written by Sugarberry
The lone mare walked into the terminal and looked around her as if lost; the luggage she carried was heavy, so she set it on the hard cement at her hooves and continued to peruse the ponies that passed her by. Just like my sister to be late, she griped angrily to herself. It had been a long flight from Dream Valley, and she was anxious to get to her parent's house and collapse into the caring hooves of her mother.
"Sis! Over here!" a penetrating voice called. Hydrangea grinned through her tiredness and exasperation to finally hear Primula's call. She looked in the direction of the sound and saw the pale pink mare-- with her springtime green mane and tail flowing around her as she ran down the nearest ramp-- approaching with their younger brother.
The two sisters fell into an exuberant hug as Solidago awaited his turn, and soon all three siblings were entwined in a joyful reunion. "It's been ages since you've been home!" Primula squealed. "It's so good to see you!"
"Yah," agreed Solidago. "The house has been too quiet since Prim got married."
"And just how is Carlo?" Hydrangea asked of her sister. "You haven't been nagging him too much, have you?"
"Can a wife nag too much?" Primula laughed. "He's doing just fine, but someone had to stay at the pizzeria while I came to pick you up."
"I hope I'm not being too much of a nuisance for you," Hydrangea frowned. "I could have gotten myself home alone."
Solidago picked up her luggage. "It's not a problem, Hydie. Prim never works that hard even when she's at the restaurant; Carlo won't even notice she is gone."
"That's a lie and you know it," Primula chastised her brother. "If that were the case, we wouldn't have needed to hire Hydrangea away from her little café in Dream Valley. Did Flower Bouquet take it well when you told her of your plans to return to Vulcanopolis?"
"She knew that I wasn't as fulfilled there as I thought I would be," Hydrangea admitted, "and wanted 'only what would make me smile again'."
"So you were glad to come back?" Solidago asked.
"Yes. Very glad." Hydrangea breathed deeply of the air. "It smells like home," she grinned. "Just as I remember it." The three ponies walked side-by-side down the path towards their parents' house. When they got within sight of the stucco building, Hydrangea picked up the pace.
"Slow down," complained Solidago. "These suitcases are getting heavy."
"Don't listen to him," countered Primula. "You run on ahead to greet Mom and Dad. They've been waiting for you."
Hydrangea took her sister at her word and nearly ran the final distance; the front door opened as she approached the house, and there stood her parents. "Mom! Dad! I'm home!" she called, falling into their open embrace.
"Hydrangea, we are so happy to have you come home again," her mother cried. "We've missed you so!"
"How was your trip, dear?" her father asked.
"Long, but I'm home now," Hydrangea beamed, all her tiredness fading with the joy of homecoming. By this time, Primula and Solidago had caught up to their sister.
"Need any help in the kitchen, Mom?" Primula asked, sniffing the tempting aromas coming from that room.
"Yes," Stella affirmed. "I'm baking lasagna, but we must prepare the side dishes yet." She patted Hydrangea's cheek. "Your favorite meal, daughter."
The entire family moved on to the kitchen and while dishes were prepared, Hydrangea shared her stories from Dream Valley and heard the local news of Vulcanopolis. "Carlo and I use all of Mom's great recipes at the pizzeria; that's why business is booming. No one cooks better than Mom," Primula grinned.
"And now Hydie will be a part of that," Solidago mused.
"When do you want me to start?" questioned Hydrangea.
"Carlo and I both agreed that you should have a few days to readjust to Vulcanopolis and have a chance to get together with your old friends. We won't expect you to come in until Monday morning."
"Are you sure?" Hydrangea couldn't believe her good fortune, knowing how busy things had been for her sister.
"Don't give her a chance to change her mind," teased Solidago."
By the time the meal was on the table and she had eaten her fill, Hydrangea realized how tired she was from the trip. Stella noticed her drooping spirits and led her away with a final command for the others to clean up the kitchen.
Solidago grimaced. "It's just like the old days. Hydie could always finagle her way out of doing the dishes."
Primula and Bertramino laughed. "From what I remember, you were the one who came up with the good excuses," his father stated.
"Yes, but maybe she's forgotten," the young stallion grinned.
"Your room has undergone some changes," Stella said, opening the door as on an album of memories. "I hope you like it."
Although the furniture was the same, the bed covers, curtains, and carpet were now in new patterns; Hydrangea entered and was enchanted. "It's beautiful, Mom. And I promise not to stay underhoof too long; I'll start looking for a place of my own tomorrow."
