Happy Birthday, Fizzypop!
Fizzypop put the last carton of ice cream in place. Done! With the dessert table now in order, everything was finally ready! The poofy-maned earth pony stood back to admire her hoofwork.
The young mare’s ordinary living room had been transformed into a festive party scene. From wall to wall hung vivid streamers of purple, pink and red; her colors. Matching balloons filled the room, and across the doorway ran a banner declaring “Happy Birthday, Fizzypop!” In the center of the room were tables full of food: it had taken a quite a bit of bits, but Fizzy had decided to splurge just this once, springing for some of those really fancy party trays she always saw in the window of that high-end deli on the way home from work. There was also, of course, a table just for the desserts.
It may all have been a bit much, but then again, this party had to be really special: it was the first birthday party Fizzypop would be hosting all by herself, without her oppressive parents there to interfere. Actually, it would be her first birthday party period; her parents never, ever did anything for her birthday when she was a foal.
* * *
“Hey mom! Hey dad! You’ll never guess what today is!” exclaimed the little filly, bouncing around the room excitedly. Garnering no response from her parents, the enthusiastic foal continued, “It’s my birthday!” The older ponies seemed to be doing their best to ignore their child, as they continued reading the paper and knitting, respectively. This did not deter the little one, though. “Can I have some of the ponies from school over? Can we get some ice cream and soda? I’ll make floats for everyone! It’s a super-secret birthday recipe that I - ”
“Ugh, enough of that irritating nonsense already!” interrupted the gruff voice of her father as he put down his newspaper. “We’re not doing anything like that, okay? Just be quiet and go to your room.”
The little pony stopped bouncing, a frown forming on her face. “But I thought maybe today - ”
“Do as he says,” added her mother, looking up from her knitting with a sigh, “You remember what we had to do the last time you disobeyed us.”
Tears forming in her eyes, the little mare complied, sullenly shuffling to her bedroom.
* * *
It saddened Fizzypop to think about her foalhood: she was so scared, so lonely back then. She was never allowed to play with other ponies… She quickly pushed those painful memories aside. Things were different now. She had her own house (located as far away from her parents as possible, on a quaint little island), a good job (working at an ice cream parlor; what could be better?), and the five best friends anypony could ask for. It had been tough at first, having to make new friends and establish new connections, especially for a pony like herself who had never been good at social interactions to begin with. Sure the neighbors were sociable, and all the other ponies in town seemed nice enough, but none of them really wanted to be close friends with Fizzypop. That all changed, though, about a year ago…
* * *
“Who are you?” asked Fizzypop apprehensively, “some kind of welcoming committee?” On the purple mare’s doorstep stood five ponies, looking cheerful and friendly.
“Why, we’re yah’re new friends, dahlin’!” exclaimed a magenta pegasus with an airy southern accent. Her green mane was beautifully styled, sitting beneath a dainty sun hat; on her flank was a picture of seashells and coral. “Ah’m Shell-Belle; pleased to make yahr acquaintance.”
“My name is Waterfire,” stated a bespectacled blue unicorn with messy orange and red hair. She had a cutie mark that pretty much literally matched her name. “Welcome to the island.”
“You can call me Strawberry Reef,” said a pink earth pony with a red mane and tail. “Everypony else does, cuz that’s my name,” she added, smiling. Her cutie mark showed a strawberry nestled amongst coral.
“I’m called Island Rainbow,” said an orange pegasus with sparkly fuchsia hair, and a cutie mark of a tropical island. “You’re going to like it here, trust me.”
“And I’m Flippity Flop,” said a red-haired, yellow unicorn. She wore sunglasses and a beach hat; a depiction of flip-flops rested on her flank. “We’re, like, totally gonna be good friends! I can just tell, ya know?”
A burst of joy filled Fizzypop. Only a few days here, and she already had some friends. Now she could finally start sharing good times with other ponies. Things were definitely looking up for her now!
