• Published 18th Jan 2020
  • 1,205 Views, 448 Comments

16 - AlwaysDressesInStyle

Five years ago, sixteen mares founded a hotel in New Jersey called the Mareiott. These are their stories.

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Act I: Cherry Pie

Canterlot: twelve years, six months, and thirteen days ago

Why are Mommy and Daddy walking so fast? There are so many cool things to see! Oh, and hear! And touch! And smell! Oh, whatever that is smells so good! I want to taste it! I chomped on Mommy’s tail to get her attention.

“What is it, Cherry Pie?”

“What’s that smell? It smells so good!”

“That’s the bakery, dear.”

“Can we go in? Please, Mommy?”

Mommy sighed. Mommy does that a lot. It makes her face all wrinkly so she should really stop doing that. “Maybe another day.”

“But I wanna go in now!”

“Of course you do, but right now we really need to get to your first day of school.”

I don’t know what a school is, nor do I really care. Whatever it is I’m smelling is more important! So I let go of Mommy’s tail and ran into the store with the delicious smells. I stuck my snout in the air and sniffed. There! Whatever that is, I must eat it! I pressed my nose against the glass, desperate to take in a whiff.

Mommy’s aura grabbed my tail and started pulling me back out the door, but I fought it, galloping as hard as my little legs would go. Mommy was winning the battle inch by inch, but I made her work for it. It only took a few seconds of struggling for her to enter the store and pick me up by the scruff of my neck, but I looked longingly at the pastry that had caught my fancy. It was a cherry pie, my namesake. And it smelled far better than anything Mommy had ever made.

Canterlot: nine years, eight months, sixteen days ago

The kitchen was a mess. All my attempts to clean it had only made things worse. Mom’s probably going to tan my hide the instant she gets home, but it’ll all be worth it. I think I’ve finally hit the right combination of ingredients, because this pie smells amazing. If it tastes half as good as it smells, I’ll get my cutie mark for sure!

I had to keep reminding myself that a watched pot never boils. Not that I’m boiling the pie, because that would just be silly, but Mom says the saying means it takes longer for something to happen if you’re standing there watching it the whole time. So a watched oven doesn’t cook? Blah, something something, something or other. So I’m not very good with words. Words are boring. You know what else is boring? Watching this oven! Come on, pie, bake already! It’s been ten whole seconds since I last looked! That’s gotta be enough time!

The squeak of the front door opening threw a wrench into my plans. “Uh-oh.” Mom’s home. Saying that the kitchen was wrecked was putting it nicely. Mom’s going to have a fit.

“Hi sweetie, I’m home.” She sniffed. “Whatever you’re making smells delicious.”

“Hi Mom!” I dashed out of the kitchen and threw my forelegs around hers. “I made a pie for you!” So that’s a little bit of a fib. I made the pie because my name’s Cherry Pie and this has to be my destiny and I want my cutie mark. But Mom can help eat it. So that means it’s kinda for her, right? I don’t like fibbing. Fibbing is what bad ponies do and I don’t want to ever be a bad pony.

My attempt to block Mom from entering the kitchen and seeing the mess I made failed miserably. She’s bigger, stronger, and knows me too well to be fooled that easily. It’s not like this is the first time I’ve tried making pies… Though it is the first time the results could be considered edible.

The timer dinged and we both looked at the oven. Saved by the bell! Er, timer. Or something like that. If I ever decide to write the story of my life I’m paying somepony else to write it for me. The pie appeared to be ready. It also looked and smelled perfect. Yes! I finally made it right! Wait, I shouldn’t celebrate until I try it. I levitated the pie out of the oven with my magic. My mana flickered a bit, but held firm, and the pie was gently deposited on the table to cool.

Mom and I sat at the table, staring at the pie. Well, I was staring, while Mom was critiquing it. “It certainly smells delicious. Looks good too, though your lattices could certainly be straighter.”

She was right, of course. I’ve gotta work on that.

There was one last thing that was missing. As soon as the pie was cool enough, I topped it with a cherry. A little something extra to set my pies apart from all the rest. A signature of sorts.

The lights flickered for a moment, but I paid them no heed. The pie was baked, the power could fail now and I wouldn’t even care.

“Looks like you got your cutie mark.”

Oh! So that wasn’t a flickering lamp. “Yay!” I turned around, craning my neck to see my rump. That’s not as easy as it sounds, and Mom giggling at my antics certainly didn’t help matters much.

“It’s a nice cherry pie. It’s a good thing you got your mark in baking, otherwise you’d be earning it in kitchen cleaning.” I cringed. I knew that was coming sooner or later. “But since your talent is for baking, I guess I’ll just have to help you clean.”

