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    But let us move away from Shimmer Glass and my dearly beloved, watching this nearly-naked woman.

    Let us move away from that until the time is right, and go instead to a different time and a different place.

    A bridge.

    There we were, Twilight and I, leaning against the bridge filled with rusty locks and forgotten promises, a ritual she and I had yet to partake in. There we were, our hands dangling over both the edge and our future, and there I was, consumed by the thought that the moment would be over soon, never again to be repeated.

    I was going to lose her. I was. Pinkie had called me dramatic, exaggerated. Twilight would never, she said.

    Twilight would never, indeed.

    “How many keys do you think are down there?” she asked, her eyes set on the rusted treasures at the bottom of the river.

    “A few hundred, I’d imagine, if all the locks on this bridge are any indication.”

    “Mmm.”

    Her fingertips glowed with magic and a pair of keys began to dance. The rusting evidence of wide-eyed couples who truly believed that putting a lock on the side of a bridge and throwing the key into the river would make their love last eternal.

    Silly, stupid, naive fools.

    “Do you ever think of leaving the city?”

    The question left my lips unbidden, the words tumbling out in rhythm with my heart.

    “Leave?” she said, still focused on her dancing keys. “I just moved here. Why would I leave?”

    I laughed, or tried to, at least.

    “Of course. I apologize. That was a silly question,” I said as my fingertips glowed with magic and a single key at the bottom of the lake struggled to keep up with the others.

    “Do you? Think of leaving the city, I mean.”

    “No,” I said, which wasn’t a lie. I smiled at her. “You did just move here, after all.”

    She looked at me after that but offered me no smile, no blush, nothing but this acknowledgment of having heard and her stare that searched me for something, something, something. It was too much.

    “My home is here, regardless,” I said more seriously, quickly turning back to the water. “My parents paid a great deal of money to allow me to build a life here.”

    A silence followed, and soon enough, my key danced alone.

    “Do your parents know you’re a…?”

    “Yes.”

    “Oh,” she said, a tone of surprise wrapped around her words. She was quiet for a moment, and when she found nothing to say about that, asked, “Did you bring the ticket for the performance?”

    I took in her question, watching my key jump into the air and then float down and down and down until it was lost in a sea of forgotten promises.

    Gods.

    “Yes,” I said, somehow, somewhere managed to find the words, reaching into my coat’s pocket and taking out a ticket for the show. Gods, gods, gods. “Here it is.”

    She didn’t take it outright. She stared at it for a moment, and I wondered if she was frightened as I was. I hoped she might change her mind, now that it was there, and at the same time, I hated that I wanted that, hated that I was afraid she’d see the show. I loathed the shame I was afraid to feel.

    But, eventually, she reached out and took the ticket in her fingers, lifting it up to take a better look.

    “Crimson Lips,” she whispered aloud, turning to me and letting her eyes wander towards the show’s namesake.

    If things were different, if circumstances were otherwise, I might have taken out my lipstick and applied a fresh layer. Instead, I sucked in my lips, trying to hide them away as I looked back to the river.

    “Do try to be there early. It gets crowded.”

    “How much is it?”

    “Pardon?” I looked up to her, and my confusion died at the sight of her pulling out a satchel of coins and bills. “Oh, no. No, no, no, put that away. It’s on the house.”

    “I’d like to pay,” she insisted, and I don’t doubt she truly wanted to support me.

    I don’t doubt this, and yet I didn’t want her money. To put a price on it, to have it be a transaction, well… that’s what it would become. Even though she’d all but forced me into this scenario, I couldn’t possibly charge her for something I would have otherwise given her for free.

    “Twilight,” I said, politely, “really. I don’t want your money, it’s on the hou—”

    “Please,” she cut off, a strain to her voice. I wonder if she felt guilty, perhaps. Knew that she’d forced me into taking her to see this show, so she felt obligated to somehow compensate me.

    Well, I say I wonder, but I personally know what she was thinking. I know what she was thinking then, and what she would think when she saw the show. But back then I didn’t know, and in that gesture all I saw was what it was: a transaction, ultimately devoid of emotions.

    If I was inviting her, then the tacit rules of manners might still apply. She might dislike it and think quite terribly of me, but one never looks a gift horse in the mouth, no? But now that money was involved, now that this was something she had bought, if it turned out she disliked it, realized that this was not what she wanted, then she was well within her rights to be dissatisfied.

    To never want it again.

    “…A hundred,” I said, resigned, watching as she took out the money and handed it over with visible relief.

    I took the bills and coins into my hand, roughly shoving them into my coat pocket as though they were poisoned. Afterward, I looked back to my river and wished I were a key that the current might drag me far, far away.

    Were I a key that I might lock her away in my heart forever and stop her from leaving.

    “I come to this bridge so often,” I said, staring out into the distance, “and I’ve yet to put a lock.”

    “Oh?” Poor thing tried not to sound relieved. “Because you’ve never found anyone to put it with?”

    “Oh, no, no. I have someone in mind,” I said. “I just think publicly declaring my undying love to myself might be frowned upon.”

    “I see,” she said with a smile like I hadn’t seen in weeks. She crossed her arms over the railing, her gaze betraying the delight I inspired despite it all. “I think it’s fine to do it. I’ll even look the other way, if you want.”

    “Well! How kind of you, dear. Now I have to put a lock just because you’ve given me permission to do so.”

    She laughed, a real genuine chuckle, and for a moment it felt as though everything was fine. Her eyes sparkled ever so slightly, matching her shining smile.

