She reveled in the feeling of her lips buzzing as she hummed. She had never much liked singing, but with humming she never had to worry about getting the words wrong. The satchels slung over her back were a comforting weight, and the lighter they got the lighter her spirits grew. At last she dropped the final bundle of letters off at the farthest point in her outward spiral, and settled for a moment, as always, on the limb of one of the apple trees to watch the glow of the sun just begin to crest beyond the wooden farmhouse. A dim light appeared in one of the windows, and as a yawning face peered out, the only sign that the mail mare had ever been there was a gently swaying branch.
Ditzy Doo rolled a little in the air, slow enough for gravity to just begin to tug the empty satchels from her back, but fast enough to catch them before they slid too far. Her humming petered off as she flapped her way back to town proper, and just as the first doors in Ponyville were beginning to open, hers gently clicked shut behind her.
“The timer’s up, sweetener,” she said, quietly, and nuzzled the small sleeping form in the bed.
A soft groan of protest answered her as the blanket was lifted up to cover the young unicorn’s head.
“Oh ho, it’s going to be like that?” When she got no further answer, a mischievous smile spread across her face. “It is so…”
A sudden burst of laughter split the air as Ditzy fell to tickling the shape under the covers, who quickly fought to escape the tangle of sheets. When the giggling fits had finally subsided, Ditzy placed a quick kiss on Dinky’s forehead and stood back up. “Hopscotch the table. Your favorite.”
“I love you, mommy!”
Ditzy pulled her daughter tighter into the hug. “Love,” she said, simply, so she wouldn’t get it mixed up, and then let the lavender unicorn skip along on her way to school. She watched her carefully from the doorway a minute, then slowly shut the door when she realized a few ponies around were giving her looks.
Once inside again, she closed her eyes and rubbed them with a hoof, feeling the familiar sensation of them resetting themselves. She hadn’t even noticed them wandering, and she felt an embarrassed flush rise to her face as she turned back to the kitchen to clean up Dinky’s mess from breakfast: blueberry chocolate chip pancakes. She popped one of the uneaten ones into her mouth and started to munch while she tidied up, humming quietly again.
There was the sound of shuffling hoofsteps behind her, and she turned back around, holding out a plate of the leftover pancakes in offering.
“G’morn’n, Derpy,” the orange-maned earth pony mumbled, and sat down at the table, taking the plate gratefully. Ditzy smiled and returned to her work with a cheery little bow. She didn’t like it when other ponies called her ‘Derpy,’ but she knew Carrot Top didn’t mean it like that, so she didn’t mind.
Carrot rubbed her eyes tiredly as she ate breakfast, too groggy to say anything until she had finished. “Dinky already off?” she finally asked.
“Have a good route?”
“Did you talk to him?”
“You really ought to, you know.”
Carrot shook her head, then yawned loudly while she stretched.
“Fridge is getting low. It’s your turn to stock up.”
She chuckled back at Ditzy’s wide grin, then stood up. “Well, I’m gonna hop in the shower and then be off. Can you hold down the fort?”
Another chuckle. “I have the utmost faith in your abilities. See you tonight.”
“Night time perception!” she called after her, and finished washing the dishes before trotting out the door.
She didn’t like the store, but at least at this time of day, there weren’t many ponies inside it. She actually didn’t like leaving the house any more than she had to. She would much rather fly her mail route and then spend the rest of the day taking care of Dinky and their home, but she couldn’t let her roommate handle all the errands. Besides, if she didn’t try to object to leaving the house to do these simple tasks, Carrot didn’t try as hard to get her to come out to any more parties or social gatherings. After that one in the library before the Summer Sun Celebration, when she had made such a fool of herself…
She blinked and forced her sight back to normal as she realized that one of her eyes was drifting away from the food label she had been trying to read. She looked around to make sure nopony had been watching her, and jumped into the air, wings fluttering, when someone behind her quietly cleared their throat.
“Mighty sorry, ma’am,” the slow, deep voice spoke. “Di’n’ mean ta scare ya none, jus’ try’n’ ta ‘scuse mahself.”
Ditzy swallowed, and slowly settled back onto the ground before nodding. “Regiments of regard,” she mumbled, quietly, while staring at her hooves furiously for her clumsy speech and moving her things to the side of the aisle to allow the large red pony to pass.
