Ain't Love Grand!
written by Sugarberry

With her parcel clutched closely to her body, Lemon Treats rushed into her house to escape the frigid cold temperatures that encased her. After finishing her day's work at the fashion boutique at the mall, the lovely yellow earth pony had made a quick stop at Oakly's Grocery for some fresh mushrooms to go with her special Valentine's dinner that she was preparing for her one-and-only, Poeticus. She breathed a sigh of relief as she closed the door behind her and felt the warmth encircle her.

From the kitchen counter came a high-pitched meow as her pale fawn and brown Siamese cat, Mimi, welcomed her home.

"Hello, precious," Lemon Treats greeted the blue-eyed female. "We've got lots to get done before Poeticus arrives. This meal has to be perfect!"

Lemon Treats washed her hooves, and began preparing the main course so she could get it in the oven. Once that was accomplished, she hurried off to primp over her make-up and perfume. Mimi, in the meantime, sat at a cautious distance watching; she was always interested in what her housemate did during this ritual, yet she avoided contamination from the powders and scents that floated through the air.

Once Lemon Treats opened her jewelry case, however, Mimi was front and center. The dangling chains and sparkling trinkets never ceased to amaze her. She purred her approval as Lemon Treats clasped a simple gold chain with a hear-shaped charm around her neck which had been a Christmas gift from Poeticus. Lemon Treats' heart fluttered as she wondered what his Valentine gift might be.

"Does everything look just right?" she consulted as she twirled before the alert cat.

Returning to the kitchen, Lemon Treats checked the pot roast and found it browning nicely. She prepared the salad and appetizers and peeked at the heart-shaped cake she had baked, frosted, and decorated the night before. "It turned out really well," she confided to Mimi, who meowed her agreement.

Next, Lemon Treats concentrated on the table. She had already put down a white lace tablecloth and red linen napkins. A cut-glass vase awaited the expected flowers, and two red tapered candles completed the arrangement.

Checking the time, Lemon Treats gasped. "Poeticus will be here in no time!" Her friend considered punctuality a necessary trait, and was always prompt.

"Mimi, I've got to put the appetizers in the oven on broil, but the main course isn't done yet." She pondered her dilemma, then decided her only option was to leave the pot roast in the oven while she quickly broiled the appetizers. "They only need to be in long enough to melt the cheese," she rationalized. So she turned the dial to broil and put the tray of tidbits on the top rack. "Now I'll light the candles, and by then I can get the appetizers out."

Having lit the candles, Lemon Treats was just blowing out the match when her doorbell rang. "Poeticus!" she breathed as she dashed for the front door.

Opening the door and seeing her special stallion caused Lemon Treats' heart to skip a beat, as it always did. As the light blue pony stepped inside, he drew Lemon Treats close and whispered, "Happy Valentine's Day!" Lemon Treats melted in his embrace, even if the intensely cold outside air had followed him in.

Poeticus stomped his hooves as if to bring life back to their numbness; then he handed Lemon Treats a tissue-shrouded bouquet. "For the love of my life," he grinned, secretly setting a velvet case on the end table near him.

"Oh, thank you!" Lemon Treats squealed. She drew back the tissue from the blossoms and beheld a dozen red roses-- roses that should have radiated life, but instead were edged in sickly brown. "They're frozen!" groaned Lemon Treats.

"Good grief! You're right," frowned Poeticus. "I did hear that the wind chill was minus ten degrees tonight." He looked at Lemon Treats' disappointed face and promised, "I'll get you another bouquet when the weather warms up!"

"That's okay," Lemon Treats hugged him. "They don't look too bad, just a little rusty."

Over her shoulder, Poeticus caught sight of a trail of black smoke. "Ah... Lemon Treats... are you baking something?"

"No!!! My appetizers!" Lemon Treats darted for the kitchen, throwing the tissue and flowers on the table in passing. Grabbing a mitt, she opened the oven door, coughing as a surge of smoke blanketed her. The tray of culinary delights was burned to a crisp; but worse yet, the main course was now topped with a black crust.

In the commotion of the moment, a frightened Mimi beat a hasty retreat to escape the fumes, sending the heavily-frosted cake scuttling off the counter, ending upside-down on the tiled floor.

Lemon Treats broke into tears, sending rivulets of black eye liner down her cheeks. Poeticus, reaching for a napkin to dry her tears, yelped, "Fire!" Indeed, the dancing flames on the candles had ignited the wispy tissue paper around the roses, creating a miniature bonfire atop the elegantly decorated table.

