• Published 27th May 2021
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A Lesson in Romantics - The Red Parade

Cheerilee loves Meadowbrook. Meadowbrook loves Cheerilee. Hopefully nothing gets lost in between a thousand years of translation.

  • ...

Take This to Heart

Meadowbrook paced the floor deep in thought, rubbing her chin as she tried to remember days from thousands of years ago.

“Oh, drat! I just can’t remember,” she spat dejectedly.

“Remember what?”

Meadowbrook leapt into the air with a yelp. “Oh! Somnambula, when did you get there?”

Somnambula wisely decided not to point out that she had been in the room before Meadowbrook had walked in. “Is something troubling you?”

“Ah…” Meadowbrook cleared her throat, straightening herself. “Well, I think you were… right about how I feel towards Cheerilee,” she admitted.

“Wonderful!” Somnambula clapped her hooves together approvingly. “Truly, I am overjoyed you have found someone to love!”

Meadowbrook blushed as Somnambula came over to hug her. “Thank you, but… I’m just not sure how to say it! I’ve been trying to think of how romantics were back in our time, but… well, it was really more of Mistmane’s expertise than mine.”

Somnambula nodded. “Ah. Romance can be a strange endeavor, can it not? It can lead to hope, but at the same time it can stray away. But remember, my friend: sometimes you must find the courage to fight for that which you love.”

“Much like an alchemy experiment, I suppose,” Meadowbrook sighed, trotting over to her kitchen. “Cheerilee asked me to join her for some fieldwork later today. I hope to use it to tell her how I feel; in fact, I spent the morning putting together some poems inspired by the classical ones written from our time. But something just feels missing...” As she reached for a mug, her eyes fell upon a simple appliance: a silver teaspoon. “Oh!” she shouted, glee filling her face. “Of course!”

“What is it?” inquired Somnambula as she poked her head into the room.

“Spoons!” declared Meadowbrook. “I need to find a woodworker!”

Cheerilee pranced in a circle, muttering to herself while Amethyst watched in bemusement from behind her cramped desk.

“Nervous?” teased Amethyst.

“Of course not!” Cheerilee gulped. “I’m only asking out one of the most powerful and legendary figures in Equestrian history! Who could most certainly smite me, or call upon someone else to smite me in her name!”

Amethyst nodded, sipping from her ‘#2 Assistant’ mug (Spike had stolen her ‘#1 Assistant’ one). “I think you might be overthinking things.”

Cheerile sighed, gently pressing her forehead into the wall. “Maybe I am. I just want things to go right tonight!”

“Well she said yes to a date, didn’t she?” pointed out Amethyst. “That’s a good start.”

“I may not have… phrased it as such,” Cheerilee coughed. “She… thinks we’re doing some fieldwork.”

Amethyst shrugged. “Well you’re just going to have to tell her directly then.”

Cheerilee scuffed a hoof on the floor nervously. “Drat. I guess I will, won’t I?” She sighed, heading for the exit. “Well, I better get going; I have to pick up a few things for tonight.”

“Good luck!” called Amethyst.

The Cafe Hay was fairly busy for a weekday. Customers were happily chatting amongst themselves. Meadowbrook took in the sight from the foyer, watching wide-eyed as the ponies went about enjoying their evening.

“Oh, Meadow! Were you waiting long?” called Cheerilee as she trotted into the foyer.

“Not at all!” beamed Meadowbrook, turning to face her friend.

Cheerilee was dressed in a simple burgundy dress, a heart-shaped box tucked in her foreleg.

Meadowbrook meanwhile was wearing her typical bright green dress, with her mane towered upwards in a cone.

I’m overdressed, cursed Cheerilee.

I’m underdressed, lamented Meadowbrook.

“Ma’ams? Right this way,” nudged the waiter gently, drawing nods and smiles from both. The two meandered through a sea of tables, occasionally stealing glances at the other. They were seated and offered menus, before the waiter lit the candle between them and left them alone.

