• Published 1st Nov 2014
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A New Sun Rises - CommissarAJ



Sunset Shimmer has never needed anyone or anything - she had her magic, she had her ambition, and she had intellect. Others just stood in her way or held her down. So what do you do when your plans for world domination fall through?

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Act VII-V

Act VII-V

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Sunset Shimmer I knew in Fillydelphia was driven once she had something to set her mind to. I dare say that her first taste of the guitar lit something of a fire in her spirit because no sooner did school end on Monday did I find her standing outside my classroom, ready and eager to continue where we had left off.

One lesson turned into two, which soon became three, and then turned into a regular, thrice-a-week meeting. Most students that I’ve met who were learning to play guitar lose some of their enthusiasm after the first few days, when they’ve realized it was going to be many weeks and a lot of work before they could impress the girls at parties, but nothing hampered Sunset’s enthusiasm. There were days I was certain that if I didn’t end things for the day, she would’ve kept going all through the night without pause.

Despite my curiosity, for the first few weeks I kept things focused strictly on the music. It was hard for me to ignore the voice at the back of my mind that wondered, sometimes lamented, how someone who seemed so alive when they had a guitar in hand could be so apathetic in the rest of their school life. She had all the hallmarks of a troubled home life, but in the arrogance of youth, I thought I could handle it on my own. Yet at the same time, I dragged my feet in confronting the issue because that same youthfulness meant I had never done this before. I knew the theories of what to do, but what I learned in teacher’s college didn’t always translate perfectly to the real world.

Though I had made progress, she was still closed off, withdrawn; her days in class were still spent in the back corners saying nothing to those around her. I worried that even the slightest mistake could cause her to withdraw. But was I doing that for her sake, or my own?

That thought didn’t cross my mind until after a few weeks into our after school lessons. Classes had just finished for the day, and I was about to get prepared to meet with Sunset when I had something of an unexpected visitor.

“Music lessons? Since when you have started helping out in that department?” Sombra’s voice perked up just over my shoulder. I must’ve been lost in thought for him to have snuck up on me in my own classroom.

“Just a little something for an extracurricular,” I explained.

“Oh? I haven’t heard any of this before.” Despite the two of us always insisting on maintaining professionalism at work, he couldn’t help but take advantage of the moment of privacy. He draped his arms over my shoulders and nestled his head next to mine, letting out a throaty purr as his overgrown sideburns tickled my cheeks. “I hope you’re not planning on staying out too late tonight.”

I gave a mirthful chuckle. “Has the gracious Mr. Graycoat finally seen fit to return my husband to me? I was beginning to wonder to whom you were actually married to.”

“I promise it won’t be much longer,” he said with a remorseful, but optimistic, undertone. “But I was thinking tonight we could pick up some pad thai from your favourite little restaurant, and curl up on the couch with a nice Pinot noir. How does that sound?”

“Toss in a little something from the bakery for dessert, and you’ve got yourself a date, mister.”

“That shouldn’t be too hard to arrange. Do you think you’ll be done with your ‘extra-curricular’ by—”

He never finished that sentence, however, as something began to buzz and vibrate in his coat pocket. I could practically feel him grimace alongside a very audible groan. For the first few seconds, he refrained from moving, as if hoping he could just pretend that he couldn’t hear his phone ringing. In the end, he resigned to his fate and stepped away to answer the call.

“Yes, hello?” he began, terse and impatient. His expression quickly grew worse. “What do you mean he—?” His words came to an abrupt halt as his eyes darted back over to me, and the realization that he was about to lose his temper in front of me helped him regain his composure. “I’ll be over in just a minute: don’t let him leave.”

After he hung up, Sombra shot me a guilt-riddled look that told me everything I needed to know.

“Vice Principal Sombra to the rescue again?” I quipped.

“I swear to god, I’ve no idea how this school has managed to function for as long as it has,” he answered, though he could have been voicing his frustrations for his own sake. “I’ll try to have this done as quickly as I can, I promise.”