"You'll do no such thing," Stella clucked. "You are welcome to stay here. What do your dad and I need with all these empty rooms?"
Hydrangea hugged her mother. "You may change your mind once you have to put up with me for awhile."
"You will be busy at the pizzeria. We hardly ever see Carlo anymore, or Primula either. They have had their hooves full since Amico left."
"Maybe I should start to work tomorrow then," worried Hydrangea.
"You will do no such thing," Stella reprimanded. She looked her daughter over once more. "It's so good to have you back," she smiled.
"I know what you're thinking, Mom. When I left, I said I would never come back to Vulcanopolis except for visits. But I found that life in Dream Valley wasn't that much different than life back here, and I missed my family and my friends."
"Well, it is good to find such things out for yourself; now you can plan your life accordingly. That is a valuable lesson. But for now, I think you'd better get some sleep; you look like you could fall asleep on your hooves."
Once alone in her room, Hydrangea emptied her luggage and arranged her things neatly in dresser and closet. She slipped down the hall to the bathroom before crawling gratefully under the covers and found that her eyes would not close. Too many thoughts and expectations were rustling about in her mind to allow her to drift off peacefully.
Had she made the right decision to come back to Vulcanopolis? She had found her life in Dream Valley somehow unsatisfying. But what if the same thing happened here? Maybe she would grow tired of working at the pizzeria just as she had grown weary of the café.
No, I won't let that happen! Hydrangea sat up in bed and beat the pillow with her hooves. I will be successful with this new job! She rested her head in her hooves, and faced the fact that was haunting her. She had been happy during the summer when she had been dating Driftwood, and looking back she knew that she had tied her expectations to the stallion. She had learned her
lesson and wouldn't allow that to happen again. She would make it on her own merits. Only briefly did she think about befriending Giorgio; it had ended suddenly and seemed only like an illusion.
Curling up again in the snugness of the blankets, Hydrangea concentrated on the days ahead in this new year. She was back on familiar ground now, with ponies she knew and loved. She had made the right decision; she was sure of it. With visions of a rosy future, the mare was finally able to fall asleep.
* * *
The days of her time off were speeding by, but Hydrangea was enjoying every minute getting reacquainted with friends she had not seen since she had left Vulcanopolis. Her very closest confidant throughout her school days had been Elena, and soon the two mares were as close as ever.
"You must come with me to a party that Clare is giving after work on Friday; it will give you a chance to meet some very nice ponies."
"Are you sure it would be okay?" Hydrangea asked, looking forward to a chance to make some new acquaintances.
"Sure. Clare is always telling us to feel free to bring a friend and as Cisani and I both work there, we could invite two guests. Is there someone you'd like to include?"
"Not really," admitted Hydrangea. "It seems like all the stallions we went to school with are either engaged or married."
Elena laughed. "I'm sure there are a few left; the party will give you a chance to see who is available."
"Well, it does sound like fun. Sure, I'll come; maybe I'll run into someone by Friday."
Hydrangea had no idea how true her words were. It was the next day after a flurry of shopping that Hydrangea remembered to run into the market to pick up some things for her mother. Dashing around the corner of one of the displays, she collided with a dark green stallion who lifted a hoof to steady her.
"Hydrangea?" the stallion asked.
It was only after hearing his voice that Hydrangea realized who this was. "Giorgio!"
"Fancy running into you here," the stallion grinned. "What brings you to Vulcanopolis?"
"I accepted a job here," she smiled in return. "Sorry about clobbering you that way."
"I don't see a problem with a run-in with a pretty mare. How were things in Dream Valley when you left?"
"Same as ever. And what have you been up to since you came back?"
"Paying off some old debts." The stallion smiled in a depreciatory manner.
"I heard that you had some problems." It suddenly occurred to Hydrangea that Giorgio might be in need of a friend. "I've been invited to a party tomorrow evening. How would you like to come with me?"
"That sounds like fun, Hydrangea, but I have other plans. Thanks for thinking of me."
"Sure." She smiled to cover up her disappointment. "Maybe some other time."
"It was nice chatting with you. So long!"
Hydrangea watched as Giorgio left the shop; he had been polite, but she sensed that he had not been as happy to see her as she was to see him.
* * *
Friday night found Hydrangea in the company of Elena and Cisani, who worked as a designer for Clare's Creations where Elena was an accountant. "Clare likes to keep us happy with a get-together every so often," Elena explained. "She feels it is good for our morale."
"Other than you two, will there be anyone else there that I know?" Hydrangea questioned.
