It was early in November, and Wishbone and Petal were walking across the campus of Pony Pride after classes on a Friday afternoon when a voice rang out behind them. "Petal! Petal, wait up!"
Both ponies stopped and turned to see who was hailing the filly; Wishbone saw no one he recognized, but Petal's face broke into a smile of pleased recognition. "Caravel? Is that really you?" And she was swept into an exuberant hug on the part of a young, oatmeal-colored stallion with teal blue hair.
Following the initial welcome, the stallion clasped Petal's hooves and stood staring at her and she at him. "My little confidante all grown up," he finally said, shaking his head. "What a coincidence to find you here."
"What are you doing here, Caravel?" Petal asked with twinkling eyes.
"I've been working this past semester for Dad back in Stableton, but I've been accepted for second semester at Pony Pride."
"You're coming to school here?" Petal trilled. "That's great!" Wishbone, standing forgotten off to the side, was not so sure.
"I had a tour of the campus and talked to several of the instructors; that's how I found out you were here."
"What do you mean?" asked Petal as Wishbone leaned against a nearby tree watching this unexpected reunion.
Well, I needed some help on picking out a math course..."
"... so Vanguard told you I was here!"
"Yes," grinned Caravel. "He remembered me from when I lived next door to you back in Woodlawn."
"I hope he didn't remember the time we got lost while chasing lightning bug, and half the town was called out to look for us."
"He was kind enough not to mention it if he did." Caravel looked at Petal closely. "We did have fun together, didn't we?"
Petal's pink cheeks deepened to cherry. "Yes, I guess we did." Only then did she remember Wishbone. "Wishbone, come here!" she motioned. "Wishbone, this is Caravel, a neighbor of mine until we were about six years old. Caravel, Wishbone is a dear friend here at Pony Pride." The two stallions exchanged a hoofshake with a mutually critical eye. "We'll have to go over to the student center and talk," Petal suggested.
"Nice idea, but I'm due at Pony-Mart; but you two go on ahead," Wishbone said with a cynical glance at Petal. "See ya." He left the two reunited friends, and Petal and Caravel barely noticed.
* * *
"So where has life taken you since your family left Woodlawn?" Petal asked Caravel as they sat down at a table with mugs of hot chocolate.
"We went to Pine Ridge as planned, but Dad wasn't happy there; so when I was in fourth grade, we moved to Stableton. We're still there," he grinned.
"I know our moms exchanged Christmas cards for a few years, but then they stopped."
"Things were rough for awhile in Pine Ridge; Dad's job didn't pay well, and Mom was working two part-time jobs." The stallion stopped just to enjoy the vision sitting before him. "Velvet Rose and Gossamer will never believe me when I tell them I ran into you!"
"How are your sisters?"
"Velvet Rose got married last year; she's teaching at the Pine Ridge Elementary School. Gossamer is in graduate school in New Pony."
"Do they still pick on you?" she asked teasingly. Caravel was five years behind Velvet Rose and eight behind Gossamer. His sisters had see-sawed between babying him and mortifying him.
"Things kind of evened-out once I got into high school," Caravel admitted. "What about your family?"
"Ruffles is married with three foals of her own; Gallop and Stormy are both married, too, and they each have a little colt; Biscuit is in his senior year at Binks University; and Mom and Dad are still busy with the furniture store.
"Dad started his own construction firm; that's where I've been working."
"What are you going to major in here at Pony Pride?"
"I'd like to get into computer programing. How about you?"
"Maybe we can study together. Remember how we'd come home after kindergarten class and practice our letters?"
Petal giggled. "We were so proud of our h's until Biscuit told us none to kindly that they were all backwards."
"And remember how my s's always seemed to be falling over?
"And I couldn't figure out how to make a q no matter how hard you tried to teach me?"
"I missed you horribly when we left Woodlawn."
"I missed you, too," Petal smiled. "My best friend was gone."
"Maybe we can pick up where we left off."
"I know how to make q's now."
"Okay then; we can move on to other things."
"You'll have to get to know Wishbone; he's a great guy."
Caravel raised an eyebrow. "Is he more than just a classmate?"
A blush settled across Petal's cheeks once more. "Yeah. We met at Vanguard's wedding last summer, and we've been really good friends ever since. It was because of him I came to Pony Pride rather than following my siblings to Binks."
