My Little Pony Monthly Issue 59 (February 1, 2002)

My Little Pony Monthly
Established June 1997
This Newsletter is Safe for All Ages

If you would like to be removed from the My Little Pony Monthly mailing list, simply send a blank e-mail to

Issue 59
February 2002

Index of this issue--

1. The Tabby and Sugarberry Gossip Hour! (by Tabby and Sugarberry)

2. No Need for Demon Pirates! (by Clever Clover)

3. Quarterback's Valentine's Day (by Tabby and Sugarberry)

4. You Win Some... (by Sugarberry)


The Tabby and Sugarberry Gossip Hour!
by Tabby and Sugarberry ( and

Sugarberry: It's February, Tabby! There's a special day coming up!

Tabby: You mean Quarterback's birthday? I didn't know you cared about him still.

Sugarberry: Funny, Tabby. I was referring to your birthday.

Tabby: Oh, you're right! I forgot!

Sugarberry: Sure.

Tabby: And there's going to be a big party!

Sugarberry: Agatha was telling me about that.

Tabby: Duh. You've been planning it with her for ages.

Sugarberry: Okay, so maybe I did have some input.

Tabby: Hey, remember that party we had when I turned sixteen?

Sugarberry: Ooh, your sweet sixteen birthday party? Who could forget?

Tabby: It was a riot!

Sugarberry: Remember who was there?

Tabby: Well, me, and you, and Mom.

Sugarberry: And Quarterback, and Applejack, and Slugger, and...

Tabby: Ooh, Pearl, Barnacle, Mimic, Gusty, Daddy Sweet Celebrations– I mean, he wasn't Daddy Sweet Celebrations then, but he is now– and–

Sugarberry: And even Tex!

Tabby: I can't believe Mom did that. I mean, she didn't even really approve of him!

Sugarberry: There weren't many stallions in that age group; she really had to beat the bushes as it was.

Tabby: Yeah, and since Mom insisted it had to be a formal party, all the guys showed up with bowties on. It was funny!

Sugarberry: Oh, they were really quite handsome, Tabby! Of course, I was scared to death for fear someone would ask me to dance.

Tabby: You're such a coward, Sug.

Sugarberry: Talk about being a coward!

Tabby: What do you mean by that?

Sugarberry: Who didn't come down the stairs when the party was supposed to start?

Tabby: Oh, that. I had other things to do.

Sugarberry: You never did tell me what those other things were, did you?

Tabby: Well, actually I was messing with the band's equipment. I swapped out their sheets of classical music for something more... interesting. I knew Mom would make them play classical, and you know I can't stand it!

Sugarberry: But it was a formal party.

Tabby: So? Does that mean we can't have any decent music?

Sugarberry: Well, at least you finally did come downstairs, after you found out the guys were threatening to eat the birthday cake.

Tabby: Imagine! The nerve! And I was just ensuring the dance wasn't a total bore for them!

Sugarberry: I'm fairly certain that Agatha did not share your opinion on that.

Tabby: Oh, that's okay.

Sugarberry: Agatha found out it's not so easy to entertain a house full of sixteen-year-olds.

Tabby: Remember the expressions the musicians had when they couldn't find their music anywhere? It was hilarious! It was one of those bizarre string quartets or whatever.

Sugarberry: Once they found out what you expected of them, I think they kind of enjoyed it. You had ordered them to play something more upbeat and with words.

Tabby: What other kind of music is there? So anyway, then we partied, and ate cake, and all that stuff.

Sugarberry: Wasn't it fun when Tex started line-dancing?

Tabby: I thought it was insulting.

Sugarberry: Agatha thought it was revolting.

Tabby: Not counting Tex, it was pretty fun. The party as a whole, not the line-dancing.

Sugarberry: And this year's party will be even more fun. Happy birthday, Tabby!

Tabby: Wow! That's so sentimental I think I'm going to throw-up.

Sugarberry: Tabby, Tabby, Tabby!

Tabby: In other news, Tickle has arranged the 2002 My Little Pony Awards, to honor all the impressive works of the online MLP community, like custom ponies, websites, art, and literary works! And being a vote counter, I feel it my duty to promote it. How cool is that!

Sugarberry: Very cool.

Tabby: The awards are starting off with custom ponies; everyone is welcome to submit any custom MLP works up until the deadline of February 7, the day after my birthday!

Sugarberry: The URL is

Tabby: So go check it out! Now!

Sugarberry: We now leave you for a brief intermission.


Tabby: Hey, Sugarberry! What're we doing here, anyway?

Sugarberry: Umm... we're gossiping, I think?

Tabby: Oh, yeah. Sorry, I forgot during our intermission.

Sugarberry: I think you were actually dozing there for awhile.

Tabby: Me? Don't speak such treason! Actually, I was reading your new novel.

Sugarberry: You found it that boring, did you?

Tabby: I said I wasn't sleeping! But I have a few suggestions for it.

Sugarberry: Go ahead, critique it.

Tabby: There needs to be more violence, more enmity, more villains!

Sugarberry: But Tabby, that's not my style.

Tabby: Everyone is so in harmony with one another!

Sugarberry: My characters live in a better world, Tabby.

Tabby: Well, you still need more villains.

Sugarberry: But– villains are so mean!

Tabby: How can you write mysteries without villains?

Sugarberry: It takes a special talent, I guess.

Tabby: Hmm. I suppose that's true.

Sugarberry: Why don't you try writing your own book, with plenty of villains, violence, and enmity? It would probably be a best-seller!

Tabby: I'll commission you to write a book for me.

Sugarberry: You mean I write the basic plot, and you add the gory stuff?

Tabby: No, no! You write a book to my specifications!

Sugarberry: Oh, I see.

Tabby: That would be fun.

Sugarberry: Fun for you, perhaps! I would be the one doing all the work.

Tabby: Ah well... think about my advice at least, would you?

Sugarberry: I will give it some thought.

Tabby: Ooh, and Cleve Clove has bribed us to do some advertising for him.

Sugarberry: Yes, he has drawn some delightful– um–

Tabby: Rats! Lots of rats!

Sugarberry: Yes, but very–

Tabby: Furry! It's for the furry art genre!

Sugarberry: Not that word, g-e-n-r-e, Tabby! I hate that word!

Tabby: Oh well. Anyway, these prints are up for auction! Imagine that!

Sugarberry: Is that on one of the auction sites?

Tabby: Duh, where else would they be?

Sugarberry: Well, which ones specifically, Tabby?

Tabby: Okay, here are the specific URL to his seller's list on both eBay and this FurBid place:

and (search by seller, and type in "Swordrat")

Sugarberry: And remember, bid high, and bid often!

Tabby: He ought to be paying us for doing this for him...


No Need For Demon Pirates!
by Clever Clover (

After returning to Friendship Gardens, Clever Clover's life pretty much returned to normal. Spade had cut him back to half-time at the lab so he had a lot of extra time for his hobbies. He had been doing a lot of cross-country skiing, and on the weekends he coached a youth ice hockey team. Little did he know that events were transpiring far away that would once again disrupt his quiet life.

* * *
Though the sea was calm, a tall vessel sailed across the glass-like water as if driven by a stiff wind. A black and red pony pirate, with three red gems on her rump, stood upon the deck of the mighty sailing vessel, her pale blue main blowing in the breeze. A small lop-eared rabbit sat at her hooves. Her phantasmal crew went about their duties without question or complaint. The pony smiled.

"I sense it: the mystical weapon that cleaved my horn so many years ago. Soon I will have it, and revenge!"

The phantasmal-crewed ship cruised into the bay of the Port Scurvy. The dock creaked as the ship's hull brushed against it. The gangplank fell with a thud as the mooring lines were thrown to the dock workers. The captain of the ship disembarked, followed closely by her lop-eared pet. She was met by the harbor master at the foot of the plank.

"G'day, Cap'n. Do ye know how long ye'll be in port, and if so would ye like to pay yer docking fees in advance?"


" ‘No', ye don't know; or ‘no', ye won't pay in advance?"

"No, I don't know how long I'll be; and no, I won't pay, at all."

" ‘Ere now! Ye can't jus' park yer boat ‘ere and not pay the fees!"

The captain raised her forehoof and pointed toward a pile of barrels. The gems on her rump glowed and a shimmering ball of red light gathered before her hoof and flew toward the barrels. A moment after the ball hit, the barrels exploded, showering all present in splinters and grog. The harbor master stared slack jawed at the smouldering stain on the dock where the barrels had been. "M…me grog."

"Come on, Ryo. We have more important business to attend to." The captain and her pet walked calmly from the dock as if nothing had ever happened.

* * *
That morning Clever Clover was coaching his hockey team's practice like he did every Saturday.

"Rookie! Keep your stick down! No, Seaside, the other way! No tripping, Viper! Look out, Sentinel!" Half the ponies on the ice ended up in a pile in front of the goal. Clever Clover sighed as he skated over to his team to make sure they were okay. Dusty Rose was already helping her team-mates back onto their skates. "We've got a lot of work to do if we want to be ready for our first game next week. Now, are you ready to give it one more try?"

"Sure thing, coach!"

"I know you're ready, Greyhound. What about the rest of you?"

"This'd be more fun if there weren't so many rules," complained Viper.

"Without rules there'd be no way to tell who wins and who looses, so we have to follow the rules if we want to win. Now, take your places and we'll run one more skirmish before lunch."

After practice and a quick lunch, Clever Clover decided to go for a walk in the park. As much as he enjoyed hockey, having to put up with the young ponies' shenanigans caused him a lot of stress some days. But on game day when the team was out on the ice having fun, and hopefully beating the daylights out of the other team, it was all worth it. Until then, however, he would have to settle for a long walk to calm his nerves.

As he walked, he noticed hoofprints in the snow. He had not expected anyone else to be out in the cold on a dreary Saturday afternoon, but then he could not be the only crazy one in Friendship Gardens. He looked around to see if whoever else was out there was still around. Just when he was about to give up his search, he was startled by a cheerful voice from behind him.

