In Memorial
written by Tabby

*sobs* Well, here it is. I felt so heart-broken over killing Thomas and Elaine's parents off so early, that I decided to go back and write the story behind their getting together. Now please excuse me while I go cry my eyes out some more. (Oh, and Barnacle, if this is too mushy for you, tough. You'll have to get past Sugarberry and I, and we're not yielding.)

Characters in this story:

Cecil Monk, Caprice's father (pink unicorn with purple hair; sea serpent symbol)

Cecilia Monk, Caprice's mother (blue pegasus with cream hair; ring symbol)

Caprice Monk, one of the two main characters (beige unicorn with purple hair; frilly heart symbol)

Delia Monk, Caprice's sister, about fifteen (blue unicorn with purple hair)

Leander Monk, Caprice's brother, about twelve (cream pegasus with blue hair)

Velvet, Caprice's cat

Jade Star, Tanzy's mother

Tanzy, Caprice's friend (bright green earth pony with bright magenta hair [blue streak in mane]; perfume bottle symbol)

Reginald Fairfax, Dietrich's father (white unicorn with gold hair; an outrageous thing symbol)

Helga Fairfax, Dietrich's mother (pale yellow earth pony with sky blue hair; another outrageous thing symbol)

Dietrich Fairfax, the other key character in this story (aqua unicorn with yellow mane [black streak in mane]; Siamese cat symbol)

A flower deliverer, not to be confused with a Mysterious Cloaked Flower Deliverer

Excalibur, some stallion around town

Storen, his name means "bother" in German

Caprice entered the kitchen, looking slightly flustered in the face as she deposited the bag of groceries on the counter. "Mother! I'm back!"

"Hello, dear," Cecilia nodded at her daughter. "You were out longer than you usually are."

"I took a shortcut through the woods on the way back and... oh, I met a nice stallion on the way," Caprice put forward, smiling a bit wistfully.

"Oh?" Cecilia looked up. "Who was he, dear?"

"He said his name was Dietrich. We had a very fascinating conversation on cats. He has a fancy for them, too, it seems."

"Dietrich," Cecilia said emphatically. "He's only the Fairfaxes' son."

"He is? I wonder why I've never seen him around before?" Caprice mused.

"Our social calender is not meant to overlap that of the Fairfax family," Cecilia said sharply. "I wouldn't suggest meeting him any more, Caprice."

"Are you still worried over that silly feud, Mother? He really was very nice," Caprice argued. "I don't think there's a problem with him."

"The Fairfaxes and the Monks don't associate with one another," Cecilia said coolly. "Listen to me when I say stay away from him."

Caprice lowered her head meekly in submission. "Yes, Mother."

"Why don't you attend to setting the table now?" Cecilia added in a gentler tone, moving toward the bag of food items. "Thank you for picking these things up from the grocery. I can't believe I forgot to keep tomatoes on hand."

"Of course," Caprice murmured. "I'll get right to it, Mother."

* * *

Caprice was restless that night. Sleep was impossible as she tossed and turned in her bed. Too many thoughts were bombarding her mind. How could she get any rest?

A dreamy smile crossed her face as she once again remembered the kind look Dietrich had given her and the gentle yet firm sound of his voice. Caprice had to giggle slightly realizing that "gentle yet firm"was somewhat of an oxymoron, but it was the only way she could think of to describe it.

The image in her mind of Dietrich slowly moved to the iced-over expression of her mother telling her "Stay away from him." Caprice had to sigh at that unpleasant memory. Dietrich had seemed so kind! Couldn't her mother see that? She couldn't understand the basis for her family's feud with the Fairfaxes, let alone this cold forbiddance of any friendship with them.

It had been a long-ago incident that had started the terrible war. Back in colonial times, when the town was first being founded, two affluent families had relocated their publishing businesses there-- two families who were none other than the Fairfaxes and the Monks. Neither side wanted to give any of their ground away in their successful business, and they both worked tirelessly to scout out new talent to publish. Undiscovered authors were scooped-up as quickly as they were found and sabotage between the two separate publishing houses abounded. This had been the start of the feud, and so it unrelentlessly continued on into the present day.

Caprice could remember well all of her family's warnings against the Fairfaxes and a detailed account of the story behind it, leaving nothing out of the treacherous tricks employed by the opposing family. She had always thought it sounded silly and hadn't considered it any further than that. Of course, it had always been exciting to hear her father talk about signing-on a new author that he had managed to keep away from the "villainous Fairfaxes", but she had never seen a serious problem with the two successful rival companies. Of course, as her mother had said, the Monks didn't plan their social calender to overlap that of the Fairfaxes. So, even though they were both affluent families in town, Caprice had grown up not knowing any Fairfaxes. Still, she had not known her parents were this adamant against them until her chance encounter with Dietrich that afternoon.

Dietrich... Dietrich... he had left an uneraseable mark on the young mare's mind. Not even her family's disapproval could wipe it out. Finally, her eyelids grew heavy, and she gave into the urge to sleep.

* * *

"Caprice, I was accepted into the dance academy's course for next year!" Tanzy bubbled over exuberantly. "I can't believe it! I can finally begin to pursue my dream!"

Caprice nearly dropped the tray of lemonade she was carrying into the parlor upon hearing the news. "Tanzy!" she squealed happily. "Are you serious?! Oh, that's exactly what you always wanted to happen!"

"It's going to be grand," Tanzy said excitedly. "I really did want to get accepted into this one, since it's right in town. I'd hate to have to move elsewhere."

"I'm so happy for you!" Caprice said sincerely. "And I'm so happy that you'll get to stay here. I don't know what I'd do without you around."

"It's a perfect set-up," Tanzy assured her. "I'll be a premiere world-famous dancer yet; just wait and see."

"I know you will!" Caprice said supportivly, handing a glass of lemonade over to her friend.

"What about you, Caprice?" Tanzy slowly sipped at the glass. "Are you going to go further with your education?"

"I don't know," Caprice said self-consciously. "Mother and Father would just like to see me settle down and raise a family. I wouldn't mind that, really."

"Haven't you found any handsome stallions around town yet?" Tanzy teased. "I personally think that Excalibur is kinda cute."

"Well..." Caprice blushed as she stared down into her glass. "I did meet someone yesterday."

"Oh? Who was he?" Tanzy pounced on the opportunity.

"His name's Dietrich Fairfax," Caprice said in a rush. "I met him on the way back from the grocery on an errand for Mother. He was quite nice."

"Dietrich Fairfax!" Tanzy breathed. "Now, he's really handsome."

Caprice fumbled her glass around nervously in her hooves. "Well, yes, I suppose."

"Did you set up a date with him?" Tanzy prodded. "Are you going to see him again? Do you think he likes you?"

"Oh..." Caprice was more flustered than ever. "No, we didn't set anything like that up. We just had a nice conversation about cats, that's all."

"You were meant to be," Tanzy intoned dramatically. "Go for it, Caprice! You've got to call him later."

"Mother doesn't want me to associate with him," Caprice said quietly.

Tanzy calmed herself. "Oh. Is it still that old business over your family's silly feud with the Fairfaxes?"

"Yes. The feud." Caprice stared listlessly down into her half-empty cup.

"It's just not right!" Tanzy steamed. "The Monks and the Fairfaxes are the two most affluent families in town. They should be happy over this budding romance!"

"Oh, it's hardly that," Caprice murmured.

Before Tanzy could make an appropriate comeback, the doorbell rang. Caprice was grateful for the interruption, and jumped up to answer the door.

She was surprised to see the cart of the local flower deliverer parked outside, and the deliverer himself waiting on the porch. "I have a delivery for you today, Miss Caprice," he announced himself.

"Really?" Caprice's eyes lit up at the prospect. "For me?"

"There you are," he stated, handing a fragrant bouquet over to her. "Have a nice day." With that, he made his way back to his cart.

Caprice securely closed the door behind her before she stopped to fully comprehend the bouquet of roses she held in her hooves. It was a glorious bunch of flowers, and the fragrance of it alone was splendorous. She still hadn't gotten enough of the bouquet when Tanzy came running to see what was up. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the flowers.

"For you?" she breathed in awe.

"I guess so," Caprice said, her face flushing. "They're so beautiful. I've never seen flowers this magnificent before in my life."

"Who sent them? Who sent them?" Tanzy was quick to ask.

Caprice groped to open the small envelope attached to the bunch. " ‘To the fair Caprice,' " she read aloud, still slightly stunned. " ‘Please accept these flowers as a token of my respect for your resplendent beauty and your sweet smile. Love, Dietrich'..." Caprice blinked rapidly as she leaned up against the wall, her face a brilliant flaming crimson.

"Caprice!" Tanzy shrieked, running up to her. "Is that really what he wrote?! It's the most romantic thing I've ever heard! You must have made quite an impression on him yesterday."

"I... I don't know why he sent them," Caprice fumbled for the words.

"Because he's madly in love with you, silly!" Tanzy retorted. "Now, don't you dare say you're going to let your parents get in the way of this. You are going over to that phone and you are going to call him right now..."

"But I wouldn't know what to say," Caprice squeaked.

"You'll say that you adore the flowers and that you would love to see him again over a quiet dinner some evening," Tanzy instructed. "Go on, go on!"

Caprice still resisted the urging of her friend. "I don't know," she stuttered. "I couldn't do it."

"Why not?" Tanzy said impatiently. "You're going to miss out on a great opportunity if you don't, Caprice!"


"Just think of how hurt he'll be if he doesn't receive word from you about his lovely gift," Tanzy said threateningly.

"I guess... some sort of thank-you would be appropriate."

"And that's why you're going to call him." Tanzy trotted over to the phone and, picking up the receiver, instructed Caprice, "Here. Come and find his number in the phone book."

"But what if he's not home?" Caprice protested. "I don't know what times he would be around."

"Time..." Tanzy murmured, searching for a clock on the wall. "Time..." Her eyes suddenly opened wide. "Oh my gosh! It's three fifteen, Caprice! I told Rosetint I would have those papers to her by three! I completely lost track of time! I've gotta run!" Frenzied, Tanzy ran for the door. "Goodbye, Caprice! And don't you dare forget to make that call, even if I'm not here!" With that, the door was abruptly opened and closed again as Tanzy left, leaving Caprice alone in the house.

Caprice glanced from the phone to the flowers, and clutched the stems all the tighter in her sweaty hooves. It wasn't necessary to reply immediately, she finally assured herself. She would at least tell her parents about the delivery that evening over supper, and she would go from there on what to do. With butterflies in her stomach, Caprice quickly deposited the empty lemonade glasses in the kitchen and then fled up to her room with the bouquet.

* * *

"I received these this afternoon while Mother was out shopping." Nervously, Caprice presented herself at supper that evening, displaying Dietrich's bouquet before her.

"They're pretty," Delia, Caprice's younger sister, said enviously. "Where'd they come from?"

"Oh, Caprice!" her mother breathed. "What a beautiful arrangement!"

