My Little Pony Monthly Issue 90 (September 1, 2004)

My Little Pony Monthly
A publication of Nematode (Electronic) Publishing
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Issue 90
September 2004

In the regular United States line of My Little Ponies, Blossom and Glory had babies but Applejack did not. There was, of course, a Baby Applejack on the international scene, however. Here are our winners!

BabyDibbles (
Chekru (
Jaye (
Kris (
Lil' Whiskers (
PikaCheck (
Sweet Tooth (

Honorable Mentions

Michele (
Mystique (

And our prize winner is...

Lil' Whiskers, you are our winner!! The Just Peachy Sparkle Nail Enamel is yours! E-mail me with your address and I'll get it on its way to you!

Butterscotch (for the record, G3 Butterscotch, since this month's question involves another G3 pony!) is supplying the prize for September, an Autumn Comforts Lip Balm from Avon flavored in butterscotch. Or, for you Big Brothers out there, we have a Wild Country talc waiting to be won by you. For a chance to win, answer this question:

How many instruments has Bee Bop learned how to play?

Tell me the answer by e-mailing mailto:TabbyMLP@aol.comor entering through the form at

THE RULES! *ANYONE* can enter. That means anyone as in anyone. Even if you've already participated in the past, you can enter; in fact, I encourage you to do so. You don't even have to be a subscriber of MLP Monthly in order to enter. But if you're not a subscriber, you're probably not even reading this. ^.~
However, now that we've introduced *real* prizes, we will be putting a limit on how many times you can be entered in the drawing for that. If you've already been selected to win one of our prizes in the past, you can't be entered again- BUT, you can still participate and get your name in the newsletter! So just because you've won something in the past doesn't mean you can't have any fun at all with our contests anymore. And, of course, if eventually all contest participants are ones that have won a prize, it's fair game for everybody again!
On the contest form at, you will be able to select your gender so we'll be able to determine which prize you get. Or, if you'd prefer to be opted out of the prize drawing, you can select that on the form as well.

Are store-exclusive ponies the bane of your existence or a fun diversion?

Mystique ( says...
I think that the store exclusives make it more interesting I just wish they'd say something about them rather than they just happen. Luckily though I was at Target about 2 months ago and found one of their Easter special ponies for$2.75! in the sale aisle.

Jaye ( says...
All in all, I'd say I approve. It can be a little annoying, since I live in Canada and we don't have a lot of the same stores. But part of what makes collecting exciting is trying to hunt down the things you need. Plus, speaking as somebody who works in retail, I think it's nice when a company like Hasbro rewards a store (such as Target) who has supported their product by giving them something that customers can only buy from them.

Sweet Tooth ( says...
I don't really approve. Mail_away offers and country exclusives, sure. Some exclusives add to the thrill of the hunt, but I don't think Target really needs exclusive ponies. I just find that annoying, that you have to go to four different stores to find them all. It does make it more of a quest, but I feel sorry for parents of little kids who are just discovering MLPs and want them to play with. Then they have to search all sorts of different places so their children can complete their herd. It was hard enough to find the ponies you wanted in the eighties, when you only had to look as far as Toys R Us. :)

Michele ( says...
lol__the closest target and tru is an hour away from me. so of course I can never get the special exclusive ones...

September's survey question is:

If you were in charge of creating male ponies for the new G3 line, what would they be like? Would they be clydesdales like in G1 or have some other characteristic to set them apart from the girls?

Go to the following URL to give your opinion:
MLP Monthly has some new authors! This is so exciting. Please let Mystique and Sadira know how much you appreciate their story ideas so that we'll hear more from them. And any of you other aspiring writers, please feel free to submit your stories for consideration. Share your talent!
The Mysterious Cave
by Mystique (

Once when the lands were new, and the sun was being born, and the first signs of life appeared, there was a cave that no one ever dared to enter. It was said to be the home of a great creature who would kill any who dared disturb its slumber. But this was not true. Deep within the cave, far beneath the earth, in a world within the world, lived the Molecats.

The Molecats were a peaceful people, but their digging and tunneling made such a noise that it kept anyone from coming to visit them. The queen, Kasbah, and her king, Mitakke' were proud of their people. There had been famines, floods, and many other trying times that caused problems, but those tales are for another time. This is the time to tell of how the Molecats came to meet the Ponies of the High World. This tale is told from the Molecats' point of view and perhaps one day you will hear it from the ponies' view.

It was a quiet morning, with the sun filtering through the vines that had overgrown the Light Source. It meant it was time to send someone to the High World to clear it. Lowlanders (the Molecats) rarely went up to the bright, open High World. But the king and queen knew that their farmers would suffer and thus they would all suffer if the source was not cleared. Kasbah knew who she favored to go, but would Mitakke' agree?

"Husband," Kasbah began, "who would you choose to go to bring light again?"

Mittake' knew better than to take this question lightly, and put his claw to his chin. "I trust you have a pair in mind?" Smiling gently, he took her arm as he continued, "I know you would choose well, my love. You need only tell me and they will be on their way."

She hugged him tight and told him.

* * *
Meanwhile, in the Starlight Woods, two Molecats were sitting dejectedly by the Whispering Waters. "Diva?" whimpered Nitatan. "Will we ever fit in?"

Diva sadly shook her head. "I don't think they'll ever have a use for us. The only thing we've ever done right is find each other." They huddled close together and watched the pixtel tix play across the waters. Pixtel tix are a type of insect like a dragon fly, but they had no wings. Their flight was as mystical as all the worlds around them.

Nitatan looked at his wife; she was a beautiful dusty silver, and her claws were black. The musical note on her forehead was a testament to her name. He longed to make the world right for her, but alas he could not. He thought then of himself and how well they suited each other. He was pitch black with a tan moon on his forehead, the sign of his name. They belonged to a quite harmonious race. Yet they were lonely and misunderstood by their fellow Molecats. They ran on all fours while others walked upright, and they played well with the children but caused accidents at work. They were outcasts with nowhere to be cast out to.

Then the bugles sounded. The King and Queen were calling all the Molecats in for a meeting.

* * *
As all the Molecats came in, the royal pair wondered if they were making the right choice; but they knew that the ones who had gone before now had children and could not risk getting hurt or attacked. They did not know what lived in the High World; they were Lowlanders and stayed low underground- down where it was dim and the light did not hurt their eyes, down where they was safe from the unknown. Yet, the Light Source was growing dim. If nothing was done they would be forced to go above for food and air. Thus the King and Queen readied themselves to make the announcement.

To Be Continued Next Month...


Dancing On Air
by Sadira (

DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT own any of the ponies. They belong to Hasbro. I also do not own the songs you see in this story. They belong to their respective writers. But I do own Megan Julia Hartson; her little sister, Julia Corina Hartson, Julie; and their younger sister, Molly Shaianne Hartson (although Molly doesn't appear until "A New Friend") as well as the girls' Aunt Abby.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: My Megan is original in that while she has blond hair, she has green eyes, not blue; and she has two younger sisters who are also my original characters. Julie has green eyes and blond hair, but it's more of a reddish blond; and Molly has hazel eyes and blond hair, but it's a shade darker than Megan's. I created the Hartson girls when I was five and have used them for other stories besides MLP. I put a bit of my own personality into each one of them and they hold a special place in my heart.

It was a beautiful day in Ponyland. Firefly had just woken up and she had decided to take a trip over the Rainbow. She had breakfast with Medley and Peachy and then checked on Ember before leaving. Ember was only two years old. She was nearing her third birthday. It was going to be in six months.

As Firefly entered the nursery, she found Ember nuzzling up to Twilight while the pink unicorn read her daughter a story.

"Hey," Firefly said. "How is everything going in here?"

"Fine," Twilight said, smiling at Firefly.

"Mama reading me story," Ember told Firefly happily.

"She is?" Firefly asked, nuzzling Ember gently.

Ember nodded. "Yup. About a little mermaid named Ariel."

Firefly nodded. She knew that story by heart. It was one of her favorite Disney movies.

"Ember really likes that one," Twilight said. "It's her favorite next to 'Beauty and the Beast'; right, little one?" Twilight nuzzled Ember gently while using her special name for her. Ember nodded as she cuddled up to Twilight.

"Well, I'll leave you guys to your story," Firefly said. "I'm going over the Rainbow to explore a little bit. I'll be back."

Twilight nodded and bid Firefly goodbye before turning back to the story she was reading to her daughter.

When Firefly got outside, she was about to soar for the Rainbow when Medley came out. "Firefly, I wish you wouldn't do this," she said.

"Do what?" Firefly asked indignantly.

"Dangerous things. Like going exploring over the Rainbow."

"Why? It's fun. Besides, you never know, I might make a new best friend." Firefly smirked and Medley swatted her with her tail. Little did Firefly know that fate had a surprise in store for her as well as the rest of her friends. Firefly smiled and nuzzled Medley. "Not that anyone can be as good of a best friend as you."

Medley blushed and nodded. She then gave Firefly a pleading look. "Please don't do it, Firefly. It's dangerous!"

Firefly smiled and did her famous double inside out loop, landing perfectly for once. "I've told you a million times. Danger is my life, Medley!" With that, Firefly flew towards the Rainbow, hoping to find a new friend.

When Firefly reached the other side of the Rainbow, she found herself in front of a farmhouse. The house was red brick and it had white shutters and a blue tint in the windows. It looked like a nice place to live. As Firefly watched the house for a few more minutes, she started to wonder who lived there. As she thought about this, a woman came out, followed by a little girl no older than Ember.

Firefly ducked out of sight, but then came out again so that she could see who this person was. The woman had reddish brown hair and blue eyes. She looked kindly enough, but Firefly dared not get too close. She didn't know what this woman was like.

"Well," the woman said, "isn't it nice and sunny out today, Julie?"

The little girl named Julie nodded. "Play on swing, Auntie Abby, please?"

"Sure you can," the woman said. "Just be careful, okay?"

Julie nodded.

Firefly smiled. This little girl named Julie was really cute. Firefly wished she could introduce herself. She loved children and baby ponies, but she didn't want to give Julie's aunt a nervous breakdown, so she stayed put.

After watching Julie and her Aunt Abby for a few more minutes, Firefly decided to move on. She could always come back later. With one final glance towards Julie and Abby, Firefly was off again. She flew for a little while, being careful to avoid anyone's eye. She liked people-watching, but she didn't want to be seen just yet.

As Firefly flew over an apartment building, she found herself near a place that looked like a school. Firefly flew over the building and came to rest somewhere around a playground. She could see lots of children playing, laughing, and just having fun. Firefly enjoyed watching kids and baby ponies have fun. She enjoyed having fun herself. But as Firefly gazed around, she saw one little girl who wasn't joining in. As Firefly flew a little closer, but still well hidden, that is when she saw her. She was so cute and she looked a little lonely. She had blond hair to the middle of her back and green eyes. She was wearing a charm bracelet and she had a blue jumpsuit on. She looked adorable. As Firefly continued to watch this little girl, she got the sudden urge to introduce herself, but she had to wait for the right time. She didn't want to scare her too badly. The little girl looked no more than seven or eight years old. Firefly liked her from the beginning.

As Firefly continued to watch the girl write or draw in a book Firefly could only assume was her diary, some kids, a little older than the little girl, came up to her. Firefly smiled, thinking these were some of the girl's friends; but as one of them tore the book out of her hand and then pushed her down when she got up to get it back, Firefly's mane bristled in anger. These older children weren't her friends at all. They were bullies!

"What cha doing, pony girl?" one of the boys asked, sneering at the little girl. "Or should we call you orphan Annie?"

"More like Little Orphan Megan!" one of the older girls taunted. "She doesn't have a home anymore! She'll never have a home and neither will her sister!!" The older girl snickered and then walked away. But the older boy stayed behind. He wasn't finished yet.

As the little girl named Megan got up, the older boy pushed her back down. Then he tripped her, making her fall and scratch her face.

Firefly glared at the boy. She didn't like this one bit. No child deserved to be picked on, especially one as sweet as Megan. Even though Firefly hadn't met Megan personally yet, she knew Megan had a big heart and a lot of love to give others. She just knew it. If only she could introduce herself.

As Firefly watched the boy taunt Megan as she got up and left for the school, Firefly glared after him and felt a sudden urge to protect Megan the next time she came to visit and watch the kids. And if that boy tried anything again, Firefly was going to show him what the double inside out loop could do. Nobody messed with Firefly.