"Good day, Mr. Clever Clover." It was Belle Star.

"Oh, ‘allo, Belle." Clever Clover glanced at the tracks on the snow in front of him. "Have you been walking around in circles out here?"

"Well, I haven't really been paying attention to where I was going. I was just enjoying the fresh air and the snow."

Clever Clover was not really that surprised to run into Belle Star. They were always running into each other. Jack delighted in teasing the purple pony about it, but he had long ago learned to ignore the taunting of his co-worker.

"Oh, look! It's starting to snow!" Belle Star giggled as a large snowflake landed on her nose. Clever Clover was packing a ball of snow between his forehooves. "What is that for? Are you going to make a tiny snowman?" The purple prince grinned (evilly) and hurled the snowball toward Belle Star, hitting her right between the eyes. Belle Star broke out in laughter and scooped up a hoof-full of snow and threw it back at Clever Clover, but her snowball fell apart short of its target.

"Here, let me show you how to do it." After a brief demonstration of snowball-making, the fight resumed. Clever Clover's next snowball fell short, and before he could re-arm he fell victim to a barrage of snowballs from Belle Star. "Eh, how'd you do that?"

"Oh…" Before she could answer, the calm of the winter day was shattered by a blinding explosion.

"I found you at last!"

Clever Clover and Belle Star stared in disbelief at the red and black pony floating ten feet off the ground. (Ten feet off the ground! Wow! Most ponies only have four feet!)

Clever Clover brushed the last of the snow from Belle Star's barrage off his shoulder and met the mysterious pirate's gaze. "Who, me?"

The pirate drifted slowly to the ground in front of the princely pony. "Yes, you. You are the son of the one who chopped off my horn... that accursed prince from that accursed Isle!"

"Now, wait a minute! My father wasn't a prince!"

The pirate was dumbfounded. "What? He wasn't? But you look so like him."

Belle Star stepped forward. "Oh, yes. His father wasn't a prince, he was a king. That's what he told me, anyway."

"What! They made that twerp king after he disgraced me, chopped off my horn, and drove me off the Isle!" The trio of gems glowed brightly and a shaft of red light spiraled out from the pirate's forehead forming a makeshift horn. She charged the purple pony who skillfully dodged.

"Hey! Cut it out! I understand you're upset by what my father did to you, but do you really think that killing me will make you feel any better?"

The pirate paused. "Hm, sure. At least for the time being. But once I have your father's cleaver, I'll be able to have my revenge on all the ponies of the Isle! Then I'll really feel good!"

* * *
Meanwhile, Belle Star's attention had been torn from the battle by a new arrival. "Oh, what a cute bunny! What are you doing out in the snow all alone, little fella?" The captain's pet snarled and growled at the golden-maned pony. "You must be cold and hungry. Now, let's see; what have I got to eat? Hm, this granola bar is all I have on me. I hope you like it." She held the all natural crunchy granola treat in front of the snarling bunny. Ryo sniffed the bar and cautiously nibbled off a corner. "I'm sorry I don't have any carrots on me. Please give it a chance."

"Mrow!" Ryo greedily devoured the granola bar (and almost took a bite out of Belle Star's hoof).

"Boy, you were hungry. But you sound funny. You must be coming down with a cold." Belle Star took off her scarf and wrapped it around Ryo. "There, is that better?" Ryo mewed and started to purr.

By that time, the pirate had noticed the goings on with her pet. "Hey, you! What are you doing? She was with him, the enemy! You're not supposed to be nice to the enemy!"

Ryo mewed apologetically but made no move to leave the cozy confines of the scarf. The pale-maned pony flew over to her pet and yanked her from the scarf. "We came here to get revenge, not make friends! Now are you going to help me destroy the prince or aren't you?"

"Meow mew."

"Hu? Where did they go?" The pirate captain looked around. The only sign of her prey was two pairs of hooftracks leading out of the park. "Now look what you've done! You've let them get away!"


* * *
Clever Clover raced across the countryside, dragging Belle Star behind. "Why are we running, Mr. Clever Clover? What's going to happen to the bunny?"

"Bunny? If you hadn't noticed, that crazy pony was trying to kill me! We need to get as much distance between her and us as possible."

"Oh, yeah. I forgot all about her when I found the poor little sick bunny. I hope she'll be alright."

"We can go back to the park and check up on the bunny after we get away from the crazy flying pony."

When they arrived at Clever Clover's home, the purple prince retrieved his father's axe from its place over the mantle. He turned to his Vulpix. "Pixie, keep an eye on Belle Star. Belle, don't open the door for anyone but me."


"Right!" Clever Clover locked the door as he left to confront the vengeful pirate pony.

* * *
The princely purple pony stood at the edge of the grove of trees along the trail to his house. It was not long before the pirate and her pet arrived.

"Well, you're not the coward I thought you were. You do take after your father."

"Thank you."

"It wasn't meant to be a compliment."

"I don't want to fight you, but I will if I have to."

"So, you do differ from your father. He didn't hesitate." She dove toward Clever Clover who stood his ground until the last moment when he leaped aside and swung his mighty axe, cleaving through the pirate's false horn. The horn shimmered for a moment but did not disappear.

The pirate laughed. "Silly pony. That only works on real horns. You'll have to be smarter than that if you want to fill your father's shoes."

Clever Clover shrugged. "It was worth a shot. Maybe you'll like this better." He charged the pirate who stood her ground. At the last moment, Clever Clover sidestepped as the pirate lunged with her horn. Clever Clover swung a mighty blow, striking her red gems with the flat of the axe. There was a massive flash of light that momentarily blinded the prince.

When he regained his sight, the pale-maned pony stood before him in stunned silence, without her horn. "You…you have defeated me. And you never even knew my name."

There was something in the manner of the defeated pony that caused Clever Clover to pity her. "Uh, I'm sorry, but you were trying to kill me."

"That's okay. It was my mistake." The red and black pony began to sink into the ground. "By the way, my name is Minoko."

"I am Clever Clover," said the purple pony as Minoko disappeared from sight. Ryo, the lop-eared bunny, hopped out of the bushes onto the path. "You must be the bunny Belle Star was talking about. Was Minoko your owner?"

Ryo nodded.

"I'm sorry about what happened. You're welcome to come stay with me if you'd like."

Ryo shook her head and mewed as if to say, "That's okay." She then floated into the air and flew off into the night sky.

* * *
After the battle with Minoko, Clever Clover walked Belle Star back to her apartment. When he got back home he noticed something odd as he unlocked the door. "Hm, I thought I had turned the lights off before I left." As he entered the living room he saw Minoko lounging on his couch. "Hey! What are you doing here!"

"Well, my ship was impounded and I need a place to crash until I can pay off the fines."

"Hu? So what are you doing here?"

"I was hoping you'd let me spend the night…"

"No way! Go find a motel."

"If I could afford a motel, don't you think I would have payed the docking fees at Port Scurvy in the first place?"

"Ugh, I'm too tired to argue. You can sleep on the couch tonight, but first thing tomorrow you're leaving." Clever Clover went to the mantle, took down his axe, and trudged off to his bedroom. "Come on, Pixie."

Minoko stared at the axe hanger over the mantle. "Hm, I hadn't noticed that. Too bad."

* * *
The next morning Clever Clover awoke early and went to church. He took his axe with him, discreetly wrapped in a sheet, so that Minoko couldn't find it. She was snoring loudly on the couch when he left. "Make sure she doesn't cause any trouble, Pixie."

"Pix vul-pix!"

When Clever Clover returned from Mass, he found Minoko and Belle Star sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea.

"Good morning, Mr. Clever Clover!"

"Yeah, good morning."

Clever Clover glared at Minoko. "What are you doing?"

"We're having breakfast, silly."

"But why are you having it in my kitchen?"

"Well, I came over to see if you were alright after all the commotion yesterday and Minoko here let me in since you weren't here and we were hungry so we helped ourselves to some food."

"Uh-hu, so why is she still here? I told her she'd have to leave first thing in the morning."

"Hey! Why are you talking about me like I'm not here? Besides, a gentleman like you can't just throw a lady out in the cold without at least letting her have some hot tea first."

"Fine. Finish your tea and then leave."

"Oh, but you can't just throw her out. She has nowhere to go and no job and no money. What would she do?"

Clever Clover opened the refrigerator. "She should have thought of that before she got her ship impounded. Where are my sausages? And my eggs?"

"We ate them."

"All of them?"

"Well, it took a while to get used to your stove and I burned some before I got it right."

"So my food is all gone? What did you do with the burned stuff?"

Minoko pointed to the corner of the kitchen. "We fed that to Ryo and Pixie."

Clever Clover stared at a pile of burned eggs and sausages laying on the kitchen floor and the two stuffed pets sleeping nearby. "Pixie has a food dish, you know."

Minoko shrugged "Yeah, but it wasn't big enough."

"I'm going out for breakfast. And you'd better be gone by the time I get back."

"Oh, come on! Where am I supposed to go?"

"Somewhere else? How am I supposed to know... or care."

"But, Mr. Clever Clover, couldn't you let her stay just long enough to earn enough money to get an apartment or something? I'm sure she wouldn't have any problem finding a job."

"Why can't she stay with you, Belle?"

"Well, my apartment is so tiny for one thing, and I can barely afford food for myself, and it's against the building's policy to have long-term guests."

"Come on, Clever Clover, let me stay just a few more days. I'll even help out around the house while I'm here. Please!"

"Fine, just a few more days. And you can start helping out by cleaning the kitchen."

"Right now? I was hoping to go with you and celebrate our new friendship."

Belle Star clapped her forehooves. "Oh boy! A party! What fun!"

Minoko bonked the golden-maned pony on the head. "Hey! You weren't invited!"

"Neither were you!" pointed out the stallion. "Okay, you can either both come with me or both stay here and clean the kitchen."

