"Chocolate Chip, you're going to have a path worn between the kitchen and the front
door if you keep this up!" Sugarberry
smilingly chided the slim brown pony who was checking the street for the umpteenth time.
"Where are they?" Chocolate Chip asked worriedly. "They were supposed to be here
"It's only twenty minutes past the time they said they'd get here. And they did have to
check in at the university first." Sugarberry
was fixing the evening meal in preparation for Chocolate Chip's expected guests: her father,
Drifter; her brother, Wishbone; and Wishbone's friend,
"It's just that I get so nervous waiting." Chocolate Chip paced the kitchen floor.
"Yikes! Raptor! You can't eat the cake!" She
scooted the inquisitive and hungry kitten off the counter. "Bad kitty!" she shook her hoof
warningly at the unperturbed creature.
"Better put the cover over that cake," Sugarberry advised. "Once he's got the scent,
he won't let his quarry go." She reached out to
pat the purring black tiger-striped kitten who then stood up against her leg.
At that moment, a rap came at the door.
"They're here!" shrieked Chocolate Chip, dashing out of the kitchen, sending both Fluff
and Raptor scurrying for cover.
Checking the components of supper, Sugarberry made sure everything was in order
before following Chocolate Chip from the
She found Chocolate Chip wrapped in a hug from her brother, his deep pink color and
gold hair encircling her. Wishbone released
her to a giggling hug from Snowdrift, and then Chocolate Chip faced her father. For several
seconds, the room was silent, and a troubled look crossed
Sugarberry's face; but Drifter came through with a hug of his own for his oldest child, even if it
was slightly stiff and reserved.
"I'm so glad you could come, Dad," Chocolate Chip smiled at the stallion who had not
only bestowed life on her but also her name,
commenting on first sight of his newborn daughter that she was as drab as a chocolate chip. The
name had stuck and had been made official. "How
are Mom and Lollipop?"
"They are busy with the restaurant, but are both fine," her father responded, looking
around the room nervously.
Chocolate Chip drew her dad to Sugarberry and made the proper introduction.
Sugarberry smiled graciously; but inside, she
questioned the workings of a father who could ignore his daughter for so long simply because of
her non-pastel look.
But there was no time to meditate as Wishbone greeted her with an exuberant hug.
"It's nice to see you again, Sugarberry! You've
been making my sister walk the straight and narrow, I hope." He playfully pulled a lock of
Chocolate Chip's hair, which she returned in kind.
"Bratty little brother!"
Behind them, Snowdrift softly cleared her throat. Wishbone immediately rectified his
oversight. "Sugarberry, this is my friend from
back in Neighberry, Snowdrift."
"Nice to meet you, Snowdrift," Sugarberry said as the two lightly embraced. "Are you
looking forward to college this fall?"
"Oh, yes, definitely," the white-bodied filly acknowledged. "And I'm so glad Wishbone
decided to attend, too."
"No more glad than I am," Chocolate Chip grinned. "Now my little brother can get
"Like you?" Wishbone finished for her, and grimaced. "I take the math placement
exam tonight; I'm not looking forward to
"Oh, that reminds me--" Sugarberry realized the time. "You are on a schedule, aren't
you? I'd better get supper on the table." She
turned to Chocolate Chip. "You can entertain your guests while I finish things up."
Chocolate Chip laughed. "Don't be silly, Sugarberry. These aren't guests; they're
family. They can help in the kitchen."
"Whatever you say!" Sugarberry responded. "But we still eat in the dining room
Sugarberry's dining room was the least used room in the house as her large kitchen
served as a homey hangout for all who came to
eat. But tonight, she was making use of the dining room in honor of Chocolate Chip's
Many hooves made light work of the final meal preparations. Drifter was a chef at his
and his wife's restaurant back home, so he
gladly contributed his expertise and soon felt at home. Sugarberry suddenly became very
self-conscious about her cooking ability, but shrugged off
her concern. Chocolate Chip was so happy to have part of her family here that Sugarberry would
undergo anything to make the event a
Raptor was intrigued to find ponies eating in the room he seldom frequented, and made
a pest of himself while Fluff sat in the
doorway and watched the proceedings with his round golden eyes.
When the meal was finished, Chocolate Chip prepared to accompany Wishbone and
Snowdrift to Pony Pride where the two new
freshmen were going to take a placement test before facing the next two days of orientation and
registration for the fall semester.