"I knew the stallions would come around courting her eventually," Cecil, her father, nodded in satisfaction.

"Who did send them, dear?" Cecilia questioned.

Caprice hesitated. "They're... they're from that stallion I met yesterday. Dietrich." She deemed it wise to refrain from mentioning his last name.

This announcement caused a great commotion around the table. Her two siblings that were present knew of Dietrich, and had let their parents imprint a great fear in their minds of the Fairfaxes. Their eyes opened wide as they looked in shock at Caprice. Her parents were the first to speak, however.

"Dietrich? Dietrich?" Cecil stormed. "Do you mean that the young Fairfax has grown so bold as to send flowers to my daughter?"

"Caprice, I told you yesterday to stay away from that stallion," Cecilia said sternly. "I don't like to see you encouraging him like this."

"I... I didn't," Caprice defended herself. "But can't you see--"

"Those flowers aren't fit to be held in your hooves, Caprice, let alone be delivered to this house," Cecil said stiffly. "They should have been thrown-out immediately."

"But that's unreasonable!" Caprice cried out. "He really is nice! Can't you learn to let go of this feud with the Fairfaxes?"

"Caprice, we're not going to hear any more talk of this Dietrich in this household," Cecil declared. "Give those flowers to me."

"But--" Caprice was reluctant to hand them over.

"You must forget about him, dear," Cecilia said in a softer tone. "We only want the best for you. This is for your own good. Give us the flowers."

"They're mine." Caprice was seized with a sudden streak of boldness.

"Caprice..." her father said warningly, pushing back his chair and standing up. "You can't keep them."

"Why not?" Caprice took a step back.

"They'll only remind you of that villain Dietrich. You'll be better off without with."

Caprice's lower lip began to tremble. "Fine, then! Take the stupid flowers!" she sobbed, throwing them to the floor. "But if you think I'll ever forget Dietrich, you're still wrong!" With tears flowing openly down her face, Caprice turned and ran from the room.

* * *

Caprice cried that evening for all she was worth as she lay there on her bed. Her pretty Abyssinian cat, Velvet, tried to comfort her, but to no avail. Caprice finally had to smile, though, as she felt the rough sandpaper tongue cross her cheek.

"Oh, Velvet," she said softly, pushing herself into an upright position and snuggling the warm feline. "I've never had a fight with them like that before. I don't want them to be disappointed in me. But Dietrich at least deserves a thanks for those flowers, doesn't he?"

Velvet seemed to approve as she set to washing her fluffy tail, and her gentle purr filled the room. Seized with sudden inspiration, Caprice set the cat down gently and tip-toed to her closed door. Softly opening it and peering down the hallway, it didn't look like anyone was around. She could hear her parents talking downstairs, and Delia and Leander must have disappeared into their rooms after supper as well.

Taking the chance, Caprice walked quietly down the hall where a small stand held the upstairs telephone. With shaking hooves, she flipped through the phone book and found the F section. It didn't take her long to find the page with the Fairfax numbers on it. Unfortunately, she had forgotten that the Fairfaxes were an affluent family. There were a lot of them listed.

Beginning to panic, Caprice tried to calm herself down and think. If she didn't try to get in touch with Dietrich now, she never would. It was vital that she keep cool and try to think rationally of which Fairfax Dietrich would be listed under.

He was still at home with his parents, she knew. But who were they? Caprice thought frantically as she skimmed over the page of Fairfaxes, hoping something would jump out at her. She paused as she saw the name of Reginald. It sounded like a name her father had mentioned before. Dietrich was the son of the chief owner and operator of the Fairfax publishing company... so he had to be at this number listed under Reginald Fairfax! Her hooves shaking, Caprice set to dialing the number.

Her stomach was tied in knots and her skin was clammy as she listened to the phone ring. She halfway didn't want anyone to be there so she could just forget about it, but the other half of her wanted desperately to get in touch with Dietrich.

"Hello, this is the Fairfax residence."

Caprice jumped as she heard these words spoken over the line, and hurried to compose herself. "Is... is Dietrich there?" she said in a tone hardly louder than a whisper as she inched her way back to her room.

"This is he."

"Oh!" Caprice breathed a sigh of relief. She had found the right number! "Dietrich, it's... Caprice."

"Caprice? Is that really you?" Dietrich's spirits rose visibly upon hearing this introduction.

"Yes, and I received your flowers today. They're very beautiful. Thank you." Caprice quietly clicked her door shut and sat down in the desk of her chair with the receiver held up intently to her ear.

"That's wonderful! I sent the blossoms most closely matching your beauty."

"Oh... that's really sweet," Caprice giggled nervously.

"You've been the only thought on my mind, Caprice, since I first laid eyes on you yesterday," Dietrich continued in a softer tone.

"I know." Caprice twisted the cord around her hooves. "I haven't been able to stop thinking about you, either."

"Will you have any free time in the near future, Caprice?" Dietrich persisted.

"I... I don't know." Caprice lowered her gaze. "My parents don't want me to have anything to do with you."

"I was afraid of that. It's the confounded Monk and Fairfax feud, isn't it?" Dietrich said with a bitter edge to his voice.

"Yes, it is," Caprice said quietly. "What of yours? Are your parents any more accepting of it?"

"No, they feel the same way yours do," Dietrich scowled. "They were furious when I told them I'd sent you flowers."

"I'm sorry, Dietrich."

"There's nothing for you to be sorry for, Caprice. That right is reserved for our parents, if anyone."

"I suppose, then..." Caprice trailed off.

"No, Caprice!" Dietrich said quickly. "You mustn't give up hoping yet."

"But what can we do?"

"We can meet in secret."


"I hate to sneak around behind their backs, and I'm sure you do, too, Caprice; but unless we do, there may never be an end to this silly feud that's keeping us apart in the first place."

"I don't know what to do, Dietrich."

"Say you'll meet me at seven o' clock on Wednesday evening. Do you remember the place in the woods we met yesterday?"

"I remember it well."

"Then we'll meet there again."

"I'll be there, Dietrich."

"I'll be looking forward to it, Caprice. Goodnight, then. I'll see you on Wednesday."

"Goodnight, Dietrich. I'll be looking forward to it as well."

Caprice hung up the phone that night with her conscience hanging a little heavy on her mind, but her heart was more than light enough to make up for it.

* * *

Caprice hardly dared wonder over the fate of her precious bouquet, but when she came down to breakfast the next morning, not a word of the incident was mentioned. She smiled and acted as though nothing had happened, but she almost wished her parents would say something about it. Was it possible that perhaps, maybe, they could have softened their opinion of Dietrich after having sufficient time to think about it?

She was brave enough to broach the subject with her mother while washing the breakfast dishes. "About last night..."

Cecilia looked over at her sharply. "Yes, your father and I talked about it further."

"You still don't want me to see any more of him?"

"We only want to protect your interests, Caprice. There are many more stallions around much more fitting to you than this Dietrich."

"None of them can compare to Dietrich," Caprice lamented.

"There are those who are better than he is," Cecilia sniffed. "No, dear, it would be best to forget him."

"Won't you ever change your mind?"

Cecilia thought it best to change the subject instead. "We're done here, Caprice. Why don't you go outside and watch Delia and Leander?"

"Alright, Mother," Caprice sighed, hanging up the wet towel. "I'll see what they're up to."

The Monks' backyard was spacious and filled with lush grass and tree groves-- the perfect playground for young ponies on summer vacation, like Caprice's two siblings. She found Leander hunting for toads near the garden, while Delia was more interested in the flowers that grew profusely in well-tended beds.

"Oh, what is his obsession with toads?" Delia complained as her sister drew near. "I've grown so weary of them."

"You used to enjoy finding them for him when you were younger," Caprice reminded. "You two had lots of fun together doing that."

"Well... yes, I suppose I did," Delia recalled, affixing a brilliant purple violet behind one ear. "But one can enjoy looking at only so many toads in a lifetime."

"Delia..." Caprice said, hesitating. "What did Mother and Father do after I left the room last night?"

"They weren't too happy," Delia said, cocking her head. "The bouquet got thrown out-- that was a pity, really. It was very nice. Father read the card on it before that, but just scowled at it. He didn't tell us what it said. What did he write to you, Caprice?"

Caprice shook her head, easing herself down into one of the seats on the swingset. ‘It was nothing, really."

"He and Mother were quite riled, and talked for a bit after that," Delia went on, taking a seat next to Caprice. "Leander and I didn't say much. They seemed to have plenty to say themselves."

Caprice sat in silence, slowly rocking back and forth on the swing. Delia finally broke into the quiet, though. "Oh, I can't wait until I'm as old as you and get nice flower bouquets from handsome stallions," she sighed dreamily.

"It's not as easy as you might think," Caprice said wistfully.

"Do you really like him, Caprice?" Delia looked intently at her sister. "Dietrich, I mean?"

"I don't know. I might," Caprice blushed.

"I've never met any of the Fairfaxes. I wonder what they're really like," Delia mused.

"They're not as bad as our parents have made them out to be, I think."

"You're not going to see him again, are you?"

"I'd like to."

"But you can't go against Mother and Father."

"Someone needs to put an end to this silly feud."

"Caprice! But we've always been told to stay away from the Fairfaxes," Leander protested, abandoning the search and joining the other two. "What would they do if you violated that?"

"I don't know that, either," Caprice said quietly. "But maybe the feud wouldn't have lasted this long if someone had stood up about it sooner."

Leander stared in awe at his sister. "But they're sure to punish you if you do anything."

"I'm not going to do anything," Caprice spoke-up, perhaps a little too quickly. "I only think that this fight between our family and the Fairfaxes is unjustified."

"Maybe it is," Delia said softly, moved by the look in her sister's eyes.

"Maybe," Leander chimed in.

* * *

Throughout the following days, Caprice refrained from speaking any more of Dietrich around home. In fact, the only one who knew of her secret meeting appointment with him was Tanzy. Caprice looked forward to the day with a hopeful heart, and prayed that Dietrich would not have forgotten her.

The night of Wednesday finally came, and luckily no one suspected when Caprice announced her intention to go on a short walk in the dusk. She stopped for a short spell by Tanzy's house to gain some needed support.

"Oh, what if he's not there?" Caprice fretted as her friend met her by the gate.

"He's going to be there, Caprice. Trust me," Tanzy said reassuringly. "Don't even think of backing out now."

Caprice smiled nervously. "What will I do if word of this gets out to Mother and Father?"

"It won't," Tanzy said persistently, pushing the reluctant unicorn on. "Now, get going. You don't want to keep him waiting. And you must stop by here again and give me a full account!"

"I won't forget you, Tanzy," Caprice winked as she slowly went on her way. "Tah-tah! Wish me luck!" With that, she trotted furtively along the fence line of Tanzy's family's property (they were next-door neighbors as well as close friends) towards the woods that bordered her backyard. The place was familiar to her and she had spent much of her time there as a foal, but it took on a much more mysterious appearance as she ran along its paths in the filtered twilight.