After watching Megan walk into the building and making sure that she was okay, or as okay as she could be, Firefly decided to fly back to Ponyland. She knew that Medley was going to be worried and she knew that Twilight was probably having a nervous breakdown. Even though Twilight never came right out and said it, Firefly knew that she along with Medley and Peachy didn't like it when she, Firefly, took trips over the Rainbow. But now that Firefly had seen how mean kids could be when they were bullying another, Firefly had no intention of staying away. She was going to come back every day if that's what it took to protect Megan. She only wished that she would get a chance to introduce herself. Little did Firefly know that she would get her chance the very next day.

* * *
"Firefly?" Medley asked, while waving her hoof in Firefly's face. "Firefly, did you hear what I just said?"

Firefly blinked twice and then focused on Medley. Medley had been telling her something cute that Ember had said, but Firefly's mind was somewhere else completely. Somewhere over the Rainbow, that was. Her mind was a million miles away with an eight year old girl who was in need of her help. Ever since Firefly had returned to Ponyland and Dream Castle, the only thing, or person, she could think about was Megan. She needed to find a way to help her and fast.

"Firefly!" Peachy said exasperatedly.

Firefly came back to reality and gave Medley an apologetic look. "I'm sorry, you guys," she said sincerely. "I just have a lot on my mind. That's all."

"Did something happen while you were over the Rainbow?" Medley asked, becoming worried.

Firefly nodded. She wanted to tell Medley so badly, but she didn't want to tell her in front of Peachy. "I'll tell you later. I promise," Firefly said as she tried to eat her dinner without looking like anything was wrong. This was some feat, considering Medley could read her best pony friend like a book. She knew when something was bothering her and she had the distinct feeling that Firefly was hiding something from her. And that was something Firefly never did.

* * *
After dinner that night, Firefly went to Medley's room to talk to her. She found her best pony friend reading a book and humming a song of some kind.

"Hey," Firefly said softly. "Can I talk to you?"

"Sure," Medley said. She put her book down and made a place for Firefly on the bed across from her. "What's up?"

Firefly sighed and tried to think of the best way to answer her best friend's question. "Well, it's just that... when I went over the Rainbow to explore, I sort of saw a little girl and she was being hurt by some other kids. Older kids. They pushed her down and took something of hers. I think it was her diary or journal. They gave it back to her, but only after a boy tripped her and made her skin her knee and scratch her cheek."

"Oh my gosh!" Medley said, looking startled. "You're not going back there again tomorrow, are you?"

Firefly nodded.

"But Firefly, you-" Medley started to say, but Firefly cut her off.

"I can't just stay here and not do anything. Megan needs my help and I'm going to help her. Even if I have to introduce myself and bring her here for safety."

"Firefly!" Medley exclaimed.

"Don't try and stop me, Med," Firefly said. "My mind is made up. I know what I'm doing. When I was watching Megan today, I sensed nothing but kindness and gentleness from her. She won't hurt me or you or any of us. I promise. I have a feeling that Megan is going to love it here and I also have a stronger feeling that Megan's going through some horrible things that a child shouldn't have to face."

Medley nodded and shuddered at the thought. She too loved baby ponies and human children and she didn't like it when either was suffering unjustly.

Firefly saw her best friend's fearful expression and nuzzled her gently.

"Shh, it's okay, Medley. It's going to be okay. I just need you to trust me on this and please, whatever you do, don't tell anyone else. If you want to tell Twilight and Ember, that's fine, but nobody else. I don't want Megan feeling too overwhelmed when I bring her here tomorrow or the next day, okay?"

Medley nodded. She never broke promises to anyone, especially not Firefly.

As Firefly lay down for bed, she made a special wish and prayed that she would find a way to help Megan soon. She knew she was meant to. Before long, Firefly fell asleep to sweet dreams. She dreamt about Medley and her when they were younger and the adventures they used to have. They used to spend their days flying around Ponyland and getting in trouble with their mothers for straying too far from Dream Castle. Actually, it was Firefly who got into the most trouble, but Medley was right along side her, trying to keep her best pony friend from getting grounded too often.

Firefly giggled at the memories as she drifted off to sleep.

* * *
The next morning, Firefly awoke and had a quick breakfast. She wanted to get over the Rainbow and be there in case Megan needed her help. As Firefly left for the other side of the Rainbow, Medley nuzzled her gently.

"Good luck," Medley said. "I hope you can help that little girl. What did you say her name was again?"

"Megan," Firefly said. "I'll find out today if that's true. But I'm guessing it is."

Medley nodded and nuzzled her best pony friend one more time before Firefly took to the Rainbow again.

When Firefly got to the other side, she arrived at the same house, but received the surprise of her life! As Firefly watched from her hiding place, she saw Julie and her aunt come out, but her aunt was leading someone by the hand; and as Firefly continued to watch, she realized that it was Megan!

Firefly held her breath as the woman spoke. Her voice was kind and gentle.

"Now, just hang in there, okay, love bug? You'll be okay."

"Timmy Carter is so mean, Aunt Abby!" Megan replied, bursting into tears and wrapping her arms around her aunt's waist. "I don't want to go to school today. Please don't make me!"

Firefly's heart broke. She resolved right then and there to help Megan out the second she got there.

"I'm sorry, sweetie," Abby said, hugging her niece close, "but I can't let you stay home. Julie has the flu and I don't want you catching it. Besides, remember what you always say?"

Megan let out a sob as Abby cupped her chin in her hands.

"There's always another Rainbow. You're right when you say that and the song you made up says it all."

Megan nodded. She believed that with all her heart, but she still didn't want to go to school.

"Now, I want you to be my brave girl and go off to school. I'll be here waiting for you when you get home, okay?"

Megan nodded and gave her aunt a hug. "I love you, Aunt Abby," Megan said, calming down a little.

"Aw, I love you too," Abby said. "I love you so much, Megan Julia Hartson." With that, Abby walked Megan to what Firefly could only assume was the school bus stop and waited until she was safely on the bus.

Firefly flew after them, being careful to stay out of sight. She was going to help Megan out if it was the last thing she did. She now knew her full name. Megan Julia Hartson. That name was so pretty. Firefly decided to let Megan tell her what her name was, so she wouldn't seem like she was following her, even though she was, but it was for a good reason. Firefly didn't want to scare her too badly.

As Abby and Megan waited for the bus, Megan asked, "Aunt Abby?"

"Yes, sweetie?" Abby asked.

"Do you think I'll ever have a best friend?"

Abby nodded. "Of course you will. You just wait. I'll bet anything you'll make a new friend today." She smiled and Firefly could have sworn she saw Abby look to where she, Firefly, was hiding.

Megan managed a small smile just as the school bus pulled up. After Abby gave Megan a kiss, Megan got onto the bus and began to read her book. She never got picked on while she was on the school bus. The kids knew better. The driver liked Megan and the kids didn't want to get in trouble too early in the morning. Besides, the kids enjoyed picking on Megan when there were no grown_ups around to help her.

Once Megan got off the bus, she was hailed by Tim and Gretchen. Tim and Gretchen were the main bullies who picked on her. Tim tripped Megan and then, as she tried to get up, he tripped her again.

"Hey pony girl!!! Want to play with us?" Tim asked, acting like he was going to hit Megan. She jumped out of the way and ended up losing her balance, which caused her to fall on her bottom. Her book bag fell off her back and some of her books fell out. As Megan scrambled to get them, Gretchen snatched one up. It was Megan's diary. Megan made a grab for it, but Gretchen held it at arm's length and started to flip through it.

"Hey!" Megan shouted, trying to be as brave as she could. "Give that back!"

"Aw, little orphan Megan wants her pwecious diary back, does she?" Gretchen asked, glaring at Megan.

"I think she does," Tim said, sneering at Megan. "Well, we can't just give it to her nicely," he said. "That would take all the fun out of life." He made a grab for the diary and Gretchen threw it to him. He then threw it and laughed as he left to go inside.

Megan got to her feet and tried not to cry. There was silence, then... splat!! Megan sputtered as some mud hit her full in the back. It landed in her hair as well as on her jumpsuit. She tried to get it off, but it was no use. She was a mess and now her diary was ruined, too. She picked up her books and put them back into her bag. She then picked up her diary and as she looked down at the torn cover and now mud splattered pages that once held her most precious memories and thoughts, Megan burst into tears.

Firefly glared after the two children who had hurt Megan so badly. She was determined to make her move during recess that day. These two kids had had their chance. Now they were going to get a taste of their own medicine.

"Hang in there, my sweet girl," Firefly thought. "Help is coming soon." She smiled. That was the perfect special name for Megan, but Firefly wasn't going to use it until she got to know Megan a little bit better. She had no doubt that Megan was sweet, but she wanted to let Megan get to know her before she, Firefly, used a special name for her. She wanted to make sure that Megan would like it and was comfortable with it.

Firefly sighed as she waited for recess to roll around. As she sat there, her stomach started to growl. She only wished she had brought some of Cupcake's food with her. But now wasn't the time to think about eating. Now was the time for action. Firefly had to come up with a plan; and as she sat there, waiting for the children to come out for recess, a plan formed in her mind. Firefly knew exactly what she was going to do. All she had to do now was wait for the moment when she was needed.

* * *
When recess rolled around two hours later, Firefly was ready to put her plan into action. She only had a few more minutes to wait. As she sat there, she saw Megan come out of the building. She looked like she had had someone help her clean up. Her clothes weren't as muddy and her hair looked brushed and redone.

As Firefly watched Megan head for a bench to read, she saw Tim and Gretchen along with two other older boys walking toward her. Before Megan had a chance to sit down, Tim pushed her, making her fall; and then as Megan got up, the other boy tripped her. She fell and scraped her knee.

Firefly glared, but she held her breath as Megan's right wrist made contact with the ground. There was a slight crunching sound and then the tears came.

Firefly had had enough! Now was the time for action. Taking a deep breath, Firefly flew into the air and performed her double inside out loop, heading straight for the four kids who had hurt Megan so badly.

Tim jumped out of the way and fell to the ground. He had no idea what had just come at him, but he wasn't sticking around to find out. Neither were Gretchen and her friends. She along with her two mates ran in the other direction.

Firefly then flew out of sight and waited for the right time to approach Megan. She wanted to give her some time to calm down and realize that she wasn't in any danger.

After about five minutes, Megan sat down on the bench and started to cry while holding her right arm. She had apparently either bruised her wrist or broken it.

Firefly waited until all the kids had gone inside, and then she made her next move. She flew down so that Megan could see her and then approached her cautiously. Firefly just prayed and hoped that Megan would like her. She also prayed and hoped that Megan wouldn't be afraid of her. She wasn't going to hurt her at all.

Megan glanced up and blinked several times to make sure she wasn't seeing things. After she opened her eyes for the fourth time and still saw Firefly, she backed up into the picnic table and then dove underneath it. This only served for her to skin her other knee.

"Hey, hey now," Firefly said gently. "There's no need to be afraid. I'm not going to hurt you, honey. I promise. Are you okay?"

Megan merely nodded. She tried to shrink back further, but the size of the picnic table versus the way she was crouching made it hard.

Firefly gave Megan a gentle smile. "I promise I won't hurt you, honey. You have nothing to be afraid of."

Megan nodded, still unable to speak. When she finally regained her voice she said, "Ta_talking pony!"

Firefly nodded and giggled a little. She then rose into the air and said, "I can fly too."

Megan looked at her with interest mixed with apprehension and asked, "Wha_who are you?"

"My name's Firefly," Firefly said, smiling gently down at Megan. "What's your name, honey?"

"Me_Megan. Megan Julia Hartson."

"Well, it's nice to meet you, Megan." Firefly said. She then asked, "Do those kids pick on you every day?"

Megan's lower lip started to quiver and she nodded, unable to answer Firefly verbally. Firefly gave Megan a sympathetic look. Megan then burst into tears out of pain in her wrist. She lowered her head and looked at the ground, suddenly interested in a batch of worms that were cascading through the mud. Firefly moved closer and nuzzled Megan gently.

Megan then did something that totally surprised Firefly. She wrapped her arms around Firefly's neck and buried her face in her mane as if she and Firefly had known each other since Megan was born.

"Shh, shh, hush now, it's okay, Megan. It's all right. It's okay..." Firefly soothed as she nuzzled the little girl gently and stroked her hair with her front left hoof. "You're going to be okay."

"It hurts!" Megan whimpered. "My wrist hurts really bad!"

Firefly didn't have the heart to correct Megan's grammar. She was only seven or eight, after all. She would learn in time.

"I know it does, honey. I know. Listen, there's a place I can take you where you'll be safe. But we have to wait until the end of the day."

"It's... it's a half..." Megan said through her tears.

"Shh, shh, it's okay, honey. Easy does it. Now, what were you saying. It's okay."

"It's a ha_half day today," Megan told her new friend. "I get out around now anyway. I'm supposed to be back at my Aunt Abby's around three_thirty to watch my little sister, Julie."

