Thrilled to have her grandmother's estate settled and to find herself the legal owner of the house in which she had grown up under her grandmother's care, Fern also found herself with the responsibility of her great-aunt Maisie; and in so doing, she was compelled to remain in the ancestral home-- which never had a telephone connection to the outside world-- to handle further business proceedings and to watch out for Maisie, who was dependent on Fern. True to her word, Fern, from her newly inherited property in Bushley, kept Toby informed of happenings through a series of letters while she handled the necessary transition of life for Maisie.
November 1, 2001
To My Dearest Toby,
Aunt Maisie and I have been busy just learning about each other and becoming very good friends; she is so unlike Granny, yet every now and then I catch a mannerism or a way of saying something that is just like having Granny back again.
Living in the house in which I grew up has been therapeutic for me; I have been able to lay to rest some of the things that have eaten at me since I lost Mom and Dad; there is something very restorative about this place now that I have been away and have seen what exists on the outside.
I talked to a pony at the phone company, and she remembers Granny; it seems that several times, the phone company had approached Granny about installing the needed equipment; but she was always adamant that no phone personnel would ever be allowed on her property. There is even a legal document on file that prevents the company from "harassing Maud Feather" at any time in the future. Dynasty says that it is no longer binding, but I'd feel like a traitor to Granny if I rescinded her instructions. Please understand!
Something really exciting happened-- several ponies with whom I had gone to school came to visit when they heard that I was back; they were awfully nice. Flower Drift invited me to her home for dinner next week; it seems that a group of them want to do something charitable for Christmas, and they are organizing a dance to support the homeless. When they heard that I had helped with Dream Valley's charity ball-- learning as I did from the greatest organizer around, Snuzzle-- they asked if I would help them out. I told them I wouldn't be staying here very long, but they said that I could at least get them off to a good start.
This is so exciting, Toby. When I was in school, I never had time for the other ponies because Granny was my whole life. Now I'm finding out how wonderful and friendly my classmates are.
Thank you for clearing the way for me with Lemon Treats; I'm glad she found someone else to take my place for the time being. Have you heard anything about Garnet? I still am dumbfounded to know that she had been living a double identity; I will feel better about it when I learn that she is safe and happy wherever she has decided to settle. Give my love to Snuzzle. I've written to Chocolate Chip asking her to water the plant in my apartment occasionally until I'm back home.
I told my friends about you, Toby, and showed them your picture; they were very impressed. I am missing you so much; I can't wait to get back to Dream Valley. It won't be too long now!
All my love,
Toby was happy to receive the letter; he read it several times, lingering over the salutation and the closing. He picked up a pen and began writing immediately.
November 4, 2001
My Darling Fern,
It sounds like you are having a fruitful stay in Bushley. I'm happy for you and glad that you have ponies your own age to associate with, and I know you will be a great help to them in organizing the dance. And I can live without hearing your voice if you continue to send me your personal letters.
Lemon Treats sends her love; she says to tell you that Sunbonnet is doing a good job for her, but that she misses your organized accounts at the end of the day; and, therefore, she urges you to return home as soon as possible.
Needless to say, I miss you, too. I hope Aunt Maisie can get along without you soon-- I'm finding that I can't! Snuzzle has determined that I should have a picture of you on my desk. Maybe you would allow this friend of yours, Flower Drift, to take a photo and send it my way. Then I can impress everyone who comes into my office.
Enjoy your days in Bushley, but don't forget that I'm waiting here in Dream Valley.
My love to you,
* * *
November 9, 2001
My Dearest Toby,
I learned an interesting piece of information from Aunt Maisie; she tells me that Granny went to school in Dream Valley back in the days when Pony Pride was a teacher's college. I can't believe that Granny never told me that she had gone to college, and to think it was in the city where I ended up and found you! The campus will remind me of Granny now once I'm back.
I can imagine her going around to her classes and putting the instructors in their place if they taught something that she disagreed with!
Aunt Maisie and I were in to see Dynasty yesterday, and we signed more papers; that in itself is a never-ending job. Dynasty is taking care of everything for us very capably of which we are both grateful, yet it all takes such a long time; and he has other cases to work on as well. Perry has been in touch with him to see how things are going; so if you want any official information, he could probably explain things better than I can. I'm just glad that Dynasty is such a conscientious lawyer.
Flower Drift tells me she would love to take a picture of me for you; but as her husband broke her camera recently and refuses to buy her a new one until Christmas when he can wrap it and put it under the tree, she can't oblige. Now is that fortunate for me or what? But I promise to be home as soon as possible, and that will be better than any picture could be!
The plans for the dance are coming into shape; there seems to be so much to do in such a small space of time, but I am enjoying every minute of it!
