Marble Pie’s eyes shot open. They shimmered in the moonlight, full of fear. She started sobbing silently as she touched her chest to calm down her racing heart.
“It’s just a nightmare. It’s not real,” she whispered to herself in the dark. But even though she was fully aware that it had just been a bad dream, the nasty feelings still wouldn’t go away.
Her breath got heavier. She could not breathe. She felt her heart begin to gallop. It felt as if she were going to faint, and the fears overshadowed each and every rational thought.
She wept weakly for help, but none would come. Her chest ached with pain. She was completely alone with the demons in her mind. Completely alone, with all the overwhelming emotions in her heart. Was it normal to feel so much, yet still feel so empty?
She sat up and stumbled over the floor to the big window. Nobody else had wanted this room, because the moon shone strong and would not let them sleep. But it wasn’t like that for her: the moon was her savior — the only thing that could calm her down. She sat down on the floor beside the window.
Marble put her hooves around herself. It had been so long since the nightmares had started; it felt as if she had lived with them her whole life. She would go to sleep normally, fall asleep easily, but then in the middle of the night they would start. And she always woke up at the same time: the pony’s weakest hour — the hour of total darkness.
She always dreamed about the same scene, playing repeatedly. Marble sighed. That was something she definitely did not want to think of right then. However, since she knew there was no chance of falling asleep again, she could at least make some use of herself.
Marble started slowly walking away from the window, but looked back at the moon one more time — her one and only friend, who protected her from the terrifying darkness, and kept her alive through the fear and loneliness.
A warm tear rolled down her cheek, but she quickly wiped it away. Her parents had always told her to just put on a pretty smile, and not bother others with her problems. Not that they knew anything — she had been very careful. Nopony knew. Because nopony would really care. She was not worth enough to bother them with her messed-up mind. They couldn’t possibly understand how she felt. They’d only judge, so it was best to stay silent.
Her parents and two sisters were still asleep. Marble looked at the clock: it was almost five a.m. Her family got up six a.m. sharp every morning and started the work one hour later, so she might as well start making breakfast. She decided to make pebble-pancakes, but when she was in the middle of mixing the ingredients together, something caught her eye.
The kitchen of their house was small, with solid wooden furniture. On the wall beside the fridge, there was a big calendar. Her eyes grew wide. Today was Hearth’s Warming Eve.
That meant many ponies were coming, which was terrifying. However, on the other side… that also meant her sister was coming. Her eyes widened even more, and she finally felt something she had not felt for so long.
After the realization hit her, Marble’s moves had a newfound energy in them. She knew her sister had been through her own personal hell, and if anypony could help her, it was Pinkie Pie. Marble smiled when she started to plan how she would tell Pinkie about the numbness, the loneliness and the fear. She had hidden her feelings for long enough, and she knew that if she did not tell somepony soon, the emptiness would eat her alive. There had to be more to life than barely surviving.
Marble placed the last pancake on the top of the tower, and moved the plate to the solid wooden table. She sighed and sat down by the table. Now the only thing she could do was wait — wait for her life to begin, because she knew, and hoped with all her heart that Pinkie would help her get a second chance. The fear was like a deep dark sea, but she knew that light would always win over darkness. Now she just had to find that light.
Finally, the moment she had awaited was here. Marble had sat by the window for the last three hours, and at last she saw them slowly walking towards the farm. A sharp voice frightened her.
“Marble Pie, what did I tell you about that hair? It looks macabre!” Her parents walked in together from the kitchen, and her mother’s eyes drilled through her. “You should have it styled like your sisters, maybe being able to see properly would make you less clumsy! But as they say, our looks reflect our insides, honey.” Her mother’s words stung her like poisonous fog.
“Why are thou just sitting there? Our guests will arrive any minute!” Her father’s voice was strong and heavy, like a stone with a sharp edge.
“Mhmm,” Marble mumbled, as usual. She tried to pretend she hadn’t heard what her mother just said, but it was hard. So she filled her head with other thoughts instead.
Her sister, Maud, was the one who had been given the task of following their guests from the train station and they were slowly coming closer to the house. Suddenly, Marble felt her stomach fill up with dread. She had focused so much on mentally preparing herself for the talk with Pinkie, that she had completely forgotten that it wasn’t only Pinkie who was coming, but also four other ponies she didn’t know.
She looked at her parents. They had not noticed that her breath had gotten heavy and that she’d started shaking. Good. She turned around. Maybe she would manage to get away before…
“…Super-mega-wonderful family!” She froze with one front hoof in the air and looked back. A gigantic smile met her, and Pinkie waved at her. Marble slowly turned around and trotted up to Pinkie, who simply pushed her outside. She tried to resist, but there was no sense — Pinkie had always been stronger than she had.
“Everypony, meet everypony!” Pinkie exclaimed with pure joy. The moment Pinkie’s attention turned away from Marble, she galloped the fastest she could back to safety beside the outer wall of their house. She tried to make herself as invisible as she could, by blending in with the surroundings.
Nevertheless, the orange mare discovered her hiding-spot soon. “And, you must be?”
