Welcome to Dream Valley!
written by Sugarberry

It was unusual for Sugarberry to be entering the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe alone, for she was nearly always in the company of Tabby when at this favorite hang-out. But Tabby had taken Tiffany up on a dare to see which one of them could become the best cook, and both of them were busy with a cooking class that met three evenings a week. Sugarberry shuddered to think of it-- Tabby and Tiffany in the kitchen? No good would ever come from that!

"Hi, Scoops," Sugarberry greeted the manager of the shop. "I need a banana split, please!"

"Sure thing!" responded Scoops cheerily. "I hear Tab and Tiff are going all out on this cooking dare!"

"Yes. And I feel sorry for Snuzzle, who is teaching the class!" Sugarberry handed Scoops payment for the ice cream. "I'm afraid that her patience will be sorely tested!"

Taking her banana split to a quiet corner table, Sugarberry surveyed the room. A number of the Sweetheart Sisters were at a table; and from the snippets of their conversation, Sugarberry found that they were planning a Valentine party. Sugarberry absently wondered how they could eat so much ice cream and stay so disgustingly thin. (Editor's note-- This is not meant as a derogatory remark to all thin ponies; Sugarberry is simply wishing she could be more like them.)

Across the room in front of the main window was the Apple Delight family. Sugarberry giggled as the top scoop of Baby Apple Delight's chocolate ice cream cone fell with a plop to the floor. Good thing Tabby's not here; she'd probably call her a nasty baby pony, thought Sugarberry. Suddenly, she sighed. It was boring at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shope without Tabby.

Just then Sugarberry caught sight of someone else sitting a couple of tables away from hers. Who is that, wondered Sugarberry. She's definitely not of the Dream Valley ponies. And she looks lost and lonesome.

The unknown pony was sitting alone with her head resting on her left roof as she absently stirred a cup of hot cocoa with the spoon in her right hoof. What set her apart was that fact that her body color and mane were brown, unlike the garden of pastel shades adorning the Little Ponies. Sugarberry watched the new pony with interest. Who was she? Why was she in Ponyland?

Sugarberry took a few more bites of her banana split and then glanced at the brown pony again, just in time to see several large tears drop from her eyes. Unable to sit still while some pony was so obviously in need of a friend, Sugarberry picked-up her dessert and headed to the unknown pony's table.

"Excuse me, but you look like you could use someone to talk with," Sugarberry cheerfully announced as she slid into the chair next to the pony. "My name's Sugarberry. What's yours?"

The glossy brown pony with a Sweetheart Sister build looked up at Sugarberry in surprise, but managed a weak smile. "I'm called Chocolate Chip," she murmured quietly. "Dull, brown, boring Chocolate Chip." Another tear dripped poignantly into her hot cocoa.

"Sweet, scrumptious, and everypony's favorite Chocolate Chip would seem more precise, around here, anyway," calmly replied Sugarberry. Her heart reached out to this forlorn young adult who was burdened with such sadness.

"Well, my parents weren't pleased when their darling foal was born so ordinary; Mom is a deep purple and Dad is a bright yellow; they expected a baby with more pizazz that brown." Chocolate Chip sighed deeply, and rubbed her hoof across her forehead as if to wipe away unpleasant memories. "Why couldn't I have been born beautiful like those ponies?" she asked tremulously as she looked toward the vivacious group of Sweetheart Sisters still absorbed in party planning.

"And who is to say you aren't just as beautiful?" questioned Sugarberry. "You are young and graceful and your color is perfectly wonderful. In all of Ponyland, there is no pony to match you!"

"That's the problem, isn't it? I stand out like some kind of freak!" Chocolate Chip moaned in despair.

Sugarberry couldn't comprehend what this pony must have lived through to make her feel so bitter while still so young. Soothingly she asked, "What makes you say such a thing?"

