My Little Pony Monthly Issue 60 (March 1, 2002)
My Little Pony Monthly
Established June 1997
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Index of this issue--
1. The Insane Crossover Story Chapter Eleven (by Tabby and Barnacle)
2. Photo Session Part 1 (by Baby Jedi)
3. Fallacious Findings (by Sugarberry)
4. Night Mares (by C. Alan Loewen)
5. Icon’s Imbroglio (by Sugarberry)
The Insane Crossover Story
by Tabby and Barnacle (TabbyMLP@aol.com and KrzdRaptor@aol.com)
“Confound it,” Tabby muttered under her breath, catching sight of an approaching object on the horizon. “I thought we’d lost him.”
“Who?” asked Tarquin.
“The flying t-shirt,” the pink unicorn intoned grimly.
“We never had a flying t-shirt,” Prince Adam said, puzzled.
“Yes, we did,” Tabby corrected. “He’s your buddy. You forgot him already?”
“Hey, it’s Orko!” Adam exclaimed, noticing the approaching figure.
“Duh,” Tabby rolled her eyes. “That’s what I was just telling you.”
“No, Tabby, I’m afraid you’re wrong. You were just telling me we had a flying t-shirt on the team,” Adam argued. “You shouldn’t make up lies to make yourself look better.”
“Stop uttering nonsense, Adam,” Tabby snapped. “I wasn’t lying. Orko is a flying t-shirt.”
“No, he’s not.”
“Yes, he is!”
“Hey, guys! What’s up?” a cheery voice interjected.
“AHHHHH!!!!” Tabby shrieked, jumping back abruptly at the sight of the red object floating between her and Adam. “IT FOUND US!!! RUN!!!” Promptly, she took off into the forest.
“Orko! Good to see you again,” Adam said warmly. “Sorry about leaving you behind in California.”
“Yeah, we kinda thought we’d never see you again,” Tarquin added obliquely.
“Ah, I would have been happy to stay with Kimber there at Starlight Mansion,” Orko said wistfully. “But then some other guy she knew showed up– Jeff, I think it was– and we had a big fight, and finally he tossed me out on the street and told me to leave Kimber alone,” he finished ruefully.
“Oh, that’s too bad,” Adam said. “I thought you were looking beat-up. Then there’s that Rio! I don’t know what his problem was. Well, at least we still have all of their albums. Say, I picked up their latest in the last town we passed through. Wait until you see the cover picture of Jem. I mean...”
Tarquin left the two to chatter about Jem and the Holograms while he went off to hunt up Tabby.
* * *
Later that night, Tabby had reconciled herself enough with Orko to join the group around the blazing campfire. She sat gazing idly into the flames, pondering the condition of her life. “What a twisted journey this has turned into!” she stated aloud. “What ever made me run off like this, anyway?”
“To defend innocents from King Hiss, of course,” Adam said promptly.
“As if! No, I think we set off to seek revenge on somebody, didn’t we, Tarkie?”
“Could be,” Tarquin said absently. “I really can’t remember.”
“Well, anyway, I have no clue what we’re doing any more,” Tabby rambled on. “I mean, what started out as a simple quest to seek revenge turned into this... well, whatever this is! For some demented reason complete strangers we ran into felt obliged to accompany us– well, a majority of them got sick of it already, as you can see by our failing numbers; even Sam and Max have apparently left our ranks!– and we completely lost sight of our goal! What are we aiming for?” Tabby ended her speech only to realize that no one was listening to her any longer.
“Did you say something, Tabby?” Adam said idly.
“And of course you and Orko would be the two to linger on,” Tabby retorted. “I wish I could just go home!”
“Don’t worry, Tabby, we’ll get you back!” Orko offered.
“That’s right; I, He-Man, and Orko will be glad to defend you from any dangers that may arise on your journey home,” Adam added.
“That is such an honor,” Tabby said sarcastically. “And where is Ponyland by now, anyway? Is it even possible to find our way back?”
“Well, we got completely lost quite a few chapters back,” Tarquin considered. “So, maybe not.”
“So we’re doomed to spend the rest of our days wandering aimlessly through strange, deluded lands!” Tabby lamented. “That is so unfair.”
“We’ll have to make the best of it, in any case,” Tarquin concluded. “Actually, I’ve kinda been enjoying myself.”
“Hmm... I guess that could be true,” Tabby considered. “Besides the occasional idiots we’ve run into–” she shot a pointed glance across the fire at Adam and Orko– “it’s been quite an adventure. Life in Dream Valley was pretty boring, anyway. Hey, we’ve been moping around for nothing– or I have, at least! Let’s explore strange, deluded lands together for the rest of our lives, gang!” she suddenly exclaimed energetically, unthinkingly including He-Man and Orko in the invitation.
