XV. The Deafening Silence
We did not talk that week.
Or, well, we did, I suppose, if you count monosyllabic greetings and thank yous for the coffee and teas as ‘talking’.
You remember what I said earlier? How I missed you so horridly those few days we were embroiled in the entire Spike affair and we barely spoke? Well, this, darling, this was much worse.
I did not know what to say, what to do, or how to make amends for the damage I’d done.
There is nothing for me in Ponyville.
That sentence haunted me the days after, repeating itself over and over as I lay miserably on my chaise longue. What a fool! What a fool I was, to slap you in the face in such a treacherous way! I read a book that week, something to distract myself from my pain, and what shame burned through me at the thrilling climax! Against all odds, the heroine and her lover forsook everything that opposed them! They rebelled against destiny, proving that nopony could extinguish their blazing love.
I thought about it so much! It consumed me, Twilight! Over and over, I saw in my mind what I should have done. I should have marched into that room with a brilliant smile, told you it was a tough meeting but I’d risen above it, and I would prove to that nasty stallion that I was talented enough to get everywhere by my own merits!
Even if he didn’t believe in me, you did, and that should have been enough.
You sat with me in the private carriage at least, which brought me some amount of comfort. It meant you did not hate me, and I hoped you were willing to talk things out, but…
What could I even say? That yes, I was willing to leave my dreams behind for you? That I would stop pursuing a life—my dreams!—in Canterlot because you’d made Ponyville your home? Now, in this moment, in retrospect, the choice is far more than obvious, but back then, well…
Even if my heart knew what it wanted, it was still daunting.
I still hesitated.
I was, if I am to be frank with anypony but you, I was afraid.
However like many things in life I’ve found, it was you who made the choice for me.
XVI. Secrets Untold
It began with Princess Celestia.
Stars above, everything begins with her, doesn’t it? Do you think she has journals where she plots out life-changing events for all her subjects simply to pass the time? She does, doesn’t she? Doesn’t she?! See! You hesitated! I wager she has a secret room in the castle filled with diagrams and flowcharts where she plans ponies’s destinies with as much detail as I’m certain Cadance matchmakes them.
Regardless, where was I? Oh, yes!
I was fitting her for a new dress—something for that one diplomatic rendez-vous with the Griffons, you remember?—and she seemed unusually quiet. She was usually chipper and ready to banter, but then…
I… Twilight, did you tell her what happened between us?
Really? Just what that oaf said? I could have sworn you said more! Or I feared it at the very least. You were her star pupil, and I had broken your heart! Then again, my poor dear, you’re easier to read than a children’s book. She no doubt saw right through you.
It wasn’t until halfway through our idle conversation, as she stood high and imposing on my dressing platform, that she finally approached the topic.
“Rarity, I hesitate to ask, but… is everything all right between you and Twilight?” She must have noticed my momentary freeze, for she quickly added, “My student is not the best at hiding what troubles her.”
I was unsure of what to say, and especially less so considering to whom I’d be detailing our fight to. I saw myself being banished from Canterlot!
“I don’t want to pry on the details, of course,” she added as if she’d read my mind—and I wager she did! “A yes or no is fine with me.”
I swallowed, folding and unfolding the hem of her dress. “I… We had a disagreement,” I said carefully. “Sharp Silk had some very pointed remarks regarding my designs, and Twilight and I differed in what to do about them.”
“Oh dear. I’d been meaning to ask… It didn’t go well, then?”
I shook my head. “Not per se, no, but it’s old news now, Your Highness,” I replied, moving to the other side of the dress and hoping she might let the subject go. I did not want to upset her with Sharp’s insinuations, and some part of me feared she might take some sort of action.
If she did, would it not prove Sharp’s point?
“I’m sorry to hear that,” she said after a pause, again resuming her earlier remark. “I asked because Twilight has been unusually quiet during our meetings, and she avoided the topic when I asked about you. As I said, it’s not my place to inquire but…” She paused, but before I could interrupt and try to end the topic, she continued like a well-placed dagger: “You mean a great deal to her.”
I did not immediately reply, and I wondered where she was going with her line of questioning. Was she intending on punishing me? Shaming me? What?
“I don’t want you to think I’m upset at you, Rarity,” she said as if she’d read my mind, which she probably had. Somehow. “I trust you and Twilight to resolve your discussions between yourselves, but…”
“I understand,” I cut-off, offering an attempt at a smile. “You can’t help but worry about her?”
She laughed softly. “I am her teacher, but I can’t help thinking of her as the closest thing I have to a daughter, and I know she cares about you very much.”
My heart twisted in my chest, and I missed you more.
“I care immensely about her, too,” I confessed, to her or myself, I wasn’t quite sure. “My daily commute would be a much lonelier affair without her there keeping me company.”
