...and then we went to the Grand Galloping Gala. Yes, that Gala. The one nopony is likely to ever forget about. Dressed in our finest - compliments of myself, of course - we had all come with the highest of expectations. Applejack was there for purely mercenary reasons: she was hoping to sell her family goods to passers-by.
Personally, I felt it was a tad distasteful; this was the Gala, the high point of the year for all of Equestria even for those ponies who don't get in, not some sort of... county fair for hawking goods. She even had a stall for Celestia's sake. Admittedly, her family did need the money to keep Sweet Apple Acres running, so I kept my thoughts to myself.
Fluttershy - the demure little thing - came simply to see the creatures in Celestia's royal garden. She gets along so well with animals as a whole, and many in the garden are said to be completely unique to all of Equestria. Myself, I have trouble enough with Opalescence, and she's mine. I was sure she'd be overwhelmed with joy. She's not comfortable in crowds unless they're crowds of animals.
Rainbow Dash was there to see her idols the Wonderbolts, Twilight Sparkle wanted nothing more than to be with her tutor the Princess, which was understandable given their only real communication is by letter, Pinkie just wanted to have fun and as for myself...Well, I admit I was there for something other than the glamor and grace myself.
In my case, I was there to search for him. I'd always been looking for that perfect stallion in my life. Someone who would accentuate who I am as I, in the same way, would accentuate him. What better place to look for him than the Gala?
Unfortunately, most of the stallions were spoken for, more the pity for them. As I toured the ballroom floor and my list dwindled by the moment, I headed outside for a bit of fresh air. There was a rosebush and I was just leaning down to take a sniff of an exquisite flower when I heard the voice.
"Why hello." the voice said. I turned to the voice's owner. Then my heart melted.
This voice belonged to Prince Blueblood; a distant relation to Celestia herself and considered one of Equestria's most eligible bachelors. Tall and muscular, blonde maned and tailed and a unicorn like myself. I seriously thought this was love at first sight until learning over the course of the evening that the prince was a complete and utter jerk.
He was rude, condescending and without a gallant bone in his body. He was the most un-royal royalty I'd ever had the misfortune to come across and I made a point of telling him this in no uncertain terms. I suppose this explains why he's still a bachelor, eligible or otherwise.
The Gala then ended with Fluttershy having a psychotic episode, several panicked wild animals being let loose in the ballroom, a large cake being involved at some point and the destruction of said ballroom.
And, when I came to consider it over a plate of donuts with my friends and the Princess herself, it was the best night ever.
"...an' then the animals went running around the ballroom *whipwhipwhip* while Fluttershy was hollering her head off - boy was she ever scary - an' then the pillars came down *BLAM!* and everyone was running around like the ballroom was falling apart, which was good because it was. Still, wasn't that just the funniest thing ever?!" Pinkie was practically vibrating trying to keep herself from going from giggling to laughing out loud.
"Yes, I must admit that the chaos was great deal more funny after the fact, when I'd had a chance to think it over," I replied. It was nearly two days after the Gala and I still smiled when somepony mentions it. I don't think that evening will ever stop being amusing. "You should have seen me deal with the prince. I was absolutely scathing."
Pinkie furrowed her brow. "What's skating have to do with it? Did I miss something? Ooh, was there another Gala besides the one I went to? I bet the other one was more fun than that one was, what with you skating an' all..."
"No, I said scathing, dear."
"Withering?" I tried.
Pinkie blinked again.
I sighed and rolled my eyes. "I was a 'Nasty McNasty-pants' to him. It was justifiable, though. I had a good reason," I added, in case she asked me what 'justifiable' meant. I was pretty sure she was teasing half the time when she 'doesn't understand' a word, but with Pinkie it's hard to tell and so it's better to be safe than sorry.
We two were at Sugarcube Corner enjoying Pinkie's latest creation. Say what you will about her, but when it comes to baking I think even the Cakes might learn a thing or two from her. Not that their baking wasn't wonderful, of course, but Pinkie tends to be quite imaginative; if she ever went into business for herself, they likely wouldn't stand a chance. Of course she never would - she loves the Cakes dearly and she wouldn't want to hurt them or their business. On purpose, anyway; she does tend to go on snacking binges from time to time, though I've heard tell that the Cakes always bake a bit extra just in case she does, which would explain why they never really get upset when it happens.
Today's creation was particularly interesting, and a play on both her name and the baker pair: the cakepie. It was a pie crust with an angel-food cake as 'filling'; sort of like a dessert quiche. Decadent. Absolutely decadent.
I was almost unwilling to have any, as I was looking after my figure, but it was far too delicious-looking to refuse. It was served with coffee - hot chocolate in Pinkie's case, as she'd never developed a taste for coffee, thankfully; the thought of her on a caffeine high is a truly terrifying one - and it was like eating a blessing and a sin at the same time.
"So, do you like it?" asked Pinkie.
I sighed blissfully, and she rightfully took that as a yes.
"You simply must share this with the Cakes, dear; it could triple their business," I said, after coming out of my reverie.
"Oh I will," replied Pinkie. "You were my test - or is that 'taste'? - subject. If you liked it, I bet Celestia herself would find it yummy. You always had the best taste for things. And that includes taste, too!"
