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    There are things we don’t want to believe.

    Things that are there, naked before us, touching our bare skin with slim fingertips, kissing our neck and our lips and our mind, and yet we refuse to acknowledge them even though our body feels every electric jolt, every heavy thrust, every gentle kiss.

    Ignorance is bliss, they say.

    With every word that I speak, every story I tell, you and I come closer and closer to the end of this tale. I’ve… I’ve tried to delay it. I’ve tried to woo you away from the raw and the real with tales of romance and fairies, dinner conversations and boys who died on benches, scholars who are hopeless and prostitutes who are hopelessly in love.

    I’ve tried, but there is only so much I can delay.

    It’s sad to think of this story ending. Sad for me, at least, and though I can’t speak for you, I like to think that you’re sad too.

    It was snowing both times—past and present. I suppose that’s to be expected. It always snowed on Hearth’s Warming Eve.

    Think of the mansion, will you not? The lovely abode, so grand and so haunting and so terribly alone. Think of the rooms never used, the halls never walked, the many lonely things Twilight Sparkle saw day in and day out.

    Now, imagine a staff of five people.

    Rose Petal, the oldest maid, huffing about as she cleaned tiny soaked shoeprints from the entrance hall.

    Lily Petal, her daughter, drying the small wet boots a child had left on the carpet.

    Calligraphy, the butler, squinting at a list of suggestions lovingly written in colored crayons.
    Gumbo, the cook, whistling as he washed away the chocolate milk powder from the bottom of a small glass.

    And finally, Flint Sparks, the coachman, taking off a child’s saddle from the back of a small white pony.

    Lady Celestia owned the mansion, certainly, but I? I was its eleven-year old princess.

    “Auntieeeee,” I called from within Lady Celestia’s grand bedroom, seated at the edge of a bed four times as large as my own and looking towards a walk-in closet that had more clothes than my entire family owned. “Are you coming out now?”

    “Rarity! Ladies aren’t so impatient!” the Lady called back, her fairy-like laugh slipping out into the room.

    “I’m not impatient!” I protested. I was simply excited, over-eager, so many things but impatient? Never.

    She came out of the closet eventually, and it was hard not to gasp at the sight of a gorgeous crimson gown hidden beneath a stunning Saddle Arabian green cashmere shawl. It was festive, no doubt, and I wondered with awe if the Lady truly wasn’t a fairy as I’d once believed.

    “Well?” she said, twirling around for my benefit. “Do you approve?”

    What a silly question! You’d be hard-pressed to find something the Lady did I did not approve of. Maybe that is precisely why it stung so much when I learned she was not the same.

    In any case, going back to the dress, I jumped off the bed and walked towards her, crossing my arms behind my back and pretending I was nothing short of the city’s most esteemed fashion critic. I hummed in a very opinionated sort of way and inspected the dress, gently tugging at the fabric.

    Once I was done, I stepped back.

    “I don’t know,” I said with great severity.

    Lady Celestia frowned at me. “You picked it!”

    “I changed my mind!” I exclaimed, giggling at her absolutely exasperated expression.

    “You’ve changed your mind six times already!” she complained, but did not deny me a seventh and final attempt. “You can pick once more, and that’s it.”

    My eyes grew wide. My lower lip jutted out.

    “Only once more?” I asked.

    She smiled affectionately and bent down, tapping my nose with her finger. “Only once.”

    I made a show of rolling my eyes. Only once! Can you imagine that? It was like asking me to pack my clothes into only one suitcase! It was impossible, but…

    “All right,” I relented with a huff, marching straight back to the bed and sitting down upon it, the princess ready to give her final judgement. “You should use…” I thought long and hard about it, saw in my head every single dress the Lady had, and finally announced, “The purple one!”

    Lady Celestia frowned. “The purple one?” she asked. “Oh! You mean the lavender one,” she corrected, and I felt myself blush.

    “That’s what I meant,” I insisted quickly.

    She laughed. “Yes, you did, and I think that’s a wonderful choice,” she continued as she disappeared inside her closet once again, completely missing my delighted expression. “It’s your favorite, isn’t it?”

    I nodded my head. “Uh-huh! Mommy says it matches with the dress she’s bringing for me.”

    A delighted gasp rang out, and Lady Celestia’s head poked out the closet. “We’re going to have matching outfits?” she asked with childlike excitement, and whether it was manufactured or not, I could not tell or care. However, before I could return her excitement, she gave me a knowing stare. “Then why didn’t you ask me to wear this one from the start?”

    I tried to stammer a defense, but I’d been caught, so I confessed. “I like seeing your dresses.”

