A New World for Tamara
written by Vixie
with help from Merry Treat and Tabby

"Ah, good afternoon, Mademoiselles Vixie!" Romance's thinly-accented voice greeted Vixie as she seated herself at the counter of the coffee bar inside the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, called the Java Stop.

Vixie giggled as she idly flipped through a menu. Despite all of her protests against it, he still called her "mademoiselles", which was French for "miss". "Good afternoon, Romm. How has your day been?"

Romance rolled his eyes as he leaned against the counter, drying a coffee mug. "Oh, so very slow. There isn't much business on weekends. Everyone's at home drinking their own coffee."

"Hey, Vixie!" Cinnamon Twist came out of the kitchen, wearing a rather large apron. "What are you doing in this early in the day? You usually only come in right before we close."

"Well, today I have a rather untimely appointment with a certain younger sibling to discuss the latest developments of a particular acquaintance." Vixie glanced at the wall clock with apprehension. "But she's late. Typical."

Just then there was a clatter from the bells on the door as it opened and closed. "I'm not late!" Merry Treat seated herself next to her sister at the bar. "Hi, guys!" She waved to the two stallions behind the counter. "I'm right on time, sis!"

Vixie sarcastically nodded her head and turned her chair so she faced her little sister. She noticed that she was alone today, her practically inseparable friend absent. "Where's Miss Tabitha?"

"Hey, Romance? We'd like two French vanilla cappuccinos, please." Merry Treat settled herself on the round stool. "She's spending some time with Tamara this afternoon."

Vixie raised an eyebrow. "Tamara? That cousin she can't stand? She's spending time with her?"


"MT, who died?"

Merry Treat giggled. "No one. And she does get along with Tamara just fine. For the most part."

"That's not the point! Why is she spending time with her? Knowing Tabby, it's not just ‘quality time'." Exasperation was starting to filter into Vixie's voice.

"Well, listen to me and I'll tell you!" Leaning closer to Vixie, Merry Treat motioned for her sister to do the same. "Tex broke up with Tamara! For Mimic!"

Both ponies jumped at a sudden crash of glass. Turning, they saw the remains of their two cappuccinos all over the floor, with a dazed looking Romance standing above them. He blushed and hurriedly went about cleaning up the mess with Cinnamon Twist's help.

"It'll be a couple more minutes, ladies. I'm terribly sorry," Cinnamon Twist told them as he went to fetch the mop.

Letting her breath out in a sigh, Vixie looked at her sister as she digested the new information. "So, Salsa Boy finally left her, huh?" She was referring to the stories of Tamara and Tabby's birthday party where Tex had given them chips and salsa as a birthday present.

"Sounds like a nickname that Tabby would come up with," Merry Treat commented absently. Suddenly, something beeped in her pocket. Pulling out her digital watch, the young pony suddenly went haywire. "Eep! I gotta go! See ya later!" She dashed out of the shop, leaving her confused sister staring at blank air.

"I guess I better make that one cappuccino, huh?" Vixie turned as she heard Romance's quiet voice behind her.

"Yeah, sorry about that," Vixie said. "My spaz of a sister had something to do, I guess." She motioned for her friend to sit next to her. "You okay?"

The black stallion hesitantly nodded his head. Something appeared to be on his mind. "Oh, yeah, I'm fine. I just let the tray slip, I guess."

Casting him a disbelieving look, Vixie sipped on her coffee. "Whatcha thinking, Romm? It's not like you to ‘just let' something slip."

"Oh..." Romance trailed a moment, searching for words. He started to spin a straw between his hooves. "So... who's this Tamara you two were talking about?"

Vixie smiled. "Oh, so that's what's on your mind! You know exactly who Tamara is! She's that pink unicorn that comes in with Tabby sometimes." She giggled. "I thought you've had something for her."

"Well... I... uh..." Romance stuttered at the statement of what he thought one was of his deepest secrets.

Vixie stood and leaned close to him. "Well, all I have to say, Romm, is if you wish to get a chance with her, you should start to move now, instead of waiting for her to choose you as a last resort." Pulling away, she turned to leave. "I've got to go. Rascal and I have a date tonight, and I must get ready."

Romance waved at her as she left the shop. Leaning back against the counter, he stared at the tendrils of white clouds in the afternoon sky through the large plate glass windows. It came as a sudden and welcome relief to hear that his secret crush was single after such a long time. But how was he ever going to pull off being with her? The thought sounded like quite an adventure.

* * *

The sun shown through the windows of Tamara's room, filling it with the warm glow of early morning. Tamara sat against the headboard of her bed, reading from a book of poetry. Breathing deeply, she set the book down and batted her eyelashes. "That was so romantic!" she sighed contentedly. She had stayed up reading the entire night, unable to peel her eyes from the love poems that filled the binding.

Climbing out of her bed, she stretched and started to brush her mane and tail. It had been months since she had felt this relaxed, she realized as an afterthought to calling Tex. Though it had only been a day since the rather harsh dumping had occurred, Tamara was well over the simple-minded stallion. But she was still used to calling him every morning, and it had slipped her mind that she no longer needed to.