A pink hurricane flashed in front of her eyes and she felt somepony embrace her.“This is Marble Pie, my baby sister who’s only a few minutes younger than me, but she’ll always be a baby to me, isn’t that right?” Pinkie squished Marble’s cheeks together. “She’s so excited to meet everypony! Oh, and she wishes you all a happy Hearth's Warming!”
Marble massaged her cheek. Pinkie nudged her, and she realized everypony was staring at her. “Mm-hmm,” she muttered quietly.
Pinkie’s face exploded once again with a big smile, but somehow it did not make Marble feel any happier, as it usually did. She felt as if… the smile did not truly reach to her. Her soul was drowning in the dark sea of fear and loneliness, and the one who could have been her savior, was slowly fading away…
No. She would not give up so easily. She slowly shuffled after the others, and listened to Pinkie’s short speech. They were finally heading inside, and she galloped straight to her little room.
The dinner turned out to be quite entertaining. Marble was not in the mood to eat anything, but nopony noticed, because the orange pony got all the attention as she was struggling to hold down the rock soup. Marble smiled on the inside as she took a few sips from her own bowl. It was obvious the other ponies were not used to food like this, but it was funny how they still tried to play along.
After the dinner, they all went down to the mine to get their dolls. Marble really liked this part of Hearth’s Warming Eve, because she did not have to speak, and she could work at her own pace.
“Our dolls are these little pieces! Isn’t that right, Marble Pie?” Pinkie asked with sly expressions.
Marble felt blood rush to her cheeks, even though she tried to stay calm. “Mm-hmm,” she muttered.
After getting the dolls, it was time for the long awaited flag hunt. Pinkie chaotically divided them into groups. She pushed Marble at the big red stallion.
“Marble, Big Mac, you two are team one!” Pinkie exclaimed.
Marble looked up at the stallion with a terrified expression, like a scared little kitten. Suddenly she started blushing instead and turned her face away. The stallion was in fact quite handsome, and she had never been so close to one before. She subtly looked at his strong body. He had to be quite hardworking to have gotten all those muscles. He also seemed very strong.
Marble felt her heart flutter. She looked away confused. What was this weird new feeling? She had never felt it before, and it certainly overshadowed her other feelings for a while. The feeling was confusing. It felt both very good, and a bit annoying at the same time. Like if somepony moved a feather slowly over hoof. It felt tingly and funny, but at the same time nice. Her whole body responded to this feeling. Her hooves and legs turned to jelly and her tummy turned upside down. Marble was fascinated by this feeling. But what was the name for it?
Suddenly she noticed her mother staring at her. Marble saw her mother was looking from her, to something to the right, then back at her again. It was confusing. Marble wasn’t the one who had chosen the groups, so why did her mother look at her with anger? Maybe it wasn’t anything important — simply her mother’s usual weirdness.
The competition started and Marble began slowly looking around for the flag on one side of the yard, while the stallion looked on the other.
“Eee-yep,” he said.
“Mm-hmm,” Marble muttered. Why could she not stop blushing? She took a deep breath, and took what could possibly be the biggest chance in her life, or at least it felt like it.
“So… I didn’t quite catch your name?“ Her voice was very light and her throat felt so dry.
The sweat started to run down as the stallion slowly looked at her. Had she said something wrong? Was he mad at her now? Oh no, she never should have asked. Marble Pie was getting ready to run back inside and barricade the door, when he suddenly answered.
“Oh, I’m sorry for not introducing myself properly” — he smiled — “Pinkie can sometimes speak so quickly it’s no surprise you didn’t catch it. I’m Big Mac, and you’re little Marble, right?”
“I’m not that small!” Marble exclaimed, louder than was intended. Then she realized what she just had done. “I mean… err… I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to shout,” she whispered, covering her face with a hoof.
Big Mac simply chuckled. She looked up at him. Was he laughing at her?
“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant you are the youngest,” he smiled politely. “And to be honest, you’re not scary to talk to. You see… it’s not exactly easy for me to talk to ponies, even my own family, but it’s somehow easy to talk to you. Now I’m just mumbling, sorry, you’re cute… I mean, wait what?” he ended the sentence abruptly.
Now it was Marble’s turn to chuckle. Apparently, he did not mean to say the last part because he turned away and started the search again. Now that she had talked to him, Big Mac seemed a lot less scary.
“You know, we’re not going to find the flag anywhere here. It’s somewhere in the mines.” Marble suddenly had a good idea. “Hey, wanna go and explore the mines? Maybe we’ll find it then!”
If her family members had seen her right at that moment, they would barely have recognized her. The shy mare was gone, replaced by a bubbly and talkative one. Marble wouldn’t even recognize herself; it was the new feeling that gave her courage to come out of her shell for once.
They entered the mine, with Marble leading. She looked back at Big Mac. He was looking around at the beautiful shiny stones.
“Impressive, huh?” Marble asked with a smile. Big Mac looked at her for a short while; that was enough to make her blush again — even the weird feeling did not help with the blushing.
“Yes, it is. We have mines back home too, but a different kind. This one’s enchanting,” he agreed.
