• Published 1st Jul 2012
  • 1,820 Views, 42 Comments

To Her Surprise - Askesalsa

All you need to get ahead in life is the right pony.

  • ...

The White Pegasus

Pie Fields did not have the gentle morning sounds that were common to most other parts of Equestria. A pony spending the night there would never wake up to the lustful chirping of birds or the busy buzzing of bees. No matter how thick the clouds above the house were, the drumming of rain on the roof would never resonate in the ears of its residents. Such sounds were unthinkable on this farm. What woke Pinkamina up this morning was the subtle sound of voices, guiding and instructing each other outside her window.

She turned on her back and stretched her hooves as far behind her head as possible. Her straight hair covered half of her face, creating a curtain to further block out the farm’s nonexistent sunlight. She blew away the pink threads from her face and to the side of her head where they belonged. Taking a moment to breathe and let the thought of a new day sink in, the filly stared aimlessly at the ceiling while trying to make sense of the almost inaudible words from the outside. That somepony other than her family would be there led her mind to only one plausible conclusion: It was that time of the month again.

Slithering sideways to the edge of her bed, she slipped out of the comfort of her blanket. She let a long yawn escape her as she dragged her body over to the window so she could take a good look at the rock farm and the source of the voices. What she saw was hardly different from the usual: A barren wasteland of rocks and dust. The entire area of Pie Fields was nothing but the family’s hard-shelled crops and the brown-gray, cracked earth on which these crops drained nourishment from the air. Every now and then a plant sprout would attempt to defy the laws of nature, only to wither away as soon as it touched the dry and dead atmosphere, leaving behind a sad, black, plant corpse among the many gem-filled rocks. Natural life is unnatural on rock farms.

Still at the window, she moved her chin upwards and got a good look at the necessary reason for this sad sight that she saw every morning: A thick layer of clouds covered every inch of the sky, making sure that no sunlight would ever breach its borders. She noticed the source of the voices as well: A couple of pegasi molding a few gray additions to the layer. They were almost done with their job of blocking out Celestia’s gift. In fact, only a few pieces remained to make sure that the gray layer would hold another month.

Pinkamina nodded at the hard work she saw, her expression tired and grim. She let out her breath in a gloomy sigh as she cracked her neck and stepped away from the window. The rest of the Pies were waiting downstairs.

She entered the kitchen where everypony else was already sitting at the table, enjoying their daily share of bread and butter, jam and juice. She greeted them apathetically with a ‘good morning’ that escaped her mouth at the same time as a long yawn, and everypony else replied the same way and with just as much intensity. Her mother, Sue, was the only one who looked up from her plate and offered her a quick smile.

“Good Morning, Pinkamina,” the gray mare said. “Did you sleep well?”

Pinkamina nodded in reply, not bothering with words at the moment. She was too tired. She moved to her designated seat and pulled out her chair, making an awful noise as it dragged over the hardwood floor. She sat down, picked up her knife and a piece of bread, and slowly applied the required butter, never looking up or showing any signs of anticipation for her healthy breakfast.

“I’m guessing you’ve seen the pegasi outside?” Clyde Pie, her father, asked from her side. Though he was smiling, his expression was still stern, and Pinkamina found it hard to believe that he was enjoying his morning. In fact, she found both him and the rest of her family to be as dull as the landscape outside.

She nodded once again in reply, not bothering with looking up. “I have.”

“Good, good,” he said while straightening his back. He put his elbows on the table and rested his head on top of the bridge his hooves created, his eyes pointing straight ahead and his expression full of thought. “They’ve done a pretty good job covering up the sky, but I can’t help but be a little nervous about their color. They look like they might rain.”

“So what?” she replied thoughtlessly, and she clenched her eyes as soon as she realized what she had said. There was no doubt in her mind that he would now begin one of his boring lessons in the principles of rock farming.

“So what?” he began, just as she had feared. “So everything. Remember the three ground rules to rock farming?”

“Yes, dad,” replied the pink filly irritated. She took a deep breath, rolled her eyes and with a semi-sarcastic voice counted the principles: “Number one: Never expose the rocks to sunlight. The gems inside will lose their radiance. Number two: Always keep them dry, or the gems will shrink inside the rocks. Number three: Remember to turn them over several times a day. This way you’ll avoid awkward shapes when they’re finally harvested.”

“That’s my girl,” the old stallion finished the lecture with another unconvincing grin as he nuzzled her mane to her irritation. He got back to his thoughtful position; his eyes turned to the window on his side and locked on the clouds in the sky. “Now, I really need to talk with these pegasi. I can’t have it if they’ve given us bad clouds. Our agreement with Cloudsdale clearly states that we only get their dry, gray clouds that keep the water in until bucked by a pegasus.” He leaned back and crossed his hooves, still looking past the window frame. “These look dark enough to be regular rain clouds, though. Celestia help them if they ruin our crops.”