    “If that’s the case,” the Lady said, retreating back into her fashion heaven, “would you like your holiday present to be sewing lessons to make your own dress?”

    I practically fell off the bed in my excitement. “Oh, yes, please, Auntie! Can I?! Can we start now?!”

    “Go ask Gumbo if lunch is nearly ready, and we can start after we’ve eaten,” she promised.

    It never occured to me as a child that all these things were temporary. As I ran through those halls, music filtering out of the reading room Rose Petal was cleaning, my giggles ringing through the air as I was told for the sixth time by Calligraphy not to run around, I never thought things would change.

    As I was about to rush into the kitchen, the double-doors swung forwards and nearly knocked me down, followed by dear Flint stepping out with three crystal glasses.

    “Here,” he said, handing me the glasses without even asking if I wanted to help, thank you very much. “Put them at the table, will you? Lunch is nearly ready.”

    “You didn’t say please,” I pointed out rather snootily, lifting my nose up. “That’s not very polite.”

    “Running into the house with snow-covered shoes isn’t either, yet here we are,” he added and that shut me up quite fast.

    Without another word, and after begging him to please not let the Lady know, I made my way to the dining room and saw everything already nearly set. Two plates were at each end of the nearly ten-feet-long table, and a third plate was set in the middle of the right-hand side.

    I always thought it was silly as a child—did the Lady expect me to yell to her?—but I did as she’d taught me and followed etiquette. After I’d put the glasses in their place, I wondered perhaps if the Lady would agree to have me seated to the right of her at dinner. It was the place reserved for the most esteemed guest of the night, after all.

    My musings were cut short by the sound of loud clacking heels, and moments later, the ever elegantly-broody Lady Luna stepped into the dining room, her eyes set on me.

    “There’s a child here,” she said with a crinkle of her nose.

    “There’s an adult here,” I replied the same way, and failed miserably to contain a giggle at Luna’s raised eyebrow.

    “You’re here early,” said my Lady after I’d run over for a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Is your mother here?”

    “Mother isn’t coming until seven with daddy and Sweetie, but she let me come early to help Auntie Tia wrap presents,” I explained, watching as the Lady grabbed a piece of bread from a basket and ate it in one gulp. “Auntie says you shouldn’t eat the bread before dinner.”

    “My sister says I shouldn’t do many things, child,” my Lady noted.

    “Well, you won’t get presents if you keep being naughty! Auntie Celestia is getting me loads of presents because I’ve been a lady.” I crossed my arms behind my back and began to sway from side to side as I asked, “Did you get me presents?”

    “Strange. I thought ladies didn’t ask if they’ve gotten presents or not.”

    A blush swept over my face. “I was only asking because I got you one!” I defended, sticking out my tongue.

    “Tongues are not good presents,” she noted and then added after a pause, “Then again, some people love tongue.”


    “Oh, nothing.”

    I squinted at her disapprovingly. “Why do you always say silly things, Auntie Luna?”

    “Because she is silly,” said Lady Celestia, walking into the room in a plain white dress she usually wore when lounging about her mansion. “Hopefully she’ll behave at dinner tonight, hm?”

    Though I’m more than sure my Lady had a sharp reply she wanted to voice, she held her tongue and smiled thinly.

    “Who’s coming to dinner, Auntie?” I asked Lady Celestia. “Will there be children?”

    “It’ll be mostly adults, but there will be a few bringing their children. Speaking of which!” She turned to Lady Luna and lowered her voice. “You will not believe who’s agreed to come! Duchess Purity and her children!”

    I gasped, clapping my hands together. “Really?!”

    My Lady scowled. “Shame.”

    “Does that mean that Blueblood is coming?” I asked Lady Celestia with great excitement and God-awful taste that I was blessed enough to grow out of.

    I don’t intend on going into detail on who exactly Blueblood was, for I’m sure you’ll see more of him soon enough. Not today, I’m afraid, and certainly not in this particular episode of our tale, but you will eventually.

    The Lady smiled at me. “Yes,” she said. “Blueblood is coming too.”

    Goodness, how my eyes sparkled! How they shone with delight! The son of a duchess would be attending the party!

    “Should I tell the Duchess you’ve dragged his son to the mistletoe should he disappear?” asked Lady Celestia with a mischievous smile, and the two sisters shared a delighted glance at my scandalized gasp.

    “I don’t want to kiss Blueblood!” I lied through my tiny, white teeth, crossing my arms and harrumphing. “And I don’t even know where it is! Where is it?”

    “Why do you want to know if you’re not taking him there?” asked Lady Luna.

    “So I can avoid it!” I insisted, and continued to insist as we walked towards out the dining hall, past the living room and up to the door leading to the foyer.