"I see." Caravel's face showed his disappointment momentarily, but then lit up. "There's no harm in going to a movie with an old buddy, is there?"
Petal's face brightened, too. "No harm at all."
* * *
Wishbone dragged himself out of bed to answer the brazen telephone. Who would call so early on a Saturday morning. "Hello?"
"Wishbone, it's me... Petal. I didn't get you out of bed, did I?"
"What do you think?" croaked Wishbone.
"Oh, I'm sorry about that, but I'm on my way to work and I need to get your opinion on something."
"I'm listening." Why was Petal so cheerful anyway?
"Well, Caravel and I thought that maybe tomorrow we could..."
"He's still in town?"
"No, silly. He went home last night, but Pine Ridge isn't that far away. He plans to get here at lunchtime."
"And do what?"
"I thought the three of us could go to that play over at The Tableau."
"Sounds like fun, Petal, but Sesame came down with the flu yesterday; so I have to take his shift tomorrow afternoon."
"Oh. That's too bad."
Somehow, Wishbone though, Petal's words did not ring true. For a second, he contemplated a sarcastic remark, then thought better of it. "You and Caravel have a good time at the play."
"Thanks, Wishbone. I'll see you Monday in class."
Petal sounded happy, too happy, Wishbone decided as he tried unsuccessfully to go back to sleep. Finally facing that impossibility, he got up and showered and went upstairs to the kitchen to see who else was around. He found all the other occupants of the house at the kitchen table.
"Three rings, brother-boy," chided Chocolate Chip. "You let the phone go three rings before you answered."
"Did you ever stop to think that you could answer the phone yourself?" snapped Wishbone as he dropped into a vacant chair.
"There's never been a need since you met Petal," Chocolate Chip defended herself.
"She does have a point there," Vanguard noted.
Wishbone scowled. "It's too early for everyone to gang up on me."
"Trouble in paradise?" queried Sugarberry.
"If you must know, yes; Petal ran into some guy she used to know, and he's all she can think about."
"Just since yesterday?" Van asked. "I'm assuming this is Caravel."
"Yeah, Caravel. That's his name."
"Who is this Caravel?" Chocolate Chip asked.
"He and his family lived in Woodlawn, right next door to Uncle Eddy and Aunt Iris," Vanguard offered. "Caravel and Petal were the same age, and they grew-up together, although Caravel's family left when they were both quite young."
"What's he doing in Dream Valley?"
"He's going to start classes in January; he came to talk to some professors and ended up in my office. I recognized him right away, but he was foggy on remembering me; he just has some general recollection of my brothers and me."
"He only has eyes for Petal," scoffed Wishbone.
"Now, now," Chocolate Chip patted her brother's foreleg. "I doubt Petal will dump you just like that."
"I'm not so sure," Wishbone admitted. "She seems to like him a lot."
"I remember one time when the lightning bugs were really thick on a hot summer night and a lot of the kids were out with jars trying to catch them. Petal and Caravel were a team, of course, and they ended up farther away from the rest of the foals and lost their way. Their parents organized a search party, and ponies were searching everywhere. Petal and Caravel's only concern was that they had dropped their jar of bugs, and it had rolled into the river. Caravel tried to get it out and fell in himself-- luckily, some of the search party showed up just then."
"That could have had a tragic ending," groaned Sugarberry.
"Iris let the two of them know in no uncertain terms that they were never to do such a fool-hearty thing like that again."
"Foals will be foals," observed Chocolate Chip.
"No doubt," affirmed Sugarberry, casting a worried glance at the brooding Wishbone.
* * *
"Hi, Wishbone." A sparkling-eyed Petal slid into the desk next to the rose-red stallion. "How did work go?" She glanced at him and smiled, but Wishbone sensed a certain reticence on her part.
"Okay." He gave her a sideways glance and found her fidgeting with her notebook, a silly grin lighting her face. She caught his scrutiny and lowered her eyes, hiding behind her mane.
Interesting, thought Wishbone. She's got it bad for that stallion.
* * *
"How about bowling Friday night?" Wishbone asked Petal later in the week.
"Sure," she smiled at him, then continued. "Caravel is coming on Saturday; do you think we could take him to the toy museum?" When Wishbone remained silent, she went on. "I want the two of you to get to know one another; you're both very important to me."