Even that week, even when I assumed you had no choice but to travel with me, I was still grateful for your silent presence.
The Princess fell silent, and as I worked away, she seemed to be lost in thought.
“Well, I’m glad Twilight made the right choice, then,” she said, sounding relieved.
“The right choice?”
Another brief pause, not even half a second long.
“To not take the chariot, of course,” she elaborated.
“To not take the chariot?” I asked, looking up at her. “Whatever do you mean?”
Princess Celestia looked down at me, inspecting me with an innocently curious gaze, which I am only now realizing was probably anything but genuinely innocent.
“Oh dear, didn’t she tell you?” she asked. “As my personal student, she’s entitled to the use of my private chariot. I’d offered it to her before our lessons began, but she told me she’d prefer taking the train.”
“She did? But, why in Equestria would she?!” I asked, blind to the obvious answer. “The train takes nearly two and a half hours to reach Canterlot! A chariot would take thirty minutes at most!”
The Princess offered me an amused glance. “I said the same, but she was very insistent about wanting to keep you company.” She giggled. “I can’t complain, either! She was only supposed to be here five hours a day, but now she’s here all day! I miss her less that way.”
I was thoroughly confused. “Five hours? But—! Princess, aren’t her lessons with you from nine to six?”
“Nine to six? Oh no, she’s only supposed to meet with me from twelve to five!” When I could say or do little else but stare, she continued, “Oh dear, I really did think you knew.”
“I… I didn’t.”
Celestia giggled, covering her mouth with a hoof. “Oops.”
Oops! Oops indeed, even though I’m certain she had it all planned out!
“Please don’t hold it against her,” she continued with a softer tone. “She’s never had somepony like you before. She was very excited for you to come work here, and only wanted to make sure you had a good time.”
“But… But why would she lie…”
“If I know Twilight, which I do very well, I know she must not have wanted to burden you with her choice. She’s, well…”
“Awkward?” I filled in, still rather stunned, still idly playing with the fabric, and Celestia laughed again.
“Awkward would be the word, yes. It’s why I didn’t insist much when she didn’t take the offer to use the chariot. I actually thought you two had a fight a few weeks ago, when she wrote me one day to ask for it.”
My eyes grew wide. That morning you didn’t come to the train station after Spike caught us! And just like that, so did facts start to add up one after another, all the hints I’d continually and persistently missed!
Why I could always find you alone in the library in the morning without fail! Why you were always waiting for me at the train station at night, even on the days I thought I’d gotten off earlier than you had! Why you didn’t say anything even as I whined every morning about having to wake up at such ungodly hours!
And that past week…
After everything I’d said and done, you could have easily left late and gone home early. You could have given me a dozen excuses that I’d have believed, and you didn’t. Even after I’d hurt you so terribly, you still elected to wake up at four in the morning and leave at eight at night just so I wouldn’t take the train alone.
My heart swelled, and I missed you so much, I thought it might die.
The Princess cleared her throat and smiled innocently, her mission of intentioned indiscretion accomplished. “You were telling me earlier about your thoughts on the upcoming gala?”
XVII. A Game of Chess
I couldn’t stop thinking about you.
As I said previously, I was afraid of truly embarking on our grand relationship, but I’d earlier reached the point in my misery where I simply could not stand the harrowing distance between us, and the Princess’s revelations only made it worse. I was mad about you, and not just with affection! I feared I’d go… Well, all right, not insane, but…frazzled at the very least if I didn’t set things right.
I found you in the library because of course I would. Would I ever find you, I don’t know, in a mane salon? Maybe the spa? Shopping? No, but a mare could have wild and impossible dreams!
I found you in the library, despondently poking away at something. You turned the pages in slow motions, and it seemed as though you were almost bored! Or, perhaps, you were rather like me, and the frigid train rides in the morning and afternoons were taking a toll on your well-being.
I peered into the room, and I saw you look up for a fraction of a second before immediately staring down at your book with extraordinary interest. Is it strange to say it was reassuring? If you really and truly didn’t care for me, you wouldn’t have made such a show at showing you didn’t care.
I stepped into the room, closing the door behind me and looking around for other ponies. I wanted privacy lest things did not go well. From the other side of the library, you furtively stole glances at me, which weren’t very furtive at all considering I noticed them, but I digress.
It wasn’t until I was beside you and politely cleared my throat that you—no, let me tell this! I don’t care if it’s embarrassing for you! I thought it was adorable!
It wasn’t until I was beside you, and I politely cleared my throat that you turned around and ‘blinked curiously’ at me.