And so the three ponies went to breakfast together, which Clever Clover had to pay for since neither of the others had any money.


Quarterback's Valentine's Day
by Tabby and Sugarberry ( and

"Oh, Quarterback, don't look so glum," Merry Moments chided her boyfriend as they took their seats in the stadium. "This is going to be fun!"

"Yeah, watching a bunch of little kids trying to play hockey is going to be real fun," Quarterback retorted.

"Come on, don't say that about them! I've seen them in action before and I know for a fact that they're really good."

"You're only saying that because one of them is your niece."

"And she's really talented! See them play before you pass judgement, okay?"

"Yeah... well, I'm still not a patron of little foals' sporting events," Quarterback said sulkily. "They're not even allowed to do body-slamming! I can think of better ways to be spending Valentine's Day."

Merry Moments rolled her eyes. "We have a nice evening ahead of us at the Estate Manor, so don't complain. You did remember to make reservations, didn't you?"

Quarterback muttered something unintelligible but stopped his complaining. Merry Moments kept up a steady stream of conversation, though, and Quarterback soon forgot his aversion. " that's when I decided I'd become a photographer," Merry Moments said laughingly, finishing the retelling of an anecdote from her youth. "Why did you become an engineer instead of going into sports, like your brothers?"

"Less physical exersion needed," Quarterback said. "And I can play solitaire if things are slow."

Merry Moments was not able to form a reply, though, for she had caught sight of the Friendship Gardens' team entering the arena. "Look, there's Dusty Rose!" she squealed, jumping up from her seat and waving her forelegs. "Wave to her, Quarterback! She was so excited when I told her you'd be here!"

Quarterback lifted his hoof halfheartedly; Merry Moments frowned and took it in her own, forcibly making him wave. "Yay, Dusty Rose!" she shouted.

"The game hasn't even started; you don't have to start cheering and making a scene yet," Quarterback said irritably.

"Oh, loosen up! You're so obstinate," Merry Moments said cheerfully. "Besides, I think they're getting ready to begin now!"

Clever Clover, the coach of the home team (named the Dragonflies in honor of the royal lady of the same name), came out with his troupe of young ponies, all of whom were obviously ready for a winning game-- if their exuberance had anything to do with it. Dusty Rose, a petite dusty rose-colored foal, skated ahead of her coach looking rather chunky in her guards, pads, and helmet. In waving at her aunt in the stands, however, (her coordination not being quite what it should be) she accidentally got her hockey stick entangled with Clever Clover's legs, causing the purple stallion to do a wild dance before regaining his own stability.

The opposing team from Dream Valley came resolutely onto the ice, looking rather more capable than Clever Clover's rag-tag crew. Their coach, Gusty, smiled confidently.

From the time of the face-off, the little ponies were carried away in the spirit of the game, moving the puck if not with dexterity, at least with gusto. Quarterback watched with guarded disinterest until Dusty Rose, exhibiting a spark of temper, purposefully tripped one of the Dream Valley foals. She proudly marched to the penalty box with Clever Clover frowning down upon her.

"Your niece has spunk!" Quarterback beamed.

No one had scored by the start of the second period, and Quarterback was once more becoming bored, but came out of his lethargy when Greyhound got loose on a breakaway, leading to the first score of the game by the Dragonflies.

This score upset the Woollies, however, and Baby Falling Leaves intercepted a clearing pass from Baby Paws just outside the crease and sent the puck past the goaltender, Sentinel. The Dragonflies fought hard, but Falling Leaves was able to repeat her performance in the final seconds of the second period, leaving the score two to one.

After the face-off for the third period, both teams were determined to score and the penalty box became the focus of the game. Neither team had been successful in scoring, but neither were they giving any ground. When Viper took a pass from Dusty Rose, skated in on a breakaway, and tucked a backhander between Baby Leaper's pads for a goal, the Friendship Gardens' crowd cheered dynamically.

With the score tied, tempers got ugly; Rookie and Paws got into a down and out fight, leading to the penalty box for five minutes. The time was marching down when Dusty Rose picked up the puck from Greyhound behind the net, and Clever Clover saw his long hours of coaching come to fruition. The filly skated in front and waited for Leaper to commit before lifting a shot over the netminder's glove and under the crossbar.

The crowd went wild! The stadium erupted with wild cheers and screams; the Dragonflies were the winners! Even Quarterback had become engrossed in the game by this point, and shouted and waved quite as energetically as Merry Moments at his side.

"Hey, Merry Moments, we oughtta get married!" Quarterback, caught up in the excitement of the moment, shouted over the din.

"What?" Merry Moments shouted back.

"I said we oughtta get married!" Quarterback yelled louder.

"Oooh!" Merry Moments abruptly quieted down. "Get-- married? You're serious? You're asking me to marry you?"

"Uh... sure," Quarterback shrugged, beginning to wonder what had possessed him to speak so boldly. Well, why not? It was about time. "I mean, you were right, this game turned out to be great! It made me realize how smart you really are, and I'll never doubt your judgement again! We'd be great together, don't you think? And, well, it's about time we got married anyway."

"Oh, Quarterback! This is so unexpected!" Merry Moments breathed. "Of course I'll marry you!"

"Great!" said Quarterback, smiling broadly.

"Come on, let's try to go down and see Dusty Rose," Merry Moments urged, pulling him along behind her. "I can't wait to share the news! She's going to be so excited to know that you'll be her new uncle!"

So, the impromptu proposal taken care of successfully, the engaged couple flew off to spread the word.


You Win Some...
by Sugarberry (

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, Sugarberry noted the return address of the package on the table with interest. "It's from Clare's Creations," she informed her husband. "What would Clare be sending us?"

Vanguard looked at the package. "Well, it's too little for a hat box; maybe it's an array of new ribbons for your hair."

"Or one of those sparkly hair nets I saw at Lemon Treat's shop," offered Chocolate Chip who was making preparations for supper.

"Why don't you just open the box and find out?" suggested Wishbone.

"You set the table, and I'll do just that."

Once the package had been stripped of its confining tape, Sugarberry found a smaller pastel box nestled in white tissue paper; pulling it out of its nest, she squealed. "Oh! It's that new fragrance that Nello was telling us about!" Releasing the lid of the box, she pulled out an attractive glass bottle with the name, Winsome, engraved on it.

"Can I try it, too?" Chocolate Chip asked, leaving her main course softly bubbling on the stove and coming to peer at the decanter curiously.

Popping off the cap, Sugarberry sniffed the nozzle tentatively. "Not bad," she grinned, spraying a liberal amount into the air.

Wishbone retreated to the far side of the kitchen table while Vanguard waved a hoof to dissipate the concentration. "It's... intense in that quantity."

Chocolate Chip misted some of the perfume onto her body. "I think Winsome is a lovely fragrance," she said, moving toward her brother with the bottle in her hoof. "I'm sure Garnet will think so, too."

Thinking fast, Wishbone held up a plate from the table, successfully deflecting the burst of spray that came in his direction and wresting the pungent weapon from his sister. "You win some and you lose some!" he laughed, keeping the bottle at a safe distance from the young mare. "And, anyway, something on the stove is oozing out of the pan."

That bit of news succeeded in facilitating Chocolate Chip's retreat back to the stove while Sugarberry began to help with food preparations. Vanguard was picking up the shipping box and tissue when he noticed something still within the package. "There's more here," he said, lifting out a stiff envelope with some hurried writing on it.

"What's it say?" queried Sugarberry, drying her hooves on a towel.

"‘Pictures from Woodlawn. Enjoy! Nello.'"

Sugarberry's eyes sparkled. "The pictures he took in the park! With the excitement at Berryville on Christmas, I'd forgotten all about them!"

"Pictures?" Wishbone asked. "What pictures?"

"Nello and Mooncurl were in Woodlawn for the holidays; and Nello was bored, so he took a bunch of us to the park for an impromptu photo shoot," revealed Sugarberry as she waited for Vanguard to draw the shots from the envelope.

"Not bad," Vanguard whistled appreciatively, seeing the first photo was one of his wife.

"Let me see!" that mare said, confiscating the pictures from his hoof. The second one in the stack was of Vanguard and herself, and she cooed, "Don't you look handsome!" with a loving glance at her husband.

"Nello is one talented photographer to achieve that," Wishbone teased as he and Chocolate Chip snuck a glance at the pictures. "They are of professional quality," he admitted, however, as more of the glossy prints appeared.

"These are only the ones of you and me, Sugarberry," Vanguard noted. "I wonder if he sent Stillwater and Morning Dew a set of their shots."

"I hope so," said Sugarberry. "And Petal and Caravel, too."

"Petal was in on this fantasy?" quizzed Wishbone. "She never mentioned it."

"There were others there, too, like Icon and Bonanza and Biscuit; they had the dubious honor of being photographed with Mooncurl herself," revealed Vanguard, winking at his wife.

"I bet the guys enjoyed that," giggled Chocolate Chip.

"True to form," Sugarberry grinned.

* * *
The dishes had just been finished, and Chocolate Chip and Wishbone had set off to the casino to catch some time with their dear-hearts when the phone rang; Sugarberry answered it and found that it was Lemon Treats.

"Hi, Sugarberry. Would you and Vanguard be able to come over to my shop this evening?"

"What's up?"

"I just wanted you to see a shipment I got today from Clare."

"If it's her new cologne, we received a bottle, too."

"Well, it's tied in to that... could you come, both of you?"

After a quick check with Vanguard, the mare informed Lemon Treats that they would be over shortly and ended the call; the thoughtful look on her face caused Vanguard to ask, "What was that all about?"

"Lemon Treats has something she wants to show us; by the sound of her voice, she expects us to be surprised."

"Any ideas?"

"It's from Clare, so I have a funny feeling that..." She paused to consider.


"Icon suggested that Nello take those pictures to get shots for the Winsome campaign; they wouldn't really use them for that, would they?"