"I'll hang out on campus while their testing is going on," Chocolate Chip informed
Sugarberry and Drifter. "Afterwards we'll take
in the other activities planned."
"Can you find your way back to the dorm we're staying at, Dad?" Wishbone teased the
"I could ask the same of you," Drifter shot back.
When the three had left the house, Sugarberry and Drifter sat with their coffee at the
"You'll have a busy couple of days with all the meetings and things going on;
Chocolate Chip is excited to be conducting tours for
the new students and their parents," Sugarberry said.
"Just glad I could make it," Drifter replied. "Snowdrift's parents couldn't take off from
their jobs; but my backup chef was able to
fill in for me, so it worked out okay."
"What's Wishbone planning on majoring in?"
"He's undecided at this point. I'll just be glad to get this registration stuff over with
and get him back home to help at the restaurant
for the rest of the summer."
"Chocolate Chip and Wishbone are both wonderful; you should be very proud of
them." The words were said before Sugarberry
realized what effect they might have on Drifter. She looked uneasily at him.
But Drifter seemed to be contemplating her statement thoughtfully. Finally he replied.
"Yes, I'm very proud of both of them, and
their sister, too." He helped himself to a refill of coffee, and stared into the steaming cup.
"Their mother and I were both very young when Chocolate Chip was born," Drifter
finally continued. "We had high hopes for our
future, and our plans had all been made." He fell silent again, and Sugarberry honored his need to
sort out his thoughts. "Twilight Jewel had her heart
set on a prim and proper pastel foal, and when Chocolate Chip was born all gangly and ordinary,
her heart was broken. I understood how my wife felt,
but I should have stood up for my daughter. But I didn't," Drifter ended lamely.
"She's stronger for what she's been through," Sugarberry tried to sound reassuring.
"It's part of what makes her so special."
"Special..." Drifter repeated the word as if for the first time. "It took you and your
friends here to see that in her; her mother and I
"Chocolate Chip told me how you and she grew closer when she was home at spring
break. That meant a lot to her."
Drifter looked up in surprise. "We worked her like a servant while she was home.
Twilight Jewel always thought that was all she
was good for... and I went along with it."
"Your daughter loves you and her mother very much, unconditionally. She realizes
that you see her in a different light, but she
doesn't hold that against you. She very much would like
to know that you love her, too." Sugarberry had longed to say those words so often, yet she
surprised even herself to actually have been able to
accomplish it now that she had the chance.
Pushing his chair away from the table, Drifter changed the subject. "How about I help
you clear the dishes? I can wash; you dry."
He quickly picked up a platter and bowl, and headed for the kitchen but not before Sugarberry
saw a lone tear trickle down his cheek.
Conversation was brief while the kitchen was cleaned up, but Drifter became more
talkative when the dishes were finished.
"I'm planning on taking the young ‘uns and you out to supper on the last day of this
college rigamorole. What's the best place in
town to eat?"
"Hmm... the Estate Manor is the best, but it's also the most expensive."
"That's what I'm looking for. It gives me a chance to check-out the competition, so to
speak. Maybe I can glean a new recipe or a
better way of doing things."
"I can get you the number; you'll need a reservation."
While Sugarberry checked the phone book, Drifter asked, "Anyone special you'd like
"My ‘someone special' is out of town," Sugarberry blushed. "But ask Chocolate Chip.
She might like to invite a friend."
"So she's got herself a fella?"
"Well, she's been primping more than usual, but I have no idea who she's interested in.
She hasn't confided in me yet."
Drifter gave her a piercing look. "You've been good for the girl."
Sugarberry smiled. "No, just the opposite. She's been good for me."
Picking up the post-a-note with the dining spot's number on it, Drifter moved to safer
ground. "The Estate Manor, you say?"
"Yes. It's got a great reputation, delicious food, and a charming setting."
"Remember to keep that evening open... night after tomorrow."
"I'll look forward to it."
"Well, it's getting late. Thanks for that wonderful meal, Sugarberry. And thanks...
well, thanks for everything."
* * *
The following morning, Sugarberry was the first one down to breakfast. After giving
Raptor and Fluff their morning meal, she
proceeded to prepare scrambled eggs and toast for herself and Chocolate Chip. She had just
gotten the eggs and milk mixed together when Chocolate
Chip entered the room.