The large red pony, however, didn’t move from his spot. “Ah hope Ah ha’n’t done somethin’ ta offend ya, Miss. ‘Fraid Ah don’ git offa the farm much, ain’t too used ta town.” He looked down at the grey pegasus who seemed to be doing her best to turn invisible, and smiled a little. “Now, where are mah manners? Mah name’s Macintosh. Pleasure ta make yer ‘cquaint’nce, ma’am,” he drawled, holding out a hoof.
Ditzy slowly reached out and felt her cheeks flush as she took the introductory hoof. “Commencement,” she said softly, in greeting. “Derpy. Objection!” She added, too quickly and too loudly, and looked away as he watched her in confusion.
“Healthy ignorance,” she tried to explain. “Monikers, aliases, alibis, lullabies…” Ditzy bit down on her lip, fighting back tears. “Statues to pardon,” she forced with a small crack in her voice, and sped for the exit before Big Mac could find a voice to say anything more.
Ditzy sat on the couch, staring blankly at the wall and not even bothering to control her roving eyes, losing herself in the slightly disorienting sensation of split vision.
You really ought to, you know.
“Nope, nope, nope,” she chanted to herself in a mutter. She really oughtn’t have. She used to be completely nonexistent to him, but now, she’d just be that stupid mare with the silly eyes who talked funny. It sent a small shiver through her, but it was a familiar kind of sadness, so at least she knew what to do with it.
She hadn’t gotten the groceries. That thought eventually cut through the haze, and she slipped to her hooves, intending to go back out and try again after she grabbed something quick from the kitchen for lunch. He would have had plenty of time to get what he needed from the store by now, and she would be extra careful to make sure she could avoid him in town if he was still around. She would just have to do that from now on, she decided, even if he wouldn’t want to talk to her again, anyway.
She put on the happiest expression she could manage when Dinky got home from school, which wasn’t all that hard since the little filly always greeted her with a large hug and a long-winded story about her day, and today was no different. Before long, however, she was off again, to spend the night at one of her friends’ houses, which meant Ditzy was once again alone with her thoughts until Carrot got home.
Of course, Carrot’s appearance didn’t bring her near the level of happiness as Dinky’s had, and she quickly busied herself in housework to cover it, hiding her face behind a bundle of laundry, burying her nose in making dinner, and just avoiding Carrot completely.
As the two sat down to eat the sautéed vegetables and fruit salad she had prepared, Ditzy felt safe enough to relax a bit. She would come to terms with what had happened eventually, but for now she had managed to keep it from Carrot Top, and as long as she could keep her friend and her daughter from seeing her hurt, she could live with it.
“So, I ran into Big Macintosh, today.”
She coughed loudly at the nonchalant statement, almost choking on a piece of squash, and looked around, panicked, while the orange pony across the table continued to eat indifferently.
“Well, maybe I didn’t so much ‘run into him’ as I saw him from across town and chased him down until I got close enough to have a talk.”
She still found herself unable to speak, more from shock than from any food lodged in her throat.
“He was quite upset, too,” Carrot continued, after taking a drink of juice. “Seems he had an encounter with a certain grey pegasus at the grocery, earlier. He managed to insult her so badly she couldn’t even speak straight – can you imagine? Well, he was quite distraught about the whole business, so I told him I might know who he was talking about, and I invited him over to have dinner tomorrow night and set things right.”
“You didn’t!” Ditzy cried with a pained expression. “Particularity and elocution!”
Carrot just smiled, and swirled her glass a moment. “No. I didn’t. But… I did tell him that I would have a talk with that poor mare, and tell her that, if she wanted to hear his apology, she would meet him at the store at the same time tomorrow.”
She was suddenly aware that she was breathing, and that her mouth was no longer too arid to swallow nervously.
“No time, busy busy bee,” she said, weakly, and stared down at her food.
“Of course you are, Derpy, dear. I never said you had to, but he’ll be waiting there for you all the same.”
Decisions were something Ditzy was not very good at. Small decisions, she could handle. What to cook for dinner. What story to read to Dinky when she was having a hard time getting to sleep. What movie to watch for her and Carrot’s weekly bad movie night.
