Chapter 5: A Day at the Spa
Lowering herself slowly into the steaming hot tub, Fluttershy let out a long, content sigh while she sank into complete relaxation. Once she had adjusted to the rapid temperature change, she could feel every muscle in her body loosen while she closed her eyes and laid her head back. She needed a day where she could just unwind without having to worry about picking up the kids from school or anything else, and the spa was just what the doctor ordered.
“This feels more amazing every time I come here,” she told Rarity, who sat across from her. “I didn’t even realize I was this tense.”
“You never can,” Rarity replied. “It’s just the stresses of life, I suppose. Sometimes you get so busy in the chaos of the day that you forget how much pressure you’re building up inside. That’s what the spa is for!”
Fluttershy could easily agree on that. Even though it was hard to believe that they had each been parents for over twenty years and best friends for even longer, days like this one always made their age seem like an insignificant detail. Before the birth of Rarity’s daughter Radiance, the two mares made a pact to go to the spa together at least once a month. Parenthood may have kept them busier over time, but they were still as close as ever, and to their great joy, their daughters would share that same bond with each other.
“It’s so nice for Radiance and Flora to be here with us today,” Fluttershy added. “It’s good to spend some quality time with them, especially now that they are old enough to go out on their own.”
“You’re quite right, dahling,” Rarity agreed. “At least they’re both still living in Ponyville for now. Oh, and by the way, just how is Flora doing? I’ve heard that her recent paintings have been quite successful.”
A stark opposite to Peach Cobbler’s tomboyish and wild nature, Flora was the gentler one of Fluttershy’s two daughters. If there were any siblings more opposite than them, the residents of Ponyville had yet to see them. While her little sister was the outdoorsy one, Flora preferred the peace and tranquility of the indoors, where she spent much of her time painting, sketching, and sculpting.
"Oh yes," Fluttershy beamed, "she's doing wonderful! Her art is going to shown in one of the new art gallery events in Canterlot next week. You should really see some of her newest works. They’re just lovely!”
"Just like her mother,” Rarity complimented. “I always knew she’d be an extraordinary artist! I could see it in her ever since that time she drew pictures all over that wedding dress I was making when she was just a tiny little foal.”
Fluttershy blushed lightly.
“I still don’t know where I was at the time. I’m so sorry about that.”
“It’s fine, dahling! Don’t worry about it! Mark my words, though… if she ever had any interest in fashion design, I’d be the first one to hire her!”
“Aww, thank you Rarity. That’s so sweet.”
“You’re very welcome,” Rarity replied. “And what about Peach Cobbler? How is she doing? Did she not want to come with the spa with us?"
"I’m afraid not,” Fluttershy answered. “She’s not much of a spa filly, but she has been doing very well. She got good grades at school last semester and she takes part in every outdoor activity she can find. She seems to excel in sports and she’s already a talented flier. When I was her age, I could only dream about being that athletic. I can hardly catch up with her even now! Flora was always quiet like me, so she was easy to raise, but Peach Cobbler has been a little difficult."
Rarity sat up slowly as she saw her friend’s proud smile fade slightly. Fluttershy paused a moment to think before she continued.
"She's so rough and wild, and sometimes I feel like I have no control. Her father does a better job handling her, but it’s difficult for me, Rarity. I often feel like I’m either too hard on her or not hard enough. Does that make me… a bad mother?”
"Of course not!” Rarity exclaimed. “Dahling, how could you even think that? You are one of the best moms I have ever seen!”
Fluttershy hung her head a bit.
“I don’t know,” she sighed. “I just don’t feel like it. She was mad at me this morning because I didn’t want her flying to Rainbow Dash’s house all by herself without telling me. She said I was being unfair, but I worry when she does that. I know Ponyville is a safe town, but anything can happen to a young filly who’s by herself, you know?”
Rarity nodded in agreement.
“You’re just looking out for your little girl,” she replied. “I understand completely. I felt the same way when Radiance was her age.”
“She’s a good filly and I do trust her, but she’s unpredictable. Half the time, I don’t even know where she is! Flora was so well behaved that I rarely had to get on her, but now I feel like I’m always hovering over Peach because she’s always running off. How do I handle that without pushing her away?”