“So,” Meadowbrook began, swallowing a lump in her throat. “You look wonderful today!”

Cheerilee held the menu to her face to block her blush. “T-thank you! You look fantastic yourself!”

“Oh, I’m not dressed for this,” replied Meadowbrook with a bit of humiliation. “I didn’t know this would be so… formal.”

That got a gasp out of Cheerilee. “I’m so sorry! I should have told you—”

“Nonono,” Meadowbrook blurted. “I didn’t mean it was your fault!”

The two stared wide-eyed at each other before giggling, eyes darting away nervously.

“The, um, soup looks wonderful,” offered Cheerilee lamely. She reached for her glass of water and her hoof nudged a box, reminding her of the gift she had brought. “Oh! Before I forget, I bought this for you!”

Meadowbrook’s face lit up and a pang of hope shot through Cheerilee’s heart. “Wow! Thank you!”

She took them in her hooves, studying the box carefully. Clearly it contained specimens! “I’ll make sure to study these later!”

Cheerilee grimaced but held her smile. She… she doesn’t want to eat them. She hates them. Cheerilee, why did you think chocolates were a good idea?!

“Excuse me, madams,” interrupted the waiter. “May I take your orders?”

Both mares blinked before scrambling for their menus. “Ah, I think I’ll have the cream soup!” Cheerilee declared.

“And I’ll have the, erm…. carrot… salad!” Meadowbrook answered.

The waiter nodded, bowed, and withdrew, leaving them alone once again.

“So… Carrot salad, huh?” Cheerilee asked. “Going for the rabbit diet?”

Meadowbrook blinked then giggled. “Ah, I was a bit overwhelmed by the choices, to be honest.”

“Oh, I understand, I’m just teasing,” Cheerilee replied, poking a hoof in Meadow’s direction.

They both laughed, and suddenly felt the weight in their stomachs dissolving.

Cheerilee leaned back in her chair, adjusting her silverware. “So, have you ever had dinners like this before?”

“I can’t say that I have,” Meadowbrook answered. “Obviously we didn’t have places this fancy in the past.”

“Yes, you all ate outside on the grass like a group of heathens,” Cheerilee lamented.

Meadowbrook gasped and swatted at Cheerilee’s hoof as she laughed. “You dare! I’ll have you know we were quite cultured back then!”

“I’m certain you were,” Cheerilee replied through laughs. “But what about after?”

“Mmm, no,” Meadowbrook answered. “No, I never had the interest. I believe that Mistmane wrote to me about the experience but it never did catch my glance.”

Cheerilee leaned back in her chair. “Amazing. So your first experience with quality modern Equestrian food will be… a carrot salad. Something you could have made yourself either then or now.”

Meadowbrook considered this point. “Yes,” she answered. “I suppose it is.”

They both burst into snorting, infectious laughter at that.

Their conversation carried on to other topics, and their thoughts of romancing didn’t return until the waiter arrived with their food.

As the waiter took his leave again their conversation died down, and both Meadowbrook and Cheerilee went back to fidgeting and playing with the edges of their dresses.

“So,” Meadowbrook finally said, drumming her hooves on the side of the table. “I… oh! I had something to give you!” She fumbled out an ornate wooden box and laid it on the table.

Cheerilee let out a soft gasp as she undid the latch and opened it. “Oh!” She removed a simple wooden spoon, covered with carved decorations and pictures. “A… a spoon!”

“Yes!” replied Meadowbrook eagerly, gauging her reaction.

Cheerilee blinked several times, hefting the spoon in her hoof. She then dipped it into her soup and held it to her lips. The spoon’s basin however wasn’t very deep and as a result not much made it to her lips.

“It’s wonderful!” Cheerilee declared.

Meadowbrook didn’t know how to respond to that.

She had studied carefully the ideology of the lovespoon, originating from the Welsh Cob culture. The spoons were given as a sign of romantic interest: signifying from one to the other that they loved them.