"Nello was in school with us," Cisani offered. "And you might remember Angela; she was a few years ahead of us."
"Angela," Hydrangea mused. "Wasn't she the pretty rose-colored filly?"
Cisani laughed. "Was, and still is. She's also Clare's right-hoof helper."
"Angela's brother, Pacificus, also works there. He's in management."
They had arrived at the restaurant where the gathering was to occur, and Cisani led the two mares into the already active setting where they were met by a chorus of greetings. Nello, who-- Hydrangea noted-- hadn't changed a bit since she had last seen him, came immediately to her side. "I heard that you had come back. I'm glad of that." The vanilla-colored stallion led her to the buffet table and got her a glass of soda. "Where are you working now?"
"As of Monday, I'll be involved with the pizzeria that my sister and her husband run... are you familiar with Pizzeria Sicily?"
"Sure! I've been there several times since they opened. The food there is great."
Elena came to direct Hydrangea to a group of ponies gathered around watching the band set up. "Hydrangea, I'd like you to meet Rita and Jacopa; they both work in manufacturing."
The mares were engaged in a lively conversation when the trilling laughter of someone coming into the room sounded; all heads turned to watch the arrival of Clare. Hydrangea observed the self-confident mare as she swept into the room; she had seen her briefly when she was in Dream Valley, but had never met her personally, and Clare had not yet made a name for herself when Hydrangea was still an inhabitant of Vulcanopolis. "She's really pretty," Hydrangea whispered to Elena. It was then that her gaze fell on the escort that followed Clare into the
room-- Giorgio. So that's what he's busy with, she thought to herself.
"Are you okay?" Cisani asked, coming up to Hydrangea. "You look upset."
"N... no... not upset. I just saw someone I had met in Dream Valley."
Cisani followed her gaze. "Oh, you must mean Giorgio. I suppose you know about the trouble he was in."
"It obviously didn't hold him down for long."
Chuckling, Cisani confided, "Clare took him under her wing after his brush with the law. He's doing okay."
Making her circuit of the room, Clare was soon approaching Elena and her friends. Elena, pulling Hydrangea behind her, went to Clare to introduce the two mares. "Clare, this is a friend of mine who has just moved back from Dream Valley. Hydrangea is going to be managing her sister's pizza house."
"Hydrangea... it's nice to meet you," Clare purred. " I hope you're enjoying the party."
Giorgio soon followed. "Hydrangea! So we meet still again!"
If Clare heard his remark or not, Hydrangea could not be sure for the lavender designer had moved on to a new group of ponies. Hydrangea smiled stiffly at Giorgio. "I had no idea that you and Clare..." She stopped suddenly when she realized how trite that sounded and found herself blushing. Giorgio only seemed to be amused at her discomfort.
"That Clare and I what?" he asked with a roguish grin.
Hydrangea was saved by the appearance of Nello. "Excuse me, Giorgio, but I have someone who wants to meet Hydie."
"Hydie?" Giorgio repeated the nickname with raised brows. "You never shared that piece of information about yourself, Hydrangea." Again he set her ill at ease.
Nello watched the exchange, then drew Hydrangea away from the stallion. "You obviously knew Giorgio before tonight."
"I met him when he was in Dream Valley. I can't see now why I was interested in him."
"That's probably a good thing. After losing Guido, I don't think Clare would take any competition too lightly. Anyway, there are a couple of ponies here who remember you from some debate club you used to be in."
After a pleasant chat with the two friends from days gone by, Hydrangea crossed paths with Elena and Cisani; the group decided to load up with some food and watch the dancing that was beginning. Nello rejoined them.
"May I have the first dance?" he queried of Hydrangea as she gazed wistfully at the couples on the dance floor.
"My pleasure," she smiled at the stallion. She found that he had become a very good dancer; and it was with regret that the music came to an end, and Nello returned her to Elena and Cisani. She later had a dance with Cisani, and several other of the stallions that worked for Clare's Creations. But all too soon she found herself alone and deserted in a quiet corner.
Glancing around to find where Elena had gone, Hydrangea instead saw Clare and Giorgio across the room, talking together. Whatever Giorgio said caused Clare to look up and focus on Hydrangea after which the two began walking in her direction. Hydrangea turned to discreetly melt away into the crowd, but literally crashed into a stallion who was standing nearby.
"Oh! I'm sorry!" Hydrangea apologized. "This is getting to be a bad habit with me." She smiled guiltily at the grey unicorn.