* * *
Fizzypop smiled. Today would be a day for real celebration, just for her and her wonderful friends. She looked over with pride at the special surprise she had waiting for her best buds.
Sitting on a table next to an automated bubble-blower, amongst noisemakers and other party favors, were five goodie bags lined up in a neat little row. Fizzypop had put a lot of work into the small bundles: each one was custom-made for one of her friends, their contents and motif corresponding to the ponies’ individual interests. They even had stickers on them that matched their cutie marks! It had taken a real investment of time and energy for Fizzypop to put these together, but in the end she felt extremely proud of the job she did, confident that her friends would be impressed with each loving little detail.
Looking up at the clock, Fizzy could barely contain her excitement. “It’s eleven! Eleven o’clock! That’s when the party starts!” she shouted with enthusiasm. Her friends would be there any minute! She jumped around excitedly, eager to begin her day of birthday fun.
* * *
“Fizzypop, you can stop jumping anytime now.”
Fizzy ceased her bouncing, returning to a normal walking gait. “Sorry, Island, it’s just that I’ve never gone swimming before! And today’s such a nice day for it; I can’t wait to get to the beach already!”
The orange pegasus stopped. “Wait, you don’t know how to swim? You never told me that.” She frowned, a look of irritation appearing on her face. “Great, now we can’t do this!”
Fizzypop gasped. “What? Why not? You can just teach me, right?”
Island Rainbow closed her eyes and sighed. “Well, yes, technically I could - ”
“Because you’re the best swimmer on the island!” interjected Fizzypop.
“…yes, I am, Fizzypop. But don’t interrupt, it is rude. Anyway, yes I could teach you to swim, but quite frankly that’s not the kind of day I had in mind. Today was just supposed to us two chums having fun. And now you want to turn it into a swimming lesson?”
Fizzy looked confused, and a little indignant. “So? Who says we can’t have fun while you teach me?”
Her glittery-haired friend started to say something, but then closed her mouth, thinking it over. “You know, I hate to admit it, but you may have a point there.” She sighed. “All right, fine, today you learn to swim.”
“Yay!” yelled Fizzypop. “Thank you thank you thank you! I can’t wait to learn how to swim!” The purple pony started bouncing around again, and her orange companion just shook her head, a wry smile on her face.
* * *
After bouncing around for five minutes, Fizzy poked her head out the front door. She turned her head first left, then right: nothing. Nopony was on the street today. She went back inside and looked over in anticipation at the good time she had planned.
Stacked in the corner was a variety of her and her friends’ favorite board games, as well as the staple of traditional party games. Already taped up on the wall was the customary “pin the tail on the pony” game, which was always a hit with party goers (or so she had heard). Thinking of all the fun games they’d play together only stoked her excitement. “Hurry up, already!” she thought to herself as she sat back down, “I can’t start the party without you, so please hurry!”
* * *
“Hurry up already!” Fizzypop impatiently commanded a square of damp soil. “Grow into a big, beautiful bush full of delicious strawberries already!”
Strawberry Reef chuckled. “Sorry, I’ve already tried that,” she said, handing her friend an ice-cold bottle of strawberry juice from a nearby cooler. “It doesn’t work.”
Fizzy eagerly accepted the gift from her farmer friend. “I know, I know, but they’re so good, I want to be able to eat them right now!” The purple earth pony smacked her lips, and proceeded to drink her juice. “Why can’t they grow faster?”
The pink earth pony shrugged. “I dunno, plants just don’t work that way; at least, not strawberry plants.” She drank from her own bottle of juice, and looked over the field they had just finished seeding. “We’ve already done all we can: plant, water, fertilize; the rest is up to Celestia’s sun, and the strawberry plants themselves. Just give them a little time, that’s all.”
* * *
After giving them a little time, Fizzypop sighed. “Where are those guys?” Out of five friends, not one of them was able to show up on time? “Eh, stuff happens; I’m sure they just had to take care of a few things before arriving,” said the red-and-pink-maned filly, shrugging it off. “Ooh, maybe they’re getting me some last-minute presents!”
