Chapter 25: Tamara

The pink unicorn swung open the clinic door and stood surveying her surroundings. It wasn’t the ramshackle hole-in-the-wall place she had expected to find her sister, she admitted to herself, noting the modern, tidily-kept office she found herself in. This was a rather posh set-up… by Tabitha’s standards.

There was a mare she recognized behind the desk. “Tabby,” Strawberry said, frowning as she studied a post-it note, “I forgot to ask, are you giving Mrs. Windermare a call back, or should I?”

“Look again, Strawberry,” said the newcomer, elegantly removing a pair of sunglasses as she sashayed toward the desk. “Don’t you remember me?”

Strawberry looked taken aback. “T-Tamara?” she stuttered.

“Yes, it’s me,” Tamara said, folding the sunglasses and placing them in her designer purse. “Is it true, this is where my sister works these days?”

“Yes… wow, what a surprise!” Strawberry exclaimed, shaking her head in disbelief. “Tabby didn’t mention you were visiting.”

“Oh, I’m not visiting,” Tamara said matter-of-factly, patting her perfectly coiffed mane. “I’m moving back to Misty Hollow.” 

“You? Moving back?” Strawberry repeated.

The door behind Strawberry’s desk opened, and a second pink unicorn cantered in. “Sug, are you going to call–oh!” She saw Tamara and stopped short. “Where did you come from?” she asked cautiously.

“Tabitha!” Tamara came around the desk and embraced her. “It’s been too long!”

“Erm… yes,” said Tabby, extricating herself from the hug. 

“Oh, I can’t wait to catch up with you,” Tamara said excitedly. “I just dropped in for a sec–I’m meeting my realtor, and we’re looking at some houses; but what are you doing tonight?”

“Houses?” said Tabby, dazed. “Well, I’ll just be hanging out at the SSSS.”

“The SSSS? Some things never change,” Tamara said, tweaking Tabby’s nose with sisterly affection. “Very well. I’ll see you there.”

“Tabby, have you called… oh.” Now, a handsome unicorn stallion appeared on the scene. “I’d heard that there were two of you,” he said, his eyes darting back and forth between the two pink unicorns.

“Yes, I’m Tamara,” she said, with just the lightest flutter of her lashes. “And you are…”

“Dr. Fairfax,” he said, extending his hoof. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“So you’re Tabitha’s boss. Well, I’m sure she’s giving you a run for your money,” Tamara said with a sly glance at her twin.

“She certainly is,” the doctor agreed.

“It’s a delight to meet you,” simpered Tamara, noting the vexed expression on Tabitha’s face. Oh, it was so easy to rile her up! Tamara couldn’t resist teasing her just a bit. “I don’t suppose you’ll be at the SSSS later.”

“I might be,” Thomas said, but he was looking curiously at Tabitha.

“I’ll look forward to it,” she said, caressing his hoof lightly. Tabby’s eyes shot sparks, but she said nothing. Tamara would get the whole story on those two later.

* * *

“What did you think of her?” Tabby demanded when she and Thomas were alone in back.

“Tamara? She seemed fine,” Thomas said noncommittally as he studied a chart. A bit of a flirt, to be sure. It was a little jarring to see the image of one’s particular interest reflected in another–but they were nothing alike, that much was obvious, even after a short meeting with Tamara. 

“The last time I saw her, I called her a shubajira–that’s Sasquatch for… well, there’s no direct translation, but it’s not very complimentary,” Tabby said, fretting with her hooves.

“It’s normal for siblings to have disagreements,” Thomas pointed out. “I’m sure she forgives you.”

“Hmm,” said Tabby, frowning. “What if she’s just here to make me suffer?”

“That’s an uncharitable thought,” Thomas chided.

“I just mean–I thought we hated each other, and then she waltzes in here as if nothing’s wrong, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do or how to act!” Tabby complained.