This decision, however, scared her more than any she had made in a long time, and not for the first time in the recent past, she found herself thinking of another stallion, and another decision. Dinky was the best thing in her life. But that just proved good things could come from bad choices, if the sisters were watching out for you.
It had kept her up a good portion of the night, and it was weighing on her now even more heavily than her loaded mail satchels – Saturdays always seemed like such busy mail-days. But, if he wanted to apologize, then that meant he might want to talk. Or it could just mean he wanted to make fun of her.
She shook her head clear of the idea, and wobbled a bit in her flight as her eyes began to separate. No, he wouldn’t do that. She knew enough from what she had seen and heard to know better than that. But maybe he only wanted to apologize because he pitied her, and that was an almost worse thought.
For a few seconds she tried to hum, but the tune felt stale in her throat, and she dearly wished she had at least been able to see Dinky that morning to get enough happiness to make it through the day. Still, she managed the same pace, and after a while the monotony of the task – hoof to satchel to mailbox to the next house and repeat – was enough to drive the thoughts to a simple buzzing drone at the back of her mind. Lighter and lighter her load grew, and longer and longer the distances between her stops, until only the last few letters bounced around inside her packs, and the last stop loomed large before her.
She alit on her branch, and tried to make herself watch the rosy fingers of the dawn tickling over the horizon, but she found herself instead focusing on the window where the first light in the house always came on, and which always gave the signal for her to head home.
But today she lingered. Not long enough to be spotted, of course; just long enough to know she had stayed. She had made her decision.
From her cloud, Ditzy watched the red earth pony stroll slowly into town, swishing a stalk of hay between his teeth. As he got nearer the store, she burrowed further into the cloud until only her eyes would be visible to anyone on the ground who was scrutinizing the sky. Once he reached the entrance of the grocery, he plucked the stalk from his mouth and dropped it into a trash bin, and held the door open politely for several ponies entering and leaving before going through himself. Ditzy smiled and dropped through her cloud, wings flapping slowly as she hummed a simple tune.
“Sooo, how did it go?” Carrot Top asked, leaning out of her bedroom doorway when she heard Ditzy enter the house.
Carrot frowned, and watched the grey pegasus as she made her way toward the kitchen for lunch. “What do you mean, ‘Nope’? You didn’t even talk to him?”
“Nope,” came the reply, along with the sound of the fridge opening.
“But… Ditzy Doo. What do you think you’re doing?” the earth pony asked, sternly, walking down the hall to stand in the entrance of the kitchen and stare her friend down. “You get your bubbly flank back over there and talk to him.”
Ditzy shook her head, looking up from the makings of her sandwich laid out on the table. “Denotation lacking requirements!” she protested, and went about her task, stubbornly.
There was a loud thunk as Carrot brought her hoof down heavily on the spoon that Ditzy had just been picking up. “I don’t care what I said, Derpy, you’re going to go back. I don’t know what the problem is; he wanted to talk to you, anyway!”
Ditzy stared down at the loaf of bread intently for several minutes, then nodded, sniffling once. "Good stallion. Good good, too good. Silly eyes. Reservation for one."
There was the briefest of pauses before Carrot spoke up again. "You know, you say some stupid things, but that was quite possibly the stupidest thing yet."
Ditzy furrowed her brow at the frustrated sentiment. "Not stupid," she muttered.
"Yes, you are, Derpy. You are the dumbest mare I've ever known. Look at you, you can't even-"
"Ditzy not stupid!" She cried, voice hitching a little, trying to fight her eye back from its wandering path, and failing. "Ditzy not dumb! Just can't... can't... vocalization!"
Carrot slowly smiled back at the outburst, and the pegasus shrank a little. She blinked a few times, correctively, anger receding amidst her confusion as she waited for her friend to break the silence once more. "I know you're not, Ditzy,” she finally said. “But sometimes you sure do act like it. He's too good for you? Really?"
She just nodded, face falling again as her resentment abated.
"Don't be ridiculous. You are the absolute sweetest mare in town, and the hardest working. You go through every thankless day without a complaint. And… you're the best mother I've ever seen. If anyone is too good it's you, Derpy. Impossibly so. And your silly eyes and ‘vocalization’ have nothing to do with it. Now, I'll only say it one more time: get your flank back over there and talk to him."
She was too late. Of course she was. He wouldn't have waited there forever. He had probably thought she didn't want to hear his apology, and left long before Carrot had helped her work up the nerve to come.