    There it was, hanging from the top of the door’s arch, a single bundle of mistletoe neatly tied up with a shining red bow.

    “Here we are,” Lady Celestia said, her smile vanishing at my scowl. “What’s wrong?”

    “Why is it there?” I asked with great annoyance. “That’s silly! Everyone can see it there!”

    “Yes. That’s the point,” Lady Luna said.

    “Well, that’s silly!” I repeated, stamping my foot against the floor. “It should be somewhere special for kissing!”

    Lady Celestia bent down to catch my eye. “I thought you didn’t care about kissing him?”

    “I don’t!” I stammered. “Kisses are for children.”

    Lady Celestia’s laughter rang in the air.

    “Kisses are for children? Well then!”

    In one great sweep, she pulled me into her arms and brought me up with her as she stood up straight, absolutely refusing to obey my giggling protests to put me down.

    “Goodness,” she said, a little out of breath. “I’m not as strong as I used to be!”

    Holding me tightly in her arms, she walked right under the mistletoe and gave me many great kisses on my cheeks with her crimson lips.

    “Stop!” I laughed, wriggling in her arms with delight and secretly hoping she would never put me down. “Auntie Tia! Stop! Stop!”

    When she put me down, I straightened my dress and then turned back to the mistletoe, still determined to make my point.

    “It should be somewhere no one can see,” I insisted, moreso than anything because I didn’t want anyone catching me kissing Blueblood. It had to be somewhere charmingly cozy, where one could could cuddle up to their beloved after a kiss. A place just like… “Like the reading room!”

    “The reading room?” Lady Celestia hummed, looking up at the mistletoe. “I could move it there.” She grinned. “Less room for Blueblood to run away at the sight of it, I suppose.”

    “I don’t want to kiss Blueblood!” I insisted, and finally, for once, I meant it. “I’m going to meet my special somebody and that’s who I’m gonna kiss!”

    “Ooooh! A prince?” Lady Celestia suggested.

    “Or a princess?” Lady Luna asked next, and at her sister’s strange look, she simply smiled.

    “Maybe,” I said, “I’ll kiss a prince and a princess!”

    Lady Luna let out the rudest snort at that statement, earning a glare from her sister who instead bent down and raised my chin with her finger.

    “Well, regardless of who you kiss under the mistletoe, it won’t be happening until after lunch, mm?” She stood up again and offered me her hand. “Come now.”

    I put my hand in hers and followed her and Lady Luna back towards the dining room, the scent of food already wafting in the air and drifting my mind further and further away from thoughts of kisses, and princesses, and mistletoe placements.

    I kept my resolve, too, I’ll have you know.

    I did not kiss Blueblood under the mistletoe that evening, nor anyone else in the Hearth’s Warming parties that followed down the years. No one was ever special enough to take to the reading room.

    Well, no one except for you know who.

    “This tastes… interesting,” said Twilight Sparkle, peering into the dark brew inside her mug.

    The low chatter of patrons filled the dimly lit bar, spilling towards the back-corner booth where Twilight and I sat, both of us cradling warm cups of hot cocoa laced with rum.

    I giggled, the tip of my nose red from the cold and the drink. “You’ve said that already. Five times, in fact.”

    She returned the giggle, and I remember thinking how unsurprising it was that the poor dear was an absolute lightweight.

    “I’m sorry!” she said and then bit down a smile. “It’s true, though… It tastes sweet but… it also tastes like…”

    “Like wood?” I offered, and her eyes lit up.

    “Yes! Like wood!” She was pleased for a moment, and then a slight frown marred her beautiful face as she fixed me with a gaze that danced between focused and lost. “Wait. Why do you know what wood tastes like? Why do I know what wood tastes like?”

    “Because you have eaten wood before, Twilight,” I said without missing a beat, wanting to find out just how drunk she was and what outlandish things she’d believe if I said them quite seriously.

    She blinked at me. “Oh. Right,” she said with the cutest nod as she took a long sip that was cut short when her eyes went wide and the cup landed on the table with a thud. “Wait! No, I haven’t!…Or have I? Why would I eat wo—Rarity!”

    Oh, how displeased she looked as I giggled like a schoolgirl.

    “Stop teasing me!” she protested.

    “Oh, darling, I’m sorry! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll stop!” I promised between fits of laughter. “I just— Darling, what kind of a question is—” I forced myself to take a breath, compose myself as much as I could and then regaled her with my most endearing smile. “I’m fine now.” She gave me a hard stare. “I am!”

    We fell into a lovely silence, both enjoying our drinks and our company.

    She was so lovely.