“So I’m guessing I’m in charge of the farming until you’ve sorted that out with them?” Pinkamina said through another yawn before she took a bite of her bread.

“You don’t mind, do you?” he pleaded. “It would really be a big help.”

When she replied she did so with a nod of the head, which she pulled off at the same time as she swallowed her bread. This mix of movements made the bread momentarily clog up her throat, and she flinched with her entire body while trying to cough it loose. This whole scenario caught the attention of her two sisters, Blinkamina and Inkamina, who looked at her through the corners of their eyes, silently waiting for it to pass. Only when the coughing stopped and Pinkamina gave them a dry look did their eyes revert back to the table, and their mouths continue chewing their food.

Her mother also had her gaze locked on her, but Pinkamina did not pay much attention to it. She just continued eating as always, getting it all down so she could get on with her daily duties.

But unlike her sisters, the gray mare did not look away. In fact, she continued looking at her eldest, pink daughter, waiting for her to become curious enough to look up. When Pinkamina finally did so, not hiding her irritation with being interrupted from eating all the time, the gray mare put on a weak smile, looked the filly in the eyes and said, “So, will you be eating lunch with the rest of us today?”

Pinkamina replied with a slow shake of the head. “No, I’m going to the river as usual.”

“Is that so?” Sue said with a tone of disappointment. She kept watching the filly, analyzing her reaction with a hopeful look in her eyes. But the gaze Pinkamina returned coldly grew disappointment in her. It forced her to accept the filly’s decision with at least a nod of the head. “Ok, then. I guess it is somewhat more interesting than here, anyways.” She put on another smile of hope and looked back up at the filly. “But what about your studies? You know we usually go over that during lunch.”

“And you know that I always study in the evening,” Pinkamina instantly replied, looking to the side to make her mother stop talking. She was used to the spectacled mare asking this same question every morning, but it bothered her endlessly that no matter how many times she answered, the mare would ask again the next day. “But when it’s lunch break, I like to go down to the river and relax.”

“Of course, of course,” the gray mare replied with a few hasty nods. “I hope you’ll have fun then.”

The rest of the breakfast passed in silence. Each Pie member had their eyes locked on the plates, only really looking up and saying anything when they needed something that was out of their reach on the table. Of course they all had their reasons to look away every now and then anyways, but it was always for the same reasons: Clyde Pie would look at the clouds through the window every now and then as he did every month, Sue Pie would shoot quick smiles at the family that never noticed, and the Pie sisters would slowly chew their food. That was how they got ready for the rest of the day.

The first few steps she took onto the field whirled up small rings of dust that immediately stuck to her hooves. There was no wind, and the air had the dry feel of a desert to it. She smacked her lips and ran her tongue from one edge of her mouth to the other to moisten them. It was a futile attempt though, since they soon returned to their uncomfortable dry state. From what Pinkamina could tell, this day’s workload would become even more unbearable than usual.

The voices she had heard this morning made her look to the sky. The two pegasi had just finished up, and they met in the air to soar back to the ground together. With wishful eyes, Pinkamina took a good, long look at their movements in the air. She found herself mesmerized by their outstretched hooves that pushed them through the air, their unfolded wings on which tons of feathers stirred from the pressure as they descended, and the way their manes and tails blew backwards from the wind that hit them head on. Though there was no such thing as wind this morning, their movement created it artificially for them. They defied the dryness of the wasteland with their dance towards the ground. Unlike Pinamina, they were able to feel the coolness of the wind and the vapor of the clouds, just like she wished she could. They had this freedom: The freedom to fly wherever they wanted. Even through these dark clouds.

They landed a few yards from her, this light pink mare with a bushy blue mane, and her stallion colleague with a green coat and a brown mustache that matched his mane. The pink filly stared at them without thinking, her eyes specifically centered on the mare’s wings. She was not able to hide her presence well though. The mare had noticed her watching, and she responded by grinning with amusement and by doing a few courtesy flaps with the wings for the curious filly.

“Pretty cool, huh?” she suddenly said, her voice tomboyish and hoarse.

Pinkamina then snapped out of her fillyish fascination with the pegasus’ feathery part, and a great blush appeared on her face as she realized she had been discovered. Trying to keep her cool, the now red-cheeked filly clenched her eyes, forwarded her bottom lip and looked to the side as she responded with an awkwardly shaking voice, “Yeah, I guess so.”