“You don’t have to be anyone but yourself,” Thomas said, softening, and pushing a stray hair out of her face. It was an intimate gesture, to be sure, but she didn’t seem to notice. He abruptly withdrew his hoof. She had no idea, with that piquant look, how adorable she was.

Tabby sighed in a mopey manner. “I’ve held her in disregard for so long, I don’t know any other way to think. What if I’ve been wrong about her, and she’s not terrible?”

“You’ll figure it out,” Thomas said encouragingly, pleased that she was considering giving Tamara a chance.

* * *

Tabby was still feeling antsy that evening, when she met Strawberry at the SSSS. (Vanguard was at a staff meeting.) Athena was there, too, and had joined the two friends. Tabby still wasn’t sure where they stood, but they were currently being civil–at least as long as Strawberry was there to referee.

Tamara arrived with Moonglow in tow. “So, did you buy a house?” Tabby asked directly.

“There are still a few options to review,” Tamara said, sliding in next to Athena. “I’ll know the right place when I see it.”

“I really think the split-level ranch we see in the morning will be a good fit,” Moonglow assured her before excusing herself to go speak to another client.

“What about–” Tabby started.

“Tamara, you’ve been living in Trujsis, right?” Athena broke-in.

“Yes, the past eight–no, nine–years, but the cosmopolitan lifestyle has its limits,” Tamara said, pulling out a mirror compact and inspecting her makeup. “It was time for a change.”

“You could have given me some advance notice,” Tabby said, annoyed at having been ignored.

“I wasn’t sure you cared to hear from me,” Tamara said. Tabby couldn’t determine if there was any real animosity or not, and debated her next move.

“You make, um, videos, don’t you?” Strawberry asked, filling the void.

“Oh, yes,” said Tamara. “My SnapTube channel just reached two million subscribers. Speaking of which, they’ll want to see this.” She pulled out her phone to snap a photo of her kale shake, a perpetual favorite.

“You were a cat breeder or something once,” Tabby spoke-up. “What happened to that?”

“The cats are still a side hobby,” Tamara said. “I’m developing the perfect Bengal.”

“Bengals, they’re–” Tabby started to say, but was cut off.

“Oh, Bengals? Do you show?” Athena interrupted, perking up.

“Yes, my queen Latrice just won first place in the United Cat Fanciers Federation show,” Tamara said proudly.

“Oh!” said Athena, impressed. “I was researching Bengals when I first started looking for a cat, but ultimately went with a Bombay. Theo is a real charmer.”

“Oh, Bombay, nice choice,” Tamara said appreciatively. “Who did you get her from?”

“Willow Winds,” said Athena.

“That’s an excellent cattery,” Tamara voiced her approval.

“I’m looking into matching her with a stud,” Athena chatted.

“You know, there are already plenty of kittens seeking homes,” Tabby said sternly.

“Yes, I know your industry frowns on the practice,” said Athena. “But a quality pedigree is worth striving after for some of us.”

“Which breeder are you working with?” Tamara asked, nonplused.

“Batista Fiorentino in Vulcanopolis,” Athena disclosed.

“Batista?” Tamara scoffed. “You don’t want to work with her. Her cats all have terrible recessive traits.” 

“She came highly recommended,” Athena said, taken aback.

“She’s a hack,” said Tamara bluntly.

“Oh. Well, that’s dreadful. I didn’t know,” Athena said, looking perturbed.

“I’ll get you in touch with a friend of mine…” Tamara’s gaze fell on Athena’s foreleg. “I love your bracelet,” she gushed. “Pierre-Antoine, right?”

“Yes!” Athena said, brightening. “I bought every piece of his new collection.”

Tabby rolled her eyes and sank back in her seat. At this rate, she wouldn’t have to contribute to the conversation at all. Her additions so far had been shot down.

“It’s his best work yet,” Tamara agreed. “Very chic.”

“And your earrings, are they Honeylight?” Athena queried. “I’ve had my eye on some of her designs, but they’re very difficult to find.”