    I’ve said this before, and I will certainly say it until the day I’m no longer able to, but she was so so lovely. She was so painfully, painfully lovely with her piercing eyes and almost bashful expression as I admired her with all the adoration the alcohol had amplified.

    “What?” she asked.

    You’re beautiful, I wanted to say, and I should have! I should have said so, and said so many things I did not and now wish I had. You’re beautiful, I should have said, with your eyes and smile burned into my memory.

    “So, Twilight, tell me,” I said instead, grabbing my mug and leaning back, taking a sip of the drink in some attempt to find stability through instability, “have you had your first kiss?”

    She was thrown by my question, though not embarrassed.

    “Yes,” she said, amused. “Why?”

    “Oh, I was just curious.”

    And upset and jealous of whoever had stolen the opportunity that should have been mine, but that is neither here nor there.

    “Who was it with?” I asked next.

    “My boyfriend,” she said, her fingers curled around her mug and her gaze downcast—ashamed, almost. “Well, ex-boyfriend.”

    “You had a boyfriend?” I asked, leaning in with intrigue. “My, my, my, Twilight Sparkle! I didn’t know you swung both ways! I must confess that I do, too.”

    Lovely splotches of red adorned her face. “Oh. Er. Well. I don’t actually swing both ways. It’s more like—Well—Err—”

    I smiled and lifted my hand, putting it on hers. “Dear, you don’t have to explain. It’s a private thing and—”

    “It’s fine, though!” she blurted out. “I don’t mind. It’s more that I used to think that I was straight, but I realized I was only dating men because I thought I should and because my family thought I should even if they don’t say it, but I know they do, which is why I did it.” She took a breath and then went on like a motorboat. “Anyway, I realized it wasn’t working out and it didn’t help that I always stared too long at my friend Sunset Shimmer and so I wasn’t really sure until I me—” She caught herself and cleared her throat. “The point is I swing the women way. And also that my first kiss was with my boyfriend.”

    “Your ex-boyfriend,” I clarified.

    “Yes. My ex-boyfriend.”

    I hummed thoughtfully and raised my cup to my lips, sipping my hot chocolate while regarding her in quiet contemplation. Once I was done, I put the cup down and folded my hands on the table.

    “Twilight, if I may be scandalously bold, have you ever kissed a woman before?”

    She froze in her chair, and if you’ll mind putting me aside for a moment, I’d love to talk about her. She froze in her chair, and though my earlier question had only thrown her off yet not embarrassed her, well… now was quite different.

    “Kissed a woman?” she repeated, and her eyes were immediately drawn to my crimson lips right up until the instant they were hidden when I took another sip of my drink. A slight reprieve that was rudely taken away when I lowered my cup and licked the creamy chocolate off my lips.

    “Well?” I asked at her silence, putting the cup down and grinning. “Are you still with me, dear, or have you kissed so many you have to stop and think about it?”

    “What?” she asked at first, up until her brain finally caught up and I wished I had a way to photograph her expression. “What?! No!”

    “Then have you or have you not?” I asked, innocently.

    “No,” she finally replied with great embarrassment. “No, I haven’t.”

    “No, you haven’t. In that case…” I reached into my purse and took out my worn-out tube of lipstick, making a show of reapplying it. Not because I needed it, either, but just because it was amusing to drive her crazy.

    And crazy did I drive her, the poor girl staring at me and for one terrifyingly real and desperate second, as I leaned in and smiled, she had the wildest impression I was going to ask to kiss her.

    “In that case,” I repeated, “you haven’t really had your first kiss.”

    Her face scrunched up in the most delightful fit of confusion. “Yes, I have?” she said, looking at me as though I’d just said that two plus two made sixty.

    I sighed theatrically, as one should. “Well, all right, if you want to be technical about it, you have, but it shouldn’t really count if it’s not with the gender you’re interested in, wouldn’t you agree?”


    She faltered in her reply, her mind clearly debating whether or not she’d had her first real kiss before, and then grew upset when I laughed.


    “What?” I exclaimed. “It’s not my fault you’re so easy to tease!”

    “You can’t keep saying that every time,” she pointed out and when I blew her a kiss, she rolled her eyes at me. “Anyway,” she said, “there’s something I wanted to ask you.”

    “Yes?” I asked, fluttering my eyelashes at her.

    “I… Well, you probably have plans already, but in case you don’t, which is fine if you do, I already assumed you would, which—”

    “Twilight,” I interrupted, amused. “Please, ask your question.”

    She offered me a bashful smile and sat up straight, gathering the courage for her statement.

    “If you don’t have plans, I’d like to invite you and Sweetie to Hearth’s Warming dinner at Lady Celestia’s house.”