Vanguard grinned and picked up the single shot of Sugarberry. "Look at that face," he needled her. "Would that sell Winsome or not?"

Sugarberry cast him a beguiling glance. "For the female set, the pictures with you in them would sell more."

Laughing, Vanguard stated, "Clare wouldn't do that," but as soon as the words were out of his mouth, he looked at his wife in mortification, saying, "Would she?"

* * *
Lemon Treats finished with her customer quickly and hurried to where Vanguard and Sugarberry were looking over a display of jewelry cases. "I'm so glad that you could come tonight," she bubbled, her eyes dancing. "I needed to run something by you before tomorrow."

"Since when do you need our input on how to handle your business?" queried Vanguard with an arched brow.

"Follow me to the back room, and you'll find out," she blithely said, heading off toward the "Employees Only" doorway; she opened the door, and stood back for Vanguard and Sugarberry to precede her into the room.

Lemon Treats had planned her surprise well, and Sugarberry and Vanguard were suitably stunned, for facing them was display art for the Winsome product line; and that art, bold in its life-size portrayal, was centered around a photo of the two ponies who now stood in silent astonishment before it.

"Isn't it great?" Lemon Treats squealed, finding that neither Sugarberry nor Vanguard could find tongue for their thoughts. She went to the display and turned to her mute guests. "You two are perfect for the Winsome theme!"

"This is for real?" Sugarberry managed to squeak, overwhelmed by the close-up that Nello had snared of her and her husband. It was unlike any of those that she had already seen from the set that had been delivered to their house. This one, with Sugarberry wearing a soft, enchanted expression as she looked at Vanguard whose own expression was one of profound devotion, was a candid shot, taken when they were no longer knowingly under the camera's hold.

"Of course. Why are you two so dumbfounded? You should feel like celebrities; you will be when this gets moved out front tomorrow morning."

Vanguard finally found his voice. "That's not exactly comforting." He stood studying the picture for several moments longer before stating, "But Nello did capture a beautiful face on his film; maybe it's time all of Ponyland knew just how beautiful." He looked at his wife with a tender smile. "I'm very proud of you, my love."

"I find your image much more alluring," Sugarberry smiled back.

"This is what Poeticus would call a poetry moment," Lemon Treats said. "And I quote, ‘Two souls with but a single thought, two hearts that beat as one.'"

"How sweet!" Sugarberry lisped.

"My poster girl," Vanguard said as he gave her a kiss.

"Oh!" Lemon Treats started. "That reminds me... although you two are the center of the advertising campaign, there are other ponies on the auxiliary posters that might look familiar to you as well." She unfurled one of Petal and Caravel "for the younger crowd" and a very romantic shot of Morning Dew and Stillwater and one that, according to Sugarberry, caught the essence of Winsome most effectively-- a poster displaying Mooncurl on the bridge in Woodlawn's park surrounded by the three stallions: Icon, Bonanza, and Biscuit.

"This is well worth it, to see Icon immortalized in such a trenchant circumstance," giggled Sugarberry. "I'm only sorry that Chiffon isn't among the faces; Icon tormented her so horrifically that even Nello couldn't catch a winsome look, I imagine."

"You're not giving Nello enough credit," Lemon Treats replied, holding up still another poster of the fair Chiffon in profile, her mane softly encompassing her dreamy expression. "He knows how to capture a moment."

* * *
Meanwhile, away in Vulcanopolis, Mooncurl, finished with her captured moments for the day, waved a brief farewell to Nello as she left the studio and was nearly out the door before Nello could deposit his camera on the counter and rush to catch the elusive mare before she was gone.

"Wait up, Mooncurl."

The mare stopped and looked with some irritation at the photographer. "You did say the session was wrapped up for the day, didn't you?"

Nello sighed. He never knew if he would get this cold treatment or a bright smile from Mooncurl, and it always hurt him when it was this self-possessed attitude that met him. "I just wanted to verify that you haven't forgotten our date tomorrow night; you won't be needed in the studio, but..."

"Date?" Mooncurl said distantly. "Oh, you mean dinner?"

"Yes. Dinner at Agostino's." He flinched a little thinking about the cost of such a venture, for Agostino's was top of the line in Vulcanopolis; it was his Valentine gift to Mooncurl, several days ahead of the romantic holiday because Clare had scheduled a business party on the actual day. "I'll pick you up at seven."

"Okay, Nello. Goodnight."

Nello was left alone, and he muttered to himself. "Not even a smile for me; you would think I was the plague or something." But he soon reprimanded himself. "She's been facing the camera for hours; I can't expect her to keep smiling when the shoot is over."

He was reassuring himself in this vein when Angela rushed into the room. "Clare wants to see you!"

"Now?" asked Nello, looking at his watch."

"Yes, now."

"I hope it's nothing important; I'm beat."

"You do look a little down, but stifle it; Clare is on a roll and won't appreciate anyone dragging their hooves."

"Great!" Nello moaned, then sighed again.

"Mooncurl has been summoned, too; is she in the dressing room?"

"She left already."

"Left?! She can't be gone! Clare will be furious!"

"Well, she's been gone a couple of minutes, but maybe you can catch her in the lobby."

Putting a call through to the security guard, Angela uttered frantically, "Has Mooncurl left the building yet?"

"Yes, Miss Angela. She went out the door no more than a minute ago. Should I run after her?"

Angela paused for consideration; Clare expected her to return with both Mooncurl and Nello, but Angela realized that intercepting Mooncurl after a long day and sending her back to Clare would only frazzle the model's nerves-- not to mention her disposition-- leaving her in no position to face what Clare was going to lay on her and Nello. "No, let her go; but if Clare should happen to mention this, say she went through the door at least five minuted before I called."

Now it was Angela's turn to sigh, and she did just that as she set off down the hall after Nello.

When Angela slipped back into Clare's office, she found that Nello had discerned enough to realize that his life was not going to be easy for a number of days, for in one of the chairs sat none other than Ignacio, a stallion that Nello had never had the privilege to meet personally but had seen plastered on advertising for everything from computers to sunglasses.

This stallion also had the undistinguished honor of being the only pony in all of the world who could disconcert Clare, as Nello had learned from any of the conversations that had occurred concerning him. Clare abhorred his pride but yearned to have him commit to an ad campaign for her products. This discrepancy tore her to pieces.

For his part, Nello automatically disliked the stallion from the moment they shook hooves, for he got the distinct impression that Ignacio would have preferred not to contaminate himself by touching someone beneath his dignity. But Nello knew that Clare would expect him to go to any length to guarantee Ignacio's favor, so he swallowed his anger and played the perfect gentleman. One thing puzzled Nello, however; Ignacio was not due to report for several days yet.

"Ignacio has an unexpected set of free days, Nello, and he was wondering if we could move up our schedule to accommodate him." Clare sat in her chair behind her desk, her hooves tapping steadily together. Nello could not help but wonder if this was in excitement over having Ignacio finally under her control or anger that he was usurping her authority with claims of his own.

But the mare continued. "I'm aware that you'll have to rearrange your schedule, Nello, and Mooncurl as well." She stopped her nervous tapping and drilled a look at Angela, who calmly stated that Mooncurl had finished for the day and was not available. Clare's eyes flashed fire, but she resumed her drumming and discharged her tenuous plans. "If we get an early start tomorrow..."

Here she was interrupted by Ignacio himself. "I never appear for a shoot until ten at the earliest," he said matter-of-factly. "I can't begin my day without a thorough workout." He looked along the length of his body as if admiring his successful efforts.

"What is on your schedule tomorrow, Nello?"

"The morning is blocked for the foal's fashions; after lunch, I'm to meet with the city administrator for pictures of his award ceremony." He said this rather maliciously for the city administrator was Clare's father-in-law, and she would in no way wish to offend him by reneging on her offer to have her best photographer available for the occasion, not to mention that her husband would be involved with some aspects of that event as well. Clare glowered at him as if he had set her up on purpose.

"We'll just have to accomplish as much as we can from ten until noon," she decided. "Ignacio, how does that sound to you?"

Ignacio condescended to smile at Clare, albeit briefly, before responding. "That will be fine." The stallion stood up. "Now that is settled, I'll leave any details up to you." He bowed to Clare and Angela and left.

Clare was fuming. "That ungrateful wretch!" she seethed. "He presents himself here because of a change in his plans and then leaves all the scheduling to us... as long as we work around his idiosyncrasies. I should have told him to pack his bags and leave!"

"You've been trying to lure the wonderful Ignacio for years, Clare. You can't let this chance slip through your hooves now that he has condescended to share his talents with your company," Angela said soothingly.

"If I could afford to do so, I would not have allowed him to walk all over me that way," she griped, pacing the room. Suddenly she remembered Mooncurl's absence. "Angela, you will have to alert Mooncurl; and tell her to be here tomorrow in time. Plus we have to..."

It was to be a late night for the staff of Clare's Creations.

* * *
Mooncurl, upon hearing of the impending presence of the great Ignacio on the following day, could not stop her nervous pacing. "Ignacio!" she said over and over again. She was not unfamiliar with the premier stallion model of Ponyland for had not she herself worked with him when she was first gaining some acclaim in the modeling field back in New Pony?

But that fact did not help to sooth her. "He won't even remember me," she groaned. "I was playing second fiddle to Gadfly for that shoot; he didn't even notice me!"

She stopped her impatient wandering as she passed in front of the mirror and took a good look at herself. She had learned a lot since then; now she would be equal to Ignacio's professional bearing. She brushed her mane with a hoof and imagined how she would appear to him when she had been made-up on the morrow; he would find her delightful and gorgeous as well as professional.

Her blue eyes stopped to stare into the identical blue eyes peering out at her from the mirror. She had been successful in her career as a model; Clare made sure of that. But one thing worried Mooncurl, and that was not so much concerned with her career as with her private life. She found herself yearning for a special stallion in her life, someone who would be there for her like Giorgio was for Clare-- and Vanguard for Sugarberry. Her eyes faltered from those that looked at her so closely from the mirror. If she was honest with herself, she would admit that her heart's desire was for Ignacio to find himself enamored of her.