Fizzypop’s gaze crept over to an empty table in the corner, just waiting for colorfully wrapped boxes and bags to be stacked on it. Back in school, she’d always hear her classmates talking about what gifts they’d received for their birthdays. She tried to imagine what it was like to tear away bright wrapping paper to reveal a cool toy or neat knick-knack underneath; it must be so exciting! “That’s it, they must be getting me some super special gifts that they just know I’ll like! Oh, that’s so sweet of them!” They really didn’t have to do that, though; after all, the best part of a birthday is having your friends to celebrate it with you.
* * *
“Okay everypony! It’s, like, time for presents!” announced Flippity Flop. The yellow unicorn beckoned her friends to a nearby table, already filled with an assortment of colorful gift bags.
“Flippity, honey, would yah be a deah an’ open mah gift first?” asked Shell-Belle, batting her eyelashes as she walked over, “ Ah do declayuh it’s the most stunnin’ one ya’ll gonna get.”
“No, open mine first!” said Strawberry Reef excitedly. “You’ll never guess what it is: strawberry-scented sunblock! You’re gonna love it!” She beamed proudly, then frowned, facehoofing. “Oops, wait, I messed up. Forget I said that.”
“Memory doesn’t work that way, sport,” said Island Rainbow as she flew over to the table and nimbly landed next to it. Looking over at Flippity Flop, she added, “Anyway, you should do mine first. It’s a real humdinger, it is!”
Waterfire shuffled over, her attention absorbed by a book levitating in front of her face via magic. “You can open mine whenever, Flop,” she said distractedly.
Flippity Flop looked over the gifts, her face aglow with excitement. “They all look totally rad; I don’t know which one to open first!” She looked up at her four friends with a smile, then frowned. “Hey, like, where’s Fizzypop?”
“I’m right here,” called a sullen voice from across the room. Sitting down in the corner was the purple earth pony, tears in her eyes.
“Dahlin’, what are yah doin’ back theyah?” asked Shell.
“Come to think of it,” added Island Rainbow, “I don’t recall you doing much of anything at this party. Hurry up and get over here, you’re missing all the fun!”
“No,” said Fizzypop, “I can’t.”
“What? Why not?” asked Strawberry Reef. “Are you sick?”
“No…” Fizzypop stood up and looked at Flippity Flop. Taking a deep breath, she stammered out, “It’s just…I’m so sorry! I didn’t bring a present; I couldn’t afford one! I’m sorry!” Tears started dropping out of her eyes. “I’m a horrible friend…”
Flippity Flop went across the room to her tearful companion. “Hey, don’t get so down, man!” said the unicorn, putting her foreleg around Fizzy. “I didn’t invite you to my birthday party just to give me presents, ya know. Like, it would be totally tubular and all if you did get one, but that’s not the big deal.”
Fizzypop looked up, sniffling. “Y-you mean you’re not angry?”
“Nah, s’all cool,” responded the unicorn, “I wanted you here so we could party, ya know? It’s not a bummer if you couldn’t get something. Just roll with it and have a good time; that’s what a party’s all about!”
Fizzypop wiped her tears away and smiled. “Okay.” She lunged forward, hugging her surfer friend. “Thanks.”
“Anytime, brah! Now, let’s get this party started!”
* * *
When would this party start already? Another fifteen minutes passed, and Fizzypop pondered her friends’ lateness again. “Maybe…maybe they’re getting me a birthday cake!” Her eyes lit up at the thought. Despite the lavishness of the party, one thing it was lacking was a cake of any kind; after everything else, Fizzy simply couldn’t afford one. “Yeah, a cake would be nice!” Looking over the dessert table, Fizzie noted, “Then again, it’s not like I don’t have dessert already.”