Chocolate Chip looked deeply at Sugarberry, weighing her honesty and trustworthiness. Finding what she searched for, Chocolate Chip poured out her story of loneliness, belittlement, and frustration. She came from the town of Neighberry, where no brown pony had ever been welcome. When she had been newborn, her dad had exclaimed in disgust at his tiny daughter, "She looks more like a chocolate chip than a pony!" And the name had stuck. Her parents couldn't relate to their child and Chocolate Chip had grown-up feeling ashamed and worthless.

"I finally got up the courage to go off on my own," Chocolate Chip confided, "but it's an awfully scary world by myself."

Sugarberry patted Chocolate Chip's hoof. "Well, you've come to the right place if you are looking for a place to settle down. You'll be welcome here!"

A tremble went through Chocolate Chip's body; she looked at Sugarberry demurely. "Do you really think so?" she asked a bit disbelievingly.

At that moment, Baby Apple Delight, who had been playing with a wind-up My Little People token that Scoops gave to the under-five crowd, released the toy in Chocolate Chip's direction. The My Little People tottered unevenly across the tiled floor, and came to rest against Chocolate Chip's back hoof.

Baby Apple Delight ran over as Chocolate Chip stooped to recover the toy, and she handed it back to the baby pony. Baby Apple Delight grinned sweetly up at Chocolate Chip and lisped a baby-sized, "Thank you!"

When Baby Apple Delight returned to her parents, Sugarberry and Chocolate Chip overheard her say to her parents, "Dat pretty pony rescued dolly." Daddy Apple Delight and Mommy Apple Delight smiled and waved in Chocolate Chip's direction.

"See," stated Sugarberry. "You are accepted already!"

With the beginning of confidence building in her eyes, Chocolate Chip visibly relaxed and appeared more at ease than Sugarberry had yet seen her.

"Ah, excuse me, Sugarberry," a voice came at Sugarberry's shoulder. Looking up, Sugarberry was surprised to see Dainty, one of the Sweetheart Sisters, standing at her side. "Excuse me," Dainty repeated, "but could I ask a favor of you?"

"Sure," responded Sugarberry. "But first, let me introduce you to my new friend, Chocolate Chip. She's new in Dream Valley from Neighberry. Chocolate Chip, this is Dainty, who attends Pony Pride University."

By this time, Dainty had been joined by Wild Flower, Spring Song, and Flowerburst. After everyone had been properly introduced, the Sweetheart Sisters, all talking at once, invited Chocolate Chip to attend their Valentine party.

"Don't worry about a date," Dainty assured her.

"There'll be plenty of Brilliant Brothers to go around!" teased Wild Flower.

"You'd mentioned a favor you needed?" interrupted Sugarberry, suddenly feeling like an ancient one surrounded by all these young, energetic ponies.

"Oh, that," recalled Dainty. "Could you ask Thomas if he'd sponsor some of our advertising for the party? Scoops is chipping in, as well as Fifi."

"I'll certainly ask him and let you know," assured Sugarberry.

"Great! Thanks," bubbled Dainty as she and the others bid farewell and turned to leave the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe.

When it was quiet again, Sugarberry smiled motherly at Chocolate Chip. "You are off to an excellent start!" But Sugarberry was surprised to see tears begin to pour down Chocolate Chip's cheeks.

"What's wrong," Sugarberry asked in dismay.

"I've got no place to spend the night, and I'm nearly out of jangles," wailed Chocolate Chip despairingly.

Sugarberry shook her head and patted Chocolate Chip. "Don't worry. For now, you can stay at my house until we get you settled."

"You'd let me do that?" sniffed Chocolate Chip, using a napkin to dab at her eyes and nose.

"Of course. And we should be going now. You must be exhausted after your long journey." With that, Sugarberry and Chocolate Chip stood up and wished Scoops a "Good night." Chocolate Chip's satchel had been stashed along the wall behind the door, and was easily retrieved before the two set off into the night. The air was crisp and cold as they stepped outside, but the sky was alive with the glitter of a myriad of stars.

When they arrived home, Sugarberry gave Chocolate Chip a quick tour so she'd be comfortable with her surroundings.