"Sure," Wishbone capitulated, and he was able to grin at Petal. "Come on; I'll walk you to your next class."
* * *
Bowling had been fun; Wishbone and Petal had joined with some of their college friends and, after leaving the bowling alley, they had all hung out at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe. No one looking on would have known that anything-- or anyone-- stood between Wishbone and Petal; for, indeed, their friendship was a lasting one.
Saturday, however, brought a change in Wishbone. "He's really tense," whispered Sugarberry to Vanguard as they waited for the arrival of Petal and Caravel. When Sugarberry had caught wind of Caravel's visit, she had offered to make lunch for everyone-- as much out of curiosity to see this stallion from Petal's past as from hospitality.
When the doorbell rang, Wishbone was the one to admit the two. "Hi, Petal. Hi, Caravel. Nice to see you again."
"Yeah. Sure," Caravel responded, his hoof linked with Petal's.
Petal pulled him across the room to where Sugarberry and Vanguard waited. "You know Vanguard; and this is his wife, Sugarberry."
"Thanks for inviting me to lunch."
"Our pleasure," Sugarberry assured him. "I've been hearing how you and Petal were little tykes together; it must have been quite a surprise to find her here in Dream Valley."
"Yeah. Vanguard knew who I was right away, which was a bolt out of the blue to begin with; but once he told me Petal was on campus, too, I was speechless." He looked at the filly with undisguised admiration while Wishbone succumbed to a coughing fit as if he had just choked on something.
"You all make yourselves comfortable while I finish up some details with lunch," Sugarberry suggested.
"I'll help, Sugarberry," Wishbone stated, following the mare into the kitchen. He got a pitcher of milk out of the refrigerator and set it on the table while Sugarberry checked the oven.
"Everything looks ready, Wishbone. Can you put the rolls in the basket and put out some butter?"
"So what do you think of Caravel?" Wishbone asked as he loaded the basket, snitching a biscuit as he did so.
"He looks like a nice young stallion; what do you think of him?"
"I think he..." The statement remained unfinished as Petal, Caravel, and Vanguard trooped into room.
"The rolls smelled too good," Vanguard admitted, eyeing the one in Wishbone's hoof.
"They smell just like the ones Mom makes," Petal agreed. "It was always a comfort to walk in the house after school and know Mom had baked some bread."
"She would always give us milk and cookies while we watched Saturday morning cartoons," added Caravel. "Remember Teddy Ruxpin?"
"He was the greatest!" Petal cooed. "I still have all his tapes."
"Don't let Tabby hear you say that," Vanguard grinned.
"She already knows and is very pleased that Petal took good care of them," his wife responded promptly. To Caravel, she said, "Tabby used to be my next door neighbor; she's also co-owner of the toy museum you will be visiting. We were chums from the beginning."
"Like Petal and me," Caravel stated, helping the filly with her chair. He sat next to her, leaving Wishbone an end spot.
"Where's Chocolate Chip?" asked Petal. "I told Caravel he'd get to meet her today."
"She had to work. Several of the Bushwoolies have the flu, so she's working longer hours," Sugarberry explained. "But she should be back later.
"We can catch her after our trip to the museum," Petal decided.
* * *
Later as Vanguard and Sugarberry watched the ponies go off together down the sidewalk, Sugarberry asked, "Well, what do you think?"
"I think Petal likes both of them."
"But which one better?"
"Petal's probably asking herself that question as well, my love. And as you turned down Petal's offer for the three of them to do dishes, how about I wash and you dry?"
"You are such a sweetheart!"
* * *
"Oh, man, did I want some of these things when I was little!" grinned Caravel as he eyed the display of Transformers. Hey! There's the one I had. Remember, Petal, the blue robot that used to come to all the fashion shows your dolls put on?"
Giggling, Petal obviously remembered. "I believe your robot was once called upon to model a hat, too."
Wishbone shook his head. "Weird."
"Aw! 'Fess up," coaxed Petal. "You and Chocolate Chip probably had some strange play incidents yourselves."
They were interrupted by a couple of fillies from Pony Pride-- Patience and Libby. "Hi-ya, Wishbone," they both purred.
"Hi," Wishbone greeted and proceeded to introduce the two to Caravel.
