• Published 28th Jul 2016
  • 2,991 Views, 83 Comments

"Teach Me Goodness" - Posh

Cheerilee bids farewell to her friends and students before going back to school in Fillydelphia.

  • ...

Bonitatem Doce Me

Cheerilee stepped into the biting chill of the early morning and inhaled deeply, savoring the sensation of clean, cool air filling her nose. The morning smelled like apples and flowers, like sugary sweetness and fresh baked bread. The morning smelled like Ponyville.

The morning smelled like home. She might have shed a tear or two if she hadn't run her tear ducts dry overnight.

She pulled the door to her house shut, letting her hoof linger on the knob. With a sad shake of her head, she stepped off her front stoop for the final time.

The train wouldn't even arrive at the station for another hour; per her idiom, Cheerilee was out and about early. She had time enough to wander through the morning mist and privately bid farewell to the familiar streets and sights of home. A pair of saddlebags, holding books and mementos, gemstones and cider, a pink thermos and a hankie and her students' last essays, were slung over her back, along with her trusty bedroll. Everything else, furniture and formal wear, all and sundry, was already shipped away to Fillydelphia, and awaited her at her new home.

When she knew she could put it off no longer, Cheerilee made her way to the station. What few ponies were taking the early train alongside her waited inside, hiding behind books and magazines and newspapers, and keeping the morning at bay with steaming cups of coffee or cocoa. Cheerilee decided to wait alone on the platform, to keep filling her lungs with Ponyville air for as long as she could.

She wasn't expecting to have company.

It was a pleasant surprise when she saw the Cutie Mark Crusaders sitting on the platform, fast asleep and huddled beneath their Crusader capes. Apple Bloom was in the center, snoring, with Scootaloo on her left and Sweetie Belle on her right, leaning their heads and bodies against one another for comfort. Beside Sweetie Belle was a rolled-up banner, and in front of Apple Bloom was a little rectangular box, done up with a ribbon in a neatly tied bow.

A fuzzy warmth blossomed in Cheerilee's chest as she realized that the box and ribbon matched her coat and mane. She watched the three fillies sleep, wondering what the last few years would have been like without the constant presence of the Cutie Mark Crusaders in the classroom.

Very dull indeed, no doubt. She would spend the rest of her life teaching, but she knew she would never meet another trio like them.

By and by, Scootaloo yawned, stretched out her limbs, and smacked her lips. She blinked and opened her eyes halfway, but when she caught sight of Cheerilee, they widened in an instant. She shook both her friends awake, leaning over Apple Bloom's neck to get to Sweetie Belle.

"Girls! She's here; wake up! She's here!"

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle stirred, saw their teacher, and shot to attention. The three lined up shoulder-to-shoulder like cadets out for muster.

Cheerilee smirked at the show of discipline. "How long have you three been waiting here?"

"Since five in the mornin'," Apple Bloom said casually.

"But it wasn't a big deal; we were up all night anyway," Sweetie Belle added.

"I can smell colors!" Scootaloo chirped.

Cheerilee bowed her head and hid her mouth with a hoof to hide her snickering.

"We're real sorry we missed your party," said Apple Bloom. The others nodded their agreement. "We decided that a special teacher like you deserved a special send-off, so we spent all night puttin' together some tokens of our appreciation!" She elbowed Sweetie Belle. "That's your cue, dictionary girl!"

"Oh, right." Sweetie Belle's horn shimmered; the banner lifted into the air and unfurled over the three fillies' heads. On either end of the banner, a trio of flowers smiled down at Cheerilee. Running between them was a message in big capital letters, coated with so much pink glitter that Cheerilee had to squint in order to read it properly.


Cheerilee, once more touched beyond the telling of it, shook her head. "Girls, this is wonderful, but you didn't have to go to all this trouble for me. Just having the chance to say goodbye to you would have been enough."

"We didn't wanna do jus' enough, though," said Apple Bloom. "You'd never settle for jus' enough, with us or anypony else. That's what makes you best teacher ever!"