Pacificus returned a gentle smile. "I doubt that you have any bad habits." He looked at her in such a way as to make her feel embarrassingly self-conscious. He seemed to notice her consternation, and introduced himself. "I'm Pacificus; I saw you talking to my sister earlier."
"You're Angela's brother!" Hydrangea heard herself say, and wished she could just disappear for saying such an obvious thing.
But Pacificus responded politely. "Yes. And you are Hydrangea, newly returned to Vulcanopolis from Dream Valley."
"Yes, Elena asked me to come; she and I were always best friends when we were growing up."
"Elena is a very valuable asset to Clare's Creations. Are you interested in joining our family of employees?"
"No," Hydrangea hastily admitted while wondering if this was the only reason that the stallion was bothering to talk with her. Elena had said he was in management; was equine resources considered management? "What position do you hold with the company?" she asked.
But Pacificus seemed not to hear; his attention was focused on something... or someone... behind her. And whoever it is, Hydrangea pondered, he is enamored with her. Forgetting her original intention of avoiding Clare and Giorgio, Hydrangea looked behind her to see who had affected Pacificus in this manner and found the aforementioned couple bearing down on them.
Clare smiled graciously at Hydrangea, but directed her remarks to Pacificus. "You know how I dislike discussing business after hours, but I received a call from one of our suppliers." She drew him away with her in intense conversation, leaving Hydrangea with Giorgio. She looked around hoping that Nello was in the vicinity to rescue her, but she found that she was on her own.
When her attention came back to Giorgio, she was exasperated to see again the amused look on his face. "May I get you something from the refreshment table... Hydie?" he asked. "Or would you like to dance?"
Hydrangea found his attitude infuriating; she had liked him better as a rather enigmatic loner who frequented the Café Carousel than as this convivial playboy. "You've changed," was all she said.
"You sound as if you disapprove."
Clare interrupted them; Pacificus was no longer with her. "The two of you seem to have found something intriguing to discuss."
"Hydrangea has expressed disappointment in me since our days in Dream Valley," Giorgio grinned. Hydrangea glowered at him.
"My only comment was that he has changed," Hydrangea defended herself. "I found him much more compassionate when he and I were seeing each other," she added spitefully with a drilling glance at Giorgio.
The stallion only laughed, his eyes revealing that he enjoyed the exchange. "There are many who would say that I have changed for the better."
"I haven't seen it," Hydrangea retorted. Clare, to her credit, stood back and let the two of them settle the issue, although her attention was riveted on the altercation.
"But you will, now that we are on common ground again. You must have dinner with Clare and I some evening soon."
"I'll be busy with my career."
Clare finally found an opening. "Elena told us that you will be working at the Pizzeria Sicily; it has a wonderful reputation for the finest pizza in Vulcanopolis."
"It's my mother's recipe," Hydrangea admitted with pride.
"Then Clare and I must make a point of dining there soon," Giorgio stated, and Hydrangea allowed her anger to mellow just a bit.
The start of a new dance tune caught Clare's attention, and she excused herself and Giorgio from Hydrangea's company. "This is my favorite song; come, Giorgio."
Giorgio winked at Hydrangea before accompanying Clare to the dance floor. "Till we meet again, Hydie."
Now Nello showed up. "Let's dance."
"Where were you when I needed you?"
"Never mind. Just dance."
* * *
The weeks had settled into a routine for Hydrangea, and she grew content with her life; she no longer harbored doubts as to her decision to return to Vulcanopolis. Her work at the pizzeria filled her days, and when she wasn't at Pizzeria Sicily, she was in the company of family or friends. Nello and Dante, another stallion she had known from school, were frequent companions to the dances and social functions around the city. Rita from Clare's Creations and Dommina whom she met through a church organization had joined her circle of friends along with Elena.
Finishing up her responsibilities for the day at the pizzeria, Hydrangea was on her way out after bidding her sister goodnight when a gray stallion came from the dining area to intercept her. "Hydrangea," he smiled. "I just wanted to tell you how much my friends and I enjoyed our meal this evening."
"Hi, Pacificus. But your compliment should go to my sister, Primula. She takes care of the food; I take care of the books." She gestured to the mare busy in the kitchen. "I'll make sure to relay the message."
"Thanks. You look like you've adjusted to your homecoming well enough."
Hydrangea smiled. "Yes. I'm very happy to be home again."
"I'm glad to hear that." The stallion hesitated before continuing. "Hydrangea, there's to be a special performance of the Actor's Guild on Friday evening; I was wondering if you would like to accompany me to it."