    Hearth’s Warming dinner at Lady Celestia’s house.

    A sentence I’d not heard in a long, long time.

    “Ah,” I said, and not much more. What else could I say? What else could I say as I noted the air had gotten colder, my heart had slowed, and distant memories resurfaced uninvited. Eventually, I found words again and spoke up, my fingers curling around my mug in some search for strength. “At the Lady’s mansion?”

    Twilight, my darling ignorant beloved, nodded her head.

    “Yes. It’s just that, well, the Lady won’t—” She caught herself, a moment’s hesitation which you’ll understand a bit later, and said instead, “Anyway, the point is I would really love for you to come.”

    Twilight Sparkle was proud of herself, though she did not show it. Countless times of practicing in the mirror earlier that morning had paid off! She’d read in a book that happiness comes to those who seize it, and so had she seized her own happiness by asking her secret beloved out for dinner.

    It was understandable then that the poor dear would feel rather crushed when I refused.

    “Ah… I’m sorry, Twilight, I…” Every word cut my throat, every lie burned my skin. “I unfortunately do already have plans.”

    Plans that I was more than ready to cancel mere seconds ago.

    “Oh,” she said, and now more than ever I cursed the fact that she could be such an open book, her rejection splashed clear across her face. And yet, she was still who she was, and even in her disappointment, she could not bear upsetting me and recovered soon enough. “Oh! Well, that’s fine! I guessed you would. I just had, uh, some presents for you and Sweetie and… Right.”

    “You had presents?” I asked, and ohhhh, now I felt even worse! That’s what I got! That’s what I deserved for keeping secrets I shouldn’t be keeping!

    “It’s fi—”

    “Why don’t we meet the day after, then?” I quickly offered, desperate to not upset her and to somehow convey the fact that I really truly would have loved to spend time with her. “We can have our own Hearth’s Warming dinner! Perhaps?”

    Her reaction was less than encouraging.

    “Uhm.” She looked like she wanted to hug herself, but settled instead on closing and opening her fists. “I can’t, sorry. I’ll be out of town to see my family for two weeks…” She offered me an apologetic smile. “Maybe when I come back?”

    I hope my smile didn’t look as insincere as it felt.

    “Of course, darling. When you come back.”

    We fell into an awkward, sad silence until she was braver than I am and moved the conversation along.

    “Did I tell you about the new book I’m reading? It’s about…”

    Needless to say, my night had soured fast. Not only did I have to reject Twilight, but she was also going to be taken away from me for two dreadfully long weeks. What had promised to be wonderful holidays were now turning out to be absolutely miserable ones.

    It certainly didn’t help either of us that we both wished I had kissed her.

    Which is strange for me, if I may be sincere.

    The idea of wanting a kiss felt so foreign to me, something I hadn’t wanted in such a long time and was now surprised that I did. I suppose it makes sense, considering my line of work, that kisses hardly ever felt special anymore.

    A week later, I found myself engaged with a client that loved to kiss. Loved to kiss my lips, fascinated by how they left no lipstick marks; loved to kiss my neck, roughly and gently all at once until I rewarded him with delightful noises; and he certainly loved to kiss other places too, but let us be discreet, hmm?

    He covered my body in kisses from top to bottom, soft and rough, and yet they all felt exactly the same.


    “It’s snowing,” I noted as I gazed towards the window from bed, the white sheets only barely covering my naked body.

    “Is it?” asked my client, adjusting his underwear by the edge of the bed before sitting down and looking out the window as well. We watched quietly for a moment, the snowflakes sticking against the hazy glass. “Well, what’s Hearth’s Warming without a little bit of snow, right?”

    I tore my eyes from the window and instead turned them towards him, looking over the remnants of our activities. I saw scratch marks on his back, still red and vibrant and glistening under sweat, and I smiled at the bruise on his neck after a forceful kiss at his request. Traces of me all over his body, but not a single trace of crimson lipstick.

    “Admiring your handiwork?” he asked me with a grin. “Gotta hand it to you, Rarity, that was a damn good holiday present.”

    I smiled, pleased. “You did pay for the best, my dear.”

    “Speaking of which,” he added, putting on his trousers, “thanks for the dress you made for my kid. Can’t wait to see the look on my ex at Rosey looking like a doll at dinner tonight.”

    “Oh? She invited you to dinner with them? That’s encouraging!”

    He nodded, getting up to put his shirt on.

    “Yeah! Don’t expect us to get together again or anything, but it’s nice for the kids that we’re not at each other’s throats anymore, you know?” He moved across the room to fetch the tie that had been thrown under the couch. “What about you? Any lucky fellow you’re meeting up with tonight?”