He wouldn’t, though, and I’d eventually spend another quiet evening at home all alone, but by that point I had gotten used to it. At the very least, I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about being on my own for very long, and not more than a few seconds after my husband left did I hear new, lighter footsteps at the door.

“Um, Ms. Celestia?” Sunset’s voice chirped up, which had an immediate, uplifting effect on my mood.

“Ah, hello there. Is everything okay? You sound a little uneasy,” I replied.

“Oh! Well, uh… I sorta overheard some of your conversation with Vice Principal Sombra,” she explained. “I thought maybe you might be too busy to—”

“I would never,” I reassured her. After gathering up my notes and belongings, the two of us headed on our way to the music room. “Sombra and I were just trying to arrange some plans for later, that’s all. But I made a promise to you first, and that will always take priority.”

My words seemed to placate her worries. However, as we strolled down the hallway together, her curiosity began to override any sense of politeness. “So… you and Vice Principal Sombra are together?”

I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit at the innocent and excessively polite way she phrased it. While Sombra and I tried to keep things professional at work, we didn’t exactly hide our relationship if it ever came up. I had presumed that most students already knew of this, but if Sunset lacked any friends at school, then there wouldn’t have been anyone to tell her.

“Yes, he’s my husband. Though with how busy he’s been lately, even I find myself forgetting at times.”

“How long have you two been married?”

“Almost five years now.”

We arrived at the music room, and soon we were in the midst of our lesson, guitars in hand. I soon forgot all about my familial troubles; in fact, a part of me hoped that Sombra would be too busy so that I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about ending the day’s lesson early. With a bit of coaxing, between our various exercises I managed to get Sunset to talk a little bit about herself. It was hard to get her to put the guitar down for even a second, but once I broke out the afternoon snacks, even she couldn’t say no. We chatted while we ate; as it turned out, we followed a few of the same television shows, and we wound up debating the finer points of the character development for most of our break.

Or rather we debated which two characters would be better together.

As the last of our food vanished, Sunset veered the conversation in an unexpected direction. “Ms. Celestia, um… these lessons aren’t being a bother to you, are they?”

“A bother? My goodness, where would you get that idea?”

Her gaze fell to the side as she nibbled at her cookie in a deliberately slow manner, as if stalling for time. “Well, I know you only started doing this because of the interview, and you’re only my homeroom teacher so you were probably told to do that as well. I… I don’t want to be the one keeping you away from people you’d rather be with…”

I reached over to offer a gentle pat on the shoulder for reassurance. “Sunset, please don’t think that I would ever be here with you if I didn’t want this. Yes, I was instructed to conduct the interview, but everything since then has been entirely my choice.” I was relieved to see the worry melt away from her expression, though I was still left curious. Her concern seemed to be rooted deeper than just what she witnessed between my husband and I. “May I ask what prompted this concern?”

She hesitated to speak up at first, no doubt brought about by a longstanding unfamiliarity with having somebody willing to listen. I could tell something far greater was on her mind. It was written all over her body language: how she avoided making contact, how her shoulders hunched forward and her head stooped low, and how she kept shifting in her seat like she was sitting on a pebble.

“My parents… they’re getting divorced,” she murmured, her tone seemingly crushed by an overwhelming sense of shame.

“I’m very sorry to hear that.”

“They’re always arguing with each other,” she continued on while her gaze remained fixated on the floor. “Sometimes it’s about money, sometimes it’s about someone forgetting something important, sometimes it’s about things I don’t really understand.”

I stepped from my desk and crouched down in front of her, ensuring that we could see eye-to-eye again even when she couldn’t lift her gaze. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, but I’m here to listen if you need me to.”

“What does it matter? They don’t care… nobody ever cares.”

