The evening promised to be entertaining, Tabby thought. She had invited Spike, Friendly, and Clever Clover over to her house so they could watch a certain Godzilla movie in Spike’s collection. Tabby had been quite distraught to learn that she had somehow missed the initial viewing of this particular movie, in which Godzilla fought a giant crustacean monster!
Godzilla movies were always so funny! All four of them laughed hysterically as Godzilla and the giant lobster tossed rocks back and forth at each other. It was so ridiculous and corny! Tabby loved it, even if she thought she was going to die laughing.
Suddenly, a voice intruded on the foursome’s raucous laughter. “Oh, Tabby, am I interrupting?”
And then the spell was broken. Tabby automatically clapped her mouth shut, even as Godzilla made a particularly ridiculous move, scrambled up from her seat, and turned her back on the television screen. “Why, of course not, Caprice! How are you tonight? Did you need me for something?”
“Oh, it’s nothing important,” Tabby’s mother-in-law shook her head. “I’m sorry I barged in like this. It’s just that I found one of Faline’s dolls she had left behind at our house and I thought she might miss it.” So saying, Caprice held out the sparkly-haired princess My Little Person which was on of Faline’s favorites.
“How kind and thoughtful of you!” Tabby enthused, steering Caprice out of the room. “Faline will be exceedingly grateful. Is there anything I can get you while you’re here? Something to drink, at least?”
“Oh, no, that’s fine,” Caprice said, embarrassed to be made so much of. “I really just dropped in quick to return it. You don’t have to leave your friends. Really, I’ll just let myself out again- ”
“That’s fine,” Tabby brushed it off. “I was about to get away from all the noise anyway. It’s a very vulgar display, actually. I fail to see what those friends of mine see in movies like that.” Tabby shook her head in exasperation. “But anyway. Can I get you a glass of water or anything? A slice of cake? Just sit down here and I’ll be right back.”
Caprice sighed and acquiesced, seeing as there was little else she could do as Tabby hurried off.
* * *
“Thomas, do you have a minute?” Caprice tentatively peered into the study where her son was to be found.
“Well, of course, Mom,” Thomas said, setting a book aside. “What’s on your mind?”
“It’s just that she- oh, she acts so differently for me and Dietrich than when she’s with her friends,” Caprice sighed. “She’s so dutiful, and kind, and thoughtful; but I feel that she’s going out of her way to impress us. She’s not quite normal with us, is she?”
“No, she’s not,” Thomas shook his head. “So you’ve noticed, too.”
“She never talks about her hobbies, or interests, or anything,” Caprice continued to fret. “In fact, I’m given the impression she’s going out of her way to hide them because she’s embarrassed of what we’d think. Why does she think she has to be so perfect for us?”
“She’s in awe of you and Dad. She just doesn’t realize it.”
“In awe of us? But why?” Caprice said, puzzled.
“My own fault, I suppose,” Thomas said ruefully. “In her eyes, at least, I made the two of you out to be larger-than-life characters.”
“Oh, dear! I don’t want her to feel like that!” Caprice fretted. “There must be something we can do. I know she’s a lovely pony, but I want to get to know her better for herself, not for what she thinks I’d be pleased with!”
“Give her time,” Thomas said inanely. Even to his own ears, it sounded lame. Tabby was a difficult one to figure out...
* * *
Agatha was quite comfortably ensconced on the sofa with Faline on her lap, showing her granddaughter pictures from the latest fashion magazine. “See, you’ll notice that hairstyles like this are very in this season.” She pointed to the model on the cover. “And this issue unveils the new designs by Tremane! Just wait until Grandma shows you those! He is an absolute artist when it comes to fashion. Why, I was lucky enough to secure one of his designer originals, which I had to pay quite a premium for; but I’m sure you’ll agree it was worth it...”
“Is it sparkwy, Gramma?” asked Faline, getting to the crux of the matter.
“Well, no, but its somewhat muted appearance only accentuates its true inner beauty of design.”
“Oh.” Faline quickly lost interest and flipped to the next page. “Ooh! That’s sparkwy.”
Agatha looked at the photo and frowned. “Well, yes, it is; but that’s one of Simen’s designs, and I’ve never cared very much for his work. His quality has always been very inferior, in my opinion. Here, maybe you’ll think more of Mirabella’s new collection.”
Just then a draft of cold air blew in which signified more visitors to the mansion. A beige unicorn swept into the living room and announced her presence. “Faline, sweetie! Come and see what Grandma got you!”
