mention something like—” His teeth clicked together and he glanced sidelong at her, then stared straight ahead, his blush becoming more pronounced.

“Wait!” A few things clicked suddenly. She stopped and stared after him as he kept trotting down the lane, pointedly not looking at her. Oh, I am so going to get those girls back for this. She dashed after him at a quick trot, careful not to let any of her roses fall out. “You’re in on it?”

He was silent for another few houses. Long enough for Roseluck to doubt it.

“Kinda.” He snorted, and did look at her, however briefly.

“Define ‘kinda,’ because...” Because what? I want to at least get to know him better. She could at least borrow a page from Applejack and be honest with him. ”Because I ‘kinda’ wanted to, too,” she said, the words falling flat even to her ears.

“Wanted to what?”

She smiled. “To get to know you.”

He blushed and kept trotting along, falling silent again.

Say something, she demanded of herself.

“What?” she asked under her breath.

“Did you say something?” He had his muzzle tucked into the mailbag.

“I think my first house is up here.”

“Oh! Mine too.”

She turned to check the address again, and was paying more attention to it than where Post was going, and crashed into him when they both turned at the same moment to turn down the same narrow pathway.

“Sorry!” She danced back.

“Oh gosh, Rose!”

Her rose and his envelope fell one atop the other, and she stared at them with him.

“Oh, I am so getting even for this.” The addresses were the same, and in the same quillwork.

“I wondered why Bright Eyes wanted to pack the mailbag herself this morning...”

“I thought you were in on it.”

“To uh...” He blushed and tipped the envelope up with a careful hoof. “To the extent that I might have mentioned my interest to Bright Eyes, and she got this look. And maybe well, I was eating at Daisily Days one day, when you were sitting with your friends Daisy and Lily... and Lily must have seen me, too.” He bent to pick up the envelope, his blush growing darker, and she could scarce make out his ears they were so tight to his skull.

Say something! “You know... I stared too.”

“Wha?”

“I thought you were cute.” She froze and clamped a hoof over her mouth. No, Rose! You’re an adult, use your adult relationship experience… Oh. “And you seemed kind.” She shook her head. “Maybe I thought if I stared long enough, you’d say something, do something. Force me to break away from my routine. You know. Something. But...” She picked up the rose gently by the stem and tucked it back into the basket. “I guess we are doing something.”

“We are, aren’t we?” He smiled and laughed, holding the envelope up in the crook of his ankle. “Let’s... do something.”

The memory spun by, warming Rose’s heart while the world she wanted—the one in the memory—slipped out of her grasp for the half a heartbeat it took to find herself sitting on somepony else’s front porch. She looked up at the world awash in gray and gloom for the other half of that beat, then closed her eyes to dive back into the smell of the rose resting on the porch railing.

The first few houses passed by in an almost awkward silence, punctuated by sidelong glances. Rose pushed herself to say something, but all she found to comment on was the variety of roses in her basket.

He doesn’t want to hear stories about my roses. She bit back a sigh.

In between houses—for some reason scattered from one end of Ponyville to the other and not a single one next to the last—they walked along the not quite bustling early morning streets of Ponyville sharing small stories about their early lives and their families between the too frequent awkward silences. Ponies were out tending gardens or grazing their lawns down to the last tasty quarter inch to get ready for the day.

By the fifth, the town was waking up more, and ponies were greeting them with barely hidden smiles and looks that seemed to say “Finally!”

“Were we the last to know?” Rose looked back over her flank at the elderly stallion still sitting on his porch. He’d been the second to say it that morning.

“Maybe we were. Maybe it’s just small town life.” Post shrugged and looked back into his bag, a smile blooming on his lips. “Whatever it is, I’m glad it happened.”

“Me too.” She looked into her basket as well, checking the next address laying atop the pile of roses wrapped in tissue paper. Just five more roses... It shouldn’t have been as sad to see the end of their first date, but being with him had awoken a need in her. He was special. She could feel it in her heart. “Who’s next? Mine says O.M. Breezy. That’s it.”