Firefly nodded. "Okay. Well, I'll have you back before then. How does three o' clock sound?"

Megan smiled for the first time in a few days. She was really starting to like Firefly. "Can I ask you a question?" Megan asked.

"Sure you can, sweetie. What is it?"

"Where do you live?"

"Ponyland," Firefly replied. "That's where I'm going to take you. It's over the Rainbow. I have a friend who can give you something to protect you from those bullies. I promise. It's going to be okay."

Megan nodded. She then looked at Firefly with a puzzled expression on her face and said, "But Firefly, there's no Rainbow in the sky right..." But as Megan's voice trailed off, she glanced up and saw it... the most beautiful sight she had ever seen. Why hadn't she noticed it before?

She grinned as Firefly nuzzled her again and the pony asked, "You were saying?" Megan shook her head.

Firefly smiled gently down at the little girl and asked, "How old are you?"

"Eight," Megan said. "My birthday was last month. It's on April 8th."

Firefly nodded. "Wow!! You must be a big girl."

Megan giggled. Aunt Abby was always saying she, Megan, was a big girl and she liked that.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" Firefly asked.

Megan gave her new friend a confused look.

"Hop on!" Firefly exclaimed happily. "I'll get us back home to Ponyland in no time."

As Megan started to climb on the pink pegasus' back, Firefly asked, "Uh, you do know how to ride, I hope?"

Megan nodded and gave Firefly an indignant look. "Of course I know how to ride!" Megan exclaimed indignantly.

"Great!" Firefly said as she galloped towards the school entrance and prepared to fly over the gate. As she rose, Megan hung on as best she could with her good arm and said, while trying to get off, "Wait!! I said I could ride, not fly!!!"

"Ooh, my friends are just gonna love you!" Firefly assured Megan, nuzzling her gently.

"No they wo_o_o_on't!" Megan cried as Firefly took off for the Rainbow.

"Pony feathers!!" Firefly exclaimed. Then she started to sing. "They'll be dancing on air when they meet you, dancing on air with glee."

Megan shook her head and joined in with her own fears. "I doubt they'll be celebrating when they see, it's only me."

"They'll do cartwheels in air when they greet you, their hopes will start to rise!"

"From what they're anticipating, they're in for a big surprise!"

"They'll be floating, lighter than a cloud," Firefly assured her new friend.

"They'll be gloating, laughing right out loud!" Megan contradicted her.

"The sight of you, will send spirits flying!" Firefly said excitedly.

"One or two may burst out crying." Megan said, frowning.

Firefly sighed as she rested in a cloud just above Dream Valley.

"Megan, you're a dream come true, that my friends will think so too. You're the answer to our every prayer."

"Time will tell if I'll come through, but just imagine if I do!" Megan sang, feeling a little bit better.

"They'll be dancing," Firefly sang.

"Prancing," Megan chimed in.

"Dancing on air!" The two sang together.

"How do you feel now, honey?" Firefly asked, hoping that the song had helped Megan feel a little better.

"Better," Megan said. "But my wrist still hurts, though."

Firefly nodded and nuzzled Megan gently. "I know, sweetie. You'll feel better soon. Let's get inside and then I'll introduce you to my friends. Ooh, they're going to love you!"

Megan nodded as she felt an overwhelming sensation to bury her face in Firefly's mane and never let go.

Firefly gave Megan the choice of dismounting or staying put, and Megan chose to stay put. She was feeling a little nervous and she felt safe with Firefly. It was weird, but even though Megan hadn't known Firefly for more than an hour now, she felt comfortable around her. So comfortable in fact, that when they stepped through the threshold of Dream Castle and all the little ponies came out to greet Firefly and her, Megan dismounted, but wrapped her arms around Firefly's neck and buried her face in her mane. She was feeling a little shy and she wasn't used to so many faces looking at her at once. She started to cry a little.

"Aw, it's okay, sweetie," Firefly said gently. "My friends won't hurt you."

Megan nodded, but she still felt a little unsure.

As Ember came up and nuzzled Megan's arm, a loud bang, like a firework made Megan let out a fearful sob. She pulled away from Firefly and ran into the nearest empty room, which happened to be Firefly's bedroom.

Firefly glared at Sparkler and then at Powder. Both ponies looked really sheepish.

"I'm sorry," Sparkler said. "I didn't mean to scare her. She seems nice."

"I like her," Ember said simply. "She pretty."

Twilight smiled at her little one and gave Ember a gentle nuzzle.

"I do, too," Twilight said. "Poor thing. I'm going to see if she's okay."

"No!" Firefly exclaimed suddenly. She took a deep breath and then said, "Let me do it. She knows me and I think meeting everyone at once caused Megan to become a little overwhelmed. She's only eight years old."

"Can I come with you?" Medley asked. "I might be able to get through to her."

Firefly nodded and sighed. If anyone could help Megan feel better about meeting new people or ponies besides Firefly herself, it was Medley.

"Good_luck," Cupcake said. "Let me know if Megan's hungry."

Firefly nodded. "I will. Let me get my sweet girl feeling better first, and then we can talk chicken."

Cupcake gave Firefly a Look, but Twilight and Powder cracked up. Medley giggled, too. Firefly could be so funny sometimes. Medley then gave Firefly a curious look and said, "Your sweet girl?"

Firefly nodded. "Yeah. I think that's the perfect special name for Megan from me, don't you think so? She is really sweet once you get to know her. I just think she was a little overwhelmed by everyone. That's all. I think she'll be okay with just you and me. But to be safe, let me go in first, okay?"

Medley nodded and waited outside while Firefly entered the room. Firefly walked over to the bed to find Megan laying down, her face buried in the pillow. She could feel her shaking, so that meant she was crying.

"Megan? Honey, are you okay?"

Megan raised her tear-stained face to meet Firefly's concerned one. She wrapped her arms around Firefly's neck and cried into her mane.

"Shh, shh, hush now, Megan. It's okay, honey. It's going to be okay. My friends didn't mean to scare you. Ember was just nuzzling you. She likes you. She's really sweet. She's just a baby. She's going to be four in a few months. Listen, my best friend, Medley, is waiting outside. She wants to meet you."

Megan shook her head as a sob escaped her lips. She felt too overcome.

"Okay, all right, it's okay, sweetie. She doesn't have to come in if you don't want her to. But she's really nice. And I'll bet she'll even sing you to sleep. Do you want to try and take a nap and then when you wake up, I'll take you to see the Moochick. He's my friend I told you about. He's a magician."

Megan nodded and a small smile spread across her face.

Firefly smiled too. "Aw, that's my sweet girl," she said, nuzzling Megan gently.

"I like that special name," Megan said softly.

"I'm glad," Firefly said. "Because that's what you are. I think it suits you just fine. Now, do you want to meet Medley?"

"You promise it's only Medley?" Megan asked.

Firefly nodded. "Yes. I promise you."

Megan nodded and sat up a little bit, but Firefly helped her to lay back down. "Just try and rest, my sweet girl. You're going to be okay."

"My wrist hurts!" Megan whimpered.

"I know it does, sweetie. After I introduce you to Medley, why doesn't she stay with you while I get something to wrap your wrist up with. I'll be back, I promise." Megan nodded.

Firefly smiled as she went to let Medley in. "Okay, Med. You can come in."

"Okay." Medley walked into the room, closing the door behind her. She walked over to the bed and approached Megan cautiously. She didn't want to give her a fright again.

Firefly smiled as she came over to where Megan was sitting, and nuzzled her sweet girl gently. "Megan, I want you to meet my best pony friend. This is Medley. Med, this is my new friend, Megan."

Medley smiled warmly at Megan. "Hi," she said. "It's nice to meet you, Megan."

Megan nodded and gave Medley a small smile. "It's nice to meet you, too," Megan said, reaching her good hand out to pat Medley's mane.

"Go on," Firefly said. "It's okay."

Megan nodded and did so.

"Do you mind staying with Megan while I get something to bandage her right wrist?" Firefly asked Medley, knowing full well that Medley wouldn't mind at all.

"No," Medley said. "I don't mind."

"I told Megan you would sing to her. She's going to try and take a little nap before I take her to see the Moochick. She's had a hard two days."

Medley nodded and smiled at Megan as she nuzzled her gently. "Of course I will. Do you have a favorite song?" Medley asked, thinking of the ones she knew.

Megan nodded and told Medley what her favorite song was.

"I'll be right back, my sweet girl," Firefly assured her new friend. She nuzzled Megan gently and then mouthed a thank you to Medley before leaving to retrieve the bandage for Megan's wrist.

As Firefly reached the bathroom, she heard crying coming from Twilights' room. Firefly peeked her head in and saw Twilight comforting Ember.

"Aw, what's the matter, sweetie?" Firefly asked, coming over and nuzzling Ember gently. "What are all the raindrops for?"

Ember let out a sob and then said, "Megan doesn't like me! She's scared of me! I hurt her!"

"Aw, no, no, no, little one," Twilight said gently. "You didn't hurt Megan."

"Then why she cry and run to Auntie Firefly's room?" Ember asked.

Firefly nuzzled Ember gently as she said, "Megan's just a little scared right now. She's a little tired too. She's taking a nap now. I promise you didn't hurt her. She just got scared when Sparkler and Powder's fireworks went off. That's all. When Megan wakes up, she'll be all better."

"Promise?" Ember asked.

"I promise," Firefly said, nuzzling Ember again. "You have nothing to worry about."

Ember nodded and nuzzled Firefly back.

After Firefly was sure that Ember was going to be okay, she returned to her room. She found Megan half asleep and Medley singing her "All the Pretty Little Ponies".

"She fell asleep, huh?" Firefly asked, nuzzling Megan gently.

Medley nodded. "She's almost there. Firefly, she's so sweet. I just don't understand how anyone could hurt someone so innocent and precious."

Firefly nodded. "I know what you mean," she said. "I feel the same way." She then moved closer and started to bandage Megan's right wrist. As she did that, Megan started to stir and tried to push her away. "Shh, shh, hush now, it's okay, my sweet girl. It's okay. It's me. It's Firefly. You're all right, Megan. It's okay. I'm just wrapping your wrist up, honey. That's all. Try and go back to sleep. Do you want Medley to sing to you again?"

Megan shook her head and Medley was taken aback for a minute. Megan then asked, "Can you sing our song, please?"

Firefly's heart melted at this question. Megan was so adorable. And it melted Firefly's heart even more when she called "Dancing on Air" their song.

"I sure will," Firefly said. She then turned to Medley and said, "You don't mind, do you, Med?"

Medley shook her head and gave Megan a gentle nuzzle. "Not at all," Medley replied. She smiled as she sat down and listened to Firefly sing the young girl to sleep.

After Megan's steady breathing could be heard, Firefly left the room to have some lunch. She was still famished from earlier that morning, and Medley promised to get Firefly the moment Megan woke up.

When Firefly entered the kitchen, she found Cupcake, Fizzy, and Sparkler sitting around, talking and eating some sandwiches.

"I'm sorry about what happened earlier," Sparkler apologized again. "I didn't mean to scare Megan like that. Is she okay?"

"She will be after she wakes up," Firefly told her. "My sweet girl just needs rest and then I'm going to take her to see the Moochick. Maybe he has something that can protect Megan from those bullies at school."

"That's a great idea!!" Fizzy exclaimed enthusiastically. "The Moochick can help anyone."

Firefly nodded.

"Can I come with you?" Fizzy asked. "Unicorns are good luck, and good company too."

Firefly smiled at her friend. "Sure. Med, you, and I will go with Megan. But I want Megan to meet you first. When she wakes up, you can come in my room and I'll introduce you to her. She's a real sweetheart. I'm sure that once she visits a few more times, she'll get used to everyone; but for now, it's best to keep things smooth and simple. Remember, she's only a little girl."

Fizzy nodded. She was anxious to meet Megan and she really wanted to see if the Moochick had anything to help her.

Firefly thanked Cupcake for the food and then started to eat. It wasn't until a fearful scream broke the silence of Dream Castle a few minutes later, did the peace around the castle cease to be anymore.

Firefly jumped to her hooves and rushed for her bedroom. The scream had come from there. She was sure of it. "Megan!" Firefly exclaimed as she pushed open her bedroom door.

Megan was sitting up, crying. She was huddled against the head board and her face was buried in her hands.

"She just woke up like this," Medley said. "She was thrashing in her sleep and she started to cry. I woke her up and she's been like this ever since. I tried to comfort her, but she just kept saying she wanted you. I didn't try and nuzzle her because I didn't want to scare her."

Firefly nodded and rushed to Megan's side. She nuzzled her sweet girl gently and assured her she was okay. "Megan? Megan, honey, you're okay. It's all right. I'm here, sweetheart. Come here, my sweet girl," Firefly said gently.