Her gaze looked as hopeless as her words felt. It sounded all too familiar, as well: they were the exact same sentiments that my sister once held during her troubled teenage years because I had been too preoccupied with my own troubles to give her the attention she needed. Maybe it was selfish of me to think that I could somehow make amends for my past transgressions through Sunset. Maybe my compassion was the cruelest thing I gave to her.

I placed my hand over hers, which drew her eyes to meet with mine. “I care, Sunset, more than you could imagine.”

Though she said nothing, her eyes spoke volumes to me. I saw a wary desperation in her, a yearning to trust held back by long-standing fears. I suspected, just as had been the case during our early conversations, that such compassion was something that would always exist just outside her reach. To be offered it so suddenly left her on unfamiliar ground and unsure of how to even react, let alone proceed.

I pulled a desk over so that I could sit next her. She was still hunched over with her hands tucked between her knees, but every so often she shot a nervous sideways glance over to me.

“Are things okay at home?” I asked.

She shrugged. “It’s… fine, I guess. My parents are always working late so it’s quiet most of the time.”

“No siblings, I take it?”

She shook her head.

“What kind of work do your parents do?”

“I dunno,” she said with another shrug. “Business stuff, I think. Dad often goes on about some deal or project he’s working on, usually after Mom gets mad at him for being out so late or for drinking so much.”

The last part set off every alarm bell instilled into me by teacher’s college. “Does your father drink often?”

I felt my heart sink when she nodded. “It wasn’t always like that. When I was little, he used to take me out for ice cream. ‘Good little girls get ice cream,’ he’d always say. We’d walk through the park afterwards, and watch the ducks in the ponds.” A faint smile creased her features, but faded soon after. “They used to wait until I was asleep before they started arguing, but now they don’t care if I hear everything—like when they fought over who would be stuck taking care of me after they split. I guess I’m not a good little girl anymore: good girls don’t waste their time on guitars.”

“Now you know none of that is true,” I said in gentle reassurance. “You’re a brilliant young girl, and I know for a fact that your grades have improved a lot since we started these lessons.”

“W-well, I just thought… since you were going through all the trouble because of my grades. B-but you’re a teacher. You’re paid to care and say stuff like that.”

“I’m paid to teach and encourage, not to lie,” I corrected her. An idea suddenly crossed my mind, or rather something that I had been considering for a while but decided then and there to put it into motion. “And trust me when I say this, there are plenty of people here who would care too, if you would just give them a chance.”

Flickers of hope and doubt flashed in her eyes as she stared back in absolute silence. She was a forgotten child, still fearful of daring to hope. I just smiled as I got to my feet, and offered out my hand to her.

“Come on, I’d like to show you something,” I invited, gesturing her to come hither with my fingers.

Though still wary and uncertain, Sunset rose from her seat and fell in line beside me.

“Oh, and bring the guitar,” I said before we left.

We strode through the hallways, saying nothing but occasionally glancing to one another to try and better read the situation. I tried to be as reassuring as I could without spoiling the surprise, and I could tell that a part of her was keeping an eye on the nearest exit just in case. No doubt her curiosity began to flare up as we drew closer to our destination, and the muffled sounds of a drum beat could be heard. We arrived at a windowless door, and I gave a few knocks before opening it.

Inside were close to a dozen students, sitting around one of the rooms that had recently been converted into a practice hall for the bands. It was a mix of seniors, freshmen, and everything in-between, all with their instruments, and all of whom turned to look at Sunset and I in the doorway.

“Sorry, Ms. Celestia, were we being too loud again?” the young lad at the drums spoke first.

“Quite the opposite, really,” I reassured them. After all, it had been just loud enough to catch Sunset’s attention. “I’m actually here wondering if you could all do me a favour. This is one of my students, Sunset Shimmer.”

As I gently eased my pupil to the forefront, she tensed up and only managed to stammer out a quick, “H-hello.”

“I’ve been teaching her guitar for the past few weeks, but I thought being around some like-minded students might help her as well,” I continued on. “Would it be okay for her to sit in on a few sessions of your club?”