"Oh, Pacificus, I'm sorry; but I already have plans to attend with someone else. But it was thoughtful of you to ask."
Looking somewhat downcast, Pacificus said, "That's okay. Maybe some other time. Goodnight, Hydrangea."
Hydrangea was almost out the door when Primula passed by with an order of pizza. "Who was that stallion?" she whispered. "He looked as if you had broken his heart."
"No chance, sis; he was just being considerate."
"I don't know, Hydie..."
"Forget it, Prim. I'm going home; I've got to be in early tomorrow to do the ordering." She smiled at her sister and left the pizzeria-- and any thought of Pacificus-- behind.
* * *
Coming home one evening after work, Hydrangea found Solidago ready to leave the house for a date. "Who is it tonight?" she queried.
"Toni," he replied. "We're going to the dance at the hall. Want to come along?"
Hydrangea ignored the invitation. "Toni? My, my, two dates in a row with the same filly; this must be serious!"
Solidago grinned. "Her older brother has a really cool computer game; he lets me play it when I bring Toni home."
"Oh, by the way, Mom and Dad have gone out for the evening. If you don't come with me, you'll spend the evening alone. Or is Nello coming over?"
"I haven't heard from Nello in over a week. What I want to do is look at those old school pictures Mom saved down through the years to see how many ponies I can identify. Any idea where the box is that she kept them in?"
"Get a life, Hydie!"
"I have one, thank you."
"Who wants to dig through old memories of how dorky we all looked when we were still colts and fillies?"
"You're still a colt as far as I'm concerned, baby brother."
"Well, if you are determined to punish yourself, I stuck the box upstairs in the storeroom."
"Still the same floral-patterned box?"
"Yep. But I did tape it up and put warning labels on it."
"What? Mom showed off your pictures once too often?"
"Exactly." Solidago grinned. "'Oh, what a cut little foal! Weren't you precious?'" he mimicked.
"Well, you were. What happened?"
"See? You mares are all alike. I'm out of here!" He batted her playfully on the shoulder. "See ya!"
Having the house to herself was a little disconcerting; Hydrangea had gotten used to constant activity around her, and found the quiet overwhelming especially when she opened the seldom-used storage room. It was like stepping through a time portal to an earlier period of her life as her mother neatly saved every scrap of her children's' school days and assorted hobbies.
Hydrangea peered into several boxes of mementos before buckling down to find the box of pictures which Solidago had stashed away. She finally found the remembered rose-patterned box stuck in a back corner. She drew it out and was surprised to see the neatly lettered "Private. Do not open" label on the top; she had expected a sloppy "Keep your hooves off!". She giggled; Solidago was serious about his intention to keep these pictures private.
Slitting the tape that held the lid tight, Hydrangea lifted the top off and exposed the papers inside. "These aren't the pictures," she realized, reaching a hoof into the box out of curiosity. She withdrew an official-looking envelope: The Last Will and Testament of Stella and Bertramino Calandra.
She dropped it back into the box ready to leave this avenue unexplored, when she noticed a second document tied with a pink ribbon. The stark, black letters read simply, "Adoption Papers".
"Mom or Dad never told us one of them was adopted," she mused. She picked up the paper, her curiosity getting the better of her common sense. The ribbon dropped off as she lifted the papers, and the document opened up. As if by fate, her eyes rested on the date-- it was the year of her birth.
Mesmerized by the implication, Hydrangea read the legal wording. It was involved and difficult, but the meaning was clear. Stella and Bertramino had adopted a female foal, the papers being signed only weeks after the date of Hydrangea's birth. She stared at the signatures, absorbing the information.
She found that she had no feeling, no emotion, no surprise. It was as if she was experiencing this scenario from a distance, from someone else's view. Somehow, it didn't involve her; she was immune.
How long she stared at this startling information, Hydrangea had no idea. But she eventually realized the need to move, to react. She refolded the paper, slipped the ribbon over it, replaced it in the box, and closed the lid. She put the box back in the corner and tried to put her newfound knowledge away as easily. She walked to the door, and now saw the box that she had come for behind the door; she picked it up and carried it to the living room.
Dropping onto the sofa, she curled up, resting her head against the back, the box of pictures sitting unopened beside her. "Memories..." she mumbled. "I went searching for memories, not a revelation." Her only wish was that she had gone to the dance with Solidago.
* * *
Darkness had settled down over the house when Stella and Bertramino returned home, so it was a surprise to Bertramino when he flipped on the lights to see Hydrangea on the couch. "Honey, are you okay?" he asked in concern, going to her side.