Faline scrambled off Agatha’s lap in record time, in the process crumpling the magazine, and ran to meet her much-more-recently-acquired grandmother. “Gramma!” she squealed. “You’re visitin’, twoo?”
“Yes, we’ve been invited to dinner,” Caprice said, hugging Faline. “And look what I have for you!” She held out a cuddly plush kitty with a red bow around its neck.
Faline’s appetite for plush cats to add to her steadily growing collection never abated, so she accepted the latest offering with glee. “Thank ‘ou,” she said sweetly.
Caprice patted her head affectionately. “And what have you been busy with, little Faline?”
“Yes,” Agatha spoke-up crisply from the sofa, trying to straighten the magazine pages. “Faline and I were just going over the latest fashions together.” A tiny bit more emphasis was placed on the last word, together.
Caprice noticed Agatha’s presence in the room. “Sister!” she said effusively, throwing her forelegs around Agatha in a welcoming hug. “How are you?”
“Just fine, Caprice,” Agatha said through gritted teeth. Sister, indeed! Just because they were distantly related through marriage, that hussy thought she could refer to her in such a familiar term- and steal so much time away spent with her one and only granddaughter!
“I’m so glad!” Caprice beamed. “This family dinner was such a nice idea. By the way, where is Tabby? I want to thank her again for that lovely dessert she sent over yesterday.”
“I believe she’s in the kitchen preparing the meal,” Agatha said crisply.
“Wonderful! I’ll see if she needs any help. Faline, do you want to come with me?”
“Okway,” Faline said agreeably, trotting along with Caprice. Agatha was left fuming in their wake.
* * *
“Oh dear! It’s burned!” Tabby looked with dismay at the mushroom sauce boiling on the stove. “It was so luxurious, too! I wonder...” But hearing approaching hoofsteps, she quickly slammed a cover down on top of the offending food item. “Oh... oh! You’re here already, Caprice?”
“Yes, we just arrived,” Caprice beamed. “Dinner smells lovely! Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Oh, no!” Tabby said emphatically, shaking her head. “I have everything under control. Why don’t you sit down and relax?”
“Are you sure? I could set the table- ”
Tabby looked scandalized at the mere suggestion. “Of course not! No, you don’t have to do anything. Believe me.”
Caprice frowned slightly. “I wish you’d let me do something sometimes, Tabby! I feel so guilty taking advantage of your hospitality and giving nothing back in return. Why, you won’t even accept rent payments from us for use of your old house-“
”Think nothing of it,” Tabby assured her, pushing her back into the living room. “I don’t mind at all. As long as you’re happy...”
“Of course, Dietrich and I have been very happy since we came here, and you’ve made us so very welcome! But we’re not incapable of pulling our own weight. If you’d just let us...”
Faline, growing impatient with the conversation, started tugging on Caprice’s hoof herself. “Come on, Gwamma! Me show you the Furbys!”
“Yes, that’s a good idea, Faline,” Tabby said in a tone that brooked no arguments. She was off again back to the kitchen before Caprice could protest further. Caprice sighed and let herself be led off by Faline.
* * *
Catering hoof-and-hoof to other ponies was not Tabby’s usual way; but where Thomas’ parents were involved, she was all solicitude. If she had stopped to analyze her feelings, she would have seen that it was as Thomas had theorized, that they were the object of a sort of hero worship to her. Before they had been recovered, Thomas had spoken so often of them, and in such glowing terms, that it seemed wrong to not treat them with the utmost best she could offer. So of course her in-laws could reside rent free in her old house next to Sugarberry’s which she hadn’t gotten around to selling yet. Of course she had to personally see to anything they might require while in her presence. She was to be at their service, not the other way around.
At first Dietrich and Caprice had been flattered by their daughter-in-law’s devotion, but they quickly came to realize that such an obsession on Tabby’s part was not a desirable trait. Tabby put so much energy into being perfect when she was around them that they really couldn’t get to know her true self. For some time now they had been trying to prod her out of this mind-set, but to no avail. Tabby was entirely steadfast in her convictions, and it didn’t seem that there was anything anyone could do to change it.
* * *
If there was suppressed tension in the air during dinner, no one mentioned it. But afterwards, after they had removed to the living room for some light conversation, tempers started flaring out of control.
On one side of the room, Dietrich and Hubert had involved themselves in another quarrel, this time over the reasonableness of the hypothesis that the Loch Ness Monster was a prehistoric beast and not a simple sea otter. The rivalry between the two stallions had sparked quite early on in their acquaintance, when Hubert had remarked on the mystic jewel of the Yetis which Dietrich had been fortunate to see during his and Caprice’s captivity on the South Pacific Island.
