"I must make a quick trip over to the grocery store for supper tonight," Caprice announced cheerfully, heading for the door. "I shouldn't be out above fifteen minutes."
"All right," said Tabby listlessly from the sofa. The birth of her second foal was approaching in just a week and she wasn't feeling that great. "Have more fun than I am."
"You poor thing," Caprice said sympathetically. "I know you feel miserable now, but just think when you have the foal to hold in your forelegs! It will all be worth it then. Only one more week!" She smiled encouragingly at her daughter-in-law and then turned to Cocklebur, who was playing My Little People with Faline on the floor. "Make sure Faline doesn't bother Tabby," Caprice said, patting him on the head. "And you're sure you can't stay for supper?"
"Nah, my mom wanted me home early for somethin'," Cocklebur shook his head.
"Swilly!" Faline chided him, swiping the My Little Person from his hoof. " 'ou have Shirley dancing with Trevor. She's Patrick's girlfriend."
"Sorry," Cocklebur mumbled, making the correct alterations to the ballroom scene.
"Well, I'll see you all shortly. Have a good time!" Caprice said, grabbing her purse and sweeping out the door.
* * *
Fifteen minutes turned into thirty as Caprice ran into her friend, Pink Parfait, in the produce aisle and the inevitable conversation followed encompassing the latest news on all the ponies in the two mares' acquaintanceship.
"Come over for supper sometime!" was Caprice's comment as she finally pulled her cart away, after the details of Vinca's engagement had been fully analyzed. She tossed the remaining items into the cart and finally headed for the check-out. With her ingredient-laden bags, she headed back to the mansion.
* * *
Cocklebur looked rather somber as Caprice came through the front door. "Why, whatever is the matter?" Caprice exclaimed in concern.
"It's Tabby," the colt said simply. "I think the baby might be coming early."
Caprice clucked her tongue after a precursory examination of her daughter-in-law's condition. "Oh dear. Well, this is unexpected, but I really must get her to the hospital." She helped Tabby up onto her hooves and herded her towards the door. "Would you be a dear, Cocklebur, and call Thomas at the clinic? Oh, and see if Elaine could take Faline in for a little while. Tah-tah! Oh, this is so exciting!" The door shut and Cocklebur was left with a lower-lip-trembling Faline.
"Where's Mwommy goin'?" she asked, wide-eyed.
"To the hospital, so she can have the baby," Cocklebur said succinctly.
"The hospital?" Faline whispered. "Will she be okay?"
"Well, of course she'll be okay. The doctors know what they're doing."
That didn't pacify her. "I want Mwommy!" Faline said adamantly, completely forgetting about the My Little People scattered on the floor, and started bawling.
Being the eldest of seven children, Cocklebur wasn't phased by Faline's tantrum and went to the phone. Dialing the number for the vet clinic, Cocklebur was not greeted by Patina's, the secretary, voice, but instead a strange electronic hum. "That's not a busy signal," he muttered to himself, and tried dialing again. The same thing happened. Frowning, he looked-up Elaine's number. Dialing that, he didn't get Elaine but he at least got an answering machine, on which he left a brief message outlining the situation. After that, he tried the clinic's number again to no avail.
Cocklebur looked down at Faline, who was truly distraught at having her mother gone away on a mysterious appointment at the hospital. "Well, I guess there's only one thing to do if their phone isn't working," Cocklebur said to himself. "Come on, Faline. We're going out to get your father."
* * *
"Isn't the phone working yet?" Marina complained, dialing her boyfriend's number for the umpteenth time that afternoon to be met with nothing but a weird buzzing. "I told Neil I'd get in touch with him hours ago!"
"Well, I hardly think you should be wasting time calling your boyfriend when you're on duty, anyway," Patina said peevishly. She was annoyed herself, not having had any new appointments to make for the past several hours with the phone being offline. The phone company had been informed but they, of course, were taking their time in attending to the matter.
"You'd understand if you had a boyfriend," Marina snapped, stalking off.
"Well, I never! What impertinence!" Patina huffed.
"Patina!" Cocklebur gasped, barging through the doors of the clinic after his vigorous run over dragging Faline behind him. "Where's Thomas? I need to see him!"
Patina looked down her nose at the youth critically. "Dr. Thomas is in the middle of analyzing some important tests on the Queen's pet gerbil," she declared in her top-lofty manner. "If you have a problem with one of your animals you'll have to schedule an appointment like everyone else."
"This is urgent!" Cocklebur insisted. "Tabby is-"
"Oh-" and Patina noticed her boss' daughter for the first time- "what are you doing here, Faline?"
"Mommy," said Faline soulfully, "is gone."
"Gone? That's preposterous." Patina rounded on Cocklebur. "What nonsense have you been filling her head with? Oh, just run along now," she shooed the colt away. "We're running a business here, not a nursery. Do take Faline back home where she belongs."
"If you would let me explain-" Cocklebur blustered.
"What seems to be the problem, Cocklebur?" Thomas said, emerging from a back room into the lobby. "And- Faline? Has something happened?"
"Caprice said something about the baby and took her to the hospital.."
Thomas was already out the door.
"Oh my," said Patina vaguely, hoping this wouldn't go on her record.
"Whaaaaaaah!" bawled Faline, now that both of her parents were out of her reach.
"The phone had better be working by now because..." Marina came on the scene and eyed the menagerie before her. "Uhh... what's up, everybody?"
* * *
Anyway, the delivery went quite smoothly. The second daughter of Tabby and Thomas was a little lavender filly with beige hair and the symbol of a butterfly. Tabby promptly decided on naming her Nymph.
Naturally, visitors abounded. Tabby was able to harass Sugarberry about running off to Vulcanopolis right away, just like she had done after Faline's birth.
Agatha, of course, had immediately flown in from Vulcanopolis when she had been notified of the news. She was horrified, of course, that her second granddaughter had had the effrontery to be born ahead of schedule so Agatha hadn't been with her from the first second.
Caprice met Agatha with a bit of trepidation; but Agatha, with her time spent away from Dream Valley, had perhaps mellowed a bit, and treated Caprice with surprising graciousness. Still, the jealous bridges were hardly mended between them.
Tiffany, who happened to be in Dream Valley at the time, along with her husband, was thrilled to be at hoof to see the newborn Baby Nymph.
"I think I will have fun with 'ou," Faline declared complacently, peering once again at her new little sister. Nymph just screwed up her face and started to cry loudly. Faline cringed and jumped back, covering her ears. "Or mwaybe not..."