“I have a friend who works for the company,” Tamara said, preening and certainly in her element. “She’s always sending me samples. Maybe you’d like to see my collection.”

“I’d love to,” Athena squealed.

“You must come and see me once I’m settled in my own place,” Tamara invited.

“What are your accommodations until then?” Athena asked.

“I have a suite at Regal Ridges,” Tamara said. Arrangements hadn’t been discussed, but Tabby felt a slight pang that there was no consideration of staying with her own twin.

“You don’t want to waste your time there; they haven’t had a remodel in twenty years,” Athena protested, aghast. “You must stay with me.”

“That’s so kind of you! But I couldn’t put you out like that,” Tamara said.

“Nonsense, I insist!” Athena said grandiosely. “In fact, do you have plans for tomorrow? Saturday’s my day at the spa, and I could get you in, too.”

“I do have a lot of tension from the move that I need to work out,” Tamara agreed. “That may be just what I need.” The two mares continued to chatter at a brisk pace, cementing their friendship. Tabby made a moue of distaste. Tamara didn’t have the time of day for her, and she wasn’t sure how she felt about it.

“She didn’t even ask if she could stay with me!” Tabby hissed under her breath to Strawberry.

“I’m sure she just didn’t want to bother you,” Strawberry said reassuringly.

“But–but–stay with Athena! I’m her own flesh and blood!” Tabby said, aggrieved. In a huff, she went up to the counter for a drink refill. 

* * *

Thomas had arrived at the SSSS, and at the drink counter encountered Tabby.

“How’s it going?” he asked conversationally, falling into step beside her.

“Tamara doesn’t want anything to do with me!” Tabby complained.

“Maybe she doesn’t think you’re interested in spending time together,” Thomas pointed out. “Are you?” But what was at the forefront of his mind was if Toby were here, or if Thomas could have Tabby’s attention to himself–which may have been the main draw to the SSSS, despite his initial reluctance to socialize.

Tabby sighed. “Growing up, she was always there in my face; and then she wasn’t there, and it was strange, but I got used to it; and now… she practically ignores me, and I don’t know what to do.”

“You need time to get reacquainted,” Thomas suggested as they arrived at the table. “Maybe have some one-on-one time.” He noted that Toby was, once again, absent. Why did Tabby put up with the negligence, unless her heart was truly engaged? Or was Toby not on her mind enough to bother breaking the attachment?

“Maybe I’ve already burned my bridges with her. Maybe it’s too late,” Tabby said, eyes growing wide and apparently having no thoughts of her sweetheart.

Tamara was actually just standing as Tabby slid back into her seat. “Tabitha, I’ll see you around,” she said breezily. “I’m going to get my things settled at Athena’s.”

“Oh,” said Tabby. “Um, uh…” She was clearly tongue-tied.

“Yes?” Tamara looked at her inquisitively.

“What are you doing tomorrow? I mean, after the spa?” Tabby blurted out.

Tamara cocked her head, looking at Tabby speculatively. “Hey, you didn’t want to come with us, did you?”

“Uh…” Tabby looked down at her hooves. “Maybe… I mean…”

“I didn’t think you’d be interested,” Tamara said, looking surprised.

“I’ll go. I won’t know what to do, but I’ll go!” Tabby said in a rush.

“Meet us there at three?”

“Fine,” said Tabby, taking a deep breath.

“Great, see you then!” said Tamara, and waved as she went on to join Athena who was waiting by the door.

“That wasn’t so hard, was it?” Thomas asked.

“But what am I in for tomorrow?” said Tabby contemplatively.

* * *

As Tamara was settling her things in one of the plentiful rooms in Athena’s abode, she opened up a jewelry case. “This was a limited edition run last season,” she noted, lifting up a gold chain for Athena’s inspection. “Ooh, and this was a Honeylight collab with Eliza Berryton,” she continued, grabbing a princess cut sapphire ring.

“I love it,” Athena said, eyes gleaming as she peeked into the case. “Ooh–and what is THIS?” She lifted out a jewel-encrusted chain. “It’s gorgeous!”