Indeed, she was right. Running the length of the rectangular table were bottles and bottles of sodas, coming in more flavors than there were colors to distinguish them. Lined up on the other side of the table, having just been pulled from the freezer not too long ago, was an equally impressive assortment of ice cream, also coming in pretty much every flavor under the sun. Some had even been hoof-churned by Fizzy herself; these were her signature flavors, which she only made for really special occasions. Each carton of ice cream had been carefully placed behind the soda that would compliment it the most in a float.
“Yeah, who needs cake when I’ve got an endless variety of my famous ice cream floats!” She exclaimed. She may have been exaggerating the “famous” part, but her floats were nevertheless expertly crafted; making them was her special talent, as her cutie mark could attest to. She turned her head and looked at said emblem, smiling.
* * *
“So, you serve ice cream or something?” asked Waterfire, for once not sticking her face in a book.
Fizzypop blinked at her unicorn pal. “Um, well, I do work at “Sweet Surprises” down the street; why?”
The blue pony shrugged. “I was just curious about your cutie mark, that’s all.”
Fizzypop looked at the mark on her flank: an ice cream float with straws sticking out. She giggled. “Oh, you were asking about that. That’s not what that means.”
“Oh?” Waterfire’s curiosity had obviously been piqued. Raising an eyebrow, she asked. “Then what’s it for? It sure looks like ice cream to me.”
Fizzy shook her head. “No, no, no, you have it all wrong. Yes it’s ice cream, but it’s not there just because I serve it.” She pointed to the special mark on her rear. “This cutie mark right here symbolizes an in-depth knowledge of making and serving ice cream floats! What soda to use, what ice cream to use, the best way to combine them, what temperature to serve them at – and not to mention the aesthetics! You have to choose just the right serving dish and utensils to perfectly compliment the colors of the flavors being served. Really, the perfect ice cream float is a mixture of flavor and presentation.”
The red-maned unicorn blinked. “Wow, I never knew making ice cream floats was so complicated.”
Fizzypop shrugged. “Yeah. Of course, I’m also good at just serving ice cream and soda by themselves, but where’s the fun in that?” She glanced over at the mark on Waterfire’s rear: an orange flame floating over a pool of deep blue water. “Hey, what’s your cutie mark mean, anyway?”
“Eh,” Waterfire responded, shrugging nonchalantly, “Just that I’m good with both fire magic and water magic.”
The two friends looked at each other, and burst into laughter.
* * *
After more waiting, the purple pony pointed her azure eyes up at the clock: noon. “What? A whole hour’s gone by already?!” She rushed over to the front door and looked out again, but alas, still saw not one friend. Closing the door, she began to pace the room. “I did send out those invitations, didn’t I?” Thinking back, she nodded her head rigorously. Of course she had sent them out; how could she forget what had happened just last week?
* * *
Fizzypop rubbed her eyes. The mare hadn’t gotten much sleep the previous night; she had stayed up extra late, working hard on custom-made invitations for each of her friends. She picked up the colorful envelopes and headed out the front door towards her mailbox. “It sure is windy today!” she noted. No sooner had she thought this than a particularly strong gust buffeted her, blowing the invitations right out of her grasp. “Oh no!” she exclaimed, trying desperately to grab even one of the precious papers out of the air as they were whisked higher and higher. Try as she might, she couldn’t, and her hopes sank as the last envelope disappeared from view far above her.
“No worries,” she said to herself, trying to remain cheerful despite the waste of her hard work, “I should still have enough time before the mailmare arrives; I’ll just make some new ones, that’s what. For my friends, it will be worth it!” She went and did just that, and made sure to hand them to the mailmare herself when she arrived.
* * *
Later that week Fizzy had talked to her friends, just to make sure they received the invites. Each one had said that they had, and that they’d be delighted to come. Surely they would have said something if their plans had changed, right? “Of course they would have! It’s not like them to ditch me like that; none of them is that kind of pony!” Fizzypop went back to the table and sat down. So what if they were a little delayed? There was still plenty of daylight left! They’d show up in no time, and then the fun would begin. All she had to do was be patient.