Marble was surprised a stallion like him spoke in such refined way. She looked around. He spoke the truth after all. They were in the south part, where the walls were crystalline blue and shone like the lake on a sunny day.
“So, where are we starting the search?” Big Mac asked, ready to start working as always.
“Well… I kind of wanted to show you something first, if it’s okay with you?” Marble’s voice was full of hope, and it felt right to flutter her eyelashes, so she did so while looking up at Big Mac.
“Eee-yup, sure, you’re the one who knows the way around here anyway,” he answered while smiling.
“Great! Let’s go then!” Marble could not understand what had gotten into her, but it felt good to say what was on her mind and be in control for the first time in her life. This stallion really had a lot of influence on her. She just felt that she could be herself around him. Marble simply smiled.
She led the way through the tunnels, into the deep heart of the mine, to a place where nearly none of the others ever came. Her own secret place, where she came every time she just could not take things anymore. Her personal safe haven, where others had never bothered her. However, as soon as they’d had entered the mines, she’d suddenly felt an urge to share this secret place with Big Mac.
They entered the last tunnel they had to go through that led to her secret place. What made it secret was the very shiny crystal wall, which reflected the other walls, and hid the passage that led to a big room behind it.
Marble smirked at Big Mac and let him enter first.
“Clever,” he commented, while staring at the passage in front of him. They walked in at the same time, which led to an ungraceful moment, because they crashed into each other. They were silently awkward at first, but then they both chuckled.
Big Mac looked around once they were inside. “So this is your special place?” He looked at her curiously.
“Yes. This is where I go when I need to get away,” she answered and looked around.
The ceiling in the room was full of stalactites in all the colors of the rainbow. Under the farthest wall was a blanket and a few books that Marble had brought with her some weeks ago.
The room in itself was not very special. The lighting that every single surface reflected was what created the enchanting atmosphere. The walls in this room were originally pure white, like no other place in this cave. But a hole in the ceiling was filled with light, and it gave each wall and stone a different and unique hue.
Marble trotted up to the blanket and sat down on it. Big Mac followed after and sat down too. “So, it’s a very good place to get away. What is it that you need to get away from, though?”
Marble’s eyes widened and everything came back. The train of loneliness and pain drove through her mind. She looked down. “It’s a long story,” she answered slowly. In reality, she really wanted to talk about it, but she knew ponies always tried to be polite and did not pressure her to speak.
“I’m a good listener.”
Marble looked up at Big Mac with surprise. That had definitely never happened before. “Well, when it comes down to it, it’s mostly my thoughts. I am scared. I am really scared. Even in sleep, I cannot get peace anymore. I can’t remember the last time I slept through a night without nightmares… and the pain is like… like…” Marble fell down and covered her face with her hooves as her tears started to fall.
Why had she even started? There was no way he could know how it was, and she was not even able to describe the pain she felt on the inside. Suddenly, she realized what a bad idea this all had been. She should never have led him down here. She should never have started that conversation. It had all been a big mistake.
Suddenly she felt something warm on her back. Marble lifted one hoof and looked up. Instead of looking weirdly at her and judging, Big Mac had gently placed a hoof on her back and was smiling at her. “I know what you mean. Those feelings are named anxiety, and believe me or not, I know exactly how confusing and painful they are.” His voice was full of understanding and underlying pain.
Marble could not believe this. Nopony had ever talked with her about feelings. She slowly sat up, and wiped away the tears. He smiled encouragingly.
“You promise you won’t tell anypony what I just told you?” she asked while still wiping away the tears. He lifted the hoof that was placed on her back.
“Cross my heart, and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!” he sang, and Marble started laughing. She looked up at him with a big smile, and he looked down at her.
“I see you two are in a quite joyful mood,” a loud voice echoed, startling them both.
Cloudy Quartz was standing in the entrance, staring at her daughter with poisonous hatred in her eyes. “You two shouldn’t be down here. And Marble, do you remember what happened the last time you talked with a stallion? You’re simply not meant to be with one: your future is to stay at the farm and take care of us when we get old. Get away from him, and just look at yourself. You think he’s impressed? You’re lazy and always running away from work and daydreaming. You were supposed to help me with the dinner soon! I know what you’re thinking, and you can just forget it. You’re lazy, distracted and foolish, so stop daydreaming! Now, get back up, the others are waiting.”
Marble Pie was speechless. She had gained a friend, just to lose him because of her mother? And if that wasn’t enough, her mother had just humiliated her. She didn’t even speak the truth. Marble had just wanted a friend, and being on a team with someone that wasn’t a family member was the perfect opportunity.
All Marble had ever wanted was a friend. Her chest ached. She didn’t want to think about it, but deep down she believed all of it. Her breath got heavy and the tears started to slowly stream down her cheeks. She couldn’t breathe. Her head was filled with cotton. What had just happened? The last thing she saw was the look of regret in her mother’s eyes before she ran out of there.
Her one safe place just got ruined. Now she had absolutely no place to go. Her mother was right about one thing. She never had and would never have good luck when it came to stallions. Or to life.