Canterlot: seven years, two months, and three days ago (takes place during Season 9, episodes 24/25: The Ending of the End)

There wasn’t much in the way of open space in Canterlot. I suppose that’s the downside to building a city on the side of a mountain. Homes in town tended not to have much in the way of yards, and parks were few and far between. So to entertain ourselves, my friends and I played tag in the streets, racing up and down the cobblestone roads and weaving in and out of the ponies and carts to avoid being tagged ‘it’.

Sparkly Stars and I dashed down the main thoroughfare, Cosmic Dreams hot on our hooves. We split an oncoming wagon, Sparkly dodging right, while I veered left. Had our friend Feather Duster been there, she would’ve just flown over it.

I turned to Sparkly as we started running alongside one another. “Where’s Feather?”

“You didn’t hear? Her parents got fired by the nobles they were working for and they left town. I can’t blame them. I mean, who wants pegasi living with them, am I right? We’re better off without that dirty cheater mucking up our games, anyway.”

Sparkly’s venomous words took me by surprise and I stumbled. It was enough for Cosmic to catch me and tag me. “You’re it!” Cosmic turned tail and ran back in the direction we’d just come, but Sparkly was still just ahead of me – it would be easier to tag her than it would be to turn around and chase after Cosmic.

Besides, it would give me a chance to continue our conversation. “You don’t really believe all that unicorn superiority nonsense, do you?”

“Why wouldn’t I? Unicorns are inherently better than mudponies and feathered barbarians.”

“But what about the windigos and the spirit of Hearth’s Warming?”

“You really believe that old mare’s tale? Look around you, Cherry. Canterlot was built by unicorns.” She stopped galloping and tapped a hoof on the nearest building. “Solid stone. That’s a proper building material, unlike clouds.”

Cosmic finally realized nopony was chasing her, and caught up with us. “What’s the holdup?”

“Cherry’s a pegasus sympathizer.”


“I didn’t say that! I was just asking about Feather Duster. You know, our friend?”

“She’s not our friend.”

“She used to be!”

“We were young. Mistakes were made.”

“Yeah, Cherry, I know you’re a softie, but listen to Sparkly an’ me. Feather Duster and them other pegasi are nothin’ but trouble.”

“Okay, I believe you. I was just asking.”

“You’re still it!” Sparkly took off running, Cosmic right behind her.

That was a lot to take in. We’d all grown up with one another. Living in the working class part of the city, none of our parents were rich. We’d all started hanging out with one another because we were at the bottom of the income-based Canterlot hierarchy. We may not have had much, but at least we had each other. I’d just found out I’d lost one of my best friends, and was seriously considering cutting my losses with the other two. I didn’t put a lot of effort into trying to catch either Sparkly or Cosmic.

Up ahead a cart exploded into flames and was tossed aside. Sparkly and Cosmic crashed into each other trying to avoid the wreckage. I came to a stop and watched, horrified, as a pink alicorn marched up the street, Royal Guards futilely clinging to her hooves.

Sparkly Stars and Cosmic Dreams ran off in the other direction and I tried to follow them, but tripped in my haste. To my surprise the alicorn reached out with her magic and propped me back on my hooves.

“Your new empress appreciates your bow, loyal subject.”

She paid me no further heed, and I took a good look at this mysterious pony as she continued marching towards the castle. She was about my age, with curly blue hair and a rook cutie mark.

I ran home and hid under my bed until the all clear came hours later.

Canterlot: six years, eight months, thirteen days ago

Feather Duster and I sat on a bench in the castle’s statue garden. The graffiti-covered statue of the so-called Legion of Doom was to our right.

A lot had changed in the wake of their rampage through Canterlot. Ponies had come together with each other and the various other sapient races to defeat them. Friendship and cooperation had saved the day once again, and everypony was quick to forgive one another for things said months earlier.

Feather Duster’s parents were rehired by the noble family they’d worked for, and she went from being ‘one of my friends’ to ‘my best friend’ as I tried to distance myself from Sparkly and Cosmic. Dusty might be able to forgive the things they’d said about her, but it still rubbed me the wrong way that they could buy into unicorn supremacist propaganda so easily, and that they’d tried to sell that load of manure to me too.

“Bit for your thoughts.”

I chuckled. “That’s overpaying for these thoughts, Dusty.”

“You’re still obsessing over what happened six months ago, aren’t you?”

“Can you blame me? If you’d only heard the things they were saying about you.”

“And you should have heard the things the pegasi were saying about unicorns. Ponies are a herd species, Cherry. Everypony tries to conform with the herd, it’s some sort of convoluted survival trait.”

“That may very well be, but as individuals we all know better. The fact that so many ponies were quick to abandon the very core basics of equinity bothers me.”

Dusty nodded. “And what was the reaction Sparkly and Cosmic had to you trying to stick up for me?”