"Good morning!" Sugarberry greeted. "How did it go last night with Wishbone's
"He didn't think he did too well. Mathematics is not his strong point."
"Maybe he did better than he thought."
"Yah. We can always hope."
Sugarberry poured the egg mixture into the hot skillet. "Do you give your tours
she asked of Chocolate Chip, who seemed a little down this morning.
"No, not until tomorrow. The new students will be running all over campus today, but
they don't get an official tour until
tomorrow. Who can figure?" Chocolate Chip came and stood next to Sugarberry at the stove.
Keeping one eye on the eggs and the other on the toast, Sugarberry asked, "Did you
see your dad on campus? He left here rather
"As a matter of fact, I did." She grabbed Raptor in midair as he made a desperate
attempt to attain some of the fresh scrambled eggs
that Sugarberry was serving onto the plates. "He asked me to invite someone along to the Estate
Manor. Did you have anything to do with
"I just mentioned it in passing."
Chocolate Chip didn't respond. She got the orange juice out of the refrigerator and set
it on the table, then fidgeted with the
napkins. "Do you think it would be okay if I invited Wigwam?"
Sugarberry's eyes grew round. "That's who you have your sights set on?" she asked in
apparent surprise, and saw Chocolate Chip
blush for the first time since she'd known her.
"You don't approve." Chocolate Chip looked crestfallen.
"Oh, sweetie, no." Sugarberry pulled the filly close. "That's not what I meant. I was
just taken off guard. I thought you'd fallen
for Prime or Chip, not Wigwam."
"You think he's too old?"
Sugarberry laughed. "Hey, girl, we're not that much older than you young
Flustered now, Chocolate Chip looked as if she was ready to cry.
"Oh, come on now," Sugarberry grinned. "If Wigwam's the one you want to ask, then
"I don't see why you find this so amusing!"
"I don't either, although it may have to do with all those pointed remarks that
Vanguard has been making in his letters about
Wigwam and I working with the Native Pony Tales."
Chocolate Chip looked confused.
"I think Vanguard's been feeling a bit jealous," Sugarberry went on, "and nothing I
could say would alleviate his worry...
especially after our hike last month. But now, I can set his mind at ease. He will be so grateful,
Chocolate Chip, if you keep Wigwam occupied.
Straight A's for you once Vanguard's back home!" She smiled radiantly at the befuddled filly
"You're not making any sense," Chocolate Chip muttered.
"Sure I am. It's simple. You've got a crush on Wigwam, and your timing's perfect. I
think you are a dear!" And she hugged
Chocolate Chip again.
"You're not taking me seriously."
"Trust me. I am. I am." Sugarberry smiled. "Sit down and eat your breakfast before
everything is cold. And when you are
finished, give Wigwam a call."
Chocolate Chip sat down and toyed with the eggs on her plate. "Maybe you should
call him, Sugarberry."
"Oh, no, I'm not doing it. If you want Wigwam at your dad's dinner party, you're
going to have to do the inviting yourself."
"What if he says no?"
"Then move to Plan B and invite Prime or Chip or Digger or..."
"You're no help at all, Sugarberry!"
"His phone number is by the telephone on my desk. That's all the help you
A rap at the back door sent Sugarberry flying. "That's Tabby. I've gotta run. Clean up the
kitchen, please?" She bestowed a motherly pat on
Chocolate Chip and scurried on her way.
* * *
The next day, Chocolate Chip was in good humor when Sugarberry returned home
from work. "Sugarberry! Look what Dad gave
me!" She removed a shimmery purple bow and several matching hair pieces from a box labeled
Lemon Treats Boutique.
"Oh! They are beautiful!" Sugarberry squealed. "Are you going to wear them
"Definitely," Chocolate Chip exclaimed. "But wasn't it great of Dad to get me a gift?
He's never done that before... not
"I think he is seeing you in a new light... the poised, intelligent filly you are that can
handle any situation she finds herself in. And
beautiful to boot!"
"I don't believe a word you're saying, but I like the sound of it." Chocolate Chip
clipped one of the hairpieces, which was
composed of white flowers and lace with narrow streamers of the same sparkly ribbon as the bow,
experimentally in her mane. "What do you think?"
She turned to Sugarberry.