Looking back over the stallions in her life, she remember Gideon in the third grade, who sat in the seat behind her and entertained himself by pulling her mane during class; she had always wished that he would at least sit with her at lunch, but he never did. And Drake in the eighth grade never so much as gave her the time of day even though she worshiped him. And her senior year in Woodlawn was no better; Vanguard refused to accept her advances as anything other than an annoyance. Giorgio had already given his heart to Clare, and Gabriel... well, Gabriel was another story. Unfortunately, Nello never entered into her reverie.

Realizing that the night was fast receding, Mooncurl tried to sleep but found it useless. She was so wound up about working with Ignacio so soon that her eyes would not close. She finally gave it up for a lost cause and slid out of bed to retrieve a book from the sofa where she had left it.

The book did succeed in getting her thoughts off of the next day's trials. Mooncurl had written home asking her mom to send her the books that she had left there; when the box had arrived, it contained not Mooncurl's books but some older Regency romance novels that her mother had read when she was a filly. The stories were not deep, but she had found them fun and entertaining. The idea that no matter how destitute the heroine was portrayed, she always managed to unconsciously draw the attention and love of the hero, who was always wealthy and handsome, dashing and daring; and they assuredly lived happily ever after. Ahh, the stuff that dreams are made of!

The white mare curled up with her copy of a Clare Darcy tale and lived indirectly the tender looks that passed between the beautiful filly and the handsome stallion, looks that she had seen passed between Vanguard and Sugarberry, between Giorgio and Clare, in a way that no one ever had looked at her.

If she had only opened her eyes, she would have seen Nello look at her that way on every occasion they were in the same room together; but for Mooncurl, the obvious was not that easy to see.

* * *
For all her sleepless night, Mooncurl was bright-eyed the next morning as she sailed into work much earlier than anyone expected her. The amount of time that she spent with her make-up and styling went far beyond what was ordinarily necessary, but she was determined to make the most of this opportunity to garner the attention and-- hopefully-- the affection of Ignacio.

Nello had spent a long morning posing tiresome foals for pictures that they had no desire to cooperate for, so he was short on time to prepare for Ignacio's appearance and had no chance to even catch a glimpse of Mooncurl before the stallion's arrival.

Mooncurl, watching for Ignacio, aligned herself in his path, and demurely stepped out to make herself known to the dashing figure that was coming her way. To her surprise and satisfaction, Ignacio stopped in his tracks as he came to her position, bowed, and took her hoof in his. "Mooncurl." He kissed her hoof. "What a delight this will be to work with you."

Mooncurl was so impressed that he remembered her that she was momentarily unable to say a word, but when her voice became operational, she said smoothly, "The delight is all mine, I'm sure."

She smiled at Ignacio with such pleasure that Nello, if he would not have been a gentleman, would have decked Ignacio on the spot. But he restrained himself, and got down to the business at hoof, finding the next two hours to be some of the worst he had spent, due to the overbearing manner of Ignacio and the condescending response of Mooncurl. It was well that Nello had no time to spare when the noon hour rolled around as he would have found the conversation of the two models to be quite to his dislike. He left for his rendezvous with Vulcanopolis' administrator as soon as possible.

Mooncurl, hesitant to have this wonderful time end, continued to monopolize Ignacio's attention, and she had the satisfaction of observing that he was in no hurry to part from her either. Everything went well until Mooncurl, realizing that she had skipped breakfast, found herself exceedingly hungry.

"There's an excellent cafe near here," she began. "We could have lunch there if..."

But Ignacio stopped her with a wave of his hoof. "No, no, my dear. I really must get back to my suite for some important business." Mooncurl's crestfallen face must have tugged at some sympathetic chord, for the stallion touched his hoof to her chin and lifted the sad countenance until the eyes met his. "Tonight, however, I would be free for dinner. I believe there are several fine restaurants in the city that we could make use of. Will you join me?"

The light that had so recently been extinguished in Mooncurl's blue eyes rekindled in a moment. "I would be honored," she breathed.

"Will seven be all right with you?"

"Seven will be fine."

Mooncurl stayed where she stood for a long time after Ignacio had bid her farewell; it was all she could do not to shout it out at the top of her lungs that he-- Ignacio-- had invited her to dinner! She could not believe her good fortune; it was a dream come true.

Shaking herself out of her trance-like state, the glowing model forced herself to face the present reality and found her way home.

* * *
Nello had no time for lunch; he barely had time to breathe. His afternoon was filled with ceremonies presided over by Giorgio, Sr., and he had to stay alert to every opportunity to photograph the movers and shakers of Vulcanopolis who were receiving and/or presenting awards for their time and effort on behalf of the prospering city.

Nello was grateful when the last award had found a home, and he was able to pack up his equipment and beat a hasty retreat back to Clare's Creations to finish all the necessary details of the day's work. When he finally looked at his watch, he realized in a panic that he had very little time to rush home and make himself presentable for his dinner date with Mooncurl. Locking his studio, he made good time, but still found himself arriving at Mooncurl's hotel much later than was even fashionably acceptable.

Crossing the lobby at lightspeed, the stallion was rattled to hear his voice being called by the desk clerk, a vivacious young mare who knew him by sight. "Mr. Nello, there's a message for you." She waved a white note card in her hoof for emphasis.

Cursing the delay, Nello slowed his pace to receive the memo; stopping at the elevator door, he tore open the message; and upon reading it, the frown on his face deepened. The note read, "Nello, I'm dreadfully sorry, but Ignacio and I are meeting for dinner tonight; I'm sure that you will understand that this is an opportunity that I can not pass up. Mooncurl."

Crushing the note in his hoof, Nello muttered a few choice words before realizing that the dancing eyes of the desk clerk were on him. He forced himself to bring his emotions under control and had succeeded in assuming a nonchalant air when the filly decided that he was taking the situation too well.

"Mooncurl looked divine when she left here with that hunk," she smiled sweetly.

Nello needed none of this; he turned to leave and just then became aware of the corsage he had picked up for Mooncurl still in his hoof; he stared at it blankly, then tossed it on the desk in front of the filly. "A gift for you, my dear," he said as brightly as he could muster, then stalked from the hotel and went home in the worst spirits that he had ever been.

* * *
Mooncurl spent an enchanted evening with Ignacio from the moment he called for her ("You are breathtaking!" the stallion had said with approval showing in his eyes.) until they said goodnight ("I have been captivated by your charm, Mooncurl.").

The interlude had been a dream come true for Mooncurl, being escorted by the handsome Ignacio to Agostino's where the service had been regal for the acclaimed stallion and the food fit for a king. Mooncurl could not take her eyes off her companion-- nearly idolizing him-- which suffused her attractive face with a soft flush that made her irresistible in the eyes of the stallion as well.

Their waiter was efficient yet discreet, and as far as Mooncurl was concerned, she and Ignacio were the only two ponies in the world this fine evening.

As Ignacio told her of humorous experiences from various assignments he had been on, Mooncurl listened in rapt attention and would have denied anyone's attempt to point out that the stallion's conversation was entirely "I" oriented. As long as his dark brown eyes rested on her, Mooncurl was satisfied.

Dinner was followed by dancing, and Mooncurl had never felt so light on her hooves as she did with Ignacio's hold on her as they glided effortlessly across the floor, words forgotten in the euphoria that encircled the two.

Onlookers whispered among themselves about the striking couple, more than one mare envying the position of the white beauty and any number of stallions resenting the kind words that their mates had for the dashing stallion. One unfortunate fellow, his patience sorely tried, made the mistake of pointing out that if his partner looked as ravishing as that dandy's did, he would be inspired to new heights of gallantry and style himself. His wife was rather cool to him for the remainder of the evening.

Mooncurl was oblivious to any tension that might have been created by her presence or that of her partner and only floated down to earth when Ignacio, with a twinkle in his eyes, pointed out that, by the looks of things, this would be their last dance as it was time for the musicians to quit for the night. He smiled at the piquant look that descended on her face, and promised they would have another such evening before he left Vulcanopolis, which restored Mooncurl's sunny disposition once more.

* * *
Clare's Creations' personnel were swamped with activity not only due to Ignacio's presence among them but also due to the much anticipated Valentine's Day extravaganza that Clare had ordained as a huge bash to show her appreciation not only for her own employees but also for all the business ponies who distributed and sold her products throughout Ponyland. Guests were coming from near and far, and everyone was looking forward to the occasion with high hopes for a delightful time at Clare's generous expense.

Having previously been looking forward to the party, Nello now found himself dreading the fast approaching night. He had not brought up Mooncurl's unfeeling neglect of the date they had scheduled and that she had broken; one look at her face the following morning was enough to proclaim to him that Mooncurl had no second thoughts in choosing Ignacio over him.

His work was made difficult for this reason, for even though Mooncurl and Ignacio's fascination with one another made them excellent photographic material, Nello was forced to face at excruciatingly close range the infatuation of the mare who was the light of his life with a stallion whom he had not an iota of respect for, seeing Ignacio as an egotistical, opportunistic, odious rogue. It hurt him deeply to see the look of love that Mooncurl gave Ignacio, a look for which Nello would have died for.

In addition, the double workload he had to handle in covering all that was needed to fit Ignacio into an already full schedule prevented him from having any private conversation with Mooncurl; and by the time he got home at the end of his late days, there was no answer to his repeated calls to her number.

In the course of each successive day, he could not help overhearing snatches of conversation between Mooncurl and Ignacio that gave him a fair idea of their busy schedule as well, for it seemed that each evening was spent at one or the other of Vulcanopolis' major entertainment spots. Worst of all, Nello could see in Mooncurl's eyes that she had fallen helplessly, hopelessly in love.