I could see the tension building inside Sunset; teenagers could be unpredictable and she could only imagine the worst possible outcomes. Would they ridicule her for needing a teacher to introduce her? For having only started to learn the guitar? For being too quiet? Too nervous? To be honest, that fear crossed my mind as well, but I had spent enough time with these students to know that they were better than that.

“Of course! We’re always looking for new members!”

********************

It was the high school fairy tale that almost every teacher dreamed about: teacher finds neglected, underperforming student; teacher finds and ignites student’s passion in learning; student makes new friends at school thanks to newly discovered interest; student lives happily ever after.

By the time springtime came around at West Fillydelphia High, it had seemed that Sunset had reached that last stage now that she had befriended almost the entire music club. I was surprised that we kept up our regular lessons even after she joined the music club, as I had expected and resigned myself to the fate of having less and less importance in her life now that she had friends her own age. And yet, three times a week I would still find her waiting outside my classroom door, eager for another lesson.

Truth be told, I was relieved that our lessons continued unabated for the moment; a part of me had grown to look forward to our time together, and the thought that one day she would no longer need my tutelage saddened me. She was in her senior year, so it was inevitable that she’d graduate and go out into the world to begin the next chapter of her life. But that came with the territory for a teacher: every year started with new faces, and ended with bittersweet farewells. I found solace in the reminder that there would always be another Sunset Shimmer just around the corner.

“Ms. Celestia?”

It was lunchtime at the school when Sunset’s voice snapped me from an engrossing train of thought that left me staring a hole through my reheated casserole. I had intended for it to be a working lunch so that I could finish grading some quizzes, but the fact that less than a tenth were done attested to how much my plans had gone awry.

“Sunset, what are you doing here? You should be off having lunch with your friends.” Despite my frayed thought process, I couldn’t help but feel a small tinge of relief in a friendly face.

“Just because I have some friends now doesn’t mean we can’t have lunch together once in a while,” Sunset answered with a hint of whimsical amusement. As she approached my desk, I noticed she had her lunch bag in hand. “You said you had something you needed to discuss with me, so why not kill two birds with one stone?”

“I meant discuss with you after school. You didn’t need to go out of your way just for this,” I insisted, but nonetheless felt grateful for the company.

Indifferent to my remarks, Sunset pulled up a chair and took a seat opposite of me. By the time she finished unpacking her lunch, I had realized that I couldn’t muster up the will to turn her away, even if she was interrupting my work.

“You’re the one who kept insisting I not eat alone, so why should you be any different?” she answered back with a playful smirk. It was brief, though, as she suddenly looked away with an uneasy look. “Plus, you seemed a little… distracted during homeroom today. I was a little worried.”

I was taken aback by Sunset’s concern, not just for the sentiment itself but because I was normally much better at keeping problems at home from spilling into my professional life. Either I was getting sloppy, or she was becoming very observant of me.

“I didn’t realize it showed that badly,” I said with a wary, sheepish smile. “But it’s nothing you need to concern yourself about. Just a little… trouble on the homefront.”

Sunset clearly wasn’t interested in buying anything that I was selling. She gave me a sardonic stare and quipped, “It’s Sombra again, isn’t it?”

She was right on the money, and my dismayed groan when I buried my face into my palms was all the confirmation she needed. Were she any of my other workplace colleagues, I wouldn’t have felt the same reservation about airing my personal problems so openly, but to do so in front of a student made me uneasy. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself, but it was more likely that I just didn’t want to paint myself in a bad light in front of Sunset Shimmer. I was more worried about what she might think of me as a person rather than a teacher.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Sunset asked in an attempt to break the silence.

“It’s… complicated.” It wasn’t, but I was grasping for any excuse to save face.

“That’s what my parents say whenever they just don’t want to explain things to me.”