"I came up with the words on the banner," said Sweetie Belle smugly. "And I painted the flowers. It was my idea to make them look like your cutie mark."

"And I did the lettering!" Scootaloo added, pressing a hoof to her chest. "Can you tell?"

"It certainly matches your aesthetic, Scootaloo."

Judging by the blindingly thick coat of glitter...

"We're glad you like it," said Apple Bloom. "But don't thank us jus' yet, 'cuz that ain't all we got for ya." At once, the fillies stepped backward, the banner floating with them, leaving the box where it sat. They looked down at it together and grinned.

Cheerilee stepped forward and took the ribbon in her mouth. She pulled, undoing the delicately tied knot, and lifted the box's lid. Her breath hitched when she glimpsed what was inside: the bolt of maroon fabric, and the yellow filly silhouette inside the crudely stitched blue chevron.

Sweetie Belle cleared her throat in a manner that reminded Cheerilee painfully of Rarity. "We, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, in recognition of your many contributions to our education—"

"And to helpin' us find our special talents!" Apple Bloom chimed in.

"Yeah, that too." Sweetie Belle gave Apple Bloom a miffed look before continuing. "Do hereby confer upon you, Cheerilee, the title of Honorary Crusader, now and for all time. And as a symbol of your new status..."

Her magic pulled the cape from the box and draped it across Cheerilee's body, cinching its ends around her neck. The fabric was smooth and soft, velvety, and warded away the chill of the morning.

"We bequeath unto you this cape." Sweetie Belle's voice broke, and she wiped at her eyes. "May you wear it forever with pride."

"And may you never forget us," Scootaloo added quietly.

Cheerilee knelt and opened her forelegs wide. The fillies rushed into her embrace, and squeezed against their former teacher.

"I couldn't forget you three if I wanted to. Being your teacher and watching you grow up has been a privilege. No – a blessing." Cheerilee pulled them closer, tighter. "And I am so, so happy that you found one another."

They lingered in the embrace, even as the train that would take Cheerilee away churned up to the station and the conductor opened the passenger car's door. The passengers inside the station filed out, bearing their coffee and their newspapers, and boarded, one after another.

"I'm afraid that's my cue, girls. The train'll be departing in just a few minutes." Cheerilee squeezed her students one last time before releasing them. "Thank you for everything." She gave each one a last, lingering smile, and turned to board the train.

"Miss Cheerilee?"

The familiar voice made Cheerilee stop, halfway inside the car, and turn. Her heart skipped.

Diamond Tiara stood in the station's doorway, lathered in sweat and panting, one hoof braced against the frame for support. She trotted toward Cheerilee, who disembarked and met Diamond Tiara halfway.

"Miss Cheerilee..." Diamond Tiara sucked down a deep breath to steady herself, and looked the schoolteacher in the eye. "Do you have a minute before you go?"

"I... yes, of course. Several." She turned to the Cutie Mark Crusaders, who watched the two of them, sympathy and curiosity playing across their faces intermittently. "Would you three give us a moment?"

In unison, they nodded, and moved to the other end of the platform, trying very hard all the while to look as though they weren't eavesdropping.

Cheerilee sat on the platform and drew Diamond Tiara closer with a hoof. The filly looked down.

"I'm sorry for last night. How I talked to you and all."

"You were upset."

"That's not a good excuse." Diamond's voice was sharp, and she cringed self-consciously at it. After taking a shaky, calming breath, she continued speaking more softly. "I should be better than that. I shouldn't take things out on anypony else. Especially not you." She blinked rapidly and glanced away.

"It's alright, Diamond," Cheerilee insisted. "You didn't mean what you said; I know that. It was a lapse. And after reading your essay..."

"You really... you read it, huh?" At Cheerliee's nod, Diamond Tiara chuckled hollowly. "You gave us busywork, and I poured my guts out. Stupid of me."

"Not at all. Not stupid at all. It... it made me understand you a little bit better, I think."

"Well..." Diamond Tiara sniffled. "There's some stuff I didn't put in there, you know. I wanted to tell you last night, but when I tried putting it in words, I froze up, or... well, you were there; you remember."

