• Published 24th May 2015
  • 2,491 Views, 150 Comments

Learning Curve - Jack of a Few Trades

Cheerilee's new teaching career tests her passion for education when she must teach a student who is unable to learn.

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Chapter Seven: House Call

“Where’s Aura?”

The students in the classroom seemed to shy away from the question, everypony avoiding eye contact with Cheerilee.

“Can anypony tell me where Aura is?” Cheerilee added a bit of firmness to her tone. The class still did not respond. A slight tinge of worry was starting to edge its way into her stomach.

“Rumble, do you know where Aura went?” The colt shrank back in his chair at the mention of his name. The entire class was beginning to look more and more guilty the longer they avoided looking her in the eyes.

The tinge of concern began twisting itself into frustration. “I know you are hiding something from me, and I will not have you lie to me. If somepony doesn’t fess up, the entire class will have detention tomorrow.”

At once, every single pony in the room was staring straight up at her. One hoof raised, then two, then four.

“Apple Bloom, would you please tell me where Aura went?”

“Well, you see…” Apple Bloom scratched the back of her head, pausing in what looked to be hesitation. “She just kinda... ran off.”

“What do you mean, ‘she just ran off’?!” Cheerilee barked. Apple Bloom seemed to shy away from her a bit, as well as the students around her.

“I don’t know. She just ran away from the playground after she got hit with a dodgeball,” said Apple Bloom, glancing to her left as she shifted in her chair.

“Did she say where she was going?”

“No ma’am, she just ran off without a word.” Apple Bloom was awfully fast on the response, Cheerilee noticed. Well this was just perfect. Not even one day after she talked to the doctor, Aura turned up missing from class. It looked like she was going to have to go out and loo—

Right. She couldn’t exactly leave the class unattended to go searching for a runaway filly. Who knows where she might have gone off to?

Of course, that’s what was worrying about it. Where had Aura gone? Had she put herself into any sort of danger? What if she was hurt, or maybe even ponynapped?

Without thinking about it, Cheerilee realized that she had slowly made her way towards the door as she deliberated about the situation. She desperately wanted to go search for Aura, but the problem of what to do about her class still loomed, overshadowing the problem of the missing filly.

Maybe it wasn’t her problem to remedy, now that it had escaped her.

With a sigh, Cheerilee returned to her desk. She still had a job to do, regardless of where Aura had gone off to.

“I guess class must go on. For math today, we have a packet that we will work on together,” Cheerilee said, a bit of reluctance behind her words. She picked up the stack of papers and carried it across to Apple Bloom’s desk, leaving it to the children to distribute the papers.

As she walked towards the chalkboard, her gaze remained locked on the door, as if some little part of her hoped that Aura would come back in at any moment.

The final bell rang, and with it came the accompanying rush of children down the steps and out into the afternoon sunshine. As the joyous din from the students faded into the distance, the schoolhouse door opened once more. Cheerilee stepped out with just as much vigor as the foals before her, locking the door with a bit more fumbling for the keyhole than usual. She started down the path at a trot, dropping the key back into her saddlebags without breaking stride.

19 Alfalfa Street.

The address had been burned into her brain for the entire afternoon. While the students were doing math on their own, she had dug out the list of home addresses for the class and found Aura’s. If she remembered right, Alfalfa Street was on the east end of Ponyville.

She crossed the bridge over one of the streams that ran through town, coming to the first intersection on the other side. Instead of heading straight, which would take her to Aura’s address, she turned right, down the street that she lived on.

She needed to get something.

Sugarcube Corner loomed ahead like a monster that she was getting ready to have to fight. She hadn’t talked to Pinkie Pie once since her “Very Special Welcome Back to Ponyville Party” two weeks prior. Knowing the pink mare, that was far too long to not catch up. If she saw Cheerilee outside, it would mean a conversation that she frankly did not have time for.

As she neared the bakery, the smell of fresh cookies that always wafted from the kitchen seemed suddenly foreboding, and she almost wished she had taken the long way around to avoid Pinkie.

Too late now. Keeping her stride quick enough to pass the bakery in short order yet not fast enough to draw attention, Cheerilee pressed forward into the small square around Sugarcube Corner. The window to the upstairs loft was open, but thankfully there was no pink mare in it to see her go by. The freedom of the road ahead of her called, and she added just a touch more speed to her pace. Out in front of the bakery, she took a look and saw that there were a few ponies lined up out the door.

Pinkie Pie is probably busy. Cheerilee sighed in relief, the tension in her step relaxing significantly. She rounded the corner in front of the shop and ducked down the road to her house. She arrived at her doorstep shortly thanks to her quick pace, and she fished out her keys and put them into the lock.

That’s odd.

The door was already unlocked. She was quite sure that she had locked it on her way out that morning. With trepidation, she curled her fetlock around the handle, depressing the lever with cautionary reservation. She eased the door open, allowing herself just a small peek into the foyer.