I had no idea if that were true, but it did trigger my aversion to doing anything that her parents would. I had no choice but to confess. “I… I think Sombra might be seeing somebody else,” I blurted out before I could second-guess myself into silence.

“What?! No way!” It took Sunset a moment to realize that she should’ve kept her voice down, which prompted her to hastily clasp a hand over her mouth and lean in closer. “What makes you think that?” she whispered. “Does this have to do with him always working so late?”

“Maybe. I don’t know,” I answered, keeping my voice low as well. I didn’t want to burden Sunset with this knowledge, but once I got started talking about it, it felt like somebody had turned my anxiety dial up to eleven. “I mean, it’s gotten better lately, but he’s more secretive about it now. He’ll go out at late hours in the night without even telling me, and he’ll take calls on his phone but leave the room before saying anything.”

“Have you tried following him?”

“I’m not tailing my husband,” I snapped back, aghast. “This is real life, not some Prancy Drew novel.”

Sunset just raised an eyebrow, which made me immediately feel old and dated when I realized she had no idea who I was referring to. Had it flown any higher over her head, one would’ve been able to hear the sound of jet engines.

I let out a weary sigh as the shame washed over me. “I peeked at his cell phone and found a bunch of text messages on it. He’s apparently been having ‘secret’ meetings with the same person for weeks now. The messages never say much, but it’s always got things like ‘come alone’ and ‘everyone’s away right now’, and he keeps calling her ‘mi amore’.”

At first, I had expected Sunset’s interest in the subject to wane as it became apparent this was just some ‘grown-up’ issue, until I remembered that talks of relationships and infidelity made up about half of the gossip amongst the students. At least I didn’t have to worry about Sunset spreading it to every set of ears in a hundred meter radius. Even with the realization that this could’ve been a gossip gold mine, my pupil appeared to consider the information with the diligence and maturity one would’ve expected from an adult. Rather than ridicule or amusement, she regarded me with a visible concern I would’ve expected from my closest of friends.

“Are you okay?” she asked, straight to the point.

I hunched forward, cradling my head in both hands as if all of my worries decided to come crashing down at that moment. “I don’t know anymore. I keep telling myself that it can’t possibly be what it looks like, and that there’s a logical explanation for it all that I’m just not aware of yet.”

“Maybe there is, but that won’t change the fact that he’s meeting somebody in secret. Unless there’s a surprise party involved, nothing good ever comes from going behind your partner’s back,” Sunset speculated. It was hard to deny the logic, but it was hard for me to think of my husband in such a negative light. What’s more, I began to worry that bringing up homelife problems with a student could undermine Sombra’s authority as the school’s vice principal. Her disgust was palpable as she folded her arms and made a showy huff. “You should confront him,” she announced with a pointed wave of her fork. “Frankly, you deserve somebody who treats you with respect. If I were Sombra, everytime I had to stay late at work, I’d make sure to come home with a big box of chocolates or a bouquet to apologize! Maybe a shoulder massage just for extra measure.”

At least she was passionate in her support, which was a stark contrast to the listless, apathetic teenager I met at the start of the school year. While her words failed to assuage the worst of my anxieties, it did offer some reassurance in validating my fears; it wasn’t just me ‘overthinking things.’

“With compassion like that, I’m sure you’ll make some boy very happy one day,” I remarked with a quiet chuckle to myself.

“Please,” Sunset scoffed at the notion before unceremoniously shoveling a wad of kale and romaine into her mouth. “Boys are gross,” she declared, still with a mouthful of lettuce. “And stupid. And selfish. Plus they smell bad.”

I couldn’t help but chortle at her sudden, juvenile display. It was always amusing to see her wild swings between mature perspectives and childish responses. If anything, it kept things from ever getting boring.

“They still have their good points. I’m sure that in time, you’ll come to appreciate them.”

Sunset sticking out her tongue and blowing a raspberry in my general direction surmised her opinion on the matter.