Megan raised her face to meet the concerned blue eyes of Firefly; and when she saw her, she threw her arms around Firefly's neck and cried into her mane. She had just had a nightmare and what made matters worse, she knew it was going to happen.

Firefly hushed her gently until Megan had calmed down enough to tell Firefly and Medley what she had been dreaming about.

"Do you want to talk about your bad dream, my sweet girl?" Firefly asked gently. "It might make you feel better. If you don't want Medley to hear it, it's okay. She won't be mad."

Medley shook her head. It was true. She didn't want to pry and she also wanted to respect Megan's privacy. She barely knew the child after all.

"Firefly's right," Medley said, nuzzling Megan gently. "I won't be mad at all."

Megan nodded and let out a sob. She then said, "It was about my Mommy. I dreamt she abandoned me and my sister, Julie."

Firefly's jaw was about on the ground. She nuzzled Megan gently once she recovered herself and said, "You know that was just a dream, right? Your mommy's not really going to do that."

Megan shook her head and there was something in Megan's green eyes that told Firefly to keep her mouth shut for the time being and listen.

"Ye_yes she is!" Megan sobbed. "She said once she has my new little sister, she's going to abandon all of us! She doesn't want us anymore! She never wanted my little sister. She never wanted her at all!" Megan then broke down again.

Firefly just nuzzled her and then her mind floated back to what Gretchen and her gang had said about Megan that day. They weren't lying. And with a shiver, Firefly had a feeling that Megan's life was going to get harder once her new little sister came, whether she was ready for it or not. With a feeling of determination, Firefly knew she had to do everything she could to protect Megan and if possible, her siblings too. Once Megan's little sister was born, Firefly was going to do everything she could to protect all three of them, even if that meant bringing the three Hartson children to Ponyland. Whatever it took, Firefly was going to make sure that nobody hurt her sweet girl ever again.

"Julie's your sister?" Firefly asked.

Megan nodded. "Yes. She's three years old."

Firefly nodded as she continued to stroke Megan's hair. "Just try and get some more sleep, my sweet girl. I'm right here, okay? I love you. I'll see you when you wake up."

Megan nodded and closed her eyes. "I love you too," Megan said before drifting off to sleep again.

Firefly smiled and gave Megan a kiss on her cheek before nuzzling her again. Megan really was very sweet and precious.

About an hour later, Megan awoke from another nightmare. She was crying and all she wanted was Firefly. After Firefly had gotten Megan calmed down and Medley had given her some apple juice, Firefly suggested that they go to the Mushromp.

"Wait!" Medley said, making Megan jump.

"Medley!" Firefly hissed.

"Sorry," Medley said, more to Megan than Firefly. She then turned back to Firefly and asked, "Didn't Fizzy want to meet Megan?"

"Pony feathers! I totally forgot. Megan, I'll be right back. Fizzy wants to meet you. She's really, really nice. She's a good friend of mine. She's a unicorn."

Megan nodded and patted Medley's mane gently. Medley was glad that Megan felt comfortable enough to do that. She only prayed and hoped that Megan would soon feel comfortable around all of the little ponies, but Medley knew that it was going to take time.

"Is she awake yet?" Fizzy asked eagerly.

Firefly nodded. "Yup. Come on."

Fizzy followed Firefly into her bedroom. As Fizzy walked in, she forgot to close the door.

"Megan, sweetie, I want you to meet a good friend of mine. This is Fizzy. Fizzy, this is Megan, a new friend of mine."

"It's nice to meet you, Megan!" Fizzy said brightly. "Do ya want to see a trick?"

Megan nodded as she patted Fizzy's mane and gave her a smile. She really liked her.

Fizzy took a deep breath and a few bubbles came out of her horn.

Megan giggled and asked, "Can you do it again, Fizzy, please?"

"No problem!" Fizzy exclaimed. "Watch this!" She blew some more bubbles and this time, she was able to spell Megan's name with them.

Megan giggled at this, as did everyone else. Just as Megan was about to ask Fizzy to show her something else, she felt something small nuzzle her arm. She jumped a little, but then her face broke into a grin as she saw a small lavender pony with blue eyes and a purple mane snuggling up to her. "Hi there," Megan said gently. "What's your name, cutie?"

"Ember," the baby pony said. "You're Megan, right?"

Megan nodded. "Yes. It's nice to meet you, Ember."

Firefly smiled. She was glad that Megan was slowly but surely taking to everyone, and she really seemed to like Fizzy and Medley.

"Will you read to me, pwease?" Ember asked.

Megan nodded, but Firefly shook her head. "Megan can read to you when we get back, okay? We need to go bye_byes now."

"Where are you going, Auntie Firefly?" Ember asked.

"We're goin' to see the Moochick!" Fizzy replied.

Ember smiled and nodded. She then nuzzled Megan and left to find Twilight.

"All right. Ready?" Firefly asked.

Megan nodded, but as she tried to climb on Firefly's back, her right wrist wouldn't support her. "I_I can't get on!" Megan said in alarm. "My wrist hurts too much!"

"It's okay, sweetie. Hang on tight."

"Firefly, what are you going to-" Medley started to ask; but before she could finish her sentence, Firefly had flown into the air and gotten Megan onto her back via her double inside out loop. Medley gasped. "Megan, are you okay?" she asked.

Megan nodded and hung on as Firefly took off for the opened window.

"Ah, there ya go, my sweet girl. Are you okay?"

"Uh_huh," Megan said. "What was that?"

"That," Firefly said, "was my double inside out loop. It's my favorite trick."

"Can you do it again?" Megan asked. "Please? It was fun!"

Firefly giggled. "Why don't we wait until your wrist is healed first, okay?"

Megan pouted slightly, but nodded. She knew it was for the best.

Once Medley and Fizzy joined them, Firefly landed and Medley scolded, "Firefly, that was dangerous!"

Firefly smiled at her best pony friend and said, "Danger is my life, Medley!"

"But you could have hurt Megan!"

"Stop worrying. My sweet girl's fine. Aren't you? Tell Medley you're all right before she bites my tail off."

Medley threw Firefly a playful glare, which Firefly returned.

"I'm fine, Medley!" Megan said, grinning as she held onto Firefly's mane. "Firefly didn't hurt me at all. I want to do the double inside out loop again."

Medley groaned and Fizzy giggled. "Oh no!" Medley said. "Not another daredevil!" This just got Fizzy and Megan giggling harder.

"Come on, you guys," Firefly said, throwing Medley a Look. "I need to get Megan home before three_thirty, and it's two o'clock now."

Fizzy nodded and started leading the way to the Mushromp. Firefly followed her. She nuzzled Megan as they continued towards the Mushromp, each of them praying that the Moochick could help Megan out. She needed some protection from those bullies at school; and if anyone could give it to her, the Moochick could.

When they got to the Mushromp, Megan's eyes widened. This place was so beautiful. She said so to the others. "Oh, it's so beautiful!!"

Fizzy nodded. "You said it," she said blowing a few bubbles out of her horn, making Megan giggle and Medley roll her eyes. As they walked inside, Fizzy started calling for the Moochick. "Mister Moochick!! Mister Moochick!"

"The Moochick never leaves his home," Firefly said to nobody in particular.

"I'm sure he's here somewhere," Fizzy said. "He has to be here."

"Maybe he's here, but he doesn't want to see us," Firefly suggested.

Just then, a little man popped out of a mushroom. Megan screamed in surprise and buried her face in Firefly's mane, while Fizzy giggled and Firefly rolled her eyes.

"Oh, my, oh my, my, my my!" the Moochick said. "I didn't mean to scare the poor darling. Is she all right?"

"Yeah. She's going to be okay. It's been a really hard day for her," Firefly assured the Moochick. Then she turned to Megan and whispered, "You okay, my sweet girl? The Moochick won't hurt you. He's really nice. He's just a little forgetful."

"A little forgetful?" Medley asked.

Megan giggled.

"Well, at least you got her to giggle," Firefly said, referring to Megan.

Medley ignored Firefly's comment. "He'd forget where the sun was if he didn't look outside his window every morning."


"Firefly, I'm sorry but..." Medley's voice trailed off as she realized that Firefly wasn't the one who scolded her. She glanced up to see Megan giving her a semi-reproachful sort of look. "I'm sorry, sweetie, but that's the truth. You'll see what I mean in a minute. If you think you're giggling now, just wait."

Megan nodded and play-swatted Medley in the back.

Firefly laughed at that. "Well, it looks like someone is getting used to being here."

Megan smiled and nodded. "I'm not that scared anymore," she said.

"Aw, I'm glad, my sweet girl. You have no reason to be." She nuzzled Megan gently just as the Moochick cleared his throat.

"And who are you?" he asked, gesturing to the three ponies and the human child.

"I'm Firefly," Firefly said, giving the Moochick a smile.

"And I'm Fizzy!" Fizzy exclaimed cheerfully. "We're little ponies."

"And I'm Medley, " Medley said, nuzzling the Moochick gently and giving him a smile.

"And this is Megan," Firefly said, sensing Megan's shyness returning a little. She was happy that Megan was slowly getting used to her and the other little ponies, but Firefly knew it was going to take Megan some time before she got used to the other people and creatures that lived in Ponyland.

The Moochick nodded. "Well, it's nice to meet you. Who are you again?"

Megan buried her face in Firefly's neck to prevent her giggles from being heard. Firefly nuzzled her rather hard. "What?" Megan asked.

"Don't give me that look, young lady. You know perfectly well what," Firefly said. She was trying to keep her voice stern, but the corners of her mouth were twitching noticeably.

Megan sighed and tried to stop laughing, but Fizzy accidentally blew a few bubbles which got her and Megan cracking up.

Firefly rolled her eyes and let it go. She knew Megan was just a little girl and she found things funny that some others wouldn't. In Firefly's opinion, if Megan wasn't with her, she would have smirked too; but she was trying to set a good example for the young girl. Medley smiled and tried not to laugh herself.

"Now, now, what are all of you here for?" the Moochick asked. "What do you need my help with? Love potion? Shrinking potion? A cure for a poison?"

Firefly shook her head and gritted her teeth. She didn't want Megan hearing that kind of stuff. "No," Firefly said in the most matter_of_fact voice she could muster, considering she was trying not to tell him off. "We're here for our new friend, Megan. She needs some kind of protection from some bullies at school."

"Kids picking on you, eh?" the Moochick asked, turning to Megan and giving her a sympathetic look.

Megan nodded and her smile disappeared almost at once. Firefly could tell that her sweet girl was close to tears so she nuzzled her and said, "It's okay. The Moochick can help you. And don't worry about earlier. I'm not mad at you, sweetie. I promise."

Megan nodded and breathed a sigh of relief. As if to show Megan that she was telling the truth, Firefly nuzzled her and then looked up to pay attention to what the Moochick was saying. But as Firefly looked up, she realized that the Moochick wasn't talking at all. At least not to them. He was muttering to himself and looking in a closet.

"What cha lookin' for, Mister Moochick?" Fizzy asked curiously.

"The only thing that can protect Megan from those mean children, of course!" the Moochick said, as if it was obvious.

"Which is...?" Firefly asked.

"The Rainbow of Light," the Moochick replied. "I know I have one around here somewhere." He started to look, and Firefly distinctly heard Megan giggle again and Medley mutter, "Oh brother!"

Firefly rolled her eyes as well, but she threw Medley a Look. "What?" Medley asked.

Firefly didn't answer. She figured she couldn't set a good example no matter how hard she tried; and in this situation, it was okay for Megan to laugh at a grown_up. Especially if the grown_up was as absentminded as a turtle with a short term memory loss.

"Never mind, " Firefly muttered. She then whispered in Megan's ear, "It's not you, it's Medley. Remind me to beat her in a race when we get back home."

Megan giggled harder and nodded. She knew Firefly could do it.

"I know it's around here somewhere!!" the Moochick shouted in frustration. As he started looking through another closet, he started to sing. "Somewhere there's a little piece of Rainbow, I saved it for a rainy day. It might be underneath the rug or in the cupboard, ugh! A bug, but have no fear I'll find it right away. Wait until you see this piece of Rainbow, it's brighter than a peacock's plume. It's ocean blue and sunrise pink- I left it by the sink I think, Or was it in the closet with the broom. Perhaps We ought to try the other room. That piece of Rainbow must be hiding someplace. Search every nook and cranny, high and low."

"You'd think that with a Rainbow, there'd be some trace," Megan said thoughtfully.

"But not a gleam," Medley said.

"Not a glimmer," Firefly chimed in.

"Not a glow!" Fizzy shouted.

