Left in the Lurch (or Rather, the Church)
written by Tabby

“Where could he be?” cried a tearful Sparkler, pacing back and forth in the front of the church. “Oh, what if he had an accident or something? I know something dreadful has happened!”

“Not to Butch; maybe to you,” Sundance, Sparkler’s prospective sister-in-law, mumbled inaudibly in the background. As Butch’s sister, she knew him the best of any of them there, and she had an uneasy feeling that her sibling was up to his old tricks again.

“Now, Sparkler, dear,” her mother said consolingly, straightening her daughter’s veil. “I’m sure it’s nothing serious; don’t fret yourself sick. He’ll come strolling in any second now.” Even she could not help the little gleam of worry that came into her eyes, though.

The rest of the wedding party was growing uneasy as well. “Shouldn’t we send someone to look for him?” Sparkler’s sister, Glimmer, spoke up timidly.

All of them there had been looking forward to this last Saturday in May ever since Butch and Sparkler’s engagement had been announced only several weeks earlier. The couple had opted for a small, intimate ceremony with only a few of their closest friends and family present; most citizens would not be aware of the marriage until the couple had left town on their honeymoon. Though the wedding was small and planning time short, Sparkler felt that it was going to be the happiest day of her life. Until now.

“Wigwam and Vanguard already left to check out his cabin,” Sundance reminded Glimmer.

“I’m sure he just forgot, or something,” Sparkler babbled a little incoherently. “I mean, a wedding could slip his mind, couldn’t it, even his own? How long have they been gone? I’m sure he’ll be with them when they come back. He couldn’t forget today.” No one could bring themselves to speak, or even think, of a possible jilting.

It seemed an eternity of time before Vanguard and Wigwam trudged back from their trip into the Dark Forest. “There’s not a sign of him,” Wigwam said grimly. “Everything’s locked and sealed up tight. It’s obvious he did leave.”

“The salsa shop!” Sparkler broke out. “Did you check there?”

Vanguard shook his head. “We did, but there was nothing to be seen. It’s closed for today, like he said it would be.”

“What if he was injured somewhere along the way?” Sparkler asked pleadingly. “Wait-- we could call the hospital! Make sure he wasn’t admitted!”

Sparkler’s cousin had a cellphone on him and made the call, but the results were negative. Butch, or anyone of his description, had not been admitted to the hospital.

“Could the police help?” Sparkler’s mother, growing increasingly worried herself, added. “If he’s missing...”

“It’s still not time for the ceremony,” Wigwam noted. “Let’s not bother them until we’re absolutely certain he’s not coming.”

At this Sparkler broke down sobbing, and for the next half hour her female attendants were kept busy trying to console her. By this time it was certainly past the accepted time for the groom to arrive, and everyone grimly agreed that it was time to seek outside help. Sparkler insisted on going to the police station along with Wigwam and Vanguard, and carefully took off her veil and entrusted it to the care of her mother until they returned. “With Butch,” she said confidently, but with a doubting look in her eye.

At the station, Chief Tawny himself received the trio. “Miss Sparkler, we’ve been trying to notify you,” he said grimly. “We have some bad news to break to you.”

“Oh no-- Butch!” Sparkler cried. “How-- what happened? Is he okay? Where is he? I knew something had happened!”

“Did you know what he was planning?” Tawny looked up at her sharply.

“Well-- he was planning on marrying me today, of course!”

“We don’t know his whereabouts,” Tawny shook his head, “but we’re seeking him out for arrest. You see, your store was robbed early this morning, Sparkler.”

“My-- store?” Sparkler gasped. “But Butch--”

“Around three AM this morning, someone entered your jewelry shop at the mall and cleared out most of the goods.”

“But-- it was closed today,” Sparkler said weakly.

“And someone took advantage of the opportunity,” Tawny said. “There was no sign of a breaking and entering, so the thief obviously gained entrance with a key. How many ponies have access to that key, Sparkler?”

“Well... I have one, of course, and the mall manager... and I gave one to my fiancé Butch, too. Oh!” Her eyes flew open wide as she began to comprehend where this was leading. “You can’t possibly suspect him!”

“It was a well-planned job; the thief didn’t trigger any alarms, and it was some time before the security guard noticed anything amiss. After a check of the security cameras, we found that the robber matched Butch’s description exactly. ”

“But he wouldn’t!” Sparkler said emphatically. “We were to be married today, but he hasn’t shown up; and I’m dreadfully worried something may have happened to him.”

“I’m sorry, Sparkler, but obviously his attentions towards you were all just a ploy to help him get the goods. I assure you, my men are all scouring the city for him, but I’m afraid you won’t be seeing him except behind jail bars for quite some time.”

“NO!!!!” Sparkler screamed hysterically. “You’re wrong; you must be! Listen to me, Butch didn’t do it! He didn’t, he didn’t, he didn’t...”

“If you’ll come with me, Sparkler, we’d like to ask you a few questions as well,” Tawny added. Realizing he was serious, Sparkler tried to calm down enough so that only a few sniffles escaped. Though this was a great shock, she was usually a very composed pony and tried to show that face to the best advantage. Nevertheless, Wigwam stayed with her while Vanguard headed back to the church to break the news to the bridal party.

* * *

For the thousandth time, Sparkler read the note Butch had left for her slipped under her doormat. The police had uncovered it after a thorough check of Sparkler’s house; for awhile they had been concerned that Sparkler may have been an accomplice in Butch’s robbery, but she was at least cleared of that; and she was allowed to keep the note in her possession. Sparkler still couldn’t believe it, that Butch had used her like that. But obviously he had. It had been a week since the horrendous incident, and the police hadn’t found a trace of Butch. Even though her name had been cleared, the empty feeling in her heart didn’t leave her, at least not yet. She kept reading Butch’s letter, hoping it wouldn’t say what it did, but it never changed.

Hey Sparkler,

Really sorry to break up our plans like this, but there wasn’t any other way. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked you, but your life just isn’t the one for me. Besides, I’ve been wanting to go home for awhile and check up on things; plus there’s a girl I left there that I just can’t get out of my mind. I needed funds for the trip and all, so I helped myself to some of your store goods-- I’ll try to pay you back some day. Well, that’s all. Butch.

Sparkler stood up and walked over to the window. No matter how badly Butch had hurt her, she had to move on in her life. It might seem hard to bear now, but she would learn to cope. And however guilty Butch was, she couldn’t help but feel that he had a good heart under all his contrary actions, and she still felt compassion for the stallion that had broken her heart. “Good luck, Butch,” she whispered, a lone tear dripping down her cheek.

Butch will return!

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