"Wigwam will be impressed," Sugarberry grinned. "And you know what? I could help
you weave a few braids down through your
mane to make a new look for you."
"Would you? Oh, this is so great! You know, I've never been to the Estate Manor for
a real dinner before."
"Well, it's about time you did then, isn't it? And speaking of time, when is Wigwam
picking us up?"
"Six-thirty, which is... Oh-my-gosh, that's only half an hour from now!" The brown
filly dashed upstairs to her room, and
Sugarberry followed, chuckling.
The two ponies had just added the last decorative bouquet and braid to Chocolate
Chip's mane when they heard the knock at the
door. Taking one last look in the mirror, the filly ran down the hall but stopped at the top of the
stairs to compose herself, then primly continued on to
the front door.
The added fuss with hair and adornments had been worth it. Chocolate Chip could see
in Wigwam's eyes that he was impressed by
what he saw. "Turn around once," he said.
Turn around once... Chocolate Chip's mind flashed back to her growing-up
years in Neighberry. Turn around
once... Every morning before she left for school, Chocolate Chip had heard her mother say
those words to her little sister. Turn around
once... In other words, let me see you from all sides and make sure everything about you is
perfect. Turn around once... And Lollipop
always got a hug because she was always perfect. Turn around once... Her mother had
never cared enough about Chocolate Chip to see the
whole effect. Turn around once...
Chocolate Chip stood in momentary suspension as the thoughts raced through her
mind; then she smiled at Wigwam and slowly
pirouetted before him.
"Perfect," he said, handing her a white box from which she uncovered a simple but
lovely corsage of daisies and lily of the
"It's so pretty," Chocolate Chip murmured. "Thank you, Wigwam."
The orange stallion lifted the flowers from the box, and helped fasten them to
Chocolate Chip's slim, brown foreleg. "You look
great." Seeing Sugarberry coming into the room, he asked, "What do you think of your girl,
Sugarberry?" He gazed at Chocolate Chip with open
Sugarberry was quick to respond. "I think she's just perfect!"
* * *
The party of six was seated cozily around a round table at the Estate Manor, and the
conversation was animated.
"The atmosphere here is too formal," Drifter declared early on. "This medieval setting
Chocolate Chip rolled her eyes. "That's because you don't have a romantic bone in
your body, Dad."
Wishbone agreed. "The entire restaurant would be stainless steel if you had your way.
That's one area where Mom outshines you
by far... her flair for the right ambiance." He rolled the word off his tongue and waved a hoof
through the air for effect. Snowdrift giggled. "Oh, by
the way, Chocolate Chip, Juggler says to say ‘Hey'," her brother added as an afterthought, with a
side glance at Wigwam.
"Does he still make deliveries to The Right Place?" Chocolate Chip asked, hoping
Wigwam didn't think Juggler was anyone special
"He sure does," Drifter interjected. "He's a good worker."
"How did the campus tours go, Chocolate Chip? " Sugarberry got the conversation
started in a new direction.
"Speaking of which, I saw you while I was in my literature class this morning,"
Wigwam told her.
"You're in school, too, Wigwam?" Drifter asked.
"Well, I'm just taking a course on Shakespeare this summer. I have a couple semesters
completed, but got sidetracked from earning
a diploma yet."
"It was neat when Chocky took us through the classroom buildings; the teachers all
had to close their doors when they heard her
coming. She was talking so much, she was interfering with classes," Wishbone grinned.
Drifter frowned at his son across the table and set his hoof reassuringly on Chocolate
Chip's foreleg. "Chocolate Chip gave a very
informative and helpful tour, which was the purpose of her endeavor. She did a fine job."
Snowdrift concurred. "Yes. You really did, Chocolate Chip. I toured a couple other
campuses, and didn't get much help. You
were truly good at it."
Grimacing at her brother, Chocolate Chip responded, "Thanks, Dad and Snowdrift.
And as for you, Wishbone, I hope you get lost
your first day of classes this fall!"
Wigwam chuckled. "One classroom you can't miss is Gauntlet's. He is always ranting
and raving about something."
"What does he teach?" Snowdrift asked.
"He's the art teacher," Wigwam replied. "Rather a peculiar fellow."
"He owned Raptor until Raptor got sick eating some of Gauntlet's art supplies,"
Sugarberry offered, finding a chance to contribute
something to the talk.