As cathartic as it was to give air to some of my personal grievances, the professional in me insisted that I keep such matters away from my workplace. Thus, the momentary distraction brought about by the subject of boys gave me the opportunity to steer the conversation to warmer waters. Though I had earlier said it could wait until later, the reason I wanted to talk to her in the first place provided an easy out for me.

“Well, since I have you here, there’s no point in waiting until after school to bring this up,” I segued into the new line of discussion. “You’ve heard about the Math Olympics, right?”

Sunset raised an eyebrow whilst sipping away at a box of juice. “You mean that thing where all the nerds get together and answer math questions for nerd points in order to crown one of them King Nerd?”

“I’m noticing something of a negative stigma you’ve attached to it,” I remarked with a hint of disappointment. “Either way, the big competition begins at the end of the month, and I’ve been asked to help with the prep sessions. I was hoping that you could participate in the competition this year.”

“What? Me?” Sunset exclaimed, almost spilling her drink in the process. “Y-you can’t be serious. Do I look like a math nerd to you?”

I gave her a reassuring, but knowing, smile. “No, but you do look like one of the top five best math students in the school. I dare say that if you had been performing at your best since the start of the year, you’d be the top student in the school.”

Her boisterous charm fell silent in a heartbeat, her head dropping as modesty and embarrassment spread from ear to ear. It might’ve been a bit excessive, but it got her attention. “Y-you really want me on the team?”

“I’d like it if you could join us.”

Her wavering, uncertain gaze flicked back and forth between me and her half-eaten lunch for what felt like the longest ten seconds of my life. “Well, I guess if you’re helping the team prepare, then it wouldn’t be so bad,” she eventually concluded. “When would these prep sessions be held?”

“After school on Wednesdays and Fridays until the competition.”

“What?” came the expected cry of disbelief. “But that’s the same time as our guitar lessons!” Her mouth hung open, and I could tell she had more she wanted to say. Something held her tongue, though, or maybe she didn’t know quite how to phrase what she felt. Either way, what her words failed to convey, the pleading look in her eyes did not. I hadn’t anticipated quite this level of attachment, but I came prepared.

“It’s only for a few weeks, Sunset,” I reasoned with her. “And it’s not like we’ll be seeing less of each other; we’ll just be doing something different during that time.”

“But that’s not the same,” she whined. “T-there’ll be other people. It… it won’t be just the two of us.”

“Well then… how about we meet on the weekends?” I asked after a frantic scramble for a workable solution.

“Would it be okay to meet at your place?” Sunset asked. “It’d be… kinda hard to hide it from my parents if we met at mine.”

In hindsight, I should’ve been able to see the signs sooner, but at the time, I was too fixated on keeping her happy and involved with the school. And when I saw her eyes light up at my suggestion, the only thing I could think of was, ‘where’s the harm in any of this?’ It would only be for a few weekends, after all; things would be back to normal in no time at all.

“Sure. It’s only for a few weeks; it shouldn’t be a problem.”

********************

“What is this?”

I was left momentarily stunned, but that was an understandable response as I didn’t expect to be confronted by my husband in the middle of our kitchen. He held aloft a sheet of paper, which only caused me more confusion when I recognized it as its purpose shouldn’t have provoked such a look of discontent from Sombra.

“It’s a request for short term leave,” I answered bluntly. “Were you looking through my things?”

“It was sticking out of your bag,” he answered back. His guard was still up, which only worried me further. Why would he feel the need to be agitated over this? “But that doesn’t matter, since you’d have to hand the form to me anyways.”

“Yes, but on Monday when we’re at work.” Despite my annoyance, I began to suspect that I was going to be grateful that this conversation happened at home rather than in his office. “Is there a problem with my request? I’ve already spoken with one of our usual substitutes and he’s available to fill in for me.”

“It’s the reason why that’s the issue,” he said as he pointed to the bottom field on the paperwork, wherein I wrote down the purpose to my request. “Why are you taking time off to go to the Math Olympics district finals? You were only needed to assist with preparations; you don’t need to accompany the team.”

