Chapter 13: Decisions
The weather seemed to be against Notes. He had expected, foolishly, that nature would reflect his grief and subsequently be filled with cloudy skies and rainy days. It had been anything but since Notes had left Delamare on his way back to Ponyville. Birds were chirping merrily and all around him the weather was typical of midsummer. Notes felt that he should be upset that the rest of the world should go on as if nothing had happened while he and his family grieved, but he was beyond such childish notions. Still, the loss of his father throbbed like an open wound in Notes's heart. Why he felt such sorrow confounded Notes. For a long time Notes had thought he hated his father, but now… the stallion simply didn't know.
As he reached the top of a ridge, Notes could see Ponyville in all its peaceful tranquility. Again, the writer felt a strange a mixture of emotions. It pained him to leave home, but Notes still welcomed the sight of the small village. There was some kind of calming air to Ponyville, a sense of harmony.
Before long, the grey stallion found himself on the outskirts of Mane Street near his humble little shop. It looked unchanged; the siding needed painting, the roof needed repair, and books needed selling. Notes sighed under the weight of it all. He had found out soon after buying the establishment why it had been so cheap. Trying not to dwell on financial issues, Notes stooped over and got the spare key he kept under the welcome mat so that he could get inside.
Turning the key, Notes entered his home and work place. Everything looked in the store seemed untouched; already a thin layer of dust was settling over the shelves. Notes sighed as he added another task to his mental to-do list. All was normal until the stallion noticed that he was not alone in his establishment. Staring form behind the counter were the unmistakable blue eyes of a familiar pegasus.
Upon making eye contact, Fluttershy immediately let out one of her signature "eeps" and ducked down behind the counter. Notes, equally surprised, dropped his saddle bag and dove behind the nearest book shelf.
Besides shock, all Notes felt was confusion. He had of course requested that Fluttershy look after Flame in his absence, but how the mare had gotten in was a mystery to him. The spare key had still been under the mat, and the only other one he had was in the counter. Why in Equestria Twilight would have given Fluttershy that key was beyond him. The writer had stated clearly on the back of his note that there was an extra key under the mat.
A meek voice interrupted his train of thought. "Oh, um, h-hello Notes."
Trying his best to calm himself, Notes replied, "Uh, well, g-good afternoon."
It suddenly struck Notes how rude he must seem, cowering behind a bookshelf while he had company over. Granted, Fluttershy was unexpected company, but she was a mare Notes was always glad to be around.
Brushing himself off, Notes came out from behind his shelter. After a brief inspection of its contents, he threw his saddlebag once more over his back as he went to greet his guest.
"U-um, good afternoon Miss Fluttershy," Notes said as he came out from behind his hiding place.
Soon after his greeting, the tip of a pink mane could be seen peeking over the counter. A pair of large turquoise eyes followed. "Oh, uh, good afternoon to you too Notes. It's, um, okay to just call me Fluttershy, if you want to I mean."
"O-okay then, Fluttershy," replied Notes awkwardly. The whole situation was quickly becoming awkward and comfortable. "So, h-how is Flame?"
Fluttershy immediately jumped upright at the mention of an animal. "Yes, Flame! The little darling is doing fine. Some days he didn't seem to want to eat, so I started to feed him some herbs that were meant to make him hungrier, I hope that's okay. They seemed to work, um, most of the time."
"T-thank you very much; I'll have to start buying some of those herbs. N-now, I understand I've been out of t-town for a while and I d-didn't have much cat food left. How much do I owe you?"
Fluttershy's eyes widened as she raised her voice in protest, "No, please, it's, um, no charge. I have plenty of food at my cottage."
"I-I must insist. I'm not one for charity, a-and not paying you would be ungrateful," Notes argued back.
Then the quiet mare did something that Notes couldn't quite explain. Fluttershy suddenly stood up completely straight. Her pupils began to contract as if in deep focus. For some unknown reason, Notes found it impossible to look away from the pegasus's eyes. That was when she began to speak.
The voice was definitely Fluttershy's but it was different; it was sterner and seemed to keep Notes from thinking straight. "No! You will accept the cat food and that is final!" There was something about the mare's voice that made Notes physically incapable of arguing further.
After straining to get his thoughts back together, Notes finally conceded. "F-fine, I'll consider the food as a gift. But don't think I won't let your taking care of Flame go unrewarded. You'll get your payment for that."
Whatever had come over Fluttershy seemed to vanish instantly, leaving the mare looking exhausted. When she had caught her breath she managed to reply, "Fine, if that will, um, make you happy."
With the all-important matter of the cat food taken care of, the two ponies were left in an uncomfortable silence. Notes reached behind to scratch the back of his head while Fluttershy looked around absently never making direct eye contact with the stallion.
At last, Notes said, "U-um, could I interest you in some coffee? O-or perhaps tea, if you prefer?"
"I'd, um, love to really, but I have to be going. Sorry," said Fluttershy as she made her way to the door.
Notes turned towards the door to see her off. "Well, o-okay then, have a nice day."
