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Manec Depression, Chapter One: A Night to Remember

        Carrot Cake slouched by the sink as he absentmindedly hoof-dried the last of the recently washed plates for the night, setting it aside without even looking. By now, his chores were a simple matter of muscle memory, and his attention was fixated upon the evening sky. He looked at the sun, a warm disc falling slowly towards the horizon, producing colors of vivid shades of red and yellow, spread out yet correlated upon an azure canvas spotted with grey clouds.

The stallion anticipated the progression of the evening, causing the sky and all its myriad of colors to grow darker and darker, until nothing left was visible besides the twinkling stars and the glowing moon above. He would watch the sight of the town grow dimmer in light, matched with the growing quieter ambience of Ponyville. He eagerly waited, because when the sun had set, along with the beautiful light show it produced above, it also meant the day of work was over.

Not to say that Carrot didn’t like his job as a baker; quite on the contrary, he adored it. He loved working beside his wife as the owner and operator of their own store and restaurant, and in fact, he had claimed on numerous occasions that he would continue to run it until the day he died, and afterwards, he would pass the bakery on to his own children! But there was one problem with his claim, and it was his small family.

When Carrot married his wife, Cup, they moved to Ponyville with a dream to create and run their own family bakery. It only seemed right, considering that the yellow stallion had a baker’s cutie mark, represented by three slices of cake, which complimented the three cupcakes on his wife’s blue flank. They were destined to be bakers together, bound by the love they had for each other.

The two poured their hearts and souls into the dream, bringing it to life from the dirt up. They worked on it for many years, enjoying times of success as well as enduring hardships, but they never gave up on their dream of making the Sugarcube Corner what it is today. However, the Cake family put so much effort into their lifelong project that they forgot to plan for the family they dreamed about as well.

        The maize-colored stallion set down the rag he used to dry the dishes and waltzed through the swinging door from the kitchen and into the parlor as he saw his beloved sky-blue wife polishing off a table. She stood up to find Carrot admiring her with a smile as he leaned against the wall. She couldn’t help but return a grin as their gazes met.

        “Was there something you needed, dearie?” She knew that look on his face; the look screamed his thoughts aloud to her, it seemed. After a number of years in marriage, Cup could practically read him as easily as he read the Equestria Daily papers each morning. She already knew what her husband was about to suggest, but it made her spouse feel better when she allowed him to think that he wasn’t so predictable.

        “I was thinking, honey bun,” he took off his apron as he spoke, setting it on the coat rack in the corner, “we’ve been working so hard lately; I think we owe it to ourselves to close early this evening.” The way he said it almost sounded like a question, and in some sense, it was: Cup never cut any corners in the family business, and Carrot knew this better than anyone else in all of Equestria.

        “Oh really, dear? And do what exactly?” she shot him a sly smile, raising an eyebrow as if her response was sudden. This wasn’t the full story, and she was waiting to hear the rest of his explanation. Carrot started to blush slightly as he rubbed his hoof in circles against the wooden floor.

        “Well, sugar, I was hoping that maybe we could, y’know, try again before it gets dark.” He grinned back at his wife, who simply rolled her eyes as if she had no idea what was coming.

        The process of having a baby in Equestria is quite complicated: first one has to fill out a hefty packet of forms from the postal service to see if you qualify for receiving a baby, and then you hear back from them after some weeks about whether or not you’re eligible for a baby. If you are, they give you an expected to due date to expect a carrier to bring it to the house, but if you’re not, then there’s not much you can do. The service claims that many times, the packet will get lost, be incomplete, or invalidated in some other way, so if a couple doesn’t hear back, they’re advised to send the packet again. This inefficiency usually drove couples to frustration, but the Cake family, through their repeated failures, tried to remain optimistic about it.

        “Carry, we tried last week. These things take time.” She comforted the stallion by setting her hoof on his shoulder. She kissed his cheek tenderly as a tear rolled down it.

        “How much time?” Carrot tried to hide his crying, but in vain, “We’ve been trying for a foal of our own for about two years now!” he gently sobbed as Cup wrapped her forelegs around her husband.

        “I know, dearie,” she started to tear up as well, “But we already sent the request form to the postal service last week, and the month before that, and the month before that one, too! I’m sure we’ll hear back from them soon!” She tried to reassure her husband, but the attempt had backfired and the mention of the postal service caused him to break from the embrace and go into an emotional rant.

        “Why are you always on their side?” he blurted out to his wife, “After waiting two long years, we still have never gotten a response from those mail ponies!”

        “Carry, sweetie, please calm down!”

        “And you know who I think is responsible?” his distress and frustration turned to anguish. He wasn’t thinking straight anymore, and he was more than ready to lash out at anypony, “It’s that new girl, the young Pegasus mare who they assigned to our block!”

        “Don’t you dare talk about her that way, Carrot Cake!” defended Cup, unaware that she was yelling in return, “She may look a bit off, but she’s a good girl!”

        “Cup, I honestly couldn’t tell you how many times that wall-eyed filly has mixed up our packages with the store across the street! Who knows? I wouldn’t put it past her to think that she delivered our baby to somepony else!” The mare was about to come to her defense once more, but her husband continued, “I don’t know how she keeps her job! The ponies running that service are a bunch of lousy good-for-nothings wh-“

        He was interrupted midsentence by the sound of the bell that hung above the door, notifying the two of a guest. The couple turned to look at their customer, who seemed just as embarrassed to walk in on the older couple’s fight as they did. She was a new face to the bakery, a pink mare still young enough to be considered a filly. With her, she carried a bulging suitcase on her back, as well as saddlebags which hung low on her sides. The three stood frozen as the ringing bell continued to interrupt the moment, but it soon died into a silence. She awkwardly brushed a hoof through her straight magenta mane as she started to turn around.

        “I’m sorry,” she said weakly, as if she was about to cry as well. The two were ashamed to think their quarrel had offended her to such an extent, though in truth, it wasn’t the source of her unhappiness at all. The filly started to head back out into the growing night, but Cup was quick to fix her mistake as she disregarded her upset husband to go to the pink visitor.

“Oh please, do come in, sweetie!” she ringed, as if she forgot the whole fight ever happened. “Welcome to Sugarcube Corner! Here, let me help you with your things!” The straight-faced filly set her suitcase down as Cup assisted her with taking off the saddlebag, hanging it next to Carrot’s apron. The blue mare showed the guest to a table and put a small menu in her hooves.

“Can I get you something to drink while you look at the menu, sweetie?”

“I’m fine,” she moped, as she continued to read with eyes glued on the menu. Cup could hear the pouting clops of her husband upstairs, indicating that he had already turned in for the night. ‘He gets so emotional,’ she thought to herself, grimacing at the ceiling above. But her blissful expression had returned when she heard the visitor’s voice:

“I’ll take the sweet apple tart,” she told her hostess plainly.

“Excellent choice, dear! That’s my favorite!” the young pony rolled her eyes, clearly unimpressed with the enthusiasm that Cup wore. The blue mare headed off into the kitchen shortly, then returned, setting a plate with the treat in front of her. “Enjoy!” The filly didn’t even respond when she began to nibble at it. Cup always chose to make friends with her customers, but now she tried more so than ever: aside from the previous conflict she had witnessed, an instinct told her that the pink pony needed a friend now more than ever!