"Tell me something I didn't know," the Moochick muttered. Then he continued his song. "Where'd I put that little piece of Rainbow? I ran across it just last week. It might be in the flower pot, my goodness gracious, no it's not. That piece of Rainbow's playing hide and seek. I'm sorry but it seems... I'm sorry but it seems we're up the creek!"

Megan gasped. "You're not giving up are you?" she asked, feeling her last hope of protection from Gretchen and her gang slipping away like sand through a sifter.

The Moochick nodded and frowned. "Might as well, looked every place. Absolutely no place else we could... wait a moment! Beg your pardon! Silly me- come and see- it's in the garden."

"Garden?" Firefly asked, a little skeptically.

Medley shot her a Look and Fizzy giggled as she led the way to where the Moochick was now frantically digging up mounds of dirt.

"This is where I put that piece of Rainbow; it's buried here beneath the ground; I left it in the flower bed, it's how I am- I plan ahead, I know that here I'd find it safe and sound. A lesson for you all! When hope seems past recall, that piece of Rainbow always can be found!" With a smile towards the little ponies and Megan, the Moochick produced a heart-shaped locket and handed it to Megan. "Ah, here it is! The Rainbow of Light."

"Oh thank you, Mister Moochick, thank you so much!" Megan said gratefully.

"How does it work? " Fizzy asked curiously.

The Moochick smiled around at them. Then he started to scratch his head as if he was trying to remember something.

Megan giggled as did Firefly. She couldn't help it. Fizzy tried her best not to, but it was no use. Medley was the only one who was keeping a straight face. She glared at Firefly, Megan, and Fizzy, but mostly at Firefly and Fizzy, since they were supposed to be setting a good example for Megan, most of all, Firefly.

"Ah yes! Now I remember," the Moochick said. "The Rainbow of Light chooses its keeper and that is you, my dear," he pointed to Megan. "All you have to do is open it and command it to do something. Try it."

Megan nodded and opened up the Rainbow of Light. She then said in a commanding voice as if she were scolding her younger cousin, Danny, "Rainbow of Light, do your stuff!"

To everyone's surprise, the Rainbow of Light sped out of the locket at the sound of Megan's voice and swirled around. Megan smiled and Firefly nuzzled her sweet girl gently.

"Way to go, my sweet girl!" Firefly said happily.

"You said it!" Fizzy said. "That Rainbow is pretty!"

The Moochick nodded. "Now, Megan, right?"

Megan nodded. "Yes."

"You must pick a pony keeper for the Rainbow of Light. You will be its keeper first, but if you shall become injured and unable to use it, but you need its help, the Rainbow can be used by someone else. Now this choice must be made VERY carefully. The pony you choose must be able to be depended on at all times and any time. Also, whichever pony you choose, should you ever be in trouble elsewhere and need her assistance, the Rainbow of Light will get her for you. All you have to do is open up the Rainbow of Light, give it the order you need it to do, and it will get the pony you chose. It will come back here to Ponyland and shoot a colorful ribbon in the sky that will be seen only by the pony keeper. This is a protection in case you are ever captur_" the Moochick stopped at the look from Firefly. "...I mean if you're ever in trouble and can't get here for help."

Megan nodded to show that she understood.

"Well, I think that's it. Well, off you go now."

"Uh, Mister Moochick?" Fizzy asked.

"Yes?" the Moochick asked.

"Doesn't Megan have to pick someone first?"

The Moochick nodded and turned to Megan. "It's your choice, my dear. You and only you can make this choice. It must come from your heart."

Megan nodded and looked around at her three new friends. She really wasn't sure who she was going to pick. And as she gazed around at Firefly, Fizzy, and Medley, Megan was suddenly stuck in the middle between a rock and a hard place. This was a tough decision all right, but Megan knew she had to make it and soon.

Megan took one more glance around at her new friends and then heaved a sigh. She then blurted something out that made Firefly giggle. "Pony feathers!"

Firefly smiled and nuzzled her sweet girl gently. She definitely was rubbing off on her.

"It's okay, Megan," Fizzy assured her sincerely. "I won't be mad and neither will Medley or Firefly. Remember what the Moochick said?"

Megan nodded and she distinctly heard Firefly mumble, "At least someone does." She tried her hardest not to giggle.

"You need to make this decision with all your heart, sweetie," Medley finished. "You need to really think with your heart before deciding. Okay?"

Megan nodded as she closed her eyes for a moment and then said, "Okay. I made a decision."

Firefly, Fizzy, and Medley held their breath as did the Moochick. "Who are you going to choose, my dear?" the Moochick asked. "No time to waste, no time to waste, no time to waste!!"

Megan nodded as she took a deep breath and said, "The pony keeper for the Rainbow of Light is gonna be..." Megan took a minute to recheck in her mind and then she said, "I chose... Firefly."

Fizzy smiled as did Medley, but the Moochick was frowning. "Are you sure, my dear?"

Megan nodded.

"Are you absolutely sure?"

"I'm sure," Megan said. "I'm completely and totally sure."

The Moochick nodded and then he said, "Well, now that that is done, I guess there's nothing left to do. Be on your way. You need to get this one home by a certain time, yes?"

Firefly gasped and nearly jumped into the air. "Pony feathers!" she said. "Come on, my sweet girl. You can read to Ember next time you come. I'll come and get you tomorrow."

Megan nodded and thanked the Moochick for everything he had done.

"Thanks Mister Moochick!! Bye!!" Fizzy called as she left with her friends.

When they got back to Dream Castle, Firefly made sure Megan had her book bag and then she let her say goodbye to Powder, Sparkler, Cupcake, Fizzy, and Twilight. The other little ponies were around, but they were keeping out of sight so that Megan wouldn't feel overwhelmed again.

"I'll see ya later!" Fizzy said, nuzzling Megan. "It was nice meeting you."

"You too," Megan said, patting Fizzy's mane.

After Megan had said goodbye to Sparkler, Powder and Cupcake, she bent down to Ember's level and the baby pony crawled into her lap.

"You leave to go home?" Ember asked.

Megan nodded. "I'm afraid so," she said, stroking Ember's mane gently. "But I'll be back tomorrow. I promise. Firefly's going to come and get me."

Ember nodded, but she had a few tears in her eyes.

"Aw, it's okay, little one," Twilight said gently. "Megan will be back."

Megan nodded and patted Twilight's mane.

As Megan and Firefly left for the Rainbow and Aunt Abby's house, Megan gave Firefly a hug. "Thanks for everything, Firefly. Thanks a lot."

Firefly shook her head and nuzzled Megan gently. "It's no problem, my sweet girl. Really. I'm glad we met. Now, do you want me to pick you up at school tomorrow or wait until you get to your Aunt Abby's?"

"I guess when I get home," Megan said. "I call Aunt Abby's house 'home'. It's the only home I've ever known."

Firefly nodded. "Well, now you have two homes." She smiled.

Megan nodded and grinned fondly. "You're right," she said, patting Firefly's mane. "Now I have two homes." Megan then asked hopefully, "Firefly, can we do the double inside out loop, please?" She batted her green eyes at Firefly and Firefly couldn't resist.

"Okay. But hang on tight because I'm going to give you the full treat!"

Megan nodded and did so. Her wrist felt a lot better and she was able to hang on tighter. It still hurt, but not as badly as earlier.

As Firefly went into her famous trick, Megan let out a giggle and then burst out laughing. "Do it again, Firefly!! Please?"

"One more time and that's it for now, okay?" Firefly said, not believing her own words.

"Okay," Megan said with a sigh.

Firefly grinned and did the loop again. She was having as much fun as her sweet girl, but she had to get Megan home before her aunt worried.

As Firefly landed on the porch of Aunt Abby's house, Abby came out of the house and gasped. "Megan, thank goodness you're okay. And who is this?" she asked, gazing at Firefly. She blinked two times and then after she realized that she wasn't seeing things, she gave Firefly a small smile.

"Aunt Abby, this is Firefly. She's my new friend." Megan smiled as she patted Firefly's mane and then said, "My new best friend."

Firefly's heart melted at the sound of that and she nuzzled her sweet girl gently.

"Well, it's nice to meet you, Firefly," Abby said, patting Firefly's mane awkwardly. "I see you took good care of my favorite niece."

Megan giggled as Firefly nodded.

"Aunt Abby!" Megan said through giggles. She then dismounted and gave Firefly a hug. "I'll see you tomorrow?" Megan asked.

"Sure thing, my sweet girl. I'll pick you up around four o' clock? Is that okay, Miss... Miss..."

"Abby," Abby said, smiling at Firefly. "Just call me Abby."

"Is that okay, Abby?" Firefly asked.

Abby nodded. "It's more than okay. Maybe Julie would like to come, too."

Firefly nodded and smiled. She would convince her sweet girl to bring Julie to Ponyland soon. "Well, if Julie wants to, she's welcome to come to Ponyland." Firefly said. "The more the merrier."

Abby nodded. As she turned to walk into the house, her eyes fell upon Megan's bandaged arm and she frowned. "Megan, honey, how did you get hurt?"

"Tim and Gretchen, " Megan said, frowning and looking at the floor.

Abby nodded and glared out at the street.

"I took care of her," Firefly said. "And them. I did my famous double inside out loop and I don't think they're going to be bothering my sweet girl anymore."

Abby nodded and smiled fondly at Firefly. "That's a cute name for Megan," Abby said. "I think it suits her just fine."

Firefly nodded. "Me, too. Well, I'll see you tomorrow, okay, sweetie?" Firefly nuzzled Megan as she turned to leave.

Megan nodded and patted Firefly's mane as she gave her new best friend a hug. "See you tomorrow, Firefly," Megan said. "And thanks for everything again."

"No problem," Firefly said. "And you know what to do if those bullies pick on you tomorrow, right?"

Megan nodded and touched the neck of her jumpsuit lovingly. She pulled the Rainbow of Light out and smiled.

"Exactly," Firefly said. "All right. I'll see you tomorrow. I love you, honey."

"I love you, too," Megan said as she gave Firefly one last hug.

Megan smiled as she watched Firefly fly towards the Rainbow that was now visible in the sky among the trees and scattered sunlight. Aunt Abby had been right. Megan had made a new best friend. And as Megan walked into the house and got ready to have an after school snack, she smiled to herself. No matter what happened, there was always another Rainbow around the bend and it looked like Megan had found hers. Along with a new best friend.

Megan knew that Firefly would always be there for her and she loved her with all her heart. Megan was glad that she had met Firefly along with Medley and Fizzy. Megan was really looking forward to her next trip to Ponyland and she was also looking forward to sharing her new friends with Julie and their baby sister once she was born. Megan knew that Molly was going to love it there, too. Megan also had a feeling that Julie was going to love it in Ponyland once she went a couple of times. Megan was sure that Julie would even make a new best pony friend, too. After all, her little sister was shy, but very sweet. And besides, if you looked hard enough, you could find a Rainbow anywhere.


Tilly and Bess
by Sugarberry (

"What do you think Mom and Dad are up too?" queried Garnet of her husband, Wishbone, as the two walked from their Neighberry home to the restaurant that they now managed for Wishbone's parents. The Mom and Dad Garnet referred to however, were not Drifter and Twilight Jewel, but her own parents, Blackcap and Sassy, who were currently visiting the small town, staying with Wishbone's grandparents on their family farm. Whenever Blackcap and Sassy left their permanent home in New Pony, Garnet had learned, their was usually trouble ahoof.

"Maybe they just wanted to make sure they didn't miss our foal's birth," Wishbone suggested.

"That's a month away yet. And besides, my parents have never been big on nurturing family ties. There's something going on; I can tell by the shifty look in Dad's eyes."

Wishbone laughed. "There's always a shifty look in Blackcap's eyes."

"I suppose that's true," Garnet admitted on a sigh. "But even Mom seems edgy about something. And when I asked her how long she and Dad would be visiting, she changed the subject. They are definitely hiding something from us."

"Well, stop worrying your pretty head about it," ordered Wishbone, giving her a quick kiss. "Whatever mystery Blackcap and Sassy are holding back will most likely be revealed over dinner tonight, what with Gram and Gramps joining us. They've been thick as thieves this visit."

"That's what bothers me most."

* * *
The Right Place had been opened by Drifter and Twilight Jewel some four years earlier, and the restaurant had soon become a favorite haunt of the local populace as well as a sought-out stop for travelers. The quick and efficient service for daytime lunches became more formal and intimate when darkness fell and the lighting lent a softer, more mellow atmosphere to the stylishly decorated dining room.