Reacting quickly, Poeticus filled a pitcher with water, dousing the flames. The fire sputtered out, leaving a mushy glob of tortured flower parts amidst a scorched and smoking backdrop.

Stifling her tears, Lemon Treats began clearing the mess as best she could while Poeticus dumped the ruined menu out the back door into the garbage.

"So this is how my perfect Valentine's dinner is to end up..." the mare glumly stated. "Black and frazzled."

"Cheer up!" Poeticus smiled at her, lifting her downcast face to meet his gaze. "We will just go over to Estate Manor, if you're not afraid of the cold!"

Smiling in return, Lemon Treats accepted his plan. "Just give me time to fix my make-up. I'll be right back!"

Finishing with her task in record time, Lemon Treats surveyed herself in the mirror. Her eyes caught sight of the wrapped gift she had gotten for Poeticus. "Now might be the best time to give this to him," she decided.

Returning to the living room where Poeticus waited, Lemon Treats handed him a white box decorated with lace hearts and red ribbons.

"For me?" he jested.

"Yes, for you, silly," she feigned annoyance. "Whom else would I buy a Valentine gift for?" She withdrew the package from his grasp. "However, there was that one cute stallion at the shop..."

"Enough already," Poeticus grinned. "I can't wait to see what you chose for me."

Upon untying the ribbon and removing the lid, Poeticus found a plumed quill pen reminiscent of an earlier time. The feather was a brilliant blue with yellow accents on the top of each barb.

"It's... wonderful," Poeticus declared. He posed as if writing. "This will inspire me to write deep thoughts... and beautiful love sonnets." He kissed Lemon Treats on the cheek.

"For safe keeping, set the pen on the mantlepiece," Lemon Treats suggested. "Mimi gets a little frisky sometimes, and she considers anything within reach as fair game for her antics." She reached down and patted her feline, who meowed a shrill disclaimer.

Braving the arctic temperature, the duo left the house and hurried the several blocks to Estate Manor, being careful to avoid the patches of ice that glistened under the streetlights. "I can't wait for spring!" shivered Lemon Treats.

Arriving at the premier dining spot in Dream Valley, Lemon Treats and Poeticus were dismayed to see that the place was packed with Valentine couples; the maitre d' informed them that all spots were reserved for the remainder of the evening. Lemon Treats looked enviously across the room; it appeared that every pony pair was here: Sugarberry and Vanguard, Tabby and Thomas, Tamara and Tex, Tiffany and Toby, and Butch and Sparkler among them.

"Now what?" a downcast Lemon Treats asked of Poeticus as her plans for a romantic evening disintegrated.

"Well, let me think," pondered Poeticus. After a moment, he suggested, "How about the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe? It has been a favorite haunt of ours, after all!"

Brightening, Lemon Treats agreed. "Yes, that does sound like an appropriate place to spend our Valentine's evening together!" Taking Poeticus' hoof in her own, Lemon Treats and Poeticus continued their trek.

The outline of the slipper was a welcome sight to the freezing ponies, but Poeticus' brow furrowed in puzzlement. "The Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe doesn't look as brightly lit as it usually does," he commented.

"Maybe Scoops is adding to the romantic atmosphere of Valentine's Day by dimming the lights," cheerily suggested Lemon Treats.

But her mood dropped drastically when they got to the door of the establishment. Hanging there was a roughly lettered sign:

Due to furnace failure,

we are closed until further notice.
"This can't be happening," Lemon Treats moaned. "Weren't we meant to eat tonight?"

"We can look at the bright side," Poeticus said.

"There's a bright side?"

"Scoop's ice cream supply won't be damaged by this breakdown."

"Ha, ha," the downcast mare bluffed.

"Take heart, dear heart," Poeticus remained optimistic. "We will be led by the red glow from Tex's neon pepper sign, and find food and fellowship."

His noble attempt to keep his date's spirits up was met with a weary sigh. "Whatever," she acquiesed as they again set off on what was becoming an elusive quest.

Tex's Salsa Shop was a hangout for those ponies who liked hot, spicey food. Not the ideal spot for a dreamy Valentine encounter, Lemon Treats complained to herself. Even Tex bailed out of his own establishment to treat Tamara to dinner at Estate Manor!

Poeticus, however, led her to a corner booth, and ordered enchiladas for the two of them. Realizing how hungry she was, Lemon Treats found herself enjoying the food, even if the mood of the surroundings wasn't what she had anticipated. Atom, one of Tex's part-time employees, kept the conversation among the patrons at the shop lively, which precluded any chance at personal conversation.