"This is really a swell place, Sugarberry," Chocolate Chip yawned as Sugarberry placed her suitcase in the spare bedroom.

"And it sounds like you should get yourself ready for bed," advised Sugarberry, herself yawning.

At that moment, Fluff, Sugarberry's large, plump orange and white long-hair cat, came streaking into the bedroom and jumped onto Chocolate Chip's bed; purring noisily, he rounded-out a cozy nest in the bedspread and curled-up contentedly.

"Umm, how do you feel about cats?" questioned Sugarberry concernedly. "Fluff's slightly spoiled, and sleeps where he will."

Chocolate Chip dropped herself on the bed and hugged Fluff close. "I love cats," she confessed. "Mom and Dad would never let me have one, though."

"Well, Fluff certainly approves of you, so you'll be seeing a lot of him. Now, get to bed and get a good night's sleep!" Sugarberry stooped and kissed Chocolate Chip gently on the forehead before turning to leave the room. "Sweet dreams!"

"Good night, Sugarberry, and thanks for everything!"

Chocolate Chip got ready for bed and threw back the covers. She was crawling in when she suddenly remember something she had to take care of. She slid to her knees at the side of the bed and whispered a heartfelt prayer in thanksgiving for finding a haven offering her acceptance and happiness. Then, she crawled under the covers, and drew Fluff up to her chin where his gentle purring put her to sleep almost immediately.

Chocolate Chip slept long and hard; off in the distance she could hear a motor running; she tried to block out the noise, and rolled over. But then, someone began rubbing her left cheek with sandpaper. Chocolate Chip opened her eyes wide and found herself staring face to face with Fluff, who was purring like an engine, and licking her face rhythmically.

"Oh, Fluff!" Chocolate Chip squealed. "Stop that, you stilly cat!" Fluff sat back, feeling very proud that he had succeeded in waking the sleepy pony. He was hungry and, who knows, maybe this new pony would share her breakfast with him. So he turned to washing his own face while he waited for her to get up.

"Oh my gosh!" Chocolate Chip groaned when she saw the time. It was ten o' clock. "I haven't slept that late in ages!" She was out of bed in no time, dumping Fluff unceremoniously on the floor in the effort.

Once she was cleaned-up, she headed for the kitchen with Fluff leading the way. On the table lay a note from Sugarberry:

I didn't want to wake you; make yourself to home; read books, use the computer, bake something. I'll be at work until four o' clock; meet me at that time at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe. I have some friends I want you to meet.



Chocolate Chip made the most of her time; she fixed herself and Fluff a healthy breakfast, then baked a strawberry cake to surprise Sugarberry with. She and Fluff sat by the window and watched as cardinals, blue jays, and chickadees and other birds she couldn't identify feasted out of well-stocked feeders scattered about Sugarberry's lawn. And while Fluff slept curled in her lap, she read one of Sugarberry's mystery novels. She had no sooner finished the cliff-hanger ending when she noticed the clock-- almost four o' clock. Fluff was again dumped on the floor as she scurried to meet Sugarberry on time.

The timing was perfect. Upon entering the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, Chocolate Chip saw Sugarberry and several other ponies ordering at the counter. Suddenly, Chocolate Chip felt very awkward and timid. Would all of these ponies be as open-hearted as the ones she'd already met here in Ponyland?

Sugarberry caught sight of Chocolate Chip and rushed to pull her forward to meet a gorgeous pink unicorn. "Chocolate Chip, I'd like to introduce you to my very best friend, Tabby. And Tabby, this is my houseguest I told you about." Sugarberry cringed inwardly as Tabby could be rather unpredictable at times.

Tabby's eyes sparkled, and she looked long and deliberately at Chocolate Chip. "Chocolate Chip, huh?" she finally said with an insane smile on her face. "Yes, well, you'll do."

"I'll do?" Chocolate Chip said in obvious alarm.

Tabby burst out laughing. "No, no, never mind. I was just thinking that I had a sudden craving for a chocolate chip cookie... anyway..."