Having her sights set on a more distinctive eatery, Twilight Jewel had convinced her husband to turn the operation of The Right Place over to their only son, Wishbone, when he had graduated from Pony Pride; and with a foal on the way, Wishbone and Garnet had been only too happy to step into a stable and lucrative position. With Twilight Jewel and Drifter now fine-tuning their latest venture, Wildwood, a premier restaurant in Hayton, Wishbone and Garnet were responsible for all decisions at The Right Place.

Not only had Wishbone accrued the management of the restaurant in Neighberry, but his parents had also included their home in the bargain. That part of the deal also included Wishbone's younger sister, Lollipop, who still lived at home while attending vocational school in culinary arts. She was a tremendous help to her brother and Garnet, having been involved with The Right Place since its inception and still carrying her share of responsibility for its smooth operation.

Lollipop, a young pink mare with soft blue curls, had been called "Little Miss Prissy" by her brother while she was growing up. Her mother had doted on this youngest member of the family and had always insisted on proper behavior and perfect coiffing to ensure that Lollipop's natural beauty was shown to its fullest extent. This attention to her looks could have thwarted Lollipop's personality, but she had grown up to be a lively and likeable mare who attracted friends like bees to honey.

This fact was obvious as the perky mare bounced between the kitchen and the dining area, helping with any problems that arose and pitching in when things got hectic. Wherever she went, she exchanged conversation with guests who seemed to crave her attention as much as they looked forward to a tasty meal. More than one young stallion found an excuse to speak with her concerning a perceived fault with the food or over the absence of some condiment or for advice on what to order, and none of them were disappointed in the cheerful and personal attention she gave them.

Even as Wishbone and Garnet came into the diner, Lollipop was helping one bashful male clean up the soda he had clumsily spilled while under her spell. She noted the entrance of her brother and sister-in-law with a wave of her hoof and a roll of her eyes. It was not the first time Crackerjack's nerves, when around Lollipop, had caused such a mess.

Leaving Wishbone to visit with several of his lifelong friends who were lunching at The Right Place, Garnet made her way to the office and stifled the feeling of unease that her parents' visit to Neighberry had prompted by burying herself in the business accounts.

* * *
"They're late, Wishbone," Garnet hissed. "They said they'd be here by seven-thirty. Where are they?"

"Gram probably couldn't decide which scarf to wear," Wishbone teased. "They'll be here, you'll see."

The door opened to admit one customer just then, and Garnet smiled her welcome. "Xavier! You made good time."

"Hi, Garnet... Wishbone," the goldenrod yellow stallion responded. "I ducked out of work early." He glanced around the busy room. "Lollipop's here, isn't she?"

"She's in the kitchen overseeing a special meal for some of our family. Mom and Dad are running late, and Lollipop's afraid the chowder will curdle."

"Sassy and Blackcap are in town?" queried Xavier. "I haven't seen them in awhile."

"Well, since you're here, too, you can eat with us," Wishbone offered. "Gram and Gramps will join us as well."

"I wouldn't want to intrude."

"Nonsense," Garnet grinned. "You're as good as family, being such a close friend of both Chocolate Chip and Lollipop." Xavier had become very well acquainted with Chocolate Chip- Wishbone and Lollipop's eldest sibling- in New Pony and had fallen for Lollipop the first time he met her.

"I talked with Chocolate Chip over the phone Wednesday; I hear you're not the only one expecting, Garnet."

"Isn't it exciting? She and Wigwam couldn't be happier."

"And I'm happy for all of you... and maybe a little jealous."

"Your day will come," Garnet said, winking at the stallion. "Oh, and here's Lollipop now."

Xavier turned to watch as the pink mare came toward them, and his face lit up at the sight of her. Wishbone and Garnet exchanged an understanding glance and quietly faded into the background.

"Lolly, you're prettier than ever," Xavier said, reaching out to touch a soft curl brushing her cheek.

"It must be my new eye shadow," she grinned. "I didn't expect you so soon."

"I couldn't wait to see you; there's something I'd like to..."

Their conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Sassy and Blackcap along with Camomile and Forester. Lollipop deserted Xavier to greet her grandparents and escort them to the table that awaited the family dinner. Garnet settled her own parents while Wishbone indicated a chair for Xavier next to Lollipop. That mare, however, was intent on supervising the help, leaving Garnet free to enjoy the company of her parents.

Sassy smiled at her daughter. "It looks like you and Wishbone are doing a bang-up job here; look at the crowd!"

"We can't take too much of the credit, Mom. Wishbone's folks and Lollipop did the hard work of getting it all started."

Blackcap grunted. "Don't sell yourself short, Garnet. We all know you could bilk a gull of his jangles faster than..." Suddenly aware of the censuring looks cast his way, Blackcap stopped short and cleared his throat. "What I mean to say is, anyone of your expertise would be a success at whatever you set your mind to." Feeling certain that he had averted any embarrassment of his daughter due to her background, Blackcap turned to Wishbone. "How much do you rake in here in any given day?"

"Dad, that's none of your business!" Garnet scolded. "If anyone should be answering personal questions here, it's you. You've been in the neighborhood for a week now and have hardly shown your face in town. Just what are you up to, anyway?"

"Tsk, tsk, Garnet, dear," Camomile gently scolded. "That's no way to talk to your father."

"My daughter's right, though, Cammie," Blackcap defended Garnet. "And it's why we're all here." The dark stallion leaned back in his chair, a huge grin on his face. "Your mother and I are settling down here, Garnet, my girl... outside of town."

This news was met with a dead silence. Garnet's mouth dropped open; Wishbone appeared stunned; Lollipop, who was hovering over a serving dish, froze while a dollop of spaghetti slithered to the floor; and Xavier looked disbelieving.

Forester broke through the tension created by the announcement. "Sassy and Blackcap have agreed to help on the farm while doing... what they do. It'll be just the thing for Camomile to have Sassy there to do the gardening and canning and other heavy work, and Blackcap will keep up the field work and the building repair."

"It's just what Forester and I have always dreamed of, someone to help out as we got older. With Drifter and Twilight Jewel gone and you kids busy with your own lives, we asked Blackcap and Sassy to consider this move; and I'm happy to say that they accepted willingly." Camomile smiled at Blackcap and patted Sassy's hoof.

Garnet found her voice. "Mom... Dad... is this on the up-and-up?"

"What do you think we are?" Blackcap huffed, then shook his hoof through the air in denial. "Forget I said that. What I mean is, we felt at home here when we spent those weeks on the farm after you kids got married. Your mother and I both missed the work and the company of Cammie and Forester when we got back to New Pony. We realized that, at this point in our lives, we like the country better than the city."

Lollipop grinned. "I, for one, think this is great! Sassy, you always know how to have fun; and, Blackcap, you'll keep things interesting."

"I've always heard it's difficult for two women to live in the same house," Wishbone noted.

"Ah, but we won't be living with Camomile and Forester," explained Sassy, "at least not for long. No one ever bought the old brick house down the road after Crescent and Tuffet moved to town."

"And did we get a deal!" crowed Blackcap, rubbing his front hooves together.

"Tuffet realized that the old house needed a lot of work and was more than glad to receive your dad's offer," explained Forester, seeing Garnet's look of dismay.

"Blackcap's always wanted to fix up an old place," offered Sassy.

"Yeah, I've been watching those shows on TV; it's a piece of cake," Blackcap beamed.

Wishbone shook his head while Xavier's lips twitched with laughter.

"Well, it sounds like you'll be too busy for the foreseeable future to get into any trouble," Garnet stated, looking more relaxed.

Blackcap reached across the table and chucked her chin. "You forget the scope of the internet, my girl."

Garnet groaned.
* * *
"Thanks for hangin' around to walk me home," Lollipop said, stifling a yawn. She had just handled a dispute between the head chef and one of his assistants, and now wanted nothing more than to escape her responsibilities and get a good night's sleep.

"It's the least I could do," stated Xavier. "You were a pro at getting those two hotheads to see reason."

"Chefs are often volatile."

"You could have let Wishbone handle it."

"He was anxious to get Garnet home; she was looking frazzled after her parents' announcement."

"It was a surprise; when I've seen Sassy and Blackcap in New Pony, they've seemed happy enough."

"From what I understand, they moved around a lot while their family was growing up. I imagine that the stability of Gram and Gramp's farmstead looks kind of appealing."

"It'll be a change for them. Which reminds me, I haven't had a chance to tell you my news. Guess who's the new marketing manager at my company?"

Picking up on the pride in his voice, Lollipop squealed. "You, Xavier? You got the promotion?"

"It's official as of Monday morning."

Lollipop threw her forelegs around the stallion's neck. "I'm so proud of you, Xavier!" She gave him a resounding kiss. "You'll do a great job."

Xavier took advantage of the opportunity in which he found himself. "It's an important position and the pay raise is substantial. It's got me thinking, Lolly. I'd be able to swing a home for the two of us..."

"Whoa, Xavier." Lollipop drew back. "What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about the two of us getting married, Lollipop."

"You can't be serious!"

"I wouldn't be talking about it if I wasn't serious. You will marry me, won't you?"

"Not any time in the near future! I've got my own plans for the time being. And I'm having too much fun." She tweaked his ear. "You're older than I am, remember? I've got to catch up."

"But I love you, Lollipop. I thought you loved me, too."

"I do, Xavier. But I'm not ready to settle down. I've got school to finish..."

"You've got one more year of culinary arts, right? We could plan a wedding for next June."

"I'm beginning to think I should take some management courses, as well. Garnet and Wishbone are already thinking about expanding the scope of The Right Place. We'd like to add a banquet hall and give some diversity to the menus and..."

"I thought you were anxious to get out of Neighberry and come to New Pony."

"I was... once. But with so much changing here now, I'd rather stay and be in on the fun. Just think what it will be like to have Sassy and Blackcap around on a constant basis. There'll be no end to the excitement!"

"I got the impression that Garnet's folks want to settle down to some serious work."

"But you know Blackcap. He'll find some way to stir things up."

"If it's excitement you want, New Pony has plenty of that. You could still go to school there and have your choice of which restaurant you work at."

"But don't you see? None of them would be The Right Place? And all my friends are here. Our group at the vocational school is really close, and we spend a lot of time together even outside of classes."

"Is that what this is all about... that you're interested in someone else?"

"I'm interested in everyone I meet. And there are any number of ponies I like very well, a number of them stallions, if that's what you're asking."

His mouth set in a grim line, Xavier remained silent as they walked on. Could he have been so wrong of the feelings that he had thought he and Lollipop shared? When they were approaching the house, he tried one more time to explain his position. "Lollipop, I..."

"You're asking things of me that I'm not yet ready to give," Lollipop brushed him off. "I'm not ready to settle down." She slipped ahead of him through the front door, then turned briefly. "The guest room is ready for you. I'm too tired to talk any more tonight." She left Xavier to himself.

The stallion watched the young mare go up the stairs, then made his way to the small but comfortable guest room. For a long time he stood staring out the window, looking for his future in the murky shadows that crept slowly across the lawn, driven by the rising moon. He had come to Neighberry with the expectation that Lollipop would be jubilant about his promotion for the same reason that he was... that now they would be able to financially start a home of their own and become a real family like Chocolate Chip and Wigwam and Garnet and Wishbone.

He had miscalculated, however. Lollipop did not love him in the same way that he loved her. She was not ready for a lifetime commitment. What choice did that leave him? He could wait until she was ready to embrace marriage, or he could shake the dust of Neighberry off his hooves and move on. Surely, in a city the size of New Pony, there must be someone who was right for him.

By the time sleep claimed his unhappy thoughts, Xavier had made up his mind.

* * *
Groggily, Garnet made it down the stairs and to the back of the house, working out her aches and pains as she went. With the foal's due date closing in, she was having a difficult time finding a comfortable position in which to sleep and often got up early even after a late night at the restaurant. She was surprised to find Xavier in the kitchen ahead of her.

"'Morning. You and Lollipop must have big plans for the day."

"I do, anyway. I didn't get a chance to tell you last night that I'm headed for Happy Hollow for the rest of the weekend."

"You're leaving so soon?" Garnet looked bewildered.

"I haven't been home for ages, and Mom has been threatening to invade my place at New Pony if I don't visit soon."

"Parents can be trying," Garnet agreed. "When I was growing up, Blackcap and Sassy couldn't get rid of me fast enough; now it's like they're trying to make up for lost time." She looked more closely at Xavier and frowned. "Was your bed lumpy? You look like you didn't sleep a wink."

"Thanks," Xavier grinned, but without any true feeling. "I've been promoted at work and it brings a lot of new responsibilities with it; I've been anxious about meeting my boss's expectations." Xavier brought the coffee pot to the table and poured a cup for Garnet and one for himself.

"You'll do just fine. Chocolate Chip has always had the greatest confidence in you; and from what I've seen, I'd have to agree."

