Chapter 36: Learn to Face Your Fears (first draft)
Andromeda and Radiance sat by Applejack’s bedroom door, waiting for any sign of good news. From the outside, only faint murmurs and the occasional shuffling of hooves could be heard. Even though they desperately wanted to see how their friend Cherry was doing, they dared not enter without permission. Berry and Pinkie Pie were far too distraught to deal with anyone else at the moment. Flora kept busy by assisting Zecora with Cherry while Applejack and Fluttershy kept look after the children in the barn. Rarity had been sent out to buy more ingredients needed for the medicine and now only Andromeda and Radiance remained by the door, occasionally checked on by Bismarck and Tempest.
“Yer sure yer okay? Y’all don’t need nothin’?” Bismarck asked, looking down at the two mares.
“We’re fine, Bismarck,” Radiance answered. “Thanks anyway.”
“We need something to keep us busy,” Tempest groaned, pacing back and forth. “I can take any more waiting!”
“Why don’t you two ask Applejack if there are any chores you can do?” Radiance suggested. “I’m sure she’ll have something to keep your mind off things.”
“Sounds like a good distraction,” Bismarck nodded.
“Sounds like work,” Tempest grumbled.
“You’ll be fine,” Radiance replied. “Bismarck knows all the ins and outs of the house. I’m sure he can tell you which chores need doing already.”
Tempest moaned but followed Bismarck to the barn anyway. Once they had left, Radiance leaned back with a smirk.
“He’s going to regret suggesting that,” she chuckled. “I don’t think he realizes that there are always things to be done around the farm.”
“I guess you would know,” Andromeda replied.
Realizing what she had said, she turned to see a hurt Radiance stare back at her, speechless. Guilt rushed through Andromeda’s heart as silence filled the hallway.
“Ohmygosh! I’m sorry, Radiance!” she stammered. “I didn’t… I did not mean to say that!”
“No, no, I get it,” Radiance said, secretly upset about her statement. “You want to know why I never told you about me and Bismarck.”
Andromeda tried to pretend that wasn’t the case, but realized that she would by lying and nodded instead.
“I guess I’ve been mad that you guys didn’t personally tell me while we were here. I mean, why didn’t I find out until I heard everything from a secondhand source?”
Radiance fiddled with her hair without a word.
“And why didn’t you trust us to keep your secret?” Andromeda continued. “Were we not reliable enough to be quiet about your marriage?”
Radiance inhaled to give her an answer, but was interrupted when the door finally swung open after what felt like an eternity of waiting. The two stood up to ask what was going on, but found themselves ignored as a hurried Flora passed them by. No doubt she was grabbing some supplies from another room. Sitting back down, Radiance let out her deep breath.
“That’s not a good sign,” Andromeda noted, her heart beating faster.
“And things just keep getting worse,” Radiance added.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
“But can’t you make it better?” Berry asked Zecora, who continued to mix various herbs and spices together in a bowl.
Pinkie Pie sat next to him at the side of Cherry’s bed.
“I’m sorry, Berry, but this disease goes far beyond my expertise,” Zecora answered. “I can’t say why she lost her mind, nor do I know that she’ll be fine.”
“But you’ve got a potion for everything!” Berry exclaimed. “You must have something that can make Cherry feel better! Right?”
Zecora shook her head solemnly.
“I have many potions for ache and ail. They are a physical remedy. Against a broken mind they fail, untouched by her reality.”
“Then come up with something new!” Berry stressed. “Something that can clear her mind. We just need a little more time to find a way back to our home!”
“I cannot give her medicine until she is awake again.”
“Fine,” Berry growled behind his teeth, trying his hardest to keep his cool. “If she wakes up, let me know.”
“Where are you going?” Pinkie inquired.
She tried to take hold of his arm, but he pulled away.
“Out,” he answered, visibly aggravated. “I need some fresh air.”
Flora entered the room just in time to get pushed out of the way when he exited. She frowned at the rude action.