I blushed slightly at the compliment. I actually blushed.
After another piece of cakepie - two actually, but small ones; I just couldn't help myself - I headed back to the Boutique. Twilight had scheduled an appointment for taking her measurements. It seems that after the Gala and considering the effort I'd gone through for her dress despite her constant requests for revisions, she'd gained a greater appreciation for fashion.
I didn't really require her measurements, as I'd already had them from when I'd made her Gala dress, but I decided to take them anyway. It was nice to see the normally bookish filly come out of her shell if only a bit and so I decided to humor her.
The front door opened with a jingle and Twilight entered, on time to the second. But then I wouldn't expect any less of her. You could set a clock by her punctuality.
"Ah; good morning, Twilight! Right on time, I see," I said with a smile.
"Well, an appointment is meant to be kept when it's meant to be kept. If I arrive too early, I could throw off your schedule, and if I arrive too late I definitely will. If I don't arrive just when I'm supposed to, how would that make me look? Schedules are very important things."
That filly needs to loosen up a bit, I thought to myself, keeping my smile. There's being organized and then there's overdoing it. I've heard from Spike that she makes lists of lists. I'd always thought that as youthful hyperbole, but there might be some truth to that after all...
"Hello? Rarity?" asked Twilight.
I shook my head. "I'm sorry, Twilight, just a touch of daydreaming. Pinkie gave me a taste test of a new dessert and I'm afraid it's rather taken my fancy."
"Oh, the cakepie? Interesting idea; but a bit sweet for my tastes. She's an imaginative baker, I'll give her that."
"Mmm. No argument there, dear. There's no such thing as 'typical' with that one." I fetched my measuring tape from a table and set about. Her measurements actually had changed slightly; but only a small amount. Probably wouldn't have been worth the trouble, but I dutifully recorded the change in measurements anyway.
"While I have you here, how would you feel about a new manestyle? I have quite a few ideas as to what would work with you. Don't get me wrong, but your mane and tail are just a tad...plain. I mean a pagecolt style works for you, but a bit of sprucing up, maybe?"
Twilight considered this for a moment. "No, I think I'll just keep what I have; they may not be fancy, but they're easy to keep tidy. Maybe some other time, though..."
"Well, I just thought I'd mention it," I replied. "Might be fun for the both of us; I can think of a couple of styles that would fit you to a T. We're done here, regardless, so if there was anything else...?" I hoped that her visit might pan out to a sale, but unfortunately that day I was disappointed.
She had only come to have her measurements done. I didn't mind all that much; she'd come to me regardless when she wanted me to design something - she'd have to, come to think of it - but it looked to be a slow day and I was hoping for something to occupy my time, and a few sales never hurt, either.
Perhaps I'd pay Fluttershy a visit. She was still somewhat embarrassed by her breakdown at the Gala and I was sure she'd appreciate the company. I'll bring some cakepie - heh; I'm already an addict - and some of that lovely tea she likes.
The next day there was a knock on the front door. I opened it to find Derpy, the resident mailmare standing there, her saddlebags polished to a sheen, her postal hat perched on her windblown blonde mane and gently tied beneath her chin to keep it on.
On anypony else this would just look silly, but Derpy is quite good at her job, despite her tendency to be scatterbrained from time to time; for instance that one time when she delivered one of Twilight's books a bit too literally she was told to 'drop it off' and she did. From ten or fifteen feet up - something which Twilight still hasn't quite forgiven her for - so it's generally overlooked. Anyway, to be honest it's rather cute on her.
"I gotta special letter for you, ma'am. I'd have just put it in the box like the other stuff, but I was told to deliver it straight t'you." She rooted around in her saddlebag. "Now where're you...Ah, here it is..." She carefully pulled out a golden-sheened envelope. I accepted the envelope from her, which smelled slightly of roses.
"Thank you, Derpy," I replied. The mailmare nodded smartly and took to the air. I carried the envelope into the Boutique. There was no signature on it, merely the letter "S". After a few seconds wondering to myself who the initial might be referring to, I opened the envelope.
There was a crisp sheet of paper decorated a with beautiful scripted border from which the rose smell emanated. A small tag fell from the envelope onto the floor as I pulled out the letter. I read the letter, ignoring the tag for the moment:
Greetings. My name is Summersday, Baron of Hoofington. We two have never met, but we were both guests at the Grand Galloping Gala. Unfortunately, due to the unforeseen - and destructive - events of the Gala, I was not given the opportunity to formally make your acquaintance. If I may , I wish to open a line of communication with you in the hopes of rectifying this and perhaps, through these letters, form a friendship of sorts between ourselves.
Of course, you may feel free to disregard this message, in which case I apologize for taking up any of your no doubt valuable time.
The letter dropped to the floor beside the tag and my heartbeat doubled. Oh my. Oh my. Oh my. A baron. And he wants to make acquaintance with me. Now get a grip on yourself, Rarity; you had a Prince at the Gala and the only thing royal about him was the pain he caused. Still though, Summersday - Baron Summersday, rather - only wished to communicate via the written word and, given his letter to me, he already appeared to be far and above Blueblood, at least in the realm of politeness.
