• Published 17th Nov 2014
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Crystal's Wishes - Crystal Wishes

Crystal Wishes thought she was content just writing about ponies falling in love. While her career takes off, her love life is somewhat... lacking. Can she be happy living vicariously through her stories or will she find her own happily ever after?

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The Trembling Truth

The next day, Crystal Wishes dragged her hooves as she walked to Canterlot Elementary. She hadn't been able to write anything the night before, plagued with indecision about the disparity between her interest in writing and her desire to have a friend. She headed straight for the classroom, and her ears fell when the seat beside hers was empty.

Certain that she had flubbed the brand new friendship, she slumped against her desk and sighed.

"Crystal!" the bubbly voice of Velvet chirped rather suddenly, startling Crystal upright. "Oh my gosh, you were right!"

"I was?" Crystal blinked at Velvet, whose face was almost uncomfortably close to her own. She blinked again when a book was shoved in the small space between them: Prima Donna and the Mansion Mystery.

"I read this book by Rose Quartz! I borrowed it from the library after you left, and read it last night, and I couldn't put it down! It was amazing! There's this pony who's an earth pony just like me, but she went on this awesome adventure and, and, and it felt like I was the pony!"

Crystal stared at the cover with uncertainty for a moment. A lithe earth pony mare stood on one hindleg, the other arched back to touch her forelegs stretched over her head, her whole body forming a near perfect circle. Silky curtains fluttered behind her with devious eyes peering from behind them.

Slowly, the book was lowered and she watched the excitement plastered on Velvet's face start to deflate from the lack of a response.

"Um, so," Velvet continued, the joy in her voice fading away, "I just wanted to say, reading is really fun, so thanks, and I'm sorry."

So many thoughts raced through Crystal's mind. Velvet went out and got a book to read? Why? Because of her? The idea filled her with more excitement than she'd ever felt before and a smile crept across her muzzle. "Did you really like it that much?"

Velvet perked back up. "Uh-huh! Prima Donna is so cool! By day she dances ballet and by night she fights crime!" She heaved a dreamy sigh. "I wish I could be her." She flushed, shook her head, and moved over to her seat beside Crystal's. "It's a shame I have to give it back to the library when I'm done. I wish I could keep it forever!"

"If you want, um." Crystal trailed off, her insecurity bubbling up in her chest. She shook her head to chase the feeling away. "I have all the books in that series at home. I can bring you the next book in the series tomorrow, if you want."

Velvet stared at her, eyes wide. "You—There—" She looked down at the book in her hooves. "This is a series? You mean, there's more?!"

Crystal laughed. "There's, like, twelve more!"

Velvet's eyes fluttered and she looked as though she might faint. She made a small squealing sound and hugged the book even closer to her chest. "So awesome! I want to read them all!"

"Settle down, my little ponies," Ms. Tutor called as she walked into the room. She started each day with the same look of hope for the lessons that would eventually subside into defeat. "Let's get class started."

The months went by in a happy blur for Crystal and Velvet. They would hang out at Quills and Sofas after school, where Velvet would talk about Manehattan or they'd discuss Prima Donna. Sometimes, Velvet would even try to mimic her new idol, striking various ballet poses and fighting invisible criminals.

After lessons were over one particular day, Velvet turned to Crystal as they started to pack up and head to the door. "So," she started cautiously, "it's my birthday next week, and I was wondering if, maybe, um—if you'd want to have a sleepover at my place."

Crystal gasped. "Your birthday?!" She bounced with every step, a big grin spreading across her face. "Definitely! Absolutely! I'll be there!"

"Great! My parents are trying to invite all our classmates, but I don't think they'll show up, and I wanted to invite you myself before you heard about it from—"

A honey-laden voice interrupted, "Good afternoon, sugarlump!"

Velvet's joy soured. "—them."

Standing outside the school were two simple-looking earth ponies, both of them holding colorful invitations that they passed out to every filly and colt that walked out the doors.

The mare's blue eyes widened with excitement, the blonde curls of her up-do bouncing as she trotted to greet them. "Ooh! Sweetums! Is this the little filly you were telling us about?"

Velvet winced as she glanced between them all. "Yeah, Mom, this is Crystal Wishes."

"Hello, Crystal! Thank you so much for being our little girl's friend!" Velvet's mother leaned down closer to her.

"Mom!" Velvet whined, trying to put herself between them. "Could you please not thank ponies just for being my friend?"

The mare waved a hoof. "Oh, sweetie, she knows I didn't mean it in a bad way." She smiled and returned her attention to Crystal, continuing, "I'm Sunbeam and this is my husband, Pepper Ridge. It's so nice that our baby girl made a friend on her very first day, and especially one who doesn't have a cutie mark!" She beamed innocently at Velvet. "Not having one is all the rage here in Canterlot, sugarpop!"