The three ponies joined a classical white pegasus at a table. As they sat down, Sugarberry went through the introductions again. "...and this is Tiffany."

Tiffany visibly stiffened as the introduction was made, which shattered Chocolate Chip's new-found assurance. She was perceptive enough to notice a definite chill in the air directed at her from Tiffany. "Hi," was all Chocolate Chip could stammer.

After a cold stare encompassing the brown body, brown mane, brown tail, and deep dark chocolate chip symbol, a light grimace came and went on Tiffany's face that might have been an attempt at a smile. But she turned to Tabby and whispered something private after which Tabby just shrugged nonchalantly and whispered something back. Tiffany appeared pouty after that.

"What kind of a cook are you, Chocolate Chip?" asked Tabby suddenly. "Tiff and I are taking a cooking class; we made toasted cheese sandwiches at last night's class!" Tabby rolled her eyes and continued. "Burnt them! We both did! But once we cut the crusts off, they weren't half-bad. Never could stand those crusts, anyway!"

Tiffany began giggling at the memory and seemed to forget her grudge again this plain new pony. "Yes, and our fruit salad turned out all runny and gooey. Snuzzle said no one ever ruined a fruit salad before. I guess we stirred it too much." And both she and Tabby broke out in laughter at the thought of their disastrous attempt.

"Have you had any interesting experiences with food, Chocolate Chip?" asked Sugarberry in an attempt to draw her into the conversation.

Chocolate Chip blushed at the thought. "Well, there was my first pasta salad. No one mentioned that the pasta should be cooked first. So my dad nearly broke his teeth out when he tasted it!"

Through their merrymaking, Tabby admitted that she rather liked uncooked pasta; it was nice and crunchy. That made everyone laugh even harder.

They were still sharing cooking stories when Friendly, the Bushwoolie, entered the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe. As if she'd been expecting him, Sugarberry stood-up, motioned to Friendly, and moved an extra chair into the circle of the table.

Friendly bounced over, crawled into the chair, and greeted every pony with a typical Bushwoolie greeting, "Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!"

"Chocolate Chip," began Sugarberry, "this is Friendly, one of the owners of Bushwoolie Bargain Books at the mall. I took it upon myself, since you need employment, to invite Friendly to talk with you about an opening the Bushwoolies have at their store."

"Ya! Ya! Too much work. Need help," added Friendly.

Chocolate Chip stared in delight at the furry little creature; she'd never seen a Bushwoolie before and was utterly captivated by his innocent nature. In no time at all Friendly had welcomed Chocolate Chip as a full-time employee at the mall store, starting Monday morning.

"Good deal!" exclaimed Friendly as they closed the interview with a hoof-shake. And as it was getting late, the group broke-up and headed homeward. Tabby lived next-door to Sugarberry so she walked along with Sugarberry and Chocolate Chip.

"Remember, whenever any of the new Cat Who books by Lillian Jackson Braun come in, two copies are automatically set aside for Sugarberry and me," instructed Tabby.

"I'll be sure to remember," responded Chocolate Chip. "Oh, I don't know when I've ever been so happy!" she added contentedly. "Thanks so much, Sugarberry, for all you've done!"

Sugarberry tossed her mane back unconcernedly. "No problem, Chocolate Chip. Always glad to help a friend."

"Speaking of which," interjected Tabby, "I'm supposed to make a batch of cookies for my cooking class tomorrow night. I was thinking that you two could come over now and help me!"

"Sure, Tabby!" grinned Sugarberry.

"Let me guess," pondered Chocolate Chip. "Chocolate chip cookies?"

"Works for me," snickered Tabby. "Last one to my front porch is a rotten egg!"

And the three took off in a whirl of legs, manes, and tails, ending in a giggling heap on Tabby's front porch. As they unwound themselves, Tabby suddenly gasped-- "Oh, no!"

"What is it?" asked Sugarberry.

"I don't have any... chocolate chips!"

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