Caprice was out of breath when she finally reached the designated meeting spot. She clutched her lacy hat to her head as she began slowing her pace. It was with a glad heart that she noticed Dietrich's presence there already.

"Ah, Caprice, you've come!" he smiled warmly, turning to her. "I'm glad you could make it."

"Oh, so am I!" Caprice laughed merrily. "I've been looking forward to it since the last time we spoke."

"And here, this is for you." Saying this, Dietrich uncupped his hoof to reveal a brilliant peach blossom and fixed it to the brim of Caprice's hat. "Do you like it?"

"Oh, it's lovely," Caprice breathed, her eyes sparkling. "Thank you, Dietrich!"

"Anything to please you," Dietrich said, kissing her softly on one cheek. "Why not have a seat?" He turned her in the direction of an old tree stump on the edge of the path, making the perfect place to sit.

"Of course," Caprice murmured as she sat down, her face flushed. "It certainly is nice in the forest at this time of day."

"Yes," Dietrich agreed, seating himself on the ground with his back against the stump. "It's so peaceful and calm."

"Do you come through here often?"

"Sometimes, when I need to get away and think. It is public property, isn't it? I'd hate to think I had been trespassing on your parents land all this time."

Caprice giggled. "Not that I know. I came here a lot as a foal to play. I must have memorized all its paths."

"I wonder why we never met here before," Dietrich pondered.

"It must have been fate," Caprice smiled. "We could have so easily missed each other."

"Sometimes fate works to one's advantage," Dietrich nodded. "If only our families could see that."

"Oh, let's not talk about that now," Caprice pleaded. "It's too pleasant a night for topics like that."

"You're right. We mustn't spoil it." Dietrich accepted Caprice's hoof as it was slipped down to him, and he held it tightly. "What are your plans for the future, Caprice? Are you going to continue your schooling?"

"My friend Tanzy just asked me that same thing the other day," Caprice confessed. "I don't have any plans, really."

"A beautiful mare like you ought to have some idea of what she's going to do with her life."

"Oh, I might get a job eventually," Caprice stared off into space. "And settle down sometime. What about you?"

"We'll have to see how things work "I'm applying to some colleges," Dietrich said. "I'd like to get into journalism."

"I suppose that ambition was born into you, your family being publishers and all."

"It could be. Of course, I don't know where I picked up my love of cats from."

"They're wonderful creatures," Caprice said happily. "Tell me again about yours."

Dietrich launched into telling the complete histories of all the members of his feline brood, and Caprice leaned forward, listening intentfully. Even at Dietrich's urgings, she didn't add any of her insight to the conversation; listening to him speak was enough pleasure for her. However, the sky overhead grew gradually darker, and Dietrich made note of the time.

"The hour grows late," he noted, standing up and helped Caprice up on her hooves. "You should be getting back home. Will you be okay alone?"

"I'll be fine," Caprice assured him. "But I hate to leave. I enjoyed getting to know you better."

"How about another meeting soon, then?" Dietrich suggested. "Are you free two nights from now?"

"Oh, I would!"

"Then I'll be waiting for you here, at the same time."

"I suppose my parents still wouldn't like it."

"I won't do anything that would make them distrust me, Caprice. We'll make them see eventually."

Caprice's spirits were lifted by Dietrich's confidence. "Alright, Dietrich. Two days from now. I'll be here."

"Goodnight then, Caprice. Be safe!"

"I will! Goodnight, Dietrich!" Blowing a final kiss in his direction, Caprice was soon out of sight on the path.

* * *

Tanzy thought the whole situation was very romantic, but Caprice still doubted that her parents would see it that way. The night after her secret meeting, she spoke up casually at the dinner table-- as casual as she could sound, at least.

"Why is it we don't associate with the Fairfaxes?"

"I thought we had covered this before, Caprice," Cecil looked up sharply.

"You're not still thinking of that Dietrich, are you?" Cecilia spoke-up in concern.

"No, of course not," Caprice said carefully. "It just doesn't seem rational to think of them the way we do."

"They're enemies to our business," Cecil said. "Your forefathers worked hard, Caprice, to start the Monk publishing company, and I intend to keep the company going strong... without the Fairfaxes gaining any ground away from us."

"But isn't a little competition okay?" Caprice argued. "It doesn't make them bad ponies."

"Let's just not talk about it any more," Cecilia said gently. "Take heed of our warnings, Caprice. And you, too, Delia and Leander."

"Yes, Mother," the younger two chorused automatically. Caprice frowned as she leaned back in her seat. Apparently, her parents weren't ready to budge.

* * *

Across town, a young member of the Fairfax family was having a similar conversation with his parents.

"That Caprice Monk is a nice girl. Why don't you approve of her?" Dietrich stared at his parents piercingly.

"You only met her once, Dietrich," Helga sighed. "It's hardly enough time to get to know her. I don't see why you're so hung up on her." Dietrich, of course, hadn't told them of the phone call and second secret meeting.

"Your mother is right," Reginald agreed. "That Caprice is only from the lowly Monk family. You would be better off to just forget her."

"Why can't you just forget this feud?" Dietrich said heatedly.

"Our ancestors had a good reason for staying away from the Monks, Dietrich, and I trust their judgement," Reginald said tersely.

"Well, someone has got to put an end to it someday," Dietrich snapped, pushing his chair back and standing up. "And so far I seem to be the only one willing to try." Giving them each a silencing glance, he stormed out of the room.

"He'll soon be over it," Helga said calmly. Her husband nodded in agreement.

* * *

Despite the negative vibes from their parents, the two didn't forget their next scheduled meeting. Caprice found Dietrich waiting for her at the designated spot in the forest the next evening, and a brilliant smile broke out on her face.

"Oh, I was so afraid you would have forgotten me by now!" she burst out in a rush. "I know that I haven't."

Dietrich caught her in a warm embrace. "I couldn't possibly forget you, Caprice. Never doubt that."

"I won't," Caprice murmured, resting her head comfortable on his shoulder. "I only hope that our parents..." She trailed off.

"They're stubborn, Caprice, and rooted to the past. We must work to stop this war between our families."

"I just wish it didn't have to be this way to begin with," Caprice said quietly, breaking away and seating herself on the tree stump.

"I don't like deceiving them any more than you do, Caprice, but if we want to continue seeing each other..." Dietrich said softly. "Don't feel guilty. Just hang on longer, and we'll make them see eventually. And then you'll be glad we went through all this."

"I know, Dietrich." Caprice squinted her eyes shut. "Eventually..."

"Now, you're the one who the other night didn't want to be talking about this," Dietrich said, trying to lighten the mood. "Let's talk about something else."

"I can stand for that," Caprice giggled. "You're right, of course. When do you think you'll have to leave for college, Dietrich?"

"Probably not before next spring," Dietrich said. "I'm not sure if any of my applications will get approved until then."

"I won't like seeing you go."

"We'll still have plenty of time together, Caprice," Dietrich said softly. "Don't think about it yet."

"I've just never met anyone like you before," Caprice said shyly. "I don't want you to go away too soon."

"And I won't, Caprice. Never fear," Dietrich assured her. "Now, what was that you were saying last night about your friend's plans... Tansy, was it?"

As every hope and dream passed between the two, they both felt the warmth in their hearts grow. Caprice had never felt happier than now when she sat with Dietrich holding her hoof, and their precious minutes together passed quickly. As they procrastinated over saying goodnight, Caprice turned slightly to look behind her, and was greeted with an unpleasant sight.

Her reflexes took over as she scrambled backwards from the tree and let out a petrified shriek. Dietrich was immediately on the defensive. "Caprice! What happened?"

Caprice only cowered behind him and, while holding one hoof over her face, outstretched the other to point to a certain tree. "It's a terrible, terrible ugly spider," she managed to get out in a trembling voice.

"A spider?" Dietrich's face noticeably lightened. "Don't worry! I'll save you." Arming himself with a handy twig, the dreadful monster was soon banished from its perch and was sent searching for a new haven from which to lurk.

"Is it... gone?" Caprice hazarded a look.

Dietrich had to laugh at her fright. "The danger is gone, I assure you."

Caprice smiled somewhat sheepishly. "Spiders are one inhabitant of the woods I don't get along with very well," she confessed.

"Typical," Dietrich teased. "Just be glad it wasn't a tarantula."

"You don't mean to say..." Caprice's eyes flew open wide. "... that those things are native to these parts?"

"Of course not, Caprice! I'm just putting you on." Dietrich looked at her fondly as he gripped her front hooves. "Don't have nightmares, now."

"Oh, you!" Caprice spat good-naturedly. "I probably will, thanks to a certain someone..." She cut herself off abruptly, finding herself caught up in Dietrich's gaze.

"Don't be angry," Dietrich said softly, pulling her in closer. "Caprice..." Several moments of silence passed as they both searched for the words to say. The emptiness was finally filled by a long, lingering kiss.

Caprice pulled away, looking thoroughly flushed. "I should be getting home now. Tomorrow, same time?"

"Same time," Dietrich echoed, his stare following her as she turned to leave. "Goodnight, Caprice! Goodnight!" Her formalities were exchanged in turn, and Dietrich was soon left alone standing on the path, his thoughts centered on the mare who had so effectively captured his heart.

* * *

And, as promised earlier, Caprice stopped in to visit Tanzy for a short spell before returning home. Tanzy, as always, was eager to hear about every detail. Caprice's mind was mainly flooded, though, with worries over the whole thing.

"If I keep meeting him like this, my parents will be sure to grow suspicious," Caprice fretted. "I don't know what to do!"

"You can't be thinking of giving up, Caprice!" Tanzy argued. "It's just like Dietrich said. Someone has to stand up and stop this feud. You're doing just that."

"But my parents don't like it."

"Don't worry! They're not going to find out."

"I don't usually go out for a walk every night in the woods," Caprice protested. "They'll know something is up."

"They don't have to know you're in the woods," Tanzy rationalized. "You'll tell them that you're coming over to my house. They won't have a problem with that."

"But even at that, I don't usually spend a lot of my evenings over here," Caprice fretted.

Tanzy sighed. "If they ask you about it, just explain that you're working on a project with me."

"But we're not."

"Caprice! Lighten up!" Tanzy cried out. "It's not a lie. Of course we're working on a project-- a project to get you and Dietrich paired-up for good and the uniting of your two families!"

"Oh," said Caprice doubtfully.

"Just head over this way every night you're meeting with him, and I'll push you on. It's going to work just fine," Tanzy assured her.

"I suppose..." Caprice said, still a little doubtful. "We'll see. But as it really is getting late now; I'd better be heading along home. G'night, Tanzy!"

"G'night, Caprice!"

* * *

The month of June passed by quickly for both Caprice and Dietrich. Tanzy provided great cover for their meetings, and Cecil and Cecilia didn't notice anything odd with their daughter working on a "project" with her friend. Dietrich was able to make up his own excuses to his parents to avoid suspicion. In addition, neither mentioned the other's name to their family, so as far as the parents were concerned, their offspring had seen the purpose of the feud.