Pushing the thought to the back of her mind, she headed to her elegant wardrobe and pulled open the doors. "What do you think Persian, this hat?" She held up a dressy hat made of white feathers to her Persian, who was curled in the window seat. "Or this one?" The second hat was a simple straw hat with a blue flower stuck in the hatband.

The Pokèmon opened one eye and glared at the feather hat, then went back to sleep. Tamara stared witheringly at the cat-like creature and decided on the straw hat. After adjusting it on her head and collecting her purse, Tamara picked up the phone. She had a few months of savings, and had decided to check up on an ad in the paper about pedigree kittens for sale, as well as a few things from the dress boutique she had been eyeing. The list of items she needed kept growing as she dialed Tiffany's number.

"Good morning, Tiffany! I'm doing quite well, thank you. Actually, I was wondering if you would accompany me on a couple of business errands today? Splendid! Twenty minutes? Perfect. Yes, see you there. Tah-tah!" Hanging up the phone, Tamara knew it was going to be a wonderful day.

* * *

"And then Toby told the waiter, ‘Well, they must hold some kind of nutritional value, because you're still here!'" Both Tiffany and Tamara laughed hysterically. It was late afternoon now and they were walking home after a long day of shopping. Tamara was cuddling her new Siamese kitten, Phoebe, close to her, along with about five large bags from various stores.

They were outside the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe when Tiffany announced that she could use a good mocha late. "Yeah, and it's still a pretty good walk from here to my house. Let's take a break," Tamara agreed, and pushed open the door.

Romance looked up from the customer he was serving and felt his heart start to race. "Uhm, yes sir, that'll be... uh... three jangles fifteen..." He tried to close the cash drawer as quickly as he could, and after smashing his hoof once he accomplished it. Now's my chance! he thought excitedly as he calmly walked over to the table at which Tamara and Tiffany had seated themselves. "Good evening, ladies. What would you like tonight?"

Tiffany batted her eyelashes at the French stallion, and Tamara rolled her eyes. The unicorn settled back, perfectly used to her friend's pursuits of stallions. "Yes, I would like a mocha late with whipped cream and a cherry on top and sprinkles. And a kiss would be nice." Tiffany giggled as Romance turned a shade of red. "Just kidding on that last part."

Tamara rolled her eyes again. Tiffany was getting more and more blunt when it came to her desires. "Don't mind her, Romance. I'd like a hot chocolate, please, with whipped cream." It was then that Tamara noticed the odd look he was giving her, and it made her feel... she could almost say fluttery. "And sprinkles."

Romance blinked a couple of times and gulped. She knows my name! he thought excitedly. "Uh... yeah, it'll be just a couple of minutes."

"Hmph! What's his problem?" Tiffany commented as Romance walked away. "He was looking at you the whole time, and not me!"

Tamara ignored Tiffany. She was also used to her friend venting about guys. Instead, she watched Romance as he made the drinks. Why was he looking at me like that? she thought.

"Excuse me, Tamara? You're totally ignoring me!" Tiffany waved her hoof in front of her friend's nose.
"Meow?" Phoebe mewed from Tamara's lap.

Tamara looked down into the huge almond-colored eyes of the kitten. "Yeah, I bet you are hungry. Come on, let's see if those gentlemen have some cream."

"Meow!" purred Phoebe.

Tamara stood, cradling the kitten with one foreleg. "I'll be right back, Tiffany."

"Whatever," Tiffany mumbled from the depths of her purse. Leaving her friend to touch up, Tamara walked up to the counter where Romance was just finishing their coffee.

"Excuse me?" Tamara asked, rather timidly, she realized. "My kitten is rather hungry, and I was wondering if you have any cream that you could spare? I can pay for it."

Romance turned, wide-eyed, and looked at her for a moment. "Kitten?" He caught site of the little creature curled up in the crook of Tamara's foreleg. "Oh, how cute! Hold on a moment, okay?" He motioned for Tamara to sit as he flitted into the kitchen, returning a moment later with a fresh pint of cream and a bowl. He was trying his best not to tremble as he poured the cream.

Tamara sat stroking the little kitten as she daintily lapped the cream. "She's going to make a fine show cat. See how she carries her tail?"

"I didn't know you were into cat shows," Romance told her. "I used to do them a bit myself, before I moved here."

"Really? Did you ever win any ribbons?" All ears, Tamara leaned closer with excitement. She had never met anyone that had any real interest in what she did before.

"Uh..." Romance breathed in the smell of Tamara's perfume, and he could feel his cheeks start to grow hot. He tried to pull back a bit, so she wouldn't see his condition. Instead, he slipped off the stool and crashed hard onto the floor, jolting the table at which Tiffany was seated. Her coffee, which Cinnamon Twist had brought to her, splashed all over the table. Tiffany leaped up with a scream, brushing imaginary droplets off of her jacket. When she was satisfied that there were going to be no stains, she glared harshly at Romance and huffed out of the shop, not waiting for her friend.

Tamara raced after her to the door. "Tiff-a-ny! Wait! Aren't you even going to wait for an apology?" She received no response. Turning, she quickly went to where Romance was sitting, rubbing his elbows. "Are you all right?" she asked delicately as she helped the stallion to his hooves.