“What was that about?” she asked Pinkie Pie.
Seeing Berry leaving, Andromeda stood up, trying to stop him for a moment, but he kept on walking.
“Hey!” she called after him. “Can we talk?”
“Go talk to Flora,” he said coldly.
“She’s busy helping Zecora,” Andromeda replied, following him down the hallway. “Besides, it’s you I need to talk to.”
Berry descended the stairs, continuing to ignore her.
“And I don’t want to talk to you right now.”
Andromeda could feel the distain in his voice. Berry was a very good-natured stallion, but like everypony else on this horrible trip to the past, he was not himself at the moment. It never ended.
“I know you’re angry at me,” she said, pushing past the front door that had been slammed into her face, “but you’ve been the only pony to truly stand by me this whole time and…”
Berry spun around and stared Andromeda in the face, his sky blue eyes piercing through her.
“That was before my sister lost her mind!” he shouted. “You weren’t there! You have no idea what Cherry has gone through! You have no idea how terrifying it was… looking at her… being afraid of her!”
Andromeda stood frozen in front of him, speechless.
“Cherry may have lost it, but she’s right about one thing! You really have doomed us all! You’ve driven my sister mad and now it’s only a matter of time before the rest of us go crazy too!”
Glancing towards the barn, he could see Bismarck and Tempest fast approaching them.
“I’m sorry, Andi,” he said, his soft voice teeming with hatred, “but you have no sympathy from me. You can go mad too, for all I care.”
“Whoa now! Chill out, everypony!” Tempest exclaimed, arriving first and now standing between him and Andromeda. “What’s going on?”
“You should consider yourself lucky, Tempest,” Berry said as he began walking towards the apple fields. “You’ll die peacefully knowing that you didn’t have to bury your sister!”
Tempest stared silently. He didn’t understand what was happening or what to say. Whatever he had missed, Berry’s words chilled him to the bone. Bismarck arrived at the scene and tried to calm the pink stallion down, but was shoved aside in a burst of anger.
“Don’t touch me, Bismarck!” Berry shouted.
Bismarck backed away slowly, just as lost as Tempest was, and while their friend continued to storm off, Tempest turned his attention to Andromeda, who didn’t take her eyes off of Berry.
“Are you okay, Andi?” Tempest asked her. “He didn’t hurt you, did he?”
Andromeda looked up at him, her sunset eyes shimmering. She tried to speak, but was unable to let out anything more than a sudden sob. Leaning her head against his shoulder, she began weeping. Tempest was taken aback. Andromeda was not a crier, but a lot had changed since they traveled in time.
“Hey, hey, hey,” he repeated, unsure of how to go about this situation. “It’s okay.”
His attempt at helping seemed to do nothing as she continued to sob. Counseling was Berry’s forte, not his. Glancing nervously at Bismarck, Tempest saw the inaudible words “hug her back” shaped from his lips. Slowly, his arms reached around her and held onto her.
“Talk to her,” Bismarck’s lips now formed. Tempest nodded and returned his attention to his heartbroken friend.
“Look…” he said, trying to come up with the right words. “Don’t listen to him. Whatever he said, he doesn’t mean it.”
Thoughts of a similar rage raced through Tempest’s head. He remembered shouting at her not so long ago, unable to control himself.
“He’s just scared,” Tempest said. “He’ll come around, Andi. I promise.”
As he comforted her, Tempest began to think. She had been through so much verbal abuse since they arrived, leaving him as concerned for her mental health as he was for Cherry’s. Even the way continued to hold onto him told him that she was at the end of her own rope.
“I’m here for you,” he said, holding her tight. “We’re all here for you. Everything will be alright.”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
“How can we know?” Pinkie Pie asked while she looked out the window. “How can we know that everything will be alright?”
The sun was about to set and she was beginning to worry about Berry. Bismarck had told her earlier that he disappeared into the field to blow off steam, but that was hours ago. Most of the ponies, including Zecora, had gone home.