“Oh, Rarity,” you said, closing your book and staring me down. ”I’m busy with my lessons. I can’t really talk now,” you lied through your teeth, like the beautiful deceiver you were! Lessons with Celestia! Hah!
“I won’t be long.”
You considered me a moment before relenting. “…All right. What can I help you with?”
You see, I knew that I had to act with delicacy. The utmost tact, sensitivity, and diplomacy would be required to make amends with somepony of your intellect. I had to treat it like nothing more or less than a high-level game of chess.
“Twiiiiiiiiilight!” I said plaintively, making a show out of pouting, my lower lip jutting out.
Chess is dreadfully boring.
You were thrown aback. “Y-Yes?”
“Twilight, I simply cannot stand this any longer!” I continued despairingly, now moving towards the table and lying upon it and burying my face in my hooves.
“St-stand what?” you asked, now alarmed, clearly torn between being distant or fully and utterly confessing your devotion.
Yes, that’s exactly what you were feeling. Yes, I know you better than you do.
Instead, you moved closer, but not enough to bridge the gap between us. “Is something wrong?” you asked.
“Of course something’s wrong, Twilight!” I cried out, looking up at you with desolate, no doubt tear-stricken eyes. I was putting on a full show for you! “If I go another day without ingratiating myself to you again, I shan’t find the way to carry on!” I buried my face in my hooves again. “How will I carry on?! Who will show me around Canterlot?!”
“Who will regale me with tales and gossip?!”
“Who will make me laugh with her fun facts after a long day?!”
I looked up, and my heart fell when I saw a raised eyebrow match your unimpressed expression.
It seemed like I’d have to play chess after all.
“Are you done?”
“Well, to be honest, I was just getting started, but I suppose I can stop if it’s too much,” I offered.
“I’d appreciate it.”
I drew myself up and nodded severely.
Pawn to E4.
“Twiliiight,” I whined softly before sighing and offering you a look I hoped accurately reflected the regret in my heart. “Darling, I miss you.”
Your expression softened, irritation melting away and giving way to resigned pain.
You opened your mouth to reply, but it seemed as though words were scarce, so you closed it again and looked away. I remember thinking you were beautiful. I felt even more dreadful afterward, trying to find some terrible solace in the fact that you looked so very elegant and poetic when your face was marred with sorrow.
Finally, you replied.
“I miss you too,” you said, and nothing else after that. You moved your pawn, but neither attacked nor conquered and again I had to make the next move.
Bishop to C4.
“I’m sorry, Twilight, I am,” I said, sincerely and regretfully and lovingly especially. “I wasn’t lying when I said I shan’t find a way to carry on if I’m not in your good graces.”
“Right,” you replied, again moving a pawn, neither resisting nor giving in.
Queen to F3.
“Twilight,” I began, “I know I’m in no position to be asking anything from you, but…Might I ask your help with something?”
You finally looked at me, your interest piqued as it always was when somepony needed help. “Help with what?”
Queen to F7.
I moved closer still and spoke in a hushed tone. “Twilight, in the past week, I’ve tried again and again to come up with the right words to express how terribly I feel about what I said and how I treated you, but I keep coming up short.” I smiled at you. “Would you mind helping me with that?”
You observed me for a moment, took in what I’d said, and then you offered me a tentative smile. “I can go through a dictionary with you.”
And yes, that is in fact a way to win at chess in four moves that Pinkie told me about last week, and before you ask, I rehearsed telling the story with chess metaphors while you were in the food carriage an hour ago.
Well, of course I know that play is difficult to actually accomplish in an actual game of chess, but I’m trying to be poetic here, darling!
Where was I? Right!
I can go through a dictionary with you, you’d said.
A sentence I never thought would bring me so much joy and relief, and yet there it was. My brilliant, giddy smile and perked ears must have had some effect on you, for a soft laugh left your lips and a sparkle from something other than tears shined in your eyes.
“I apologize, Twilight,” I said again, and your smile lessened. “Being upset by what that oaf told me did not excuse the awful things I said to you—especially considering the lengths you went to just to help me even when you had no obligation to do so.”
You frowned. “You’re my friend,” you replied as if that were obvious, as if nothing else but that was required for you to devote yourself entirely to helping me.
“I certainly didn’t act like one.” I paused. “I certainly don’t feel like one.”
You allowed that to settle for a moment. Did you agree? Disagree? I did not know, and more than that, I did not care to know.
“What did he say…?” you asked, cautiously. “You never told me accurately.”
I didn’t want to tell you. It was painful and humiliating, and the last thing I wanted was for you to know you were being accused of cronyism. Just the idea of it gave me half a mind to go and find the beast and tell him exactly what I thought of him.
However, considering all I’d put you through and everything I now knew you’d done for me, you deserved to know the truth.