Meadowbrook had never heard of someone using a lovespoon to drink soup, and so she had no idea if Cheerilee was flattered or offended by the gesture.

Cheerilee set the spoon down, heart pounding in her chest. Was Meadowbrook offended by her action? Meadowbrook wore a blank face with wide eyes, and Cheerilee was convinced she had committed some terrible cultural sin.

Seconds later though, Meadowbrook blinked and smiled. “Erm… how is the soup?”

“Great!” replied Cheerilee automatically. “It’s great! The spoon, I mean. The soup is great as well! How is the salad?”

“Good,” answered Meadowbrook before realizing she hadn’t actually eaten it yet. Quickly she stabbed a fork into a spinach leaf and put it in her mouth. “Great in fact! As good as it looks!”

Cheerilee inhaled sharply, drawing up whatever courage she had left. Enough of this, you’re making a fool of yourself. Remember what Amethyst said. Be direct!

“Meadowbrook, I—”

“Miss Cheerilee!”

Cheerilee paled whiter than death as a sickening voice called out her name. “Oh please. Not now. Just one second,” she whispered as Spoiled Rich strolled over.

“Why, what a coincidence meeting you here!” Spoiled declared, drawing the eyes of everyone in the cafe. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything?”

“You actually are—”

“Splendid! Now, have you considered my offer, Cheerilee?” asked Spoiled, putting a hoof on Cheerilee’s shoulder.

Cheerilee didn’t answer, remembering the folded sheet of paper in her purse.

Spoiled leaned in, her mouth next to her ear. “You’d be a fool to say no,” she purred. “After all, I know how much you teachers are paid. It’s bafflingly low! This would be enough for you to do anything you could ever want.”

As Spoiled spoke, Cheerilee studied the tablecloth. The rational part of her mind said that Spoiled had a point: she could use the money to upgrade the classroom, or even purchase some supplies for her lessons…

...but at what cost?

Across the table and unnoticed by Cheerilee or Spoiled, Meadowbrook began grinding her teeth. Something churned in her stomach. Something vile. “Excuse me,” she said to draw their attention. “We were in the middle of something.”

“Oh, my mistake,” Spoiled replied with a roll of her eyes. “Cheerilee, may we go somewhere private?”

A suitor. Meadowbrook’s heart skipped a beat and Somnambula’s words echoed in her ear. Sometimes you must find the courage to fight for that which you love.

“Alright.” Meadowbrook stood, stepping first onto her chair then the table as the crowd gasped around them. “So this is how it is?!” she shouted, pointing a hoof at Spoiled, her eyes blinded by rage. “Fine! I challenge you to a duel for Cheerilee’s heart!”

A chorus of dramatic gasps rose from the crowd, along with a faint ‘the horror’ from somewhere near the back.

Spoiled’s eyes went wide. “W-What?! A duel?!”

“...for my heart?” echoed Cheerilee in a shocked whisper.

Meadowbrook pawed the table cloth, dropping her stance and knocking over their drinks. “You’re quite lucky that I’m a healer, dear,” she spat. “Because in a few seconds, you’re going to need one!

With that she lunged forwards, but her rear hoof caught against the cloth and she slammed into the table.

Cheerilee’s soup flew into the air, the liquid leaping from the bowl and impacting against Spoiled’s body. “Argh! No, not my dress!”

“M-Meadowbrook!” exclaimed a new voice from nearby.

Meadowbrook looked to the right to see Twilight and her friend (the white unicorn one) seated nearby, agape in abject horror.

“What?! Is that… not a suitor?” asked Meadowbrook, turning back to look at Cheerilee.

Cheerilee blinked then shook her head, still trying to process what had just happened.

Then Meadowbrook understood. She climbed off the table, took a deep breath, then bolted from the room as tears welled in her eyes.

The patrons shrugged and began slowly returning to their meals.

“You!” snapped Spoiled Rich, finally overcoming her shock. “What is the meaning of this?! Who was that?!”