“YEAH!” everybody chimed in.
Glancing at the two opposite her, Tabby began to wonder the wiseness of her proposition; but it was too late to back out now, and, hey, it would be pretty fun, even with those two losers tagging along. It was good to have a purpose again, she decided as she dropped off to sleep.
* * *
The next morning, Tabby woke up early and made her way to a nearby creek, and proceeded to gulp in several gallons of water. Before she was quite finished, though, she was interrupted by a timid voice. “Excuse me, miss, if it isn’t a bother, I was just wondering– I don’t suppose you’ve happened to see any of my friends around, have you?”
Startled, Tabby lifted her head up and, with water dripping down her chin, she observed a soft-looking lavender cat in a quaint dress matching her fur color. “How cute!” she exclaimed.
“Oh, well, that’s very kind of you,” the little cat blushed. “I wouldn’t have intruded on you, you see, but I am becoming quite desperate to find my friends! It’s really a dreadful situation.”
Tabby pondered this for a moment. “Yes, yes, of course. Well, what do your friends look like? The only other persons in the area besides my pet are a wimpy prince dude and a flying red t-shirt; I don’t suppose that would be them?”
The kitty shook her head sadly. “No, I’m afraid that’s not them. You’re sure you haven’t seen anyone else?”
“No, but I can help you look, if you can give me some descriptions to go by. By the way, what’s your name? I’m Tabby.”
“I am Puffalump Kitty,” she announced grandly. “Well, Lavender Puffalump Kitty, technically. My cousin is Yellow Puffalump Kitty, you see, but since we live in different groups we usually shorten our names. Oh, yes! The others– well, they’re about my size, but different colors, and– well, different kinds of animals. There’s Puffalump Bear, and Puffalump Puppy, and Puffalump Cow, and Puffalump Bunny, and Puffalump Lamb...”
“I get the picture,” Tabby held up her hoof to silence her. “Now, they’re all lost? What were the circumstances surrounding their disappearances? Was it a group abduction, or did you go one by one?”
Puffalump Kitty shuddered. “Oh, I do hope it’s nothing like an abduction, but I am getting worried! No, it happened gradually. Puffalump Lamb was the first; she had been out walking with Puffalump Cow and as they were crossing a bridge, she slipped and fell into the river and was swept away into the rapids. Puffalump Cow looked for her and got the rest of us for help, but we couldn’t find a trace of her.”
“How horrific!” Tabby said sympathetically.
“And that was only the beginning,” Puffalump Kitty said sadly. She continued to list the sad fates of the rest of her gang: separations that occurred on long trips, wandering off alone, never returning from shopping trips. Each incident ended the same way; no trace was to be found.
“And now I’m the only one left,” Puffalump Kitty said tearfully. “If there truly is someone behind all this–”
Puffalump Kitty was unable to finish her statement, so it was just as well that Tabby’s companions burst in on the scene at this moment. “ ‘Morning, Tabby,” Tarquin yawned. “We thought we heard you over here– say, who’s she?”
“This is Lavender Puffalump Kitty,” Tabby introduced them. “And Kitty– these are my, er, friends– Tarquin, Prince Adam, Orko, Sam, and Max-- Sam and Max?? Hey, wait a second! Where did you two come from?”
“We heard you were about to serve breakfast,” Sam explained.
“Puffalump Bunny!” Puffalump Kitty gasped, catching sight of Max. “Oh, wait, you’re not...”
“EEP!” Max exclaimed, ducking behind Sam. “This is going to be another of those Tea Bunny fiascos, isn’t it?”
“We’re pleased to make your acquaintance, Lavender Puffalump Kitty,” Prince Adam said solemnly, turning to the Puffalump.
“Ooh!” Orko said excitedly. “I just thought of something. Would you like to join us for breakfast, Lavender Puffalump Kitty? Made by myself!”
“Oh, please, you may all call me Puffalump Kitty,” the Puffalump said demurely. “And I should love to join you for breakfast, if I wouldn’t be intruding.”
“That will be perfect!” Tabby said brightly, even if she was not overly fond of Orko’s cooking. “Then you can acquaint all of the others with your plight, and then we can organize a plan of action.”
Puffalump Kitty expressed her heartfelt thanks and followed them back to their camp. Over plates of unidentifiable burnt food items, they discussed the problem; and as Kitty finished her story, Prince Adam hurriedly excused himself and ran off into the forest; shortly thereafter, following a tremendous flash of lightning which seemed very out of place on the clear day, He-Man appeared on the scene.
“Prince Adam told me of your plight,” the handsome barbarian said gravely. “I will be happy to aid you in any way I can.”