"Yeah, I guess so..." Looking at the table, Romance let out a sigh. "You better catch up with your friend. I don't want to make her mad at you as well."

Tamara nodded slowly. "You're right there. And I don't need her majesty irritated with me." She hurriedly gathered her bags and scooped Phoebe up from the counter. "It was nice talking with you, Romance. See ya later!"

Romance forlornly watched Tamara leave. He so wanted to go with her, just to feel her next to him. Sitting at the table, he let out another sigh. His first shot at talking with her, and he goofed it up. Kicking himself inside, Romance went about cleaning up the mess he had created. It was going to be a very sleepless night.

* * *

"Hmm, do I want carrots or tomatoes?" Tamara pondered aloud to herself as she stood in the vegetable aisle of the market. It was the next morning, and she had had the peculiar urge to see how the new local greenhouse market was with produce. Upon finding it excellent, she had quickly filled her hand basket with a few pounds worth of fresh fruit and vegetables. But she had also quickly spent her remaining jangles, and she had to rethink some of her choices. "Let's go with tomatoes."

Placing the bundle of carrots back into their wooded crate, Tamara headed towards the cash register.

"Thank you very much for shopping at Nature's Delectables! That'll be ten jangles twenty-two," chattered the teen pony behind the counter. Tamara smiled warmly and dropped the change into her waiting hoof. "Have a spectacular day!" she called as Tamara headed away from the market and down the sidewalk.

Digging through her bag for an apple, Tamara idly wondered at what had urged her to stop at the little market. Looking up, she realized that she was in a section of town that she did not recognize. A strange feeling prompted her to take a stroll through the cobblestone sidewalks and Victorian style brick buildings. She was in the historic district of Dream Valley, she realized out of the blue. "How very quaint!" she breathed to herself as she peered at the ancient stonework displayed on many of the shop fronts.

Seating herself at a wrought iron bench with intricate whorls cast into the arm rests, she quietly munched away at her apple. Sunshine spilled over the street, and its gentle heat radiated from the stone paved walkway. She was the only pony to be found on the street, she noticed, which was rather odd for a Monday. The only sounds that violated the silent warmth were that of bird song. Tamara rested her head on her hoof and closed her eyes, soaking up the serenity.

"Excuse me, mademoiselles?" A gentle voice caused Tamara to jump. Opening her eyes, she squinted towards the source. "Sorry to have disturbed you," the voice continued.

When her eyes were fully adjusted to the light, Tamara recognized Romance standing before her. He was holding a shopping bag in one foreleg, and her bag in the other. "Oh, hello, Romance! You didn't disturb me."

Romance smiled kindly at her, and handed her the paper sack back. "That's good. I just wanted to give your groceries back. They had fallen while you were asleep and were busy rolling down the street."

"Oh, I hadn't realized that I had dozed off!" Tamara took the bag from him, and quickly checked to make sure none of its contents were damaged. "Thank you very much." Returning his smile, she motioned for him to sit next to her. "It looks like we both had the same thought on our minds," she said, eyeing his own bag of groceries.

"It certainly appears that way," Romance chuckled. He sat down next to Tamara, setting his bag on the ground. "What brings you down into this part of town? It's the first time I've seen you here."

Tamara thought a moment, a ponderous look on her face. "I don't know, really. I just woke up this morning and had the urge to."

Romance nodded in understanding. "The same thing happened to me. I live just a couple of blocks from here, though, so I come more often." Romance's veins throbbed with exhilaration as he casually talked with Tamara. Now's my chance! he thought happily.

"I can see why. It's so delightful!" Tamara breathed, waving her hooves at the buildings with a flourish. Her stomach suddenly gave a low growl, reminding her of her negligence at not eating breakfast that morning. Blushing, Tamara gave Romance a sheepish look. "Pardon me!"

Laughing, Romance rose and picked up his bag. "That's quite all right! I agree with that opinion. And seeing as it appears we have the makings of a meal, why don't we go have lunch in that nice little park over there?" Please! Romance kept thinking, praying that she wouldn't refuse.

Tamara's eyes widened, and she snapped her head towards her lap to hide a rising blush. "Why..." How was she going to respond to this? Looking back up, her eyes met his and saw the pleading hope that lingered there. "That sounds wonderful!"

She was rewarded with a beaming smile from the slim stallion. "Great!" Romance replied in an exuberant tone. Tamara stood, and the two ponies walked together towards the park. After finding a suitable spot, they sat down and made a lunch of tomato sandwiches, pears, cheddar cheese, and milk. They talked all the while, and time quickly flew from midmorning to early afternoon.

As the time passed, Tamara felt that she was growing closer and closer to the shy stallion. At first she thought the feeling was just something small. It was as if the world around them did not exist while they were together, as though they were someplace else that only they knew of. And she did not want it to end. By the time that Romance announced that he must return home, she was certain of what she felt.

"I'll walk with you, then. I have to stop by the groomer's to pick up my bill from last week," Tamara suggested as she disposed of the last of their garbage to the can nearby.