Cheerilee’s mind finally came to life, connecting the dots as to what had just occurred. She turned so that her soup-stained face met Spoiled’s. “That was my friend,” she growled. “And I’m quite fond of her, so if you’ll excuse me.”

She stood, but Spoiled blocked her. “Enough! Do you accept my deal?!” bellowed Spoiled.

Cheerilee reached into her purse and pulled out the paper. Then, she moved it over the candle so it caught on fire, then threw it on the ground. “There is your answer,” she spat. “And if you ever attempt to raise this with me again I will rain down upon you the full wrath of the EEA and every other educational institution this side of Equestria.”

With that, Cheerilee turned her nose up and shoved past her, trotting towards the door and heart fluttering in her throat.

She had to admit… that felt pretty good.

As she stepped into the cool air, she looked up and down the moonlit streets.

Where had Meadowbrook gone?

Meadowbrook was, for all intents and purposes, dead.

Or rather, she wished she were.

She had bolted straight home, cheeks burning in a humiliation she hadn’t felt since she had bungled the pony pox cure, and locked herself in her bedroom.

Somnambula had tried to console her but Meadowbrook didn’t respond. Instead, she curled up in a ball beneath her blankets and cried harder than she ever had. “She hates me!” she sobbed. “I ruined it!”

She was only vaguely aware of Somnambula piling blankets on top of her and whispering comforting words to her, but she still heard the knocks on her door like they were thunderclaps.

“And now Princess Twilight’s come to arrest me!” she cried.

Somnambula gave her a curious glance before answering.

“Is Meadowbrook in?” asked a familiar voice.

Whatever was left of Meadowbrook’s heart shattered and she burrowed deeper into the pile of blankets.

She heard the thumping of hoofsteps against the floor and felt a hoof patting against the side. “Meadow? I know you’re in there, silly.”

Meadowbrook whimpered as the blankets were stripped away, her hooves clawing against them. “L-leave me alone!”

Her demands went unmet and soon her head was exposed to the air again. But even then she refused to meet Cheerilee’s gaze.

Then, she felt a gentle hoof against her chin, and Cheerilee lifted Meadow’s eyes so they met her own.

Cheerilee’s face and dress were covered in soup and water, but she smiled and her eyes brimmed with a strange gleam.

“I-I’m sorry,” Meadowbrook choked out. “I’m so sorry, Cheerilee, I ruined everything!”

Cheerilee didn’t answer and instead pulled Meadowbrook into a hug. “I don’t think you have,” she said. “Tonight was the most fun I’ve ever had at a formal dinner!”

Meadowbrook stared at her in confusion.

“Meadow,” Cheerilee started. “Did you really try to fight Spoiled for me?”

She blushed, but Meadow couldn’t hide the truth. “...yes,” she admitted. “Cheerilee, you’re… you’re my very best friend and I’ve come to realize—”

“That I mean a lot to you?” finished Cheerilee, smiling widely. “I’ve realized you mean a lot to me too.” She blushed hard but persevered. “I… Meadowbrook, I love you. And… and I would be honored if we could—”

“Yes!” blurted Meadowbrook. “Yes! I— um, Cheerilee, will you be my girlfriend?”

“Of— of course! But I was going to ask you first…”

They trailed off, eyes wide and blush tainting their cheeks. Then they laughed and embraced each other, letting their anxieties and embarrassment melt away.

“I was so scared you didn’t feel the same!”

“So was I!”

“We… we should have just said so much earlier,” Cheerilee said, wiping tears of joy from her eyes. “It would have saved us the trouble.”

Meadowbrook nodded, sighing in relief. “Ah, well… I suppose we both have much to learn in the field of romantics.”

With that, Cheerilee joined Meadowbrook on the bed, allowing Meadow to lay her head on her chest. “I suppose you’ll owe Twilight an apology tomorrow,” she whispered.

Meadowbrook only blushed. “Let’s… deal with that in the morning.”

“Fine with me.”

And they fell silent, enjoying the other’s embrace as Somnambula watched and squealed silently from the doorway.