I decided then and there. Yes. Yes it would be nice to have a 'pen-pal' as they call it - and a baron at that! One who has the class I've been looking for and one who shares an appreciation for the finer things in life. Me, for instance. I picked up the letter and the tag, upon which was written a mailing address. I opened a drawer and pulled out an envelope. Setting down a fresh sheet of paper and grabbing a quill, I wrote:
Upon receipt of your message and after some thought, I have chosen to accept your proposal of communication. I admit to being surprised that you have seen fit to suggest such a venture to one such as myself, and I eagerly await further communication.
I wanted to give him the impression that I was willing, but not that I was desperate for the attention. After all, I was a mare of class and distinction, not a love-sick filly, though I have to admit my heart beat a little faster on the writing of my response. I, Rarity, had the attention of a baron! I folded the letter carefully, addressed and sealed it and awaited Derpy's arrival the next day. It couldn't come soon enough.
When Derpy made her daily delivery to the Boutique, I handed her the envelope along with a note requesting that the post office in Hoofington deliver my letter in the same manner as Summersday had mine. I had a distinct spring in my step for the rest of the day and even hummed to myself happily. The hours seemed to pass like minutes. I knew it would be several days before I received a reply and I relished every second.
Admittedly, this was merely socializing via mail and there was no reason to expect it to go beyond that, but I couldn't help but think that maybe... But I didn't want to get ahead of myself; those sort of thoughts often lead to disappointment. I had all the time in the world to see where this was going to go.
For a period of time I thought of telling my friends about the letters, but there was nothing to even say yet, really, and if another Ponyvillian heard about my possibly budding relationship via mail the news would spread and likely change in the telling. The next day, ponies would probably be asking me when the marriage was.
Besides, simply put it was none of their business. They didn't really need to know and I wanted this to be just for me.
Spike in particular was pleased with my upbeat attitude. He pays me a visit every day or two as it is, always with the excuse 'I just happened to be near while doing something else so I thought I'd say hello' or a variation on that. It appears that he's quite a fan of mine, given the frequency of his 'coincidental' visits, in which case he has exquisite taste.
Personally, I rather enjoy the attention, but then I would enjoy it from anypony else as well. I've never had my very own fan before, though, but I think I like it. He seems to go out of his way to be helpful or useful to me. Fandom does appear to have its privileges.
On the third day, I received a reply:
I am honored in turn that you have chosen to accept my request. To be honest, this is the first time I have ever done this sort of thing, and I must admit to finding it a pleasant method of communication.
To be equally honest, I haven't many things to occupy my time - my baronial title is more a formality than anything else - and receiving and sending missives to someone other than officials, lawyers and others of that ilk is extremely gratifying. As I am a Baron in name only, please feel free to refer to me simply as 'Summersday.' I in turn and by example will refer to you as 'Rarity'.
My week had just been made.
The next day, my friends took their turns trying to wrangle the information for my sudden burst of excessive cheer, with the exception of Dash who couldn't care less and Twilight who appeared to take my change in mood in stride. Frankly, their interest surprised me; I wasn't aware that I was so noticeably out of character.
Twilight paid me a visit later in the day. She said that she'd considered my offer to style her mane and tail and had decided to give it a try. Something simple at first, just to see if she liked the idea. As I prepared my tools of the trade, she made small talk:
"So, Rarity," she said, nonchalantly, "You've seemed awfully happy these last few days. Must've been something pretty big to..."
"Oh, Twilight. Not you, too. I always thought you'd be above that sort of thing; prying like this just isn't you."
Twilight had the good form to be embarrassed. "I'm sorry, Rarity, really I am, but you can't blame us for being curious; it's like you're going out of your way to keep it a secret. If it helps any, I really did come for a manestyle; I just thought..."
"I know, Twilight, and you're right. I am keeping it a secret. For now, anyway. Every filly has to have their own secrets, right?"
"I'm sorry, Rarity," she repeated, " and you're absolutely right; if anypony should be above gossip, it's me."
I raised a hoof. "Water under the bridge, darling; water under the bridge. Now. Let's see what I can do for you..."
After the next two or three letters my excitement waned; I still loved receiving and sending the letters, of course, but I'd gotten comfortable with doing it. It was much like my weekly spa session with Fluttershy: I knew we were going, but I still looked forward to them. We received at least one letter from the other each week.
Summersday and I seemed to always have something to say to one another; even a humdrum day was of interest to the other. We traded photographs of one another early on: Summersday was light blue with a blonde mane; he almost looked like a summer's day; a day with clear blue skies and sunshine. His photo had a special place on a desk in my room.
Originally, our relationship was strictly friendly; a 'How was your week?' sort of thing, but over time as we found more and more things in common with one another, our letters became more intimate and I began looking forward to his replies with greater enthusiasm. Then, midway through the third month, I received the letter:
Over the last months, I have found myself looking forward to your letters with greater and greater anticipation. You are clearly a mare of sophistication, wit and charm, and I have taken a step that I feel is necessary. I hope this is not too forward of me, but I wish to meet with you and I therefore invite you to stay as my guest at my mansion for the holiday weekend.