"Do you think you can do it now?"

"I don't know." She breathed deeply again and looked back at Cheerilee. "But I don't want to let you go without even giving it a try."

In her peripheral vision, Cheerilee saw the Cutie Mark Crusaders giving up all pretenses of not spying on the two of them. They watched the pupil and the teacher intently, occasionally stealing glances at one another, and at the door to the train behind them.

"I mean, it's like..." Diamond Tiara shuffled and tapped her hooves on the floorboards. "You've seen how my parents are. They love their money, and they love their image, and they love me, of course. The thing is, I don't really know how high on that scale I am. You know? And I don't know if they love me for me, because I'm their daughter, or if I'm just, like... an accessory to them. Something you show off to other ponies, and then put away when you don't need it anymore. And that's how it's been all my life. They don't know who I really am inside, and I don't think they're really interested in finding out.

"But you're... different. Always trying to show me I could be better, even when I was just horrible to everypony. You were always patient and kind; you never gave up on me. I always appreciated that. I'm sorry I never told you that until now."


Diamond Tiara held up her hoof. "I'm almost done. Just... before I lose my nerve." Her voice started to crack and strain, and her eyes watered. "I wanted to grow up into somepony who would make you proud. It hurts knowing that now, you won't see me do that, and that's why I was so upset. Because I thought you'd always be here for me, and I wanted you to be, and... and, um..." A shuddering breath ran through Diamond Tiara's body.

Cheerilee placed her hooves on the filly's shoulders and mustered her most nurturing smile. "Go on."

Diamond Tiara seemed to steel herself then, squaring her shoulders, looking Cheerilee dead-on, and plucking up whatever courage she could. But when she spoke, it was in a jumbled mess of words spoken too quickly, in a voice that threatened to break on every syllable.

"I wish I had a pony like you for a mom."

And that was it for Diamond Tiara's composure. Her shoulders sank as her courage failed, and she fell to pieces in Cheerilee's embrace, weeping without care or shame as her erstwhile teacher held her.

"Diamond Tiara, listen. I need you to hear this, okay?" She nuzzled her face against Diamond Tiara's, drying her tears with her own coat. The Cutie Mark Crusaders left the sidelines and slowly drew closer to them.

"I don't need to be here and watch you to know that you're going to be a wonderful mare," said Cheerilee. She ran her hoof through the filly's mane, from the top of her head down to the curls hanging over her withers. "You're already well on your way to being just that."

"You... y-you mean it?"

"From the bottom of my heart. You've grown up so much, changed so much, just the way I always knew you could, and you've made me so proud. And I know you're going to keep growing, and keep changing, and you're going to keep making me proud. Do you wanna know how I know that?"

She pulled away from Diamond Tiara and tilted her chin up with her hoof. Looking into those puffy red eyes, Cheerilee said "Because you're Diamond Tiara, passionate and competent and strong." She smiled. "You've always been all those things. Even when you were a little devil child."

Diamond Tiara giggled, making a little string of snot drop from the tip of her nose, dangling in the air. She giggled even harder at that.

Cheerilee reached into her saddlebag and pulled out her hankie. She offered it to Diamond Tiara, who accepted it, wiped her nose, and blew a wet little puff of air into it. When she was finished, she sighed, folded it into a square, and offered it back to Cheerilee.

She smiled, and pressed it back into Diamond Tiara's hoof.

"You always had the goods to make it in life," Cheerilee continued. "Luck, and grit, and sass, all in abundance. All you were ever missing were things like kindness, and generosity, and leadership and courage – all the things I've seen from you since you lost that student election. Diamond Tiara's always been one heck of a girl. But when I look at her now, I know in my heart that she's going to grow up into a truly wonderful mare."

"She ain't the only one who thinks so, neither." Apple Bloom edged closer to Diamond Tiara, flanked by Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle.

"It hurts a lot, I know," said Sweetie Belle, looking downcast. "We're all feeling it."