“So I’ve never seen your pretty face around here before,” she tried to start up a conversation with the pink visitor, but she only received a ‘gee, point out the obvious,’ look in return. Despite her rude manners, Cup was still bound and determined. She was as keen on making her happy as the guest was stubborn on staying upset. She disregarded her behavior, and started to think of other ice breakers, when she remembered the luggage she hauled into the store earlier.

“I noticed your hefty luggage, are you planning to stay in Ponyville long, sweetie?”

“No,” she hardly looked up to answer monotonously, dismissing any further questioning from her hostess. Cup decided to respect her privacy: the filly obviously didn’t want to talk about it, and it wasn’t any of her business after all. She continued to eat in silence, undisturbed by the older mare who had resumed her clean-up routine at a new table. When the pink guest was done, she pushed the platter into the center of the table and trotted to her saddlebag, producing a small coin purse from within. Cup sprang to her hooves once more as she dug through it.

“Oh heavens no, dearie. This one’s on us!” It was a usual gesture for Cup to give out a free pastry to newcomers, but it was the last trick she had to leave the filly feeling warm and fuzzy inside. And to her delight, it worked! The filly produced a shy smile! Cup had become giddy from her accomplishment and began to hop slightly as she helped the pink pony with her saddlebag, handing her the suitcase on the way out.

“Thank you for your hospitality, ma’am,” said the small pony as she was heading out. Though she couldn’t show it aside from her smile, she sincerely appreciated being welcomed.

“Please, call me Mrs. Cake!” her sweet victory brought even more joy to her voice, “Oh, but do hurry home: its well after sundown, and you wouldn’t want your parents to worry about you, dear!”

The gloominess returned to the filly’s expression, erasing all indications of her previous felicity. Her cyan eyes looked as if they were about to cry again as she slammed the door on the way out. Cup bit her lip at her visitor’s sudden mood swing. ‘So much for serving up smiles,’ she thought to herself as she picked up the empty platter to set in the sink. With a guilty conscience, she returned to her normal nightly routine as she closed up shop.

. . .

        It was even later in the night when Cup began to ascend to her room after finishing the chores. She did twice the work she normally did: after her husband’s tantrum, Cup figured it’d probably be for the best to just let him turn in early for the night while she did the mundane work all by herself this once. It wasn’t as if he’d make a habit of it, after all. In truth, Carrot usually did go beyond the call of duty in his work, without asking for any recognition or reward: he did it because he loved his wife and what they had together. In retrospect, Cup figured her spouse was right in his argument when he said that they owed it to themselves to take it easy every once in a while; but between the two of them, they could never find time to rest except for after sundown.

        She opened the door to her room and found Carrot already fast asleep in bed, leaving the lamp over by his wife’s side turned on for when she came back up. She imagined that he had likely tried to stay up for when she came in, but the worn out stallion dozed off sometime in between then and now. It was a sweet gesture, she thought, but he really did need his sleep. Regardless of her husband’s intentions, Cup tried to be as gingerly as possible as she approached the bed, in hopes to not awaken her sleeping spouse. She climbed in, and the mattress began to shrug slightly, as it usually did. To Cup’s disappointment, the feeble motion was enough to jolt Carrot awake and upright.

        “Wha-? Oh there you are! I was getting worried.”

        Cup sighed as she reached for her book and glasses on the night side table. She opened to the page where she left off the previous night, but before she started to read, she looked back at her dreary husband.

        “You worry in your sleep, dear?” she retorted, chuckling slightly.

        “Ha-ha,” Carrot mocked her joke, and then the room grew quiet and serious. He figured it was time to say what needed to be said, “Look, I’m really sorry about earlier. I was frustrated, and I took my anger out on you. It was wrong of me, and I’m sorry. I love you, honey bun!” It was his turn to kiss her on the cheek, and even though Cup knew his apology was a standard kiss-and-make-up line straight from the book, she accepted it. Carrot meant the things he said.

        “I forgive you, Carry dear.” The stallion was relieved his cheesy line worked. The mare returned to her book with a smile, and her husband rolled over to go back to sleep. He glanced at the clock and was surprised at the hour of night it was!

 “Why were you up so late, sugar? Did that filly stay long?”

        “No, the sweet thing left as soon as she finished her meal,” Cup recollected as she faced her husband once more. Remembering the pink pony’s depressed face unintentionally brought a sense of sorrow to her demeanor, “but the nightly chores did take me a bit longer than they should have.” She returned to her book, but Carrot’s yellow face was now a bright orange.

        “Oh jeez, I’m so sorry, honey bun!” he began, fumbling through his mind for ways to make it up to her, “Tell ya what: you can sleep in tomorrow morning if you want. Or wait, no- I insist you sleep in tomorrow! I’ll get everything ready in the morning!” She knew that it was a fair tradeoff, but Cup shook her head.

        “It’s really no big deal, Carry,” she turned over to kiss the stallion, “I couldn’t ask you to do that.”

        “Please, just do it for me?” his green eyes looked into Cup’s, and though they were sincere, his persuasion wasn’t working with the glazed I-just-woke-up look on his face. But alas, she shrugged her shoulders: she could use the extra sleep after tonight, and more importantly, it would make her husband happy.

        “If you say so, dear,” she winked at her husband through her reading glasses, “but you better go to bed now, you have a bunch of work to do tomorrow!” She turned back to her book as he fell back to sleep in an instant.

        Cup always read before bedtime: it was the only time when she could forget her own problems and calm down if she was worked up. During the day, she never had time to pick up a book during work, even on their slowest days. As was said before, the two had enough on their busy agenda to keep them on their hooves day in and day out, whether it was shopping, baking, or the lunch rush. Even on Sundays when they opened late and closed early, they could never manage to find a midday respite! In that respect, a book at the end of each day was the perfect escape from all the hustle and bustle of work.

        When she was about to close her book for the night, she heard storm clouds rumble in. She’d nearly forgotten that the Weather Team had scheduled a nighttime shower that night!

        “I can read one more chapter tonight,” she wittily remarked to herself, “After all, I’m sleeping in tomorrow,” If it wasn’t reading, the most peaceful thing she liked to do was watch the rain. She cautiously crawled out of her sheets, thankful that Carrot remained asleep, and tiptoed downstairs with her book and reading glasses in hoof as she turned on the parlor lights. Cup sat in her favorite chair by the window as she read.

        From this seat, she would have had a panoramic view of all of Ponyville, granted there was any light shining on the town. But for now, she could watch the storm from her peripheral only to about the distance of across the street in the darkness. She smiled at the peaceful pitter patter sound of the rain as she read her book, looking out only on occasion to watch the street receive the steady downpour.

After she finished the chapter, she slid in the bookmark and took one final glance at the storm, which had grown immensely since she moved downstairs. When lightning crossed, the town was illuminated in the drizzle, and although she found it exciting, she could’ve sworn that she saw a pony huddled up across the street.

“The lack of sleep must be getting to me,” she reassured herself, but for some reason, the recollection was burned within her mind as she started upstairs: as much as she tried telling herself the thought was absurd, she just couldn’t be convinced that it was a figment of her imagination. Halfway up the stairwell, the sound of a large thunderclap caused her to jump; if the sound startled her when she was safe from the elements, she thought, then if there was somepony out there, she could hardly imagine how they must feel!