* * *
“Geez, we’ve been here for hours, Shell, and I still can’t find anything good!” Fizzypop screwed her eyes shut and started stomping in place.
“Oh mah stars! Fizzypop, dahlin’, do calm down!” exclaimed her pegasus friend, “Throwin’ a little hissy-fit like thayt at yahr age is embarrassin’, to yahrself and to me. ‘Sides, you might end up breakin’ some potential treasures.”
Fizzy blushed, quickly ending her little tantrum. “Um, I’m sorry, it’s just that…that…” She looked down at the ground. “It’s so frustrating that I can’t find any cool seashells like yours! You make all this beautiful art using all sorts of really neat-looking shells and stuff, and all I can find is… junk.” She threw down the saddlebag she had bean wearing in frustration.
Shell-Belle’s expression softened, and she walked over to her earth pony friend, picking up the discarded bag. “First of all, nothin’ here is junk; everythin’ on this beach is beautiful in its own way.” She put her wing around her, and the two started slowly strolling down the shore. “Secondly: honey, Ah’ve been collectin’ seashells ever since Ah was a young filly. Yah don’t always fahnd the best stuff right away; it takes a practiced eye, a smidge a’ luck, and a heap a’ patience.”
Fizzypop silently nodded, taking the message to heart.
* * *
Another hour passed. Fizzypop’s stomach rumbled, and the mare looked over at the food table with hungry eyes. Still waiting to be consumed was the feast of exotic fruits, nuts, and vegetables, arranged on trays in aesthetically pleasing arrays. Oh, how Fizzy wanted to taste those delicious snacks! She was so hungry; she had even given up breakfast that morning to make sure she had as much room as possible in her tummy for all of the tasty party food. She stayed strong, though; she would not have any of it until her friends arrived. After all, it would be a shame if they didn’t get to see those artistic displays. “Besides, you’re a patient pony, Fizzy,” she said to herself, “as soon as your friends get here, we’ll have some of that delicious food, and then wash it down with -”
Fizzypop gasped in realization, and quickly rushed over to the dessert table. She was so concerned with her friends’ tardiness that she had completely forgotten about the ice cream. She looked up and down the table, surveying the damage. Each carton was soft and mushy, and a couple of them had colorful stains growing on the table cloth beneath them. “Oh no, these will never make good floats now!” wailed the earth pony. “Unless…” She went over to the first one and opened the lid. “Yes, if I put them back in the freezer right away, they can still refreeze into something workable, and - ”
The red-and-pink-haired pony interrupted herself. She could see it now: after just putting away the last carton of ice cream, her friends would walk in. Then she’d have to go and pull each one back out, placing them by their respective sodas again. Worse yet, she’d have to explain why she didn’t have enough faith in her friends to keep the ice cream out for them.
She shook her head. “No, they’ll be here very soon. I won’t give up on them.” Instead, she cleaned up the little mess that had been made, placing paper towels under the offending cartons. After making sure that none of the others were melting yet, Fizzypop walked back to her chair and sat back down. “I mustn’t worry, though; as Shell-Belle would say, patience is a virtue.” She looked back at the clock again. “Still, two whole hours late? I hope they’re okay,” she muttered to herself. She stared off into space, wondering what could have delayed each of her friends.
Strawberry Reef had so much to do on that strawberry farm of hers; maintaining strawberries on a tropical island was surely hard work. Maybe some pest had attacked the crops, and she was busy trying to save her livelihood from total ruin! Then again, she was a bit ditzy; it was entirely possible that the party had simply slipped her mind. That silly pony!
And Flippity Flop had that surf shop to run. Maybe a boatload of tourists had just arrived, and she was swamped in sales. Fizzy certainly wouldn’t begrudge her making some money; Celestia knows she needed it after that monsoon nearly devastated her stock last month!