"But us three, we have each other, and now, you have us too." Scootaloo draped a hoof around the back of Diamond Tiara's neck. "We're here for you."

The Cutie Mark Crusaders nodded, resolutely, as one.

The conductor stepped out of the train car, glanced at his watch, then at Cheerilee. He coughed, jerked his head toward the car's interior, and headed back inside.

"Now, I'm afraid that really is my cue," said Cheerilee with a sad smile. She pulled her four students together for one last quick hug, and boarded the train. The seat nearest the exit was unoccupied, and she sat facing the platform through the window. The lovable bundle of energy, wit, and headache-inducing scheming that called itself the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and the whirlwind of sass named Diamond Tiara, stood together, shoulder-to-shoulder. Scootaloo's hoof was still around Diamond Tiara, who composed herself enough to stand tall, chest out and chin up. The tears still ran down her face unabated, but through them shone a smile brighter than any diamond.

Cheerilee pressed a hoof against the window. The train whistled and churned forward; the fillies ran the length of the platform after it, their last farewells inaudible through the glass.

Then they were gone, along with the rest of Ponyville. Cheerilee leaned against the window, feeling the cool glass against her cheek, and closed her eyes contentedly. Hours and miles away, Fillydelphia and the next chapter of her life loomed, huge and intimidating. Behind her was Ponyville, and all the chapters of her life up 'til that moment.

That life, her old life, and all the possibilities it held, was gone. But the memories, the moments she cherished, the smiles and hugs and parting words, the friends she made and the students she loved, remained locked away in Cheerilee's heart.

The train churned forward, toward Fillydelphia, and the future.

It was neither as grand as what one might find in Manehattan, nor as opulent as the towering manses of Canterlot, but compared to the rustic look and feel of the rest of Ponyville, the Rich household may as well have been the royal palace. More importantly, though, it was Diamond Tiara's home, for better and for worse. And, for better and for worse, she'd returned after twenty-five days of overseas vacation that couldn't have passed quickly enough.

The chauffeur held the door to the carriage open. Diamond Tiara gathered her saddlebags and hopped back onto the familiar earthen street. After so many days of crunching sand beneath her hooves, standing on solid, continental earth was a palpable relief. Her mother and father exited from the other side, and circled around the front of the carriage.

"A dreadful mess, an inexcusable mess," Spoiled was saying. The rant had begun an hour ago; Diamond Tiara had checked out after twenty minutes and hadn't bothered to check back in until just then. Spoiled Rich's rants were cyclical, and often covered the same points multiple times. One could make a game of tuning out and tuning back in at the same beat, as Diamond Tiara often did.

"To think that the house would be in such a state upon our arrival. No good china, no good throw pillows, and only three different varieties of coconut water in the icebox?" She tugged the collar of her five hundred bit coat closer around her neck. Sweat beaded on her face and ran down in rivulets. "There are no excuses, Filthy, none whatsoever. "

She would likely be more comfortable without the coat, which she insisted on bringing to their warm, tropical beach house in defiance of common sense. But Spoiled Rich was the rare pony who truly understood that personal sacrifices needed to be made so the riff-raff in the Neighchelles as well as in Ponyville would know precisely how much wealthier their social betters were than them.

Personally, Diamond had declined to pack a coat for the trip.

"Aw, come now, dear. It won't happen again."

"It ought not." Spoiled sniffed. "Because if it does, then next year, I'm going to have to spend half of our vacation hiring new staff, and that will be a realm of tedium unto itself! One goes on vacation to avoid the drudgery of firing and hiring new subordinates; one expects one's staff to function as a well-oiled machine without one's constant vigilance. Do you understand me?"

Filthy scratched his temple idly, frowning. "Well... perhaps a new head butler for the villa, if nothing else."

"If nothing else. Do please see to it, dear." She strode toward the front door of the house, clicking her tongue. "Come along, Diamond Tiara."

"Yes, mother," she sighed, trotting after her.

The door to the house opened inward, and out stepped Cummerbund, white-maned and gray-coated, smartly dressed in a dinner jacket. "Sir, Madame." To Diamond, he inclined his head. "Little Madame."