“They tried to cast me out, too.”

“Like I said, we’re a herd species. An individual is vulnerable, while the group is safe. Conform to the groupthink, or be at the mercy of the world’s predators on your own.”

“That’s the thing, Dusty. I met the apex predator. I was at her mercy. And she picked me up off the ground and walked away.” I turned to look at the pegasus part of the statue. “Cozy Glow had me dead to rights and she didn’t hurt me. A pegasus. When even the unicorns in town had turned their backs on me.”

Dusty shrugged. “She and Chrysalis are the ones who started the hate propaganda in the first place. Twilight traced the rumors back to them.”

“They used hate as a tool, and in doing so demonstrated exactly how fragile peace the between the tribes really is, even thousands of years removed from the first Hearth’s Warming. It bothers me that all it takes to get our entire society to self-destruct are whispers and lies.”

“That’s deep. And more than a little messed up, yet I can’t refute any of it. What I can say is what’s in the past is in the past. Forgive Sparkly and Cosmic and move on. Regardless of what they said about me, they’ve been nothing but nice to me since I got back. And maybe, stop thinking about things so much. Everypony has learned from this, and we’ll never see anything like that ever again.”

I sighed and nodded. Dusty’s a good friend, but not exactly the pony I should be having deep philosophical conversations with. “I just wish I could be as sure as you are that this is the last time we’ll ever see something like this.”

Canterlot: five years, six months, twelve days ago

With singlemindedness my classmates were quick to make fun of, I dedicated my summer vacation to the exploration of every bakery in Canterlot. My quest was simple: to find the best cherry pie in the city. My goal would be harder: once I found the best, I had to improve my recipe until mine was better.

I visited eight different bakeries each day, purchasing a cherry pie from each. Or in the case of Filly Creek Cupcakes, I bought a cherry cupcake since they didn’t offer pies on the menu. And since there was no way I could eat eight pies on my own, I shared with my friends and family in exchange for their opinions on which ones they liked best.

That came with its own set of consequences. I liked a nice tart pie, but half my focus group preferred sweet cherry pies instead. Thankfully, that was an easily solved problem. Why limit myself to one type of cherry pie? I’d already planned on offering a range of cherry desserts, and there was no reason I couldn’t offer variations catering to the various tastes of my customers. There’s more than one type of cherry, after all!

Three days in, twenty-three pies and one cupcake taste tested. Surprisingly, the cupcake not only held its own, it was leading the way. It was far and away the best of the sweet desserts I’d tried, and I even preferred it to more than half the tart pies tasted to date.

And that meant it was time to experiment. I rarely made sweet cherry pies, but now I had a target to meet or beat. I gathered my ingredients, opting for black cherries and enough sugar to make my dentist cringe. My first attempt was a failure. So were my second and third attempts. The fourth time I ended up with something edible, and the fifth was competitive with the best sweet cherry pies I’d tried. I had Dad try a slice – Mom and I were blood members of the Cherry family, while he’d married into it. As such, he preferred the sweet pies to the tart ones.

“This is really good. Could be just a little bit sweeter though.”

Oh Dad, you wouldn’t say that if you knew how much sugar was already in there. Then again, my competition is likely dumping even more sugar in their pies than I am. “Thanks, Dad, I’ll keep tweaking it.” Maybe if I try blending a few different types of cherries… I grabbed several different types of cherries and put them out on the counter. I ate a cherry, slowly, savoring the flavor, then washed it down with water to cleanse my palate. I repeated the process with the other cherries, taking note of the subtle nuances of their respective flavors.

Satisfied, I selected the cherry with the blandest flavor. I had a hunch that the key to making the perfect sweet cherry pie involved it having only the faintest hint of cherry. I sighed. These ponies don’t like cherries, they like sugar. I also added a pinch of cinnamon to further mask the cherry taste.

I sat there in the kitchen, keeping an eye on the oven. An undercooked pie can be put back into the oven, but an overcooked pie is ruined. Normally I savored the smell of cherries as the pies baked, but there was only the barest whiff of cherry in the air. So this is what it feels like to sell out.

Canterlot: seven months, two days ago

Finally, the big day! I’d spent my entire college savings on it, but my bakery was ready for business! Cherry Pie’s Cherry Pies wasn't the most imaginative name, but it was easy to remember. The best cherry pies bits can buy! I should write that down so I can make that my slogan.

In addition to pies, I had a wide range of cherry desserts available, like cherry cobblers and cherry cheesecakes. Sadly, I’d never had a shred of luck making apple pies or any other baked goods that don’t contain cherries. Once the bits start rolling in, I’ll hire another baker to better compete with the other bakeries in town.