Assuming the mailing times remain constant as they have, a chariot will arrive for you two days after receiving this missive in order to allow you time to consider my offer. Again, I hope this is not considered too forward of me, but our relationship has grown to some degree and I wish to see the one to whom I am writing; a photograph is small compensation.
The chariot's arrival should be around noon. The chauffeur will meet you at your residence and escort you. Should you not wish to make the trip, simply tell him this and he will return. I apologise in advance if I have gone beyond any boundary you may have set, but I feel this must be done. Letters are simply not enough anymore.
With high hopes
Just as with the original letter, I dropped it to the floor in shock. I actually squealed and clapped my hooves like a school-filly. Two days? I didn't need two minutes. I somehow knew this was going to occur at some point, and he was right: I wanted to see him as well; a picture and letters weren't enough.
Now that the things had gone beyond simple letters, I decided to finally tell my friends. I would have to anyway.
Later that morning, I had my friends Twilight, Applejack, Pinkie and Fluttershy meet me at the Boutique. Dash was on the weather patrol and her duties would keep her away for a few days, so I'd be back before she was. I wanted everyone to hear the news all at once. Perhaps a tad melodramatic of me, but it was easier than tracking down one friend at a time.
"So what was so important that we had'ta drop what we were doin' and come here?" asked Applejack.
"Well, the Gala, as you know, didn't go well for any of us. In my case, I had my eye on a guest there and things...didn't pan out." I coughed. "Irregardless, I had caught the attention of another. Unfortunately due to the finale of the Gala, he was unable to introduce himself and did so via the post office. We've been mailing each other ever since."
Twilight looked confused. "But why keep that from us? I mean, you have a pen pal; lots of ponies do. Princess Celestia and I are technically pen pals."
"Well, simply put it wasn't really anypony's business and I was afraid I you'd get the wrong idea if I'd mentioned my letters when this had first started. The only reason I'm telling you all is because of this." I showed them the final letter. "I'll be leaving for a few days and I wanted to let you know why."
"Yer goin' ta meet this Summersday guy? Without even knowin' anything 'bout him 'cept what he tells you in his letters? Seems a mite risky to me."
"There; that's exactly my point. You're probably running through scenarios about what could go wrong inside your heads right now." Applejack and the others looked guilty.
I continued: "This is a simple visit, nothing more; I'm a big filly and I can take care of myself. You know I've always dreamt of something like this happening,"
My friends looked between one another. I played my trump card. "You want me to be happy, don't you?
The four were silent.
Twilight spoke up "You're right, Rarity. I'm not sure myself if perhaps this is going a bit fast, but then again that's not my...not our business, either. I hope you enjoy yourself."
I smiled. "I think that's probably likely. And I promise, no more secrets from here on out. I should have trusted that you'd have kept the news to yourselves. You're my best friends and it was probably foolish of me to keep it to myself."
"Well, y'all enjoy yersef, y'hear?"
"Um...have fun, Rarity..."
"Yeah! An' bring us back souvenir T-shirts! "
The others looked at Pinkie.
"What? She's going on a trip isn't she? You always bring back a T-shirt after a trip. Or a silly mug. Or both, even."
We all sighed in exasperation and laughed.
I must admit to being - understandably - distracted for the rest of the day; all that I could think of was meeting Summersday at last and what his mansion must be like. I fetched his photograph from my room, gazing happily at it as I ran the text of his letter through my head for what seemed to be the thousandth time. I was humming happily to myself as the front door jingled open. I looked up with a smile to see Spike enter.
"What's up, Rarity?" he asked. "New fashion magazine arrive?"
"Oh no, Spike," I sighed, 'Something even better. Take a look."
I levitated Summersday's picture over to him. "His name is Summersday and he's a baron. A baron! Isn't he just to die for?"
"I guess, Rarity," he replied, confused. "What's up? Who is this guy?"
I blushed. "Well, we've been mailing each other for some time and I think he's rather taken with me. In fact, he says he wants to meet me! After the fiasco with that boor Blueblood, I think I may have found the stallion of my dreams! This could be love!"
"So, when're you goin'?" he asked. It seemed as though he was trying to be nonchalant about the whole thing, but he looked slightly nervous..
"The day after tomorrow. He's sending a pegasus chariot and everything; the sort of thing a true gentlestallion would do!" I replied, with another sigh of joy.
"Well, I hope that goes well for you, Rarity", he said."Good luck." He left as I lovingly gazed at Summersday's photo again. I looked up after a moment. Spike seemed strangely depressed when I'd told him I was going. I know he's my number one fan, but. I was only going for the holiday weekend; I was sure he could go without for a couple of days...
The next day, just after breakfast, there was a light rapping at my front door. I opened it to see a unicorn dressed in a uniform of dark blue bordered with gold braid. He stood at full attention. "Miss Rarity, ma'am, please allow me to introduce myself; I am Colwell, Summersday's chauffeur and I have come to escort you to his chariot at your convenience. Should you choose not to make the voyage, please inform me now and I will return."
I blinked. "Escort me? But you're not supposed to be here yet."