“I make sure to train them every day,” the pegasus proudly went on. “It’s always good to stay in shape.”

“True,” Pinkamina replied, still trying to keep her cool.

“Mr. Pie,” the stallion beside the mare suddenly said, shooting a polite smile in Pinkamina’s direction. The filly was a little surprised at first, seeing as the stallion had barely noticed her presence, but when she looked over her shoulder, she saw her brown father and her two grayish siblings standing on each of his sides, she realized how that he was the one being addressed.

“Pleasure to see you, Miss. Firefly, Mr. Beard Stache,” her father then replied with a polite smile of his own. “I see you’ve done a good job on the clouds, but I do have some questions, so if I could talk to you for a bit?”

The stallion shrugged. “I don’t see why not. We got time.”

When the stallion said this, Clyde looked down on the pink filly before him. He gave her a wink and a quick smile to hint for her to get to work, and Pinkamina was quick to get the command, nodding acceptingly at him.

“Come on, Blinkamina, Inkamina,” she said with a stern voice as she beckoned the two fillies, who wordlessly followed her in the blink of an eye. They slowly continued out into the fields, walking in line with Pinkamina as the head and Inkamina as the tail. When they finally stopped, they were surrounded by rocks on all side, and Pinkamina turned around to give out the commands to her sibling supporters. “All right, Blinkamina, you go over there and take care of the rocks there.” Her hoof pointed in the direction she meant, and Blinkamina did not hesitate to trot over to her designated spot. Moving her hoof to point out another direction, she commanded her second sister, “And Inkamina, you go over there, ok?”

Unlike Blinkamina, Inkamina did not move out immediately. She stood still for a second, her big eyes looking thoughtfully at her big sister’s face. Pinkamina found it a little annoying to be stared at like this, because she had no idea why her little sister would do so. She returned the gaze, making sure to seem as stern and determined as possible to make the nuisance get to work. Finally, after a short moment of silence, the gray filly turned and slowly walked away, her head hanging low. Letting out a sigh and slowly shaking her head with irritation, Pinkamina too turned around and walked over to a stone of her own. It was time for her to get started as well.

She took a good look at this large, hard shell before her. It was rather big, so she would have to use quite a bit of strength to move it as she wished. After taking in a large lump of air, which she let slowly seep back out through her mouth, she bowed down, dug her snout beneath this gemstone embryo, and lifted it with all the strength of her legs. It was definitely heavy, and just as she had suspected it took a lot to turn it over. She felt her forelegs vibrating because of its weight, and when she had finally lifted it enough for it to fall down on its other side, she gasped in relief. A sweat had already formed on her forehead, even though it was only the first rock of the day. Wiping it off with her hoof, she sighed at the thought of having to do this all day long once more.

While she walked along the trail of the rock she was pushing, the sound of flaps hit her eardrums from above, and she looked up with tired eyes and a mouth open for panting. The pegasi were flying away. Having fulfilled their end of the deal and finished speaking with her father, there was no longer any reason for them to stay. They could fly back to the blue sky of Equestria, while Pinkamina could only look at them go from the dry earth of Pie fields.

Now that the pegasi were gone, Clyde was free to join in on the farming. He did so quietly, not wasting any time with telling the siblings that they were doing great. Finally, all four of them were together in labor, while Sue was inside preparing lunch. But even though they were working as a unit, to Pinkamina it felt like she was doing it all alone. There were more than enough rocks to turn for four ponies, so she had no time to rest. They did not speak either, or even look at each other for that matter. Farming rocks was hard enough, and it left them too exhausted to say anything to each other. They were all too busy with their task to even notice each other’s presence.

After a few hours, the bell called the family to a regenerative lunch. But as she had mentioned at breakfast, Pinkamina would not be joining them. While the others went to the house, the filly took a moment to catch her breath before she would haste to the edge of the farm and to the river that separated the Pies from Ponyville. Sue Pie looked at the filly, and she smiled and wordlessly asked if she would join them after all. But the filly replied with a less than genuine smile and a shaking head. Clearly disappointed with the filly’s decision, the gray mare nodded a single time and went back in the house, closing the door slowly behind her.

There was no time to lose at this point. Pinkamina was anxious to relax, and she ran as fast as she could to get to her little area of peace. The river was where she could be at ease.

The nature of Ponyville River seemed almost impossible, considering how close to Pie Fields it was located. Though the farm itself was out of sight, hidden behind a convenient wall of trees that was lush and green on the river’s side, withered and gray on the farm’s, the enormous pile of gray clouds hang ominously close like an unmoving storm. Luckily, the keyword was unmoving, and silent for that matter. Its shadow would never reach this side of the wall, so life was free to flourish.