“Well there’s no harm in checking,” she mumbled. Part of her thought she was crazy, but something inside was telling her to take a closer look. Cup set down her glasses and novel as she headed down the stairs to retrieve her rain jacket from the closet by the door.  She wanted to believe there was nopony outside, but when she opened the door, she saw differently:

Over yonder by the local Quills and Sofas, Cup witnessed what looked like a pony in the fetal position, hiding beneath a tree for shelter. Though the rain made it difficult to confirm for certain, Cup dashed out towards the poor pony. As she came closer, the picture became less hazy, and soon enough, she could clearly identify the victim as the mysterious pink filly from sundown!

Cup nearly slipped on the wet grass as she halted next to the filly. Her magenta mane drooped over her pink coat, soaked to the skin. She was whimpering beneath the hooves that covered her face as she shivered uncontrollably. Cup nudged her as the filly raised her head to attention.

“Sweetie! You must come inside! Hurry!” she shouted. She would have preferred to not raise her voice, but the deafening sound of the storm gave her no other option. The filly looked around and saw the opened door to the Sugarcube Corner. She quickly scampered inside as Cup followed, dragging the waterlogged luggage that the filly left behind.

Cup dropped the suitcase on the floor, setting the saddlebag atop of it as she closed the door. She turned around to hang her jacket on the coat rack, and saw the filly wallowing in a puddle of water, still a weeping and shivering mess. Producing a towel out of a drawer, the two headed for the bathroom to dry off.

“There, there, you’re alright, sweetie,” she began to rub the shaken filly down in attempt to dry her coat, “Everything’s going to be alright, you’re safe. Do you feel better now?”

The filly nodded to Cup’s question, followed by hugging around her shoulders as the water from her mane dripped down her savior’s body. While Cup didn’t mind the dampness, she searched for a remedy to the wet hair.

Upon breaking from their embrace, Cup placed a small hairdryer in the hooves of the pink pony, who glanced at her with a look of uncertainty. It wasn’t an uncommon utility, so it was a fair judgment to assume that she’d at least know how to use a basic hairdryer. Her assumption was wrong, causing Cup to blush as she began to take her through the ropes.

“You just slide this to here-“ the air jet turned on, startling the filly at first, but she smiled and followed through with what came naturallys. “There! Now when your mane is nice and dry, come back into the parlor; I’ll have a surprise for you!”

Cup stepped out as the filly began to use the strange invention to dry her magenta mane. It was a long process for sure, but the blowing of warm air felt much better to her head than being weighed down in water. The wetness had slowly evaporated from her head, causing the once straight mane to grow into a curly frizzled mess. The delighted filly giggled at her reflection in the mirror before she set the device invention down, shutting it off in the same way Cup had turned it on earlier. Soon after, she returned to the parlor, antsy for the surprise that awaited her!

The blue mare stood at the counter, thrilled to see her little friend grinning from ear to ear as she exited the washroom, proudly baring a magenta mayhem on her head. Cup couldn’t help but quietly laugh at the girl’s mane as she skipped forward.

“We can fix your mane tomorrow, dearie,” she giggled, spinning around so that her flank faced the filly, “but I have a surprise for you!” she turned again to reveal a mug of hot chocolate, with three or four marshmallows floating on its surface. The filly gasped at her treat, shortly before gulping it down in a matter of seconds. Though she was flattered that the filly enjoyed it, Cup was still appalled.

“That super extra delicious drink was so super cocoa-rrific! Can I have another?”

Cup wasn’t sure how to respond, and much less what to think: the sudden change in the girl’s personality over a series of minutes was surprising, but never had she seen a pony gulp down a heated beverage in such haste as she did! Was it even possible, she wondered? With the shake of her head, she disregarded the question.

“You may have another in the morning, dear, but now it’s time for you to get some rest. You have a big day ahead of you tomorrow!”

She wasn’t quite certain what she meant by that last part. Cup knew absolutely nothing about the filly, besides her liking apple tarts and hot chocolate, but all of a sudden, she felt like a guardian to the filly, as if she had somehow taken up responsibility for her.

Cup led the filly up the staircase and through a short hallway, stopping at a decorated brown door. She twisted the knob to reveal a fairly large bedroom with creamy walls matched with a green wooden floor. There was a bed in the corner, with a spread that matched the floor, and a maple headboard resembling a balloon! The entire room was jubilant in scheme, from its coloration to the cute furniture, much to the filly’s delight.

“This will be your room tonight, sweetie,” the mare smiled as she motioned in the pink filly, “I hope it’s comforting enough for you!” The girl stood in awe around what was now her room for the night: Cup was afraid that the girl was about to faint, but her fears were discharged as the filly started to bounce in place, eyes wandering nearly at the speed of light as she wore a smile far too big for her face! She wrapped her forelegs around her hostess tightly, so tight that she lost her breath.

“Oh thank you thank you thank you soooo much, Mrs. Cake! I’ll see you bright and early in the morning!” The girl happily trotted into her room, still eying the place like a toyshop. But before she left her alone for the night, Cup needed to ask the pony a simple question:

“Oh, and sweetie?”

“Yes ma’am?”

“What should we call you?” It had occurred to Cup that she never got her name earlier.

“My name is Pinkamena Diane Pie! But my Granny Pie called me Pinkie!” The grin on Pinkie’s face never ended. Cup wished her goodnight as she began to shut the door to her room.

“Wait!” Pinkie yelped, catching the mare’s attention as she did a double take. Her curly mane bounced as she skipped towards Cup once more.

“Thanks again!” her voice was less sporadic as the filly hugged the blue mare again, this time allowing her to properly breath. It brought a tear to Cup’s eye. Pinkie proceeded to hop into the bed, her lower body digging under the green covers. Before lying her head down, she eagerly waved goodnight at the older mare as she flipped off the light switch.

“Such a sweet girl,” she muttered to herself as the door shut closed. Walking to her own bedroom, she didn’t dare look at the clock, but she was aware that sunrise was only a short while away. Though she knew it cost her a night’s sleep, she was glad to have helped the poor soul out of the rain and into the shelter of her warm home. The feeling was exhilarating, but there was odd sense to it: not a negative kind of odd, but more like unexpected, as if a gap that was previously vacant in her life had been filled. After the night’s events, she started to feel a very special connection to her, a very guardian-like relation to the pink filly. She had no way of knowing at the time, but all three of them, Carrot, Cup, and Pinkie, were about to embark on a fateful journey of friendship that would last forever.

Manec Depression, Chapter 2: All In The Family

        Before the sun had returned over the horizon, Carrot was awake and ready for the day. After fixing his peppermint-themed bowtie, he put on his red and white cap to match as he began to head down the stairs. But when he descended, he stood petrified as he witnessed the tiny lakes of water spread out among the wooden plank floor.

        “How’d this happen?” he breathed. He remembered reading about the scheduled storm last night, but the establishment had two floors: the idea of a leaky roof causing the mess defied all logic! Puzzled, he headed towards the utility closet to grab a mop, but along the way, he noticed the presence of a water-damaged luggage pack by the door. It seemed oddly familiar, yet he didn’t know for sure if he’d seen the bag before.