"Aw... the poor thing," Snowdrift looked appropriately saddened.
"Luckily there were no lasting effects, as you saw the other evening. He's an energetic
kitten." Looking at Wishbone, Sugarberry
asked, "How did it go for you in scheduling your math class after the placement test results were
"Actually, better than I had hoped. That exchange professor from Italy was really
"In what way?" prompted Wigwam.
"Well," confessed Wishbone, "he said my results were borderline, but he thought--
with a little extra work-- I should be able to
handle the higher level course. So he approved me for it, and I'm all set. He's an okay
Snowdrift tapped on Wishbone's foreleg. "Look! There's Professor Giorgio
All head turned to follow Snowdrift's gaze. Sugarberry hadn't met Giorgio yet, and it
was with a mixture of curiosity and disdain
that she looked his way. When she caught sight of the deep green stallion with dark blue hair and
a stack of books as a symbol, a strange feeling of
paramnesia came over her; she felt as if she'd lived this moment at some point before, and it made
her feel almost hypnotized.
Giorgio noticed Wishbone, and came directly to stand between Wishbone and
Sugarberry's chairs at the table. "Hello again,
Wishbone. Are you satisfied with your introduction to campus life?"
"Yes. I'm looking forward to the start of classes."
Moving his gaze to Snowdrift who sat at Wishbone's left, he asked, "And you, my
dear, what were your impressions of Pony
"I'm sure I made the right decision to attend here," she blushed under his scrutinizing
"Drifter, this is your daughter, I presume?" He had turned his attention to Chocolate
Chip. "You mentioned this afternoon that she
is an excellent mathematics student. Will I have the pleasure of seeing you in one of my
"Well... yes... actually I'm registered for Calculus III," Chocolate Chip stuttered.
Next in the circle was Wigwam. Giorgio looked at him closely. "I remember now.
I've seen you with the students at Pony Pride,
but not in a math class."
"I'm just taking one class on Shakespeare this summer; but I do plan to pick-up a math
class in the fall. I've been out of school
awhile. The name is Wigwam."
Giorgio's verbal journey around the table ended now with Sugarberry. She felt his
gaze on her before she turned her head to face
him. Still caught in the feeling of reliving a moment trapped in time, she smiled
"Ah, and who do we have here?" Giorgio bestowed his most winning smile.
Filling in the missing information, Drifter made the introduction. "This is Sugarberry, a
close friend of the family."
"Sugarberry." Giorgio repeated the name as if tasting it. "Sugarberry. What a lovely
He's going to take my hoof and he's going to... Sugarberry knew without
Giorgio took her hoof and after staring into her eyes for what seemed like an eternity,
he kissed it.
Sugarberry couldn't break away from his mesmerizing effect. Snakes do this to
their prey, she thought, but still she
looked into his eyes-- unwillingly, yet irresistibly.
At what point he released her hoof, Sugarberry wasn't aware, but his spell was finally
broken as he said, "I see my guest has arrived.
If you will excuse me..." Amid a chorus of appropriate farewells, he left the table.
Sugarberry turned back, and found that everyone was looking at her. She turned to
Wigwam on her right and met a quizzical
expression on his face that undermined her confidence. "What?!" she snapped at him.
Before Wigwam could reply, Wishbone opened fire. "He was impressed with you,
Sugarberry. Smitten, I'd say."
Chocolate Chip and Snowdrift giggled. "It was so romantic... and he even kissed your
hoof!" Sugarberry felt like grounding a
certain brown filly for the next millennium.
"Lay off, children," Drifter seemed the only compassionate face at the table. "This
Giorgio is a smooth one."
And if anyone had thought about it, the pony who normally blushed so readily at any
encounter that rocked her calmness was more
bleached than rosy.
The conversation turned to mundane things, and Sugarberry listened, but couldn't
shake the feeling that hung over her. Why had
Giorgio had this effect on her? she wondered. She was quiet the rest of the evening, and wanted
a chance to talk with Tabby; so it was with relief
when the final farewells were said, and she, Chocolate Chip, and Wigwam headed
She noticed with annoyance that Tabby's house looked empty at the moment, and
claimed a headache once she was in the house,
leaving Chocolate Chip and Wigwam staring after her as she beat a hasty retreat to the privacy of
her bedroom where she sat in the falling dusk and
considered the impression that Giorgio had made on her. By the time she fell asleep, she had
* * *
Chocolate Chip was up and out early the next morning; her dad and brother and
Snowdrift were checking out of the dorm and they
were going to have breakfast together before the visitors returned to Neighberry.