Every day Pinkamina would sit by the river with her eyes closed, letting every single muscle in her body relax, and this day was no exception. She would look at the village on the other side of the river, at the many pretty houses that touched the riverside, and the ponies crossing the nearby bridge into and out of Ponyville. She would notice the clear blue sky and the peaceful fluff of the little white clouds that dotted it, and she would see pegasi soaring past above her with stretched bodies. She would sigh and wish for their wings.

But she always kept her distance from these things. She sat alone in the grass, feeling the safety of solitude in her little green spot. Her only company was the comfortable weather, unheard of on Pie Fields, which caressed her body gently. The wind had picked up just a tad, enough to blow her hair in front of her face and run through her coat, leaving a trail of cool on her skin. Her mouth was slightly open, and she could taste the aroma of the riverside flora; a fresh and sweet taste that lingered for her to cherish. It was not at all dry and dusty like the scent of the farm. The grass she sat on was still wet from the morning dew, and it washed away all the dirt that had stuck in her coat from the hard work. It was her sanctuary, from where she could watch life pass by.

But a perfect sanctuary it was not. No matter which pleasant sensation she felt, her mind would interfere with something unpleasant. The sapphire blue water before her, beautiful and calming as it was with the gentle sound of the river flow, reminded her of the lack of water on the wastelands at home. The sun that touched her skin through her coat, its warm rays mixing with the coolness of the wind, reminded her of the farm’s lack of light. Even the busy ponies that passed the bridge with their carts full of baggage reminded her only of her dull and gray family. Though she found some comfort by the river, she was haunted by the image of Pie Fields. She found no real escape from the everyday stress, and that made her smile unintentionally waver.

She took a step closer to the water and looked at her reflection. Her long hair covered half of her face, leaving only one of her clear blue eyes to be visible, though the image was slightly distorted by the river’s steady flow. She reached out for her mirror duplicate, carefully touching the surface of the water, which created a set of blurry rings that shook up the image even further, making it impossible to properly make out what the mirror told.

It was then she noticed a strange appearance in the blur: A white shadow with a wide variety of colors hanging above it was approaching her from behind. Its movement was slow and steady, as if it was flowing through the air rather than treading the grass. But instead of looking back for a better view, Pinkamina squinted to see if she could make out the true shape of the watery image.

“Surprise!” the white shadow suddenly yelled in a high pitched voice, and Pinkamina jumped into the air as if a surge of electricity had just run through her body. She stumbled forward, waving her forelegs rapidly in an attempt to regain her balance before she would fall head first into the river. Luckily, she managed to plant her hooves safely in the grass before such an event happened, and she let out a sigh of relief. She could hear the voice that startled her laugh behind her now, and in between the laughter it spoke in a fast paced manner, “Oh my Gosh, you were just really surprised there, weren’t you? I mean, I knew I could surprise you, because you were so far away in your thoughts just now, but I never thought I could surprise you this much. Lucky you didn’t fall in, huh?”

While Pinkamina did her best to catch her breath, she also tried not to let her irritation get the best of her. The stranger probably meant no harm, so she forced a smile upon herself and did her best to take a deep breath between the panting before she would turn around to face the source of the voice. “Yeah. Really lucky.”

What she saw when she turned around was a pretty, young pegasus mare. She had a snow white coat, completely clean of any dirt or natural spots that would otherwise stain such a bright and lively color. Her mane and tail were golden and curly, and thick enough for the slight bit of wind there was to be too weak to do more than sway it a bit back and forth. She had a wide, toothy grin on her lips, almost invisible due to her teeth being just about the same color as her coat, though her deep purple eyes were easy to spot, and they shivered with delight in her eye sockets.

But there was something about her that made Pinkamina wonder. Though the pegasus’ wings were tightly tugged to her sides, and though she stood like a normal pony would stand on the ground, her front hooves even crossed, she was in fact floating just half an inch above the grass. The filly then noticed a bunch of thin, almost invisible strings tied around the mare’s chest, and she followed their straight lines with her eyes into the air above the mare. What she saw there explained the hovering, though still made the straight haired filly’s jaw drop and her eyes widen.

This was what Pinkamina had noticed in the mirror image of the river, and was now seeing without the censoring blur: A cluster of bags in many different colors, almost sporting the entire rainbow’s spectrum, was floating in the air above the mare. They were tied individually to the strings bound around the pony’s waist, lightly bumping into each other in the sway of the wind. The bags’ skins were smooth enough to reflect the light of the sun, blinding the filly as the rays enhanced their bright colors. But even with such a blinding light, Pinkamina could not look away from it. It was too fascinating.