“Very kind of you, sir!” Puffalump Kitty said gratefully. “We had just decided on taking ourselves up in my hot air balloon to do some aerial scouting, if you’d like to join us.”
“I’d be honored,” He-Man replied.
With that, the troupe made their way to the Puffalumps’ village and loaded themselves into the yellow woven basket of the balloon Kitty had spoken of. Puffalump Kitty, adept at using this piece of transportation, soon had them lifted high into the air; and with binoculars, they all scouted the landscape for signs of Kitty’s missing friends.
“No sign of the twerps anywhere,” Tabby, her mind wandering, said in disappointment, peering through her pair of binoculars with Tarquin doing the same perched on the rim beside her.
Max jumped up besides Tarquin. “That’s right, we need to catch that Pikachu for the boss!”
“Hold up, little buddy! Wrong cartoon!” Sam reminded.
“Aw, come on, can’t I have a Pikachu?” Max pleaded.
“No. Remember what you did with the last one?”
“Oh, come on! He got better.”
Anyway, they looked on for quite some time but couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary in their aerial perspective of the rolling hills and gently flowing rivers. Finally, He-Man suggested they go back to the Puffalump village and search the premises carefully.
On the ground again, the group swarmed throughout the small village looking for signs of the departed residents. Tabby had been searching through Puffalump Bunny’s bedroom until she spotted the computer system set up in the corner. “Ooh!” she squealed, dashing over to it. “I wonder if it has internet access?” Soon she was happily surfing eBay, and that was where the others found her when they regrouped sometime later.
“Tabby,” Tarquin said accusingly, “you were supposed to be helping us in the search, not wasting time online.”
“Shh!” Tabby held up her hoof. “I was searching. In fact, I turned up something really interesting. There’s this one eBay seller that has all of Puffalump Kitty’s friends up for bid!”
“On eBay?” Puffalump Kitty gasped, pushing through to the front of the gathered congregation. “Let me see!” Tabby brought up the five auctions one-by-one, and Puffalump Kitty confirmed that they were, indeed, her missing friends. “This is horrible! Oh, it’s cruel! We must save them!”
“What evil power can have trapped them in this magic box?” He-Man asked, coming forward as well; he was about to swing at the monitor with his sword.
“No, He-Man!” Tabby held him off just in time. “We need it to bid on them. They end in only a few hours, and this same guy has already bid on all of them!” She pointed to the five consecutive “High Bidder” spaces that all listed the same User ID: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Time is short,” said He-Man. “You’d best get to work.”
Tabby cheerfully began bidding and was happy to see that she was able to get the high bid on all five of them. “Cool! Now we just have to wait for them to end,” she said. “One hour, five minutes, and eight seconds until the first one ends.”
“Do you think you’ll be able to win them?” Puffalump Kitty said anxiously.
“It’s so nerve-wracking waiting,” Tabby agreed. “But hopefully it’ll work. Ooh, let’s see what other stuff the seller has up for sale. Maybe we can save on shipping. What should we search for?”
“Ooh, I’ve been looking for a new saddle for Battlecat,” He-Man spoke-up. Then everyone started shouting out at once what they wanted to look for.
“For Pete’s sake!!” Tabby shouted, her nerves on edge. “One at a time, people!!”
The next hour was spent searching for everything imaginable on eBay; everyone there have different ideas for what to search for. Finally, Tabby remembered that the Puffalumps were ending soon; she hurried back to that screen.
“Oh, no!” she gasped. “This ‘gokumustdie’ dude is back, and he’s outbid us on all of them!”
“Bid higher!” Sam urged.
“Don’t let him win!” Max agreed.
“Keep bidding!” The two went back and forth at this for awhile, until Sam said, “Here, use his credit card,” and handed He-Man’s credit card over to Tabby.
Tabby proceeded to do just that, but was alarmed to see that whatever she bid her rival was willing to top. Everyone waited in breathless anticipation. Finally there were only a few seconds left. Tabby placed a final bid on Puffalump Cow, and “email@example.com” didn’t have time to bid again; so even though he won four of the five, Tabby had gotten Puffalump Cow.
“Oh, but whatever will we do about the others?” Puffalump Kitty pleaded.
“We’ll track them down,” Tabby promised. “Look, the seller’s enabled Instant Checkout. We can get his address right away and pay a visit to him personally! Then we’ll be able to find out what he’s up to!”
“What if we don’t get there in time, and the other Puffalumps have already been shipped?” Tarquin wondered.
“Hmm... well, we’ll have to move fast. And it depends on how this other guy pays for his Puffalumps. If he uses PayPal, you know, the sellers says he’ll ship instantly, so... anyway, here’s the address. Anyone know where this place is?”