“Old Mare Breezy. She used to be an opera singer, you know? She sends mail with the most fascinating stamps out of the Crystal Empire. It’s pretty rare to see...” He looked aside at her. “I’m sorry, Rose. I don’t mean to bore you.”

“Why would you think you were boring me?” Rose shook her head. “I like stories about ponies... and things. Like this rose.” She turned and tipped up one of the tissue paper wrapped roses upright in her basket. “It’s a Winterbloom rose. They only bloom on the last day of Winter Wrap Up and stay fresh throughout the year.”

“I’ve seen them,” he said, leaning over to sniff the rose. “Oh! It’s cold.” He sneezed and shook his head. “Why does it stay cold?”

“Legend has it that they stay cold because the pegasi used them to make snowflakes.” She picked up the frozen rose by the tissue paper wrapped around the stem to show him the pattern and then placed it back in its holder. “See the pattern?”

“Beautiful.”

“I know. It—” Rose looked up. He wasn’t looking at the rose; he was looking at her. She looked away, blushing. “I—”

“The rose is beautiful too.”

“You... um.” Rose brushed back her mane and smiled. “Thank you.” What are you doing? You’re acting like a filly on her first date! “You were saying something about a stamp?”

“You really want to hear it?” When she nodded, Post Haste smiled and continued, “Well... You see, back when the Crystal Empire first came back, Celestia had a special, single run of stamps printed to give to citizens who wanted to write letters to greet the Empire to the nation. I hear the Ponyville schoolhouse wrote a bunch of letters.”

“I heard something about that. I was awful busy with preparing arrangements in Canterlot at the time. You would not believe how few florists there are there. I could make my life’s earnings if I wanted to give up...” She waved a hoof at the town, and tapped a hoof on the ground. “Well, everything.”

“I’m glad you didn’t.”

Silence fell between them for all of a hundred hoofsteps.

Rose broke it. “Did you get to deliver any of the replies? What were their stamps like?”

“Oh yes! I even got to read some of them to Cheerilee’s class when I delivered them. That was a real treat. And their stamps are things of beauty.” He pranced a few steps ahead, laughing.

Rose laughed with him and did a quick two-step trot to catch up. “Don’t leave me hanging! What did they look like?”

“Oh, right.” He was silent for a moment. “Have you ever seen the shimmer of light on the sea from a distance?” When she nodded, he continued, “Like that. Their inks shimmer like the sea from the bluffs over Manehattan, when the sun is high in the sky and a strong breeze is whipping up the waves...”

Rose listened as they walked down the road together. He knew the stories behind the stamps he collected, down to little details that few others would have appreciated. The little things that made the creation of a stamp more than just printing a piece of paper, a process that started in the mind of an official, or a celebrity, or somepony with a lot of bits to spare.

To him, a stamp with an obvious glaring flaw wasn’t just a misprinted stamp, it was a statement by the artist. The third run of Manehattan Lilac stamps were scented because they’d been a commemoration of the founding of the city, not because the city postmaster thought they smelled good; because they hadn’t—not at all.

But it wasn’t his stories she found comfort in. In him, she found a willing ear for her store of lore behind the names and historical significance of each rose in her basket. He didn’t find her stories boring either. At least, he seemed to be paying attention.

“Why did Celestia have to step in to settle the dispute between the two rose vendors? Couldn’t they have... you know, listened to each other?”

She laughed. “You would think so, right? But no...” She rolled her eyes and bumped up closer to him as she talked. “You know your personal feud has gotten out of hoof when the ruler of Equestria decides it’s time to step in.”

He laughed with her and curled his tail into hers. House by house they went, delivering mail and roses to each one, and swapping stories of stamps, roses and the ponies behind them. They even started playing a game, practicing house by house.

“Ready?” she said, lifting a rose in the crook of her ankle.

“Together.” He held up a letter in the crook of his ankle.

“Mail!” she sang out.

“And a rose!”

“Courtesy of Rose Haste!” they chorused.

They laughed and dashed away after knocking, leaving the rose laying atop the letter and a bewildered but smiling elderly mare waving after them.