“Can’t believe I could surprise you like that,” the white mare then said from below the bags. She moved parts of her body in excitement, and those movements made the rainbow cluster move as well, and Pinkamina followed the bags with not only her eyes, but her whole head. “I was just on the way back to my house, and then I saw you staring into the water and I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be fun to surprise her?’ and it was! But that aside; I’ve never seen you around here before. Are you new? Did you just move here? Where do you live?”

Pinkamina did not answer though. In fact, she did not even notice that the mare was speaking. She was far too busy getting dragged into the colorful light of these strange, floating bags. Looking at this cluster alone filled her with a strange mixture of bliss and awe, as if they were created for this very purpose in the first place. It was impossible for her to look away.

But the mare did not give up on contacting her. She raised an eyebrow and trotted through the air. Slowly approaching the sky-looking filly, whose neck bend even further back as the cluster came closer, she leaned in to get her attention. “Helloo? Anypony home?”

But Pinkamina remained silent. Even with the pegasus waving her hoof in front of her gaze to get her attention, she did not react in the slightest. After a moment, the mare let a short snigger escape and began whirling around in the air. Naturally, when the pony span around, so would the rainbow cluster. The many bags were dragged along when the strings became tight enough to pull them, and Pinkamina instinctively followed the motions with her head, shifting it from side to side with a faster and faster pace. When a short while had passed, the filly could feel the inside of her head spin as well, and she had to manually stop the rotation by using both her hooves as brakes. Her eyes rolled around in her head for a few seconds, but she quickly snapped back to her senses with a swift shake of the head.

“Hi there,” the mare said cheerfully as soon as she stopped spinning and was facing the dazed filly. “Looks like I broke the spell, huh?”

Feeling rather lightheaded and confused, Pinkamina blinked a few times before she could respond, “Who are you?”

“My name’s Surprise, just like how you were surprised when I surprised you before, logically,” replied the pegasus with a cheerful voice and a hoof to her own chest. “It’s kind of what I do, well, one of the things I do, and I do it pretty well. But the real got-to-know curiously good question is: Who are you?”

“Pinkamina Diane Pie,” the slightly dazed filly replied without really knowing what was going on. She had been too far away in this strange cluster, to which her eyes moved every now and then, and the way the pegasus spoke did not help to ease the confusion. “But why is that the real question?”

“Because I don’t know you,” Surprise said. She began trotting through the air, moving forward by the simple kick of the legs. She was rather hyper, showing so in both her manner of speech and her movements, and she circled around Pinkamina while letting out a rapid stream of words, “And I know pretty much everypony in Ponyville, even the ones who don’t want to be known, although they don’t mind that I know them, which is kind of odd, isn’t it? But since I don’t know you that must mean you’re new in town, and if you’re new then I have to get to know you, or I wouldn’t be able to say I know everypony. Plus, I like getting to know new ponies. It’s kind of a hobby of mine, even though I have several hobbies. Like tens, hundreds, thousands. Well, maybe not thousands, but a lot.”

“So…” Pinkamina tried to sum up from what she understood of this random stream of consciousness the white mare just let out. “… You want to get to know me because I’m new?”

The white pegasus nodded hastily. “Uhuh.”

“Sorry to burst your bubble then,” the filly then said with a smile on her face. She was a little bedazzled by the behavior of the mare before her, nervous even because of her random nature and confusing way of speaking. But she still did her best to be polite and neighborly. “I’ve actually been living just outside of Ponyville all my life.”

The pegasus then gasped loudly and in a rather exaggerated manner that made Pinkamina do a little jump. “You do!? Where!?”

With a stretched hoof Pinkamina pointed to the sky above the hedge of trees. The white pegasus followed the line of the hoof with her eyes and when her gaze was locked onto the correct target she let it rest there for a moment in silence. She seemed like she was away in thought, but Pinkamina could not make out what kind of thoughts they were. In fact, there were a lot of things about this strange pony that puzzled her to no end. Yet the filly felt somewhat intrigued by this fact.

“You live up there?” the mare finally said, breaking the short moment of silence her own thought process had created. “But you’re not a pegasus, are you?”

Pinkamina could not help but giggle a little at the pegasus’ clueless reaction. “No, no. I live under those clouds. On a rock farm.”

“There’s a rock farm under there!?” the mare exclaimed in another exaggerated rush, slapping her cheeks with her hooves. “Oh my Gosh, I never knew that! I thought it was just some sort of emergency cloud storage. You know, should there be a drought or something. But it was actually a rock farm!? That’s so cool!”