Yes, ma'am, we caught a bit of a tailwind; we were able to shorten flight time by almost fifteen minutes."
"No, I mean you're an entire day early," I said, shaking my head slightly.
The chauffeur looked embarrassed. "I apologise, ma'am, but I was told to prepare to fly in five days: three for you to receive the letter and a further two before making the flight."
I blinked and gasped in realisation. The letter. It must have arrived a day late!
Seeing my expression, the chauffeur came to full attention. "Ma'am. Do you wish me to return?"
"No, thank you. Just give me time to prepare my luggage and I will accompany you."
"Very good, ma'am. Again, I apologise"
"Think nothing of it", I replied gracefully. "A mere postal error. Nopony is to blame."
I invited him in and returned to my room to pack. I was only going to be gone four days; a mere two overnight bags would be sufficient. Now I needed to find just the right accouterments.
So I'll be leaving a day early. My friends already know I'm taking this trip; I suppose leaving early shouldn't be an issue...
The chauffeur led me to Summersday's chariot. It was a four pegasus model, the fastest you can get; this trip wouldn't take more than an hour or so at most, if even that. Upon his loading my luggage into a compartment beneath the chariot, we took to the air. He then showed me that his duty involved more than just escorting me to the mansion.
He used his magic to generate a force field around the chariot car itself. Generally this sort of thing isn't required - pegasus chariots are built in such a way that air currents don't have any undue effect on passengers, even at high speeds - but Summersday apparently wanted to ensure that my trip was absolutely as comfortable as it could be.
I attempted to make small talk during the trip, asking about the area and such. The chauffeur tried to enter into the spirit of it, but broke off a short period. He wasn't much of a conversationalist, he apologised; to be honest, his services were only used in situations in which guests were being transported, so he was generally on his own.
We arrived in an hour exactly, flying over the roofs of Hoofington towards a lone house just beyond the city limits. Summersday's mansion was somewhat more humble than I had expected, but still impressive even from the air. Upon landing, the chauffeur quickly entered the mansion, no doubt to inform Summersday of my arrival. A page exited and collected my luggage. A moment later, the door opened and he exited.
He was even more handsome than his photograph. The blue of his fur was darker and richer, his mane longer and thicker; if a picture was worth a thousand words, the real thing was worth far and beyond that. His eyes widened slightly upon seeing me and I had the distinct impression that he felt the same upon seeing me in the flesh.
He trotted towards me, his blonde mane and tail flowing in the slight breeze. "Greetings, Rarity, and welcome to my humble estate." He bowed gracefully and his horn glowed momentarily, gently lifting one of my forelegs. He touched the hoof softly with his lips.
He was everything Blueblood was not; polite, humble, sophisticated. The only way in which the two were similar were in stature; Summersday shared Blueblood's statuesque frame; I could see his muscles moving under his fur even as he had stepped forth to greet me.
"Please allow me the honor of escorting you to your room."
I nodded. He nodded in turn to the page, who followed behind us. The inside of the mansion was truly opulent, belying its exterior. The walls were pure mahogany, polished to such a sheen that they could surely blind the eyes were sunlight to strike them. Our hooves clicked upon patterned tiles which were also polished to glittering. I couldn't help but gasp at the sheer beauty of it; if I were to ever own a mansion - and I knew that to only be a matter of time - surely it would be like this!
Pictures and tapestries adorned the walls, seemingly in a random manner yet showing a pattern if looked at in just the right way. Upon one wall were a line of paintings that appeared to be family portraits. There were quite a few: either Summersday's family was very large, or they had lived here for quite some time.
Summersday noticed my interest. "I am the tenth baron of Hoofington. Though the title is now honorary and has been for some time, we take pride in our family home: this mansion has seen well over a century's worth of kin live within its walls." I didn't doubt it. Though the pictures were kept immaculately clean, the ones at the very start of the line looked to be as old as Summersday had said.
He led me to a room and the door opened as we approached and entered. I stopped dead in my tracks. I had never seen such opulence in my life: the mahogany theme of the mansion continued within. There was a four poster bed, a huge dresser, the far wall was decorated with stained glass and there was a door that led to a patio with a small table with a parasol. The room even had a bathroom with a shower.
"I'm afraid this isn't the best room I have to offer. My apologies." I gasped and turned to him. There was better? He winked and chuckled. "I'm sorry; but I had to do that just to see the look on your face. A peccadillo on my behalf." I grinned. Class and a sense of humor. I liked that.
"As you have seen", he continued, "the mansion itself is rather small; I haven't much in the way of staff. The chauffeur, two or three pages, and of course the cooking staff. I beg your forgiveness but you may have to see your own way from time to time. As my guest you are, of course, my primary interest and concern, but there are some things I simply can not put off, even given the holiday. I apologise once again."
I gracefully waved it away: he has been more than courteous to me simply by inviting me here; he had informed me in his letters that he had certain duties, and I took no offense, though admittedly I did fell an ever so minor flash of annoyance.