That was far from the truth, however. Dietrich and Caprice met at their appointed spot as often as they dared, and they could feel themselves growing closer together every time. And, they had gotten used to their secretive schedule, and no longer felt so guilty about sneaking out. They had both firmly convinced themselves that their parents would begin to see their shortsightedness in forbidding them to see each other.

But trouble was approaching.

On this particular afternoon, Caprice was seated contemplatively at the kitchen table, staring off into space. Dietrich was frequently on her mind these days. He was such a nice stallion. She wondered if she could truly be in love with him.

Sighing happily, she gently touched the latest decorative item on the brim of her hat-- a beautiful stem of purple lilac blossoms. Dietrich continued to bring her small offerings of flowers, which she proudly wore. Since she was known to adorn her favorite hat with flowers anyway, it didn't raise any suspicions to see her with new floral additions. And Caprice saved every one of those flowers, no matter how dried and wilted they got.

"Caprice, look at this!" Delia's excited outburst brought Caprice back into reality. Her younger sister ran into the kitchen, waving an envelope in the air. Not waiting for a reply, the filly shoved the envelope under Caprice's nose and then set it on the table. "It just came in the mail! It's for you! It looks special. What is it?!"

Caprice smiled wryly at her sister's anticipation. As Delia persisted to hover over her shoulder, Caprice saw that the filly would not rest until she saw the contents of the envelope. The beige mare gently slit the ivory envelope, and read aloud the invitation that lay inside:

You are cordially invited to attend

a grand party celebrating

the summer season

on Saturday, June 12

at seven-thirty in the evening

hosted by Butternut,

178 Silver Lane in Gracefield.

"Oh, Caprice, that's so exciting!" Delia squealed. "You're so lucky!"

"I suppose it will be a fun affair," Caprice said relatively quietly, slipping the card back into the envelope.

"Do you suppose you'll get an invitation from a handsome stallion to attend with him?" Delia persisted.

"I don't really know, Delia."

"I think you will," Delia nodded wisely. "And then you'll fall in love with him, and then you'll get married, and--"

"I doubt that," Caprice said, with perhaps a bit of annoyance filtering into her voice. "And weren't you supposed to be cleaning your room this afternoon?" She didn't really mind her sister's enthusiasm over the affair, but she didn't particularly care to talk about it right then.

"Oh, I suppose," Delia sighed, her thoughts plummeting back to earth abruptly. "Mother expects if of me. But just watch for those inquiries from dashing young stallions to start filtering in!" Winking at Caprice one last time, Delia proceeded to skip from the room.

Now that she was alone again, Caprice stared forlornly at the envelope she held clutched in her hoof. She only hoped there wouldn't be any "inquiries from dashing young stallions". There was only one stallion she would like to be seen with there, and that was forbidden.

* * *

"Well, Caprice, you'll be my partner to the dance, won't you?"

Caprice had to gasp at Dietrich's matter-of-fact statement at their meeting that night. "But we'd be found out about!" she protested.

"We've been living in secret like this for too long, Caprice," Dietrich said seriously, kissing her hoof. "It's time to come out with it."

"What are you going to do, Dietrich?"

"We'll discuss it with our parents again, of course," Dietrich said rationally. "Surely after all this time that they've had to think about it, they'll be more understanding than before."

"I only wish I could believe you were right about them," Caprice sighed. "It's so difficult. I'm not sure they'll ever see."

"Do you regret the fact that you ever met me, Caprice?"

Caprice looked over at him abruptly. "How could I possibly regret it?" she demanded, tears shining in her eyes. "Did you think for one moment that I did? You can put that notion out of your head, because I don't. These times I've spent with you have been some of the best of my life, and I..." she trailed off, sentimental tears openly flowing down her face.

"And that's precisely how I feel," Dietrich said softly, holding her close. "I'm glad. We agree on that point."

"What will happen to us, Dietrich?" Caprice asked hoarsely, looking up at him. "You're right that we can't live like this forever. But I don't think..."

"I'll find a way for us, Caprice," Dietrich said confidently. "No matter what happens, I'll find a way. Never fear."

"Are you still going to talk to your parents?"

"Yes, I will. And we'll hope for the best, so we won't have to worry about any more problems down the road. They'll listen this time, Caprice; I can sense it!"

Caprice wiped away her tears and tried to look hopeful, for Dietrich's sake at least. "I believe that," she whispered.

"Good." Dietrich kissed her lightly one last time. "And now I must be going, as I can only stay a short while tonight. It will be a few days before I am free again, so count on meeting me here again on Wednesday."

"I will," Caprice promised, waving as he walked out of sight. "Goodbye! Goodnight!"

* * *

"Did he say anything about the party?" These were the first words on Tanzy's lips as her friend approached her gate a short while later.

"Yes. He asked if I would go with him," Caprice said wearily.

"You said you would, didn't you?" Tanzy was relentless.

"We'll have to see how things work out," Caprice shook her head. "I'm sure my parents would still never agree to it, but he's going to talk to his again."

"Trust him, Caprice," Tanzy giggled. "He's going to work something out. I'm sure of it."

"I'm the only one that isn't," Caprice sighed.

"Leave it to him," Tanzy predicted. "Don't worry. Do you think I'll manage to wheedle an invitation out of Excalibur before the weekend?"

"Knowing you, Tanzy, yes," Caprice smiled, glad to think of something else. "The stallion will succumb to your charm sometime."

"I knew it!" Tanzy said cockily. "You see, Caprice, you're already one step ahead of me. You already have an invitation!"

"Yes, but your parents aren't against your date," Caprice pointed out.

"That's not a problem!" Tanzy said breezily. "I'm telling you, Caprice, not to worry. This is all going to work out wonderfully in the end; I know it!"

* * *

Dietrich wasted no time in approaching his parents again on the topic. After all, it was only one week before the party. He brought the subject up rather bluntly the next evening over the supper table: "I'm going to invite Caprice to Butternut's party."

This was followed by the clattering of forks to the table. Both parents looked sternly over at him. "Caprice Monk?" Helga asked incredulously.

"Yes, Caprice Monk," Dietrich said confidently.

"The girl comes from a family of no refinement," Reginald griped. "I don't know what you see in her, Dietrich; and I don't particularly care to see, either."

"Well, I'm inviting her to the party."

"You most certainly are not!" Helga said sharply. "We will not have our son begin associating with the Monk family."

"Dispel the thought from your head," Reginald agreed. "There's no use in pursuing her."

"Why?" Dietrich argued. "Because you won't allow me to?"

"Our family had good reasons for setting down the restrictions that they did," Reginald said, annoyance creeping into his voice.

Dietrich refrained from saying any more, and slipped into a state of moody silence. The fight was far from over, in his estimation.

* * *

"Delia was telling me about that party of Butternut's you got an invitation to," Cecilia said brightly to Caprice the next morning over doing dishes. "I bet you're excited."

Caprice merely shrugged her shoulders slightly and mumbled out a "Yes, I suppose." Dietrich probably expected her to broach the topic with her parents again, but she simply wasn't up to it... now. She didn't want to think of what the consequences would be.

"You could go down to some of the stories in town and pick out some new ribbons and such," Cecilia suggested. "You'll want to look your best, of course."

"I could do that!" Caprice agreed. Even if she didn't care to think about the dance, it would be fun to get out and do some shopping for a change. It would help to clear her mind.

"I'll loan you some jangles. You can afford to splurge on something like this," Cecilia said cheerfully. "Oh, how I loved attending grand parties like this when I was your age!"

Caprice stroked Velvet as the cat wrapped herself around her hooves; Cecilia was busy digging out some money for her daughter. "Take this," she instructed, handing some jangles over. "Buy some nice items! I'm sure you'll have fun browsing through all the newest fashions they have out."

"Yes," Caprice smiled slightly. "I will have fun. Thank you!"

"And maybe this party will give you a chance to meet a nice stallion," Cecilia said, kissing her daughter on the cheek. "Go on along, now! I'll expect you back by lunch."

Caprice did indeed hurry along to hunt up some of the best fashion boutiques that were around town. She wasn't sure what would happen involving Dietrich and the dance, but it was a nice idea to do this shopping for herself.

By the end of her shopping expedition, the mare had made some finds she was particularly happy with: shiny hair ribbons in the shade of pink that she loved, a pair of dazzling amethyst-studded earrings that matched her mane, and a beautiful new straw hat with a fabulous teal ribbon around the brim (which could still never replace her old comfortable hat that she wore whenever possible).

It was on her way home that she ran into trouble. As she got farther away from the central part of town and the crowd thinned out considerably, Caprice was aware of a figure approaching her.

"Caprice! Caprice Monk! Is that you?" A breathless stallion came running up to her. She looked at him intently.

"...Storen?" Caprice said tentatively. She only faintly remembered him... wasn't he the son of one of her father's business partners? She had met him at a social affair awhile back, she recalled.

"You remember!" he said proudly. "Yes, that's me. Can I be of assistance in helping you back home with your packages?"

"Eh..." Caprice stared down at her one fairly lightweight bag. "That's nice of you to offer, but I think I can manage."

"Oh." Storen trailed along after her anyway. "Well, when I caught sight of you, I thought I'd say hi." He added as an afterthought, "You are awfully pretty, after all."

Caprice smiled appropriately as he tagged along by her side. Politely, she asked, "How have you been these days?"

"Very well. Very well indeed," Storen said rapidly. "You?"

"Fine," Caprice said simply. She didn't feel like revealing too much of her life to this stallion.

"I'm writing a novel, you know," Storen prattled on. "I'm going to get it published through your father's company. It's bound to be a bestseller. I'm putting a lot of work into it."

"I suppose you are," Caprice said, keeping herself withdrawn. "What is it about?"

"It's centered back in medieval times," Storen revealed. "The main character is a knight who is drafted into his king's army. He goes out to fight in many battles, but he loses them all. He goes through his entire life like this. It ends on his deathbed, when he's stripped of all his glory, and is as poor as the poorest peasant. It's going to be very suspenseful."

"Oh," was all Caprice could utter. It all sounded rather boring and uninspiring, in her opinion.

"And it's already up to fifty chapters," Storen announced. "I'll be sure you get a copy when it's published."

"I'm sure I'll love it," Caprice said faintly, and was most relieved when she saw that they had reached her house.

"I suppose I'll have to leave you now," Storen said, a note of disappointment in his voice.

"Ah... yes. Thank you for the... pleasant walk home," Caprice managed to smile as she turned up her walk.

"One thing before you go." Storen reached out and grabbed one of her forelegs.

"And that would be?" Caprice looked at him inquisitively.

"Will you be busy on Saturday night? Are you going to that party of Butternut's? Would you like to go with me?"

"Oh, but Storen, I already have other plans for that night." Caprice inwardly groaned to herself. She hadn't wanted an invitation from anyone else, but she had never expected one from such a tiresome stallion as this. She was sure he meant well, but he wasn't particularly her type.

"You already have someone else in mind, don't you?" Storen looked downcast.