“I’m not going there in the capacity of a teacher.”

Sombra slammed the form on the nearby counter, his face contorting in barely-restrained fury. Despite his appearance, though, I could tell this ire was not directed at me. We’ve had our arguments in the past; I’ve seen him angry at me before. Instead, this appeared to be directed at the situation as a whole, like a man cursing the cruelties of fate. “It’s because of her again, isn’t it? That Sunset Shimmer girl!”

Though I knew the malice was not intended for me, the venom in which he spoke Sunset’s name unsettled me all the same. I needed to keep calm, however; and I reminded myself that this was just his anger speaking.

“It’s a two-day event in another city; her parents aren’t able to attend, so she asked me to come along instead.”

He sighed and fell silent for a moment, giving me a brief glimmer of hope that he was coming around. As he meandered through the kitchen, hand brushing through thick locks of ebony hair, I only grew more anxious as it became apparent that this was just worried pacing for him. He eventually stopped next to one of the dining chairs, setting his hands against the backrest as he stooped forward ever so slightly. It was a posture that I had seen him take a hundred times before with students; I never imagined I would be on the receiving end of it.

“I think you’ve been spending far too much time with that child,” he started in an ice-cold tone that alarmed me far more than his anger ever could.

I wasn’t about to be intimidated, not as a teacher or as a wife. Slamming my hand down on the table, I leaned in to meet his steely gaze in kind. “If I am, it is only because the people who should be supporting her have failed in their duties.”

He paused to take a deep breath; a clear sign he was trying to keep himself calm. Had I been a student, he probably would’ve started shouting already. “People are starting to take notice, Celestia; they’re starting to talk.”

“I wouldn’t have pegged you as the type to put much stock into rumours,” I remarked in disbelief. “I’m providing the student with the support and encouragement she needs to succeed. I thought that’s what teachers were supposed to do.”

“It’s one thing to help a struggling student with extracurriculars and supplemental lessons, but you’ve been doting over her for months, and now you’ve been inviting her into our home! What would people say if they find out about that?”

“Who cares what they think!” I snapped back. “We’re teachers; our job is to help students, especially the ones who need it the most. What do I need to do to prove to you that nothing inappropriate or unethical is happening? I’m not like your predecessor.”

“It’s not about what is or isn’t happening, it’s about how things look,” Sombra warned me with growing impatience. “We’ve already had one scandal fall upon us; we can’t afford even the appearance of impropriety!” His knuckles were beginning to turn white, which should’ve been a sign for me to tone back the rhetoric a bit, but since when did people think rationally in an argument?

“I’m not going to abandon her!”

“For god’s sake, Tia, I know you’re crazy for one, but she’s not your child!”

“Well maybe that wouldn’t be a problem if you could just give me one already!”

I knew saying that was a mistake the second the words left my mouth. The brief flicker of pain, of betrayal, across my husband’s face was the firm backhand of reality I needed to knock some sense back into me. There were lines that you just weren’t supposed to cross with the people you loved, and I took a running leap at it. Letting out a heavy sigh, I felt all willingness to fight leave upon my breath. I was still upset, but now left too emotionally spent to feel or act upon it.

“Sombra, I—”

“I’m going for a walk.”

Though his words were cold and resolute, I could sense that he was just hiding the pain underneath; a pain he didn’t dare to show in front of me. As he marched for the door, I knew I should’ve stopped him, but I convinced myself that he just needed some time to calm down so I could reason with him. He was in the wrong; he had to be.

Looking back, I wasn’t nearly as grown-up as I always thought I was. I was far too naive; too certain in my own infallibility simply because I had done everything right so far in life under my own guidance. Besides, I loved my husband, I loved being a teacher, I loved helping my students, and I loved Sunset Shimmer.

How could I possibly be wrong?