“Imagine, having seen the Tlawma Jewel of the Yetis!” Tabby’s father had innocently commented upon meeting Dietrich for the first time and learning of his escapades. “Legends of its magic powers abound, but no pony has ever seen it- besides you, of course.”
Dietrich had laughed. “Oh, it’s flashy, all right; but I wouldn’t attribute any ‘magic powers’ to it. It’s just the object of some primates’ primitive tribal ceremony.”
Hubert was shocked. “Surely you can’t speak so lightly of it! And besides, the Yetis are not a ‘primitive’ people! Why, they have one of the most advanced cultures in the world. Their temples in the Himalayas are at the height of achievement, and their meditation techniques are unparalleled anywhere.”
“Over-romanticized monkeys is all they are,” Dietrich had countered.
Hubert was shocked. “ Yetis, ‘over-romanticized monkeys’? That’s like saying the flying saucer men are simply- simply- men!”
“Oh, you believe in flying saucer men, too?”
Hubert had bristled. “Of course! Who doesn’t?”
“Myself, for one,” Dietrich had maintained stubbornly. “I don’t hold with supermarket tabloid material.”
“Supermarket tabloid material, is that what you call my studies! Why, if you had seen half the things I have-“
Needless to say, the two hadn’t been on very friendly terms with each other ever since, even though their relations brought them together frequently enough. Invariably, whenever they were in each other’s company, a disagreement broke out. Thomas’ truth-seeking reporter father and Tabby’s eccentric myth and mystery researcher father did not mix.
And then there was Caprice and Agatha. Caprice had embraced all members of her daughter-in-law’s family with open hooves, thrilled to have family again after so many years of isolation. And Agatha, who had been quite content being one of the main fixtures in dear little Faline’s life, resented having to suddenly share her granddaughter with an encroaching newcomer. But whatever derogatory remarks Agatha might make to the beige unicorn rolled right off of her; Caprice was oblivious to any insult. That made it perhaps even more frustrating to Agatha than if her subtle barbs were returned.
This evening, Agatha thought to rub it in a bit that Faline was hers first and foremost- after Tabby, at least. And even that was questionable. “I’m so looking forward to taking Faline to the New Year fashion show on Thursday. Such a precocious thing, she already has quite an eye for fashion!”
Caprice blinked. “This Thursday? New Year’s Day? Oh, but Tabby told me she and Faline were both free that day. I was going to have them over and show them my old photo albums. And we were going to bake cookies and- ”
“Oh,” said Agatha smoothly. “That’s unfortunate that you’ll have to change your plans. Another day, perhaps.”
“Just when did my daughter give you this permission?” Agatha said, somewhat haughtily.
“Why, it was just yesterday when we planned it.”
Agatha looked smug. ”Well, then, that settles it. Whatever my daughter may have said to you is beside the point, since I made my bid for Faline’s time much earlier than that.”
“Oh well, it’s no problem,” Caprice said cheerily. “I’ll just come with you! We can both watch Faline.”
“I really don’t need the help. She’s such a well-behaved little darling. But if you need help controlling her-”
“Oh, that’s not a problem, but I like having as much time with her as possible. I’ve already missed three years with her, you know,” Caprice smiled. “Surely you understand that.”
“Well, I’m afraid you will just have to wait for another time, since the fashion show is booked solid and I couldn’t possibly fit you in on my ticket,” Agatha continued.
“Oh dear, you’re sure?”
“Positive. It’s quite a popular event, you know. The tickets sell out quickly.”
“Then I suppose I will have to wait,” Caprice conceded.
“Yes,” smiled Agatha.
“Of course,” Caprice perked up, “Tabby did say, too, she’d need my help watching Faline when she went shopping on Friday.”
“What?! She asked you?!” Agatha gasped.
“That doesn’t conflict with your plans, does it?”
“We-e-e-ell...” Agatha drew the word out as long as she could while trying to determine a feasible sounding excuse. How dare Tabby overlook her own mother and turn the care of her daughter over to this- this- interloper! “Tabitha!” she raised her voice irritably. “Come over here.”
Tabby trotted over obediently. “Yes, Mother?”
“Tell me, dear, what your plans for this Friday are.”
“Oh, shopping, of course!”
“And what will you do with Faline?”
“Faline adores shopping. She’ll come with me.”
“And won’t you need someone to help keep an eye on her?”