"That'll be great," Romance replied warmly, and led the way to the street. They walked together, admiring the architecture the area had to provide.

"Oh, look at that one!" Tamara said excitedly, pointing at a smallish shop on the corner of the street. The siding was a light shade of violet, and the whole building was trimmed with white filigree that looked like frosting on a cake. Two huge windows reflected Tamara and Romance in the oily hues of old glass as they approached. It opened into an empty room, Tamara quickly noted as she peered inside.

"It looks like this one is for sale," Romance commented to Tamara's delight.

"Really? Oh, this would make a wonderful place to have my show cat headquarters! My basement is starting to get rather cramped," Tamara said as she looked longingly though the glass, imagining her degrees adorning one wall and cozy cat cages along the other.

Romance didn't respond, letting Tamara dream a moment. Instead, he watched the reflection of the two of them standing together. In the glass, it looked like she was almost right beside him, her tail brushing his. He was filled with his own feeling of longing.

Puffing out a sad sigh, Tamara peeled herself away from the little building and turned to Romance. She quickly caught his sad gaze, but didn't have the nerve to ask what was on his mind. "Maybe someday," she said, and started to walk again.

They completed their journey to Romance's home in silence, each thinking their own thoughts. Tamara paid her companion little notice as she dreamed about buying the little shop and turning it into a center of her business.

Romance quietly led the way, occasionally glancing at the unicorn as she trailed after him. He had tried many times to tell Tamara how he felt about her, but the words simply stuck to the back of his tongue. He was so caught up in his personal torment that he almost walked right past his own house.

"We're here," he announced sadly, knowing that she would continue without him.

Tamara looked up from her thoughts, and took note of which townhouse it was they had stopped at. "I suppose then I will be seeing you again sometime," she told him, realizing she truly hoped she would. "Thank you for lunch."

"Thank you for joining me," Romance responded, bestowing his tender smile upon her, to Tamara's pleasure.

"Perhaps I'll see you soon at the Java Stop." Tamara hated to turn away from the smile that gave her such warmth inside, but she knew she must. "Tah-tah!" she waved as she slowly started to walk away.

"Yeah, tah-tah..." Romance echoed sadly. He stood at his door, watching Tamara until he could no longer see her. It killed him to watch her walk away, and he vowed that the next time they met she wouldn't do it without knowing how he felt. He slowly drug himself indoors, wishing that she had stayed longer.

* * *

Later that evening, Romance, Rascal, Cinnamon Twist, and Tiger were all at Romance's townhouse watching TV and eating Cheetos. It had become a weekly ritual between the four friends over the years, giving them time to catch up on the others' lives.

"So, how was everybody's weekend?" Tiger mumbled through a mouthful of Cheetos. He received mostly grunts and "Okay's" in return. "Yeah, I guess mine was okay. My girlfriend broke up with me, though."

"That stinks. Why?" Cinnamon Twist asked, not particularly caring.

"Oh, something about needing a ‘more romantic guy'." Tiger said breezily, brushing crumbs from his lap.

"Romantic? And we aren't romantic?" Rascal said, sarcastically waving his hoof at the gang. "Girls kill for us, bro!"

Cinnamon Twist raised an eyebrow at the multitude of empty soda cans and the remains of foodstuffs that littered the coffee table. "I don't think we quite qualify as ‘romantic'."

A few of them snickered, and they returned to dully watching the television screen flickering. After a few minutes, Cinnamon Twist turned to Romance. "You've been awful quiet for a few days. What's been on your mind, bud?"

"I bet he's festering over some girl," Tiger retorted.

Romance blushed and buried his chin in his chest. "Who, me? Obsessing over a girl? No way!" He was actually quite perturbed that his friends had interrupted his thoughts of the lunch he had shared with Tamara earlier in the day. But he was also not quite in the mood of reminding himself how he would probably never have the chance to talk to her again as he had earlier that very day.

"Oh, sure, like we believe you. Come on, spit it out," Rascal taunted.

Romance looked up, realizing he had everybody's full attention. "Well, uh, I guess you're right..."

"Then who is it?" they all asked in unison.

"Well, uhm, it's..." He glanced around at the faces of his friends. "Promise you won't tell her? Or laugh?"

Rascal jumped up and crossed his hoof over his heart. "Cross my heart and hope to die!"

"Of course you can tell us," Cinnamon Twist agreed.

"Yeah, it's not like we'll even know who she is," Tiger added.

Taking a deep breath, Romance blurted it out as quickly as he could, hoping they wouldn't catch the name. "It's-Tamara-Moore-I-love-her-so-much!"

"Blah-biddy-blah?" asked Tiger.

Drat. Of course he wasn't going to get off that easily, Romance decided. Sighing, he prepared to announce his secret to his friends. He well knew that if they did know who she was, that the fact would probably somehow show up on the evening news. "Tamara Moore."

All the stallions gasped in surprise. "Tamara? You've got a crush on Tamara?"

"Isn't she that cousin of Tabby's that you were talking to yesterday?"


Romance blinked at their responses. "What's so wrong with that?"