Hydrangea managed to smile, but did not respond. Bertramino put a hoof on her forehead. "Are you ill?"
Stella, putting her hat and purse away in the closet heard the concern in Bertramino's voice; her motherly ears always open to potential problems, she hurried to the couch. "What is it, Hydrangea? Something is wrong!"
Feeling guilty for having accessed private information, Hydrangea searched for a way to reveal to her parents what was troubling her. She finally realized that the best way was to come right out with it. "I was looking for the old school pictures, and I found a box that I recognized; but it wasn't what I was searching for after all. It had your legal papers in it." She stopped and
looked from Bertramino to Stella. "I found out that I am adopted."
Stella looked to Bertramino for guidance, then sat down next to her daughter and took her daughter's hoof in her own. Her father sat on the arm of the couch on the other side of her. "And how do you feel about it?" Stella asked, her voice trembling.
"Right now I only feel numb," Hydrangea admitted. "I've been sitting here thinking back over the remembrances of the years trying to pinpoint any occurrence that might have been an indication to me that I was adopted, but there is nothing that you two ever did that set me apart from Primula and Solidago. You always loved us equally."
"Always," Bertramino stated softly. "You were our daughter from the moment we first saw you, so tiny and helpless and vulnerable."
"I'd like to hear that story," Hydrangea said in a hushed voice.
It was Stella who began the retelling of the events that brought the newborn blue pegasus to their care. "Your father and I had not had any foals born to us, so we had applied for adoption. But before a foal became available, Primula was born and we had no need for the agency's services. Then one day when Primula was about a year old, we received a call from the agency saying that they had a special needs foal that required immediate placement, and they had thought of us when their files could not locate a family who could take her in."
"Your mother called me at work and said we had to meet with the counselor at the adoption agency in one hour; I dropped what I was doing, and we rushed over to meet the little beauty who stole our hearts immediately," Bertramino took over. "Because you were born prematurely, you needed extra-special care; and we knew that we couldn't let you down. We received custody of you immediately, and brought you into our home as if you had been born to us. Primula wasn't old enough to question the appearance of a baby sister out of the blue, and in our minds and hearts you were our daughter, so we never told her otherwise."
"So my birth parents... did you meet them?"
"No. We were only told that there were circumstances that made it necessary for them to give up their daughter. The agency had the necessary papers signed by the mother giving up her rights to you, but we were never given any identifying information about the identity of either your mother or your father."
"So you have no idea who they were?"
"None whatsoever," Stella confirmed. "There was never a moment when we didn't consider ourselves your parents. We have thanked them every day in our hearts; wherever they are, I like to think that they know you were well taken care of."
"It's a bit unsettling," Hydrangea murmured, "knowing that out there somewhere are two ponies who gave me life, and I don't even know who they are."
* * *
Coming to terms with her new-found information, Hydrangea often pondered over the limited facts she had; but she didn't allow it to interfere with her life or her work. Primula and Solidago had been told the truth about their sister, and had accepted it as an irrelevant factor that didn't change anything. As a family, they decided not to reveal the news to any one else at the present time, allowing Hydrangea to adjust to the disclosure. But for Hydrangea, the unanswered questions often haunted her.
It was during this time of adjustment that she received a telephone call from Pacificus. After the usual small talk, he came to the point of his call. "Hydrangea, I was wondering if you would have dinner with me Friday evening."
"Friday evening?" Hydrangea stalled for time as she tried to think of a legitimate excuse not to accept the invitation. But it dawned on her that maybe it would be beneficial for her to talk with someone who, not knowing her present dilemma, could take her mind off her troubles for awhile. "That would be great," she responded.
She smiled as Pacificus set the time; he sounded as if he had not expected her to accept his invitation, and his voice stuttered as he bid her goodbye.
By Friday evening, she was having doubts as to the wisdom of dining with a stallion who had not made much of an impression with her, but her mother mildly scolded her for even thinking of treating him shoddily. So it was with a happy countenance that Hydrangea met her date at the door and accompanied him to De Vico's for a very fine meal.
She was pleasantly surprised to find that the two of them had many interests in common; and as the evening progressed, Hydrangea found herself wondering why she had ever considered this particular stallion dull. She was genuinely disappointed when the repast was over, and there was no longer any way to delay their departure.
It was only on their way out of the dining room that Hydrangea caught sight of Clare and Giorgio seated at a table directly on their route. She stiffened as she saw Giorgio's glance fall on them, and prepared herself for more of his remarks; she was not disappointed.