“Well, that’s why I invited Caprice to come along,” Tabby beamed. “You can come too, y’know.”
“Well!” Agatha huffed, crossing her forelegs. “I suppose I’d better do that, then, just to make sure nothing untoward happens.”
“Oh...” said Tabby vaguely, picking up on undertones of hostility. “Okay... I think.”
“Perhaps Elaine will come also, and we’ll all have a lovely girls’ day out!” Caprice said exuberantly.
Agatha sniffed. “Really, Caprice, must you try to turn everything into a large party? There is such a thing as one-on-one bonding, you know. Like between me and Faline.”
Caprice immediately looked abashed. “I’m sorry, Agatha. I didn’t mean to encroach-“
”Encroach!” Agatha repeated in haughty tones. “Encroach! Caprice, dear, you’ve done nothing but encroach since I’ve known you!”
“I didn’t know-“ Caprice looked close to tears.
“Mom,” Tabby interjected warningly.
“Well, now you do,” Agatha snapped. “Faline is my granddaughter first and foremost, and I’ll thank you to remember that. You’ll never hold as important a place in her heart as I do.”
“I’m sorry- I never realized- I thought- oh, Agatha, I never meant to hurt you!” Now Caprice really was crying. “I didn’t think it was hurting anyone to spend time with Faline-“
”Mom!” Tabby said with more authority this time, stomping her hoof and rounding on Agatha. “That was uncalled for! What is the matter with you?! Apologize this instant!” Tabby was as shocked as Caprice and also very, very angry.
“Tabitha!” Agatha gasped. “You are taking Caprice’s side?”
“Well, of course I am! You’re being ridiculous. Caprice has as much right to Faline as you do.”
“I never thought I would hear such words from my very own daughter,” Agatha said angrily. “Caprice has taken you away from me too, I see!”
“Oh, please don’t fight because of me,” Caprice pleaded with them, wringing her hooves in dismay.
“Caprice has nothing to do with this. It’s your own attitude! You don’t have exclusive rights to Faline, you know, even if you’ve been used to it for the past three years,” Tabby continued, heedless of Caprice. “I can’t believe you’re acting like this!”
“And I can’t believe my daughter is such a traitor to her own family! You switched your alliances over quickly enough. I have never felt so ill-used in my life!”
“Hello! I’m only being fair. You may have been spoiled since she was born, but the fact of the matter is that Dietrich and Caprice have exactly the same measure of right to Faline as do you and Dad!”
The family get-together was quickly getting out of hoof. While the three mares were thus occupied, Dietrich and Hubert’s debate had developed into a similarly unpleasant exchange of words. Thomas’ attempts to placate them fell on deaf ears. The mares were so absorbed in their own spat that they didn’t realize what the stallions were up to until Faline’s name was brought up.
“...and I’m really not happy with you filling my granddaughter’s head with this sort of trash all the time!”
“It is not trash! And I’ll have you remember that she’s my granddaughter, too; and if I think it’s important that she learn about these lost civilizations, I darn well won’t stop!”
“I agree,” Agatha said frigidly from opposite them, not knowing the exact terms of the argument but wanted to side against Dietrich nonetheless. “You have no right to dictate our hold over Faline!”
“Oh, please, let’s all stop fighting!” Caprice continued to insist. “Can’t we all just get along?”
“I will not stop fighting, Caprice, when the well-being of our granddaughter’s mind is at stake,” Dietrich said vehemently, glaring pointedly at Hubert.
“Mom is right,” Thomas interjected, the only rational one left. “This has got to stop. We’re all overwrought and we’ll end up saying things we regret-“
”Well, it’s too late for that!” Tabby snapped, making wide, sweeping gestures with her forelegs to indicate her displeasure at this disastrous ending to her perfectly planned party. All the negative vibes in the air were really getting to her and she rounded on all of them stormily. “Oh, everyone is being so- so- unreasonable! You’re not making any sense at all! Why are you all being so difficult!” So saying, she turned around and stomped out of the room.
Then Caprice started wailing. Then Faline, who had been awakened from her nap by the shouting, wandered into the room and started wailing, too. Then Hubert, Agatha, and Dietrich started- or rather, continued- to yell at each other. And Thomas tried valiantly not to lose his temper.
“Caprice, would you please cease your wailing!” Dietrich addressed his wife irritably. “It’s not helping matters any.”
“I- can’t- help it!” Caprice sobbed. “It’s all so- sad!”