She felt like crying. She did cry a little, but she wiped her eyes on a cloud and flew home, cheeks still burning. It was strange, she never had trouble keeping her eyes in line when she cried.
Dinky was there waiting for her, and Ditzy made sure to spend the whole rest of the day with her, doing whatever she wanted. Watching her daughter play was enough to keep her smiling, and it had the added bonus of keeping Carrot from asking questions. Eventually, however, the day drew to a close, and Dinky went to sleep much earlier than usual, still tired from her trip to her friend's house.
She loved to watch Dinky sleep. She always looked so peaceful, so beautiful, and even when she couldn’t keep her eyes right, she didn’t mind so much, because she could still see her, and that was enough.
"Tardy," Ditzy explained, simply, as she sat on the edge of Dinky's bed and ran a hoof through the sleeping unicorn's mane. "No talk," she said, flatly, giving her daughter one last kiss good night and walking past the silent earth pony in the doorway. “Estivation.”
This was her day to sleep in. No deliveries. No school for her daughter. Her roommate was there to take care of the house for a few hours. On Sunday, she rested.
This was how it was supposed to be. Carrot would make a simple breakfast for Dinky, who would then invariably come in to snuggle with her for a few hours. Then, after she had gotten enough sleep to recover from the week, she would get up and start again, by making them all a big lunch. They might even go to the park, where Ditzy didn’t mind making funny faces as much because every mother was making funny faces at their children. This was how it was supposed to be.
This was not how it was.
She should be asleep right now, but her mind was racing, and her attention was drawn to the window. Outside, the morning was just now breaking, sunlight creeping its way across the ground, and she realized it was the first sunrise she had watched in a long time from anywhere except her perch at Sweet Apple Acres. She hadn’t even known who lived on that property the first time she had done it, except for the names on the envelopes. She had just accidentally stumbled on the phenomenon one day, looking over her shoulder as she left the orchard.
Seeing Big Mac, that had been much later.
She had found a letter – addressed to one Granny Smith – wedged into the bottom of her satchel after she had already gone home for the day. Never one to shirk her task, she had immediately flown back out to the farm, intent on delivering the letter and ready to accept the blame for the mistake.
When she caught sight of the large red pony pulling a plow below her, her wings had almost locked up, and she nearly crashed into the farmhouse porch. He hadn’t noticed, thankfully, but one of the other ponies on the farm, the orange-coated mare, had been just a little ways off when it happened.
She’d been so embarrassed; she had thought that mare would know exactly what had happened. As she got closer to check on her and ask her business, however, Ditzy could see in her face that all she could think was that it was that stupid silly mare having trouble with her wings like she had trouble with her eyes. She had handed the letter over with a clumsy apology and flown off as quickly as she could, forcing herself not to glance back for another look.
The sun pushed itself heavily above the horizon, and she just watched it in stillness for several hours. Eventually, she heard rummaging in the kitchen, the sound of cereal being poured and giggling as Dinky undoubtedly filled her bowl to overflowing. It was an unfamiliar collection of sounds – to her Sunday morning ears, anyway – but she couldn’t help but smile softly at it, as she waited patiently for her little filly to barge into her room and hop up into the bed with her.
The sounds of their eating faded, and the silence of the house pressed itself into the silence of her thoughts, and as the moments stretched themselves out before her exhausted mind, she found her doubts fueling more doubts. Just as she began to question when the last time Dinky would creep into her room to snuggle would be, however, the door quietly creaked open, and she forgot everything else, slowly drifting off to sleep with her daughter wrapped in her forelegs as she hummed a quiet lullaby.
Carrot Top watched Ditzy carefully from the living room couch, some sitcom or other playing on the television, as she stepped out of the bathroom, mane up in a towel and tail dripping damply a little along her way to the kitchen.
“Who’s hungry?” she called cheerfully behind her, feeling a little refreshed after her shower, and started to lay out a vast array of food for lunch. Dinky bounced along beside her, eager to help in any way she could, but Carrot just turned back to the television, deciding to wait until the unicorn went off on her own somewhere to play before she tried to talk to her friend again.
It turned out to be quite the wait on her part, but after dinner, and after they had cleaned up and Dinky had gone off to her room to finish her reading for school, the earth pony took her chance.