“Oh my.” She laughed, wheezing faintly after they’d slowed to catch a breather. “I haven’t done something like that since my college days.”

“Oh?” He stopped to let her catch up.

“We used rotten apples.” She laughed. “The headmaster had us peeling apples for a week.”

“So you were the ones who pranked my gram.”

“What? I didn’t mean—” His wide grin and mischievous wink told her it was a tease. “Oh!”

“You’re gullible?” He snickered and flicked his tail at her. “I’ll have to remember that!”

“I am not gullible!” She reached out to nip him, but he danced ahead of her, then broke into a gallop. She followed behind, laughing, but a steady tug at her heart reminded her there was only one rose left in her basket, and then their almost-date would be over.

She caught up to him finally at the last address, the rose with no name attached to it. He was staring at the last letter in his bag, open-mouthed.

“Hey, don’t let the flies get in.” She nipped his neck as she passed and sauntered to the gate. It was a pretty little house, though the yard could have used some work and the flower beds—what had been flower beds, she presumed—were nothing more than beds filled with smooth river rocks.

He didn’t follow her right away.

“I wonder who lives here,” she said.

“Rose... I live here.”

She shot a look at him to make sure he wasn’t trying to pull the same joke twice. He wasn’t grinning, or winking at her, or doing any of the other subtle little things she could think he might use to tease her. He was telling the truth.

Her heart skipped a beat, and her vision misted. “Y-you live here?” She turned and looked at the rose again. She’d been too distracted to notice it the last few houses, they’d been having so much fun, but it was different from the others. It was a thornless Lover’s Promise rose.

Clever girls.

He swallowed and pulled the post card out. On the back would be a simple poem, one almost every pony knew.

She didn’t have to be able to read it to know what it said, and the first two lines danced in her mind as she stepped closer. “Post Haste. One rose from me to you.” She pulled the rose out of her basket and tucked it into his curly mane. “Do you like me too?” It was a silly little rhyme in four parts. She blushed, thinking about the rest of the parts. Maybe he’s the one.

“Roseluck, I do like you.” He reached out and tugged her foreleg up gently to clasp in his. “Would you go on a date with me?”

“I would love to.”

The world’s colors bled away as the memory crumbled around her. But the smell of roses stayed strong in her nose. She was sitting at a cafe table—the same one she’d had dinner with Post Haste later that week. The same one they’d shared more laughs and been serenaded inexpertly by her friend Daisy. The same table where she’d asked him out for another date.

But Pinkie was standing across from her instead of Post, and there was a bouquet of roses brilliantly reminiscent of another memory.

“Go on, Rose.”

Their scent was intoxicating, and the images it brought racing through her mind tugged her away from the dim world and back into the lively memories of a past she’d forgotten. She leaned forward and took a deep breath.


Spring flashed by, full of awkward moments and lingering glances she and Post soon moved past. Their dates became more casual, friendlier, and less stilted with the concern about pleasing each other until they stopped calling them dates at all and just spent time with each other; unplanned and usually quiet.

We were comfortable. The thought flickered by over a glimpse of gray sky and a sweet smelling rose dangling from a hanging planter. Memories rushed through her mind: a flood of warm summer days growing longer.

“That’s not a weed, Post. That’s lemongrass. It’s decorative.” Rose prodded him with a hoof. “I know it looks similar, but that is a weed.” She pointed a hoof at a patch of common cordgrass, still young. It’d irked her to let so much of it grow and her hooves were itching to dig it out. But the bed it was in wasn’t being used for anything and she was determined to teach Post about gardening. She swallowed her ire, or tried to.

“No need to get short with me, Rose. I’m not as familiar with plants as you are.” He huffed and lifted his head, then tromped over to the patch she’d indicated and waited.

Short? I’m being short? She shook her head and reined in the urge to stamp a hoof. “Yes. That’s cordgrass. Now remember—”

“I remember. You’ve told me twice now.” He gripped it by the roots and pulled slowly.

Rose bit her lip and tried not to think about what could happen if she let the cordgrass take firmer hold in her garden than she already had.