“Yes, it is very unfortunate that poor Tabitha had to be subjected to such stress, especially in her condition,” Agatha said crisply, the path of her gaze leaving no doubt as to who she held to be the guilty party. “In fact, I really should go to her-“
Thomas doubted that Agatha’s presence would help calm Tabby any. “I think it would be best if you all went home now,” he said in a carefully maintained level voice. “This ‘conversation’ has continued long enough. So good night.”
“Perhaps we should take Faline with us for the night,” Agatha offered quickly.
“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Thomas said in a voice that brooked no argument as he escorted them all to the door.
* * *
“I feel badly for Tabby that the evening ended on so sour a note,” Hubert shook his head on their way home.
“Yes, well, it’s all the Fairfaxes’ fault,” Agatha pronounced viciously. “Thomas is a nice boy, but his parents-!”
“I agree,” Hubert said sagely. “I find them to be remarkably arrogant in their opinions. I must say I’m surprised, after knowing Thomas for so long.”
“And Tabitha is being entirely too friendly with them,” Agatha said pensively. “She’s given them too many liberties. Staying in her house, eating her food, taking her daughter away from her-!”
“And- we really shouldn’t be out this late at night, Agatha,” Hubert interrupted as he darted furtive glances around them. “I have suspicions- but no, I won’t worry you- ”
“Yes, Hubert, you may entertain your conspiracy notions,” Agatha sniffed. “But most importantly, I’m concerned about Faline. Why, we hardly ever get to see the little darling anymore! Caprice always snatches her away.”
“Wait!” Hubert suddenly halted. “There’s something in the shadows up ahead. I think it may be- ”
“Do stop being ridiculous, Hubert,” Agatha said snappishly. “However unpleasant he and his wife may be, I doubt Dietrich has hired assassins to take you out.”
“You haven’t heard him trying to de-bunk my theory on the flying saucer men,” Hubert said in hushed tones. “There’s no telling what that stallion is capable of.”
“Well, Faline is the more pressing concern, anyway. We must keep Caprice from exerting her influence over the little darling...”
* * *
“I never thought,” Caprice started to say as she and her husband left in the opposite direction of the Fershunds, pausing often to sniffle, “that I was being such a nuisance to them.”
“Don’t take to heart what Agatha said to you,” Dietrich said pensively. “She had no right to speak to you like that, and Tabby is absolutely right. We have as much right to Faline as they do.”
“I know, but...” Caprice trailed off. “I thought we were getting along so well! It was so nice to have... family... again.”
“Tabby is a nice enough girl, but I’m not sure about her parents,” Dietrich shook his head. “Hubert is quite an eccentric, and I must say I’m not too pleased with the ideas he’s been filling Faline’s head with. And Agatha... well, you know what Agatha is like after tonight.”
“Oh, don’t say such things about them,” Caprice pleaded. “I know they have good intentions. There must be a way to work things out...”
Dietrich sighed. “As pleasant as your idealism is, Caprice, I fear that’s not a very viable option. One thing is for certain, though. They can’t keep us from seeing our very own granddaughter.”
* * *
By the next day, Agatha was concerned with the impression she had left her daughter with. When Tabby still seemed chilly towards at church that morning, she thought she had better mend the fences between them. So that afternoon she dropped in at the mansion for an unexpected visit.
“Hello, Tabitha,” she started off affably. “You’re still feeling all right, I hope, after last night? It must have been very strenuous for you. You have been getting a lot of rest, haven’t you?”
“Yes, Mother,” said Tabby dutifully. Mentally, she wondered what her and Thomas’ parents would do with a second grandchild. Would it lessen or increase the rivalry?
“Where is Faline?” Agatha asked innocently.
“Napping...” said Tabby warily.
Agatha saw her expression and patted her understandingly on the hoof. “I really am sorry for the scene I caused last night, Tabitha.” Well, if nothing else, she was sorry for upsetting Tabby. How was she to have known Tabby would have taken Caprice’s side so readily? “I never meant to distress you.”
“Oh!” said Tabby, brightening. “So you won’t complain when Faline spends time with her other grandparents?”
”Of course not, dear.” Well, she didn’t have to like it. And she could do whatever was in her means to make sure she remained the dominant grandmother in Faline’s life.
“Okay!” said Tabby. “That’s great.” Suddenly, her face lit up with inspiration. “Oooh! Mom, I just had a fabulous idea!”
“What’s that, dear?”
But Tabby had already headed off to the phone.
* * *
“This,” Tabby announced proudly a little while later, with both Agatha and Caprice clustered around, “will solve all our problems.” She presented, of all things, a calendar.