    “Not a fellow, no.”

    He blinked at me. “…A lucky gal?”

    With great pain, I shook my head. “No, not that either. I believe I shall be spending the evening with a few friends and my sister,” I replied.

    “That sounds nice.” He finished knotting his tie and turned to me, arms crossed. “Say, how do you feel about handcuffs and a leash next time?”

    I leaned in and fluttered my eyes. “How do you feel about paying extra?”

    “Yeah, yeah, we’ll see!” he exclaimed and with that, my client was gone, off to enjoy what I’m sure was a lovely Hearth’s Warming with his family.

    And what did I do the moment the door closed?

    I did what I always do: leaned back with a theatrical sigh and thought of Twilight.

    I thought about her so often, and sometimes during work which even if I’m sure she’d be scandalized to know, one could not deny it did wonders for my performance.

    But in that moment, lying on my bed and staring up at the ceiling, my thoughts of Twilight were not pleasant. I’d not seen her again since our meeting at the bar and I would not be seeing her again until well past the holidays.

    I missed her already.

    “Oh, Rarity,” I murmured, “why are we fools?”

    Several loud knocks on the employee door jolted me out of my thoughts. “Rares?!” Rainbow called out. “You in there? I just saw your client leave the joint! Come on, move your ass, we need to clean the room!”

    “Move my ass,” I muttered, rolling my eyes. “Really, Rainbow!” I called out. “Must you be so crass?!”

    “Yeah, yeah, whatever! AJ’s here too, and she keeps naggin’ me about wanting to see you!”

    “I ain’t nagging you!” a second muffled voice protested.

    I sighed a sigh I hoped the entire city could hear before finally rising from bed, the covers falling to my side. One would think that asking for a few minutes of melancholic reflection was akin to asking for the world! Nevertheless, I made my way towards the door, put on the blue silk robe hanging near before taking a breath, opening the door and…

    “Applejack, d-a-a-arling!” I purred, leaning against the frame of the door and grinning at my audience of two. “Have you finally realized you simply cannot keep resisting me?”

    Though Rainbow’s snort was appreciated, it was my dear Applejack’s frigid reply that delighted me.

    “‘Scuse me now?”

    “Applejack, I’m so glad! I’ll give you a discount!”

    “What you’re givin’ me is how many pies y’all need me to make for our dinner tonight ‘cause it’s already noon,” she said flatly, and I could hardly suppress a grunt at her COMPLETE and UTTER lack of flair.

    “Why are you asking me?” I asked with no small hint of annoyance, moving past them and into the hidden hallways of the Sapphire Carrousel, the two women following behind me into the labyrinth of women and the occasional man walking around in varying degrees of nakedness. “Isn’t this more Pinkie’s department?”

    “That’s what I told her, and she said you had the final headcount!” protested Applejack, the poor dear as red as her apples as she avoided looking at my more revealing co-workers. “I came here yesterday to see you, but you were busy all day and—”

    I stopped and whipped around, tilting my head. “Applejack, really, what did you expect? It’s the holidays.” I turned around and kept walking through the halls, she and Rainbow still hot on my heel. “The nights are getting longer, people are depressed and stressed, so they need to blow off steam! You’re the one looking for me during one of my busiest months of the year.”

    “She kiiiiinda has a point, AJ.”

    “Rainbow, you ain’t helping.”


    I stopped and turned to her, crossing my arms.

    “Why does Pinkie even think I have the final headcount for tonight?”

    “I reckon it’s because of your girlfriend,” she said plainly.

    “My what?”

    Now she was the one sighing at me.

    “I told AB about what Pinkie said and she told me that she reckon it’s your girlfriend because Sweetie told her you have a girlfriend, and while I’m at it, I feel mighty special as your friend findin’ out through my little sister that you have a girlfriend.” She took a breath and stared me down. “So, is she comin’ or not?”

    My thoughtless reply came fast.

    “No, she isn’t,” I said and it took me a shamefully long second to quickly add, “and she’s not my girlfriend!”

    Rainbow made the rudest sound.

    “Hah! Yeah, right! She might as well be with you all day going—” She cleared her throat and spoke in some sort of dreadful attempt to sound like me. “Ooooooh, Rainbow Dash, daaaaaaaahling! Today she looked at me, and it was woooooonderful!”

    “Rainbow, I—”

    “Oooooh, Raaaaaaaainbow!” she continued, nearly swooning to the floor if Applejack hadn’t been a dear and caught her instead of letting her fall as she deserved. “Rainbow, daaaahling, today she said she read a book and I got the—” Her voice returned to normal as she searched me with her eyes. “What’s that phrase you said once and I laughed for like fifty hours?”