"Nothing! She's one of the cutest mares in town! I don't blame ya, bro," Rascal seated himself next to Romance.

"So, have you told her yet?" Cinnamon Twist questioned.

"Uh... no..."

Tiger assumed a look of shock. "Why not? I heard that Tex broke up with her, so she's all game."

"Yeah, I know, but... I don't have a clue as to what to say or how to act... and what if she doesn't like me?" Romance stuttered. He felt so awkward spilling his guts out to his fellow males like this.

"Man, you've got it bad, buddy!" Rascal remarked as he opened a can of soda.

"Yes, he certainly does," Tiger agreed. "I say we help him out."

Romance's heart raced. He was growing increasingly uncomfortable talking about the subject, which was rather personal to him. But, another part of his mind knew that he needed all the help he could get. "Uhm, I dunno, guys..."

"Oh, come on, we're your buds. We wanna help ya out." Cinnamon Twist put his hoof on Romance's shoulder.

Rascal leaned back in the couch cushions. "So what are you having problems with?"

Realizing he wasn't going to get out of analyzing the subject, Romance thought a moment. "Well, to sum it up, everything."

"Ah, I see. Don't know what to say to her, eh?" said Tiger.

Romance nodded. "That's a good start to the problem, I suppose."

"Well, from what I've encountered with females is that they like a lot of sweet talk. Lots of junk about loving them forever and how pretty they are and stuff. Over all, romance," Rascal explained, sounding rather matter-of-fact.

"Like what?" Romance felt very befuddled. He had always had a very hard time talking to any girl he liked, and with Tamara it was exceptionally hard.

Cinnamon Twist rolled his eyes. "Well, Tamara's romantic. Why don't you just say something in French?"

"Yeah, girls really go for foreign languages," Tiger stated. "As long as it isn't Pig Latin."

Romance stared wide-eyed at his friends. "Of course! I hadn't thought of that!"

"Yup, French, the very language of love! Works like a charm, I'm sure," Rascal said encouragingly. "That covers the ‘What to Say' category. Now, as for how to act, that's rather obvious."

Tiger took over the narrative. "You see, the more sweet and smooth you are to a lady, the better they will warm up to you. Simply shoving some flowers under her nose and saying ‘I like you, Tamara' isn't going to cut butter. You have to be a gentleman when you talk to her. Something more like ‘I bought these roses for you because I decided to bring some beauty to the life of the girl that brought it into mine.' "

"Gee, for a guy that just lost his girlfriend because he isn't romantic enough, I'd say that made even my heart flutter," Rascal swooned, causing all the stallions to break the serious atmosphere with guffaws of amusement.

After they had all calmed down and gasping for breath, Romance sat in contemplation for a moment. "So, if I go to her with roses and act romantic and poetic, it'll work?"

Cinnamon Twist rose from his spot on a large denim beanbag chair and threw away his last soda can. "Like a charm. And I hate to change the subject, but I better start heading home."

The clock on the wall chimed ten times as Tiger and Rascal got up as well. "Yeah, I've got to going as well," Tiger told his friend as he searched for something in his jacket pocket.

"Yeah, me too." Rascal chugged the rest of his soda and threw the can upon the growing heap in the middle of the coffee table.

"Thanks for helping me out, guys!" Romance called after them. Shouts of "No problem" and "Good luck!" echoed back to him from the street below.

Leaning back in his easy chair and gazing at the mess of Cheeto crumbs and soda cans, Romance felt as though a great weight had been lifted off of his chest. Deciding to leave the disorder for the morning, he headed upstairs to call the flower service, and to figure out exactly what romantic babble he was going to tell Tamara when next he saw her. It was going to be perfect.

* * *

"Hi, Tabitha, it's me. I was just calling to let you know that our engagement tonight can go as scheduled. I'm going to be about a half hour late, though, as I have a heap of paperwork to fill out for the next show. I'll meet you and the others at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe about six. Tah-tah!" Tamara finished her message to Tabby's answering machine and hung up. She sipped on her third cup of coffee as she gazed at the expanse of papers that filled her desk, all of which had to be filled out by that evening.

The thought of how tired she was skipped at the back of her thoughts as she started on the first stack before her. She had stayed up most of the night tossing and turning, unable to sleep well when she did manage to drift off. Since the incident with Romance the day before, there had been a knot in her chest. She didn't think it was a bad feeling, because every time she touched it with her mind it made her feel very warm and secure. But she had been unable to pinpoint exactly what it was.

Am I falling in love with him? The idea echoed dully through her veins. She had never been one to believe in "love at first sight" or stuff like that, but still...

Tilting back in the high-backed chair, Tamara gazed out the window. In the cherry tree outside, whose branches just barely brushed at the panes, two sparrows were busily working on building a nest. The brown-clad female sparrow was rather clumsy with most of the branches that her mate presented to her, and many of them would clatter back to the ground below. Tamara realized that it might be the very first nest the female had ever built. But patiently, the black-hooded male would retrieve them and give her a second try.