“Tabitha, it’s for last year,” Agatha pointed out.
“Ooh! So it is!” Tabby scurried off to obtain a calendar for the current year.
Caprice looked at Agatha cautiously. “Do you know what this is about?”
“No,” Agatha said, equally as cautious in speaking to her enemy. “But knowing my daughter- ”
“Here we go!” Tabby enthusiastically reentered the room with a 2004 calendar. “Now,” she set it down on the table and whipped out a pen, “we’ll be able to fix your rivalry between Faline with no hard feelings! Won’t that be a great way to start the new year?”
“Ah!” Agatha’s face lit up with understanding. “I see. You’re going to begin keeping better track of the time each of us spends with her.”
“Yes,” Tabby said cheerfully. “And it’s going to be exactly even for each of you so there will be nothing to fight about!” She directed the last part of this statement towards her mother.
“It’s a lovely idea!” Caprice agreed. “Now we won’t have to quarrel with each other, Agatha! Isn’t that great?”
“Er... yes,” Agatha said shiftily.
“Now,” Tabby continued, scribbling down some items, “we know Mom will be taking Faline to the fashion show on January first, and Caprice will be shopping with us on the second. Agreed?”
“Yes!” Caprice said. “And then perhaps we could have our meet at my house on the fourth?”
“Very well,” said Agatha, “but then I need another spot. On Monday the fifth, I think.”
“Okay!” said Tabby. “See how simple this is? Now, what other days will each of you want her?”
The three mares puzzled over the month of January for a good half hour, divvying up Faline’s time. Agatha, by snaring as much time with Faline as she could so that Caprice would not have the chance to sneak in a visit, filled up nearly half the calendar, which caused the other half to be filled by Caprice. At the end, Tabby stared at the following month with mixed feelings. Yes, Faline’s time had been divided up quite evenly between her grandmothers, but it seemed to leave very little time at home... perhaps one day each week. Oh well, it was a small price to pay for cooperation.
Tabby hung up the calendar in a conspicuous spot in the main hall and beamed at the other two. “There! Wasn’t that fun? And now all our problems are solved!”
Poor, naive Tabby.
* * *
The remaining three days of December passed quickly, which inevitably led to January first. Faline spent a pleasant time with Grandma Agatha reviewing fashions for the upcoming year. Agatha determined she had to begin teaching Faline more about looking for quality and expertise rather than just sparkliness.
And the next day Caprice accompanied Tabby and Faline on a shopping expedition to all the stores. Tabby was excited to find the latest assortment of My Little People on the shelves, and was about to start grabbing at them frantically before she realized how that would look to Caprice. Was a daughter-in-law who collected toys so openly very decorous? It was with terrible determination that Tabby turned her back on the rack and just allowed Faline to pick out several of her own. She would come back another day without Caprice and hope the new people were still there. Oh, it was a terrible sacrifice! And the new Fashion Daisys, too- these little plastic ponies with rubber clothing and accessories had captured Tabby’s interest as well and she loved them nearly as much as her My Little People collection! But not for anything would she disappoint her parents-in-law with embarrassing hobbies.
“Are you sure you don’t want any for yourself?” Caprice asked as they headed to the check-out lane with Faline’s My Little People and a variety of household items, a pretext Tabby used when shopping with Caprice. “Thomas said you collected...”
“Oh, no!” Tabby shook her head violently. “I have so many as it is... it’s quite a silly collection, anyway.” Oh, what hateful words! Tabby hoped her My Little People would understand and forgive her. “I really ought to give them all over to Faline, anyway,” she barged onwards, trying to make it as clear as possible that she was not obsessed with a filly’s toyline. “I really don’t know why I’ve held on to them for so long as it is. Quite stupid of me, actually.”
“Of course it’s not stupid!” Caprice protested. “I think it would be a very nice collection to have. They’re very cute dolls, aren’t they?”
“For baby ponies,” Tabby said with determination. Caprice let it go even though she strongly suspected Tabby was lying through her teeth.
On Saturday Agatha appeared again on Tabby’s doorstep to take Faline off her hooves for the day, and on Sunday Tabby and Faline went to Caprice’s house to see some of the mare’s mementoes recently shipped to Dream Valley from their storage facility in New Pony.
The rest of the week Faline was consistently taken by one or the other of her grandmothers, which at first was rather fun, but after awhile the little baby pony began to miss her own parents and home...
* * *
“Faline, are you all ready to go?” Agatha said enthusiastically as she found Faline perched on a couch in the mansion living room. The baby pony looked a little forlorn, if truth be told.