“He…” I licked my lips, trying to find the appropriate way to say it. “He is under the impression I’m a talentless designer who hasn’t worked hard a day in my life. Furthermore, he also believes I expect the fashion industry to award me privileges solely because of my status as an Element, as well as my ties to you and the Princess.”
“What?!” you gasped, scandalized. “He thinks—?! What?!”
Why, if you had your wings already, they’d be splayed open, feathers flying all over! It was a blessing you weren’t an alicorn yet, or else you might have gone after him!
Darling, it’s been years, there’s no point in going after him now, you silly filly. Yes, I know you want to, but we must rise above such petty acts of vengeance. Besides, I did get catharsis time ago when I was invited to be the guest of honor for Trottingham’s Winter Fashion Ball instead of him.
What wouldn’t I give to have a photograph of his expression during the announcement.
“Yes,” I replied. “As I said, it does not justify my behavior, but now you know why I was more than cross.”
You settled down somewhat, turning back to your book and flipping it open and close several times with your hoof. Eventually, you groaned and your eyes shut close.
“I’m sorry, Rarity,” you said, and I was horrified. You?! Apologizing to me?! You, who was incapable of any harm save for that one instance you lectured and scolded me for hours for having used the word irregardless.
“‘Sorry’?!” I gasped, as shocked as you were not even moments ago. I moved towards you, taking your forehoof in mine. “Darling, deareast, sweetheart, Twilight, whatever are you sorry for? Please don’t let yourself be affected by that pompous cucumber sandwich’s remarks!”
“I’m not,” you lied, not that I knew you were lying yet. You creased your forehead, swallowing down whatever nervousness held you, and elaborated with your head hung in shame, “I’m sorry for pushing you to stay in Ponyville.”
I didn’t know what to say. Of course, I understood perfectly why you’d done it, and my silence was in no ways intended to come across as tacit agreement that you had to apologize for that. I was at a loss for words simply because, well, I didn’t know what to say. To say I understand and you were right to do so would imply I wanted to stay in Ponyville with you, and…
You closed the book in a decisive motion and turned to me with bright pink cheeks.
You know how I say you don’t look at me, you analyze me? Yes, well, this time, Twilight, this time you were—I can’t even think of a word to describe the… the intensity? The intensity of your gaze. This wasn’t a smoldering gaze, it wasn’t romantic or adoring or anything but passionate.
I remember wanting to move back, such was the force your aura exuded. But I didn’t step back, too ensorcelled by you.
Stars above, she’s going to say it, I thought.
“Yes?” I somehow managed to say when you hesitated, every fiber of my being hanging by the dulcet tones of your voice. I wanted you to say it, Twilight, I wanted you to do it even if I feared it, even if it would change our friendship. I wanted you to confess simply so you would pin me against a corner and I’d finally know what I really wanted.
“I forgot my speech.”
Darling, don’t slap your forehoof against your face like that!
I blinked at you. “What?”
Poor thing, your blush covered your face in big uneven splotches like my sheets after Sweetie tried to dye them red.
“I had an entire speech memorized, and I forgot it,” you elaborated sheepishly.
I fluttered my eyelashes at you. “I do have that effect on ponies, I’m afraid,” I said, and with your laugh did your nerves fade away.
“I’m not… I’ve never had a friend like you before. Or the others!” you hastily added. “And I won’t be able to see you a lot anymore if you move here, but… If you want to find a job here, then I want to support your decision no matter what.”
A slight nod followed your statement, giving off the impression you weren’t trying to reassure me but yourself.
“I’m really sorry, Rarity,” you reiterated rather forcefully. Afraid of what I had to say, perhaps? “I just… I shouldn’t have said what I did. It was selfish of me to expect you to say just because Ponyville is my home now. I wanted to be here to help you achieve your dreams—not because I can give you leverage, but because I think you deserve it.”
Even if you were reciting—or trying to, at least—the sincerity and earnesty in your voice was more than overwhelming. I remember a wondrous warmth washing over me, to see how my heart came before yours in your eyes.
And you called yourself selfish.
“I… Thank you, Twilight,” I said sincerely, my warm smile shortly mirrored by your own, your ears perking up at the positive reaction. I moved back, knowing I had matters to attend to, and yet I still wanted to spend time with you now that you weren’t upset. “Shall we have lunch together today? My treat.”
A great relief seemed to wash over you. “I should be done by noon,” you said with a smile. “Same place as always?”
I grinned. “Same place as always.”
The path from you extending,
I could not see its course—
or the closer to you I was getting,
the further from you I’d walked.
For I was moving in a circle,
not a line as I had thought—
the steps I took away from you,
were taking me towards.
~ Lang Leav, Memories