"This conversation sounds deep for this early in the morning," Wishbone yawned as he came into the room. "Why's everyone up already?"

"Xavier is going to visit his family and wants to get an early start."

"Too bad. I though we'd have a chance to throw the football around a bit." Wishbone accepted a cup of steaming coffee and sat down at the table. "Where's Lollipop?"

"She was bushed by the time we left the restaurant," Xavier explained. "I think we should let her sleep."

"There are some donuts in the box on top of the refrigerator," Garnet indicated before the stallion had a chance to sit down. "And get the milk, too, beings you're up."

"Glad to be of help," Xavier said, doing Garnet's bidding. "I appreciate the fact that you guys have been letting me sleep here when I'm in town. As a matter of fact..." Xavier went to his backpack by the back door and pulled out a package. "This is in thanks for your hospitality."

"Oh, Xavier, you're too sweet! You had that beautiful fruit basket delivered as a housewarming gift when we moved here." Garnet tore the pastel green paper off the box. "Wishbone, look! These are so elegant!" She pulled out a finely-designed leaded crystal salt and pepper shaker set. "Thank you!"

"No trouble. Just make sure you use them."

"Are you saying we need to spice up our lives?" queried Wishbone.

Xavier laughed. "Sassy and Blackcap will take care of that."

* * *
By the time Lollipop lagged downstairs, she found her brother and sister-in-law about to leave the house. She brushed her hair back sleepily and looked confused. "Xavier isn't up yet?" She yawned. She missed the startled look that Garnet and Wishbone shared.

"Xavier left already," Wishbone informed his sister.

"Left?" Lollipop asked, her gaze finally sharpening. "Where'd he go?"

"To his folks in Happy Hollow."

"You mean, he's gone?"

"That's what I said, isn't it?"

"You didn't know of his plans?" Garnet interjected cautiously.

Lollipop was silent for several moments. "He must be angry with me."

"For a good reason?" Wishbone probed.

Lollipop waved her hoof through the air in dismissal. "He had the ridiculous notion that I was ready to marry him."

"He proposed?" Garnet gasped.

"He talked of marriage and family." Lollipop looked at Wishbone and Garnet accusingly. "All this talk about babies and stuff must have got him thinking."

"What did you tell him?"

"That I have no intention of settling down until I've had some fun."

"Oh, great," Wishbone grimaced. "Chocolate Chip and Wigwam all over again."

"No," Lollipop assured him. "I explained that he has to wait a few years. He's had a chance to live... I haven't."

"And he accepted that?"

"Sure. What else could he do?"

"Strangle your pretty little throat," Wishbone muttered while Garnet pointed out the obvious.

"He loves you."

"And I love him... I think. But there's so much to do yet. I'm not going to get tied down to one stallion and a parcel of brats yet." She grinned at Garnet. "No offense." She headed for the kitchen and a late breakfast. "I'm meeting Dazzler for some shopping; and without Xavier hanging around, we'll probably meet-up with some of the guys from school." She waved her hoof flippantly. "So, you see, it's better that Xavier left."

Wishbone and Garnet stared at her retreating figure, then turned to one another. "Poor Xavier," they said in perfect unison.

* * *
The first pony Xavier saw when he arrived in happy Hollow was an old schoolmate, and she was like an answer to a prayer for the beleaguered stallion.

"Xavier!" the mare called. "What a pleasant surprise! No one mentioned you'd be coming for a visit."

"Hi, Mona. This is sort of a last minute thing."

"Well, you know you're always welcome. Your folks will be delighted." Her sparkling glance verified her own approval, so at odds to Lollipop's cold dismissal. Xavier knew he had made the right decision in coming here.

"Maybe you and I could have supper at the diner later."

A dimpled grin lit Mona's common face. "I'd like that."

"Eight o'clock?"

"I'll be waiting."

* * *
"I'd forgotten how good the brats were here," Xavier mumbled through a mouthful of bratwurst, bun, and kraut.

"Remember how you and the guys used to pig-out just to see who could eat the most?" Mona giggled.

"How could I forget? We made ourselves sick more than once."

"Which reminds me... Jeremy moved to Riverbend. He's opening a print shop."

"The last I heard he was working with his dad at the mill."

"I guess they had a big argument and Jeremy walked out... for good. Jeremy's mom cried for days."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"I'm surprised that your mom let you out of her sight tonight. She's been complaining that you never come home anymore."

"She's throwing together a big luncheon for tomorrow, getting all the relatives together. She was so busy making phone calls that she didn't even notice that I left."

"I doubt that. She talks about you all the time; she's very proud of you." Mona took a sip of her soda before continuing. "Yolanda tells me there's a mare who's caught your eye."

"My sister is a gossip, and you know it," Xavier hedged.

"She also says you're a regular visitor to Neighberry."

Swirling the straw through the ice chips in his soda, Xavier gave his response a moment's thought. His disappointment was still too new; he did not want to discuss Lollipop with Mona. With his eyes still on his soda, he began talking.

"I became acquainted with Chocolate Chip while she worked in New Pony. She had an apartment near mine, and our walk to work coincided, so we became friends. Through her, I got to know her family. I was in Dream Valley for her brother's wedding and again when Chocolate Chip married Wigwam. Both couples are expecting now," Xavier added with a glance at Mona.

"I'm following, but where does Neighberry come into this?"

"That's where Chocolate Chip's home was. Her brother, Wishbone, and his wife, Garnet, moved back there last spring to take over the family business which also involved a sister, Lollipop. Through this all, I also met Garnet's parents who are now moving to Neighberry from New Pony. I had dinner with the bunch of them last night."

Mona wrinkled her brow in thought. "Let's see- Chocolate Chip is married, as is Garnet. That leaves Lollipop, the one you avoided telling me much about. I've never known you to be shy about your conquests, Xavier."

Xavier forced a smile. "Not a conquest, Mona, not by a long shot." He considered his next words carefully. "What do you think of marriage, Mona?"

"Is that were you're headed with this Lollipop?"

"I, at least, had given it some thought."

"What? She turned you down?"

"Very vocally."

"Xavier, I'm sorry." Mona reached out to take his hoof. "Anything I can do to help?"

"Marry me, Mona," he quipped.

The mare rolled her eyes. "We've been friends since kindergarten, but I'm not going to turn into a New Pony socialite for you or anybody. It's never going to happen."

"Who are you waiting for?"

Mona's expression grew thoughtful. "Some stranger who'll come to town and sweep me off my hooves. He'd buy up one of the valley farms and we'd live happily ever after. Crazy, huh?"

"He's one lucky stallion, whomever he turns out to be."

"Too bad he's only a figment of my imagination," grinned the mare.

* * *
By the time Monday night rolled around, Lollipop was feeling nervous as she waited for Xavier's call. It never had failed that, after a weekend visit to Neighberry, he would call to tell her how much he missed her; and she would share with him whatever incidents had occurred locally since he left. It had become a welcome ritual that Lollipop looked forward to. She knew now, however, that something was forever changed in their relationship.

Xavier had asked her to be his wife. She had never expected such a proposal at this stage of the game. She had always been her parents' little sweetheart, and she was aware that she had been spoiled. Having Xavier pay her court had been accepted as her due; she had never given any thought as to how the stallion might see her open attraction to him or her obvious enjoyment of his company. When, Lollipop wondered, did this all become so serious that Xavier was now thinking of love and marriage?

Of course, they had declared their love openly enough; but the saying it was the easy part. The responsibility that went with it was more difficult, and Lollipop was mature enough to admit that she was not ready to commit her life to one stallion for the rest of her life.

Lollipop paced around the deserted kitchen. Why, oh why, did Xavier have to complicate things by proposing to her? Life had been good the way it had been going, with his monthly visits to Neighberry and a frequent exchange of e-mail messages. She could use him as a sounding board for her ideas, and he could complain about the sniping that went on at his workplace.

That brought Lollipop to a halt. Xavier had gotten a promotion. She was not surprised that his company had awarded his abilities; he was intelligent and conscientious and committed. The down side was that he would be busier than ever and responsible for more decision-making which meant that he would have less time for her.

Maybe that's why the phone had not rung yet. Maybe he was still at work. Maybe she should call him just to be sure. Maybe...

No, Lollipop upbraided herself. They owed nothing to one another. And he had left without so much as saying goodbye. Maybe he had no intention of ever talking with her again. Maybe he was too selfish to see her need to remain free for a few more years. If that were the case, good riddance to Xavier. She had plenty of friends locally. Hadn't Angus asked her to attend the play the theater department was putting on? And didn't Sourdough want her to go to his grandparent's anniversary party with him? Why was she standing by the telephone anyway?

Lollipop flicked her tail and walked off to prepare a menu for tomorrow's class.

* * *
It had been a depressing week for Xavier, what with Lollipop's words coming back constantly to haunt him. He would never forget her startled look when he talked of marriage or her words, "You can't be serious!" as if she had never even considered that possibility. How could two ponies have been on such different paths without knowing it?

And then there was Mona. Xavier had never seriously considered her anything other than a great pal, but she could have humored him a bit when he teased her with his "Marry me" comment. It would have done his self-esteem a world of good if she had played along and expressed even a tiny desire for him.

He was thankful for the demands of his new position which had kept him totally occupied through the work-week; but now, on Friday night, he was at a loss of what to do to keep himself from moping around his apartment. He had even considered calling Lollipop, but remembering her quick tongue, Xavier decided against it. It struck him then that Sassy had asked him to look in on an elderly mare that Sassy had introduced to him and Chocolate Chip. Tonight would be a good time to take care of that.

The part of town where Tilly lived was not the best of neighborhoods, and Xavier kept a brisk pace until he reached her apartment on East Graham street. He knocked three times before the doorknob began to turn and the door opened to reveal Tilly leaning heavily against an overstuffed chair nearby.

"Hi, Tilly. How are things going with you?"

"I thought I'd find Griswold behind that there door," she admitted, looking a little shaken.

"Tilly, don't tell me you couldn't make the rent again," Xavier said, closing the door and helping the mare to the couch. He noted that her limp seemed to be worsening and she appeared to have lost some weight.

Tilly sat heavily and did not look directly at Xavier as she answered. "I haven't been able to get to the bank."

"So write a check."

"Griswold says he don't trust my checks."

Xavier raised an eyebrow. "And why is that, Tilly?"

Tilly huffed and sent an embarrassed glance his way. "The last one bounced."

"Tilly, Tilly," said Xavier, shaking his head as he sat on the sofa next to her. "What did you get yourself into this time?" Tilly's mouth closed as if glued and a charged silence hung between the two ponies. "Tilly, you're going to have to tell me sooner or later if you want this straightened out."

A sigh preceded the explanation. "Fleeter stopped by, all excited about some new venture that his cousin had lined up for him. All he needed was some jangles to put toward the inventory. He said he'd pay me back by the first of the month, but I haven't seen him yet."

"And you won't see him again, until he needs another loan. Oh, Tilly, when are you ever going to learn? Sassy told you never to give that scoundrel any of your money."

"Well, and Sassy ain't here anymore either, is she?"

"She'll have to come back to move out of her place," Xavier noted. "And I can't believe she didn't make arrangements for someone to look in on you."

"Well, maybe she did. But a lot of good it did. The gal never showed."

"Who is she? Maybe I can talk to her."

"She's my niece, although I haven't seen her since she was a young filly. Sassy did some checkin' and found out that she was movin' here to New Pony and got in touch with her. Didn't hear a word from her myself."

"Surely you have her name and address."

Tilly waved her hoof in the direction of a cluttered table where piles of papers and stacks of dirty dishes shared space. "Sassy wrote it down. Doesn't help me none. No phone, you know. Can't walk far, either. Might as well..." Tilly's voice broke off, closer to tears than Xavier had ever seen her.

He awkwardly patted her hoof until she had control of her emotions again. During that time, Xavier thought back to his first introduction to Tilly. He and Chocolate Chip had showed up on her doorstep on an errand for Sassy, and Xavier had been put off by her dirty apartment and her decrepit figure. All he could think of was to get away from the clutter and stay away; but Chocolate Chip had responded to the mare like they had been friends for life; and in the weeks that followed, Xavier had often accompanied Chocolate Chip to visit Tilly and had even learned to enjoy those times. Now his heart went out to her in her aloneness.

"I'm sorry I haven't been coming over like Chocolate Chip and I used to do, Tilly. I got caught up in my own affairs." He smiled a crooked smile. "You're now looking at the new manager of marketing at Crestline."

Wiping away a teardrop, Tilly managed a smile in return. "So you got yourself promoted, did ya? I'd say it's about time."

"So now, knowing that my job is secure, I'll be able to spend more time with you, Tilly."