I couldn’t afford the rent on any of the buildings on one of the main thoroughfares, so instead I’d settled for a side street. It didn’t get as much traffic as I would’ve liked, and while I was well aware of the old adage ‘location, location, location’, there was only so much I could do with such limited funds.

I just need to make enough these first few weeks to afford a little advertising in the Canterlot newspapers. Despite all this unsold inventory, I’m sure I can manage that.

I’d been overly enthusiastic about the grand opening, and my optimism had resulted in a surplus. Rather than tossing them out, I opted instead to pass them out as free samples after closing for the night. When you can’t afford billboards or even flyers, word of mouth advertising is your best friend.

Canterlot: five months, twenty days ago

My bakery was sparsely decorated – my budget hadn’t allowed for anything extravagant. A few paintings of cherries hung on the walls, along with a map of Cherry Jubilee’s orchard. A half dozen small circular tables were set near the window, offering a view of the hustle and bustle of the city.

Cherry Pie’s Cherry Pies had only been open a little over a month, but I’d already attracted some regular customers that I could count on seeing on a near daily basis. One of them, an elderly pegasus stallion with a blue coat and rain cloud cutie mark was sitting at his usual table. Whatever colors his mane and tail had once been had faded to grayscale, but he still had most of his hair. Every day he’d sit and read the paper while enjoying a slice of cherry pie. His tastes in dessert were similar to mine – he enjoyed his pie as tart as possible to truly savor the flavor.

Like most days since I’d opened, business was slow. I refilled his coffee mug, then pulled up a chair and sat across the table from him. “Anything new and exciting, Stormy Night?”

“I’m still breathing. That’s excitement enough for me.”

“I could stand a little more excitement.” I motioned around to the nearly empty bakery.

“You mean business, not excitement. Excitement is when things go wrong, like when that Storm King fella invaded. You want more business, find a new line of work.”

“What do you mean?”

“Canterlot’s got more than enough bakeries, and I guarantee yours will never catch on.”

“Why not?”

“Because I like it. And that’s the kiss of death to restaurants. My taste runs counter to mainstream. You make a fantastic tart cherry pie. Ponies don’t want that. They want their pie so sugary sweet it tastes like diabetes.”

“I have sweet pies too.”

“And so does every other bakery in town. Except they’ve got other options too, like doughnuts or apple fritters, or things that don’t have cherries in them. No, if you want to be successful, you need to get out of Canterlot.”

“But my family’s here.”

“You got foals?”


“A husband?”


“Then you ain’t got an excuse. I’m a sire three times over, a grandsire eight times over, and I’ve lost count of how many great-grandfoals I’ve got at this point. Take it from me, kid, it’s time to leave the nest. You know where you’d have a chance of being successful? Here.”

He thrust the paper at me and I read the headline. It was more talk about that parallel universe that had been discovered. “Earth?”

“Yeah. Them hairless primates are omnivores. They got taste buds that can appreciate something other than sweet.”

“I’ll keep that in mind if my bakery fails.”

“When. Ain’t been a restaurant I liked yet that made it a full year in this city.”

I stood up. “That’s a lot to think about.”

“Don’t waste too much time thinking. There’s a time for thinkin’, and there’s a time for action.”

Canterlot: five months, ten days ago

I looked up as I turned the page. There was a bell on the door, and I knew that if anypony came in it would jingle, but I couldn’t help looking up every time I turned a page, just in case. As had been the case for the last hour and a half, there were no customers to be seen. Stormy Night’s right – the writing’s on the wall.

I turned my attention back to the textbook in front of me. Learning a language from scratch without anyone to teach it to me or practice it with was challenging. English was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Still, I needed to learn this as fast as possible. I’d have to learn a few basics of the other languages too; just enough to bluff my way through the requirements. But if I was going to live there, I needed to know at least one of them for real. And it wasn’t like I had anything better to do with my time…

But I’d stick it out here until the bitter end. This had been my dream since I was a little filly, and I wouldn’t give up on it as long as there was even the slightest chance of success.

The next page was filled with pictures of the various gadgets humans had developed, along with the English name for each, and a brief description of what they did. “Automobile, television, computer, telephone…” Those words just don’t roll off equine tongues very well.

Canterlot: four months, seven days ago

Business had picked up a bit. Unsurprisingly, my strongest sellers continued to be the sweeter desserts. It was to the point where I didn’t even bother keeping more than one tart pie on hoof at any given time.

The morning rush was still only half of what I needed to make a profit, but it was substantially better than what it had been a few weeks earlier. There was still hope.

Conspicuous by his absence was Stormy Night. Normally he was one of the first customers through the door every day. As the rush died down, I started worrying about him.