Oh, Toby, I do miss you so much! Any day now, I hope to find that Aunt Maisie has become comfortable enough with things to take the responsibility of caring for the house and related necessities herself. Until then, our letters will have to suffice.
Love and Hugs,
This letter, too, pleased Toby. Fern was missing him as much as he was missing her.
November 14, 2001
If time flies when you are having fun, then my life has reached the pits. The days seem to drag by without you here to bring some light to my world. But I won't complain as long as I know that you are fulfilling an indispensable need in Bushley. However, I am sending a camera to you under separate cover; I will expect results.
Perry did call me himself to let me know that things are moving along as well as can be expected-- which means slowly. He has complete confidence in Dynasty's handling of the matter, however, so you and Aunt Maisie have nothing to worry about.
The fact that your grandmother attended school here in Dream Valley is interesting. I checked with Snuzzle who knows everything about the history of this town. She says there really weren't many teacher's colleges available back in the time when your grandmother was a young mare, so the odds of her ending up here were fairly certain. That doesn't take away the sentimental feelings for you, but it does explain the mystery of why she chose Dream Valley.
We have been busy at the hospital with the first flu patients which is unusual for this early in the season; the vaccine from New Pony is delayed, and now it looks like it will arrive too late to do a large number of ponies any good. Sugarberry was one of the first to get it, and now the rest of the household has it; they will be fine, so don't worry about them. Chocolate Chip actually had a rather mild case of it herself.
Please take care of yourself and Aunt Maisie until I can look out for you myself.
All my love,
* * *
November 17, 2001
Aunt Maisie is frazzled to think of my coming back to Dream Valley and leaving her with so many details to still be ironed out over the will and other household functions. I realize that I must stay with her until she feels more in control of things. She has been so protected all her life that she has no idea how to cope now that she is alone. Please understand that I can't just walk out on her until she is feeling more confident.
The dance planning committee was pleased to hear that I will be around longer than I originally thought. They have been holding frequent meetings and have now officially named me a co-chair along with Raven. We've got lots to do, but I'm having a blast! Sonato and Daydream are on the committee, too, along with Flower Drift. The meetings are always wild; Raven has such a sense of humor! He told me that he had a crush on me when we were in high school, but I never stuck around after hours long enough for him to let me know; what a kidder!
Dynasty took me out to dinner Saturday night to go over some more of the details of the will. The restaurant here is not as elegant as the Estate Manor, but they have dancing! It was a lovely evening, even if most of it was spent discussing Granny's will; I still find that depressing.
How are things in Dream Valley? I'm sorry that we can't share our first Thanksgiving together, but I understand that you have your responsibilities to the hospital just as I have mine to Aunt Maisie; but even though we are not together, you can be sure that I am thanking God for your precious friendship.
Toby was not as happy over this letter as the previous ones from Fern; who was this Raven, and why did Dynasty have to include dinner and dancing in his business affairs with Fern? The stallion did not like what he was imagining-- that Fern was becoming too entwined with the goings on of Bushley; yet he had no hold on her to ask her to come back to Dream Valley. He could only hope that her feelings for him had not changed.
November 21, 2001
My Precious Fern,
Yes, I understand your decision to stay with your great-aunt. In a way, I'm glad you are staying as we have been having a larger than normal number of cases of the flu; usually we don't see this many patients until January or February. It has been taking its toll on everyone: the young and the elderly and those in-between; many of them have required hospitalization. If you can avoid getting exposed to it, all the better. That may mean curtailing your involvement with the committee you are on; try to keep Aunt Maisie and yourself away from crowds.
It sounds like Dynasty is keeping on the job; does he know when all this will be finalized? The sooner, the better, if it will mean that some of the problems for Aunt Maisie will be resolved then; and she will be comfortable with you coming home.
Tabby and Thomas invited me to their Thanksgiving feast; where are you spending the day? My parents are planning to have everyone in the family with them in New Pony for Christmas; so expect to get a card from Mom one of these days inviting you for the holidays. I look forward to spending Christmas with you; it makes our current separation bearable.
* * *
November 26, 2001
More problems have come up in connection with Granny's will; I will have to remain with Aunt Maisie until all this complicated legal mumbo jumbo is straightened out. Aunt Maisie just goes into a tizzy when Dynasty stops by; if I wasn't here, I'm afraid she would let it drive her crazy. I've found it is better to stop at his office on a regular basis so that he doesn't have to come out to the house.
The plans for the dance are coming along superbly! Everything is falling into place, but we've put a lot of work into it, so it should be. We've been doing most of the planning at Flower Drift's house in town; but don't worry, Raven walks me home if it's after dark when we finish. There was ice on the ground the other evening, and I could have had a nasty spill; but Raven caught me before anything got broken.