Sam looked at the address. “Sure, we can get you there. Everyone in the Desoto!”
Everyone started to move out, but Max ran in front of them, waving his arms in the air and shouting, “I want shotgun!”
When everyone was successfully piled in the strange police car, Sam cautioned, “Hang on!” and they were off.
* * *
Upon arriving at the place of residence of the Puffalump seller, He-Man set to work trying to bodily force the door in while Orko attempted several spells on it. Tarquin convinced them to stand back while he tried something, and he proceeded to ring the doorbell.
It was opened by a middle-aged woman who eyed the congregation suspiciously. “What are you people, salesmen? We don’t want anything!”
“We’re not salesmen,” Tabby said impatiently. “We’re here to pick something up we won on eBay.”
“Oh!” Understanding dawned on the woman’s face. “You must be friends of Billy’s! He’s in the basement. Just go around the side of the house and; you’ll see the entrance. And,” she added as they moved off, “while you’re down there, tell him to clean up his room!”
Tabby fearlessly descended into the basement room, and they were met by a shaggy, overweight, long-haired individual with little personal hygiene. Tabby judged him to be in his twenties. “I’m here to pick up Puffalump Cow,” she said abruptly, thrusting a print-off of the eBay checkout page in his face. “And to get some information from you.”
“Um, okay,” the seller said after glancing over the paper. “Just a minute.” He turned to go deeper into his room and, without waiting for an invitation, Tabby and gang followed him. Puffalump Kitty gasped as she caught sight of something stuffed in a large zip-lock bag sitting in a priority mail box surrounded by packing peanuts.
“Puffalump Cow!” Puffalump Kitty gasped as she caught sight of her friend. “She’s trapped! Where are the others??”
“Oh, I already sent them off this morning. Someone else was high bidder, you know.” The collector picked up the bag with Puffalump Cow and held it out to Tabby. “You have payment on you, right?”
“Ooh,” said Tabby thoughtfully. “I guess I forgot all about that! Hey, do any of you guys have any cash I could borrow?”
Taking advantage of the distraction, He-Man strode forward, sword in hand. “Relinquish the Puffalump immediately, you villainous kidnapper!”he thundered.
The sight of the sword caused the collector to drop the bag in shock, and Puffalump Kitty ran forward to extract her friend from her confinement. The two Puffalumps hugged and reassured themselves that they were both okay before running off to the other end of the room.
“What have you done with the others?” He-Man demanded, backing his opponent up against the wall.
“I said I already shipped them off this morning after the bidder payed with PayPal!”
“What were you doing with them in the first place?” Tabby continued the interrogation menacingly.
“Yes!” Puffalump Kitty said indignantly. “How could you do this to my friends?”
“Hey, calm down! I sell a lot of stuff on eBay, and this one user e-mailed me asking if I had any Puffalumps. I said I’d see what I could do, and... found... a few to post for auction. I only sell on eBay, to get more feedback,” he added as an afterthought.
“FOOL!” Sam thundered. “By selling four items to the same bidder, you’re still only getting one feedback!”
“You kidnapped us all, that’s what you did!” Puffalump Cow spoke up. “ ‘Found’, indeed!”
“This guy who originally asked you about Puffalumps, is he the one that won the other four?” Tarquin queried.
“Yeah, yeah, it was the same guy. But I told you, he already paid and everything. They’re his.”
“Then where can we find him?” He-Man held his sword closer to the collector.
Totally freaked out by this point, the collector was willing to divulge some information concerning the other bidder. Tabby snapped the address from his hand and stalked off towards the door. “Thank you, and next time I’d suggest not capturing poor defenseless creatures for your own profit,” she said haughtily, adding a final disapproving sniff before trotting back up the stairs and out of the house.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” He-Man agreed as the others began to follow Tabby. Halfway up the stairs himself, he paused and added, “Oh, and your mom says to clean your room.”
The collector immediately broke out into tears. “Aw, come on, Mom!”
They left him like that and conducted a quick meeting in the street to determine the best route to take to this Dr. Gero’s house, and then they were off again.
To be continued!
by Baby Jedi ~.^ (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“Oh, this is lovely.”
Baby Graffiti swung her head around to look at Baby Ribbon. “What’s ‘lovely’?”
“The stupid science fair project is due soon!” Ribbon half shrieked. “I’ve barely started!” She bonked her head against the school bus window. “I hate school. It’s too stressful. I’ll thank God when June comes.”
Graffiti was shocked. “You’re STILL starting the project?!” she gasped.
“Yes,” Ribbon said, annoyed. “You know I’m a horrible procrastinator.” She sighed deeply. “I’m about to test toy cars.”