“It’s from last year’s Atlantean collection,” Tamara said nonchalantly. “Modeled after authentic relics.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Athena breathed.

“You know, I never felt that it went with my complexion,” Tamara said thoughtfully. “You should have it,” she urged, pushing the jeweled necklace toward Athena. 

“Oh, I couldn’t,” said Athena, even while eyeing it covetously.

“You must,” Tamara insisted. “I have more than I know what to do with, and I can see that you would really appreciate it.”

“Thank you!” said Athena, beaming and accepting the gift with aplomb.

* * *

“So… this is where we sit around with vegetables on our faces, right?” Tabby asked nervously, darting glances around the softly-hued room. It was the following day, and the mares had met at the spa as planned. Tamara and Athena were both regarding Tabby as an oddity in this environment, which was accurate, but it didn’t make her feel any more at ease.

“You can if you want, but I always start with the warm stone aromatherapy massage,” Tamara stated with authority.

“I like a sea salt exfoliation, followed by a mud wrap,” advised Athena. “I do want to try the new infrared sauna, though…”

“And I definitely need an oxygen facial before the day is through,” Tamara said thoughtfully.

Tabby felt increasingly alarmed, having no concept of how things worked in this environment.

Tamara looked at her twin, a bit piteously, Tabby thought. “Perhaps you’d like to start with a pedicure,” she suggested.

“Y-yes,” said Tabby hesitantly. That, at least, was something she could visualize.

* * *

“Well, Tabitha hasn’t run screaming from the establishment yet,” Athena said, some time later, as the mares sat luxuriating in their treatments, “so that’s something.”

“Indeed,” Tamara agreed. “I must say I’m surprised, Tabitha. I didn’t think you would do anything outside your comfort zone.”

“Erm,” said Tabby, unsure how she felt with some goo smeared over her face and cucumber slices blocking her vision.

“Dr. Fairfax has been a good influence on her character,” Athena said.

“It’s not like I was some wild beast,” Tabby said, scowling, “in need of domestication.”

“Tell me more about Dr. Fairfax,” Tamara urged. “Does he have a girlfriend?”

“I’m sure Tabby would have the most current information in that regard,” Athena said as Tabby remained silent.

“Why should I know?” Tabby protested.

“Oh, come now. You work together all day long; he must confide in you,” Athena observed.

Tabby rolled her eyes, without effect since they were covered in cucumber slices. “There’s no girlfriend he will admit to.”

“Oh, playing the field, is he?” Tamara smiled. “Quite dreamy, don’t you think?”

Tabby frowned. Wouldn’t that just be a disaster to have her sister dangling after Thomas?

An attendant came up to Athena with a telephone, and the pegasus took the call, frowning. “I’m afraid I have to go,” she said, upon hanging up. “My mother is entertaining Mayor Hawthorne from Hayton, and she expects me to be there.”

“Well, have fun,” said Tamara. “I’ll see you at the house later.”

The attendant scurried to make Athena presentable, and the twins began to prepare for departure as well.

“I want to walk down Main Street, see what’s changed,” Tamara chattered after Athena had left. She wiped off the last bit of her facial treatment.

Tabby felt a strange, warm feeling that maybe she hadn’t botched the relationship, after all.

* * *

“I don’t remember the place with the chili pepper,” Tamara noted as they ambled along the main thoroughfare through town. “What is it?”

“Oh, that’s just the salsa shop,” said Tabby without emotion.

“Ooh, a dance club?” Tamara perked up.

“No, they serve salsa and chips,” Tabby said flatly.

“Oh,” said Tamara. “Well, I could do with some refreshment. What do you say?”

“Sure, I guess,” Tabby said with a shrug.

The pair entered the establishment and seated themselves at a table. Nearby, a yellow stallion wearing a cowboy hat was wiping off a recently vacated booth. “Boy howdy!” he exclaimed, straightening upon seeing them. “If it isn’t the Fershund twins, together at last!”