“We don’t know,” Flora replied, “but it’s just a feeling I have. Cherry will wake up and Berry will come back and apologize to Andromeda. She’ll finish fixing the spell with Twilight and we’ll all go home. I’m sure of it.”
Pinkie Pie smiled.
“Thank you for helping me with my kids,” she said. “You really do share Fluttershy’s compassion.”
Giving her a gentle hug, she returned her attention to Cherry, who still had not woken up.
“I’m so sorry, Cherry. I wish I could do something to help. I wish we could have spent more time together,” she whispered, holding her daughter’s hoof. “Please… get better soon.”
Leaning her head close to Cherry’s, she gave her a light kiss on the forehead.
“She’ll be fine, Ms. Pinkie,” Flora said, noticing Tempest entering the room. “We’ll all take turns looking after her. My shift is over right now, but Tempest said that he’ll look after her next.”
“We’ll take good care of her,” Tempest added. “We promise.”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
“Do you really think you can keep that promise?” a voice spoke from behind Flora as she left the house to join the others at the barn.
Flora recognized it instantly.
“Do you not?” she answered, turning around.
Berry let out a deep sigh, his conflicted face looking down at the ground.
“After today,” he said, “I don’t know what to think anymore.”
Flora could see his eyes in light of the setting sun. They were tired and puffy.
“When Andi first told me the truth about the spell,” Berry continued, “I wasn’t scared. I’m not sure why, but there was something deep inside of me that told me that everything would turn out alright in the end.”
“That’s the hopeful Berry I knew,” Flora responded. “What happened to him?”
Berry’s head lifted towards the second floor of the house, where Cherry slept.
“Hopeful Berry realized that this spell was killing us before we even knew we were dying. Cherry didn’t even have a chance to fight back. If she doesn’t wake up or, even worse, she wakes up just as crazy and scared as she was earlier…”
He stopped and looked Flora in the eye.
“What hope do we have of saving her? Zecora doesn’t know how to fix this and Twilight will be too busy working on the spell to be of any help, if she could help to begin with.”
Flora smirked angrily at him.
“So, what, you’re just going to take out your lost hope on others and make Andromeda cry again because you don’t think she can fix the spell in time? Is that it?”
The pink began to drain from Berry’s face at what she said, his eyes now grown wide.
“Wait, I made her cry?” he cracked.
“Yes, you did,” Flora replied. “Congratulations, Berry! You managed to finally break her.”
Berry took a step back, trying to remember.
“It went by so fast,” he whispered. “I don’t even know what I told her. I was just…”
His forehead crunched, focusing in on the faint memory.
“Angry. I was so angry! I couldn’t control myself, but I had no idea I actually made her cry!”
“Wait,” Flora said, “you can’t remember what you told her?”
Berry shook his head.
“Not a word! I was mad about something, but I can’t even tell you.”
Flora appeared lost in thought as if she had not even heard what he had said. Realization flooded through her mind.
“We need to talk to Andromeda!”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
“Yer not talkin’ to her,” Bismarck said, blocking the barn doorway from Berry. “Even if yer wantin’ to apologize, you can stay outside. The kids are asleep and ah don’t need there to be more arguin’ in or near the barn. ”
“Don’t be that way, Biz,” Flora pleaded. “Berry’s sorry for what he did, but that’s not important right now! I need to tell Andi something. Can you please go get her?”
Bismarck turned his attention to Berry, his sturdy gaze focused on the other stallion’s face.
“Do ah have yer word that you ain’t gonna start more trouble?”
Bismarck remained quiet, his eyes drifting from Berry to Flora and back again. With a small nod and grunt, he turned around to go get Andromeda. While they waited, Berry could swear he felt sweat drops on his forehead after being given the death glare by Bismarck.
“He wants to kill me,” he said. “Did you see the way he was staring?”
“That’s just Bismarck being protective,” Flora explained. “He’s always been like that, especially when girls are concerned.”