It looked to be exactly the way she had left it. Surely a burglar would have rifled through the boxes still there in search of something valuable. Maybe she had just forgotten to lock the door after all. She pushed the door open the rest of the way, stepping into the foyer with a bit of caution in her movements. She looked into the kitchen and the den, neither showing any signs of being disturbed.

“Hello?” Cheerilee called.

“Up here!” answered a voice from upstairs that she instantly recognized.

But why was her dad in her house? Cheerilee took off her saddlebags and set them down next to the doorway. She hurried up the stairs and into the bedroom.

There was one certainly new thing in the room. Chisel Point was on a stepladder on the near-side wall, using a screwdriver on a large, rather ornate bookcase.

“Surprise!” Chisel exclaimed as Cheerilee stepped through the doorway.

“Dad, what is this?” Cheerilee couldn’t stop herself from grinning.

“It’s a bookcase! I’ve been working on it for the last few months. I wanted to have it ready for you when you moved in, but the glass pieces for the shelf covers got delayed from the manufacturer.” Chisel clambered down from the stool, taking a few more more steps backwards to admire his handiwork. He nodded to himself before he looked to Cheerilee expectantly, “So, what do you think?”

“Oh my goodness, it’s beautiful!” Cheerilee took that as her cue to step forward and give it a closer inspection. The case had five shelves in it, each with glass door that flipped down to cover the shelf and protect it from dust. A simple moulding went around on all sides of the front, each side transitioning to a much more intricately carved design in the corners. Cheerilee slid one of the covers out from their retracted position at the top of each shelf space, swinging it down into place on the front.

The glass window was etched with a white lineart design of her cutie mark. Cheerilee couldn’t help the few tears that ran down her cheeks as she pulled her father into a hug.

“I take it you like it?” he asked, the question slightly disturbing the mood.

“I love it, Dad. Thank you so much!”

Chisel Point returned the hug, “You’re welcome, swe—”

Before he could finish speaking, Cheerilee broke the embrace. “I really hate having to run like this, but I’m in a huge hurry right now.” She trotted over to a box on the wall near her desk and retrieved a well-worn piece of artwork from it, followed by a pamphlet and a packet of stapled papers. She carefully slipped them into her saddlebags as she walked back to the doorway. “Do you think we could do dinner later this week?”

“Uh, sure! That sounds good to me.”

“Great! Bye Dad!” With that, Cheerilee bounded back down the stairs. Chisel stayed still, listening intently until he heard the click of the door’s latch in the foyer.

“See you next week,” he grumbled to himself, kicking a piece of packing material lightly with his hoof. He looked to the bookcase, standing proudly after months of hard work and planning.

“I should’ve gone with a darker stain.”

Four-fifteen. I really hope somepony is home.

Cheerilee knocked three times on the front door of Aura’s house. Just to make sure she had the address right, she leaned back and looked at the numbers on the front of the house one more time.

Seconds passed, and no response came from inside. After thirty seconds, Cheerilee rang the doorbell. Perhaps they just hadn’t heard the knock.

A faint bit of chatter from the other side of the door perked her ears. Bingo. Several more seconds passed before the lock finally turned and the door opened with a gentle touch. A pink mare with green curly hair and a tail styled just like Nook’s stood in the doorway, a seemingly cautious smile on her face.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“Hello, my name is Cheerilee, and I’m the teacher at the Ponyville Schoolhouse.” The mare’s face seemed to sink at that revelation, like she knew what was coming next. “I came to tell you that there was an incident with your daughter, Aura, at school today. May I come in?”

“Yes, please,” the mare said. Her voice seemed just a bit more upbeat than her facial expression, and now that Cheerilee stepped forward, she could see faint darkness under her eyes.

Cheerilee stepped into the foyer, and the first thing she noticed was the sheer number of potted plants inside the house. It seemed like every single available place had a flower or small herb plant growing in it. The house was a bit larger than Cheerilee’s, but the layout was similar, with a kitchen to the right and the stairs straight ahead. A tabby cat was lounging on the fourth step of the stairs, eyeing her with mild interest.

“Wow, you have a lot of flowers,” Cheerilee commented.

“I’m sorry about the mess. I’m working on getting a flower shop opened up right now, so I’ve got a bit more around here than I’d like to have.”

“Oh wow, you have Yarrows?” Cheerilee gravitated towards the pot containing a clump of tall, spindly, white flowers.

“I imported the seeds for those from Zebrica,” replied the mare, a bit of a smile showing up on her face. “I have a little bit of hope that they’ll be a popular sell, that is once I finally hear back from Town Hall about getting the proper permits.”

“I’d love to buy some from you then. My mom always had some of these growing in a window planter when I was growing up.”

“Oh, silly me! I never even introduced myself. I’m Daisy,” said the mare, extending a hoof out. Cheerilee noticed the two daisies that made up her cutie mark as she came closer to shake her hoof.