He tossed the bitter weed to the side and spat.

She giggled. “You didn’t have to bite it. Just press your hoof down under the root ball. It’s pretty shallow.”

He stared at her, tongue hanging loose with a line of drool dripping down. He spat again. “Rose... Do you know how bad this tastes? And how useful that could have been instead of ‘get it by the roots’?”

“Yes, I do. Like congealed rotten apple.” She tried to laugh, but it trickled away after a half chuckle. “Look, Post... I know you’re trying—”

“I’m trying. I promise you I’m trying to remember. I don’t ask you to remember the names and addresses of everypony in town, do I?”

“Post. That’s not what I wanted to say.” She tapped a hoof on a cobblestone set in the clay pathway. “You’re trying to make me happy. But you’re not happy, are you? This,” she waved a hoof at her garden, “isn’t what makes you happy.” He’d been happy enough the first two days she tried to teach him the basics of garden maintenance. “I’m sorry I kept pushing.”

“Oh.” Post hung his head and kicked at the disturbed dirt. “I do want to make you happy. Because I want us to work. And I guess...” He grinned and leaned in to nip her chin. “I guess that maybe I was expecting you to know that official mail for Mayor Mare doesn’t go to her home address. Even if it only has her name and the word ‘official’ on it.”

“Once.” Rose laughed, and shook her head. “I did that once.”

“And then you tried to—”

“Okay! I get it.” Shaking her head, Rose chuckled at the memory of her many misdeliveries. “I’m very sorry, Post. But this garden... it’s my life.” She waved a hoof at the dozen boxes of neatly tended dirt, save the one growing weeds. “I make my living selling these flowers. This is what I’ve done my whole life and it’s what I love doing.” She brushed a hoof against her cheek. “I wanted to share that love with you.”

Her legs trembled out of nowhere and she sat back on her haunches to scrub at the sudden rush of tears. “I wanted you to love what I do too,” she said, her voice quavering.

“Rose, shhh.” Post sat in front of her and pulled her close with both hooves. “I don’t know if I can love what you do the way that you do. But I love that you love it.”

“I only wanted to show you why I love my garden,” she repeated, pressing her nose into his chest. Why do I enjoy going on walks with him so much? His smell was no longer that of a stallion she was interested in, but a friend she looked forward to spending time with. A friend who told interesting stories she liked to listen to. “Do you know why it’s called cordgrass?”

“Because it tastes awful, like a whole cord of sour grapes?”

She laughed. “No, silly. It’s actually rather interesting.”

“You listen to my stories often enough.” He shifted and nipped her ear. “Is that why you keep coming with me? You like my stories that much? But they’re just stories about stamps—”

“They’re interesting because you make them interesting. It’s not just a stamp to you, Post. It’s the reason why you have your cutie mark. You love their stories.” She smiled and lifted her head to rest her muzzle along his neck.

“And I love your stories about roses.” He stroked the back of her neck with a hoof. “So... why is it called cordgrass?”

“It’s kind of a long story, actually, and rather a roundabout one. You see, it was a type of plant that we made broom cord out of before better cotton mills made cotton thread cheaper...”

He listened to her while she told him the story. They’d made a broom out of that cordgrass, some hay, and a branch felled in a storm later that week. Rose looked about as the memory faded away, slipping away with a fading scent and remembered warmth pressed against her chest.

The broom was still there, older and missing more than a share of stiff hay bristles, but the braided cord still held taut. It sat at the corner of her porch, though it was washed out in all in grays; except the brilliant rose tucked into one of the many gaps in the head.


The warm days turned cooler and shorter as winter loomed. Months of dates and small steps lay behind them. Their first kiss was long done and many more besides, and the memory of the first day they’d spent together, delivering mail and roses all across Ponyville was... Has it really been half a year already? The days had flown by.

They’d even talked of moving in, debating over whether her current house or finding a new place was better. Life was good, and the days gone by had been like living a dream together.

The rush of memories slowed.