“It’s not cool,” replied the filly with a side of angry eyes, all as an act of reflexes. She quickly realized her rude behavior though. It made her shrink with shame. Clenching together, her nose pointed to the grass beneath her hooves and her shoulders reached her ears. She gritted her teeth hard enough to feel actual physical pain, albeit only a slight bit. The shame of suddenly snapping at a stranger, even if only for a split second, was that unbearable to her. “Sorry about that.”

“It’s ok,” Surprise said cheerfully. Though she did turn her head when the filly’s tone turned grumpy, she seemed otherwise unfazed by the slip-up. Her smile was still wide and her person still hyper.

Pinkamina wanted to apologize and opened her mouth to do so, but before she could utter a word she was cut off by a sudden raised a hoof, telling her to hold on for a moment. The white mare then reached for the strings tied around her waist, and showed a grimace of concentration as she fumbled with one of the knots. One of the bags broke loose and hovered away from the bunch, but the pegasus was quick to react and snatched it by the string before it could get away. Swimming through the air to the ashamed filly, she presented her with the string and a warm smile and tone of voice, “Here: A little ‘I’m sorry if I said something wrong’ gift.”

Though at first a little surprised by this sudden offer, Pinkamina soon found herself beaming with delight. In less than a second she snatched the strings and kept it tightly clenched between between two hooves. Having let go of the bag, the weight of the mare overcame the rest of the floating cluster. She lightly descended to the ground and her hooves finally got in contact with the earth. But she did not mind that even a bit, instead showing a toothy grin to the filly, who now brightened from her earlier gloom.

“For me?” Pinkamina said with a fillyish tone, more excited than she had ever been before. “That’s so nice of you I don’t even know what to say.”

“Well, I have a ton of them here,” the mare said, pointing to the rest of the cluster. “Well, maybe not a ton, since they don’t really weigh anything. They might actually weigh less than nothing since they float and all. Can something weigh less than nothing? Anyways, I noticed how you were staring at them before and thought it might cheer you up to get one.”

Pinkamina heard everything the mare said, but paid little attention to it. She simply nodded and smiled while her gaze focused on the beautiful, shining red skin of the object before her. It filled her with so much excitement that she forgot everything about her little shameful slip-up. She coiled one hoof around the string so the other could let go and she could get a proper feel of the bag. With much care and precision, she slowly let that other hoof touch the skin, and gently stroked along its side. She noted that it had a rubbery feel to it, though it could also be plastic. Whatever it was made of, it shrieked a painful shriek when her hoof ran along it, but neither she nor the white mare was bothered by the ghastly sound.

“You like it?” asked the mare with a hearty voice, somewhat excited to hear the answer.

“I do,” Pinkamina replied with a nod of the head. She looked away from it for a second and into the deep puple eyes staring gently at her. “It’s really beautiful. But what is it?”

“It’s a balloon, silly,” Surprise replied with a short giggle. She began bouncing in place, letting another one of those fast paced streams of words out that seemed common to her, “I was just on my way home with a bunch of them before. It’s this bunch actually, but you probably realized that, unless you’re dumb, but you don’t seem dumb to me, but if you didn’t realize then I’m sorry for calling you dumb. I didn’t mean it like that. You’re not mad at me, right? But anyways, then I saw you sitting here and thought I’d pull a prank on you, and then you almost fell in, but you know the rest. But I’ve actually been wondering…” She stopped her bouncing immediately, not even taking time to slow down, and looked Pinkamina in the eyes with a hearty smile on her face. “Why were you sitting here all alone?”

It took Pinkamina a moment once again before she could make out what the pegasus had just said. She looked back at the so-called balloon before her, and smiled because she now knew what it was called. “Actually, I’m here on a break from work,” she began replying while she played around with the string between her hooves. “I like to go here and get away from the stress. It’s kind of my happy place.”

The white pegasus sat down on her flank, ready to listen even more to what the filly had to say. “So you always go here alone, like, every day?”

“Yep.” The filly nodded.

“Well, that sounds kind of boring,” said the mare, making a strange grimace where she made a smile that only stretched to one eye corner. “Wouldn’t you rather play with your friends?”

“I don’t have any friends,” replied Pinkamina, but even though she did so with a straight face, saying those words gave her a strange ache, like a paper cut inside her.

It also made the mare gasp exaggeratedly and jump to the air where she flapped her wings and front legs alike like a humming bird. “You don’t have any friends!? But what about the kids from your school?”