    “Oh, right!” She resumed her mockeries. “She read a book, and oh my staaaars, I got the vapors!”

    “I have never in my life said that!”

    “She got the whats?” Applejack asked, and then shook her head and rubbed her forehead. “You know what? It don’t matter none. Can you please just tell me if your girlfriend is coming or not?”

    “No,” I said. “Yes. Maybe. No! I don’t know! It’s complicated! I saw her last week and she invited me to the mansion and—”

    “Woah, wait! Wait, wait, wait!” Rainbow interrupted. “She invited you to Lady Celestia’s mansion?”

    “Your girlfriend invited you to Lady Celestia’s house?” Applejack asked, startled. “Who’s this girl that she can invite you willy-nilly there?”

    “Celestia’s student,” Rainbow informed.

    Applejack turned to me, more than a little shocked. “Your girlfriend is Lady Celestia’s student?!”

    “She’s not my girlfriend, for heaven’s sake! She’s just a friend who invited me to Lady Celestia’s mansion for dinner.”

    “Did you say yes?” Rainbow asked.

    “Obviously not.”

    “Mmhm,” Applejack said in that detestable tone where she thinks she knows better than I do. Which she didn’t! “I reckon if I asked you why you said no, you’re going to say ‘it’s complicated’, right?”

    I stamped my foot against the floor. “Oh, spare me, Applejack! You know damn well it is complicated!”

    She hummed again, looking me right in the eyes, and said very matter-of-factly, “She doesn’t know, does she? About your…” She gestured to all of me. “…night job.”

    If my silence wasn’t a telling answer, then I daresay my blush was.

    “Come ON, Rares!” Rainbow said, exasperated. “Just tell her! Or are you just waiting for her to find out herself?!”

    “I ain’t got the time for this,” Applejack said before I could defend myself. “I’m going to make five pies and one of you will come by later and tell me where I’m taking them.”

    She strode off, vanishing around a corner, and left Rainbow and I alone in the empty hall. In the silence of her wake, I made a disgruntled noise. Un-lady-like, I know, but do make allowances.

    “Rares,” said Rainbow, her tone clipped and terse.

    “What?” I asked, irate.


    I threw my hands into the air. “What?! It’s not that simple, Rainbow! It isn’t! Consider how Celestia reacted when she found out about my choice! Consider that Twilight is Celestia’s student.”

    “Yeah, and so were you and look how you turned out!” she exclaimed and at my look, added, “Wait. That came out wrong.”

    “I’ll say.” I clenched my hands into fists, and nearly dug my nails into my hands. Talk about leaving a mark. “Not to mention the fact that Twilight’s from a noble family from the north! Granted, she may not be the very image of toffee-nosed nobility, of course she’s not, but … but there’s certain attitudes that she may carry, and…” I relaxed my grip and tried to sound final as I said, “It’s not that simple.”

    She relented. I was almost disappointed.

    “Fine,” she said. “You know what you’re doing.”

    It was a lonely walk back to my room, and a miserable shower after that. I stood under the water, annoyed at everything and everyone but none more than myself. How much longer would I keep my life a secret? Why was I doing so? Was I not proving Lady Celestia right by being… ashamed? Would I not be spared pain if I told her outright and gauged her reaction? Perhaps she might understand, and I would be more than pleasantly surprised.

    And if she didn’t, well… I’d be better off, would I not?

    “Fool,” I chastised myself again when I walked out the bathroom, sitting down on my bed and drying my hair with a towel. “That’s what I am. A fool.”

    When I was done, I put the towel on the bed and reached for the brush on my nightstand, my eyes momentarily landing on the lettering on a white throw pillow on the floor.

    We were strangers when we first met…

    Memories again resurfaced uninvited, of a child sitting on a little blue chair while a beautiful lady taught her to sew.

    “We should have best friend bracelets!” I’d said.

    “The ones with an engraving, you mean? Or the ones with a pendant?”

    “…An engraving?”

    “A sentence,” she explained. “A quote of some sort.”

    “Like what?”

    “Like… We were strangers when we first met, but now… now we are the best of friends.”

    I was told once, or perhaps I’d read once, that things that hurt meant they mattered, and there was no denying it still hurt. It still hurt, and that’s what mattered the most.

    Four knocks at the door caught my attention, and I held my tongue. I was being rude, true, but I did not feel inclined to entertain my Lady. I sighed when she knocked again, and knowing that it was best to simply get it over with, I called out.

    “Come in!”

    And so did Lady Luna come in, opening the door and stepping in, looking as sombre as ever with her grand black coat and matching outfit.