Crystal's cheeks puffed as she tried to contain her laughter. When she saw that Velvet looked as though she might cry, die of embarrassment, or possibly both, Crystal choked down her giggles and smiled sweetly. "It's really nice to meet you, Mrs. Sunbeam and Mr. Ridge!"

Pepper Ridge, whose demeanor was more relaxed as he stood beside his bubbly wife, held out one of the invitations. "You must come to Velvet's birthday party. It wouldn't be the same without you!"

"I'll be there for sure!" She hugged Velvet and whispered in her ear, "I promise I'll come, even if your parents are weird." As she pulled back from the embrace, she said, louder this time, "I'll see you tomorrow, Velvet!" She finally released her pent-up giggle and bounded off toward home.

Could life get any better? Crystal hummed to herself, a skip in her step. She had a friend who had nice parents that weren't like anypony else's in Canterlot. Maybe even all of Equestria!

When she arrived home, she discovered a note taped to the front door that read:

Crystal — we are out for a quick dinner at the Toity residence. We will likely not be back until dinner. Summer is nearly upon us, so please set the table accordingly to refresh your memory of social graces.

Crystal groaned and turned the knob, her spirits dissipating like a snuffed candle flame. Summer meant charm school, and charm school meant hours of intense boredom. She knew all about proper society already! Her mother had made sure of that years ago.

As she levitated plates and silverware from the china cabinet to the dining table, she mimicked her mother's voice. "The plate must be positioned so that the pattern faces its diner." She set the plates down and folded the napkin to rest in their centers.

The forks—salad, then dinner—went to the left of the plates; the knives, teaspoons, and soup spoons went to the right. It was so arbitrary. Why did any of it matter? The food would taste the same no matter the order the utensils were in. But, if she didn't get everything perfect, she'd have to do it over and over again for hours until her mother was satisfied.

Once she begrudgingly finished setting the table, she broke out into a gallop to hurry up the stairs, then took a right to head into her parents' room. She rummaged through the hope chest sitting at the foot of their bed, moving aside family photo albums and foal blankets until she found an old journal at the bottom. "Bingo!" She hopped up onto the bed, the journal floating after her.

Carefully, she set the journal in front of her and opened it. The book showed its age with a worn spine, but the finely inked writing was still quite legible. Crystal took a deep intake of air, slowly let it out, and fondly read aloud.

Dear Diary: It's me again. I just don't know what to do. I don't think any of the cool stallions in my class will ever like me. I'm stuck wearing these braces until after I leave Canterlot Academy. Braces are definitely not cool, no matter what I accessorize with to try and distract from them.

Crystal paused to look over at the chest. She raised a yearbook from it, which she laid beside the journal and opened to a specific page. There, in the class roster, was her mother: an awkward, average-looking young mare with bright, shiny braces and over-sized earrings. She giggled at the sight and returned to the diary, flipping forward a few pages.

Dear Diary: You won't believe what happened! Jet Set asked me out to the Fall Formal! What am I going to wear? What am I going to do about these braces? What if he tries to kiss me?! I'm so nervous… and excited.

She looked back at the yearbook, this time focusing on her father. He hadn't changed much since his youth despite how many years had gone by. He was even wearing a sweater tied around his neck, just like he did every day.

She giggled and turned a few pages to the pictures from the Fall Formal, where her parents had been voted the Queen and King. Upper Crust was wearing an over-the-top gown, but the look on her face was pure and simple: she was in love with the stallion she was gazing at.

Crystal flopped over onto her side with a heavy sigh. "Oh, I never get tired of this story!" She rested her hoof on the journal. "It has everything! True love! A common mare rising up from the shadows to be with her stallion! They live happily ever after, perfect for each other!"

She paused, then rolled her eyes. "And then they have the coolest daughter in all of Equestria, just like them. Or—not."

The yearbook returned to the hope chest, but she was lost reading the diary for hours until she heard the front door open. As quickly as she could, she put the diary back at the bottom of the chest, moved the blankets and albums over it, and closed the lid.

"Hello?" her father called. "Dear? We're home!"

Crystal just barely made it out of their room before they started up the stairs. She trotted over to peer down at them. "Welcome home!"

Jet Set smiled. "Your mother found the most darling dress. We heard that you're invited to a birthday party next week—"

Crystal frowned curiously, then rolled her eyes. Why was she even surprised? They knew every event, big or small, that was happening anywhere in Canterlot, ever.