“So, what are you going to do?”
“Uncertainty,” Ditzy replied thoughtfully, resting her chin on a hoof as she leaned against the counter across from Carrot. “Conversationalist agreeableness, but late. Offensive likelihood.”
“I suppose that’s a possibility. I don’t know just how likely it is, though. Besides, if you want to talk to him so badly, I wouldn’t worry so much about whether you hurt his feelings by not showing up. That’ll be easy enough to fix.”
“Instruction? Speech therapy indicates difficult rehabilitation.”
“Sorry, Derpy,” Carrot said, shaking her head. “But I can’t tell you that. You’re going to have to figure out what to do on your own. And that’s just the way it’s got to be,” she added when the pegasus frowned at her.
“Lacking conviction. You didn’t read the manual…” she shot back, accusingly, and her friend just rolled her eyes in response.
She watched the sunrise again, trying to draw all the warmth she could from it while she sat in her perch. When the first light in the house came on, she was once more out of the tree before anyone could have the chance to notice her. Instead of setting her course back to town, however, she found herself on the front porch of the farm house for only the second time in all the years she had been running this route, albeit much more carefully this time. After a few minutes, when she thought she had given the inhabitants of the house enough time to rouse themselves, she took a deep breath, and approached the door, too nervous to even worry about whether Carrot would be able to get Dinky up and moving well enough to make it to class in time.
To her disappointment, and possibly relief, it was not Big Mac who opened the door, but rather his younger sister, who she now knew was Applejack. “Mornin’, Miss,” the farmer said, looking her over with a carefully confused eye. “Reckon yer the one’s got mah brother all worked up, then?”
Ditzy couldn’t find her voice, and it probably wouldn’t have done her much good if she could, so she just gave a tiny nod.
“An’ Ah reckon yer here ta talk to ‘im. ‘Zat right?”
She swallowed, and nodded again.
Applejack considered her for another long moment, then stepped back and held the door open for her with a smile. “Well, c’mon in, then. Jes’ wait here a spell, an’ Ah’ll get ‘im.”
Ditzy self-consciously stepped through the entryway, and looked around at what she could see from the foyer while Applejack went to get her brother. The inviting country furnishings made her relax, very slightly, and once she had taken in enough of her surroundings to be satisfied, she rubbed softly at one of her eyes to make sure it stayed cooperative.
“Hi, Miss Derpy! Bye Miss Derpy!” a small twangy voice called out, excitedly, and she opened her eyes once more just in time to see a yellow and red filly rush past her and out the door, book bag strapped over her back.
“App’ebloom! Ah dun told ya not ta…” Ditzy looked up in surprise at the red stallion slowly plodding down the stairs as he tried in vain to call after his youngest sister. He stopped near the bottom of the steps, and met her eyes in an unreadable expression. “Sorry, Miss Doo. Tried ta tell ‘er ta not call ya that.”
She shuffled on her hooves a moment, and looked away. “Youth,” she said, simply, in understanding.
Big Macintosh took the last few steps down to the floor, but kept his position near the bottom of the stairwell. “Ah’m awful sorry ‘bout ev’rythin’. Ah been hopin’ fer th’ chance ta talk t’ya, maybe set a few things right.”
Ditzy shook her head, and did her best to clarify when he gave her a bewildered look. “No… talk. Not me. Alternation,” she said, and reached back to pull a letter from her satchel. She had considered filling it out with a stamp and everything to make it a proper delivery, but in the end had settled for simple stationery in an unsecured envelope. “For you.”
After only a moment of muddled hesitation, he reached out to take the letter, and turned it over a few times in his hooves, examining it questioningly.
“Facilitative missives,” she tried to explain in a quiet voice, gaze locked pleadingly on her letter. “Made… transcription painstaking, misfortune. Hope to make clearer.”
With a short nod, Big Mac lifted the lip of the envelope and slipped the letter out, feeling Ditzy’s eyes on him the whole time. When he finally had the paper unfolded and turned the right way, the first thing he noticed was the meticulous script it had been written in. It had been labored over, that was for sure, and while there were a few areas that had been scratched out, he got the impression that this was far from the first draft.