* * *
The night of Clare's party arrived, preceded by a very lonely day for Nello amidst the general enthusiasm that pervaded Clare's Creations. All the shots of Ignacio and Mooncurl were finished early; and when his studio was quiet, he had spent his time straightening up his domain after the whirlwind week that had passed. It was there that Clare found him.

"Nello! Everyone is going home early to get ready for tonight. Why are you still here?"

"Maybe I'm not coming to your bash, Clare."

"I realize that you've probably had your fill of seeing Ignacio's narcissistic face; we all are. But I expect you to be there; our guests will expect it as well."

"I wish you would never have succeeded in luring that... that stallion here."

"You'll get your share of fame out of the work you've done, too, you know," Clare wheedled him.

"At what price?"

Clare patted his shoulder in a comforting gesture. "After tonight, you'll be free of him; and so will Mooncurl, I suspect."

"Does she realize that?"

"I've tried to warn her, Nello; honestly, I have. She won't listen." As Nello made no response, she continued. "I'll see you later."

* * *
The ballroom was festooned with yards and yards of liquid gold fabric accented by red swaths that draped from cornice to cornice; extravagant bouquets of red roses sat on fluted pedestals, the sweet scent of the flowers lingering on the air. Dance music came from the musicians in the corner, and a number of ponies were already on the dance floor. Guests, either from Clare's Creations itself or from points many miles away were being greeted by Clare, bedecked to the hilt with specially designed adornments that flattered her orchid and yellow coloring, and her husband, Giorgio, looking sharp in his black bow tie.

A yellow mare and her pastel blue husband were the next ponies through the arched floral doorway. "Lemon Treats! Poeticus! I trust you have a pleasant journey." Clare hugged the mare. "You're looking great. It won't be long until you have that foal in your forelegs."

"She's going to be a dancer," Lemon Treats replied. "She's been getting ready for this night for weeks, practicing her steps."

"You will have to talk to Hydrangea; you and she can compare notes on this mothering stuff," Giorgio advised.

"And Pacificus and I can compare notes on just how many baby outfits an expectant mother can buy in the course of a pregnancy," grinned Poeticus. "We're covered for triplets in either the male or female variety." He received a gentle poke from his wife before they wandered on to mingle.

Before long, the room was crowded with ponies, all having a good time. Angela, in close company with Gabriel, hunted up her brother, Pacificus, and his wife, Hydrangea. "Have either of you seen Nello?" she asked. But both ponies shook their heads. "I was hoping that he would be caught up in the festivities," she frowned.

Pacificus, looking around the room, observed, "I doubt that, Angela; Mooncurl is still doting over Ignacio." He nodded to where those two were surrounded by clients of Clare's

"There he is," Gabriel noted, seeing the stallion just coming from a welcome by Clare and Giorgio. He waved his hoof in the air to draw Nello's attention.

"What have I missed?" asked the stallion as he approached his friends.

"You're just in time to dance with me," Angela said, taking his hoof in hers. "Gabriel, you can hunt up Amity; she was coming by herself."

Gabriel protested. "I did not come to spend time with Amity," he said. "I came to spend time with you!" But Angela was already twirling away with Nello, and Gabriel had no recourse but to do as she had requested.

Hydrangea allowed her husband to draw her to the dance floor, but her gaze was on Nello and Angela. Nello, she noted, was talking with Angela as they danced, but his eyes were directed to Mooncurl and Ignacio's movements. Hydrangea admitted to her husband, "I wish that Mooncurl would stop tormenting Nello with this ‘on again, off again' friendship she offers him."

"Yes, I can sympathize with Nello from past experience." Pacificus' gaze settled on his wife; his somber tone, however, was betrayed by the sparkle in his eyes.

Hydrangea scoffed. "Our relationship, my dear, was never ‘off again'; it was merely on hold until I could make sense of things." Hydrangea had stumbled on the fact that she had been adopted; this revelation came at the time that she and Pacificus were newly in love, and that information had opened up a number of doubts that, thankfully, had resolved themselves to the best benefit of everyone concerned. "Mooncurl, on the other hoof, seems to spurn Nello's attentions at every opportunity."

"The sad part," Pacificus perceived, "is that Mooncurl doesn't even realize that she's doing it."

* * *
When Angela and Nello finally met up with Gabriel, the stallion had succeeded in finding Amity, a pale pink mare with soft green hair, who had now joined him. Amity was a new employee at Clare's Creations on the production end and had been brought to Nello's studio for his ten-minute tour during the course of the week when he did not have time for one more interruption, and his welcome to the mare at that time had been rather cool and brief.

"How has your first week with Clare's Creations gone?" he asked mechanically when Angela and Gabriel conveniently deserted the two of them.

"Oh. You remember that you met me then."

"I never forget a pretty face." He smiled at the mare and then turned his attention to catch sight of Mooncurl as she leaned against Ignacio, her hoof in his.

Amity looked at Nello shrewdly. "That surprises me; by the way you can't take your eyes off Mooncurl, I'd think you have to refresh your memory quite often."

Nello's gaze came back to the mare before him. "Touche!" he grinned, seeing the smile in her eyes. "Would you like to dance?" It was an effort, but Nello forced himself to keep his attention focused on Amity rather than on Mooncurl, which really should not have been a problem for Amity was a very attractive mare and she danced gracefully. Her entertaining insights on some of her adventures since signing on with Clare's Creations achieved a certain amount of success in that Nello actually began to enjoy himself.

"You're very easy to talk to," he complimented her as they left the dance floor to rest a moment in an alcove fitted with cushioned chairs.

"That's because, according to my mom, I haven't stopped talking since I was nine months old."

Nello grinned. "Practice makes perfect, they say. Could I get you something to drink?"

"Anything, as long as it's cold."

When Nello returned with the refreshments, he sat down beside the mare. "I ran into Angela again; she says to tell you that Trent is looking for you."

"Oh," she giggled. "Then I'm glad I'm sitting out of sight; he's a terrible dancer."

"Don't look now, but he's headed this way," Nello said, spotting the stallion.

Trent's face broke into a smile as he came upon them. "Good evening, Nello. I see you've found the prettiest mare in the place."

"Definitely a contender," Nello admitted, looking at Amity in such a way that she lowered her eyes and blushed considerably.

"She did, however, promise me another dance."

"That was before she found out that combat boots were a requirement to survive a dance with you."

Trent feigned a hurt look. "Was my dancing such a disaster, Amity?"

"There is always room for improvement," the mare said, handing her glass to Nello as she stood and offered her hoof to Trent. "All you need is a little more practice." She turned and winked at Nello as Trent led her off.

For awhile, Nello stayed in the shelter of the alcove, looking out over the dance floor. He had to grin as he watched Trent and Amity; Trent was now so self-conscious of his movements that he had lost all suppleness and appeared more robotic than equine while Amity was obviously adding to his discomfort by appearing to be quite amused with his efforts.

Nello stayed in his nook until he was spotted by several co-workers who bore down on him. "Hiding in the corner is so unlike you, Nello," Elena shook her head. "Hydrangea said I should look you up for a dance."

"I'll keep your spot here reserved for you," grinned her companion, Cisani, one of the designers for Clare's Creations.

"I'm perfectly capable of finding my own partner for a dance," Nello complained, but he came forward to accompany Elena.

But at that moment, all the action in the room seemed to converge in their area as Clare and Giorgio joined their group and the ending of the musical number happened to land Ignacio and Mooncurl in front of them, too. Clare immediately went into action.

"Ignacio," she cajoled, "this is your last evening with us and I have yet to share a dance with you." She moved to his side and batted long, dark lashes at him.

"My pleasure, Clare," the stallion bowed. "You, my dear," he said to Mooncurl, "I will entrust to Giorgio."

Giorgio courteously advanced to receive his charge; and Clare, as if anxious to get to the dance, ushered Ignacio away. At the same time, Elena abandoned Nello to take Giorgio's hoof, and Cisani melted away into the crowd. All that remained were Nello and Mooncurl.

"May I have this dance?" Nello asked.

"I'd like nothing better," Mooncurl responded, allowing him to take her in his forelegs and lead her across the floor. Nello was vaguely conscious of Amity grinning at him, but he could not move his eyes from Mooncurl's face.

They moved without words until Mooncurl broke the silence. "I'm so glad to have this dance with you."

Nello's heart skipped a beat. Did she realize by now that Ignacio was a waste of her time? "I'm happy about it, too," he murmured, pulling her closer.

But Mooncurl prattled on. "I'm so hungry! And Ignacio refuses to eat at the buffet. He says he's never trusted food set out in that manner." She looked at him coquettishly. "Will you lead in that direction?"

His heart hitting rock bottom, Nello nevertheless agreed to escort her to the spread. "We can't have you starving," he said with a forced smile. He delivered her with a flourish near the tables. "What's m'lady's favor?" he asked gallantly.

"Some of each," she giggled.

This was the highlight of the evening for Nello, having Mooncurl at his side sampling the array of dishes as if they were a couple of foals let loose at a smorgasbord with nary a care in the world. They polished off a fair amount of food while engaging in playful chatter before Mooncurl grew thoughtful.

"You got my note the other evening?"


"I'm sorry I forgot; I didn't remember until I heard your message on the machine that you'd be late. And I felt I couldn't just call Ignacio at that time to cancel the date I made with him."


"Well, Clare was very explicit when she told me I was to do everything I could to make Ignacio's time here pleasant."

"I think Clare would have expected you to use common sense on that."

"You're angry with me?" she pouted.

"What do you think?"

"You've been a great friend."

"Friend... yeah, that's me-- always there when you need me."

"Is my make-up okay?"

"You look stunning."

"Thanks, Nello." Mooncurl smiled at him momentarily, then her eyes roved the room. "Oh, Ignacio seems to be looking for me." She moved off, then suddenly turned to look back at Nello. "Happy Valentine's Day."

She was gone before he could respond.

* * *
Having mixed with the party goers long enough, Nello began to melt toward the exit when he bumped into Amity.

"Sneaking out?" she said.