Tamara watched quietly for a time. She could clearly see the connection the two were building between each other as the work progressed, one showing the other how to help build their life together. Maybe Romance is just like that little sparrow, trying out something he has never had a chance to before. Perhaps he just needs me to help show him how to build a nest with me... the revelation whispered quietly in her heart more than her head. That is, if I'm right...

* * *

"Guys, let's sit at the counter. I love those cool little stool chairs," Merry Treat cooed as the entourage entered the shop.

"As you wish, Sis," Vixie commented as she plopped down at the nearest one. Merry Treat sat next to her, with Tabby and Thomas on the other side.

"Tammy's going to be here in a bit, I hope. She's probably still busy with her paperwork or something," Tabby commented to Merry Treat, who had asked where her cousin was.

All three mares chattered brightly about the day's events. Tabby had seen a Cubone for the first time at the Pokèmon Center, Merry Treat had given away two Forest Badges, and Vixie had had a rousing interview with the princesses.

Thomas sat silently next to Tabby, starring at the counter in front of him. He was having one of his weird feelings of dread again, which had been coming over him more and more frequently lately. He barely paid any attention to Tabby when she spoke to him, only giving a subtle nod or a mumbled "Ah-huh". He knew it hurt her, but he didn't know what else to say.

Finally, Tabby started to get worried about him. He looked rather pale. "Thomas, do you need to step out a moment to get some air?"

He barely nodded. "Yeah, I think I do... excuse me a moment."

* * *

Romance watched intently as the stallion, who had been seated next to who looked like Tamara, stepped outside. He had seen the four ponies go in a few minutes before, and he had just been biding his time for a chance to talk with Tamara. After talking with his friends the night before, his courage had gone up immensely.

Romance opened the refrigerator and pulled out the beautiful white rose with red fringed petals he had ordered the night before and made sure it hadn't been knocked or bumped. Looking up again and fixing his gaze upon the pink unicorn, Romance almost thought he could feel a mild panic attack coming on. Just stay calm and everything will go just fine. Stay calm, he told himself over and over as he casually walked to where the mares were seated.

"Excuse me," Romance said quietly, leaning over the counter and meeting the violet eyes of Tamara. "I have something very important to tell you."

Tabby stared in shock back at the black stallion before her. She nodded dumbly, not sure how to react. The stallion-- Romance, she thought was his name-- came around to the other side of the counter and knelt on one knee before her. In one hoof he held an exquisite rose, and reaching up he gently took her hoof in his free one.

"Depuis le moment j'étends mes yeux chanceux sur votre beauté, j'ai été enchanté. S'il vous plaît, croyez-moi quand je dis vous que je vous aime, et moi toujours volonté, pour toujours." ("Ever since the moment I laid my fortunate eyes upon your beauty, I have been enchanted. Please, believe me when I tell you that I love you, and I always will, forever.")

Romance spoke to her in rolling, gentle French. His eyes held so much love in them, and his words sounded so sincere. Tabby gaped open-mouthed at him, totally unsure of how to respond. "Uh... that's fascinating..." She turned her horror-ridden gaze to her friends (who were both in equal shock) and then back to him.

Romance laughed and took her other hoof, setting the rose on the floor next to him. "What I'm trying to say is, I love you Ta--"

Romance was cut off by the slam of the shop door, and everyone turned to see Thomas standing there, his eyes locked with anger upon Romance. Taking a solid step forward, his voice made the very air in the room boil with rage. "What do you think you are doing with my girlfriend?"

Romance's heart dropped through the floor. The flower he had just felt blooming inside of his chest puffed away like ashes on a breeze. He turned his eyes from Thomas to whom he thought was Tamara. "Girlfriend?" It can't be! No! his mind screamed at him.

"Yes, girlfriend. My girlfriend. Just who do you think you are, buddy?" Thomas took another threatening step towards him. "Explain yourself." The words were spoken as a command, filled with underlying fury.

Romance dropped Tabby's hooves and stepped back, stammering with embarrassment. "I-I didn't know! I th-thought she wasn't going out with anyone! I'm sorry sir!" Romance told him, raising his forelegs to protect himself in case a fight did start.

"Well, sorry isn't going to be good enough, buster! I want an explanation right now on why you even had the nerve to touch her!" Thomas growled.

Tabby was sitting back in her chair, relatively calm, taking small bites of her ice cream while watching the scene before her.

Vixie jumped up and stood between the two. She had suddenly realized what exactly had just happened, and she wasn't about to let it start a fight. "Hey guys, cool it. It was a simple misunderstanding. Let it go." She cast both stallions a solid glare.

Lowering his fist and casting Vixie a venomous look, Thomas turned and stomped the rest of the way to where Tabby sat. Taking her hoof in his own, he turned his back on Romance. "Come on, Tabby, let's go."

"That was so dashing of you," Tabby rolled her eyes as she went along with him. The remaining two sisters watched him storm out the door of the shop, practically dragging Tabby behind him.

"Tabby...? That wasn't Tamara...?" Romance stuttered into the sudden silence of the room. His eyes stared without seeing into space, and it felt as if his whole world had just been smashed like the rose he suddenly realized was beneath his hoof.