“Nwo,” Faline shook her head sadly.
“Ah, I see. You don’t have your new scarf and mittens on. Don’t worry, I’ll get you bundled up in no time!” Agatha headed for the coat closet just when Tabby emerged holding the necessary items.
“There you go, Faline!” Tabby said brightly, putting on the scarf and mittens for her. “Won’t you have a fun time with Grandma!”
Faline remained sulky. “Don’t wanna go,” she said succinctly, not moving an inch.
“You don’t want to play makeover with Grandma?” Agatha was aghast. “Well, why ever not?”
“Me tired of going places,” Faline shook her head violently. “Me wanna stay with Mommy.” She looked beseechingly at Tabby.
“Aww, that’s so sweet,” Tabby cooed. “Sorry, Faline. Off you go. We can’t start going around the schedule now, sweetie. You’ll be back before you know it!” With these encouraging words, off Agatha went carting an unwilling Faline behind.
* * *
“She seems a bit unhappy...” Caprice said tentatively as she found Faline petulantly pouting when she came to collect her granddaughter the next day. “Perhaps it would be best if she stayed home today.”
“Oh, no, she’ll be fine once she gets out,” Tabby assured Caprice. If she broke the schedule once it would soon be in ruins and they would be back to where they started from in regards to Faline.
Caprice wasn’t so sure. “How about we stay home today and play with My Little People instead of going to the playground?” she suggested.
Faline brightened a little. “You, too, Mommy?”
“Oh!” said Tabby. “That would be fun... I mean, fine!”
So they went off to Faline’s room to play with the baby pony’s personal My Little People collection. The scenarios invariably turned into soap opera situations, with jiltings and feuds rampant. Tabby sighed a bit wistfully. It had been a long time since she had been able to play with Faline like this, and she rather missed it.
* * *
“And where is Faline this evening?”
“It’s Mom’s turn with her today,” Tabby nodded with authority. “But don’t worry; she usually returns her in time for bedtime.”
“It would seem that we have only a very limited time with our own daughter anymore.”
“Weeeeell,” Tabby said slowly, “I suppose it isn’t exactly what I had in mind... but still, it’s worth it to keep our moms at peace with each other, isn’t it?”
Thomas had his doubts as to how long this peace would last, but kept quiet.
* * *
Tabby was definitely incorrect in thinking that the situation had been resolved. Agatha on the surface had agreed to the equal-time schedule, but she was still determined to set herself up as the dominant grandmother in Faline’s life.
It would be difficult to turn Faline against Caprice, but Agatha was determined. And one day when Faline was at her house she put her plan into action. When Faline was relating to Agatha what she had done with Caprice the other day, Agatha began shaking her head slowly.
“What’s the mwatter?” Faline asked, cocking her head curiously.
“Oh, Faline, I’m just concerned about the influence your grandmother Caprice is having on you,” Agatha said sadly. “If it were up to me- but no, your mother doesn’t even see what’s happening...”
“I do not understwand,” said Faline succinctly.
“It’s a lamentable state of affairs, Faline, but I’m afraid you must be told,” Agatha sighed. “You see, Caprice disapproves highly of your mother and is trying to push her out of your life. Each minute you spend with your other grandmother, Faline, the further your mind is poisoned. It would break your mother’s heart, and mine as well, were Caprice to achieve her nefarious end.”
Faline narrowed her eyes skeptically. “You sure?”
“Yes, unfortunately I am,” Agatha said mournfully. “It is a dreadful occurrence, but I can only hope it’s not too late to reverse. You must stop seeing your grandmother Caprice, Faline.”
“This does not make swense,” Faline insisted. “Grandmwa Capwice likes Mommy. She says so! She does not have ‘nefawious ends’.” She glared stonily at Agatha.
“Of course that’s what she says,” Agatha explained patiently. “But that’s only so that no one will suspect that she is in reality driving a wedge between your family! You must rid yourself of this foreign influence, Faline!”
“You are being very mewodwamatic, Gramma,” Faline said, carefully considering the situation. “I do not think I bewieve you. Why would Grandmwa Caprice want to get rid of Mommy?”
Darn! If only Faline were as gullible as her mother. “Because, naturally, she does not approve of your father’s choice in a bride,” Agatha elaborated. “If it had been up to Caprice, your mother would have been someone very different.”
“No, no, no,” Faline shook her head. “If my mommy had been different, I wouldn’t be me at all. So it would be very swilly of Grandmwa Caprice to take me away from Mommy. If she doesn’t like Mommy, she should get rid of both of us.”