The days grew shorter still, and by night a chill crept in that sent them to bed together more than once—for warmth. They went out again during the Running of the Leaves in the late fall. Gold and red filled the air and danced in the growing fall wind, a chill sharpening its bite.

Rose’s hooves couldn’t seem to stay still, and she found herself pacing around the small clearing he’d found for them to warm up in. Should I have eaten more? Or less? She worried at her lip and tried to count calories with each step and beat of her heart. Slow down! You haven’t even started racing yet!

“You’ll do fine. Just remember to stretch.” Post Haste nudged her gently. “And remember to pace yourself.”

She stopped pacing, then realized that wasn’t what he meant and laughed. The nervous tingles up her legs moved to her belly, where they added unwanted heft to the rich hay with a side of oats she’d had for breakfast. Definitely less. “You don’t need to keep reminding me, Posty. I have run the leaves before, you know.”

“Run, yes. But not raced.” He tapped her hindquarters with a hoof. “We’re going to race this year.”

Obediently, she leaned forward into a stretch, her muscles tightening almost painfully while she held the position. “And you think you can still keep pace as a water carrier?” She took half a step forward and stamped her hind legs, muscles tingling, and tapped the heavily laden saddlebags with her nose. They sloshed and gurgled, filled with near to two foal’s weight worth of water bladders.

“I—” His mouth clicked shut.

Sliding her forehooves forward to stretch her legs and abdomen left her hind end still high in the air. She tipped her head to catch him staring at her rear, and clamped her tail down to cover herself. The solitude of the small, private clearing was very welcome right then. It’s going to be a long winter.

He continued to stare. “Um.”

“Equestria to stallion. I know it’s a good view, but...”

He snickered and pranced to stand alongside her and out of the view of her distraction. “Don’t make an ass of yourself, Rose.”

She laughed and flicked her tail at him. “Why’d you volunteer for that, anyway?”

He shuffled his feet and looked askance at her. “Because I want to do something special this year.” He sidled closer to her and nuzzled her neck. “It is the first year I’m running with somepony special to me.”

“It feels like you’re setting something up. Tell me this isn’t another setup.”

“This isn’t another setup.” He grinned and stuck his tongue out at her.

“Mule.” She huffed in mock indignation and tipped her nose to the sky. “Fine then. Keep your secrets. I’ll find them out eventually.” Keeping her giggle inside was an effort worthy of Applewood. Keeping her smile hidden required a little more practice.

He laughed and kissed her cheek. “I promise I’ll tell you at the end of the race. Do you think you can keep up?”

“With you?” She twisted her head to catch the kiss, letting it linger briefly, and stepped closer to him. “Absolutely.” Rose tugged at his forelock. “As long as you stop every now and then.”

“Deal.” He sealed it with another kiss.

They walked out of the clearing and passed by the small crowd of earth ponies, mostly the elderly and the younger colts and fillies, who would be going slow and putting the trees to sleep for the winter.

Her place was usually with them, not with the swift racers who would bring down the leaves. Even as she took her place at the starting line, her muscles limbered and hopefully ready, she could feel the call of the trees through the steady ground. She pushed aside the placid song with an effort; it had no place in the rush and thunder of hooves she was going to be participating in.

Applejack and Goldie were among the callers that year, and Rainbow Dash was flying alongside the announcing blimp with Pinkie and Spike to be the co-co-announcer.

“Ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.” She smiled at him, forcing her ears to stay upright.

She waited beside him and the other racers with numbers on their flanks, anxious about running for longer and faster than she’d run before. From talking to Applejack, she had something of an idea of how tense it was going to be, and the foreknowledge sat in her belly like too much hay, and every stomp of a hoof or eager whinny only added to it.

I’m not a racer! I’m a trotter at best! What am I doing?

She must have been radiating her distress, because Post Haste was there to nuzzle her neck. “It’s okay, Rose. Do your best, and remember—” He nuzzled her neck again and whispered: “I love you.”

Oh. Right. That’s why. She blinked several times to make the trail ahead clearer and shook her head. “I love you, too,” she whispered back.

The race started in a whirlwind of choking dust and rush of thundering hooves.