The lunch rush came and went with no sign of him. Some of the locals had discovered that my bakery was almost always empty, and hence made a great place to stop in for a quick bite to eat instead of waiting in the lines at Hayburger. The problem was those ponies didn’t advertise that, since it would be counterproductive to their own reasons for coming in.

Stormy finally showed up five minutes before closing. I rushed over to him and threw my forelegs around him, hugging him. “I was worried about you!”

“You got better things to worry ‘bout than me. Like keepin’ the lights on.”

“Oh don’t worry, I’ve got plenty of worry to go around.”

“Obviously. You doing anything right now?”

“Just customer service. Your regular?”

“Yeah, gimme a slice of your finest to go. After you close up, you got plans?”


“I got a heavy package back at my place. I need somepony young and strong to lift it for me. Think you could manage to do that for an old geezer like me?”

“Sure. Just let me finish up closing first.” That wasn’t challenging – I hadn’t had any customers for the last hour, so I’d already completed most of the cleaning tasks that needed to be done before I could call it quits for the day.

I followed Stormy back to his home. He lived in one of the nicer upper middle class neighborhoods of Canterlot. The homes in his area tended to be owned by the most successful merchants in town. The upper class neighborhoods were exclusively reserved for those with noble titles, so this was the most regular ponies could hope to aspire to. It begged the question as to why he needed my help to move something. Surely, he had ponies on staff to do things like that for him?

He opened the door and was greeted by an elderly yellow mare, whom he kissed. “Sponge Cake, this is Cherry Pie. Cherry Pie, my lovely wife, Sponge Cake.”

I curtseyed in greeting, then followed Stormy into the dining room. I looked at the package on the table – it was addressed to me. “Uh?”

“It’s a little something for you, but it’s only to be opened in the event you have to close up shop.”

I lifted it in my magical field, grunting at the weight. He hadn’t been kidding when he called it heavy. “What’s in here?”

“Everything you need to make a new life for yourself on Earth. As with anything else in life, it comes with a price, which is spelled out in a letter you’ll find inside. That’s why you only open this if you go out of business.”

I nodded. “Thank you?”

“You’re welcome. Now you best get that home before that flicker you call your your field gives out.”

Canterlot: two days ago

It was appropriately dreary as I trudged through the predawn streets to my shop. When I first opened, I bounced down the street eager to get started for the day. But reality had long since set in: I couldn’t afford to hire help, and I couldn’t afford to close down even for a day. I’d had such high hopes for my bakery. But my books are written in so much red ink, my ledgers could double for… barn doors, or maybe ladybugs? I dunno, they could double for something red. I think it’s safe to cross ‘author’, ‘poet’, and ‘songwriter’ off my list of new potential careers. Thoughts of career changes were more frequent for me these days, though I hadn’t come up with any truly good ideas. Baking cherry pies is what I’m good at. Let’s see if I can make a miracle happen today. Time to make the pies.

Or not. I tried opening the door with magic, but it wouldn’t budge. It was then I caught sight of the paper taped to the door. An eviction notice for failure to pay the rent. The locks had been changed and the door was warded against magical entry. Yeah, that was bound to happen sooner or later. I looked sadly through the door at my hopes and dreams dying. It was a good thing I’d packed up everything of value and all personal effects a while ago. All my equipment however? That would be sold off to pay off my debts. Well, what little of it I actually owned, anyway. The rest would be repossessed.

Ambitions don’t pay bills. I could analyze the reasons for my bakery’s failure until I’m blue in the face. My location was horrible, but it was the only place I could afford. Specializing in only cherry desserts limited my market. But that couldn’t be helped since they’re the only thing I can really make. Opening up in Canterlot, a city with insanely high rents and a market that’s already oversaturated with competitors. But I lived here, so where else was I going to open up shop? Blowing my college savings on a pipe dream. Guess I won’t be getting a degree now. I’m already deep in debt, I have no intention of adding school loans to the pile.

Oh well, that’s the whole reason I came up with a backup plan, after all. I believe it’s time for me to fly.

Ponyville: yesterday

It’s time for me to fly. I’m on the run, no time to sleep. I’ve got to ride like the wind to be free again.

I sat outside the office, waiting my turn to interview. Amazingly, there hadn’t been an entire battalion of Royal Guards waiting for me when I arrived. So far so good. I’d turned in my visa application the moment it started looking like my business was going to fail. And fail it did. Spectacularly even. But the important part was I was here right now, and not in Canterlot. With a little luck, I’ll be on the other side of the portal before anypony starts looking for me to collect on any of the many debts I owe.