“But I’M doing that!” Countdown suddenly butted in. Ribbon glared fiercely at him. “I don’t rightly care!” she snapped. “I’m about to scrap my original idea!” She walked off the school bus in a huff.
All the due dates and fear of a zero were really catching up to the brightly colored little unicorn. It felt awfully stressful, and she was quite on the verge of just testing cars. Her mom wasn’t home yet, and Neville was probably off with his pals. Ribbon went inside to her room and flopped down onto her bed. She turned her boombox onto the CD setting and put in her “Myra” CD. It helped a bit, and she was finally able to start on her homework. But she still had the nagging feeling that she should test cars.
* * *
Ribbon still felt a little stressed. Her nightmare was that she’d get a zero out of 140 points. She felt like she was doing horrible this school year. She was scared of getting her second quarter report card-- scared of what her mom would say about the D she got in science.
That’s why I’ve GOT to do a good job on the science fair, she thought to herself. But I’m pressed for time. What should I do?!
She desperately didn’t want to go to school. She was worrying her butt off and felt like if she had to do any more homework, she’d scream.
by Sugarberry (Sugrbery@aol.com)
Vanguard and Sugarberry were about to be seated when a voice called out, “You two are a long way from home!” The couple turned their heads to the source of the greeting and found themselves staring into the smiling faces of Clare and Giorgio.
“Clare! Giorgio! What a pleasant surprise!” Sugarberry trilled as she and her husband abandoned their waiting table to approach the pair from Vulcanopolis. Giorgio stood to meet them, and Sugarberry beamed at the stallion as he took her hoof and kissed it just as he had the first time they had ever met.
“You two are by far the greater distance from home,” Vanguard shook the stallion’s hoof while Sugarberry and Clare exchanged a warm hug. “What brings you to New Pony?”
“Clare had some business meetings, and I tagged along,” the stallion grinned. “And you?”
“A math conference for me and a book endorsement for Sugarberry.”
“You will join us, won’t you?” Clare offered, casting a glance at the maitre d’ who was hovering in the background.
Chairs were provided, and the group was soon comfortably situated. Small talk centered around activities in New Pony until their orders had been placed, and the four sat back to contemplate one another as if some impending piece of information was to be soon forthcoming.
“We have some news for you,” Sugarberry started.
“Us, too,” Giorgio admitted. “But you go first.”
“If you insist,” the mare flushed. She looked from one to the other with sparkling eyes, then said, “There’s a foal on the way!”
“That’s right,” interjected Clare, somewhat surprised, “but how did you know?”
“Sugarberry giggled. “Well, there are some fairly obvious indications, plus Toby verified the fact.”
Giorgio frowned at Sugarberry. “What does Toby know about our foal?”
“Our foal?” Sugarberry said faintly, glancing bewilderingly at Giorgio, then at Vanguard.
“The one that’s due in November,” Clare offered, smiling contentedly.
“Of course,” Sugarberry agreed. “November twentieth, to be exact.”
“There’s where your information is wrong,” Giorgio spoke up. “It’s the twelfth.”
Vanguard, who until now had been silently listening to this exchange of information, cleared his throat. Looking from Clare to Giorgio, he asked, “Are you two expecting a foal?”
Clare looked at him strangely. “Where have you been, Vanguard? Isn’t that what we’ve been talking...” Her eyes suddenly opened expansively, upon which her husband also saw the light.
“You and Sugarberry, too?” he asked as if awestruck.
“Can you believe it?” Sugarberry breathed, her eyes as brilliant as a many-faceted gemstone. “And both are due in the same month.”
Congratulations were extended between the two couples with much laughter, and the talk soon settled upon dreams and expectations for the foals that the mares carried. Their dinner was long and leisurely; and by the time they parted, plans had been made for Giorgio and Sugarberry to have lunch together the following day, as Clare and Vanguard would both be occupied with their respective activities.
* * *
“This is lovely,” Sugarberry sighed as Giorgio helped her with her chair at an exclusive and charming little restaurant in an out-of-the way location. “The decor is worth coming to see even if the food turns out to be horrid.”
“Toby recommended the place to Clare and I; he assured me that the food and the atmosphere are both excellent.”
The two ponies were seated at a small table in a corner of the room with a myriad of potted plants, both greenery and floral, creating an alfresco effect that made one think ahead to the warm and lush days of summer that were now not so very far away. Cool, sky blue carpeting and white tablecloths lent a peaceful, comforting aura that was very relaxing.
Once their lunch had been served and adequately enjoyed, Giorgio insisted that they both order a piece of pie from the dessert tray; and with fresh cups of coffee, they were settled in for a cozy tete-a-tete.
“Last evening at dinner when we exchanged our good news, I couldn’t help thinking about all those years ago when your... parents... and my father met at a hotel when they were both expecting the arrival of their foals.”