The language wasn’t perfect, and he had to read over some parts multiple times to glean the meaning from what she had written, but it actually was more comprehensible than her usual speech, and it explained almost everything. He slowly lowered the letter to turn his gaze back to her, fidgeting a little but waiting anxiously to hear what he had to say.
“An’ ya… really feel this way? Ah mean, ‘bout me?” he asked, somewhat incredulous.
She nodded, tight-lipped. “Hard… to meet… novel ponies,” she said, uncomfortably slowly. “Reduction observation. Good stallion,” she finally said, unable to satisfactorily echo in speech what she had put somewhat more eloquently in writing.
The red pony directed his attention back down at the letter blankly, deep in thought, until a small smile spread across his face, and he looked up at the pegasus, taking a breath before speaking. “Would… would ya like ta… ‘ccomp’ny me fer dinner t’morra night?”
Ditzy sank to her haunches, pouting a little in the fancy dress Carrot had put her in. “Feel like ridiculous. Feel like… feel like silly.”
“Nonsense, you look wonderful. He won’t be able to keep his hooves off you.”
She blinked, feeling her eyes burn, and slumped a little further towards the floor. “But what if he doesn’t like me?” she asked in a rare moment of vocal clarity.
“He’ll like you,” Carrot stepped forward, giving her a reassuring smile, and Ditzy couldn’t help but smile a bit in return. “I promise.”
Ditzy picked at the dress a little, thinking. "Over stuffed for simple rendezvous."
Carrot laughed, and smoothed back out the sections of the garment Ditzy had just been fiddling with. "Darling, you're a mare. There is no such thing as over-dressed when you've got a date with the catch of the town. Besides, your job tonight is impressing him, and he is certainly going to be impressed," she said, stepping back to look over her hoofiwork with a pleased nod.
Ditzy had been fighting her eyes the whole time she'd been listening, but as her friend finished her little speech she stopped trying, and allowed them to drift to their full separation. She cocked her head a little to keep one of them focused on Carrot, doing her best to give her a dubious look. She wasn't quite sure if her eyes added to or detracted from the impact of her stare, but she hoped it was the former.
"Oh, would you cut that out? Just because your eyes can't always agree doesn't make what I said any less true. Just look at yourself. I'd wish I could have half your figure if I had had a foal."
Ditzy blushed a little and mumbled something, staring intently at the ground between her hooves as her eyes slowly readjusted, but she couldn't hold back a bashful grin.
"That's more like it! Now, come on then, hop up; let me fix your hair. Again," she added, with just a hint of exasperation.
When the knock came from the front door, Ditzy jumped immediately to her hooves, and almost threw the door open right away. Of course, it wouldn’t do for him to know she had been sitting right by the door all along, waiting – or at least, that’s what she thought Carrot would say – so she waited. After a time of staring at the door, hoof halfway to the handle, she suddenly realized she didn’t know how long she’d been making him wait, or what an appropriate amount of time was anyway, so she quickly pulled the door open just in time for him to miss his target as he renewed his knocking.
Macintosh was not exactly dressed up for the occasion, but his mane had been combed nicely, and he was without his usual stalk of hay between his teeth. He stood awkwardly in the doorway, doing his best to keep his eyes from wandering down the elegant form before him, and out of nervous habit he absently rolled his jaw like he was transferring the stalk to the other side of his mouth.
Ditzy fidgeted under his gaze, staring at the golden shoes adorning her hooves. “Evening,” she replied, softly.
“Shall we… be on ‘r way, then?”
With a tiny nod, she pulled the door shut behind her, and waited for him to lead the way before following, still watching the ground and trying to ignore the townsponies watching them – her – as they went.
“Ah di’n’… realize Ah shoulda made mahself more… presen’able,” he said, hesitantly, and at that Ditzy picked her head up to look at him as he glanced off to the side uncomfortably.
“Sorry,” she muttered, and fidgeted even more under her dress, making a note to scold Carrot severely later. “Senseless. Returnable,” she stated dejectedly, slowing her walk and looking back over her shoulder towards home.
“Oh, no, Ah was…” Macintosh looked quickly between Ditzy and a point far off on the horizon several times. “Don’ change. Y’ look… mighty nice.” He cleared his throat, quietly, but didn’t say anything else.
Ditzy’s cheeks burned, but she held her face up a little more, scratching through her previous mental note heavily. “A…arrival?”