The first day was marvellous. The mansion itself may have been modest - though beautiful -, but the estate itself was not. We spent the day touring. There were the gardens - full of flowers the colors of which I didn't even know were possible - the fountains, - which blew in playful patterns as though they were dancing - and the topiary maze, which Summersday warned me about going into: as a colt he'd spent almost four hours trapped within it when it had first been grown and had been wary of entering it ever since.
We had tea in a gazebo atop a hill in the middle of the garden, surrounded by blossoms by the hundreds. This is what I'd been waiting for; what I deserved. Summersday had nothing but time for me that day and I could already feel myself growing closer to him.
He asked me about my business in Ponyville; I had told him in our letters, of course, but he was hoping to see some of my work himself. I obliged him, and he murmured appreciatively, commenting on how the jewels I used accentuated each piece perfectly. I blushed at the compliments, but I had secretly been saving the best for last.
That evening, I put on my finest dress; the one I had kept hidden. It was a pure diamond affair and the work of weeks. When Summersday arrived at my room to escort me to dinner, he literally gaped at me. He cleared his throat to cover his reaction. I smiled slightly and he led me to dinner. We dined on a patio that evening under a clear sky and full moon. It was as if Luna herself wanted this night to be perfect. Crickets sang in the background.
I rather fear I slept in the next day. The previous day had been so perfect that my dreams of it seemed to not want to let me go. The bed itself helped a great deal; the mattress being so soft it was as though it were made of cloud. I wondered if this was what it was like for a pegasus to sleep?
After managing to fight off my wondrous dreams and enter the realm of the conscious once again, I rolled from the bed with a slight feeling of regret. The clock said it was nearing ten. Probably too late to have breakfast, I thought to myself, but perhaps I can ask the kitchen staff to prepare me something regardless.
As I opened the door, I found a tray on a cart awaited me. There was toast, orange juice, coffee and a large bowl of granola with dried cranberries, with a glass of milk. Cranberries! Practically a delicacy back in Ponyville and quite hard to come by. The coffee and toast were still hot and the juice and milk cool; no doubt a spell had been used to keep them that way, as breakfast had probably been over an hour ago. After my breakfast, I took a long luxurious shower, the heat almost making me sleepy again.
There was no sign of Summersday, but he had warned me to expect that. I found that without his presence, there didn't seem all that much to do; there was the garden and the fountains and even the maze which, despite Summersday's warning, I attempted. It wasn't that difficult, though to be fair, I did cheat at some points, using my magic to help guide me.
I finally found myself bored to such a degree that I actually deigned to speak with the two pages on hand. There were three of them, named Knott, Broon and Finn. The three were brothers and Broon was off sick. They appreciated my company - and so they should - to Summersday they were simply there. He didn't even know their names, really.
Eventually, I even found myself enjoying the company of these two; they weren't as polished as myself or Summersday, obviously, but they had a simple charm to them. One mentioned that of all the ponies Summersday had invited to stay, I was the most friendly. The others guests just ignored them.
I began to get a tickling sensation in the back of my head. Now, now... 'Guest' could mean anything at all. I'm sure he's invited dozens of ponies to his mansion, mares and stallions alike.
As I wandered the hall back towards my room, a well-dressed mare passed me, gave me a polite nod of her head and exited. She left a light scent of perfume in her wake. A short time later, Summersday appeared and I went to greet him. He smelled of the perfume the mare that passed me wore, only stronger.
"Summersday," I asked, curious, "Who was that mare I just saw leaving? I don't remember seeing her yesterday."
He seemed nervous for a very slight moment. "Ah yes, that was my cousin. When I mentioned you were coming, she offered to bring me a bottle of a favorite scent she wears. I was going to give it to you as apology for being unavailable to you for so long, but unfortunately I dropped it; that's why I smell so strongly of it. I'm deeply sorry; I've ruined the gift I was going to give you."
At dinner that evening, I asked Summersday about his cousin. I was honestly interested: seeing another member of Summersday's family might help me become closer to him. Summersday gave some noncommittal answers; he said he hadn't seen her in some time.
When I asked if perhaps I could make her acquaintance, Summersday told me that unfortunately she'd had to leave; her visits were infrequent due to her duties. She was essentially the ambassador of the family and spent much of her time travelling, thus he treasured her visits.
That tickle returned to inside my head. I didn't want to think so, but the situation had seemed a bit too perfect: the perfume accident, his cousin having to leave... As again, I fought it back: Now I was just being paranoid. Still, though...
The next day, as opposed to the day before, I awoke quite early. The clock said it was just after seven but I was unable to return to sleep, even despite the early hour so I decided to go to the dining room for breakfast. It would be nice to dine with Summersday more than once, as I really only had the chance at supper time the previous day.
I heard Summersday's voice and a giggle.
I stepped into the dining room. There was a mare sitting with Summersday and they appeared to be quite intimate. I had entered just in time to see Summersday whisper something into her ear and she giggled again.
"Summersday, you're such a naughty thing," she replied. I gasped and both their heads snapped in my direction. Summersday went white as a sheet and the mare looked between us in confusion .