"I didn't say that," Caprice said carefully. "I'm only going to be... busy. I don't know yet if I can go or not."

"Oh. Well, I'll let you be, then." Silently, Storen turned slowly and began walking away.

"But Storen! I didn't mean to make you upset! I mean, you're an okay guy, but I just..." Caprice sighed as he walked on without showing any signs of having heard her. She really hadn't wanted to make him feel bad, but there just hadn't been any other way to turn down his request.

Caprice breathed a sigh of relief when she was inside with the door securely closed behind her. There was no more Storen to contend with, and hopefully there wouldn't be in the future, either. Running her bag up to her room, her thoughts became more cheerful. It was only one evening until she would see Dietrich again... staring dreamily out her window, she hardly heard when lunch was called.

* * *

It was that very next evening that a certain stallion had a change of plans and came to stop at the Monk residence. "I've come to see you and your wife, Mr. Monk."

The expression of Caprice's father noticeably darkened when he saw the aqua stallion on the doorstep. "Dietrich Fairfax. What have you come to us for?"

"I only ask an audience with you and your wife, sir."

Cecil eyed him suspiciously, but opened the door wider. "Then we will discuss whatever is on your mind. Wait a moment while I get Cecelia."

It was only a short while later when the two Monks and one Fairfax were seated stiffly in the parlor. "I would like to ask permission of you both to be your daughter Caprice's escort to the party in town this week."

Cecelia simply looked alarmed, while her husband's look was more violent. "You are by far the boldest of your kind, Mr. Fairfax," he said sarcastically, "to want to accompany my daughter to the dance."

"There are other stallions more suited to Caprice's tastes," Cecelia chimed in.

"You're only saying that because of the old feud between our families, aren't you? Can't you see how silly it is to continue it?" Dietrich retorted.

"My ancestors had good reasons for what they decided," Cecil said. "You Fairfaxes are a dangerous breed. We won't be letting our daughter get involved with the likes of you."

"Isn't that interesting. That's what I was always told of the Monks."

"We appreciate your coming here," Cecelia started, trying to keep a calm but forceful tone, "but--"

"Dietrich!" This gasp emitted from Caprice attracted the attention of all three in the room. "What are you doing here?"

"Caprice!" Cecil looked up to see his daughter, who had actually just been heading out to "visit Tanzy", in the doorway. "Your mother and I explicitly told you not to encourage this stallion. Can you explain, then, why he's here tonight groveling to us to allow him to accompany you to the dance?" His eyes flashed with fire.

Caprice's eyes grew round with shock, fear, and confusion. Her mother stood up to comfort her, and guided her to one of the seats. "There, now," she said soothingly to her daughter. "Don't be so hard on her until she's had a chance to explain herself, Cecil."

"Then offer me an explanation for why this Fairfax has taken the notion of accompanying her to the party."

"Your daughter is a very beautiful and accomplished mare," Dietrich stated. "I can't think of any stallion who wouldn't enjoy being her escort."

"We thought this whole thing with Dietrich was over, Caprice, after the bouquet. Apparently it is not. What has brought him back after such a lapse of time?"

"Dietrich," Caprice managed to gasp out again, "What are you doing here? You had said you would only discuss this with your parents."

"I had to get the views of both sides, Caprice," Dietrich said softly. "This day had to come eventually, when there would be no more secrets."

"Ah-hah! So something has been going on behind our backs!" Cecil stormed.

"Caprice..." Cecilia looked over at her daughter. "Will you tell us?"

Caprice lowered her gaze to the floor, knowing that it could be hidden no longer. "I've been meeting him secretly."

"Caprice!" Her mother looked thoroughly aghast. "But Caprice..."

"For how long?" Cecil demanded.

"Since the beginning of June..."

"You thought you could go on like this forever?"

"You heard Dietrich, Father! He came here tonight so he could tell you."

"And this project you've been working on with Tanzy-- that was all a cover-up for this little scheme of yours, wasn't it?" Cecil said angrily.


"I thought we could trust you, Caprice! How could you deceive your mother and I like this?" Cecil raged. "It's a terrible deed! I never thought my own daughter could stoop this low."

"Stop it!" Dietrich finally jumped back in on the conversation, not being able to take Caprice's anguish any longer. "Stop it! You're only making it worse for her when she shouldn't be taking the blame. I'm the one who arranged the meetings! Punish me if you like, but leave her alone, for she only followed my incentive." Leaping up from his chair, he went to the side of the disheveled Caprice, and offered her whatever support he could.

"Don't touch my daughter, Fairfax," Cecil growled, advancing towards them. "She was fully aware of what she was doing, and still she went ahead with it. But you are right that it was your doing. You have led her astray!"

"Your ancestors have led you astray," Dietrich said venomously, "and so have mine! Let go of it, I tell you!"

"Cecil..." Cecilia said pleadingly, trying to calm him. But it did no good.

"One thing is for certain," Cecil said warningly. "Neither of you shall see each other again. No, Dietrich, you will not be allowed to take her to the party. This ‘project' with Tanzy, Caprice, will have to be put to an end. Her parents will have to be talked with as well. Yes, Caprice, we will be certain to take even more precautions with you to ensure that you are not led astray another time. And above all, Fairfax-- get out of here!" This last line rang like thunder throughout the house.

"No, Father!" Caprice sobbed, covering her face with her hooves. "Can't you see? Can't you see? Please!" She clung to Dietrich for all she was worth.

"Get away from her, Fairfax," Cecil threatened. "Get away from her! She's never to see your face again!"

"Dietrich! Don't leave me here!" Caprice shrieked frantically, feeling him pull away. "Take me with you! I don't want to be here!"

"I do have half a mind to take her with me right now," Dietrich addressed her parents coolly. "But to prove myself somewhat honorable, I won't resort to those measures... yet."

"Dietrich!" Caprice repeated again, even more pleadingly than before. "Please..."

Risking Cecil's further wrath, Dietrich kneeled by her one last time and held her chin steady as he gazed intently into her eyes, speaking as quickly and softly as possible. "It breaks my heart to leave you here like this, Caprice; and understand that if it were in any way possible, I would take you from this place in an instant. I must go now, but please don't cry. I beg of you, don't cry! Caprice, rest assured that I will return for you! If it is the last thing I do, I will return!" Glancing once more at Cecil and Cecilia, he turned to leave.

Cecilia immediately scooped-up her daughter, whose sobs had subsided somewhat as Dietrich had spoken to her. But her tears flowed freely without him, and she struggled unrelentlessly to free herself and run to her beloved. Dietrich, whose own face was streaming with tears, tried unsuccessfully to block out Caprice's one last desperate shriek before he closed the door.


* * *

Caprice could not clearly remember what events transpired after that fateful night. She was somehow transported to her bedroom, where she spent a restless night, awoken often by fits of sobbing and terrible dreams-- but the whole ordeal was nothing but a living nightmare to her, anyway.

Her mother served her breakfast in bed the next morning, and her father refrained from saying anything too discriminating to her. Delia and Leander only peeked in her room occasionally and did not stay long. The following days were very fuzzy to Caprice, and she could hardly comprehend what was happening-- or what had happened.

She thought often of Dietrich and of the terrible pain in her heart that had been caused when he left for the last time. She couldn't fully understand that he was gone, and dwelled on his parting words-- "If it is the last thing I do, I will return!" She wished he would come for her, but she had no way of knowing how much time had passed.

Caprice was allowed a short visit in private with Tanzy before their conversations had to be strictly censored by one of their elders. Tanzy felt her friend's pain, but remained upbeat.

"Dietrich is preparing for something right now, Caprice! If he said he would return, then by all means, he will. Watch for him, Caprice! Watch for him! He will remove you from all this."

"I don't know what to think, Tanzy."

"Your senses are still numb from shock, poor dear. Only believe me when I say that Dietrich is planning something, and you will make it through."

"I would like to see him again."

"And you will, if you don't give up hope on him!"

Caprice gradually grew back into the regular routine of life again. She received a few stiff lectures from her parents, but beyond that, not a word about Dietrich was spoken around the house. Caprice talked very little about anything, but continued to have faith in his words. Yes, he would return to her. He would! Her heart was intertwineably bound to his now, she knew, and nothing could change that.

After several weeks had gone by, her parents approached her with an idea. "Caprice, it has come to my attention that young Storen is interested in seeing more of you," her father began.

"We think it would be good for you if you would accept one of his invitations," Cecilia continued.

Caprice smiled weakly. It wasn't possible for her to resist. "Fine," she said faintly.

And so it came to be that Storen arrived to pick up Caprice at her house one evening, and the pair went to attend a very elegant symphony performance in town. Cecil and Cecilia were very impressed with Storen's refined tastes, and felt him to be quite a safe choice for their daughter-- and he would surely help her forget about Dietrich.

Caprice's mind that night, however, was not on the symphony performance at all. Her thoughts were running wild in the woods, and reminiscing over her times spent with Dietrich. She knew he would come for her again. It was only a matter of when. She could put up with Storen until then.

"So, what did you think?" Storen questioned her as he escorted her back home.

"Wonderful," Caprice murmured distantly, her mind centered elsewhere. Her smile radiated joy that Storen thought was meant for him. It was not.

"I didn't have time to tell you anything about the progress on my book," Storen said in disappointment. "I'm going to bring you some chapters to read next time, though."

"Storen, this is my house," Caprice halted him.

"Oh, it is." Storen looked up. "Goodnight then, darling Caprice."

Caprice frowned back at him through the darkness as she trotted quickly up her walk. What business did he have calling her "darling"? But no bother; she would not have him to worry about much longer. For Dietrich would soon come for her.

* * *

But Caprice's dashing prince did not come the next day, or the next, or the next. More weeks passed. Her vision of him began to fade. She almost began to doubt he had ever existed. Her parents had her spend more time with Storen. He bored her dreadfully... but she dared not admit that to anyone, least of all her parents. They'd be quite displeased with her, and she had already caused them enough of that.

But then one day a call came from Tanzy. "Caprice, you need to get over here."

"Tanzy? Is that you?"

"Yes! And it's very important that you get permission to come visit me. Now."

"What is it?"

"I can't say yet, but you won't regret it. Please, Caprice!"

"Hold on for a moment. I'll go get Mother."

After a quick chat over the phone between the two mothers, it was with only a little reluctance that Cecilia allowed her daughter to go over. "Now, don't be too long," she warned as Caprice prepared to leave. "I trust Jade Star will keep an eye on you girls."

"She has in the past, hasn't she?" Caprice said innocently. "Don't worry. I'll be back soon." She hardly dared think what Tanzy had in store for her; but as she trotted down the sidewalk, her excitement grew.

Tanzy and her mother greeted Caprice warmly at the door, and she almost thought Jade Star gave her a sympathetic glance as Tanzy led her to the parlor.

"Mother knows about this," Tanzy spoke quickly and confidently. "She understands, at least. So don't feel too bad."

"But, Tanzy," Caprice said incredulously, "what is it? What is so important as this to show me?"