It took Macintosh a few moments to realize what she meant, but his ears perked when he did. “’Scuse me!” he said, recovering from his previous fluster. “Ah d’in’ mean ta leave ya in the dark like tha’. Ah don’ know many places ‘round these parts, but Ah though’ this Fifty-Sec’n n’ Mane place seemed… agree’ble.”
“Agreeable,” she affirmed, feeling a little excited. She had never been in before, despite all the times she’d been there on her route, or passed it while in town. It honestly was the nicest place in Ponyville, and she started to feel a little bit less self-conscious about the looks she was getting walking through town dressed as she was if that was their destination.
The rest of their walk to the restaurant passed in relative quiet, though neither much minded. Even when they were seated and served, the conversation was light.
Ditzy was doing rather well at keeping her eyes in check, and at keeping Macintosh from seeing when she couldn’t. He was telling her a little bit about their orchard as she took a small bite of her food when she suddenly realized she was looking at the large pony across from her and the plate before her at the same time. She quickly dropped her utensil and covered her eyes with her hooves, as he watched her, concerned.
“Mitigation,” she mumbled, miserably, slowly massaging her eyes until she could feel them start to stubbornly shift to their normal positions. “Unable to redress satisfaction. Self-control.”
“Don’ apologize,” he said, softly. “Ya ‘ave purty eyes. Y’ don’ ‘ave ta cover ‘em.”
Ditzy lowered her hooves, but kept her face down. “But… slovenly,” she protested weakly, which just earned a small shake of the head from him.
“No. ‘Tain’t yer fault. An’ i’s nothin’ ta be ‘shamed of no how.” When she still seemed reluctant to pick her head back up, he softly added, “Please?”
She sniffed, then lifted her face to look back at him. Her eyes were still a little wild, the right one looking just above his head while the left stayed focused, and he smiled warmly, undaunted.
“There ‘t is,” he murmured, and she smiled back ever so slightly as she forcibly blinked a few times to correct the last little bit.
For the rest of the night, Macintosh found himself speaking even more slowly than usual, as slowly as he wished he could always speak. He didn’t exactly talk fast, he knew, but he still constantly felt rushed around other ponies, and it often happened that they would outright interrupt him to finish his thought if he was too sluggish for them. But Ditzy just stared back at him, patiently waiting for him to fully express himself as she carefully took in every word. Her attention never strayed, unlike her eyes, but every time they wandered without her realizing, he would gently point it out, and she would give a small smile in thanks as she brought them back to normal.
For her part, Ditzy couldn’t believe how little it bothered her when Macintosh brought attention to her eyes. She actually found she preferred it to when others would simply ignore it, like they were trying extra hard not to hurt her feelings. And even though he didn’t always understand what she was trying to say at first, he would quietly allow her to recollect her thoughts until she was able to articulate her phrases more distinctly.
Despite their friends and family, who always did try to be as understanding as possible with them, the experiences were entirely new to both ponies, and as the night wore on and their meals came and went, it was the conversation itself, and not what it was about, that brought them ever closer.
They had left the restaurant not long before, opting to take a short stroll around the mostly empty town to continue to enjoy each other’s company. They had both fallen silent for several long seconds, and Macintosh could tell Ditzy was trying to find the words to say something, so he just silently strolled beside her, giving her all the time she needed.
“Awareness… in movies, closing date…” she finally spoke, looking down and chewing her lip before forcing out the next thought. “Primary kiss.”
The pair stopped in their tracks, and she forced herself to look back up at him to see him watching her, expectantly. She swallowed anxiously before attempting to elaborate on her statement.
“Impatient,” she said, in a whisper.
Wordlessly, Macintosh closed the distance between them with one deliberate step, and slowly brought his face to meet hers.
There were no fireworks. At least, if there were, she couldn’t tell. In that moment, her entire mind rushed to the contact of their lips, and she kissed back, gently but hungrily, relishing in her pure somatic existence for the brief few seconds it lasted.
When he pulled away her head tilted up just slightly, trying to follow the lips that were no longer there, before she took a shaky breath and opened her eyes. They were at their furthest separation, but instead of feeling embarrassed, she just giggled a little, and rubbed at her temple to resettle them as he loosed a soft, deep chuckle.