My eyes narrowed. "So who is this then, Summersday? Another 'cousin'? Is this what kept you 'busy' yesterday? Is it?!" Summersday sat there, his mouth opening and closing as though he were a grounded fish
I rushed to my room, sobbing. I was both heartbroken and furious at the same time. I immediately began packing my bags with reckless abandon; I wanted nothing more to do with this place or its occupant. Summersday entered and I threw a half-packed bag at him. He dodged and lowered his head before I could pitch the other one.
"Rarity, it's not what you think. Listen!" Summersday begged. "Please, just listen!"
I stopped packing, if only so Summersday could make things worse for himself.
"I'm the family's only true-blood bachelor - the only one - and I need to wed or the family name dies with me. I've been trying for some time to find the one who would make the perfect wife."
"Three at a time?" I asked, disbelieving this attempt to justify himself. "Were you trying to be more efficient or something? Maybe trying us on for size?"
"But Rarity, you were the..."
"The what?" I shouted. "The best of the bunch? The pick of the litter? The one worth keeping?!" I went back to packing. "I am leaving, Summersday. I have never been insulted in such a manner in my life and I do not wish to ever hear from you again."
"Very well, Rarity", replied Summersday with a sad sigh. "If that's how you feel, I will have my chariot prepared to return you home."
"How I feel? You don't know the half of 'how I feel', sir. Not the half." I stalked out the front door of the mansion. The chariot was prepared and my luggage loaded. The door opened and Summersday exited to see me off. I turned to face the chariot, sickened by the sight of him.
As the chauffeur and I prepared to board, I stopped. I looked down and stood there for a few moments, still as a statue, taking several deep breaths to keep my patience in check. My eyes closed and I sighed sadly. "Summersday," I said quietly and calmly with just a hint of the cold fury I felt within, "Despite what has happened here, I honestly hope that someday you find a wife to keep your bloodline alive. But if you don't..." I raised my head and turned to look at him over my shoulder.
"I won't miss it when it dies."
I turned and boarded the chariot which quickly took to the air. I never looked back.
I had the chariot take me to just outside the reaches of Ponyville. I was still vibrating with a combination of absolute fury and embarrassment as - ensuring nopony saw me, which wasn't difficult as it was moderately early in the morning - I made my way home, almost incapable of getting the door open because I was shaking so hard.
This was my second attempt to find the one I needed only to be disappointed even further. I wondered if I should even bother with a third try? Love appeared to be a lost cause for me.
Once inside, I rushed to my room, grabbed the photo of Summersday from its 'place of honor' threw the picture frame against the far wall and with a scream of pure rage, tore the photo to pieces. The letters followed in short order. My anger made my vision go blood red and I struck the frame of my bed with kick after kick, screaming incoherently, not hearing the wood as it cracked under the impacts.
After a moment I had used up the strength my anger had given me. Exhausted, I collapsed onto the mattress of my shattered bed and came apart like a china plate.
ty?" I thought I heard through my sobbing
rity?" There it was again; I swear it sounds like a voice
"Rarity?!" the voice shouted.
I tried to calm myself to the best of my ability and looked up to see a purple and green blur. I blinked to clear my eyes and the blur slowly cleared, coalescing into my number one fan.
He approached me, his eyes filled with a combination of fear and concern. "Yes, Rarity. It's Spike. What happened to you, Rarity? I've never seen you this upset before!" He stared at my half-ruined bed.
"What was it? Does it have something to do with this Summersday guy?" he asked, his voice mirroring his expression.
"SUMMERSDAY!" I spat, my vision going red again. "I never want to hear that name again! 'Come visit me at my mansion for the weekend and we can get properly acquainted with each other; get to know each other better.' Ha!" I snarled.
"Unfortunately for him, I learned on the third day he'd said the same thing to at least two other mares! I was...was nothing more than some sort of harem-filly to him!" I shouted.
Taking a deep shuddering breath, I continued. "He was even worse than Blueblood; at least he was only conceited! I was so embarrassed I didn't even have the chariot bring me all the way back to town! I snuck into town to here and then...and then..."
I broke off and my vision blurred again as I sobbed uncontrollably.
Through my tears I could see Spike slowly make his way to my bedroom door, his head lowered. As he was just about to exit, I called out:
"P...please stay with me, Spike," I begged. "I think right now what I need is a friend; a shoulder to cry on, even if it is small and purple. Stay. Please?" I smiled at him as best I could.
He seemed to consider this for a moment, then approached the bed and climbed onto it, moving to lie beside me. I laid my head on his chest and let the tears flow freely. The last things I remember before sleep finally claimed me were a calming hum from Spike and his hand gently stroking my neck.
When I awoke, Spike was no longer there. I didn't know what time it was and found I didn't really care, either. I crept from my room to lock the front door of the Boutique. I wasn't in the mood for company or customers. As I slowly walked from my room to the entrance, I looked up to find my friends standing in front of the door.
Twilight spoke three simple sentences. "We know. Spike told us. Let us help you."
My friends. When things are at their worst, of course my friends would be there for me
I stared at them for a moment and my eyes welled up. They nodded to themselves and exited. I watched as they left, mouth half-open to ask them to come back, then I felt something warm slip over my shoulders and then warmth on my side.
Fluttershy held me close with her wing as I burst into tears.
Over the next few days my friends visited me, sometimes alone, sometimes in a group.