"You'll see." Tanzy swiftly turned the doorknob and ushered Caprice in.

Caprice had to gasp as she saw the figure that waited for her inside. "You can handle this on your own," she heard Tanzy whisper in her ear before her friend exited back out and closed the door.

"Ah, Caprice, have you grown frightened of me in this time spent apart?" Dietrich stepped forward from the shadows, his voice dripping with disappointment as he saw Caprice backing up in alarm against the wall.

Caprice held her hooves up to her face as fresh tears started to flow. "Oh, Dietrich, it's not that at all!" she sobbed, rushing forwards towards him. "I just... I just..."

Dietrich obligingly accepted her into his hold and the two were silent for the next few moments as Caprice cried her heart out in his embrace, and Dietrich stroked her mane gently.

"Caprice," Dietrich finally spoke-up, "I need to know something of you."

"What is it?" Caprice whispered, staring up into his face. She was so content to simply be with him again that she didn't feel the need to know why he was here.

"I must know before I go on. Caprice, do you love me? Do you really love me?"

"Oh, Dietrich, I do! I do!"

"Then listen to me, Caprice; listen to me!" Dietrich held her chin in his hoof and gazed into her eyes. "I've been accepted into a college starting this fall. I'm going to have to leave town soon."

Caprice's blissful moment was ended as she was suddenly thrown back into shock. " ‘Soon'?" she echoed. "You're going to leave?"

"I had to find a way to tell you," Dietrich said solemnly. "That's why I arranged this with Tanzy."

"But-- but-- Dietrich, you can't leave me again!" Caprice's eyes grew frantic as she struggled to pull away. "You can't! It would kill me, don't you see?"

Dietrich held her hooves tightly and attempted to calm her. "Hush, Caprice!" he said as quietly as possible. "I never said there wasn't still hope."

"How can there be hope?" Caprice demanded. "I've listened to you talk enough about that, and it hasn't gotten us anywhere." With a forceful tug, she freed herself from his hold and faced him, her eyes shooting sparks. "And now you'll just leave me here alone again and say there's still ‘hope'! I can't believe you." Crossing her forelegs, she turned her back to him.

"Caprice..." Dietrich came up behind her and softly placed a hoof on her shoulder. "What if I said I'd take you with me if you'd agree to marry me?"

This caught Caprice completely off guard. Whirling back around, her anger subsided considerably. "Dietrich... do you mean that?" she breathed.

"All that and more." Not waiting for a reply, Dietrich drew her in for a kiss.

"But how could we ever do it?" Caprice asked skeptically.

"I'll still have to make some arrangements if you agree, but I have everything mapped out," Dietrich said, the excitement in his voice rising. "You'll come with me when I go, and we'll be married in Wild Oaks. I'll find a place for us to stay, and I have enough money to pay for most of the tuition. It would work, Caprice!"

"You make it all sound so easy," Caprice sighed.

"I won't let you down, I promise! Please, won't you say yes?"

"I-I don't know," Caprice faltered. "My parents wouldn't be very happy..."

"And neither would mine. But it's a chance we'll have to take, Caprice, if we're ever to escape these binds they've laid down for us!" Softening his voice, he added, "I'll understand if you don't want to, Caprice. But I can't stand the thought of being without you. You must consider it, at least!"

Tears shone in Caprice's eyes as she spoke her next line. "I don't know what else I can say," she choked out. "Yes, Dietrich, I will marry you. I can't bear to be without you, no matter the consequences. Please, take me with you!"

"Oh, Caprice. I do love you," Dietrich said hoarsely. "You won't regret it! I'll make sure you won't regret it!" His eyes sparkled as he presented her with a hyacinth blossom for her hat. "Take this. It will have to stand in place of an engagement ring for now."

"I'll wear it all the time," Caprice promised. "I can hardly believe it! I was beginning to think I'd never see you again... I couldn't stand the thought! But now... we'll finally be together."

"And we mustn't let word of this in any way get to our parents," Dietrich said seriously. "If they found out, we really would be doomed."

"They'll never hear of it," Caprice vowed. "I'll only confide in Tanzy, if anyone."

"We won't be able to see each other during this time, either," Dietrich went on. "It would be too risky and too easy to find out. If you even see me out in public, we are nothing but complete strangers. Remember that."

"I will... but when will you send for me?"

"In a month or so," Dietrich said. "I'll get a note through to you via Tanzy if possible. Don't give up, Caprice! The time will go fast, and then we will be together forever."

"I will be awaiting the day," Caprice said anxiously. "Please don't forget me, Dietrich! You mustn't!"

"I promise you I won't," Dietrich pledged. "Never fear, Caprice! Everything will work out. But it appears I've already stayed here too long, and I must be going now." He turned reluctantly to the door.

"And I won't see you... for another month?" Caprice asked timidly, trailing behind him.

"Not for another month. But the wait will be worth it! Goodbye now, Caprice! I'll be thinking of you constantly." And after the exchange of another kiss, Dietrich was out the door.

"Goodbye, Dietrich," Caprice whispered, staring after him. "I love you!" Suddenly feeling overwhelmed by the whole affair, she collapsed in one of the chairs.

Shortly thereafter, Tanzy dashed into the room. "Caprice! Are you okay? What did he say? What's going to happen?" she asked excitedly.

"I'm going to marry him," Caprice said, staring upwards with a glorious smile spread across her face.

"Are you serious?" Tanzy's eyes opened wide. "Oh, Caprice! I'm so happy! I thought he might be planning something like that. When is it? When are you going? Oh, but I'm going to miss you!"

Caprice had to laugh over her friend's anxiety. "Calm down! Give me time to explain. But remember, word of this isn't to get out..."

* * *

A noticeable change in Caprice's behavior was obvious after her meeting with Dietrich, but only Tanzy knew the story of why. Caprice felt like a terrible weight had been lifted from her soul, and she could live life again. It was only a short while before she would be with her beloved for good, and she felt glorious over it.

None of her family members knew what had happened to her, but they assumed that she was finally beginning to warm up to Storen. Cecil and Cecilia were quite happy over this; and unfortunately, Caprice had to play along in the charade. Of course she had to continue meeting Storen even after her engagement to Dietrich, or everyone would know something was up. Caprice had to keep their cover, and for that, she'd have to put up with Storen... but only for a little while longer!

Storen seemed to be coming to Caprice more and more often now. The improvement in her behavior had increased his hope, and he considered her already easily won. It was only a matter of time, he believed, before she would be his for good.

And so the days did pass quickly for the two as Storen took Caprice to all the most dignified and refined sights around. Caprice put up a good show for him, but her mind was always on Dietrich. Storen was usually only concentrating on thinking about his own life, so he didn't notice anything as long as Caprice added the proper comments to his monologues.

The most unpleasant problem Caprice had with putting up with Storen was reading his literary works. He had given her the first five chapters, as promised, to preview; Caprice found them to be excessively drawn-out, stale, and quite frankly, boring. As it was, she only managed to get through one chapter the first night after Storen had given them to her. She hoped he hadn't expected her to read them all in one sitting.

"Well, what did you think?" Storen asked her brightly at their meeting the next night.

"Of your... story?" Caprice asked tentatively.

"Yes, the chapters I gave you last night. Did you enjoy them?"

"It was... yes, you have a unique writing style," Caprice said carefully. "I'm sure the finished product will go over big."

"The scene in chapter three was impressive, wasn't it?"

"Well... actually, I didn't get that far last night."

"Oh," Storen said, not trying to hide his disappointment. "I brought the next five for you tonight."

Caprice was nauseated at the thought of that much more so soon, but kept her feelings hidden. "I was quite worn out last night," she said quickly. "And Mother kept me busy doing housework today. Perhaps if you'd take me home sooner I'd have more time to read."

"Okay," Storen said agreeably. "Why not just stop in at the ice cream parlor?"

"That sounds like fun."

Caprice had grown used to the routine of nodding her head and repeating phrases like "Oh, that sounds nice;" "I'm sure it is;" "Your work must be great;" and "Very interesting" when Storen got to talking. In between times, she'd let her mind wander. That is precisely how their visit to the ice cream parlor went.

It had been two weeks since she had last seen Dietrich, Caprice reminisced while Storen discussed the possibilities of his upcoming position as an editor with her father's company. The time was half over. Hopefully, she'd only have two weeks to wait. She had to admit she was a bit nervous over getting married, let alone getting married without her parents' consent. But her heart told her she was doing the right thing.

"It's very generous of your father to offer me this position," Storen was saying. "The Monk publishing company is a great place. And it goes back a long way through your ancestors, doesn't it?"

"Uh-huh," Caprice nodded.

"That's really nice. I'm looking forward to getting involved with your family's business."

"I'm sure you'll be a very valuable asset," Caprice murmured.

"Yes, I think I will be," Storen nodded, reaching across the table to hold Caprice's hoof.

Caprice diverted her gaze from his, uncomfortable enough as it was having him hold her hoof. And as she looked to the far side of the room, she saw someone that made her draw her breath in. It was Dietrich!

She looked back at Storen abruptly, remembering Dietrich's words... she had to act like a complete stranger. However, her heart was pounding for a different reason. He had seen her-- yes, they had made eye contact before she redirected her gaze. He had seen her... he had seen her sitting at a table holding hooves with Storen!

A sick feeling settled in the pit of her stomach as she stared down with wide eyes at her melting sundae. Storen noticed the change and looked at her inquisitively. "Caprice? Are you okay?"

"Uh... fine," Caprice choked out.

"Oh, that's good. Now, I was just saying..."

Caprice was glad for Storen's lack of concern. She didn't want to be questioned about anything. She wanted time alone to think.
Her thoughts ran wildly and she fought the urge to look back at Dietrich. He had seen her with Storen! Oh, she had never had time to mention him to Dietrich! He had no idea what her parents had forced her into, and that it was all part of her cover to be seen with him. But Dietrich didn't know any of that. For all he could imagine, Storen was a new friend Caprice had picked-up and fallen madly in love with. But that wasn't the case at all! Desperation fought its way up in Caprice's soul. She wanted to run to him, to explain everything. But she couldn't.

Caprice fought back her tears. Would Dietrich forget her now? Would he begin to believe that she was just a silly, flighty girl who changed stallions quickly? Would he bother to send for her, or give up on her? Or would he try to understand in the least? Caprice didn't know what to think. She wanted to sob her eyes out, but she didn't think it would be a good idea to do anything like that at the ice cream parlor.

It was a great relief to her when Storen finally led her home, and she immediately ran to her room to fret and to cry as much as she needed.

* * *

Caprice's life over the next two weeks was not nearly as carefree as had been the past two. The worry continued to hang over her head that Dietrich had given up on her. The evidence he had seen certainly would have seemed convincing! But she prayed he would still have faith in her and not take the scene at face value.

For as distraught as she was, Caprice managed to hide it well; and to everyone that knew her, she seemed to be as cheerful as ever. She continued to put up with Storen, though she found it increasingly more difficult to get along with him and with his story. The rich parties, plays, and restaurants he took her to couldn't compare with those simple visits with Dietrich out in the woods.