A bit of the old spirit came back into Tilly's eyes. "I'm guessin' you have better ways to spend your Friday nights than sittin' with an old mare." She was sharp enough to notice a shadow pass over the stallion's face, and she was instantly on the offensive. "What's up, sonny?"

With no intention of doing so, Xavier had soon divulged his bleak experience of the first proposal he had ever made. Tilly was a sympathetic listener, and his troubles soon eclipsed her own.

"Well, well, so the little tease didn't want ya," she muttered when he finally fell silent. "I thought she was flighty when I met her at Chocolate Chip's wedding there in Dream Valley."

"She's not a tease, Tilly. She's just young and enthusiastic."

A snort greeted that statement. "She's a piece of baggage that you're better off to leave behind. That flirty kind are nothing but trouble."

Xavier did not agree, but it helped sooth his ruffled esteem to have someone defend him. "She turned me down, so it's out of my hooves now," he shrugged.

"What you need is to get out more and meet more mares," Tilly advised. She looked at him slyly. "Or maybe one of those up-and-comers you work with."

"They either aren't looking or have already found their match."

The stallion had such a dismal look about him that Tilly turned a little flirty herself. She batted her flimsy eyelashes and smiled, revealing the gaps in her teeth, and purred, "Ya wouldn't be lookin' for an older woman, now, would ya?"

Her coyness caused Xavier to blush, and the two of them broke into a healing laughter that ended with both of them feeling more at peace with the world. Surprising the pair, Xavier leaned over and kissed Tilly on the cheek. "You're a blessing, Tilly," he said. "Thank you."

Tilly patted his cheek. "You, too, sweetie."

"Enough of that," Xavier grinned, getting to his hooves. "How many jangles do you need for this Griswold?"

Hearing her reply, Xavier looked around the ratty apartment. His first thought was that the monthly payments were way too high, but he realized that it was Tilly's sloppy housekeeping that gave the space its shabby appearance. Every newspaper, every shopping bag, every scarf and ribbon, every knick-knack, every cat hair- Xavier shuddered as the long-haired gray wrapped itself around his legs- that had ever entered the house was here, sitting in cluttered disarray. Dishes were seldom washed, the floor was rarely swept- Did Tilly even own a vacuum?- and the windows were... hazy.

"I'll take care of the payment this time, Tilly; but you've got to promise me not to let Fleeter bamboozle you out of any more of your jangles."

"The only way he'll ever set hoof into this room again is if he throws the jangles through the door first," Tilly unwillingly promised.

"Okay, the next thing we've got to do is locate this niece of yours." He walked to the table and rifled through the piles of mail, papers, and notes until he came to one that he recognized as Sassy's hoofwriting. "Bess?" he cocked his head at Tilly.

"Elly's daughter. Schoolteacher or somethin' like that. A gangly, freckle-faced filly, she was."

"There's no address, but there is a telephone number. I'll try to get in touch with her tomorrow." Xavier tucked the note in his backpack. "Is there anything else I can do for you tonight, Tilly?"

Tilly's gaze flicked away from Xavier's. "Well, I suppose I could use some milk."

"You don't have any milk?" Xavier glanced at the refrigerator and wondered what he would find if he opened the door, but he was not brave enough to face the horrors that might lurk there.

"Fluffums had the last of it yesterday," she admitted.

Xavier glared at the cat, sending it scuttling under the sofa. "What else do you need?"

By the time Xavier had finished Tilly's list of grocery items, his face had assumed a menacing scowl. That Tilly was homebound with no one to look out for her irked him. When he made contact with this niece of hers, she was going to get an earful of choice comments.

* * *
When Xavier came back to Tilly's apartment, loaded down with grocery items, he heard raised voices before he even opened the door. Walking in, he found Tilly braced against the table, her chin stubbornly jutted out, facing down a middle-aged, no-nonsense sort of stallion. "Griswold, I assume," he drawled as he walked across the room to stand next to Tilly, adding the overflowing grocery bags to the mess already on the table.

"And who might you be?" growled Griswold, his eyes taking in the neat, young stallion with mistrust.

"I'm one of Tilly's friends," Xavier growled back. "And I'd hate to think that you've been harassing her."

"If you call collecting the rent harassment, then that's exactly what I'm doing," the stallion fumed. "She's behind... again! I warned her that she's expected to pay on time like all my other tenants."

"You could have saved yourself a trip; I was just at your place with the money, but you weren't home." Holding out the required jangles, Xavier continued, "I assume this clears Tilly's debt, and you can leave now."

Grabbing the jangles as if they might disappear, Griswold headed for the door with a warning. "No more delays in the future now, you hear?"

As the door slammed shut, Xavier turned to Tilly. "I'm sorry you had to put up with that oaf."

Tilly sighed. "It was my fault. I've gotta get my life cleaned up." She brushed at the dust on the thin strip of tabletop that was still visible.

"One thing is for sure- You've got to take better care of yourself." He began taking items out of the brown bags. "I got supper from the deli."

"That sure looks good," smiled Tilly, looking at the plastic containers of hot food eagerly. "I'm mighty hungry, and that's a fact." Her grin broadened. "The next time you fall in love, Xavier, you just bring the gal around to me. I'll set her straight on what a great catch you are."

Xavier rolled his eyes. "Right now, Tilly, you're all the woman I can handle."

* * *
The first thing on Xavier's mind the next morning was the phone call he was determined to make to Tilly's niece. Thinking about the inevitable confrontation, Xavier wondered what kind of mare this Bess was. Judging by Tilly's years, Bess must be of an age with his own mother, Xavier calculated... and a schoolteacher, Tilly had said.

While punching in the telephone number that Sassy had given for Bess, Xavier envisioned the pony with whom he would soon be talking. She would look like Tilly but would not have the caring disposition that was at the heart of Tilly's personality. He was therefore surprised to hear a soft, cultured voice sound on the other end of the line after the fifth ring which put him in mind of his favorite aunt back in Happy Hollow. Yet he knew his own aunt would never have ignored the needs of any of her relations, so he refused to allow the sound of the pleasant voice influence him in the least.

"You have an Aunt Tilly, I believe?" he queried without any preliminary introduction.

There was a pause as the mare considered this abrupt question. "With whom am I speaking?" she finally responded.

"This is a friend of your aunt's. I thought you should be aware of some problems Tilly has been having."

"And your name is...?" the voice cooled perceptibly.

"Xavier," the stallion snapped. "Who I am is irrelevant, however. Tilly is the one at stake here."

"Can I presume that you are acquainted with a mare named Sassy?" the mare drawled.

"So you have talked with Sassy?"

"No... not really. I did find a message on my machine."

"So you were informed of the problem and ignored it," Xavier stated fiercely.

There was a pregnant pause. "I was informed that Aunt Til would probably feel lonesome when this Sassy left town, and that she'd probably appreciate a visit from me when I got settled."

"And are you settled yet?" Xavier asked critically. "Enough food, a roof over your head..."

The mare had obviously reached her limit. "Whoever you are, sir, I have heard enough!" The slamming of the receiver was the next sound Xavier heard.

"Great!" Xavier moaned. "She isn't going to be any help at all!"

* * *
Walking across town, Xavier mumbled to himself. "A perfectly beautiful day, and what am I doing? I'm off to visit an aging and feisty mare who has a cat I abhor and a house crawling with dust bunnies." For a fleeting moment, he pictured instead the young and vivacious Lollipop; but he forced her memory aside. He had called Sassy last evening, knowing that she and Blackcap were currently at Forester and Camomile's place. He had wanted to touch base with her in regard to Tilly's situation. As fate would have it, Lollipop was visiting her grandpaents at just that time, and it was she who answered the phone.

Hearing her voice, Xavier had felt a great loss. But her dismissal of his suit had hurt him deeply, and he could not forget that. With a calmness that he was hard-pressed to maintain, he had responded to her hello.

"Lollipop... I didn't expect to find you in the country."

"Nor did I expect to hear your voice," Lollipop admitted. She had given up on ever hearing from Xavier again, and found her heartbeat racing with pleasure. "How's it goin'?

"Fine," Xavier untruthfully replied. "Just fine. How are your classes for this semester?"

"We're arranging a formal dinner for the faculty- the pressure's on!" We've been having a blast, though, coming up with a splendid menu. And how about you , Xavier? Are you wowing them as manager?"

Xavier chuckled. "I'm holding my own. Lollipop, is Sassy around? I really need to speak with her."

Xavier did not begin to realize how his abrupt end to their conversation numbed the mare's heart. He learned from Sassy, however, that she had indeed left a concise message at Bess's number informing her of the necessity to keep a close eye on her aunt. Sassy was dismayed to hear that Tilly had run out of food and had been fleeced by Fleeter and hounded by Griswold. Her comments concerning Bess's lack of compassion for her aging aunt still burned Xavier's ears.

Before he knew it, Xavier was at Tilly's front door. His knock was answered almost immediately, which was a surprise in itself for Tilly could not move easily. He was more surprised when he saw the mare who opened the door, for it was not Tilly. Rather than a limping, gap-toothed crone, this was a radiant, sweet-faced angel.

"Is Tilly home?" he queried, finding that he did not really care if she was or not, as long as he could gaze upon this apparition for a few moments longer.

Before the mare could answer, Xavier heard Tilly cackle in the background. "It's you, young fella," she called. "Didn't expect to see you again so soon."

"Just checking up on you, Tilly." Xavier had to force his eyes away from the fetching pony who still held the door open, surveying him with beautiful, inquisitive lavender eyes. "You haven't let that cat eat all your food away from you already, I hope."

The feline in question was sleeping on the couch next to Tilly; his only response to Xavier was to open one eye and shortly close it in what appeared to be a wink; his bushy tail then curled up over his nose as if to blot out Xavier's interruption.

"Fluffums and I are doin' just great, Xavier, now that Bess's here," Tilly grinned, nodding at the mare that had admitted Xavier. Tilly's eyes twinkled as she watched the two ponies who were now staring at each other in open-mouthed disbelief. Tilly, having been treated to Bess's retelling of the irate phone call from an uncouth pony called Xavier, had kept quiet about the handsome young stallion and now waited in gleeful anticipation as to how the two would react to one another, seeing each other in the living flesh.

"You're Xavier?" gasped Bess, the angelic eyes that Xavier had noted now flashing fire. "And just what do you think you're doing here?"

"I was concerned about Tilly. I wasn't sure you'd bother to come around." Xavier subconsciously noted that anger turned the mare's lavender eyes a deep purple.

"Bother?!!" the mare seethed. "You've made a great deal of assumptions about me, sir. Number one, you seem to think I purposely ignored Aunt Til. What you didn't bother to ascertain was that I was unavoidably detained in arriving in New Pony and didn't get my forwarded messages until yesterday,. You also assumed I'd discuss my aunt with you, a perfect stranger, without a word of introduction. For all I knew, you were some kind of con artist."

Xavier and Tilly exchanged a quick glance. What would Bess say when she learned that Sassy was a con artist, or at least had been, along with Blackcap?

But Bess kept up her tirade. "And worst of all, you were abhorrently rude, taking it upon yourself to criticize a pony of whom you knew nothing, assuming I was some sort of uncaring worm, a description more aptly applied to yourself."

"I apologize," Xavier said, his humble words taking the wind from Bess's full-blown sails. Xavier turned to Tilly. "I expected someone... older," he said with a raised brow.

"Heh, heh," Tilly chortled. "She's actually my great-niece. And she's not gangly anymore, nor does she have such a crop of freckles as she used to." Tilly winked at Xavier. "Not bad, is she?"

A mortified Bess blushed a rosy red as Tilly and Xavier turned their complete attention to assessing Bess's charms. There was complete silence as Xavier studied the mare's soft yellow coloring, her sky blue hair, and her near absence of freckles. "Pretty enough," he finally stated, "but she's a bit of a scold." This designation nearly set Bess on another lecture of Xavier's faults, but Tilly's laughter silenced the mare, who scowled at her aunt.

"Not to worry, sonny," Tilly said to the stallion as if Bess was nonexistent. "I'll take care of things, just like I said I would. You'll soon forget that lass from Neighberry. Come, sit here beside me. Bess was just fixin' some tea and biscuits." Tilly ousted the sleeping cat at her side, and Xavier took the feline's place while Bess, after a moment's fuming, marched across the room to fix the tea tray.

Tilly leaned closer to Xavier and whispered loudly enough for Bess to hear. "She'll come around, you'll see." She chuckled deeply. "Maybe someday, you and me'll be related, Xavier."

Bess dropped the sugar bowl and Xavier was lost to a coughing spell. Tilly only beamed. She had thought her life would be uneventful with Sassy out of the neighborhood; but, obviously, she was wrong. Life was looking up once more.


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