Fluttershy made another visit and we shared tea as we often do. I gave her a friendly nuzzle and thanked her for the day before; she smiled demurely as her cheeks went as pink as her mane.
Pinkie - surprisingly quiet compared to her usual boisterous self - brought me some of her now Ponyville-famous cakepie and actually got me to smile with some jokes and tales of her antics, which may or may not have been true. With Pinkie it's truly difficult to tell.
The next day, Applejack paid me a visit with a basket of Sweet Apple Acre's finest. I had passed through my sadness and was working my way into anger; becoming quite surly. I was a bit sharp with her I'm afraid, but she said I had the right to be angry, and she would take no offence at anything said.
And finally Twilight, who simply listened, - along with Spike, who sat by my side, his arm gently wrapped around a foreleg - as I gave an angry and far more descriptive accounting of my visit. I fear I may have used some language unbecoming of someone of my class but, as with Applejack, they overlooked it.
Even Dash, who had returned from her weather patrol duty visited me and asked me if I'd gotten over my sickness. I was confused for a moment until I realised my friends must not have given her the whole truth about my situation.
I knew this was probably for the best. Dash may not be terribly fond of me, but if she'd heard about what had happened, her loyalty would demand she defend my honor. Odds were she'd pay Summersday a visit, fly him up to a good height, let go and see what shape stain he made when he hit ground.
I despised the stallion, but I didn't want to be responsible - even indirectly - for whatever Dash would do to him, so I coughed a few times and told her I'd be fine in a couple of days. She nodded and quickly left. I think she might have been afraid I was still 'contagious'.
After about the sixth day I'd finally gotten my composure completely back. I decided that keeping myself locked away and my Boutique closed any longer would serve no purpose, so I began to tidy up while considering the possibility of a sale to celebrate getting over my 'sickness'; only my closest friends -with the exception of Dash - were aware of my true reason for closing.
As I was cleaning, Spike entered and watched me as I puttered away. As I stopped to give him my full attention, he made small talk checking in to see how I was doing. He made an offhand comment about Summersday and I felt my face flush.
I responded to Spike with cold fury in my voice. "Summersday? That cad? Don't ever speak about him again!" I gave Spike a glare of anger. He apologized for bringing it up and left, appearing embarrassed. I could see he was grinning, though; clearly this had been a test and I appear to have passed.
The day after, I officially re-opened. The customers streamed in; apparently my temporary closure had been quite a blow to the mares of Ponyville. The sale no doubt helped as well, but I received many heartfelt well-wishes from my assorted customers.
As I finally closed for the evening, I sighed to myself with happiness and more than a touch of exhaustion. I had done more business this day then I had lost in the previous week, and it had all been due to my friends helping me out of the hole I had fallen into.
There was a tapping on my front door. I gave a slight stretch and opened the door with my magic. Spike was standing there, dressed to the nines in a tuxedo, with a scroll tucked under an arm. My eyes widened slightly at the sight of him dressed so formally and I invited Spike in.
He unfurled the scroll and cleared his throat. "Miss Rarity," he began, "I have come to..." He stopped and shook his head slightly. After a moment, he began again. "Miss Rarity, I have come to formally invite you to a party at Sugarcube Corner in your honor. I will be your escort."
I was truly charmed. "Yes, Spike," I replied, "I would be delighted. A party is just what I need right now. But before that, there's something I have to do."
I leaned down and kissed the top of Spike's frilled head. He blushed.
"That's for being there when I most needed somepony, my knight in scaled armor. I have a warm place in my heart for all of my friends, but a particularly warm place there for you." And it was true; from that day on I always made time for Spike and had a smile for him, even when simply passing him while walking through Ponyville. He was the first to come to my aid upon my return, and he brought the others to help me through my darkest hour.
Spike blushed even more deeply from the compliment and I laughed lightly.
"Now, you mentioned a party? Let's be off then!" Spike graciously held the door open for me and I followed alongside my young dragon friend.
As Spike escorted me to the party, I realise how foolish no; how stupid I had been. I had travelled from here to Summersday's mansion, hoping that there could be found the love I had felt I wanted or needed, completely unaware that upon leaving Ponyville, I had actually left it behind.
This farce with Summersday had shown me that the love born of romance could come and go or even be a lie, but love born of friendship was always there and could never be faked. The events of the last week had proven this to me.
Spike opened the door to Sugarcube Corner and my friends turned from what they were doing, all giving smiles of welcome for the 'guest of honor'. I let out a shuddering breath.
Thank you. Thank you all, my friends. Thank you, Fluttershy, for your calming influence, thank you, Pinkie, for helping me smile through the pain, thank you, Applejack, for telling me my anger was justified and for allowing me to vent that anger upon you and thank you, Twilight, for simply lending an ear and listening.
I truly do not deserve friends such as you and I am humbled. In coming to my aid, each of you have shown me the spirit I was meant to represent and I vow to show this spirit in turn. I will show my generosity towards one and all, friend and neighbor alike, for I have been remiss in this and I am both ashamed and deeply sorry. I took a deep breath, composed myself and joined them within.
The party continued long into the night.