Finally the day came when Caprice got extremely anxious. She counted down the days on the calender. Yes, there was no doubt about it. It had been exactly one month since her meeting with Dietrich. And there hadn't been a single word from him.

Of course Caprice had confided all of this to Tanzy, so her friend was well aware of what was going on in Caprice's head. But she swore she hadn't received anything from Dietrich, and would tell her as soon as she possibly could when something came in.

The days continued to pass. Caprice was at a total loss with herself. Where was Dietrich? What was keeping him? He had promised he wouldn't forget her... but what if he had lost faith in her? Would he still bother? Caprice had many a sleepless night, and woke-up to a tear-stained pillow.

A week passed. Caprice hated to admit it-- she could hardly bring herself to-- but she had to resign herself to the fact that Dietrich was not coming for her. She felt as if her heart would break, and her spirits visibly dropped. Everyone could see her appetite dwindling and her face growing pale. But no one had an answer to why.

* * *

At the end of the five weeks, Storen once again came to see Caprice. Cecilia had convinced her daughter to invite him over for dinner, and afterwards the two sat out in the swing on the front porch.

"You know, Caprice," Storen put forward, "there's something I'd like to ask you."

"Oh?" The way he said it made Caprice suspicious.

"You're a very lovely mare, of course," Storen started out. "And... eh..."

"What is it?" Caprice prodded, perhaps a little harshly.

"I'd like to know if you'd marry me," Storen said bluntly.

"Marry you?" Caprice echoed.

"Well, will you?" Storen asked impatiently, presenting her with a diamond ring.

Caprice stared into its shiny facets with mixed feelings. Somehow it didn't seem able to compete with her wilted hyacinth blossom. "I don't know," she stated simply after a pause.

"But why not?"

"Give me a chance to think about it, Storen," Caprice said wearily, squinting her eyes shut. "Let me give you an answer tomorrow night."

"Are you sure you want to wait?"

"Why, is it going to another filly if I don't take it within a given amount of time?" Caprice said sarcastically without thinking.

"Well!" Storen sniffed, a bit miffed. "Fine then. I'll hear your answer tomorrow night."

"Thank you, Storen."

"So I'll leave you to do your thinking. Goodnight, Caprice." Rising rather quickly, Storen descended the steps and trotted away down the path. Caprice had to admit she was more comfortable with him gone.

Sighing, she put a hoof over her face. What a mess this had turned into! She couldn't accept Storen's proposal; she was already engaged to Dietrich. But did that engagement even count any more? He hadn't come for her. It was doubtful that he ever would. Was she still bound to her word?

Removing her hat, she stared down at the rather dead-looking hyacinth. She had continued to wear it, as she had said she would. Caprice's eyes grew misty and tears once again began to fall as she thought over her options.

She had trusted in Dietrich so completely, but her trust hadn't allowed for that scene at the ice cream parlor. That had obviously done the trick. Her future life with Dietrich was crushed out, and there was nothing she could do about it. Dietrich had given up on her.

So should she accept Storen's offer? She didn't particularly care for the guy, but it was obvious her parents had been expecting them to marry all along. Caprice didn't like the idea, but what else could she do? Maybe she would be better off with Storen. He would give her a rich, worry-free life; and she could stay near her home among family and friends.

Life with Dietrich would take her far away from her hometown and it would make her an outcast from her own family. However, deep inside, this option was what she preferred. But it obviously wasn't possible any more. She didn't want to think about it any longer. Sighing, she rose to go inside.

Entering the parlor, Caprice found her mother there with a book and seated herself opposite her. "Storen... proposed to me," she said falteringly.

"Storen?" Cecilia immediately dropped her book and leaned forward with excitement in her eyes. "Oh, Caprice! I'm so happy! What did you say?"

"I told him I'd get back to him on it tomorrow night."

"He's a nice, capable stallion, you know," Cecilia said, coming to sit next to her daughter.

"I suppose, but I don't know if I want to marry him."

"You'd do well with him, Caprice," Cecilia urged. "Your father and I are very pleased with him."

"I just... don't feel that attached to him," Caprice protested.

"Well, you've been seeing him this long. He can't be too bad."

Caprice remained silent.

Cecilia hugged her daughter reassuringly. "I can see you do need time to think about this, Caprice. Why don't you go up and get some sleep for the night? You'll be able to think more clearly in the morning."

"Maybe you're right," Caprice said wearily. "Maybe all my troubles will be fixed by morning." Not offering any further explanations, she whisked herself out of the room and up the stairs, and gratefully sank down on her bed with Velvet purring in her ear.

* * *

The next morning dawned bright and sunny, but Caprice didn't know any better what to do about Storen than she had last night. Cecilia was somewhat sympathetic, and refrained from mentioning the topic throughout breakfast. After the dishes were through, though, she broached the subject.

"Well, what have you decided about Storen?"

"I just don't know, Mother," Caprice said helplessly. "It's all so confusing."

"What's so confusing, dear?"

"Oh..." Caprice almost felt compelled to spill the whole story about Dietrich, but caught herself. "Nothing, really. It's just that... it's a big decision, you know?"

"I told your father last night. He also greatly approves," Cecilia added. "Storen is a fine stallion. We'd both be happy to have him included in the family."

Caprice searched for something to say. In the silence, the telephone began ringing. Cecilia promptly answered it, and handed it on to Caprice. "I believe it's Tanzy," she whispered as her daughter took the receiver.

"Hello?" Caprice said, a hint of excitement in her voice. "Tanzy?"

"Thank goodness you're there, Caprice! Please, can you come over here?"

"I think so." Caprice glanced at her mother. "Just a moment." Covering the receiver momentarily with her hoof, she voiced her request to Cecilia. "Would it be possible for me to go over to Tanzy's for a moment?"

Cecilia agreeably nodded her consent, having grown much more lenient with the rules since Storen had come on the scene. "It would be good for you to talk to Tanzy over this," she agreed. "Go on." And so, it was an anxious Caprice that skipped down the sidewalk and up to her friend's door.

Tanzy quickly pulled her in and led her up to the privacy of her bedroom. "Here," she said, thrusting an envelope at Caprice. "I believe this is for you."

Caprice's heart beat faster as she looked over the envelope-- the outside was addressed to Tanzy, but an inner envelope was labeled for Caprice. All thoughts of Storen vanishing for the moment, she ripped into the envelope and skimmed the short message that lay within--

Caprice, excuse the delay! Everything is settled. You are to meet me at the train

station at five o' clock p.m. this Friday evening. I would suggest packing your

personal belongings for this escapade. That's all you need to know for now;

I'll outline everything else to you on the way there. I didn't forget you! Love, D.

Caprice was ready to explode from happiness as she set the note down. "Tanzy!" she shrieked. "It's still on! It's still on! He didn't forget!! Oh, Tanzy! It's so wonderful!!" She grabbed her friend's hooves and dragged her up from her seat, delirious from excitement.

"Then it was from him?" Tanzy demanded anxiously. "Caprice! I'm so happy for you!! When? Where? How??"

"Friday. Five o' clock," Caprice said breathlessly, clutching the note in her hooves.

"Friday?" Tanzy squealed. "Caprice! That's today!"

"Fri-- you're right!" Caprice gasped. "Oh, Tanzy! It's today! What am I going to do?? What am I going to do?? I still have to pack, and-- ooooh!!"

After the girls had gotten the initial excitement out of their systems, they settled down to look at the matter a little more seriously. "You have to get there by five o' clock," Tanzy planned. "You should probably head out by four-thirty, just to be sure you're there on time."

"Right," Caprice nodded. "And as for packing, I should be able to throw my stuff together rather quickly..."

"Get back home and do it as soon as possible," Tanzy advised. "It would be best to get it out of the way to allow for any emergencies."

"And that's really all I'll need to do, and then I'll be with Dietrich, and..."

"Oh, Caprice! But you'll be gone!" Tanzy exclaimed, as if realizing it for the first time. "I'm going to miss you so!! You'll be with the guy of your dreams, and I'll be stuck back here..."

"Oh, Tanzy, I'm going to miss you, too!!" Caprice sobbed, letting some tears of her own out of her system. "I almost wish I wouldn't!!"

"Don't say that," Tanzy said warningly. "You're going to marry him, Caprice! It is your destiny!" Having said this, they both collapsed into each other's forelegs, crying their eyes out to each other to let out all of their disappointment.

"What are you going to do about your parents??" Tanzy demanded, finally drying her eyes.

"I'm going to write to them, of course, after we're safely married," Caprice said confidently. "They can't do anything after that point, and maybe they'll even see things in a different light then."

"You'll write to me, too, won't you?"

"Oh, Tanzy, I couldn't forget you!" Caprice promised. "You'll hear from me very soon!"

"You don't have anything planned for the rest of the day, do you?" Tanzy said cautiously. "Nothing that would interfere with this?"

Caprice's eyes suddenly opened wide in remembrance. "Tanzy!!" she cried out. "Storen!! He completely slipped my mind!!"

"Storen? You mean you had a date with him tonight?" Tanzy echoed. "Oh, you can just forget that."

"It's worse than that, Tanzy! He proposed to me last night!"

"He proposed to you last night?? You didn't say yes, did you?"

"No! But I said I'd give him my answer tonight."

"What time?"

"Oh, he'll probably come by around five."

"Then you'll have plenty of time to get away before he arrives! You'll already be on the train when he gets to your house. Forget the guy!"

"I'm not going to worry too much about him. But my parents will be quite concerned when they find me gone," Caprice fretted. "I hadn't really thought of that. What will I do??"

"You said you'd write them, didn't you? You'll let them know," Tanzy argued.

"Yes, but not until after we're married, and that could be several days yet... that's an awfully long time for them to worry over me," Caprice said nervously. "I really don't want to cause them that much grief."

"I'll assure them that you're safe. How's that?"

"I guess that will have to work."

"It will work! Now, get back over there and start packing!"

"Oh... goodbye, Tanzy!"

"Goodbye, Caprice! Good luck!"

* * *

It took an amazingly short time for Caprice to round up all her personal items worth taking and throw them into a fairly small satchel-- her journal, some photos of her family, a few hair ribbons and such, miscellaneous make-up and cologne bottles, and some of her favorite books (Storen's was not included on the list).

The last item she threw in was a necklace with an odd-looking medallion strung on it. The medallion portrayed a very strange, large-eyed creatures, with big ears and lots of fur. Caprice had no idea what the animal was meant to be, if anything, but the necklace was a family heirloom that had been passed down to her from her mother. She meant to keep it and to take good care of it.

"Oh, Velvet, I'm afraid I can't take you," Caprice said in disappointment, flopping down on her bed for perhaps the last bit of quality time with her cat. "I'm going to miss you dreadfully, too. But never fear; I'll be okay."

Velvet softly purred and licked Caprice's chin. "The rest of the family will still take good care of you," Caprice promised. "And maybe I'll get to see you again." Velvet meowed in approval.