"I think I've been here long enough that Clare won't come down on me too hard."

"I was hoping for one more dance."

Nello looked down at her hooves. "You're up to it after all the dancing you've done with Trent tonight?"

"He has improved tremendously under my tutelage."

It was a slow song that the band played, and Nello and Amity joined the dance.

* * *
Moving across the floor in time to the music, Mooncurl was perfectly at peace with Ignacio's foreleg around her. The dancing could go on all night as far as she was concerned. She sighed contentedly as she looked into her partner's eyes, those warm brown eyes that saw her in a special light. Ignacio smiled at her. "I have found this past week to be splendid, Mooncurl."

"We worked well together, didn't we?" she replied.

"Very well." Ignacio's eyes held hers with such a tangible caress that in the moment he looked away, Mooncurl felt it as a physical slap. She also became aware of a change in him as his gaze fell on something-- or someone-- behind her. He pulled away slightly and seemed unconscious of her presence.

"What is it?" Mooncurl asked, turning her head to see what had impacted him in this way.

At the same time, across the room, Nello released a long, low whistle. "Now there's a face no one will soon forget," he said to Amity, nodding toward the entrance.

Amity turned to look, and caught her breath. "Nello, who is that? She's beautiful!"

* * *
If coming late was designed to make a spectacular entrance, Mirabella, watching discreetly out of the limelight, was pleased to see that her plan had worked perfectly. As her protegee, Heavenly Heart, came through the arched entrance that was wreathed in flowers and vines, the combined breath of the assembly of ponies seemed to halt as if it was one entity caught by the entrancing comeliness of the mare that Mirabella deemed to be the next super model in Ponyland and environs.

The mare who had caused such a stir was indeed beautiful, as Amity had observed-- one might even have said devastating. Her canary-yellow body, youthful and shapely, shimmered like starlight; her silver hair, swept up into clusters of curls which caught the light in ethereal scintillation, crowned her with majesty; her exquisite face framed with ringlets boasted eyes that would have put the purest amethyst to shame; the classic curve of her nose, the alert ears, and the ruby softness of her lips completed the flawless vision.

Many of the couples on the dance floor missed a step or two, then recovered; some dropped out to question their neighbors, "Who is she?" One stallion, however, took direct action.

Ignacio, halting his dance steps, led Mooncurl toward the vision of loveliness who was being introduced by Mirabella to Clare and Giorgio. Ignancio, however, stopped short when he neared the mare; turning to Mooncurl, he said, "Be a love and wait for me here." He flashed her a stiff smile, then left her alone as he made his way to the debutante.

The music just ending, Nello, ever aware of Mooncurl's whereabouts, joined her with Amity following. Mooncurl, looking lost and slightly forlorn, glanced at Nello and asked, "Who is that mare?" in a querulous voice.

"That's the model that Mirabella has been grooming, I would imagine. I'd heard rumors."

"That's Heavenly Heart?" gasped Mooncurl, her face stricken. "No pony can be that perfect!"

She watched as Ignacio put himself forward, placing himself at Heavenly Heart's command. The belle obviously accepted his invitation, for they moved to take their place on the dance floor, causing Mooncurl to utter a low cry.

Nello took her hoof in his and, in the company of Amity, guided Mooncurl to the sanctuary of one of the alcoves, but she refused to sit down, preferring to stand where she could keep a sharp eye on the couple that now dominated the scene, as most of the guests were satisfied to watch the glamorous pair from the sidelines.

What pained Mooncurl the most was the way Ignacio now showered Heavenly Heart with as radiant a look as he minutes earlier had bestowed upon her. By the time that the dance ended, Mooncurl was not only hurt; she was very, very angry.

Mooncurl showed the good sense not to accost Ignacio immediately, but waited until he and Heavenly Heart conversed with ponies anxious to meet the latest diva; after some time, Heavenly Heart, with a whispered promise to Ignacio sealed with a glorious smile, floated off with one of Clare's guests.

Mooncurl saw her chance, and made a beeline across the floor to Ignacio. When she reached the stallion, she swallowed her pride and her anger, and simply suggested, "Let's get something to drink." Taking his hoof, she led him away; Nello and Amity, hovering in the background but prepared to back Mooncurl if trouble developed, were then intercepted by Lemon Treats and Poeticus.

"Sugarberry and Vanguard were very impressed with your Winsome shots," she told the photographer, "and everyone else in Dream Valley, too."

"Thanks," Nello absently responded while Amity stepped into the breach.

"Angela tells me you have a boutique in Dream Valley; my name's Amity, by the way, and I'm involved in getting Clare's fabulous creations produced."

While Amity kept Lemon Treats and Poeticus otherwise engaged, Nello was free to monitor Mooncurl's success-- or lack of it-- with Ignacio.

* * *
When the two ponies reached a relatively quiet part of the hall, Ignacio pulled his hoof away from Mooncurl, forcing her to stop and face him. She did not like what she saw; those warm brown eyes had now turned cold, brooding and bitter. The words he said were laced with frost. "Heavenly Heart expects me to share the next dance with her; she had requested a waltz from the musicians."

"She's very beautiful."

"More than beautiful." He began to turn away.

"I'll be waiting for a dance of my own," Mooncurl persisted.

Ignacio looked back at her with a haughty and disagreeable expression on his face. "Could you find someone else to walk you back to your hotel? I have implied to Heavenly Heart that I'm not committed to anyone, and she expects me to escort her."

"You what?"

"My contract with Clare is over, Mooncurl. I don't have to ingratiate myself in her interests any further."

"What do you mean by that?" Mooncurl quivered.

"Do I have to spell it out for you?" he said in a derisive manner. "You are one of the star models I condescended to work with; but as of tonight, you have become an encumbrance; there is a rising star on the horizon with whom I intend to share the glory." He cast one last withering look at her and left.

No tears came; no angry words erupted; but Mooncurl would not have been able to move from the spot if Nello had not come with his support. He had not heard the words Ignacio spoke, but he had read well the dismissive attitude of the stallion. "You look exhausted Mooncurl; let me walk you home." And to Amity, he added, "Say goodnight to the others for us."

Mooncurl allowed herself to be guided toward the floral arch which no longer seemed quite so lovely as it had on her arrival; but before she passed under it, she looked back as the strains of the waltz began. Her eyes sought only one pony; and seeing his attention spent, she dropped her gaze and submitted to Nello's steadying hoof.

No words were spoken as they walked to the hotel, but Nello could not leave the mare at her door without some reassurance to her. "Everything will look brighter in the morning."

Those words broke the dam, and Mooncurl's tears began to flow. "How can you say it will be better?" she sobbed. "I've lost him."

Nello gathered her to him as the tears continued to fall, giving her his strength and support while wishing that things could be different... that she could be in his forelegs because she wanted to be there, not because her heart was broken over another stallion. Nello would have stood there for eternity, but Mooncurl's tears came to an end and she sullenly pulled away.

"I can't believe it's all over; it wasn't supposed to end this way." She was thinking of the happy endings in the books her mother had sent; the mare was always caught in a crushing embrace by her stallion of choice.

"But it is over," Nello said somewhat caustically.

"Why can't anyone love me?" She looked up at Nello, her eyes too clouded with tears to see the emotion that swept over him, being asked such a question and having that love to give.

Nello wanted to shake her, to shout "I love you!" but he knew she was too upset, too vulnerable at this point to hear the truth. So he harshly said instead, "Everyone does love you, everyone except Ignacio who can only love himself."

Mooncurl's heart was raw, and the words cut deeply. "Don't say that!" she said in a broken voice, unable even now to hear anyone speak against Ignacio. "He did love me!"

Nello could no longer sympathize. "He used you; that's all he did."

"No!" She lashed out to slap him. "That's not true!"

Nello caught her hoof and held it firmly, throwing caution to the winds. "He thought only of himself and what he needed from you to make this a successful shoot; a mare in love makes him look better."

Mooncurl attempted to pull her hoof from his. "Let... me... go!"

The elevator doors opened as two ponies got off, and they looked at the bickering pair curiously. Nello dropped Mooncurl's hoof, and the mare hastily retreated into her suite.

Watching the closing door, Nello whispered roughly. "Happy Valentine's Day, Mooncurl." He turned and walked away.

* * *
A knock on his door brought Nello out of the limbo he had been in since dropping into bed; he had slept little and thought a lot and now it was morning. He looked at his bedside clock as he swung himself out of bed. Nine o'clock... he must have fallen asleep for an hour or two.

Too numb to think clearly, he did not even consider who was calling on him; he opened the door to find Angela and Elena on his doorstep.

"‘Morning, Nello. May we come in?" Angela asked.

"We brought sustenance," added Elena, holding up a box of donuts while Angela revealed a carton of milk.

Nello could not help but smile briefly at the two mares. "I haven't had two such attractive breakfast caterers since..."

"Spare us the details," Angela said, brushing past him with Elena following close behind.

"What do Gabriel and Cesani think about you two visiting single stallions before breakfast?"

"We'll let you know when we tell them," Elena offered.

"I've just gotten up..." he began, but it was obvious that neither of the mares had any intention of leaving just yet.

"Then you'll appreciate the trouble we went to."

"A stop at the bakery isn't that difficult," he observed dryly, but he motioned toward the kitchen. "Make yourselves to home; I'm going to go splash some water on my face."

When Nello returned to the kitchen, rather more awake than he had been, he found the table set and smelled coffee in the air. The mares, who had been in animated conversation, fell silent when he entered the room.

"What were you two discussing?"

"Last night's party."

"Did you hang around until it was over?"

"It ran pretty late," Angela admitted.

As the three sat down to eat, they discussed every facet of the dance except what pertained to Mooncurl; it was not until the mares had the consolation of seeing Nello eat some of the food they had brought that Elena got down to the purpose of their visit.

"We thought Mooncurl might be feeling down this morning, so we stopped by her suite; but she was either out or she wouldn't answer the door."