* * *

A cold breeze blew in puffs down the street, heralding the coming of rain. Thick gray clouds filled the evening sky, reflecting the last rays of the sunset in scarlet and golden hues. Tamara hugged her jacket close and bent her head against the wind. Despite the cold, being out of doors was much better than being stuck inside with mindless forms.

Tamara was about a block from the Satin Slipper Sweet Shop when she heard the door of the establishment slam. Looking up, she could see a rather perturbed Thomas followed by a thoughtful-looking Tabby coming towards her. "Really, he must just be some nut they let in," Tabby's words reached Tamara on the wind, and she halted to wait for them to meet up with her.

"Tamara! Come with me! I have got to tell you what just happened!" Tabby said excitedly as they passed, grasping her cousin's foreleg and pulling her after them. As they briskly walked to Tabby's house, Thomas didn't even acknowledge the world passing by him. Tabby was equally as silent, though she had a somewhat cocky smile upon her face. Tamara decided to refrain from asking questions until they were inside, out of the steal gray rain that was now steadily falling.

After reaching Tabby's home, the girls quickly dried off. Thomas said a few words to Tabby and quickly left, giving no mind to the nasty weather. "So, what happened?" Tamara asked finally as they seated themselves at the kitchen table with two cups of tea.

"You'll never believe it!" Tabby started, taking a measured pause to gather wind. "You know Romance from the new coffee bar at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shop? Well, he proposed to me! Well, not exactly, but he professed that he loved me! He was talking to me in French and everything, and I hadn't a clue what he was doing. And then Thomas came in, and he made him apologize for even touching me! He was like a knight in shining armor!" Though not fully admitting to it, Tabby was rather proud of what had transpired. Pausing again to sigh romantically, Tabby took no notice of the troubled look on her cousin's face.

Tamara stared in shock into her tea. No! she thought over and over. There was a sudden twang of hurt inside of her chest. It was as though her heart had been crushed. "That's... nice Tabitha..." she stuttered finally.

Hearing the distress in her cousin's voice, Tabby cast her a look of apprehension. "Are you okay, Tammy?"

Nodding, even though she was rather unsure herself, Tamara replied quietly, "Yeah, I'm... fine. I think I'm catching a cold, though... I'm going to head home and retire for the night..."

Tabby escorted her cousin toward the door, handing her a slightly thicker coat for the journey home. "Call me in the morning, okay? You don't look that great."

"Yes, of course. Good night, Tabitha." Tamara stepped into the downpour, weakly waving at her.

"Night-night, Tammy," Tabby waved back, her eyes showing some concern.

Tamara paid little heed to the heavy cold drops of water that crashed into her. Her gaze watched the ground ahead of her. It was some time before she even noticed that she was crying. What am I crying about? she thought angrily to herself. It was a simple crush! I didn't even cry over Tex!

Tamara turned into the park that had revealed itself to her in the gloom. It was in this very same park that but a few days before she had lost Tex to Mimic. The few streetlights that surrounded the play areas cast a mournful sheen upon the wet surfaces of the swingsets and slide. Puddles of water filled the thousands of imprints left by scampering youth in the loose fill gravel.

Dragging her hooves, she went to one of the swings. Brushing away the water that had collected, she seated herself and hugged the chains. Everything inside of her fell together in a abnormal way, a jumble of hurt and confusion. The fact that it was Tabby that Romance liked explained why he had been acting so weird around Tamara. She figured that he had probably gotten her mixed up with her almost identical cousin, and when he was spending time with Tamara he had thought it had been Tabby.

"Why? Why the irony?" She screamed in pain at the rain. All of her emotions collapsed inside of her, leaving her in a rubble of agony inside. Thunder crashed as if in response to her outcry, and muffled her sobs. She did not wish to be alone and abandoned, like an old plaything no longer needed by those she cared for. But alone she was, with only the rain to comfort her tears.

* * *

"Oh, where could she be?" Tabby fretted as she set the phone on the receiver. She had just tried to call Tamara for the fifth time after Tamara had neglected to call that morning.

"Maybe she's just asleep?" Merry Treat suggested, but she was just as worried as her friend.

Looking at the clock, Tabby shook her head. "Tamara? Still asleep at nine-thirty in the morning? No, that's most definitely not like her."

Merry Treat shrugged, pacing the kitchen floor again and again in thought. "I don't know..."

"Maybe she was kidnaped! Or murdered! Or..." Tabby fussed, wringing her hooves. She generally didn't worry about the well-being of her cousin, but this was an extreme case.

"Tabby, calm down! We can't do anything to help her if we're stressed out," Merry Treat consoled her friend by putting her forelegs about Tabby's shoulders.

Tabby took a couple of deep breaths. Horrible thoughts kept filling her mind as she tried to think about where Tamara was. "Let's go over to her house. She wasn't looking that great when I saw her last night, and she might have deteriorated to the point she can't move."

"Good idea. Come on," Merry Treat replied, and the two mares quickly hurried outside and rushed across town to Tamara's house. Unfortunately, their frantic knocks on her door went unanswered, and the windows were dark and quiet. "Okay, now what?" Merry Treat asked Tabby as she sat down on the step before the door.