He got to his hooves as they approached, and met her with a fond hug. "Hydie! It's so good to see you again." Then with a brief look in Pacificus' direction and a even briefer greeting, his attention once more centered on Hydrangea. "You look lovely, as always."
"And you and Clare seem to be having a lovely evening as well," she retorted as Pacificus and Clare shared some small talk before Pacificus guided her away from the twosome and out the door.
Pacificus seemed somewhat uncommunicative for several minutes before breaking the silence. "I feel the need to admit to you, Hydrangea, that I had a schoolboy crush on Clare since we were in design school together; for her part, she barely knew I existed." He smiled ruefully at the thought before going on to tell her of his attempt to copy Clare's work to earn enough jangles to pay off a medical debt incurred by his mother through a serious illness, and Clare's surprising hiring of him even after uncovering his plan. "That only strengthened my feelings for her," he admitted. "I had hoped that she would return my interest... but she did not."
"And Giorgio came along to win her affection," Hydrangea finished for him. They walked in silence for a time before Hydrangea confessed her former attachment to Giorgio. "I dated him for a short time before he left Dream Valley; I suppose he needed someone completely unconnected to his dealings to talk to occasionally." She found herself feeling guilty for doing the same thing.
"So maybe we can put those two behind us now," Pacificus suggested as they reached the house.
Hydrangea smiled. "Very easily, I would think."
* * *
"Mom, Dad, I've decided I'd like to find out more about my birth parents; I've made an appointment to talk with Petula at the adoption agency this afternoon." Hydrangea searched the faces of her parents to determine their thoughts. For her part, the weeks of wondering needed answers.
"You are ready to face whatever you can find out?" Stella asked.
"I think so," Hydrangea responded. "But I want you to understand that this in no way affects the love I have for the two of you."
Bertramino came to her side and rested his hoof on her shoulder. "Nor does it affect the love we have for you, Hydrangea." He leaned and kissed her gently on the forehead.
When the scheduled time came, Hydrangea approached the building that housed the adoption agency with hesitant steps. Was she really ready to uncover the truth about her past? This action was frightening but necessary; she knew she would never be fully at peace until she had at least made an effort to trace her roots.
Petula, a take-charge personality, greeted Hydrangea with a welcome smile. "Please sit down," she offered, indicating a comfortable chair. Petula positioned herself behind the desk, resting her forelegs on the arms of her chair. "What can I do to help you?"
"I've recently discovered that I was adopted," Hydrangea began. "These are the papers my adoptive parents signed." She handed the official papers across the desk to Petula. "I was hoping that you could tell me something about the two ponies who were my birth parents."
Petula opened the parchment, taking her time to fully read the information presented.
"You obtained this from your parents?" she asked when she finally looked up from her perusal of the document.
"And they know of your desire to locate your birth parents?"
"Yes, they do. And they approve."
"Be that as it may, the fact remains that our adoption files are closed, Hydrangea. That means that the confidential information that we have cannot, without a very good reason, be revealed to anyone."
"I understand that, but couldn't you at least give me some sort of background information that would help me to picture what they were like or why they gave me up? It is not important to know their names, but I would like to know the circumstances of their lives."
"I'm sorry, Hydrangea, but our rules are in place to provide privacy and confidentiality to both the birth parents and the adoptive parents. If we made exceptions in every case, we wouldn't be upholding our responsibility."
"So you can't even tell me if they were rich or poor, or if they lived in the city or the country, happily married or not?"
"No, Hydrangea. Again, I'm very sorry, but that's the way it is."
* * *
"So how did your date with Pacificus go last night?" Primula questioned nosily of her sister as they worked over some of the pizzeria invoices in the office of Pizzeria Sicily.
"The symphony was great!" Hydrangea responded.
"That's not what I asked."
Hydrangea grinned. "Well, if you must know, both of us enjoyed ourselves very much. After the performance, we ate at Coppoli's, that new restaurant along the river."
"We both had fish."
"Hydrangea, you're impossible!" Primula exploded.
Carlo, who happened to walk in at that moment, raised his eyebrows questioningly. "What's going on in here? Is our manager attempting to thwart the owner's whims?" He winked at Hydrangea.
"She refuses to discuss her date with Pacificus," Primula pouted.
Carlo laughed. "I'm with Hydrangea on this one, Prim. And if that's all you have to do with your time, you can come and help me set up the tables for lunch." He gently directed his wife toward the door.
But Primula wasn't to be stopped so easily. "Did he kiss you?" she threw back at Hydrangea, clutching the door frame with her hoof as Carlo tried futilely to move her along.