Lemon Treats was happy to finally leave the red hot chili peppers behind and begin the walk home. It was cold, but she had Poeticus to herself-- that, at least, beat out the salsa shop.

"Look!" said Poeticus as they neared her house. "You can see Orion just over your place." Lemon Treats looked up to see the constellation, and in that moment stepped on an icey spot, and fell to the ground, landing awkwardly on her back right leg

"Darling, are you okay?" an anxious Poeticus leaned over her. "Is anything broken?"

"Ooww, my ankle hurts," Lemon Treats whined.

"Is that all?" queried Poeticus worriedly.

"Isn't that enought?" snapped Lemon Treats. She was immediately sorry for her irritation. "Just help me up... please?"

Willingly, Poeticus lifted her to her hooves, and supported her the remaining distance home. Once inside, he helped her to the couch, and covered her with a warm blanket before searching out a basin in which she could soak her sprained ankle. With that completed, he headed for the fireplace to start a fire, when he noticed something mangled and frayed resting on the carpeting.

"Lemon Treats," he began, "umm... I think Mimi might have found my quill pen."

"MIMI!" she wailed. "You are a naughty girl!"

Mimi responded by jumping up to the mantelpiece in a fluid motion and sitting down as if she owned the world.

"How about I make some hot chocoate?" suggested Poeticus after lighting the log in the fireplace.

"Yes, that would be nice. And don't forget the marshmallows!" she called as he disappeared into the kitchen. Lemon Treats watched the flames flicker behind the screen, and smiled as she noticed Mimi now curled up asleep on the mantle.

"Here you go!" announed Poeticus as he returned with two steaming mugs of hot chocolate. He handed one to Lemon Treats who held it to her nose to inhale the rich chocolate smell.

"It's awfully..."Poeticus began.

But Lemon Treats had already taken a sip of the frothy brown liquid. "Hot! Hot! Hot!" she squealed, fanning her burnt tongue.

"Hot," lamely finished Poeticus.

Lemon Treats leaned back onto the couch cushions and smiled weakly at her companion. "It's been quite an evening, hasn't it? I wanted everything to be picture perfect, but its been nothing but a disaster."

"It's been an unforgettable evening, if nothing else," grinned Poeticus, crossing the room to retrieve the box he had stashed upon entering the house. Coming to sit next to Lemon Treats, he took her hooves in his. "If I may, I'd like to ask you a question. And, depending on your answer, the item in this case is my Valentine's gift to you."

Her heart racing, her eyes wide in wonder, her lips slightly parted, Lemon Treats listened to Poeticus in rapt attention. Was this the moment she'd dreamed of since she had fallen in love with him? "And your queston, Poeticus?" she whispered.

Looking into Lemon Treat's shining eyes, Poeticus knew he was making the right choice. He knew she would be his soulmate forever. Taking a deep breath, he asked, "Lemon treats, will you marry me?"

And as if on cue, from high on the mantel, came a vile coughing sound as Mimi woke from her nap and retched up a fur and feather ball.

Lemon Treats looked at Poeticus and Poeticus looked at Lemon Treats for a brief second before the two of them collapsed into each others forelegs in a spasm of laughter. All the disappointments of the day were summed-up in that disgusting sound of Mimi's, and the two ponies found it a fitting end to their ill-fated Valentine's celebration.

Wiping the tears from her eyes, Lemon Treats-- when she was finally able to talk again-- answered Poeticus' question, "Yes, I will marry you!"

"Then this is for you," smiled the happy stallion as he opened the jewelry case and removed a glittering diamond ring.

"Oh, Poeticus, it is beautiful!" She watched as the stone caught the firelight and spread rays of brilliant color. Then she giggled. "At least one thing went right. I didn't sprain my left front leg, so I can wear the ring." She held out her foreleg to him.

Poeticus proceeded to slip the ring over her hoof, but to their ultimate dismay, the ring was too large, and wouldn't stay in place. Again, their eyes met. Poeticus shrugged his shoulders. "Sparkler can fix that."

"I'm sure she can," murmured Lemon Treats. She cradled the lovely diamond in her hooves.

"Well, one thing is for sure," Poeticus philosophized. "If we survived this set of events tonight, we can survive a lifetime of marriage together." He put a foreleg around Lemon Treats' shoulder and drew her close.

"I love you, Lemon Treats."

"And I love you too, Poeticus!"

Mimi looked down on the two ponies she had learned to tolerate, and meowed softly before closing her eyes in peaceful sleep.

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