"You too," Fluttershy responded, "And I hope your father is okay."
Were it physically possible, the writer's jaw may have dropped to the floor. "H-h-how did you know about t-that?!" he sputtered out.
If Notes was shocked, Fluttershy was absolutely stunned. Her eyes were opened wide and her mouth appeared to be frozen in an inaudible gasp. All the mare was able to manage was, "T-there was … journal … looking for a key … Twilight read some … found letter."
Flabbergasted, Notes could only gape at the situation. "Why in Celestia's name was she looking for a key?! It was written clearly on the back of my note that there was a spare key under the welcome mat!"
Fluttershy averted her eyes, not quite sure what to say. "W-well, I, um, suppose she didn't think to, uh, read the back of the note." Her voice was quiet and cautious, anything to avoid further agitating the stallion.
Meanwhile, Notes was showing a side of himself that rarely broke through his quiet, nervous exterior. It was as if all the stress and frustration of the past few days were being released all at once. Unfortunately, the one pony caught in the crossfire happened to be Fluttershy. "She didn't think to flip the note over and read the back?! Twilight Sparkle, the personal student of Princess Celestia, couldn't think of flipping a piece of paper over!"
After several deep breaths, Notes seemed to calm down. When he spoke, his voice was level, but it was clear that he hadn't returned to his usual temperament. "Who else read the journal?" he asked.
The pegasus's only response was silence.
Now Notes's normal attitude returned. His words regained their usual tone and nervous stutter. "Y-you didn't read any, d-did y-you?"
"All six of us were, um, there. W-we were, um, under the impression that your journal was, um, a novel," responded Fluttershy, almost too quiet for the stallion to hear.
Two blue eyes found themselves staring at the floor, while two turquoise ones sought solace behind a pink mane. In the silence Notes muttered, "I see."
Unable endure the situation further, Fluttershy piped up. "Perhaps I should, um, leave."
"Y-yes perhaps that'd b-be best," Notes agreed. "I have a l-lot to think about."
Fluttershy raised her head, her eyes in full view to Notes. Tears were clearly welling up in each of the cyan pools. "I'm sorry," the mare choked out before dashing out of the store, the sound her attempt to stifle her tears trailing behind her.
Notes lifted his foreleg and opened his mouth to say something, but it was too late; Fluttershy was gone. Brilliant job, dumbass.
By nighttime, Notes felt even worse than he had earlier. With his anger and surprise gone, Notes reflected on what a horrible jerk he must have seemed. Not only had he reacted in a way that was entirely rude, but he had lashed out against the mare he had romantic feelings for. The whole situation mad Notes want to facehoof.
Abandoning thoughts of the day's earlier fiasco, Notes unpacked his things. Once all the items had been sorted neatly into their proper place, the writer was left with two outliers, but gifts from his family.
One was a small slip of paper, the other a tall bottle with a blood red liquid contained inside.
The paper was a parting gift from Grease. On it were a name, a place, and a telephone number. The name was Grease's boss, Mass Production. The place was the factory where Grease worked. The telephone number was seven digits plus the area code, just like any other phone number. During their brief time together, Grease had picked up that Notes's business, and his writing, weren't exactly overwhelmingly successful. Thus, Notes had received the business card. According to his brother, Grease could secure Notes a job at the factory. It had a steady and reasonable pay, was easy work, and the staff appeared to be like family. Of course, accepting the new occupation would mean moving back to Delamare, not to mention giving up his dream.
The bottler contained wine. Oblivious to his policy regarding alcohol, Uncle Presston had bestowed upon Notes a bottle of wine that could only be found in every liquor store in Equestria. While extremely reluctant to accept such a gift, Notes hadn't wanted to appear rude. Even now, the bottle was slightly inviting. The day had been stressful and, apparently, nothing soothed the nerves like some good, old-fashioned booze. However, Notes was reminded of his father and the words that he had said on his deathbed. I'm different than him. I'll only take a sip. Gingerly, Note grasped the cork in his mouth and yanked it off in one go.
An intoxicating scent drifted from the open bottle. To Notes, it smelled exactly what he'd expect a mixture of grape juice and rubbing alcohol to smell like. His beverage opened, Notes walked to the business card. After a long while considering the bottle and the card, Notes made a decision.
Inside Notes's store was an empty bottle. Inside his trash can were the shreds of paper that had once been a business card. Outside his store was an odd patch of grass that appeared almost purple or red and smelled of grapes and alcohol.
A/N: Good evening once again dear readers. The night that this is uploaded marks this story's one year anniversary. Thank so much for the criticism and for sticking with the story thus far. I know it must suck having to cope with my short chapters and long waits. Also, happy belated Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas! Gosh, it's been quite a while since I last uploaded. I know I must sound like a broken record, but sorry for the procrastination. Anyways, enjoy the chapter and offer a review if you'd like. Happy New Year! Until next time.
P.S. If you don't get the ending, I'm sincerely sorry. Basically, Notes throws away the business card and empties out the wine on the grass outside.