Being in charge of the island’s weather, Island Rainbow got almost no rest. Summer was just around the corner, and she’d have to have just the perfect weather ready for opening week of tourist season. She was probably hard at work coming up with the forecast for the coming months. It would be understandable if she couldn’t make it because of her weather duties.
Shell-Belle, of course, just had to be combing the beach for seashells. It’s practically all she ever did! True, her shell collection was second to none, but she really did need to shake things up more often. That pony was always out in nature, so much so that she often lost track of time, out there for hours on end with no clock. Somepony needed to get her a watch, that’s what!
And then there was Waterfire. She loved reading so much; sometimes she’d read for so long that she’d forget to do stuff like eat or drink or go to the bathroom! She probably just got really wrapped up in another one of those crazy fantasy stories she loved so much. Why, it was just last week she had been excitedly telling Fizzypop all about the new Harry Trotter book she had picked up at the bookstore; it was obvious she had just lost track of time.
“I guess those would all be perfectly good reasons for not being able to come to my birthday party,” Fizzy muttered to herself. Still, it would be nice if she could know for sure. The earth pony let her thoughts wander for a while, and her eyelids grew droopy. With nothing but the tick of the clock and the whir of the bubble machine to make any noise, the mare soon drifted off into a lazy afternoon nap.
- - -
Fizzypop’s eyes shot open. The light in the room was dim. Outside, the sun was just sinking down past the horizon, as it made way for Luna’s moon and the night. Fizzy jumped out of her seat. Sunset? Her birthday was practically over by now! She hadn’t meant to stay asleep for that long! Heck, she hadn’t meant to fall asleep at all! What if her friends had come by while she slept? She might have missed them! She quickly ran to the front door, looking for a note or something.
Nothing. There was no sign anypony had been there at all. She looked up and down the street again, but only strangers walked by, paying her no mind. She dejectedly went inside and looked over the party she had set up what felt like ages ago.
The bubble machine was out of fluid, the wand dipping in and out of an empty tray in a futile cycle. The present table remained empty, still awaiting gifts from birthday well-wishers. The beautiful display of vegetables and fruit, which Fizzy had spent so much money on, had wilted in the late spring afternoon, now looking dull and unappetizing; the fancy sauces that accompanied them had surly gone bad in the heat as well.
The worse part, though, was the ruin brought to Fizzy’s prized dessert setup: all over the table, runny colors of sticky glop swirled and mixed, completely obscuring the tablecloth beneath; in places it was running off the edge, and onto the carpeted floor below. Crumpled mounds of soggy cardboard, the remains of the ice cream cartons, poked out like ugly little islands in the sea of melted dairy. The bottles of soda may have been fine (if not a little sticky), but saying that the ice cream was a write off would be a gross understatement.
Fizzypop could feel her chest tighten. “Oh no, they’ve taken so long that everything’s…gone bad.” She looked around the room, from the streamers and balloons trying their best to create a festive atmosphere, to the games, party favors, and goodie bags still waiting to bring fun times and laughter. “Why aren’t they coming?” she asked, her eyes starting to tear up. “Don’t they want to celebrate my birthday with me?” She blinked, and hot tears splashed down her cheeks, as she started to sob. “Please, hurry up and come to my party. I worked so hard on it, and we’ll have such a good time, I promise…” she called out to the empty room.
The purple pony tightly clenched her eyes shut, causing a couple of tears to drop. The despair and grief within her slowly gave way to hate and anger. Why did she think they’d come? What did she think had changed? She felt ashamed and humiliated that she had actually let herself believe that this time would be any different.
She opened her eyes, and the anger within her grew hotter. The empty room stretched around her, taunting her with its shallow mockery of a party. The decorations, the food, the games – it was all for nothing; nopony was coming, and she knew it. It made her blood boil. The last straw, though, was when her eyes landed on the “Happy Birthday, Fizzypop!” sign; at that she utterly lost it.
Taking a running start, she leapt up at the banner and grabbed it in her mouth, tearing it down in one swift motion. She crumpled and stamped the colorful decoration she had put so much artistic effort into, decrying it and its proclamation of a happy birthday. Why had she let herself be deceived again?