“Yes. Some twenty-seven years ago, to be exact. And those foals were you and me. I talked to Vanguard about the same thing when we were back in our room.” She smiled at the stallion. “It’s still a marvel that you and I met as we did, with no idea that our parents were acquainted.”
Giorgio chuckled. “I don’t think you thought it a marvel when I first walked into your life.”
Sugarberry blushed slightly under his intense gaze. “I was terribly upset with you when you came to Dream Valley, but only because your arrival necessitated Vanguard’s leaving.”
“You had a lot more than that to be upset with me about, Sugarberry.”
“You know you did; I cringe when I think what I was willing to do to get my revenge on my father, regardless of what damage it caused you and your family.”
“Well, the heart of the matter is that you did not do it in the end.”
“I was afraid when it was all over that you would never want to see me again, but I’m very happy that we can be friends.” The stallion reached out to cover her hoof in his.
“The best of friends. And our foals can grow up knowing one another; I like that idea.” She smiled responsively.
Their friendly chat was interrupted at that moment by the sudden approach of a mare to their table; Sugarberry looked up in surprise and vaguely recognized in the mint green pony a school friend whom she had not seen since high school graduation, as the mare had left Dream Valley to continue her education elsewhere.
“Tara?” she questioned unbelievingly.
“Sugarberry! You’ll never guess my surprise at seeing you in New Pony! I wouldn’t have thought you’d search out the big city; you always seemed so perfectly comfortable with small town living.”
“Oh! Your Aunt Blueberry Baskets told me all about your marriage!” The mare swivelled her head in Giorgio’s direction and at the same time extended her hoof to the stallion. “Van, I believe?” Sugarberry was aghast at Tara’s misconception while Giorgio smiled his politest smile and took her waiting hoof in his... but without a word of disavowal.
“Oh, no!” Sugarberry herself exclaimed. “I mean my husband’s name is Vanguard, but this is not my husband.” Tara’s left eyebrow arched as she turned her gaze back to Sugarberry, her hoof still in Giorgio’s possession. “Giorgio and I met when Vanguard was gone on an exchange program...” She tried to explain.
“Why, Sugarberry!” Tara exclaimed as her right brow now raised its height to match the other. This timorous mare must have changed over the years to attempt anything so rash, she thought to herself in scandalized disbelief.
Giorgio, having finally released Tara’s hoof, sat smiling with a twinkle in his eyes that infuriated Sugarberry as she glanced at him for help. But Tara gave neither of them a chance to explain as she was ready to leave as quickly as she came.
“Tah-tah, dear Sugarberry... Giorgio...” She brushed a glance at both of them. “This has been lovely, but I’m sure you must feel that three’s a crowd!” She disappeared to where her companions waited by the door.
“You could have helped me out there!” Sugarberry was quick to upbraid her escort.
“You were doing fine,” Giorgio grinned. “I assume your reputation in high school would not have credited you with such... brash... undertakings as to be seen in New Pony with anyone other than a husband?”
“Good grief!” Her eyes shot sparks until the humor of the situation suddenly dawned on her. “No, it wouldn’t,” she admitted with a coy smile. “I just hope Tara doesn’t share any acquaintances with Vanguard.”
“Ah... but you forget. She knows your aunt... Blueberry Baskets was it?” Giorgio shook his head. “You haven’t heard the end of this, I’m afraid.” His eyes showed nothing like fear, however.
“You can be sure I’ll inform Vanguard of this... this on-dit... at the first opportunity,” she said with laughing eyes.
“Would that I could be there!”
* * *
Tara, once out of the restaurant with her friends, fished for help. “Does anyone know that dashing forest green stallion named Giorgio?” she asked.
“You mean to tell me that you don’t?”
“I just met him. What’s the story behind him?”
“He’s from Vulcanopolis... from quite a good family.”
“Well, I’ve heard stories... rather an unsavory background for this one, I believe.”
“Hmm... very interesting.” Tara stood tapping her hoof for a moment, then she lifted a smile to meet her friend. “Tell me more.”
* * *
Being the guest speaker at a luncheon presided over by Ribbons n’ Lace, Toby’s mother, who was the organizer of a group of volunteer workers for charitable endeavors in and around New Pony, had put Sugarberry into a worried mood that amused her spouse.
“Could you explain to me exactly why you’re nervous?” he coaxed, knowing that she had prepared an entertaining speech.
“I wish Fern would never have told her future mother-in-law that we were going to be in New Pony over the semester break.”
“I remember how delighted you were when Ribbons n’ Lace called you to ask you to speak to her group; you weren’t nervous then.”
“I have never been comfortable addressing a crowd,” the mare admitted, frowning at her husband. “I invariably say something utterly humiliating before I’m through.”