“It’s nice to meet you, Daisy. However, I’m afraid that my visit is not a very pleasant one. It’s about Aura.”

“I was afraid of that. Has she been having trouble with another child?” Daisy’s seemingly calm attitude told Cheerilee that this wasn’t exactly the first time Aura had an issue.

“Well…” Cheerilee bit her lip. This was probably not going to end well. “I was hoping you might have seen her this afternoon.”

“She’s upstairs in her room, why do you ask?” Daisy’s brow furrowed and her tone became a bit more pointed.

Cheerilee hesitated for a moment, kicking a hoof at the floor. “Well, Aura seems to have skipped out on school today.”

“Oh,” Daisy said, her eyes lighting with a bit of fire behind them. “Aura! Get down here this minute!”

“Coming mommy!” came a muffled call from upstairs.

Relief coursed through Cheerilee’s chest as the scramble of little hoofsteps came from upstairs. The little mauve filly appeared at the top of the stairs, hopping down them in perhaps the most perfect display of innocence that Cheerilee had ever seen. However, as she neared the halfway point of her descent, her eyes went wide, and her pace slowed considerably as she caight sight of Cheerliee. Aura stepped around the cat, and slowly made her way down the final three steps. She finally took her gaze off of Cheerilee and made eye contact with her mother, who was giving the filly a particularly intense stare.

“Little filly, what do you have to say for yourself?” Daisy prompted. Aura was shrinking back under the glare, but remained silent.

“Aura, would you like to tell me why you skipped class today?” Cheerilee asked, her tone much more sweet than Daisy’s. Cheerilee thought to herself that this was a sort of impromptu good cop/bad cop routine.

Aura began looking back and forth between the two of them faster and faster, biting her lower lip in terror. After a moment, she sighed in defeat.

“Because I didn’t want to go to school.” Her ears laid back, and her head drooped as she waited for what was coming.

“Aura, why would you not want to go to school?” Daisy asked.

I think I might be able to answer that question, thought Cheerilee.

“Because school is boring here, and all of my friends are back in Vanhoofer.” Aura’s voice was much quieter now, and she did not look either mare in the eye when she spoke.

Cheerliee’s eyebrow raised up in suspicion. It wasn’t a totally impossible reason. In college, they had taught that students who move from one place to another often have difficulty adapting. Often, they would regress in their studies, and the more extreme cases would refuse to go to school.

While that may have been more than true in Aura’s case, there was something else. Cheerliee could feel it, and it wasn’t the dyslexia. Something else had set the little filly off and driven her away from the schoolhouse. But whatever it was, it wasn’t something that Aura was going to admit to the two right now.

“Young filly, you know better than to do this,” said Daisy. “You’re grounded for two weeks.”

“Mom!” Aura yelped, her eyes suddenly pleading. “Please…”

“No buts, Aura. You apologize to your teacher this instant,” commanded Daisy.

I have to giver her credit. She's not afraid to lower the boom when she needs to.

“I’m sorry, Miss Cheerilee.”

Cheerliee nodded. “Aura, I want you to know that I will not, and I cannot put up with this kind of behavior. Anything could have happened to you. Next time, come and talk to me. But because of this, you have detention tomorrow with me.”

Aura seemed to recoil at this, but she remained submissive. “Yes ma’am.”

“Aura, go up to your room. If I hear your record player, you’ll lose it for a year!” Daisy pointed a hoof up the stairs, and Aura slunk back up the steps as she was told. A door upstairs clicked closed, leaving Cheerilee and Daisy alone.

“Was there anything else that we needed to talk about?” Daisy asked, all of the sternness drained from her tone as quickly as it had come. She yawned just after speaking.

“Well…” Cheerilee began. Here she was, and she could possibly introduce Daisy to the possibility that Aura could suffer from dyslexia to kill two birds with one stone…

But then again, perhaps it would be best to let things cool down before she tried again.

“No, that’s everything. It was nice meeting you, Daisy.”

“It was nice meeting you too, Cheerilee. Maybe next time we meet, it won’t be because we need to administer discipline!” Daisy quipped, chuckling.

“I would hope so. Have a good evening!” Cheerilee said on her way out.

“You too!” Daisy called before the door clicked shut. Cheerilee began walking back up Alfalfa Street, bound for home.

About fifty steps past the house, she stopped and smacked her hoof against her forehead. Why hadn’t she gone ahead and brought up the possibility of dyslexia with Daisy while she had the chance?

Author's Note:

I so desperately wanted to make references to A Christmas Story, in which Cheerilee loooks out the window and discovers Aura has gotten her tongue stuck to a pole while Apple Bloom fears for her life as the fire department comes.

But then again, it isn't winter yet.

So, what do you think? Was Daisy a bit too stern? How is Cheerilee going to handle spilling the beans now? Why was Chisel Point so off-put when Cheerilee left in a rush?

Why not hit up those comments and discuss?

Thanks to Lord-commander for his speedy editing work, and I will see you at the next chapter!