Part of me feels guilty for this. A large part of me, honestly. But what other choice do I have? My savings are gone. My assets, what little I have that isn’t on me, will end up liquidated to pay off my creditors. And the rest? I’ll be stuck paying it off for the rest of my miserable existence while I make minimum wage toiling away on Aunt Cherry Jubilee’s orchard. I don’t have earth pony magic; I’d be just about useless at anything other than harvesting cherries. My magic would give me a bit of an advantage there, but it pales in comparison to the earth pony ability to buck trees with their rear hooves and get cherries to neatly fall into buckets. I’d love to know how they do that particular trick!

No. I’m young and I have my whole life ahead of me. I’m not going to let one false start ruin everything. I’m not a bad pony. I’m not a bad pony. I’m not a bad pony. If I repeat that enough times, maybe I’ll even believe it.

“Apple Pie?”

It took me a few moments to look up. Right, I really need to get used to my alias. “Sorry, I was lost in thought there.” Time to find out if the fake identity I’d managed to create would stand up to scrutiny. From what little I could find about Earth, they had pretty rigorous ways of checking out backgrounds. Equestria was more or less on the honor system. I just needed to provide a birth certificate as proof of my identity, and I’d picked up a copy from the Canterlot Archives specifically to alter. All I had needed to do was change ‘Cherry’ to ‘Apple’, and while I may not be the most talented unicorn on Equus, it wasn’t that difficult to forge the document.

Something tells me they’ll increase security soon enough. Or maybe this is their way of getting us bad ponies out of Equestria for a while. I’m not a bad pony, I’m not a bad pony, I’m not a bad pony. Still not buying it.

The bored stallion who’d called me into his office asked the first of the routine questions I’d expected.

“Reason for leaving Equestria?”

“I want to apprentice at a bakery and learn some new recipes.” He seemed satisfied with that and wrote my response down.

“All right, we’ll get your application processed. Minimum visa duration is five years, maximum is seven. Due to heavy traffic through the portal, no visits home until five years have passed. Will that be a problem?”

Only one question? That’s surprisingly anticlimactic. I had prepared responses for a dozen questions. The small part of me that was disappointed was quickly silenced by the rest of me, which was relieved to pass through security with such little scrutiny.

“Not at all.” Maximum of seven years? Perfect, that’s just enough time for my debts to be legally wiped out. Good luck finding me on Earth, creditors.

I used to be a good pony. I never lied or took things that didn’t belong to me. But that was before I was both broke and broken. The only real question is whether I’ll like Earth enough to immigrate there permanently, or if I’ll come running back through this portal seven years from now to avoid creditors on the other side.

I trudged up the stairs of my parents’ house to my bedroom. I didn’t have a lot of time to pack, and I was only allowed to take so much with me. I guess it’s finally time to open Stormy’s package.

I lifted the flaps of the box and was greeted by the glint of hundreds of bits. My eyes just about bugged out of my head. There was a letter on top of the pile, and I immediately tore open the envelope.

Cherry Pie,

I told you a bakery as good as yours was doomed to failure, but you didn’t listen. I could’ve bought you out, but you’ve seen my house. I’m not in the habit of making bad business decisions. I could’ve hired you on to be my personal chef, but that would be selling you short. In either case, I’m old. I got maybe five to ten years left in me, and then what would happen? My next of kin would sell the bakery or let you go as redundant. And then you’re right back at square one.

Besides, I ain’t in the habit of providing charity to ponies either. I told you that there was a price to be paid, and there is: this is a payment for your pie recipe. You’ve got the mark for it, so it’ll never be as good as if you made it, but Sponge Cake’s pretty good. She’ll manage to make something passable. But I promise that’s as far as the recipe goes. It’s still yours to do with it what you will. I just want to purchase the rights for it for my own personal use. I think you’ll find the enclosed payment sufficient, and if you don’t, you’re not really in any position to bargain, are you?

And that’s why I insisted you wait until you went out of business to open this. Had you done so previously, you would’ve squandered these bits in a futile effort to keep your doors open. But there comes a point where you have to stop throwing good bits after bad ones.

So take this and use it toward making a better life for yourself. And please mail your recipe to me at:

Stormy Night
1 Coltfax Cir

Stormy Night

I felt my faith in equinity restored somewhat. I tallied up the bits and found there to be five hundred, total. Creative use of these bits might have bought me another month in business. He was right though, that wouldn’t have been enough to turn the tide.

I scribbled out my recipe and dropped it in the mail.

Pine Barrens, New Jersey: today

First day in a new world. I’d say ‘that’s always tough’ but this is my first time doing it. And yeah, it’s pretty tough, all right. As far as plans go, mine was pretty simple: find someplace warm and live off the land if necessary. Thankfully, ponies can eat grass. The stipend for coming to Earth was generous, but it was intended as start-up money. Something to help ponies transition from the world they were leaving behind until they could stand on their own hooves in their new homeland. But it wasn’t enough to live off of for five years, and it was nowhere near enough to pay off my debts. And it was all in silly green paper that looked more like play money from a board game than legitimate currency.

