My Little Pony Monthly Issue 59 (February 1, 2002)
My Little Pony Monthly
Established June 1997
This Newsletter is Safe for All Ages
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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 (TabbyMLP@aol.com and Sugrbery@aol.com)
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!
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 http://www.50mbp.com/awards/
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:
http://www.furbid.ws/search.html (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 (Swordrat@aol.com)
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?"
"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."
"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?"
"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."
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 (TabbyMLP@aol.com and Sugrbery@aol.com)
"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. "...so 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 (Sugrbery@aol.com)
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?"
"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."
"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."
"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?"