Sugarberry was relieved when Tabby stopped by to walk her to work. "I met Giorgio
last night," she admitted to her friend.
"Ah-hah!" Tabby exclaimed. "And did you find him utterly fascinating? Tell me the
truth, Sug. Did you forget all about
Vanguard? Are you madly in love with him?"
From anyone else, those words would have irked Sugarberry; but from Tabby, they
only caused her to giggle. "Have a heart,
Tabby. You don't plan on forgetting Thomas every time you meet a new stallion, do you?"
"Oh, no. I only do that with cartoon characters," Tabby replied cheerfully.
Turning sober, Sugarberry confessed her uneasiness. "There's something strange about
him, Tabby. Something unsettling."
"You're just angry that he took Vanguard away."
"I'll admit to that. But it's deeper than that."
"Hmm. I don't know what to say, Sug. Maybe you should talk to May-Lah about it."
Tabby's confidence in Furbys was
"At this point, it's the best logic I've heard so far." When the two mares reached the
vet clinic, Tabby stopped in to say good
morning to her fiancé before continuing on to the Pokémon Center.
"Sugarberry thinks Giorgio's strange," Tabby informed Thomas.
"What prompted this?" Thomas grinned at the mares.
"I met him last evening, and he sends out some worrisome vibes, that's all. I don't trust
him," Sugarberry related to her boss.
"There's something to be said for mare's intuition," Thomas surmised. "Maybe there is
some deep dark secret hiding in his
"Oh!" squealed Tabby. "A mystery stallion!"
"I hope it's nothing too bad," Sugarberry worried. "Vanguard is in his place over in
Vulcanopolis, you know."
"I'm sure it's nothing to worry about," Thomas consoled her. "Why not ask May-Lah
Sugarberry looked from Thomas to Tabby. Were these two serious about their
confidence in their Furbys' mental powers, or were
they just teasing? She thought she understood them, but sometimes...
"Any insight will be appreciated," Sugarberry admitted. Furbys were better than
* * *
It was evening when Sugarberry put a call through to her mother. Throughout the
course of the day, her mother had been close to
her thoughts; after a supper alone (Chocolate Chip was at work at Bushwoolie Bargain Books at
the mall and Tabby was with Thomas and her folks),
Sugarberry went to the telephone, then paused. May-Lah, her Furby, was sitting on the desk and
she suddenly felt the need to ask him a question or
After several unsuccessful tries, she finally got him in the "Ask Furby" mode. Coming
straight to the point, she asked, "Is Giorgio
May-Lah contemplated the query, then responded with big eyes wide, "Very big yes."
"Is Vanguard safe?"
"Me see... maybe."
"Should I talk to Mom?"
Sugarberry looked around her, hoping no one had witnessed her lapse into Furbyland.
Quickly dialing her mom's number and
counting off the rings, she soon heard Strawberry Shortcake's comforting voice respond,
"Hi, Mom," Sugarberry said. "It's me, Sugarberry."
"Hi, dear. How is everything with you?"
"I've been missing you," she said a little forlornly.
She heard her mother chuckle. "I would think Vanguard would be the one you'd be
"Oh, Mom, you know that I do miss him. But today you were on my mind. And Dad.
How is he doing at this busy time of
"Working with the berry patch and the orchard from sunup ‘til sundown," she replied.
"He's never happier than when he's working
with the plants."
"I'm glad Raspberry is helping you out with the business."
"Oh, my, yes. And she's a big help. Spends half her time tending plants outside, and
half in the kitchen with the baking. Business
"I met Chocolate Chip's Dad. Wishbone's going to attend Pony Pride in the fall."
"I'm happy to hear that. He seemed like such a nice young stallion when we met him at
Christmas. Oh, and before I forget,
Vanguard sent your dad and I a little note."
"He did? What did he say?"
"Just the usual... that Vulcanopolis is a pretty spot and that he misses you terribly."
Strawberry Shortcake waited, knowing her
Sugarberry wiped a tear from her eye. "I love him so much, Mom."
"I know, dear. And he will be back soon enough. Christmas will be a special time for
the two of you this year."