    It was startling, truth be told. As I said, I hadn’t seen her smile like that since… well, since the truth came out, and to see it again… It warmed me up, like a sober at a bar too lost in drinking her up to stop and think if this was worth the pain it would bring.

    “Do you even have a lock?” she asked me next.

    “Obviously not. Not here, at least.”

    Twilight took this in, looking back towards the water and humming thoughtfully.

    “I suppose I might have one back at my shop,” I continued, unaware. “Or maybe at the Sapph—Twilight?”

    I realized she was putting on the coat she’d taken off, which she then followed up by hanging her bag around her shoulder.

    “Stay here,” she said, raising a hand to keep me in place as she backed away from me. “I’ll be right back.”

    “Right back? What? Why?” I moved towards her. “Where are you going? Can’t I go with—”

    “Just wait there!” she insisted, turning around and rushing off. “I promise I’ll be right back!”

    Just like that, she was gone. Gone, gone, gone, and I’d be a liar if I said it didn’t affect me. Not that she’d left right then and there—I knew she’d obviously come back—but it was a reminder that later that day, if things did not go as we hoped, she might walk away from me and not promise to be back.

    I was afraid. Very afraid.

    But then she was back, and what did I see clutched in her hands but a red lock.

    “There,” she said, a smart grin on her lips. “Now you have one.”

    I gawked at her, unsure. I didn’t actually want to declare undying love to myself! I wanted to do that with her! Gods, I wanted to lock our relationship on that blasted bridge and foolishly pretend destiny would keep us together because that’s how thousands of fairy tales told me destiny worked.

    But she’d never agree. Would she? She wouldn’t, not with what was at stake. Not with our relationship on the brink of being tested and possibly fractured beyond repair.

    But what if she would?

    “Twilight, I hope you don’t actually think I want to promise undying love to myself,” I said with a laugh. “I realize I can be vain, but honestly.”

    “I know,” she said, amused, and embarrassed, too, pocketing the lock. “It was just a silly joke.”

    “Don’t put it away!” I quickly said, and if I’d been bolder, I’d have fetched the lock out of her coat pocket myself. “If you spent money on it, we might as well use it.”

    I could see she was intrigued, her hand slipping into her pocket.

    “Use it?” she repeated, carefully. Waiting, I think.

    “Yes. Use it in the name of…” I faltered for a split-moment.

    In the name of what? Of our friendship? Of our romance? I hesitated to give it a name, as though doing so might curse it in some way, spoil it forever.

    So I settled on what we were.

    “Use it in the name of Us.”

    “In the name of Us,” she repeated, slowly, every word with its weight. I feared for a moment she’d refuse, but soon enough, her hand left her pocket and with it did the lock as well. Her eyes scanned the bridge. “Where should we put it…?”

    I’ll admit I felt short of breath. We were saved, I thought. Saved because of this godforsaken bridge.

    I was as much a fool as the owners of all the other dozens of locks.

    We found a spot near the left end of the bridge, close to the ground. We both crouched down with childlike excitement, momentarily forgetting everything else going on, and we simply giggled at this silly little game.

    I put the lock on the bridge. I remember running my fingers on the grating, noting how cold it was. I remember threading the shackle in, and I remember the lump in my throat when I firmly clicked it into the padlock.

    We were both quiet for a moment, contemplating this brink of no return.

    “Do you have the key?” I asked, quietly, still holding onto the lock.

    She produced it without a word, and I swallowed when she put one hand over mine and then used the other to insert the key.

    But she didn’t turn it.

    And I was consumed by the sudden fear that she’d changed her mind. That she would reject me. Then, and if not then, later.

    “You don’t have to see it.”

    The words tumbled out of my mouth, harried, unbidden, unwelcome, but painfully sincere.

    She turned to me, confused. “Huh?”

    I refused to look at her.

    “The show. The Sapphire, my work, I…” I nearly choked on my words. “You don’t have to do this.”

    I heard her breathe in. I felt her hand tighten around mine. I heard her as she spoke.

    “I have to.”

    And she turned the key, and the deal was done, and now all that was left was to throw the key, our relationship now in what I thought was destiny’s hands.

    I rose first, terrified but relieved, like this would save us now. Fool, fool, fool!

    Silly little Rarity.

    “Well then!” I exclaimed, looking towards the river as Twilight got up next to me, the key in hand. “Shall we let destiny take charge?”

    “Mmm.”

    She twirled the key through her fingers, something she tended to do with whatever she was holding when she was deep in thought. She scanned the river, the dozens of glittering keys shining from below, and then she reminded me who exactly she was.

    And why, for better or worse, I loved her.

    “No.”

    I blinked. I must have laughed, that nervous confused laugh one does when faced with something that was not agreed upon, but you don’t want to be rude by outright pointing it out.

    “No?” I asked. No?

    “I don’t believe in destiny,” she informed me as she pocketed the key. “I believe in choices.”

    And Twilight Sparkle had already made hers.

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    2 Comments

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    1. A Deer
      Sep 4, '22 at 1:51 am

      The tension over the last four chapters is done greatly. It conveys how much of a mess things are for Rarity and Twilight and how they’re trying to figure it out. The awkwardness, anger, how unsure they are and the want to reconcile comes out vivid. I keep wanting to read the next chapter.

    2. platinumSKIES
      Jul 8, '22 at 8:41 am

      US.

      For the two of them, that’s just so much stronger than either of them realizes.

      And I can only hope that Twilight’s and Rarity’s choices lead her down a path worth walking.