“I’m actually home-schooled,” the filly replied, revealing a sad light in her eyes. She suddenly found that it was harder to maintain a proper smile, though she did her best to maintain it anyways. “Rock farming is an all-day job, so my sisters and I have to study at home.”

“Well, no worries,” said Surprise, as cheerful as ever. Flying forwards, she grabbed the young filly under her foreleg-pits and lifted her into the air. The balloon almost flew away from the shock Pinkamina got from this sudden action, but she luckily maintained her grip. She was held up with stretched hooves, their eyes on the same level and connected. Their looks differed quite a bit, Pinkamina’s puzzled and shocked, the mare’s carefree and excited. “I’ll be your friend from now on.”

“You?” Pinkamina asked with a confused raise of an eyebrow. “But we just met. I’m just a stranger.”

“Don’t be silly, filly,” rhymed the mare, and she giggled a little at herself. “You can’t meet a friend before you meet a stranger, right?”

Though spoken with a carefree attitude, these words somehow reached Pinkamina in a way she did not expect. A spark awakened in her pupils, sending a shiver of good feelings all the way down her spine. She could not help but smile as she looked into the pretty purple eyes before her, which showed no ill will, no remorse, not the slightest trace of anything but good cheer. They did not even show any thought process either. Offering her friendship was just a shot from the hip, yet Pinkamina felt so oddly touched by it. It made her happy.

Taking a good look at the pegasus, the filly suddenly noticed the cutie mark on her flank. The white coat was painted with a simple portrait of balloons. It was a trio of balloons in fact, each one of them the same shade of purple as the mare’s eyes. They were all tied to strings, but nothing was holding them down. They just looked like they were flying freely into the air, only to stop where the sky had its limit, and perhaps not even there. It was oddly fitting for this pony, the filly thought. The bohemian nature of the mare resembled the lightness of the balloons. The innocence and cheer did as well.

“Oh, oh, oh!” Surprise suddenly exclaimed, overly excited over something that Pinkamina could not put a hoof on. She put the filly down quickly, and began flying about in loops and circles, dragging the cluster of balloons along in her tracks. “I just had a brilliant idea!”

A little stumped by the sudden eagerness, Pinkamina tried to follow the pegasus’ swift movements with her eyes and asked, “What idea?”

“Well, the reason I was getting these balloons back home in the first place…” the mare said, beginning yet another quick paced speech. “… Was that I was going to use them for decorations for a party. You see, I’m having this great party back at my place, and there’s going to be cake, and candy, and dancing, and laughing and everything in between, and it’s going to be so much fun, and then I thought: ‘I should totally bring you along’. Because all of my friends will be there, and they’re such nice ponies, and since you don’t have many friends you could make a ton of friends there.” She stopped up and soared down to stand right in front of the filly. Her tone had become less hyper and gentler, yet was still full of the innocent cheer that was so common to her. “I know it’s kind of sudden, but I really think it would be good for you. You don’t seem like the kind of pony who likes being alone all the time, so what do you say?”

Disregarding the whole sudden invitation for a moment, even disregarding the reason behind it, Pinkamina decided to pink the most important part of the speech and ask about it before anything else, “What’s a ‘party’?”

The pegasus suddenly froze, as if hit by some sort of invisible freezing ray. She fell backwards, comically landing on her back, but she was luckily completely unfazed by this crash when she got back up. All she was focused on was the filly’s, apparently unseen, response: “You don’t know what a party is!?”

Pinkamina could not find any other way to reply but with a slow shake of the head, all the while staring curiously at the strange pony.

“I can’t believe it! First she doesn’t know what balloons are, now she asks what a party is? What’s going on here?” Though it seemed rather comical the way Surprise was panicking, Pinkamina had a feeling she was serious. Apparently, not knowing about balloons and parties were uncommon, and it seemed like it meant a lot to the pegasus. When she was done with her little panicky scene, Surprise rushed forwards, stopping before the filly in a way that should have required a braking distance. Her eyes were wide and her gaze serious and she got so close to Pinkamina that the filly had to move her head back so they would not smack their faces together. With a comically deep voice, and glistening eyes, the pegasus then said, “In that case you have to come to my party. I will not take no for an answer.”

“But what is it?” Pinkamina asked again, eager to find out. “I can’t just go with you to something I don’t know what is.”

Surprise retracted her head. She looked the filly in the eyes for a moment, leaving a tense silence in the air. After that, she moved her hoof to her chin and looked up to the sky in wonder, pondering the response she would make. “A party is like: When you like to be with somepony, but not just be with them like you normally are, and not just with a few ponies but a lot of ponies, then you have this huge celebration with them.” She looked back down at Pinkamina and offered her a warm smile. “It’s hard to explain really. You’ll just have to see it for yourself. But I can promise one thing: You’ll definitely love it.”