Almost immediately Roseluck found herself running faster than ever before. The thrill of speed sang in her blood and the crisp air felt perfect in her lungs. Life and the rushing thump of her own hooves striking the ground in a hypnotic cadence kept the ache at bay, and she laughed wildly alongside Post Haste as she revelled in her speed and the grace of a full galloping stride.

By the end, she was winded, while he looked not even half as exhausted as she felt; even carrying a foal-weight of water with him by the end. The benefits of being a mail pony who walked all day, every day for his job, she supposed.

“I need to run more.”

“Yes, you do.” He poked her belly with a hoof and danced away from her swat.

“Did you just call me fat?” She laughed as she said it. It wasn’t the first time and, to be fair, she had started the joke months ago. Standing at a stall all day for her business, or tending to her garden were not exactly strenuous activities.

“Pleasantly curved,” he said, poking her belly again.

“Well then.” She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. “Forgiven.”

He smiled back and looked around. “Rose,” he said, pulling her aside from the crowd. “Every time you’re with me, you make me feel like I’m complete. You make my world brighter.”

“Post, I—” She choked and shook her head to clear the blurry filter that slipped down over the world.

“Rose, I love you.” He twisted his head about and plucked a flower, a Lover’s Promise rose, from the saddlebag carrying the water.

Her heart skipped a beat as he tucked it into her mane, and she sucked in a breath, tears spilling down her cheeks when he bent around again and plucked another rose and held it out to her.

“Two roses. One for you, and one for me,” he whispered in her ear.

She’d said the first lines of the rhyme, so many months ago.

She swallowed a whimper and leaned forward to tuck the second into his mane. “S-sharing a love that’s meant to be,” she whispered into his ear.

Leaning back, she looked into his eyes. “It is meant to be,” she whispered, and breathed in the smell of him close to her. The fair faded away. The hundreds of other ponies around were just a distraction. They were easy to ignore.

She pushed into him and locked her muzzle to his in a passionate kiss. He responded in kind, and the fire of their kiss spread through her, lifting her spirits and—

Turned back into nothing more than a memory.

A memory that she clung to with every shred of her being, even though it hurt more than she could have imagined.

Cold, lifeless reality crashed down around her with the sound of absolute silence as the memory’s clarity faded away. But there was more to the memory than just the start of a romance, and love. It was there, all of it. An entire life hovered at the edge of what she could remember, waiting for her to rediscover it.

Her sobs choked her as she railed against the cold grey sky with questions that never passed her lips. Why? Why did I forget? She stumbled out of the seat, but her legs refused to work right and she fell to the ground, and curled up around the precious warmth of the memory.

“I’m here, Rose.” Pinkie lay down beside her and listened to her cry, nuzzling her neck. “Just let it out, and hold on to those memories.”

It’s all I have left! she wanted to shout. But her tears slowed, and the searing pain of loss dulled, leaving a throbbing ache in her heart.

There was a warm glow there, too; of remembered love that melted away the icy fears in her mind.

“Thank you, Pinkie. I remember him now. Or... at least a part of our lives together. Post Haste.” Saying the name pulled at her heart, and other holes in her memory pulsed along with it. “How could I have forgotten him? I-I—” She sobbed and pressed her face into Pinkie’s neck. “I loved him!”

“It hurts to remember.” Pinkie nuzzled the top of her head. “But it hurts more to forget, something you don’t ever realize until it’s almost too late. I think you understand that, now.” She stood up and offered a hoof for Rose.

She pulled herself up, legs shaking, and squeezed Pinkie’s forearm gently. “I do. I want to remember.” She could feel the next memory waiting for her, back the way they’d come, and turned around.

“I’m glad.” Pinkie hesitated.

“Will you come with me?”

“Of course.” Her friend smiled and stepped closer. “But promise me that you’ll smile, Rose; it’s been too long since I’ve seen you smile.” Pinkie smiled, to remind her what it looked like. “Can you remember the last time you smiled?”

“I can remember a lot of smiles.” It was easier, with the memories warming her.

She smiled.