        Curiosity drove him towards the case, treading cautiously to keep his hooves dry, if at all possible in the swamp of a parlor. He took the bag, setting it on its side as he zipped it open just enough to take a peek inside.

        “Rocks?” he stated quizzically as he drew his head back, unzipping the rest of the suitcase to reveal the rest of its contents. Among the rocks laid an old phonogram, a bag of flour, a bucket full of turnips, and what looked like a collection of dryer lint. Lying below the miscellaneous items sat a stack of party hats and a pack of balloons; the two items seemed normal in comparison, but were baffling all the same.

        Hearing a drawn-out, melodramatic gasp coming from the stairs, he jumped back, hesitating to snoop any further. At first, he believed it was his wife, but turning around, the source revealed itself to be the pink filly from the night before. She watched with mild embarrassment as her belongings were exposed to the light. The filly leapt down the stairs and began to gallop through the water and towards the opened bag, knocking over the stallion. He gave a yelp as his rump splashed into a puddle.

        “Why are you going through my things, hmm?!” she accused harshly, zipping her bag back up. Carrot was still trying to comprehend what all had happened when he heard the clops of his wife climbing down the stairs in response to all the noise.

        “Carry dear, I heard you and-“ she paused. She forgot about all the water she and Pinkie Pie brought in the night before, and was extremely embarrassed to have left the mess after her husband had so generously offered to work double-time on this morning. The filly broke the silence once more:

        “Hiya Mrs. Cake!” she called out enthusiastically, as if she had already forgotten about the conflict with Carrot. This morning was getting weirder and weirder in the stallion’s mind. Was it a dream?

        “Good morning, Pinkie Pie!” she answered the filly sweetly, then turned to her husband. “And Carry? Why are you sitting in a puddle?”

        The speed of the situation caused him to forget about the water he wallowed in. He pushed himself up onto four legs, his backside saturated in wetness, and stomped towards his wife.

        “May I have a word with you in the kitchen?” he hardly tried to hide his frustration as he led his wife through the swinging doors. The two made sure they were out of earshot before they began fussing, but Carrot didn’t know where to start. Cup opened up first:

        “Carry dear, let me explain,”

        “Go right ahead,” he insisted dryly, his voice still flustered.

        She began to unveil to him the series of events from the night before, starting with when he had charged upstairs and left the mare alone with the filly customer. Carrot’s face turned a bright orange when he remembered that he had let his childish fit keep him away from his duty the night before. But the stallion continued to listen as his wife told him more: she mentioned how upset the filly was, and how hard it was to please her and make her smile. But then the mare said something to the filly about returning home to her family, and she messed everything up.

At that moment, Cup realized the gravity of what she had said.

        “So after one bad customer experience, you turned our bakery into a boarding house?!” Carrot lashed at her meditative pause. His cutting outburst broke Cup’s trance.

        “I’m not finished!” she declared, tears of sympathy for the girl were running down her cheeks. Carrot held his tongue as his wife continued to tell her story, picking up from after Carrot fell asleep and she had moved downstairs to watch the nighttime storm that had rolled in.

        “… and when I saw the poor dear outside, it nearly broke my heart. I had to offer her the guestroom for the night!” she concluded, then started to ponder again, this time uninterrupted by her husband, “But now, I feel like the sweet girl should stay with us a bit longer, just until she gets her hooves back on the ground.” The words caused Carrot to snap:

        “What?! Are you even listening to yourself, Cup?! We’re running a business here, not a homeless shelter!”

        “Carrot, listen: this filly has no one else to turn to. She needs us!”

        Cup was now kneeling on the ground as a bawling mess, and Carrot well knew that his wife was persistent about sticking to the girl’s side. She would be willing to defend the pink pony, even to the death! He couldn’t blame her for pitying the poor thing: she was the kindest Earth Pony he had ever met, and her compassion for everything else above herself was one of the reasons why he had fallen in love with her. She was always a trusting friend, even to strangers, and always saw the best in everypony. It was why she usually ran the front of the store while her husband worked back in the kitchen. She was the face of Sugarcube Corner while he was the workhorse, not to say that Carrot was a heartless brute, but when compared to his wife, his kindness didn’t come close to rivaling. He was the brains of the operation, and usually had a better idea of how to run the bakery than his wife. She respected him greatly for it, even if he did slip up every once in a while. Cup still had her own opinions though, and right now, the two’s ideas were at a stalemate.

        Carrot sighed in regret at watching his wife’s reaction. He knew he should not have been so harsh with his last statement, and panged him emotionally. But that didn’t change the fact that he protested. Although, he didn’t want to simply leave the argument in terms of agreeing to disagree.

“Look, all I’m saying is that,” he paused as he carefully chose his words, “we can’t support a filly on our own welfare. We don’t have the time or money for it, and we’re not in the position to provide for a third pony under our roof. Do you see what I’m saying?”

She took his words into account. He spoke the truth to the extent that they were always occupied in their work. However, he left a hole in his argument:

“If we don’t have the time or the money,” she retorted slowly, as if to control each word as she climbed back to her hooves, “why are you so persistent on having a baby?”

Carrot paused. He didn’t prepare for that kind of an accusation, but it led him to think about his own words: was he right earlier when he said that between the two of them, they don’t have the time or the money to support somepony else, not even a pony that could do her part in society and hold her own weight? If this was true, then how could they expect to support a foal of their own when they couldn’t even host a young mare like Pinkie?

No: he decided that he was wrong. He was wrong in many respects about his own family. It was true that they had little spare time, but it was false to think they couldn’t make time for what was important, and while there was still an issue with money, there wasn’t anything they couldn’t do without. The strength of a family, he decided, wasn’t determined by the problems it encounters, but rather by the resilience in which it overcomes danger. So as long as the two loved each other, there was nothing they could not conquer; especially the accepting of another to their family.

This thought brought warmth to Carrot’s soul as a proud smile began to sweep across his face. While Cup couldn’t read what was going on inside his head, she felt the gladness in his heart and was compelled to grin in response. He took her hoof in his two front ones, as he gazed into her lovely violet eyes.

“Excuse for a second, honey bun, but there’s something I need to say to the girl,” he spoke. The stallion had an idea, a compromise that had both of their interests in mind. As his wife began to get the kitchen ready for the morning, Carrot proceeded to the front to find the filly.

. . .

As Carrot headed through the swinging doors, he halted suddenly at the sight of the parlor. The puddles were gone, but that was just the beginning of it! Everything was ready for the day ahead, which was a relief for Carrot, as he feared that the argument between him and his wife would have put the two farther behind in chores than usual!

He was reanimated from his admiration when the rebound of the door whacked him from behind. As he stumbled towards the center of the room, he became less focused on the being of the shop and more so on finding Pinkie Pie.

“Hi Mr. Cake!” Pinkie Pie called out from behind the front counter.

“Pinkie Pie, did… did you do all of this?” Mr. Cake felt the weight of guilt; a few minutes ago, he wanted nothing more than to run her out of the shop! Carrot felt ashamed of himself for the thought.