After staring back at each other fondly for a few moments, sharing in the euphoria, they both nodded, and continued their winding walk back to her home.
Ditzy scuffed at the ground a little, which probably would have made Carrot furious if she had seen the new dirt stain she got on those nice horseshoes. “Partial to… ingress?” she asked, uncertainly.
Macintosh swallowed, and looked around as if he expected Granny Smith to come at him with her walker for considering something so forward. “Ah… Ah s’pose Ah could come in. Jes’ fer a while, a’ course.”
She nodded, quickly, and hastened to explain. “Not… expectations. Only possess simple addition. Extended… ex…” she struggled to put speech to her thoughts, but Big Mac stepped in, just this once, with a reassuring look.
“Ah un’erstan’. Ah’m not ready fer the night ta be over with either.”
“Tea?” she asked, gratefully.
The large earth pony nodded, smiling, as she started to open the door. “Yes’m. Tea,” he said, simply.
Before they could properly enter, however, Ditzy froze in the doorway, and Big Mac looked over her shoulder to see what had made her stop.
“Mommy!” Dinky cried, eagerly, and jumped off the couch, rushing forward to greet her mother.
“Sorry,” Carrot said, still sitting on the couch and trying to fight down a knowing smirk as Ditzy gave Dinky a flustered hug. “She couldn’t sleep; said she needed you to read her a story, because apparently I’m not good enough.”
“Ya never tol’ me ya had a daughter,” the pony behind her drawled, coolly.
Ditzy chewed her lip a little, still holding the oblivious unicorn in an embrace. “Rectification,” she apologized, softly, as Carrot stepped forward.
“I’ll take her back to bed, now,” she affirmed, and gently placed a hoof on Dinky’s shoulder. Ditzy started to reluctantly let her go before Big Mac spoke up again.
“No, tha’s alright. Let ‘er stay up a spell,” he said, and carefully stepped up beside the pegasus, smiling. “Ah’d like ta talk with ‘er.” The other earth pony just nodded and excused herself to bed, giving her friend a quick wink as she left.
The unicorn finally released her mother, and then turned to look Big Mac up and down. “Hi, Mister,” she finally conceded, satisfied.
He tipped his head politely. "Hullo there, ma'am.”
"I'm not a ma'am,” she replied, frowning a little, and Ditzy smiled slightly as she watched the exchange. “Only grown up ponies are ma'am's."
"Ah don' know…” he leaned in, making a show of scrutinizing her. “Ya look purty grown up ta me. What are ya, twelve, thirteen?"
Dinky giggled a little. "No, I'm only six."
"Only six?" He straightened, feigning surprise. "Why, yer th’ mos' grown up six ye'r ol' Ah ever seen."
"You talk funny, Mister,” the little unicorn said, still giggling.
Ditzy froze, smile instantly fading, and started to scold her daughter before Big Mac's rumbling chuckle cut her off. She looked back over at him to find herself meeting his meaningful gaze.
"Yes, ma'am," he said, easily. "Ah reckon Ah do."
Ditzy smiled to herself as she started the tea, humming softly, happy that she was back to doing things that were well within her comfort zone, even with the audience.
“Ya did well, with th’ story,” the farm pony plied, questioningly, and got a quiet laugh in response.
“Reading separate, disregard cognition.”
He nodded in comprehension, and enjoyed the warm quiet for a few seconds before continuing. “She’s beautiful. D’ she… take after ‘er father any?”
Ditzy’s expression darkened a little, and her voice softly matched it when she answered. “No. Blessing, not follow either. Father… deception. Leave. Dinky not like him. Not like me. So smart.” She was smiling again, now, pride beaming from every feature as she looked back in the direction of her daughter’s bedroom. “Origin unknown, but… my little sweetener. My perfect little Dinky.” She blinked slowly, feeling her eyes water a little, and after filling the cups she turned her gaze back on Macintosh, vision sharp and unwavering.
“Ya done good, raisin’ ‘er on yer own,” he said, meeting her expression warmly.
Her expression brightened a little more, and she gently cleared her throat. “Thank you. An infrequent sentiment. It’s… significant, departing from you.” she said quietly, nodding as she put the tea kettle down.
He took his tea with an easy smile, and she sat down across the table from him, keeping her eyes carefully in check as they peered happily at each other over their drinks, sharing the silence.