Tabby leaned against the door and closed her eyes, trying to calm herself into a thinking mode. "Let's go to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe. We need to get some ponies to look for her."

Merry Treat cast her friend a questioning look. "A search party? Don't you think that we should just call the police?"

Tabby was already cantering down the sidewalk towards the shop. "That costs money we don't have! And anyway, maybe someone knows where she is," she shouted back though her own dust.

It only took a couple of minutes to reach the shop, and they entered breathlessly. "Hi, you two," Scoops said to them, eyeing their flustered faces. "Is everything okay?"

Tabby quickly explained their plight to the older pony, whose cheery face turned grave. "Come on, let's make some phone calls. I can get together a few ponies in no time."

About a half hour later, the three had gathered Thomas, Tiffany, Sugarberry, Vixie, and Cinnamon Twist at the shop. "Just ask someone at every house you pass if they've seen her." Tabby instructed as Merry Treat handed out a few hastily photocopied pictures of Tamara. "Check in at hour intervals, and when someone finds her call here immediately."

The group nodded silently, their faces lined with worry as they filed out of the shop. "I'll stay here to catch phone calls," Scoops told them as they left.

Vixie watched as the others left, and turned to Scoops. "I need to make a quick phone call," she told her as she lifted the phone. Vixie had been formulating what had happened in her own mind, and she knew someone that the others had forgotten to call. "Hi, Romm," she said seriously when the rings were answered on the other end of the line.

"Hey, Vix. What's up?" Romance asked, quickly discerning the worry in Vixie's voice.

"Tamara's missing. She's not at her place, and no one has seen her since last night," Vixie explained.

There was an expected silence on the other end as Romance listened to the news in shock. "What? Are you sure?"

"Yes, Romm. I don't know where she would be at, but I think I know why she's missing. You have got to find her before the others do, so you can set your mishap last night straight," Vixie explained. "I'm at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe. The others are already out looking, but there aren't very many. When you find her, bring her here." She knew she did not have to ask him to look, for she already knew his response.

"Okay. Thanks for calling, Vix," was Romance's reply.

Vixie hung up the receiver, not expecting a "goodbye" from him. She seated herself at a table, deciding to help Scoops take calls. She prayed that Romance would find Tamara safe and sound.

* * *

Romance galloped out of his house in a panic, his heart racing much faster than his hooves as they flew over the ground. His muscles ached from a terrible night's sleep, but he didn't care. He had to find Tamara, and that was the only thought on his mind.

Stopping to catch his breath, he leaned against a tree. The day's heat sweltered over him, and it felt as though he was going to collapse. Glancing about him, he realized that he had come to the entrance of the park at which he and Tamara had shared lunch the other day. There was no better place for him to start looking, he supposed, and plunged into the shady depths at a full run.

Leaping over puddles left by the downpour the night before, he practically broke his neck as he turned this way and that, looking desperately for the pony he loved so much. In his mind, she was lying hurt in a ditch somewhere. Or unconscious along the path, having slipped while she had ran from an unknown terror. A million different scenarios played out in his mind, and he hoped that each one was totally wrong.

After a frantic hour of searching, his heart was starting to grow heavy. He had never noticed how large the park was. Maybe it was just because he was so worried. He was about to give up all hope of ever seeing her smile again when the trail turned from the trees and opened into a play area. His vision focused in on one thing: the form of Tamara huddled on a swing with her forelegs around herself and eyes closed as she slept.

"TAMARA!" Romance shouted in pure joy, and in a burst of energy he galloped the last hundred feet between them. He threw his forelegs about her, glad that she was alive. "Oh, Tamara!" he mumbled into her mane.

Tamara blinked in surprise as she was jolted awake. It took her a moment to recollect that she had gone to sleep in the park, her pain soothed by the rain's caress. "Romance?" she asked in confusion, not sure how to react to his warm hug.

Pulling back from her and brushing a stray lock from Tamara's eyes, Romance smiled happily. "You're all right! Oh, you're alive!" he said, almost in disbelief.

Tamara nodded slowly, unsure of what to think. "Yes, I'm fine. What did you think was wrong?"

Romance didn't respond, only smiled bigger. Tamara watched his face, noticing how happy he seemed to just see her. And then, a single tear ran down his cheek, and he buried his head in her shoulder. "I'm so glad! I don't know what I would do if something had happened to you!"

The shambles of her heart that her hours of sobbing the night before had torn to bits stirred as the stallion cradled her firmly in his embrace, like nothing in the world would make him release her. Was everything she had been thinking a total mistake?

Her question was answered when she heard him whisper something in her ear that not even Tex had ever said to her. "I love you, Tamara."

"What?" It felt as though beams of light flooded her body as the words soaked through her, and she pushed Romance's head up so she could meet his crystalline red eyes. "D-do you mean that?"

Romance nodded, and his own heart felt like the purest joy had been bestowed upon it as her eyes gazed into his. "With all of my soul."

They did not hear the cheers and whistles from the search party, which had decided to do a sweep of the park, as they kissed. Romance and Tamara had been lifted into a world of their own.

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