For all intents and purposes I’d pretty much given up. I was barely out of school and already I was trying to put myself out to pasture. Shame, guilt, and a general feeling of worthlessness were the feelings I wrestled with. Maybe I’d volunteer to be somebody’s pet. There was certainly no shortage of people who wanted one of us for their own. I sighed. Mooching off some hapless family. Not helping my shame or guilt at all, really. Not to mention the thought of selling myself out like a dog begging for table scraps didn’t help my self-esteem in the least. It speaks volumes for just how far I've fallen that this is my backup plan.

Of course, I could always take the stipend and start my own business. It certainly wasn’t a lot for seed money, but with the right idea or product, maybe I could make it work… You know, if I hadn’t already failed at running my own bakery. Where would I run to when this hypothetical one inevitably failed?

Living off the land it is. First though, I have to check in at the consulate. The nearest one to the portal is in New York City, which is the human equivalent of Manehattan. That required a two-hour trip in a giant motorized carriage the natives called a ‘bus’. It was loud and smelled of disinfectants and air fresheners… and everything else those first two were trying to mask. If it isn’t already common knowledge that pony noses are far more sensitive than human noses, it soon will be. There’s an untapped market here. Maybe I could come up with a line of cherry-scented air fresheners. No! Bad Cherry Pie. No more business ventures. Bad!

Making matters worse, there was a unicorn mare working her way up the aisle soliciting some idea she had, looking for investors. Ha, not happening. I pretended to be asleep when she passed my seat. I’m keeping this money as long as I can, and no two-bit con artist is taking it from me.

We eventually arrived at the consulate, and the bus stopped, thank Celestia. If there was any doubt whatsoever that I was a fish out of water, craning my neck to look at all the skyscrapers like a tourist from the sticks sealed the deal. But to be fair, as far as Canterlot sprawled, it was spread out on a mountainside as opposed to built up like this city.

We’d all meet individually with the consul and she’d help us make our dreams a reality to the best of her ability. There weren’t enough princesses to go around, and none here on Earth, so they’d brought in a duchess from Cloudsdale as consul. From what I’d heard, she’s descended from Commander Hurricane or something. I never really paid much attention to either politics in general, or the royals in particular, though I was sort of regretting that now. Still, matters of the state are hardly my concern.

There were dozens of ponies waiting for the consul’s attention, and I read magazines while I waited my turn. I thought for sure that the con artist was going to set her sights on me, but instead she was the first one through the door to talk to Ploomette. Must be my lucky day. I’ll just wait until everypony else is out of the way. I was in no rush. Hey, they have free snacks. If I stick to my plan this may be the last time I eat something that I didn’t graze from a field.

Every so often a mare with a clipboard came out of the office and pulled another pony inside. It felt like the waiting room in the doctor’s office. All that was missing was a bored receptionist shouting ‘Next’. One by one, the rest of the ponies had their turn with the consul. Some of them left when they were done, though others returned to the waiting room.

“You must be Apple Pie.” I wonder if she figured that out from the process of elimination, or by looking at my cutie mark.

“Actually, it’s Cherry Pie. There must have been some sort of mix-up on my application, and when I got to the portal I found out they had my name wrong. Is that something you can fix?” This was it. The consul would undoubtedly see through my charade and the whole house of cards would come tumbling down.

“I have that power, my little pony. Though I find it odd that you waited until now to bring it to somepony’s attention.”

“I was going to do so before our departure, but I didn’t want to cause any delays. I’m sure fixing these things takes time.”

Ploomette nodded, much to my relief. “They do, though regardless of delays, things like this should really be brought up before crossing the portal. I’ll have my staff make you a new passport.” She called a unicorn over, and explained what needed to be done. With a nod, the mare disappeared into another room. “While we wait, tell me more about yourself. What brings you to Earth?”

“The portal.” I chuckled and noticed I was alone in doing so. “I never felt like I really belonged in the cherry orchards. So I’m looking for a change, but I’m not really sure what I want to do. I was thinking of heading someplace warm and living off the land until I figure it out. That way I save my bits until I need them.” There was a time I abhorred fibbing. Back then I thought lying was for bad ponies. I still do, but I’ve reluctantly come to accept that I’m a bad pony. I’ve also come to embrace the fact that I’m a very good liar. It’s not a skill I’m proud of, and it’ll never go on my résumé, but it’s saved my flank more than once. Thankfully, ponies are really trusting by nature. Mostly because the vast majority of ponies are actually trustworthy. Unlike me. Someday it’s going to catch up to me and I’ll deserve what punishment I receive when it does, but until then the lies are all I’ve got left. And maybe, just maybe, I can reinvent myself here on Earth and stop being such an awful pony.