Uncertainty was rushing through every bit of Pinkamina at this point. She was unsure how to respond to Surprise, unsure what would happen if she would attend this party, and of course unsure of what a party even was. There was not much for her to get out of the pegasus’ vague description. Scratching her cheek in silence, the filly thought the offer over. Though it was dangerous to go with such a strange mare, she really wanted to. She thought about asking her family’s permission, but was sure that they would say no if she asked. But curiosity took her over. There was something about this Surprise before her, about these balloons and the whole cheerful character of the mare that made her want to know and see even more. In the end she had one conclusion: “Ok then. I’ll go.”

The pegasus mare lit up with excitement, and she jumped high into the air, almost exploding as she responded, “Great! I can’t wait to show you to all of my friends! It’s gonna be super-duper funerific!”

“I hope you’re right,” Pinkamina nervously replied, shooting the mare a weak smile.

“Anyways,” Surprise then said as she landed on all four. “The party starts at eight, but you can come any time you like. It’s not like my parties stop before at least six in the morning anyways. And it’s at Sugarcube corner. Do you know where that is?”

The filly shook her head. “No, I don’t.”

“Well, just go to the center of Ponyville,” the mare began explaining. “When you see a really delicious house, you’re there. That’s Sugarcube Corner. That’s where I work and live with one of my friends.”

“Delicious house?” the filly asked, raising an eyebrow at the mare.

But Surprise simply repeated with a carefree smile and a nod, “Delicious house.”

She was still as clueless as before, but considering Surprise’s odd person, Pinkamina gave up trying to find out more about the address. She would just have to do her best to find it. What she needed to think about at the moment was how to get to this so-called ‘party’ in the first place. She would have to lie to her parents, and she would have to sneak back and forth from the farm. But it was an opportunity she could just not give up on.

With bright eyes the filly looked at the white pegasus before her. She let the edges of her mouth push part of her eye corners back, and reached out a hoof for a friendly shake. “Well, I guess I’ll see you tonight then.”

“Oh, I’m sure we will,” Surprise responded. Disregarding the hoofshake, the white pegasus stormed in on the filly and lifted her into the air with her in a tight hug. “I got a good feeling about this. I’m sure you’ll have the best time ever.”

While she was choking from the tight clutch of the white pony, and while her eyes felt like they would pop out at any given moment, the pink filly stretched her smile even further and in a choked up whisper she replied, “I hope you’re right.”

It took the filly about five minutes to get back to Pie Fields, but it was still too late. Both her sisters were already busy shoving rocks around on the fields, not even noticing her return. Clyde Pie, however, was awaiting her arrival before he would get back to work. He stood by the front door to their house, his stern gaze locked on the pink filly, and his left front hoof tapping the dry earth with impatience. Pinkamina swallowed a large lump of spit. She slowed down the pace as she trotted towards him; her head hung low with fear. She was sure she would get a massive scolding from her brown farmer father.

“Well, you sure took your time today,” the brown stallion said with a passive aggressive tone. “Five more minutes and I would’ve probably gone looking for you myself.”

“Sorry, dad,” responded Pinkamina with her lowest voice. “I got kind of caught up in something.”

“I’d say,” the stallion replied. “What exactly took you so long?”

She looked up at him and into the eyes that cut her like a knife. Thinking about Surprise’s invitation, she searched her mind for some sort of excuse that the old stallion would buy. The way he was still impatiently tapping his hoof had a stressing effect on her. She bit her teeth together, a sweat forming on her forehead. Stumbling through her mind, she looked panicky from side to side, doing her best to find a valid lie.

“I-I’m really s-s-sorry,” she stuttered, buying herself some time to get her words right. “But I met this old mare that was carrying a really heavy cart. I-I wanted to… to help her, but she somehow tricked me into carrying her things all the way to Po-Ponyville. I just couldn’t say no.”

Clyde Pie raised an eyebrow at the filly, which put on an awkward grin, hoping he would buy this lie. He held a suspicious gaze for a moment, but after a while he let his breath escape him and stopped tapping his hoof on the ground, giving her a smile of approval. He then walked past her, passing her a line as he continued out on the fields, “Guess there’s no helping it. But you’re gonna have to work twice as hard now, missy.”

Pinkamina gasped and wiped the sweat off her forehead. It seemed like she had averted the crisis. Now all that was left was to make her escape and go to the party tonight. She turned around with a slight grin, galloped to the nearest rock and let out an unordinary, “Yes, sir!”