"She was probably sleeping late," Nello commented. "Some of us aren't as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as others early in the morning." He looked meaningfully in their direction.

"She must be feeling terrible about that clod's treatment of her last night; she needs to talk about it to someone."

"Don't look at me," Nello said as he got up from the table. "I'm not the one she's going to want to talk to."

"She was upset last night; I hope you don't believe anything she might have said."

"After stewing over the situation all night, I'm inclined to hunt up Ignacio..."

"You wouldn't hurt him, would you?" Angela hastily asked.

Raising an eyebrow, Nello continued, "... and try to ascertain if he had any feelings for Mooncurl at all; and if so, to convince him to stop thinking about himself for a change and consider Mooncurl's feelings in all this."

"Mooncurl feels that strongly about him?" Elena queried. "We knew she was under his spell, but didn't know she was serious."

"She admitted that she had fallen in love with him."

The two mares looked at each other. Elena put their thoughts into words. "The poor girl must be hurting even worse than we thought; you've got to get through to her, Nello."

"Why me?" he said, suddenly angry with the whole situation. "She couldn't get away from me fast enough last night."

Angela got up and went to Nello, patting him on the shoulder. "I'm sorry this had to happen."

"Just remember that we're here for you," Elena added.

"Thanks, you two; but right now I just want to be alone."

* * *
Thoughts tumbled over themselves as Nello tried to come to grips with Mooncurl's dilemma. He still entertained the thought of talking to Ignacio himself, yet he was sure that the insensitive stallion would not care an iota about Mooncurl's feelings. He paced the floor, unconsciously finishing the donuts that were left on the table; when the last one was gone he looked at the empty box in disgust and threw it in the garbage. The next minute, he was out the door.

His first stop was at the hotel at which Mooncurl was staying; as he walked across the lobby, the same desk clerk who had been on duty the night Mooncurl had stood him up was smiling at him from behind her post. "If it's Mooncurl you're after, she's not in."

"Any idea where she was headed?" Nello asked.

"She doesn't confide in me; sorry."

The possibility that Mooncurl had gone to see Ignacio tugged at Nello, and he traversed the two blocks between their hotels in short order. When he asked for the room number at the desk, however, he was told that Ignacio had checked out early that morning. A further inquiry concerning Heavenly Heart brought the same response: Mirabella and Heavenly Heart had checked out at the same time as Ignacio.

So where was Mooncurl?

Nello tried to think where she would go in her current mood. She obviously had not gone to Angela; and of all the mares Mooncurl had made the acquaintance of in Vulcanopolis, Angela was the closest to being a best friend. If she had gone to see Ignacio and found him gone, she might have been more depressed than ever. Where had she gone?

Wandering the streets in hopes of catching a glimpse of the white mare with blue hair was the best that Nello could do; it had the double advantage of allowing him to clear his mind. The only thing of which he was one hundred per cent sure was that he did not want Mooncurl to suffer over Ignacio's desertion. Beyond that, he knew that it would take time for her broken heart to mend. All he could do was offer his shoulder to cry on and lend a sympathetic ear to listen, if she did not hate him so much now that she would allow even that much.

His route eventually led him to the park in the city; the open space and the natural setting did more for his spirit than the city streets had done; his thoughts still centered on Mooncurl, but he found himself beginning to hope, not for himself, but for the mare; as much as she now must miss Ignacio, she would heal and she would go on to love again. It did not matter to him at this point that she had never been able to love him; he would be satisfied just to know that she was happy.

The aura of the place had a comforting effect that led Nello to a bench in a clump of trees; he had been sitting watching the antics of several squirrels when his restless night caught up to him; he found it increasingly hard to hold his eyes open, and from there it was only a short time before he had drifted off to an in between land of reality and dreams. The scurrying of the squirrels and their chatter blended into his semi-conscious state, providing a pleasant backdrop. The solitary setting was what he needed; and it was with some consternation that he felt, more than heard, someone else join him on the bench. Before he had fully opened his eyes to take stock of the situation, he was already complaining. "Can't a guy get any privacy..." But his voice fell off as he took in the identity of the pony sitting next to him. "Mooncurl."

"I was out walking, and I kind of stumbled over you," she explained.

Nello sat up straight. "I was walking, too," he said stupidly.

For a few moments, the two sat in silence, the squirrels providing a convenient source of activity to commandeer their attention.

Nello snuck a sideways glance at Mooncurl. "How are you feeling?"

"Yeah. I know what you mean."

"I spent most of the night reliving the last week."

"It was a whirlwind."

"I never lived such an exciting and romantic time."

Nello had no answer.

"Have you ever been in love, Nello?"

"I thought I was a time or two."

"I went to Ignacio's hotel this morning; and when they told me he was gone, I thought I'd die."

"But you didn't."

"No, but I cried all over again." She looked at Nello with a tremulous smile, then lapsed into reverie.

Nello studied her face as she sat lost in thought. She'll make it, he told himself. She'll forget that creep and meet someone someday who will steal her heart.

A family who had been slowly walking in their direction came nearer now and the two foals ran ahead of their parents, each swinging a bag of what proved to be corn to feed the squirrels. Their arrival put an end to the sharing of any private thoughts.

"Let's walk," the stallion said to Mooncurl, standing and offering a hoof which Mooncurl ignored; but she got to her hooves to move along with him down the path.

"Heavenly Heart is awesome," Mooncurl eventually stated with a tremor in her voice.

"Depends on your point of view."

"She was gorgeous; I can see why Ignacio was attracted to her."

"She was like a My Little People doll," Nello said, "stiff and no character."

Mooncurl giggled. "I loved those toys when I was little; I think they were part of the reason I wanted to be a model."

"Then I take back anything bad I said about them." He grinned at her, pleased to see her gloom dissipating somewhat; but a cloud settled over her again.

"She's so young."

"I suppose," Nello answered noncommittally.

"While I was trying to sort out my life last night, I faced the fact that I won't be a sought-after model forever." They had reached the river that meandered through the park and stood watching the water flow endlessly past them. Nello picked up a pebble to toss into the depths.

"Nothing lasts forever; someday, I'll leave my camera behind and write a book or something."

"Maybe Clare would let me work in another capacity when she doesn't want me for modeling anymore. I'd like to stay in Vulcanopolis; it seems more like home than any other place I've been."

Nello looked at her sharply. Why would she want to settle in Vulcanopolis after what she was suffering here? If Clare ever did dismiss her, what would there be to hold her? Not that Clare could do without her; she had often confided to Nello that Mooncurl was the perfect representative for her company.

"I've got some new ideas I want to try; we'll be up to anything Heavenly Heart's career throws at us," he confided.

Mooncurl nodded, but she seemed to be focusing on an unseen vision; her voice grew soft, and Nello had to lean close to her to hear her words clearly. "I didn't fall asleep this morning until nearly five; and I dreamed such vivid dreams. Ignacio was dancing with me on a crowded dance floor; when the music stopped, he kissed me." She blinked back a tear. "He never kissed me in reality, not once."

She said it with such a wistful tremor to her voice that Nello lost all the conviction that he had begun to feel concerning Mooncurl's bouncing back from this ordeal. He saw that she had been hurt too badly to recover quickly, and that realization caused him pain.

Again, she spoke in a faraway voice. "He kissed me; and in that tangled way of dreams, I realized it wasn't Ignacio at all; it was you, Nello."

She looked at him strangely, almost shyly, as if she was seeing him brand new, the veil of fantasy having slipped from her eyes which were now aware of the reality; but Nello didn't notice; he was tossing another stone into the river to hide his susceptibility to that illusion of a shared kiss. Mooncurl sighed, and began walking once more.

Coming up beside the mare to match her step, Nello tried to formulate something to say that would not sound completely idiotic, but the void between what he wanted to say and what he felt safe in saying was too great so that he could not express anything at all.

They were approaching the stone bridge that spanned the river with its graceful arch when Mooncurl interrupted his thoughts almost as if she were talking to herself. "I just now understand my dream; you were the only one who was always there for me no matter what. I've been blind all along."

She looked at him then with a light in her eyes that dumbfounded the stallion. It was a light that he had photographed enough in the last week that he could not misunderstand it; yet it was the light he had thought he had seen die last night. Now it was directed at him. He, unfortunately, felt too battered and bruised emotionally to accept it as truth. Unsure how to read this revelation, Nello stood stunned.

Mooncurl smiled a sad little smile, thinking that this stand-offish attitude of the stallion meant that she had misinterpreted the dream. She covered as best as she could. "I noticed that you and Amity seemed to hit it off last night." She cocked her head to look at him closely. "I imagine she would be a good match for you." She said it lightly, but the words caused her to flinch.

Nello's senses finally began to react through the stupor that numbed him. "Wait a minute... too much has happened too fast... back up... a moment ago... run what you said by me again..."

Mooncurl listened to this ranting wide-eyed, but a smile began to curl the corners of her mouth; and with eyes that could see clearly now, she searched his for an echo of her soul's desire. She did not say a word, but she did softly kiss his cheek.

That was something that Nello could understand. His numbness disappeared; and after staring into eyes that sparkled now like sunshine on fresh snow, he pulled her close.

Dissolving into his embrace, Mooncurl learned what it was like to experience the heroine's complete happiness at the end of the novel; and she found that no one could have written it better.


**My Little Pony Monthly Policy Statement**

If you have any My Little Pony related submissions, such as stories, articles, polls, games, invento ponies, or anything else, feel free to e-mail them to However, as this is a child-friendly newsletter, any submissions containing any sort of profanity will be rejected. Items for inclusion for next month's issue should be received at least three days before the first of the month to ensure that there is enough time to include them. All submissions are subject to being edited by our proofreaders.


My Little Pony Monthly is a publication of Nematoid (Electronic) Publishing.

To view our past issues online, simply go to:

Our next issue will be sent March first.


Go Back to My Little Pony Monthly Index
Go Back to Tabby's Dream Valley