Following that, she tore down all of the streamers, and popped all of the balloons, letting the wads of paper and scraps of rubber fall where they did. She didn’t care; she didn’t need them anymore. She’d never need them.
Next came the food table. Standing on her hind legs slightly, the angry pony took her forelegs, slid them underneath, and lifted, upturning the table and its spoiled contents. All slid off and fell to the floor into a messy heap of stale veggies, sloppy fruit pulp, and sour sauces, before the table itself fell over and landed in it, splatting into the mess and spreading it everywhere. Part of her felt a twinge of regret about this, at the waste of food she had been so eager to try. But no one was coming, so what did it matter?
She did likewise to the dessert table, letting the slick, sticky mess slide off, expediting its journey to the ground. The bottles of soda, which had still been more or less okay up to that point, rolled off and hit the ground, exploding into fizzy messes of carbonated color as their caps popped off, spraying their contents everywhere. Fizzy felt bad about this waste; this was her private soda collection, which she always made sure was well stocked. Such was her rage that she knocked it all down anyway.
Fizzypop also scattered her board games, letting all the bits of plastic and paper fly every which way. She stomped the boxes, and broke the game boards, before tossing them all across the room in a frenzy. She ran over to the wall and tore down the “pin the tail on the pony” game, too, tearing the poster to shreds. She’d never have anyone to play these stupid games with, so what was the point of keeping them anymore?
Finally, Fizzypop came across the table with the gift bags. Looking over the five delicately wrapped bundles, feelings of nostalgia, regret, and humiliation washed over the filly in quick succession, as she thought about whom each one was intended for: Waterfire, Island Rainbow, Shell-Belle, Flippity Flop, and Strawberry Reef. Why, why couldn’t they just come to her party? Why couldn’t they have just shown up and had fun with their best friend, on today, her special day? Fizzy had put so much time and effort into each gift, so much thought and care; and these “friends” wouldn’t even return the effort! “I don’t need them! I don’t need them at all!” she yelled in frustration. With tears rolling down her face, Fizzypop upturned this table, too, and proceeded to stamp each bag flat, destroying them and their meaningless contents.
At last she finished, the anger finally cooling down into a dull ache in her chest. Tired from her rampage, the mare panted, and hung her head down. Through her tear-blurred vision, she noticed a pile of brightly colored envelopes by her hooves, right under the front door’s mail slot. In her excitement earlier, she must have walked right over them. She bent down to examine this find, and gasped.
Why, she knew exactly what these were: they were the invitations she had mailed out! She picked them up and quickly flipped through them, counting as she went. One-two-three-four-five; all of them were right here! On the front of each, stamped in bold, red letters was: INVALID ADDRESS; RETURN TO SENDER. A knot grew in Fizzy’s throat; this evidence confirmed what she had already started to suspect.
Fizzypop didn’t have any friends; she never did. The red-haired mare cried bitterly as she admitted to herself what she didn’t want to believe, but knew in her heart to be true.
* * *
Flippity Flop, the beach bum unicorn who ran the surf shop at the local marina. Shell-Belle, the elegant pegasus who collected seashells. Waterfire, the adventurous unicorn who loved reading and writing. Strawberry Reef, the goofy earth pony who maintained the strawberry farm on the edge of town. Island Rainbow, the diligent pegasus who oversaw the weather on the island.
* * *
Fizzypop’s parents had always said she was different, that she had a strong imagination. They said she’d make things up, claiming they were true. They used to beat her for that, calling her a liar, and a sinner. The confused filly never understood what she did wrong; as far as she could tell, everything that happened to her was real. How was she supposed to tell the difference?