"Cummerbund," said Diamond sweetly.

Cummerbund flashed her a subtle wink before looking back at Spoiled. "You are a welcome sight, Madame. May I be so bold as to inquire about your trip?"

"Oh, it was a nightmare, Cummerbund," groaned Spoiled, doffing her coat and draping it over the floor. Cummerbund stooped and retrieved it, and hung it on a nearby peg. "Bad enough that the Neighchelles are always crawling with diamond dogs at this time of year, I had to deal with surly staff and incompetent servers on top of everything else!" She whirled on him. "Why, just the other night, this humdrum hayseed of a waitress had the gall to spill half a bottle of champagne on my favorite chiffon dress. You know the one, the aqua one, with the plunging neckline? Half a bottle! Ruining it utterly!"

"It was a flute, not a bottle," muttered Diamond, "and you walked into her." Spoiled made a point of ignoring wait staff unless they were immediately needed, and didn't take note of the hapless mare (barely more than a filly, really) until they collided. It didn't help that Spoiled's cognitive and motor functions weren't exactly firing on full after downing half a dozen glasses of the same bubbly, not that that stopped her from chewing out the weeping young lady in front of the whole dining room and demanding that the manager fire her on the spot.

And Daddy just sat there munching his eggplant parm...

"Flute, bottle or cask, it makes no difference. She ought to have known better, and she ought to have been fired. Damn that manager," growled Spoiled. "I tell you, that's one establishment that shan't be sucking up any more of the Rich family's hard-won bits."

Behind her, Filthy strode in, an easy grin on his face. "Couldn't have said it better myself, dear." He nodded to Cummerbund, and made for the elegant curved staircase. "'Scuse me, Cummerbund; gonna take a bath, freshen up for tonight."

"Tonight?" Diamond tilted her head. "We have plans tonight? I-I was kind of thinking, you know, there's that carnival, and tonight's the last night it's in town, and maybe Silver Spoon and me could—"

"I made arrangements to dine with Jet Set and Upper Crust at Chez Prance on the night we returned home from vacation," said Spoiled, glaring down at her daughter superciliously. The fold of her double chin creased into a second frown. "Your presence is expected. And it's 'Silver Spoon and I.' Goodness, no wonder that provincial schoolmarm lost her job."

Diamond's nostrils flared reflexively, an unladylike gesture of ire. "Yes, mother, Silver Spoon and I, mother."

"Splendid," said Spoiled, oblivious to her daughter's anger. "Wash and dress and be ready in three hours. Now, the journey home has left me rather fatigued, so I believe that I will retire for a nap. Fetch the luggage from the carriage and stow it away, Cummerbund." Spoiled made her way to the stairs, following after her husband.

Cummerbund nodded and pivoted toward the front door.

Diamond followed after him. "Would you like some help with the bags?"

Spoiled tittered, an ugly little nasal sound. "Diamond," she said patronizingly. "The help fetches the luggage."

"Well, mother," said Diamond, turning to glare at Spoiled. "Perhaps I would like to help 'the help,' mother. If that's alright with you, of course, mother."

Spoiled's eyes widened. "Diamond, you... that is a highly inappropriate way to speak to..."

Diamond's gaze hardened.

Spoiled blinked, glanced from side-to-side, and coughed primly into her hoof. "Yes, well... at least you're not moping anymore." She harrumphed and resumed her march.

Cummerbund smiled a leathery smile at Diamond Tiara. "That's a beneficent gesture, Little Madame, but I am quite comfortable retrieving the luggage myself. It is what I'm paid for, after all."

"I can at least get my own bag." Diamond followed the butler out to the carriage, where the chauffeur had already lain out the considerable pile of suitcases and bags that her parents had insisted on lugging with them on vacation. Diamond found the pink suitcase emblazoned with her cutie mark, and hefted it into her back, balancing it expertly between her two saddlebags.

Cummerbund did the same with two of Spoiled's, while still finding room underneath his foreleg for one of Filthy's. "Did you enjoy yourself on vacation, Little Madame?"