Caprice looked at her clock, and saw that it was nearly noon. Cecilia would have lunch prepared for her and her siblings soon. She dashed down the stairs to help set the table, and tried desperately to hide her excitement which was close to bubbling over.

The lunchtime conversation, of course, centered over Storen's proposal when, in fact, Caprice was concerned with a much different proposal-- but they couldn't find out about that. Delia was most interested in the topic. "Are you really going to marry him, Caprice?"

"I'm not sure yet, Delia," Caprice said, smiling secretly to herself.

"Would that mean he'd get to be my brother?" Leander wanted to know. "That would be an improvement. There's too many girls around here."

"Oh, Leander," Delia frowned. "Be quiet. Just think of how much fun the wedding will be!"

"It's just a bunch of lacy frilly stuff," Leander said scornfully.

"When do you think the wedding will be, Caprice?" Delia looked at her sister anxiously.

"Now, children," Cecilia said chidingly. "Let's leave Caprice alone. There's still a lot to settle yet." She smiled over at Caprice. Seeing her daughter's upbeat mood, Cecilia assumed that her visit to Tanzy had helped clear her mind-- which it had-- and that, naturally, she would accept Storen's offer that evening.

How could I have been so silly as to ever seriously think of accepting Storen's proposal? Caprice thought to herself. I could never marry him like they think I will. To her family, though, she only said cheerfully, "I'm sure everything will work out for the best."

* * *

After lunch, Caprice retired to her room for the rest of the afternoon. More worries began to gnaw at her mind. She really was going to miss her parents and siblings. Could she really leave them like this? It would be terrible without them. Did they deserve the blow she was going to give them?

To ease her conscience, she finally decided it would be safe to scribble out a quick note for them to find. As long as she didn't give out any details, she reasoned, she and Dietrich would still be kept safe. And so, she thoughtfully sat at her desk and penned-out her message.

To Mother, Father, Delia, and Leander--

Please don't worry about me; I assure you that I'm perfectly safe and

happy. You'll hear from me again soon with my whereabouts. But I will be

missing you all dreadfully, and please understand that I still love you all dearly

and never meant to hurt anyone. However, I must follow my path. I hope to see

all of you again soon. With all my love, Caprice

That covered her family, but Caprice did feel a tad guilty yet about leaving Storen hanging. He deserved to know her decision, at least. She added a line onto the end--

P.S. Storen, I'm sorry to say, but I can't accept your proposal. I trust you

will find another mare that will better suit your lifestyle. And all the best luck

on your book.

She cringed as she wrote the last line, but her upbringing demanded that she be as civil and polite as possible. Setting the completed note under the desk on her lamp where Caprice felt sure it would be seen in due time, she turned to the clock. It was only two o' clock; she still had two and a half hours. She restlessly paced her room, and finally tried to settle down with a book. Velvet offered all the support she could give.

At four o' clock, with only half an hour to go, Caprice began to grow increasingly nervous. What if something went wrong? What if someone saw her when she snuck out? At least it was a quiet day around the house; no one seemed to mind that she had locked herself up in her room for the afternoon.

Looking out her window, Caprice noted the sunny day it had started out as had turned into a dreary, rainy one. She shivered at the thought of running to the train station in that sort of weather; but Dietrich would be waiting for her, and that would make it all worth it.

Four-thirty grew near, and Caprice prepared herself to make her getaway. She would sneak out the back door, and then use her path through the forest to cover her tracks more sufficiently until she got into town. She had mapped out the way to the train station, and felt confident she'd be able to find her way on the route she had planned.

Just as Caprice was picking up her satchel and petting Velvet for the last time, she heard the doorbell ring downstairs and her mother answer the front door. She wondered who it would be, and hoped it was just a salesman-- and that would actually be to her advantage, for he would keep her mother occupied while she made her escape.

However, Caprice's heart froze when she heard her mother's voice drift up through the floorboards: "Oh, Storen, do come in! Caprice will be happy to see you. Wait a moment while I go and get her."

Caprice stood in a frozen panic as the sound of her mother's hoofsteps coming up the stairs and down the hallway was heard. Storen had come half an hour early! Now her plans were ruined!

A knock came at her door. "Caprice!" came her mother's voice. "Storen is here for you."

"Oh... that's wonderful, Mother," Caprice said, her mind whirling. "But I have to get freshened up a bit first. Why don't you go talk to him and I'll be down in just a minute?"

"Alright, dear," Cecilia said after a pause. "We'll be in the parlor." Caprice listened to the hoofsteps grow fainter as her mother descended the stairs, and then creaked open her door and peered down the hallway. She would have to move fast.

She was trembling with terror as she stood there in the doorway. Was it still possible to make it out without being seen by Storen? Oh, why had he come early! What if she wasn't able... her eyes misted over at the thought.

Shaking, Caprice reached for her satchel. Waiting a moment longer until the voices of Cecilia and Storen could be heard from the parlor, she stepped as quietly as she could down the stairs. She glanced down the hallway cautiously. The back door was on one end. She only had to reach that, open it, and then make a dash for the woods.

Trying to calm her wildly beating heart, Caprice twisted the handle in her hoof and hoped it didn't emit too much noise. Just as she was stepping outside, she heard someone behind her. She froze.

"Hey, Caprice, where ya going?" It was her brother, Leander, looking at her inquisitively. "Storen is in the parlor."

"I know that," Caprice said, thinking quickly and desperately. "I-- I only need to get something I left outside, and then I'll be in."

"Oh," Leander said, pondering this bit of information. "What about the satchel?"

"It's-- it's to put the thing I left outside into," Caprice said, hoping with all her heart that her little brother would just leave her alone.

"Okay." Leander found this acceptable, and skipped on down the hall. "I'll go tell Mother."

Caprice watched him go and hoped her mother wouldn't be too concerned by what Leander told her. She turned back to the door. Locking it behind her-- it might stall them a little while-- she swiftly shut it and stepped out onto the lawn. Taking a deep breath, she took off running towards the forest. She knew that she could very well be leaving behind this home for the rest of her life, but there was no turning back now.

The rain was chilly as it hit upon Caprice's back; but once she reached the woods, the trees offered her a little protection from it. She was greatly frightened as she skidded through the familiar pathways, but now they appeared to her in an even eerier light than before. She had no way of knowing how much time had passed, or how far behind her Storen and her family was. She couldn't tell if the thumping she heard was someone following her or if it was her own heart beating rapidly.

Caprice was nearly ready to begin crying again as she slipped and fell down on the wet grass. She pulled herself back up quickly, but realized she must look quite a mess by now with wet grass stuck to her coat and her damp stringy hair hanging down in her face. But she didn't stop to think too much about that as she grabbed up her satchel and hat and continued on her path. She was dreadfully afraid that this fall had given her pursuers sufficient time to catch her, and she went on running for dear life.

Luckily, she soon reached the town itself and was able to blend in more among the other ponies that happened to be out on the streets. She hardly noticed the puddles she splashed through on the way to her destination. Time was of the essence. Would she and Dietrich be able to get away before she was found?

Her glee at finally reaching the train station was soon changed to anxiety as she looked around for Dietrich. Was he there? Was she too late? Had he already left? The frenzied panic in her heart continued to rise. He wasn't here! She couldn't find him! What was she going to do?

Just as she was about to break-down crying, she caught a glimpse of aqua and yellow behind a pillar in the station. She quickly identified who it was, and she nearly cried with relief.

Her hooves took her flying across the floor and she screamed out "Dietrich! Dietrich!" as she sped like an arrow in his direction. Dietrich whirled around and a smile spread across his face when he saw who it was. It was with great relief that Caprice collapsed into his forelegs.

"Caprice, Caprice, you're here," Dietrich murmured repeatedly, stroking her mane.

"I don't know how far behind me they are," Caprice said breathlessly. "I don't even know if they'll know where to look. "Oh, but Dietrich, please don't let them take me from you again!" She buried her head in his shoulder while tears of both happiness and anxiety flowed down her face.

"I'll guard you with my life," Dietrich promised. "Nothing can get between us now."

"Oh, Dietrich, I'm so glad you still believed in me!" Caprice sobbed uncontrollably. "I thought that... I thought that..." She wasn't able to choke out any more.

"We'll have time to explain everything on the ride there," Dietrich said softly, pulling her along with him. "But now the important thing is that you're here."

Caprice tried to stifle her tears and allowed her fate to be given over to Dietrich's hooves. He had everything planned for them, and he would make sure it all worked. Everything was going to be fine now.

* * *

And a week later Tanzy and Excalibur were summoned to Wild Oaks to witness the marriage of Dietrich and Caprice. The small affair went without a distraction, and it was with glad hearts that the two started out their life anew in a setting much removed from their old home town. Of course, it wasn't too much of a surprise that neither set of parents was happy upon finding out about this secret marriage; they steamed to themselves, but left it at that. What could be done at this point about their "foolish" offspring? And, in the end, it may have set these two families further apart than before, even with the two rebels Dietrich and Caprice joined in the bond of marriage.

They settled into their new life quite comfortably, with Dietrich attending college and Caprice taking on small jobs to bring more jangles in. And, it was in the following year that two very happy parents were proud to announce the birth of their first son.

Caprice gazed down adoringly at the tiny foal she held in her forelegs. "He's wonderful, Dietrich," she breathed. "Just look at him! Isn't it all glorious?"

"The blood of the Fairfaxes and the Monks flows in his veins," Dietrich remarked quietly. "If we can't bring our families together, then maybe he can."

"He will do something great, even if he doesn't get involved in petty family feuds," Caprice said in delight. "I think he's going to grow up to be quite handsome. His symbol even takes after yours, see?"

"A dashing tomcat," Dietrich nodded. "Will he have a personality to match?"

Caprice giggled at a sudden thought. "Oh! Wouldn't that be a splendid name for him, then-- Thomas?"

"Why not?" Dietrich said, his eyes sparkling. "I think it's fitting. Surely he'll be a great cat lover like us."

"My little Thomas," Caprice murmured drowsily, kissing her son lightly on the forehead and holding him close. "We're so happy to have you... but for now... sleep." Closing her eyes, she slowly sank back into the pillows.

The infant Baby Thomas only turned his head inquisitively at his mother, yawned, and promptly fell asleep himself.

The End

Well, sort-of. There's still quite a bit we don't know about the past lives of Thomas and his parents, isn't there? At least you know some more now. Wasn't it outrageous?! I love going into the past of characters. Maybe I'll reveal even more in future stories! *rubs hands together in delight*

Next month we have in store the wedding of Tabby and Thomas! It's bound to be very outrageous, especially when Thomas' feuding grandparents show up. The guest list also has some interesting characters on it, like the gang of Xtreme Ponies and Barnacle's crew. Having a Bushwoolie as the ringbearer should lead to an entertaining display, and you never know what stallions will crawl-out of the woodwork to protest against the marriage! Oh, yes. It's going to be very outrageous indeed. And it's all coming up next month...

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