“Yessiree bob, Mr. Cake!” she began to bounce around him, “Since you were so extra super nice to let me stay here last night, I decided to help out around here a bit! So I wondered to myself, “what can I do right now?” and I figured, while you two went in there, it’d be the perfect Pinkie Pie place for me to get some of your chores done! Like I dried the floor, got the tables cleaned, washed the windows, dusted the cabinets, polished the disp-“

“Thank y-“

“Oh, and I got your newspaper!” she pulled a newspaper out from behind the counter and set it on its surface.

“Umm yes, thank you Pinkie, I truly do appreciate it,” he tried to calm her down. The exuberant amount of energy in the filly was a bit overwhelming for him. The pink pony reduced her movements to short hops in place, and then to a halting stance.

“Now Pinkie, if you have a moment, I’d like to have a word with you.”

“Okay, what’s up?” she quickly replied.

“My wife and I are two busy ponies-”

“Uh huh”

 “And we run this bakery by ourselves-“


“And as you can imagine-“

“Of course,”

“Between the two of us, we have a very busy-“


“Will you please stop interrupt-“

“I’m sorry,” Pinkie Pie’s shining grin grew more concerned as the stallion glared at her, but it soon resurfaced. “I’m done!”

“So like I was saying, my wife and I are always extremely busy doing things, both here in the shop and around town, with little to no help,” her stare grew brighter, her teal-blue eyes started to sparkle at the possibilities of what was to follow. “So my wife and I were talking about it, and we agreed that we’d like to take you up as an apprentice to Sugarcube Corner, if you’d like.”

Pinkie Pie froze in place. She couldn’t believe what had just happened! She was going to be working in a bakery, and not just any bakery, but what she thought was the happiest place in all of Equestria! Her hopping returned, followed by the spastic bounding across the room between gleeful cheers and ecstatic cries of joy! Cup had heard the outbursts and peeked her head inside the parlor to see what had happened.

“Pinkie Pie!” she called out. She was just as giddy as the filly! Pinkie Pie stopped her endless jumping and skipped towards the mare as they hugged each other warmly.

“I’m sooooo so super extra excited, Mrs. Cake! and we’re gonna have so much fun baking together! It’ll be like a party every day!” Pinkie Pie practically screamed the words to Cup, who wasn’t quite sure what had happened, but savored thrilled all the same! His husband shot her a wink as she started to put the pieces together: when she finally put the puzzle together, she squealed with delight!

“Oh Pinkie Pie, you get to be my little assistant!”

“I know! This is the best day ever!”

As the two continued their jubilant banter, Carrot tried to sneak back into the kitchen before his wife called him out to do something for her. His plan didn’t work, and his wife caught him just as he was pushing through the door to the door to the kitchen:

“Oh, and Carry, will you be a dear and move Pinkie Pie’s bags to her room? I have a lot of things to tell my star pupil!” Cup’s ringing voice hadn’t sounded so excited since the couple first opened the bakery, Carrot thought. Gratified with making his wife happy, he willingly trotted towards the bags, following her orders as he hauled them upstairs.

. . .

        It was just after the lunch rush, and Pinkie Pie had already learned much about the bakery. Mrs. Cake was impressed at her student’s retention, even if they were only covering the basics of the kitchen, like the appliance names, their uses, and other simple matters. Regardless, the filly was getting nothing less than antsy to start baking!

        “I’ll help you with baking later, dearie. We have enough baked goods in stock for now, so we don’t need any more at the moment.” Pinkie Pie shrugged in contempt. She had really hoped she could put her lessons to use, and Mrs. Cake could see her disappointment. The mare started to look for new ways to keep her feeling involved. “I know! How would you like to run the front for a bit until Mr. Cake gets back with the groceries?” She had confidence in the filly, knowing that Pinkie Pie had watched intuitively as she dealt with so many customers during lunch. Knowing she had provided a strong model, she was comforted as she headed off into the kitchen. And besides, she didn’t expect many more ponies to come in, seeing that midday was usually their biggest crowd.

        Just as Mrs. Cake had walked out, a gray Pegasus with a flowing blonde mane passed through the door. The filly, of about Pinkie’s age, had golden eyes which pointed in different directions as she began to scan the room, as if looking for somepony.

        “Hello? Anypony home?” she called out, as if she expected to hear an echo in return. To answer, Pinkie Pie nearly landed on top of guest as she sprang into action:

        “Hi! Welcome to Sugarcube Corner!” she said with a bright smile, as Mrs. Cake had done, “My name’s Pinkie Pie! How can I help you today?”

        “Oh umm, I’m not a customer,” the guest remarked shyly, motioning to her brown saddlebag baring the postal service insignia, “My name’s Derpy Hooves, and I’m the local mailmare. I’ve got some mail here for Mrs. Cake.”

        “Okie dokie lokie!” the pink pony replied. Before the gray pony could respond, Pinkie had already dashed through the swinging doors to retrieve Mrs. Cake. It wasn’t before long until she made her appearance in the parlor, standing at just about where the pink pony stood earlier.

        “Oh Derpy, it’s so good to see you, dearie!” Mrs. Cake gave the girl a hug, as the filly responded by awkwardly wrapping a foreleg around her back, “How are you? Can I get you a muffin?” The filly broke the embrace as she returned to her professional persona:

        “No thanks, Mrs. Cake, I just had a sandwich. But thanks!” she looked to her mailbag again, reaching for some parcels. “I have some things for you today… one, two, three, and a magazine subscription!”

        Mrs. Cake wasn’t subscribed to any magazines. She unrolled the glossy periodical as she began to read the title aloud:

        “Sofa’s Digest? Sweetie, I think this might be for Mr. Davenport at the Quills and Sofas shop down the street.”

        “Oh gosh, I’m so sorry,” Derpy blushed. It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened, and after every time, she promised herself it’d be the last. It made her the laughing stock of the office whenever they received feedback of her mishaps.

        “Honey, don’t worry about it, it was just an accident,” the mare handed the magazine back, patting her on the shoulder, “here, just put it on Mr. Davenport’s front porch, okay?”

        “Okay, I will. Thanks, Mrs. Cake,” a shy smile arose from her grey face. It was what she had planned to do anyways, but hearing it come from Mrs. Cake helped alleviate some of the embarrassment that she tried to hide. The mare always knew what to say in these types of situations, and Derpy was relieved that the mistake happened in the Sugarcube Corner of all places. She was beginning to turn towards the door as she heard her name being called once more:

        “Oh, and Derpy, are you busy today, by chance?”

        “Umm, let me think,” her eyes wandered separately as she began to search through her head, “No ma’am, this is my last house for today. After I take this magazine to Mr. Davenport, I’m off for the day! Why? You need something?”

        “Well, I wanted to ask a favor of you,” Mrs. Cake began. Pinkie Pie, who was listening from the kitchen, perked up at the word ‘favor’ as she poked her head in from under the door, “I know this is unusual, but I need to ask you if you can deliver a cake to a birthday party tonight?”

        “I’d be delighted to!” but before she and Mrs. Cake had the opportunity to discuss details, Pinkie Pie broke into the conversation, feeling slightly betrayed at the nature of the request:

        “I can do it, Mrs. Cake! I’ll deliver the cake!” the eavesdropping filly defended herself, “But I thought you told me earlier that we don’t do deliveries?”