Tamara smiled at him coquettishly. “Hello, Mr….”

“Beauregard,” the stallion supplied, shaking her hoof heartily. “Not sure we’ve ever been introduced, but I remember your musical performance at the town fair in ‘99.”

“You remember that?” Tamara laughed. “Well, I’m surprised you’re talking to me; I’m sure I botched it terribly.”

“You had the voice of an angel,” Beauregard assured her.

“You’re a liar, but thank you,” Tamara said playfully. “Now, what do you recommend from the menu?”

“We’ve got a batch of salsa de aguacate that’s going fast, heirloom tomatillos with smooth Oulejos avocado,” Beauregard suggested.

“That’s fine; bring us an order to share,” Tamara instructed.

“You got it, princess,” he said, and scampered off.

As usual, Tamara was going ahead without any consideration for what she wanted, Tabby thought with a frown.

“Okay, I know that look on your face. What did Beauregard do to offend you?” Tamara asked, turning to her sister.

Though that wasn’t the reason for her expression, Tamara was correct that there was some history there. “He’s the one who put worms in my lunchbox,” Tabby said indignantly.

“He’s that guy? Back in, what, first grade?” Tamara’s laughter rang out melodiously. “Well, you probably deserved it,” she observed rationally. “You never knew what to do with male attention. Speaking of which, tell me about this Dr. Collins you’re seeing.”

Tabby sighed. “Well, he’s a doctor,” she hedged.

“He wasn’t with you at the SSSS last night,” Tamara said with a sidelong glance.

“Oh, he’s very busy with work,” Tabby said vaguely.

“There seems to be another doctor much closer at hoof,” said Tamara knowingly.

There was an answering blush from Tabby.

“I knew it; you’ve fallen for him,” Tamara said, lowering her voice conspiratorially as Beauregard approached with their order. “What are you going to do?”

Tabby remained stubbornly silent until Beauregard was out of earshot. “I’m not going to do anything!” she said, crossing her forelegs. “He has his life, I have mine. And there’s nothing wrong with Toby.”

“Does he make your heart race the same way that Dr. Fairfax does?” Tamara asked. “If you’re not happy, then break up with him.”

“It’s not that easy,” Tabby said, looking down.

“It’s the easiest thing in the world!” Tamara exclaimed, taking a chip.

“I don’t know what world you live in,” Tabby snapped. “Things are complicated.”

“That doesn’t mean impossible,” Tamara said with a shrug and daintily nibbled on the chip. “What is it? What’s holding you back?”

“Look, we’ve never had the kind of relationship where we sit around gossiping about boys,” Tabby evaded the question.

“Believe me, I know.” Tamara tossed her mane. “You pushed me aside at every turn.”

You pushed me away!” Tabby exclaimed. “You didn’t want me; you wanted to transform me into yourself! All those makeovers!”

“It was supposed to be bonding time!” Tamara protested, affronted.

“Well, you certainly never joined me in any of my activities,” Tabby said.

“Most of which involved traipsing through the woods messing up my hair… very well, maybe we’re both to blame,” Tamara admitted. “What are we going to do about it?”

“I guess we have to learn to live with each other.”

“Come now, we can be a bit more amicable than that!”

“Well… maybe today wasn’t so bad,” Tabby said at length.

“We’ll be gossiping about boys before you know it. You’ll see,” Tamara said with a smile.

* * *

“Hey, Beauregard,” Tamara said, approaching the counter where the proprietor was adding receipts. “I had a good time tonight.”

Beauregard looked up and smiled. “You’re welcome back any time.”

“Do you ever get a night off?” Tamara asked with a coquettish glance.

“Every so often,” Beauregard said with a wink.

Tamara scribbled her number down on a napkin. “Maybe I’ll see you around,” she said, turning on her heel and walking off, looking back with a teasing look.

“Sure thing, princess,” Beauregard said, tipping his hat at her.