"We like to come here to see what toys we missed while we were growing up," Patience explained. "If I had known they made so many of these My Little People dolls, I would have begged my parents to buy them all."
"Hey, Wishbone! Come see the neat display of Littlest Pet Shop; I bet even little colts liked those things." Libby grabbed his foreleg and laughingly pulled him away, followed by Patience. Caravel and Petal were left by themselves, and it was only later in the gift shop that the ponies met up once more.
"So what did you think of Tabby and Spike's museum?" Wishbone asked of Caravel.
"Great! It was fascinating, actually."
"How did Tabby and Spike come up with all this stuff?" wondered Petal.
"They shopped a lot, I guess."
"Well, I'm glad someone put together a collection like this," said Patience. "I could mull over this stuff all day."
"We were going over to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe when we finished here," Libby announced. "Want to go with us?" Her gaze took in the three-some and rested on Wishbone.
"What do you think?" Wishbone left the decision up to Petal.
* * *
It was the middle of the week before Petal and Wishbone had a chance to talk with any privacy, and Petal had a suggestion. "Could we go over to the Café Carousel and have lunch together? I'll buy."
"What's the occasion?"
"We haven't had much time alone together these past few weeks."
"Since Caravel came to town, you mean."
"Please come with me."
The walk to the restaurant was quiet; but once the two were seated and waiting for their orders, Petal broke the silence. "Wishbone, we've got to talk."
"I figured that out already."
"You know that Caravel and I were best friends once; and now I'd like to get re-acquainted with him; he wants that, too."
"So you want me out of the picture?"
"Wishbone, I've liked you from the moment we met at the wedding last summer."
"But not as much as Caravel?"
Petal could not soften what she had to say. "I think I'm in love with him."
"Just like that?"
"It's not as sudden as it seems, you know. We really were close as foals; it wasn't our decision to separate back then."
Wishbone stared at the filly. He had found her beautiful; but more than that, he had found her a devoted friend; he did not want to lose that, but he could not deny her to follow her own path, either. "You can be so sure of your feelings?"
"As sure as I can be."
"Then I won't stand in your way."
"We will still be friends, Wishbone; I don't want to lose you completely."
"You're just saying that because you need my help with math."
"Well, that's part of it," she grinned, patting his hoof.
They were interrupted as their food was delivered; once alone again, Wishbone picked up his glass of milk. "To you and Caravel," he toasted.
* * *
Sugarberry was sitting in the window seat of the turret off the living room when Wishbone got home; she had gotten the flu and had been miserable for several days, so the young stallion was surprised to see her out of her room. "Feeling better?" he asked, sitting beside her.
"Better is a relative term," the mare grimaced. "Vanguard called and said he thinks he has it now, so I can't be sick any longer."
"Have you had anything to eat?"
"Not since some toast this morning."
"Let me fix you some chicken soup; that's what Mom always swore by."
"That just might go good. Help me up; and I can sit in the kitchen and supervise, in case you need help in opening the can."
"You doubt my ability to warm up soup?"
Wishbone rolled his eyes. "My parents run a restaurant; I did pick up some skills from them." He helped Sugarberry up and soon had her seated at the table while he proved his expertise at fixing a can of soup. When the comforting broth was set before her, Wishbone slipped into a chair across the table. "Can I talk to you about something?"
"Petal dumped me today."
"You seem to be taking it well."
"You act as though you already knew about it."
"Petal talked to Vanguard before she talked to you."
"My life is public domain."
"Not entirely, but word does get around."
"So what else did Vanguard have to say?"
"Only that his best advice for Petal was that she be honest with you about her feelings."
"She followed his advice."
"You saw what was happening; surely you expected something of the sort."
"Yeah, I guess I did, but it still is a shock to hear the truth." He grinned. "I should be getting used to it."
"How is Snowdrift doing these days? I haven't seen her since you two broke up. And by the way, the soup is excellent."
"After Chip, she was seeing Ed; now it's Troy. Thanks."
"You and Petal were very close; I hope you can still be friends."
"I think we will be; we can't very well ignore each other."
"There's something you're not telling me."
Wishbone took a deep breath. "I guess maybe I found that I don't feel as bad about losing Petal as I though I would. My pride was hurt more than my heart."
"That takes a lot of maturity to admit."
"Sugarberry, did your muscles ache when you were getting the flu?"