I wish it would snow; Granny's house and grounds always look so pretty nestled under a blanket of white. I mentioned to Raven how Granny used to take me sledding on the hill behind the house, so now he wants to get a group together after the first snowfall and have a sledding party. He's always coming up with something to mandate having a party. I must admit that I've been having so much fun that the time is just whizzing by!
I forgot to tell you in my last letter that Flower Drift invited me and Aunt Maisie to town for Thanksgiving; we had a wonderful dinner with her and her family; there were others there, too, of course; Raven and I did dishes-- you really get to know someone when you spend that much time slaving over the kitchen sink with them!
I've heard from your mother and I've sent a note to tell her that I look forward to spending the holidays with you and your family in New Pony, assuming I'm out of Bushley by then!
Maybe I will have to find someone to stay with Aunt Maisie eventually as a sort of companion; she doesn't seem like she will ever be able to be on her own. I can understand why Troubadour did what he did to ensure that she would have a roof over her head when he was gone; she is flightier than any pony I've ever seen. Granny was always in control of everything; how can two sisters be so different?
How are things at the hospital? I hope that the flu bug will settle down so the sick ponies can all be home for Christmas.
Needless to say, Toby was not a happy stallion. Of course Dynasty would be only to willing to have Fern dropping in at his office on a regular basis; who wouldn't? And this Raven; what was he up to? And Fern is "assuming" she will be back; what happened to "any day now"? Maybe he should mention to her that he and Elaine had a lovely time on Thanksgiving at Tabby and Thomas' mansion.
But, no, he would not say one word that might cost him her affection; and, anyway, Elaine was cordial only because she knew that he was safely committed to the blue-eyed mare who had come into his life last summer.
December 1, 200l
You missed the Bushwoolies decorating the hospital for Christmas; that's always an experience-- good or bad, I still haven't figured out. I avoided their activity as much as possible and let Snuzzle handle them; even at that, one could hear their boisterous endeavors from one end of the hospital to the other. Honestly, though, it was a relief having their cheery voices around to counteract the depressing spell of illness that has Dream Valley in its grasp.
Another bright spot was having supper with Sugarberry and Vanguard last evening; Chocolate Chip was there, too, along with Wishbone; Wigwam has the flu; he escaped it when the others had it several weeks ago, but it caught up to him now.
Mom called to tell me she got your note; and I'm to impress upon you that your being with us this Christmas is very necessary as she wants everyone back in New Pony to meet you. Your dance planners should be able to get along without you by now; and once you are back, Dynasty can call you if he needs to-- Dream Valley has telephones, remember???
* * *
December 5, 200l
Just got your letter, and I don't have much time. Someone took down all the posters advertising our charity dance, so Raven and I have spent the last two days getting another run printed and distributed. Can you imagine why someone would be so mean in connection with a charity project like this?
Gotta run! Raven's at the door... more posters!
No term of endearment in the salutation, no expression of love in the closing-- Toby could only think one thing: He saw this as a diminishing of Fern's feelings for him, the close of another chapter relegating him to a solitary life. But not a word of recrimination did he send; his love for the blue-eyed mare lived on even if not reciprocated.
December 8, 2001
We are having a torrent of flu patients at the hospital; I knew the shortage of flue vaccine would lead to problems. I don't like to hear that you have been working so hard and putting yourself in jeopardy; this flu is serious; and following on your collapse last summer, it could be dangerous for you. Please take care of yourself, Fern, and write soon to tell me you are coming home.
* * *
December 12, 2001
Toby, my Toby!
I put my hoof down with Aunt Maisie and told her that I simply must get back to Dream Valley by Christmas. She cried and I felt terrible, but then I had a terrific inspiration! Two things led me to come to the conclusion that I have arrived at: Number one is that Aunt Maisie can't stay alone; number two is that Raven and Flower Drift are looking for a larger house in which to raise their expanding family.
The solution: I have decided to rent Granny's house to Raven and Flower Drift and bring Aunt Maisie to Dream Valley with me! I'll look for a larger apartment once I'm back. Aunt Maisie is delighted with the idea, too. She never really had any deep feelings about Granny's house, so it won't be a problem with her to pack up again and move to a new place.
Needless to say, I can't wait to see you again! It has been forever since I have felt completely happy; you mean the world to me, Toby. Thank you for your patience in my need to help Aunt Maisie through her trying times these past two months. I'll spend the rest of my life making it up to you! I love you, Toby, and look forward to seeing you very soon.
I'm sorry to hear that there is so much illness there, but I know that your patients are in good hooves.
All my love,
This last letter, unfortunately, was lost by the Ponyland Postal Service before it ever reached Dream Valley.