        “We don’t, under normal circumstances, but this is a special case,” the mentor explained to the filly. Though she would have been able to trust her with a simple assignment like this, Mrs. Cake couldn’t expect the newcomer to be able to find her way around Ponyville by herself! “and now that I’m thinking about it, sweetie, I think you should go with her; Derpy knows the town well, and she can show you around.” The pink filly shook her head in defiance:

        “But Mrs. Cake, I don’t need-“

        “No buts! That’s an order! You and Derpy will go to the party together. Do you understand?”

        “Yes, ma’am,” moaned the pink Earth Pony, turning to the grey Pegasus. She still didn’t like the idea, but she regretted trying to shut Derpy out, seeing that the two had ended up being partnered together for the job anyways. The grey filly figured it was just about time to leave:

        “Alright, Mrs. Cake, whatever you say; I’ll be back here in about an hour. Tootles!” the Pegasus seemed to be more content with her partner, but not by much. She pulled the door ajar, leaping into the air as she took off, but forgot to close the door behind her. It wasn’t before long that she remembered, reappearing to finish the task.

        “That silly little filly,” the mare chuckled to herself. She wasn’t quite sure how Derpy was such a screw-up at times, but it didn’t bother her: the young Pegasus was a sweetheart, and a very faithful friend to her. Mrs. Cake knew that the two fillies would warm up to each other in time.

        “Mrs. Cake,” Pinkie Pie still protested, “Why do I need to go with her? You know you could trust me to do the job myself!”

        “Sweetie, I do trust you, but I can’t expect you to know how to find Carousel Boutique! You’re new to Ponyville, after all,” Mrs. Cake explained to her. The filly couldn’t argue with that, and nodded in affirmation. She began to head back to the kitchen before her mentor called her out once more: “And Pinkie Pie, do go upstairs and get ready for the party,” Pinkie Pie stared back in confusion.

        “Wait, what? I thought me and Derpy were just delivering the cake and coming right back! I mean, I still have things to do here, right?”

        “Derpy can do whatever she wants. As for you, young mare, you’re staying!” The order caused Pinkie Pie’s jaw to drop to the ground: she didn’t understand at all! “My husband and I will take care of the bakery while you’re gone. You still have a life to live, sweetie, and I can’t keep you away from that. Now go get ready! You’re going to make a lot of new friends tonight!”

Manec Depression: Chapter Three

        “If you keep looking at the ground while we walk, how are you gonna learn your way around Ponyville?” Derpy told her companion who was kicking a rock that she found on the road. Pinkie Pie didn’t hear, or if she did, she completely ignored it. It was quite clear by her body language that she didn’t want to have any part of the night’s events, and Pinkie perceived a sense rivalry between the two of them. She hardly knew the grey filly, but she already had grown distaste for her.

As opposed to her pink counterpart, Derpy was excited for a number of reasons: she didn’t normally go to parties, so she was looking forward to a slight change in pace. However, making a new friend is what she anticipated the most; a friend that she could relate to in ways that others could not.

For the most part, Ponyville was a slow town, in the sense that most of its citizens were from families who had lived there for many generations. Not many ponies moved in, and even less moved away, so while it was a very close knit community, settling in at first could feel like a bit of a challenge for many newcomers.

At an early age, Derpy’s parents grew tired of the hustle and bustle in the Pegasus city of Cloudsdale, and moved the family down to the ground. After all, a small town like Ponyville was a quieter and safer place to raise a young filly than the inner city of their metropolis home, where they felt crammed among everypony and lived each day in fear that their daughter may get lost, or worse! But In Ponyville, everypony knew just about everypony by name, so the family felt much more content: everypony in the family except Derpy.

She initially hated her parents for the decision, going through childish phases of not talking to them, and she would spend days on end in her room when they first moved in. But in time, she eventually got over the change, and made some new friends. Derpy loved her new friends dearly; however, she could never relate to anyone about her past before she came to Ponyville.

In this regard, she felt like there was a special connection between her and Pinkie Pie because they both had experienced the dynamic change of moving from one place to the other. If the pink pony ever needed anypony, Derpy hoped that she would come and find her. After all, the grey pony didn’t want anypony to go through the rough transition that she went through, and now was a perfect time to get to know each other. However, Pinkie Pie seemed more concerned with kicking pebbles, watching them as they rolled along the unpaved street:

“You oughta stop kicking things, y’know. You’ll scratch Mrs. Cake’s shoes,” the Pegasus suggested. She tried to not sound demanding, but the way she said it caused Pinkie Pie to view her words as such:

        “Whatever you say,” she mocked. Although, she knew that Derpy was right: Mrs. Cake had been generous to let her borrow one of her own party ensembles for the event, since she lacked any sort of formal attire. It was a kind gesture, but Pinkie was starting to regret accepting it: the gown was from way back when Mrs. Cake was Pinkie’s size, and the style was outdated by decades. Not only was it old, but it featured shades of green that just didn’t compliment her pink coat at all! But nevertheless, Mrs. Cake had insisted for her to wear something as opposed to nothing. In addition, she straightened Pinkie’s magenta mane, which now hung over the shoulders and obtrusively contrasted with the dress. She felt very goofy looking, and was hoping no one else would see her.

        Derpy, on the other hoof, was looking stunning. She wore a simple grey evening gown, just a few shades darker than her own coat. The flat slingback shoes on her hooves were golden colored to match her eyes and blonde mane, which she had tied in the back with a white bow. The classy, yet minimalistic look was cancelled out by the blank white cake box supported on her back, but she knew that all in all, she looked pretty. She only wished that Pinkie Pie could feel the same:

        “It’s fine, I’m just being a bit protective, I guess” she tried to correct herself, but Pinkie Pie just rolled her eyes, “Y’know, if you’re gentle with her dress, maybe she’ll let you wear it again! I mean, I don’t know how you do it, but you pull the look off well!” she lied. The forced enthusiasm in her voice was very obvious:

        “Really? I think you’re just saying that, you lying liar-pants!” she replied begrudgingly. Derpy was almost insulted at the haste in which Pinkie Pie had shut her down, but she shook it off. There was honestly no reason why she was being so rude, in Derpy’s mind, and from her first encounter with Pinkie Pie, it just didn’t seem normal. Had she said something to offend her?

        “C’mon Pinkie, you really should lighten up. I mean, we’re going to a party, after all!”

        “Will you stop telling me what to do! And why would we be welcome? We didn’t even receive an invitation!”

        “We don’t need one, silly filly,” she winked at the Earth Pony, “we’re bringing the cake!” Derpy giggled at her own joke as Pinkie Pie shot her a suspicious look. After all, they were simply being used as a delivery crew, not actual guests:

        “We’ll be kicked out for being misfits before we can even get to the punch table.” Derpy paused at the rude remark. She didn’t hold it against her; Pinkie was just a little intimidated, she thought. After all, it was her first full day here in Ponyville, and going to a party with a bunch of strangers is a bit of a leap up the social ladder. Maybe she just needed some comfort before she could relax:

        “Look, Pinkie, I’m sorry,” the pink filly stopped to curiously watch the Pegasus apologize, “I just want you to be happy here. I mean, I was new to Ponyville once, too. I moved here from Cloudsdale when I was younger, and, well, I remember it being the worst day of my life. Like, I had to leave all my friends behind, and I remember always thinking that I’d never make new ones.