“Guess that’s why I’m not that used to it,” Berry sighed. “He’s a rub-some-dirt-in-it type with us guys.”
“Yeah,” Flora smiled, “I guess he is.”
As they shared in a small chuckle, Andromeda stepped outside from the barn. She had stopped crying hours ago, but the lingering effects still showed in her tired eyes. The sight of it weighed heavy on Berry.
“Bismarck said you had something important to tell me?” she said.
Flora remained quiet, allowing Berry to speak and letting him get his apology in first. Catching the cue, he took a hesitant step forward.
“Listen,” he said, trying his hardest to look Andromeda in the face, “I just wanted to say…”
“Cherry’s awake!” Tempest interrupted, landing right next to them all. “She’s finally awake, you guys!”
In an instant, everything that had been on no longer mattered as all three friends returned their focus to Cherry.
“Ohmygosh!” Radiance exclaimed, running from inside the barn and appearing with Bismarck by her side. “Is she alright? Does she need anything? Why did you leave her alone?”
“It’s okay!” Tempest laughed. “She’s fine! I think she’s back to normal.”
All eyes were on Berry, who stood petrified.
“She’s… okay?” he said in a half-whisper. “Cherry’s going to be better now?”
“Come see for yourself!” Tempest grinned. “She said she wanted to see you.”
Berry’s head spun between each of his friends. He had given up all hope, but now that Cherry was fine, all he could feel was shame for what he did and said. His eyes connected with Andromeda’s, but his lips failed him.
“It’s okay, Berry,” she said softly. “Go see your sister.”
Berry said nothing, but with a look, Andromeda knew what he wanted to tell her. He was going through shock, but he was still able to slowly make his way back to the house. As he walked, Tempest approached Radiance and stood beside her.
“Berry isn’t the only one she asked for,” he said. “She wants to talk to you, too.”
“Me?” Radiance replied. “Just me? By myself?”
“She wouldn’t say,” Tempest shrugged. “All she told me was that she really wanted to see you.”
Radiance glanced at Bismarck, who was as confused as she was. Why had Cherry asked for her, by name, and not anypony else outside of her brother?
“I’d give them a little time to themselves, though,” Tempest advised. “From what’s probably been going on with Berry, he could use a few minutes alone with Cherry.”
Radiance gestured that she understood and after a few minutes, she followed Berry’s path to where Cherry was. By the time she had reached the hallway, she could hear him speaking with her, the door to the room left cracked open behind them. Though she did not intentionally try to listen in on them, she was able to hear what they were saying.
“I was so scared of losing you,” Berry said, sniffling as he spoke. “I’ve felt so alone with you gone.”
“That’s because you pushed your friends away,” Cherry exhaled softly, still tired. “You can’t do that, Berry.”
“I don’t know what happened earlier. It’s like I lost control, like when…”
“When I went crazy?” Cherry asked.
“Wait, you remember?”
“Nahhhh, I don’t remember a thing!” Cherry laughed weakly. “Tempest told me everything that happened.”
“Of course he did,” Berry chuckled. “He’s not very good at dealing with possible post-traumatic situations.”
Radiance smiled when she heard the two siblings laugh together. There was an infectiously cheerful quality to the bond they shared. Whenever they were with each other, their lights shone twice as bright and so did their spirits. It was good to see the Pie twins reunited once more.
“I’m so glad you’re back with us,” Berry said.
“I’m glad, too.”
After a short pause that Radiance suspected to be a hug, Berry took a long and hard sniff from his runny nose and stood up.
“I think Radiance is waiting for you outside, sis. Do you want me to get her for you?”
“Yes,” Cherry answered frailly. “Thanks, Berry.”
As he approached the door, Cherry rolled onto her side.
“Berry,” she said, grabbing his attention.
“I love you.”
Berry turned his head and smiled back at his sister and best friend in the whole world.
“I love you too, Cherry.”