“If that should happen, just smile it off as if it was intended and no one will be the wiser,” he suggested, pulling her into his embrace. “But I predict that you will be a sensation.”
“I wish you could be there; I always feel braver when I can see your face.”
“I will be caught up in boring lectures, you know... not that I wouldn’t prefer to accompany you,” he said, kissing her to make his point.
* * *
At the appropriate time, Sugarberry was met by Ribbons n’ Lace and together the two mares walked to the luncheon where they found that many of the ponies who were involved with the benevolent efforts of the group were already assembled, gathered into small cliques busily discussing current projects as well as discussing personal interests.
Ribbons n’ Lace was quick to introduce Sugarberry to friends before excusing herself to make sure that all was in readiness for the luncheon to begin; Sugarberry was made to feel welcome and lost some of her nervous jitters due to the accommodating friendliness of the ponies involved with Ribbons n’ Lace’s organization; and by the time she was to deliver her address, she was perfectly at ease.
When the luncheon had wound to a close and as Ribbons n’ Lace was accompanying Sugarberry to the lobby of the restaurant, they unexpectedly came upon Giorgio who had just arrived. “Hi, Ribbons n’ Lace... Sugarberry,” he grinned.
“ Giorgio!” Ribbons n’ Lace purred. “I didn’t expect to see you until my dinner party on Saturday.” She allowed the gallant stallion to take her hoof and present that appendage with a kiss.
Only after conferring a kiss on Sugarberry’s hoof did he explain. “I visited Andrew at his office and realized how close I was to your engagement here, so I stopped in to see how things were progressing.”
“Sugarberry entertained us wonderfully,” Ribbons n’ Lace stated. “I’m sure sales will now soar for Silent Are the Bells, and her new book will be eagerly anticipated.”
“Naturally,” agreed Giorgio, his eyes showing the pride he felt for the authoress.
“We’ll see,” Sugarberry demurred, a blush adding a pretty pink tone to her face.
Ribbons n’ Lace continued to speak. “You two must know how happy Andrew and I are concerning the news of your foals. Enrica called with the announcement last week, and Sugarberry was quick to share her good news with me personally. Nothing brings me more delight than to hear of an impending birth.”
“And Sugarberry and I are determined that our foals will grow up being the best of friends,” Giorgio said.
“Yes,” agreed Sugarberry. “Even separated by an ocean, they’ll be bosom buddies.”
“There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be,” granted Ribbons n’ Lace. Then with a look at Giorgio, she asked, “I’m going to walk Sugarberry back to her hotel; would you care to join us?”
“Well, as she and I are at the same hotel, I can certainly take her off your hooves,” Giorgio asserted.
“Does that meet with your approval, Sugarberry?”
A friend of Ribbons n’ Lace came up at that time to command her attention concerning a problem that needed study, and Giorgio and Sugarberry were left alone. “When do you expect Van to be back at the hotel?” Giorgio asked, glancing at his watch as they began to move toward the door.
“Not until six.”
“Great! That gives the two of us plenty of time.”
“What did you have in mind?”
Giorgio only laughed. “You’ll see.”
* * *
Unbeknownst to those who had now left the establishment, several late diners just beyond the divider by which Giorgio, Sugarberry, and Ribbons n’ Lace had been conversing had been all ears throughout the exchange. One, a mint green mare, hissed to the other, a pale mauve mare, “Did you hear that?”
“Yes, Tara, I did,” the mauve mare replied. “I never would have believed it of Sugarberry, but I must say that you had warned me.”
“Next time you’ll listen to me!” Tara observed, casting an I-told-you-so glance at her sister.
“I feel so sorry for her husband,” Sally commented. “And I’ll bet he doesn’t even know that that stallion is staying at the very same hotel.”
“And foals, Sally! Twins, and you can pretty well guess who the... well, anyway, what are they going to do... each get one? Can you imagine? One will be raised in Dream Valley and the other in Vulcanopolis.”
“Sugarberry’s changed a lot since we were in school,” Sally sighed.
“I wonder what Blueberry Baskets knows about all of this,” Tara wondered. “Maybe it’s high time I visited her; it’s been awhile, and she always says I should feel free to stop in for coffee sometime.”
“Well, as much as I’d like to know what the family thinks, I’d be careful about what I say if I were you,” Sally advised.
“I’ll be discreet,” Tara smiled. “Blueberry Baskets won’t hear anything from me; but, hopefully, I’ll hear a lot from her.”
* * *
It was five minutes to six when Giorgio escorted Sugarberry to the door of her hotel room. “My aunt is fixing dinner for Vanguard and me this evening, so we’ll have to rush to get ready for that.”