    “Oh my, it’s an adult,” I greeted as I’d done since I was a child.

    “A child,” she greeted back with the enthusiasm of a rock, and I couldn’t help smiling.

    “What brings you to my grand abode today, Your Grace?” I asked somberly, mockingly bowing my head as I combed my hair.

    “Sunday’s performance—”

    “Has been moved to Saturday, I know, and I’ve adjusted my fitting schedules accordingly. Rose Tulip’s costume will be ready for you to approve tomorrow night, at the latest.”

    “And the designs for—”

    “The designs for next season’s performance,” I interrupted, gesturing to a stack of papers on a nearby chair, “are already sketched out. I was going to take them to you later, but you’re more than welcome to take them now.”

    My Lady levitated the papers over with a gesture of her hand and looked them over, an approving smile on her lips.


    I bowed my head. “A lady never disappoints. Is there anything else you need from me?”

    “Yes,” said my Lady. “I will be out of town for the evening and came to say goodbye.”

    “Out of town?” I asked, surprised. “Are you not having dinner with your sister?”

    “I am, but we’ve both been invited to a dinner in Trottingham. Our train leaves in two hours.”

    “Oh, I see,” I said, thoughtfully. “I suppose th—Wait. Lady Celestia won’t be at her mansion for dinner tonight, then?”

    “No,” replied Lady Luna. She raised an eyebrow. “Why does this surprise you?”

    I will admit I was at a loss for words, and as I went back through my vague recollections of my meeting with Twilight, I realized she never actually invited me to dinner with the Lady. She only invited me to dinner at the mansion.

    “Twilight,” I breathed out, shaken. “Twilight, she… She invited me to Hearth’s Warming dinner at the mansion and…”

    “You refused,” she completed. Not a question, not a surprised remark, but a pointed statement of fact. I almost expected her to chastise me again, berate me as she always did about my petty pride, but she hummed instead. “That explains many things.”


    “Twilight Sparkle was invited to go to dinner with us tonight.” She hadn’t even finished her sentence and I already felt the crushing blow of it. “Celestia told me she refused as she hoped to invite a few friends to the mansion.”

    I didn’t say anything in reply.

    What could I say? What could I even try to say?

    I’d already refused.

    “May this be a lesson to you, Rarity,” the Lady said, for though she held great affection for me, tact and compassion were never her fortés. “Had you been an adult in this squabble, you would have been rewarded with not having to see my sister at all.”

    I put my hand down on the bed and dug my nails into the sheets. I really was a fool. I really, truly was.

    “Is there anything else you need from me?” I said, my words bordering between cool and glacial.

    Despite the slight insolence in my tone, my Lady did not further shame me. Her expression softened instead.

    “No,” she said. “I’ve left your present under the tree.” She offered me a smile. “Happy Hearth’s Warming, Rarity.”

    I couldn’t not smile back. “Happy Hearth’s Warming, Auntie Luna.”

    And she was gone, the hollow sound the door made as it shut echoing in the room and in my head.

    One fact was painfully clear, and it was that I could not go on like this any longer. I simply couldn’t…

    So I decided I wouldn’t.

    I would try to somehow undo what I’d done, and if I did…

    Well, I would have to tell her the truth. Or try to, at least.

    A young woman of no older than twenty-one sat on a bench, waiting and waiting and waiting, her heart in her hands and a necklace around her neck. They would not be coming. As their parents had said, she was not one of them.

    “I apologize for being late.”

    A gasp left her throat, and the woman looked up to see another young girl, this one no older than nineteen.

    “Luna!” said the first, eyes sparkling with joy. “You—! You came! You—”

    Young Luna, for she was not a lady yet, smiled. “I promised, did I not?”

    “And… And what about..?” the woman continued, looking past Luna, her eyes searching for someone. “Is she coming or…?”

    Luna’s smile vanished and her eyes hardened. “No,” she said. “No, she is not.”

    “Oh,” said the woman, and her eyes sparkled with something other than joy. She lifted her head back and looked to the sky, bitterness tainting her otherwise lovely laugh. “It’s alright. It’s perfectly all right.”

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    1. Silver Mint
      Sep 14, '22 at 12:07 am

      I was told once, or perhaps I’d read once, that things that hurt meant they mattered, and there was no denying it still hurt. It still hurt, and that’s what mattered the most.

      Words never truer.

    2. platinumSKIES
      Jul 7, '22 at 2:49 pm

      “Tongues are not good presents,” she noted and then added after a pause, “Then again, some people love tongue.”


      Also oh no….this is gonna end sadly, isn’t it. 🙁