"It's none of your business; but no, he didn't."
* * *
Once more Hydrangea walked up the steps to the adoption agency. She had called Petula again, and this time the mare had seemed more cooperative. Hydrangea hoped that she would come away from this encounter with some solid information.
Petula greeted her with a bright smile. Once they were seated, she leaned back and surveyed Hydrangea before speaking. "Stella and Bertramino came to see me, and they asked me to reconsider my decision that I gave you when we first talked."
"Mom and Dad came here to see you?"
"Your adoptive parents are wonderful ponies, Hydrangea. They were rather persuasive in their arguments on your behalf."
"So... you can tell me something about my birth parents?"
"I opened your file, yes. It was a very brief affidavit verifying all the necessary legal information; however, the sheet containing the names of your birth parents was missing."
"Missing? You mean a part of my file is gone?"
"Gone, or never entered in the first place. This happened many years ago, before I came to work for the agency. For whatever reason, your birth parents are not named on the document."
"So there is nothing you can tell me?"
Petula smiled. "Now you are jumping to a conclusion. I don't have the names, but I do have a few facts about their life. If I remember correctly, you had stated previously that you would be satisfied to know only a few circumstances about them, something to give you some idea of what their life must have been like."
"Yes. Anything will be better than not knowing a single thing."
"Okay, Hydrangea. Here goes! It appears that your birth parents did not have the finances to raise a foal, especially one who needed special medical care because of your premature delivery."
"They were that poor?"
"It also appears that your mother was physically unable to care for a foal on her own; that would have necessitated further expense."
"Poor and ill, too?" Hydrangea felt like a parrot mimicking Petula's words, but found her emotions running too high to think clearly.
"And on top of it all, your father was away at the time you were born; I would imagine your mother was faced with these weighty decisions without any support close at hoof."
"Poor, ill, and alone?" Hydrangea was totally at a loss for words. She had prepared herself for the worst, but finding now that her mother had been in such dire straits proved no comfort to her unanswered questions. Now she would have the constant worry as to what had become of the mare and stallion who had no choice but to give up their daughter because life had not been kind to them.
"Hydrangea, are you going to be okay?" Petula asked, coming around the desk to sit next to the dazed pegasus. "Would you like me to call someone who could walk you home?"
"No... no, I'll be okay. Could I just sit here for a few minutes until I can put this into perspective?"
"Sure," Petula patted Hydrangea's hoof. "Take all the time you need."
As Petula returned to her desk to file the papers in their proper place, Hydrangea thought of one more question. "Would you know, was my mother a pegasus like me?"
"It was never mentioned one way or another."
"I wonder what she looked like," Hydrangea mused, trying to picture the mare that had given birth to her. "I wonder what my father felt when he came home without having seen his daughter."
"I wish I could answer all your questions, Hydrangea. But the truth is that at this point in time, no one knows. The window was shut on those facts by whoever decided to leave the birth parents completely out of the picture. It may have been their request to preserve anonymity. You have to respect that."
Hydrangea stared bleakly out the window. "You are right, of course. I got what I came for." She stood up and bid goodbye to Petula. "Thanks for helping me."
"Now, Hydrangea, it is time to help yourself. Let go of the past and hang on to the family that has nurtured you since your birth."
"I can't promise on the first part, but you can be sure that my family will never have a doubt as to my love for them." She smiled, and went forth to live up to her responsibilities.
* * *
"Things are beginning to look serious between you and Pacificus, Hydie," Solidago teased as the two siblings helped clean up the kitchen after supper. "That stallion has all the markings of a love-sick puppy dog."
"Solidago!" his mother rebuffed him with a stern look.
But Hydrangea only laughed. "It's no worse than you and Toni; and at least I have the satisfaction of knowing Pacificus really likes me and not some stupid computer game!"
"Love is blind," Solidago countered.
"And so it should be," Stella interjected, "or there would be no chance for the continuation of the pony race."
"Yes, but Hydie has only eyes for Pacificus anymore. Nello keeps asking about her, and I have to keep telling him that she spends every spare moment with his boss. Boring!"
"Sometimes your attitude reminds me of Giorgio," Hydrangea asserted. "Whenever I meet him, he ends up tormenting me somehow... just like you, baby brother."
"Well, Hydie, think about it. Can you be sure he isn't your brother?"
Hydrangea gasped, and Stella put her hoof down hard. "That's enough, young man!"
"But it's true. Just think of the ponies Hydie could be related to!"