“From what I saw of Blueberry Baskets at your wedding, I would imagine that she will have an entertaining evening planned for you.”
“Yes. She sells real estate in New Pony and has grown extraordinarily urbane in her thinking.”
“Does that imply that you are countrified in yours?”
Opening the door, Sugarberry giggled. “I would most certainly hope so.”
“I guess your father’s occupation would make you the farmer’s daughter,” he laughed. “Tara implied as much yesterday.”
Their smiling faces met one that was not so happy.
“Vanguard! You must have gotten home earlier than you planned,” greeted Sugarberry, meeting her husband with a hug.
“Actually, several hours earlier,” Vanguard said, his gaze traveling from her face to Giorgio’s and back again. “I walked over to Filbert’s, but you weren’t there.” His expression was tense and just a little forbidding.
“A meeting I had a block away from the restaurant finished up just about the time Sugarberry’s did, so I took her on a tour of the park.”
“The tulips are blooming already!” Sugarberry disclosed. “All the flowers are way ahead of ours back in Dream Valley.”
“And,” Giorgio grinned, handing a package to Sugarberry, “we stopped at Wallington’s and bought each other a baby gift; our foals will have matching bibs from New Pony.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed yourselves,” Vanguard said, but his voice conveyed no enthusiasm; rather, it implied that he had not been enjoying his time for obvious reasons.
Sugarberry shot a meaningful glance at Giorgio, and the stallion read her meaning clearly. “Well, I hate to run, but Clare expects me to escort her to some fashion gathering this evening. Give my regards to Blueberry Baskets.” He winked at Sugarberry and threw a careless salute in Vanguard’s direction, then left them alone.
“You’re angry with me, aren’t you?” Sugarberry said immediately, searching her husband’s face with worried eyes. “I had no idea you would come looking for me, and Ribbons n’ Lace had things to take care of; Giorgio’s stopping by seemed providential.”
“You don’t have to explain.”
“I feel I do! I want you to understand.” She looked at him so beseechingly that his annoyance lessened by a few degrees.
“I though we’d have some time to ourselves this afternoon when the workshop got done ahead of schedule. This place was awfully lonely without you. But it was obvious that you and Giorgio had a good time.” He smiled, but not too convincingly.
“We did have a good time; but if I had it to do over again, I would have come straight back to you.” She looked into his eyes. “You do know that I love you without limits, don’t you?”
Unable to resist the emotion in her eyes, Vanguard hugged her to him. “Yes, I do know that.”
Sugarberry rested her head on his shoulder. “There is no need to be jealous, you know. But I understand. If you had been out sight-seeing with Clare while I was pacing the floor here, I’m sure I’d be slightly out of humor myself.”
Vanguard lifted her head to face his. “Love without limits,” he said and kissed her long and lovingly.
* * *
Their arrival at Blueberry Baskets’ chic apartment was greeted with fond welcome as the effervescent mare hugged them both and showered them with her unending volley of words. “I have been looking forward to seeing you since I got your call that you would be in New Pony! You don’t know how I’ve been wondering about things in Dream Valley. I would be especially interested in learning how Gauntlet is doing! We had such a lovely time at your wedding! And guess what, Sugarberry; I have a visitor that you will remember from your high school days-- Tara stopped by to say hello, and when she learned that you and your darling husband were going to be my dinner guests, she begged me to let her stay long enough to at least make Vanguard’s acquaintance.”
“Tara... how nice,” Sugarberry said, rolling her eyes for Vanguard’s benefit; the stallion had not found her recital of her meeting with Tara to be nearly as entertaining as she and Giorgio had found it– nor did it do anything to assuage his jealousy– and Sugarberry could not now think of anyone whom she would most like not to see than Tara.
Blueberry Baskets led her company into the living room where Tara awaited their arrival, standing nonchalantly by a table, a slick fashion magazine in her hooves. Upon seeing Sugarberry, however, she dropped the magazine and came forward in ready friendliness.
“Sugarberry! How nice to have this chance to chat with you. Our time together yesterday was way too brief, don’t you think? And what with all the years... but where are my manners? Who is this delightful stallion?” She turned to Vanguard with what amounted to a condescending attitude.
“Tara, this is my husband, Vanguard; Vanguard, Tara was one of my high school classmates.” She was not about to call her “friend” because the two as fillies had shared no common interests.
“Vanguard, indeed,” Tara smiled. “How very nice to meet you!”
“Come, sit down, all of you,” Blueberry Baskets said, attempting to gain some control over her guests. “Dinner will be ready shortly,” she assured Sugarberry. “I’ve got Tyrol working in the kitchen, and he has assured me that there will be no delay in his preparations.”
“Tyrol?” Sugarberry squeaked.