What a thing to ask. Cummerbund knew the family as well as anypony. Surely he could guess.

It was business as usual. Mother yelled at waitresses; daddy pretended not to notice; mother gossiped with other snobby gossips; daddy stayed out all night at the cantina; mother dragged me to spas and forbade me from speaking; daddy shoved piles of bits into my hooves every other night like that was supposed to make it all okay... stuff we could just as easily have stayed home and done.

Then again, it had its ups as well as its downs. Leaving half her spending money on the table for that poor waitress, by way of an apology for her mother, and the look of relief on the young mare's face when she saw. Buying souvenirs for Silver and the others. That cute blonde towel boy...

She blushed. Maybe I should leave that part out.

"To be honest? It was about what I thought it'd be. But I can't say I had a bad time." Diamond Tiara shrugged, shifting the suitcase on her back. "What about you? You went on vacation too, right? At the start of the month? I never asked how it went."

Cummerbund blinked, evidently startled that his Little Madame would remember, newfound change of heart or no. "Las Pegasus, you mean! It was quite nice, actually; the hotel was lovely, the staff helpful and friendly. And I hadn't seen my brother Woodhouse in so long, you know. A wonderful experience. Over too quickly, really." A wan look crossed his tired features. "And, at our age, we're not likely to have too many more like it, if you understand my meaning."

"I'm glad you had a good time with your brother. I'd love to hear more about it. Maybe tonight, after dinner?"

The corners of Cummerbund's eyes glimmered faintly. "I shall prepare cocoa for two."

Diamond beamed at him, and headed back into the house, her luggage swaying with every step she took.

"Miss Diamond, wait! I almost forgot!" Cummerbund, laden with luggage and looking no worse for wear, called out to her from the door. Diamond paused, mid-step, and waited for him to continue.

"A letter arrived for you while you were away. You'll find it unopened on your writing table in your bedroom."

A smile fluttered across Diamond Tiara's lips. "Thank you, Cummerbund."

She barely felt the weight of the luggage on her back as she bounded up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Diamond Tiara flew into her room and kicked the door shut behind her, shrugged off her suitcase and saddlebags, and darted to her desk, trembling with anticipation. The envelope sat where Cummerbund had left it, a thin white rectangle in the center of her desk. Her smile widened when she saw the return address.

P.O. Box 1138

1701 University Ave.

Unit D


She ripped the envelope open with her hooves and drew from it a glossy photograph of a smiling, pink-maned mare in a maroon-colored cape, decorated with a golden filly against a blue backdrop. She leaned against a brick sign with silver letters. "University of Fillydelphia," they read.

Diamond Tiara flipped the photograph over, and saw a mouthwritten message.

"Bonitatem et disciplinam et scientiam doce me"

("Teach me goodness and discipline and knowledge" – The motto of the University of Fillydelphia!)

Forever yours, forever proud,

"Miss" Cheerilee

P.S. – I'm sure this won't get to you before you leave on your vacation, so when you return, please write back to me. I want to hear all about it!

Diamond Tiara hadn't cried since that morning on the train station, when she fell apart and was held and comforted by the mare who smiled up at her from the photograph. Lonely as she was on her vacation, she couldn't bring herself to shed any tears – what would even be the point?

But she cried then. She cried, and she laughed, and tears dripped onto the photograph; she wiped her eyes and laughed some more, and when she'd laughed and cried herself dry, she reached under her desk for a notepad and a pen. Uncapping it, she slid the pen into her mouth, and started composing her reply.

Dear "Miss" Cheerilee

So a funny thing happened at the village we were staying at. I was at this swimming pool, and I needed a towel, and who should bring it to me but...

Diamond Tiara paused for a moment, laying her pen across her letter. She stared at what she'd written, at her perfectly pedi'd pink hooves, and smiled softly.

"You know what, Miss Cheerilee?" she murmured to the empty room. "I think you did okay."

With a shake of her head and a last, wistful laugh, Diamond Tiara picked up her pen and started composing once more.