Like now, regarding her new friends. Fizzypop thought back over the past year, over all of the adventures and fun times she’d had with her friends. Going to the beach, catching a movie, exploring the nearby jungle; each of these experiences felt so real, so vivid to her. She could clearly recall every last conversation she had had with these ponies, and what they were doing at the time. Yet apparently, none of it happened at all; they, too, were just more of Fizzy’s many make-believe fantasies, the kind her parents would smack her for insisting were real. She had wanted a group of best friends so badly that she had forced herself to believe in their existence. Fizzypop was angry with herself for not realizing it sooner. What had she been doing all that time?
And here she stood now, the same way she did every year: alone and forgotten on her own birthday. Hungry, sad, and exhausted, the depressed pony stood amidst the giant mess she had created, amidst the ruined remains of a party that was never meant to be, and collapsed, weeping bitterly. She lay in despair, wishing she had even one friend to comfort her: somepony, anypony who could come by and have some fun with her on her special day, somepony who would bring her a gift, and share her delicious ice cream floats with her; just somepony to be with, that’s all she wanted. It’s all she ever wanted. Deep down, though, she knew this would never happen. She silently wept, wishing things were different.
A flurry of excited knocks on the front door jolted Fizzypop from thought. “Who could that be?” she wondered, slowly standing up and wiping the tears from her face. She’d only invited her “friends” to the party, so it couldn’t be anypony visiting for her birthday, could it? She shuffled over to the door and apprehensively opened it.
“Am I too late for the party?” Before Fizzypop stood a pink earth pony with a magenta mane, styled in a similar fashion to her own frizzy ‘do. On her rear was a cutie mark depicting three balloons.
Fizzy blinked, confused. “What? Who are y-”
“Somepony here is having a birthday party, right? Somepony named Fizzypop?” The pony held up a bright pink piece of paper, which Fizzy recognized as one of the invitations that had blown away the previous week. Before she could respond, the stranger gasped, looking back and forth from the invitation to her. “Hey, that’s you! You’re the one in the picture! Omygosh, I knew it! I knew it!” The pink pony started bouncing around excitedly, and Fizzy could do nothing but watch, her mind temporarily distracted from the depression of her ruined day.
“You see, earlier today I was eating a big banana split, just minding my own business,” started the pink stranger, “when all of a sudden this colorful envelope here dropped right out of the sky, and into my sundae! Can you believe that? So I opened it up, and saw your invitation. Being the number one party pony in Equestria, I just had to go to this, you know? It sounded so fun! I mean, sure my name isn’t Strawberry Reef, but I figured you still wouldn’t mind if one more pony came to your birthday party, right?” She batted her eyelashes and grinned.
Fizzypop stared long and hard at the mare before her, trying to sort things out. A random pony popping up out of nowhere, wanting to spend time with her on her birthday? Just moments after she’d been lamenting her lack of friends, even? She had her doubts.
Fizzy closed her eyes. She wanted to believe. But how could she know this pony was even real? How could she know for sure? She thought deeply on it. Deep inside of her, she had a feeling: something told her that this time was different. This was no hallucination: this pony was real.
Fizzypop opened her eyes, the sadness inside of her lifting a little. Nevertheless, she sighed, a downcast expression on her face. “I - I'm glad you came,” she said in a shaky voice. “But there is no party. I - ” she gulped, a knot forming in her throat. “I wrecked it. Nopony came, so I destroyed it all.” She hung her head.
The pink pony gasped. “That’s terrible! Why wouldn’t your friends want to be with you on your birthday?”
Tears again welled up in Fizzypop’s eyes. How could she even begin to explain that? She shook her head. “It’s - it's a long story. The truth is…I don’t have any friends. Nopony was ever going to come to my party.”
The pink mare gasped again. “That’s terrible! Nopony should be without friends, especially on their own birthday!” She straightened up, looking Fizzypop square in the eye. “Don’t worry, there’s still enough time to get you a super mega awesome birthday party, with tons of friends to party with! I promise you’ll have the bestest birthday party ever, or my name isn’t Pinkie Pie!”
Fizzypop’s spirits lifted. Maybe this would be a good birthday after all.