“Well, she assumes you’re still young enough that away from your mother’s influence, you could be brought up without the undesirable traits of your mother, as Caprice sees them,” Agatha went on, getting frustrated.
“Maybe,” admitted Faline. “But I do not think it is very wikely.”
“Well... I think it is!” Agatha ended lamely. Really, Faline was too precocious for her own good. “Please, Faline, you must believe me. For the good of your family!”
“I will conswider it, and do wesearch,” Faline condescended to agree to.
“That’s a good girl.” Agatha patted her on the head warmly.
* * *
Later that night, after Faline had been brought back home and put to bed, she wandered instead the hallways of the mansion. She had been trying to sleep; but there were voices coming from the floor below her, and they disrupted her into wakefulness. So she jumped out of bed and decided to join the party.
She neared the door of the library and identified the voices of her father and grandmother Caprice. Faline was about to nudge the door open and barge in on them, but then she made out part of the conversation and she paused.
“Now Moonbeam, she was a pretty filly,” Caprice’s lilting voice rang out. “She would have been a much better choice for you, I think...”
Faline stood stock-still, horrified by the innuendos of her grandmother’s comment. So Grandma Agatha had been correct after all... Caprice didn’t like Mommy! She wanted some stupid Moonbeam in her place...
Eyes welling up with tears, Faline took off down the hallway.
* * *
“And look, I just uncovered these and had to share them with you,” Caprice bubbled enthusiastically. “Pictures from your senior prom!”
“Oh... wow,” said Thomas, trying to sound enthused as well. His senior year... when he’d made a fool of himself over that drop dead gorgeous Dezaray, who had had more hair than wit. He couldn’t believe he’d been so taken in by a pretty face...
“Yes, here’s you with your date- Dezaray, was it? That foreign filly, wasn’t she? I remember you were so proud when you got her as your date!” Caprice said, smiling fondly at the memory. “There was that other girl you knew- ah, yes. Now Moonbeam, she was a pretty filly! She would have been a much better choice for you, I think.”
“In retrospect, yes,” Thomas said drily. “But I learned my lesson from Dezaray soon enough, when she dumped me as soon as another guy caught her eye.”
“Dumped you? I thought you told us you mutually agreed... oh, but that’s neither here nor there,” Caprice laughed. “Everything has turned out for the best, and you have a most lovely wife. I couldn’t have chosen better for you myself. Oooh, and look, here’s Stevie...”
* * *
Alas, Faline, not having heard the full conversation, went crying into the computer room where she found her mother idly typing some notes on Furbish behavior she had been cataloging. “Mommy!” she sobbed, throwing herself at her, “I will never, never let Grandma Caprice turn me against you!”
“Oh,” said Tabby, arranging Faline in a more comfortable position on her lap. “Faline, what are you talking about?”
Faline proceeded to rather incoherently relate the tale of Agatha’s “suspicions”, and Tabby saw the falsity for what it was- an extremely underhooved attempt of Agatha’s to shove Caprice out of Faline’s affections. Before giving over to rage at her mother’s behavior, Tabby did her best to soothe Faline and convince her that Grandma Agatha had been grossly mistaken and that Faline had nothing to fear from Grandma Caprice splitting her family up.
By the time Faline’s sobs had subsided into an occasional sniffle, Caprice had taken her leave of the house and Thomas came in search of Tabby and found her consoling Faline. “What happened?” he asked. “A bad dream?”
“Worse... a Living Nightmare!” Tabby pronounced in horrified overtures. “Ooooooooooh, that mother of mine!” she fumed, starting to pace the floor after handing Faline over to Thomas. “She has gone too far this time. Oh yes, doting grandmother indeed! Just look what she’s done to her darling granddaughter!” Seething, Tabby made wild, sweeping gestures with her forelegs; and then Thomas heard the incoherent story from her. “It is the outside of enough!” she finished. “Something must be done!” Before Thomas could stop her from doing or saying anything rash, Tabby was dialing her mother’s number on the telephone.
* * *
“So if you continue to act in this childishly possessive manner, I’m going to make sure you don’t see Faline at all! At least Caprice acts in a civilized manner, which is more than I can say for you! So shape up your act or it’s going to be just Caprice who gets to see Faline! Goodnight!” And Tabby slammed down the phone on her end after an impassioned speech.
Agatha set the phone down with a determined click and a gleam in her eyes. “It would seem,” she said to herself, “that I’m going to have to take drastic measures.”