        “I thought I had to make something of myself to get noticed by other ponies, so I took a job as a papermare here in Ponyville. I figured that if I could do a really good job at delivering things to other ponies, maybe they’d like me, but I always screwed up and everything. It was so humiliating that sometimes, I felt like I couldn’t show my face in town for days!” she paused to check if Pinkie Pie was still listening to her, but her eyes were pointed to her hooves again. Regardless, she continued:

“Then one time, I took the wrong paper to Sugarcube Corner. I was so embarrassed, but Mrs. Cake told me it didn’t matter. In fact, she told me that it was silly to try to impress other ponies to make them my friends. Ponies should like other ponies for who they are, not what they do, and if nopony could accept me for who I am, then it isn’t even worth the trouble.

        “Basically, what I’m trying to say is, don’t be afraid that you don’t know anypony at the party tonight, or feel pressured to be somepony you’re not. You’ll make friends, I promise. Just be yourself!”

        Regardless of the sweet sentiment, Pinkie Pie didn’t want to deal with her grey partner, or anypony else for that matter. She didn’t realize it before she headed out, but the first day at Sugarcube Corner left her pretty exhausted. All she wanted to do at the moment was to go home and take a long nap. Having to put up with all this was frustrating for her:

        “I’m not afraid!” Pinkie Pie stomped angrily, “I’m not lonely, I’m not trying to impress anypony, and I definitely don’t need you here to lecture me about it! Just leave me alone!”

        Derpy jerked backwards in shock, causing the cake to lose its balance on her back. As the box wobbled, she tried to catch it’s momentum to keep it from splattering on the road, but the box tumbled off her back. Luckily, Pinkie Pie was able to catch the box before it hit the ground:

        “Well don’t drop it, feather-brain! Do you even look where you’re going?” Pinkie scolded, setting it on her own back, “I’ll carry it, before you trip and fall or something.”

        “I’m sorry,” apologized the clumsy filly, who shortly returned to her enthusiasm, “But that was a really good save! Thanks!” she applauded, but her companion wasn’t amused. She glanced at her as they continued to walk, and then shortly turned away; Pinkie Pie was fixated on the ground moving beneath her as Derpy led the way to Carousel Boutique, afraid to open her mouth again in fears that her new friend would say something else to spoil her fun.

. . .

        The two finally reached their destination as the jovial-themed exterior of Carousel Boutique came into view, along with the dozens of ponies who were setting up for the evening’s party. The teams of Unicorns and Pegasi were hard at work, swarming around the place like bees as they did myriads of jobs, from setting up tables to making the sure outdoor lighting worked properly.

        At the center of the mass stood a white Unicorn mare with a pink mane, levitating a clipboard in front of her. It was clear that she was the one in charge, not only from the clipboard, but by the manner in which she yelled at all the ponies who spoke to her.

        “Umm, that must be Ms. Carousel, the hostess for tonight,” she pointed out to Pinkie Pie as she observed the mare’s stressed out behavior, “but she looks really busy. Maybe we shou-“ she turned to notice that her partner had already headed into the crowd. With a sigh, Derpy chased after her.

        Pinkie Pie sifted through the crowd of workers, overhearing bits and pieces of quiet conversations and slander from disgruntled laborers; some talked about their families, others about sports teams, and many others shared words about the crazy mare in charge, though Pinkie Pie ignored those comments. She had a responsibility to deliver the cake to the client, and then she was done for the day. Approaching the mare, she began to overhear part of a quarrel between the white mare and a Pegasus stallion:

        “… I can’t believe you ruffians brought me nine tables when I had asked for eight! I didn’t ask for nine tables, and we certainly don’t need nine tables!... Why yes, I’m aware that we don’t have to utilize the ninth, but I’ll have you know first and foremost that I refuse to pay for it!... Yes, now let’s see… How many table skirts, did you say?... Eight? Well why in Equestria would you have brought eight table skirts if you originally thought I had requested for nine tables! Are you daft? Can any of you goons count? How can you expect-”

        “Excuse me, ma’am,” Pinkie Pie interrupted, expressing the irritated tone in her voice.

        “And who are you?” the lady lashed out, wiping the sweat off her face, “Can you not see I’m in the middle of setting up for my daughter’s fête tonight? It’s in a short few hours, and I’m extremely busy! What is it that you need that couldn’t possibly wait until later?” The mare’s short temper almost caused Pinkie Pie to do something she would’ve regretted, but Derpy landed in between the two, separating the tensions as she took the matter into her hooves:

        “We’re terribly sorry for interrupting, but we wanted to tell you that the cake has arrived.” The mare leaned to the side as she eyed the pink filly behind Derpy. When the courier approached the mare with the cake, her furrowed brow relaxed:

        “Oh, you girls must be from Sugarcube Corner! Dear me, I do apologize, darling.” She held her nose to the sky as she spoke, “Allow me to introduce myself: I am Miss Tunica Carousel, owner and proprietor of this fine dressmaking establishment, and hostess for my darling daughter Rarity’s birthday party this evening.” By the way she said it, it seemed as though she was simply after recognition before an actual introduction. Regardless, the Pegasus’s friendly nature compelled her to reply:

        “I’m Derpy Hooves, and this is Pinkie Pie. Nice to meet you!” Derpy curtsied slightly, but the latter pony made no such gesture.

“Oh darling, the pleasure’s all mine,” She replied arrogantly. Pinkie nudged Derpy in the side, urging her to wrap it up; she didn’t want to make any more unnecessary small talk with the stuck up mare, as Derpy could clearly see it in her expression:

“Yes, well, anyway, what did you want us to do with the cake?”

        “Take the box inside and my daughter Rarity will see to it that it’s taken care of.” she stated plainly, as if ordering her subordinates, “Thank you girls!” As she had said, the two ponies began to make their way towards the blue-and-purple speckled building in search for Ms. Carousel’s daughter.

        Derpy had known Rarity from her school days, but the two hardly ever talked. Even so, she knew that the Unicorn didn’t have her head in the clouds, or at least nothing like her mother. Generally speaking, she was a humble pony who had always offered a helping hoof to those who needed it. Given this, as much as she hated to criticize other ponies, it baffled Derpy how a modest filly like Rarity could possibly come from such a conceited broad of a mare.

        She stopped her silent questioning as Pinkie Pie rang the doorbell. The two could hear the howling cry of a foal from the other side of the door. Could Rarity even hear the bell? Before Pinkie Pie moved to press it for a second time, the top half of the door swung open to reveal a white filly. She was breathing heavily, as if she had been galloping about, and her wavy violet mane drooped under the stress. Pausing from her gasping, she recognized the Pegasus who stood before her:

        “Oh, Derpy, how lovely of you to stop by. Is there anything I can help you with?” she took another deep breath. The family shared the same sophisticated dialect, with a fancy ring to her voice. It was odd, though: It felt as if Pinkie Pie already knew the girl…

        “We brought you the cake from Sugarcube Corner,” Pinkie Pie answered, motioning to the box. Why did nopony ever notice what she was carrying?

        “Oh yes, the cake, how did I miss it before? Please would you come in? I’ll be with you in just a second.” She opened the door, allowing her guests inside as she ran back into the depths of the facility.