“Living off the land is a thing you could theoretically do, but I wouldn’t really recommend it. What if I could provide a better option for you?”

I’d say you should save it for somepony who deserves it. Instead I simply said, “I’m listening.”

She pushed a button on her intercom and one of the doors to her office opened. In strode that same unicorn mare from the bus. The scammer. If she convinced the consul, she must be really good. I might even be dealing with a better liar than myself. I made a mental note to be exceedingly careful.

“This is Snowcatcher. She has a proposition for you.”

The blue mare wasted no time starting her sales pitch. “My thought is to pool our resources and open an Equestrian style hotel. You know the type – we live there and cater to the whims of our guests.”

“It beats living off the land.” Ploomette made a good point.

But on the flip side it would cost me almost every bit I had to my name. That was a hard choice. I’m from Canterlot, so roughing it isn’t exactly in my nature. I don’t even know if I have any survival skills. What are the odds I randomly find some wild cherries? At the same time, I’m from Canterlot. I should be the one being pampered, not the one doing the pampering. Still, a roof over my head sounded far more tempting than living in a forest somewhere.

“There’s a dozen of us on board so far. I’m hoping for twenty, but if we can get to sixteen we can make it work. A lot of the other ponies already had plans, though a few of them changed their minds and decided our venture was a better idea. There’s nothing like it on Earth, so we have an untapped market.”

“And if you want to back out later, I can try to find somepony else coming through the portal to take your place and buy you out.” Ploomette was really on board with this idea. It sounded legitimate.

With that many of us going in, we could afford the property none of us could hope to buy individually. But I’d just lost one business, and wasn’t keen on losing all my money a second time. “And if we fail?”

Snowcatcher hung her head and stared at the floor. “We’ll figure something out. By then we’ll have a better grasp on Earth’s culture, and we’ll be able to position ourselves accordingly. We have a wide range of talents, and if we all work together I’m sure we could bounce back from any theoretical setbacks…”

“Yeah, not interested.”

She looked crestfallen, like I’d just insulted her parents and kicked her puppy. Either she was the world’s greatest con artist, or she was truly invested in this idea. I get it, I really do. I’ve been there myself, not that I’m going to admit it to the mares present. If only I’d had ponies supporting me a few months ago when I opened my bakery, maybe I’d still have a bakery instead of shattered dreams. Could I casually shatter somepony else’s dreams and just walk away? I reminded myself I was a bad pony. Bad ponies don’t have friends and don’t care about the hopes and dreams of others. Is there any good left inside me? I guess this is my chance to find out.

“You’re asking a lot. The stipend we got? That’s every single bit I have to my name. I can’t afford to lose it.”

She sighed. “I’ve heard that a lot today. But if I had enough to reimburse everypony, I wouldn’t need investors in the first place; I’d be looking for employees instead.”

“And in a worst case scenario, if your venture fails, I’m here to help the ponies on Earth. I could certainly assist in finding new employment and lodging. Equestria isn’t going to just abandon its citizens here.”

Ploomette’s really pushing for this. I suppose this is a way for her to help both of us at once. Perhaps I was rash to pass up this offer so quickly. I don’t want Snowcatcher to feel the same crushing defeat I did. Together, maybe we can make something of ourselves. Maybe somewhere deep down in my heart of hearts, I really do still care about my fellow equines. I might not be an entirely bad pony. Of course, selfishly, I’d also get a roof over my head, a job, and maybe even friends. I couldn’t afford to do something like this on my own any more than they could. Ah, yes, doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. Yeah, let’s go with that. I knew there had to be some ulterior motives in there somewhere. I really don’t want to forage for my meals. Still, I really hope I don’t regret this. “You twisted my leg. I’m in.” No going back now. “So what now?”

“We go back into the waiting room and get acquainted with our new business partners. We just need three more.”

“Two more, my little ponies. And I’ll cover the other two shares until such time as you find your remaining investors.”

Snowcatcher stopped in her tracks, then turned and followed the consul back into her office. I stood at the entrance to the waiting room and looked out over my new… friends? Housemates? Coworkers? Business partners? I guess all of the above, though we’ll probably have to work on the ‘friends’ part. I really hope we can all get along under one roof or this is going to be a nightmare.

I smiled at them and gave a little wave. “Uh, hi everypony. I’m Cherry Pie, and I guess we’ll all be getting to know one another better.”

Author's Note:

Story notes (Prologue/Chapter 1): https://www.fimfiction.net/blog/886276/story-notes-16

Ask Cherry Pie questions related to the story: https://www.fimfiction.net/blog/960495/meet-the-mares-cherry-pie

Big thanks to RoyaleFanaticGal for the fanart of Cherry Pie!