"—and we had to make sure you are the best-dressed pony there. We knew you'd not want to go in any of your old party dresses."

Jet Set smiled as Upper Crust presented the dress with haughty pride, though it was wrapped in a protective cover.

Crystal gave a strained smile despite the urge to groan. "Oh, thank you, Mom and Dad. That's exactly what I was hoping for!"

Upper Crust's magic carried the dress alongside her as she walked up the stairs and into Crystal's room to hang it up. "Now, make sure you don't get it wrinkled before the party, darling."

"Yes, Mom." She hopped down the stairs but stopped halfway when Jet Set cleared his throat.

"Be a dear and go back to the top of the steps to try that again, Crystal."

She groaned. "Yes, Dad." She walked back up, turned to face the stairs, then raised her chin. With prim and proper poise, she delicately dropped each hoof without a sound on each step as she walked down, gaze upward and expression blank—save for a slight, irritated furrow of her brow.

Jet Set clapped his hooves together. "Much better, dear. You'll be the belle of the ball!"

When she reached the bottom, her poise fell and she frowned. "But it's not a ball. It's a birthday party, and it's not even my birthday."

"Ah, ah, ah, shh." He patted her on the head. "Every social gathering is an opportunity to make us proud."

"Right." Crystal feigned a smile. "I won't let you and Mom down, I promise. Cross my heart and hope to cry, else I'll live in a pig's sty."

"That's a good girl. Come along now, let's have dinner."

"Crystal!" Velvet cried as she burst into the classroom, then panted and gasped for air. The rest of her words came out as a high-pitched wheeze as she exclaimed, "We have an emergency! A really, really big emergency!"

Crystal's eyes widened. "What happened?!"

"Everypony is coming!" Velvet sprung into the air, as if the declaration took physical effort to say.

"Huh?" Crystal blinked.

Velvet waved her forelegs and stared at Crystal with wide, frantic eyes. "Everypony in our class is coming to my birthday! I thought none of them would want to come, because, like, none of them are even my friends, and it would just be you and me, and—"

"Of course they're going to come." Crystal stared at her with a blank expression, then sighed. "It's an event. Canterlot ponies have to go to every event they can. It's, like, um, well—It's their thing."

Velvet sat down at her desk, despair dragging her face down. "But I don't want everypony to come. I just wanted to have a sleepover with you. Now it's going to be awful and ruined and I just want to cancel the whole darn thing!"

Crystal blinked a few times at the sentiment. She flushed lightly and giggled, waving her hooves. "We can have a sleepover anytime, though!"

"Really?" Velvet's ears perked upright.

"Um, yes? I mean, I think so." Crystal paused, then nodded and added with more certainty in her voice, "Yeah, of course we can. That's what friends do and we're friends!"

"Oh." Velvet shifted almost uncomfortably. "So then, after this horrible birthday, we can have a sleepover?"

Crystal nodded. "Sure!"

Velvet sighed and slumped against her desk. "This is going to be the worst birthday ever in the history of birthdays."

"Maybe it won't be so bad." Crystal tried to give her a reassuring smile.

With perfect timing—after all, Canterlot foals were well-trained by their parents in the art of always listening for juicy gossip—Golden Pants turned in her seat to beam at Velvet. "Velvet Step! I'm really looking forward to your birthday tomorrow. I just can't wait to see your house!"

Velvet responded with the strangled sound of a whimper. Crystal noticed a distinct look of dread on Velvet's face, but before she could try to comfort her, Ms. Tutor walked into the room and everypony fell silent.

Crystal flicked one ear and managed to make eye contact with Velvet, then mouthed, "Are you okay?"

"No," Velvet's eyes said with the way they were on the verge of tears and how her lower lip trembled.

After a quick glance to see that the teacher was focused on the blackboard, Crystal reached across the aisle to give Velvet a quick but reassuring pat on the shoulder. Was she embarrassed about her parents? Or maybe it was her house, since Golden had brought it up.

Oh, wait—Crystal got it. It was because Velvet didn't have a house, not exactly; they lived in a small condo in Sunshine Villas. It was a nice enough neighborhood with a few trees between each brightly colored building, but it wasn't where rich ponies lived. Rich ponies didn't even visit there if they could avoid it.

Crystal sighed lightly. Well, it was too late to do anything about it now. She would just have to make sure she was extra attentive to Velvet to try and keep her birthday from being a total disaster. It would be fine. What was the worst that could happen, anyway?

Okay, Crystal could easily think of a few things, but she tried to push them out of her mind and hope for the best. In reality, she knew that whenever her classmates were involved, the best she could hope for was just not the worst.

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