        As the two entered and shut the door behind them, the voluminous cries of the little foal grew louder and louder, the source coming from a purple crib by a dress rack on one of the side walls. Pinkie Pie went to go set the cake box on a makeup table, while Derpy hovered over to look at the foal. The pink pony glanced at her as she bent over the sides of the crib, and soon brought the foal for Pinkie Pie to see as it continued to scream at the top of her lungs.

        “Isn’t she so adorable?” Derpy tried to exclaim over the sounds of the foal, rocking her gently. She was pure white, like the color of the two others in her family, with a light purple and rose colored mane, the colors parted symmetrically in the middle.  The foal wore a lavender dress with floral designs, slightly wrinkled, but adorable all the same. Though Derpy tried all that she could to calm her down, Rarity came back and snatched the foal from her arms:

        “Derpy, you just can’t hold somepony’s baby sister without permission! There’s no telling where your hooves have been!” Rarity placed her back in the crib, and from it she produced a baby bottle. Setting it in her mouth, she dashed within the depths of the building once more.

        Within a minute, the white filly returned with a bottle full of baby formula. Grabbing her whiny sister from the bed, the foal started to quiet down when she saw the bottle, then the outcries ceased completely as the teat met her mouth. After she had quieted down, she was a perfect angel:

        “Thanks for helping me find the bottle, Derpy. I never would’ve checked her cradle had you not taken her,” the white filly seemed to calm down as well, wiping a bead of sweat from her brow as the foal and its bottle telekinetically floated next to her. Although Derpy was glad to have helped, she blushed at her fault; she loved children, and couldn’t help but try to cheer the foal up when she saw how upset it was. Rarity knew that she had good intentions at heart: “Would you care to hold her?”

        “Omigosh, yes!” the Pegasus replied as the Unicorn began to levitate the foal to her. Derpy cradled the floating baby that continued to eat. Now that she wasn’t a screaming banshee, Derpy could really appreciate the cuteness of the foal as it lay in her forelegs. She watched her as she tried to hold the bottle with her own hooves, while Derpy ultimately secured it in place. “Your sister is so precious! What’s her name?”

        “Sweetie Belle,” said Rarity. Even though Derpy’s good eye was locked on the foal, she knew that the Pegasus had heard. “Aside from when she’s hungry, the name really does fit!” The two giggled at the banter, but Pinkie Pie stood in the corner, watching. She still couldn’t shake the idea that the white filly was someone she had seen before, and she occupied herself at the moment with piecing together the case of déjà vu.

As Rarity remembered her other guest, she turned from the Pegasus to greet her:

“Excuse me, where are my manners?” Rarity approached the pink pony, but gasped at the sight of her atrocious green dress. She forgot the introductions completely as her fashionista instinct involuntarily kicked in, “Darling, you just can’t wear that outfit to my soirée! It’s just so… Ugh, I don’t even know where to begin! Please, you must come with me, I insist! Derpy, please be a dear and put the cake in the icebox after Sweetie Belle is done eating. I have some business to attend to!” Rarity began to push the pink pony into the back room as they left the other filly and the foal.

. . .

        The two ponies ended up in a dark room, but Rarity switched on the lights to reveal the dress studio. Pinkie Pie was first startled at the bright lights, but as she adjusted to the setting, she saw the white filly wearing a yellow measuring tape over her neck like a boa, along with a pair of red glasses and a clipboard as she marched towards her, looking as if she were ready for a fashion war:

        “Now, if you would just take off that horrendous mess of fabric, we can begin.” It was the first decent thing Pinkie Pie had heard since leaving Sugarcube Corner, and she quickly followed through with Rarity’s request, part in thanks and in curiosity. “I’ll put this old thing over on this hanger so that you can get it after the party, though I couldn’t understand why you’d even want it back after you see the dress I’ll give you tonight.” Rarity began to take the pink pony’s measurements, telekinetically jotting the numbers down. Pinkie Pie could start to see the family resemblance as the clipboard hung in front of the white pony, and while she wanted to continue getting to know her hostess for her own sake, she knew that she couldn’t afford anything like this:

        “I don’t have enough money to buy a dress,” she said plainly, causing Rarity to pause shortly:

“Buy? Oh heavens no, dear: consider this a party favor, free of charge.”

“I don’t want to make you work at your own birthday party.”

“Oh no, no, no, I insist! I want you to look your best, dear! The pleasure is all mine!”

It was the second time today that Pinkie Pie had heard that phrase used, but this time, she believed it to be sincere, as opposed to Ms. Carousel’s self-centered comment earlier. In fact, it caused her to recollect all the past events from her day, starting from after she had left her home at Sugarcube Corner.

She thought about Derpy: the overall friendly Pegasus pony only wanted for her new friend to be happy, given the circumstances she was in. And some friend Pinkie Pie was in return! She didn’t even try to look like she enjoyed her company, and returned all of Derpy’s compliments with insults and rude comments. To think that she had only answered Derpy’s selflessness with her own selfishness was nothing less than an embarrassment for her!

And then there was Rarity, who Pinkie Pie had misjudged from the beginning. Though she had held suspicion of her at first, it was clear that Rarity was nothing like her mother. From Pinkie Pie’s experiences with Rarity, or at least those she could confirm, the white filly had not done a single thing in her own interest, whether it was caring for her baby sister’s best interests when her own mother wouldn’t take responsibility, or offering to give a complete stranger a new dress, free of charge! She felt sick to her stomach as she realized that Rarity was truly a gem of generosity, despite what she thought before, and didn’t want to treat her like she had Derpy:

“Thank you,” Pinkie Pie muttered with a smile, forgetting the suspicion of her hostess: even if she had met her in the past, it didn’t matter to her anymore.

“Oh, but of course, dear!” Rarity replied as she returned to taking measurements. It had just dawned on her that she had skipped introductions earlier. Still working, she started to get to know her client: “Now dear, what did you say your name was?”

        “Pinkamena,” she said. Pinkie’s curiosity piqued as the white filly suddenly lost her focus:

        “Pinkamena?” she set the clipboard and tape down. Taking off her glasses, she looked over her client: pink coat, magenta mane, blue eyes… Why didn’t she see it before? “Pinkamena! Oh heavens, it’s been so long! How’s your farm? And your family? What brings you here to Ponyville?” Pinkie Pie was startled at the outburst; she hadn’t told anypony yet that she was from a rock farm! How did she know? Pinkie Pie wasn’t allowed to have friends back home- let alone, from a town- and it only fueled her search for answers more and more:

        “Wait, you know me? How? From where? Please tell me!”

        “Oh darling, you don’t remember? Well it was a while ago, wasn’t it?” Rarity’s smile pursed as she returned to her work. She spoke again when the measurements were complete:

“Now then, I have this one dress that I think you’ll find quite flattering. It’s a cute blue gown, and it’ll compliment your eyes perfectly. Let me go get it for you.” Rarity turned to the dress rack, revealing to Pinkie Pie the three diamonds that formed a triangle formation on her flank, causing her to look back at the three balloons as her own cutie mark! She made the connection as her mane exploded into a set of curls, making a squeaky noise that caused the unicorn to double-take in surprise:

        “Oh Rarity!” Pinkie Pie laughed, suddenly delighted with the situation. She couldn’t help but squeeze the white pony tightly into a hug, “I could never ever, ever forget you!”