"I only wish he didn't have to go in the first place. This exchange program makes no
sense to me."
"I would assume that it's a good opportunity for the teachers to learn new methods,"
Sugarberry's mom replied.
"I met the teacher that is taking Vanguard's place," Sugarberry casually mentioned.
"His name is Giorgio."
There was a slight pause on the other end of the line.
"Giorgio," her mom finally repeated. "It's been a long time since I heard that
name." But Strawberry Shortcake didn't elaborate further.
The two ponies continued their chat until Strawberry Shortcake was called away by
the ringing of her doorbell. Sugarberry hung up
the receiver, feeling better for just having touched base with home.
She had no longer sat down in her favorite chair-- the wooden rocker-- when the
phone rang. Mom forgot something she
wanted to say, Sugarberry surmised. But it was Wigwam.
"Just checking on how you are feeling," he prodded. "You seemed... rattled by your
meeting with this Giorgio last night."
But Sugarberry had shaken off her concern. "No. I just needed to suppress the desire
to give him a piece of my mind for taking
Vanguard away from Dream Valley," Sugarberry explained. "I'm sure you can understand that
Giorgio is not one of my favorite ponies for that
"Are you sure that's all?"
"What else would there be?" Changing the subject, she softened. "Bringing flowers
for Chocolate Chip was awfully sweet of
"The pleasure was all mine," he said gallantly. "She's a special young mare."
"And don't you forget it!"
Sugarberry could imagine the grin on Wigwam's face as he retorted with the line
Chocolate Chip used when she felt Sugarberry
was becoming too overbearing-- "Yes, Mother!"
"For your insolence, I'll gladly dig out the yearbook and give Chocolate Chip your
complete dating history," she threatened.
He laughed. "I don't think that will be necessary, Sugarberry. I see you're feeling fine,
so I'll let you go."
Sugarberry smiled, and bid him goodnight.
* * *
It was several days later when the letter from her mother appeared in her mailbox.
Sugarberry puzzled over the receipt of it so soon
after a phone visit, tearing into it as soon as she got into the house. After reading the first couple
of lines, she sank into the rocker, every sense geared
to the words on the paper.
I haven't been able to clear my mind since our conversation the
other night. When you said that name, Giorgio, my thoughts went back
in time, and I feel that to purge myself of them, I must confide some things
Years ago, when I was pregnant with you, your father took me and
your sisters with him to a fruit growing workshop at Hayton. Your dad was
kept busy for the five-day event, but the girls and I had nothing to do but relax
and swim in the pool, and enjoy the other amenities of the hotel.
Your sisters loved to swim and play with the other foals that
frequented the pool, so I spent a lot of my time sipping lemonade on the
veranda. I met a stallion who was attending an education conference, and
we got to talking about our lives and one thing and another. He explained
that his wife was expecting as well, but was unable to travel with him; so
he was there alone. He proudly told me that if their foal was a boy, he would
be called Giorgio just like him.
One evening while your father and I were at dinner, Giorgio came to
our table and-- as he always did-- he took my hoof and kissed it. Your father
found that act very annoying, and let me know later that he found this Giorgio
to be a lady's man, and not to be trusted. I assured him that Giorgio was
always charming and gentlemanly to me and the girls, but Strawberry Baskets
would not soften his opinion of Giorgio.
I've never admitted this to another soul, Sugarberry, but I was
rather mesmerized by this stallion and the attention he paid me. It was all very
innocent, you understand, but yet he held a tiny bit of my heart.
He even had a hotel employee snap a picture of himself, the girls,
and me one day by the pool. He gave one copy to me, and kept one for himself.
I kept that picture, unknown to your father. You, my dear, came across it
once when you were small and had helped yourself to rummaging through
my desk. Maybe you remember the picture-- a dashing stallion with a deep
green color and dark blue hair, and a stack of books for a symbol. I told you
he was a handsome prince who thought I had lovely daughters. Giorgio often
commented on Gooseberry and Raspberry's Twice-as-Fancy look, and said he
hoped my third foal would be a girl and similarly adorned.
Your father came into the room just them, and saw the picture in my
hoof. For the first and only time, Sugarberry, I saw your father's anger.
And worse than that, I saw his disappointment. It only lasted a moment--
he lashed out verbally at me for harboring these memories-- and I saw the