“The same way you took care of Flora, of course. She may have turned out to be a lot like you, but you didn’t know that for a long time. When she was Peach’s age, she had a wild streak to her as well. Remember her Cutie Mark Crusader days with Bismarck and Andromeda?”
Fluttershy felt a wave of nostalgia warm her heart at the mention.
“Then think of that as an advantage,” Rarity suggested. “With Flora, you had to learn how to be a mother from scratch, but with Peach Cobbler, you at least have an idea of what to do. I know it’s difficult, but you’re still doing a splendid job. Flora may be a lot more independent and free-spirited than you were, but the important thing is that both of your daughters are kind and caring young fillies who love their parents. That’s all any mother can hope for in her children.”
Fluttershy could feel the weight of worry and self-doubt wash away in the water’s rippling mirror as Rarity spoke.
“You’re always there for me when I need advice,” she said. “I’m lucky to have you. Thank you.”
“Anytime, dahling!” Rarity exclaimed with a wink. “That’s what friends are for.”
"And what about your beautiful Radiance?” Fluttershy asked, returning the interest. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a young mare as gorgeous as her! Not since her mother, anyway.”
“Oh stop it! You’re making me blush!”
“Is her modeling doing well? I saw her picture in a magazine the other day and she looked stunning in that blue dress! She was as elegant as a princess at the royal ball.”
Rarity's eyes sparkled. To speak of fashion or her daughter was to discuss two of her greatest loves in the world, but to mention both together was always the way to get her at her most excited in conversation.
“Oh I know!” she exclaimed. “It was such a breathtaking dress, was it not? I truly wish I had created it myself. Still, I do believe that Radiance did it some favors, though perhaps that’s just me being biased.”
“She can make anything look good,” Fluttershy said sincerely.
Rarity stretched a bit and sank back into the tub with a deep sigh.
“Ohhh, it’s just too bad she’s been gone for most of the last few months,” she said regretfully. “She’s been so unbelievably busy this summer that we had to buy her a small apartment in Canterlot just so that she could be close to her work! I’ve had a hard time keeping her in Ponyville ever since they decided to fall in love with her."
"They’re not the only ones who have fallen in love with her," Fluttershy said with a giggle. "A young mare like her must have lines of suitors just waiting for a chance with her.”
Rarity contemplated at the thought for a while and smirked with a look of confusion.
“You know, I haven’t really seen or heard from her going on dates in a long time. I know she’s often busy, but sometimes I worry that she’s become so attached to her work that she doesn’t even take the time to stop and enjoy the other things in life.”
“Maybe she’s holding out for somepony special,” Fluttershy suggested. “With all the stallions who pursue her, wouldn’t you rather her end up with a good one instead of wasting her time with a dozen rotten ones?”
Rarity thought about it for a moment.
“I suppose you’re right,” she said lightheartedly. “Luckily she has a good head on her shoulders, so at least I don’t have to worry about that.”
“How does she even get away from them all anyway?” Fluttershy asked excitedly.
"Simple,” Rarity answered with a chuckle. “Twilight taught her how to teleport!”
While the two old friends laughed louder than they seemingly had in ages, Radiance and Flora made their way to the hot tub as if on cue. Seeing their mothers in an unusually humorous fit, they couldn’t help but be curious as to why.
“Uh oh, Flora,” Radiance joked. “Our moms are giggling like school fillies. Should we be worried?”
“Maybe,” Rarity answered with a coy grin.
“Leave them alone for a few minutes and this happens,” Flora added. “Maybe we’re better off not knowing.”
“Are you girls here to join us?” Fluttershy asked. “There’s plenty of room.”
“Sorry, but we can’t,” Radiance said. “It's Orion's birthday today and we haven’t gotten him a present yet, so we need to get that done soon. We only needed to get pedicures this time anyway.”
Rarity stretched a bit and closed her eyes again.
"That's fine dahling. If you see him, tell him I said ‘happy birthday.'"
"Same here," Fluttershy added. “We’ll see you later, girls!”
With a quick goodbye, Radiance and Flora left the spa and made their way to the nearest stores. As the two walked, they ran into a group of young stallions. With the effects of the spa making them extra sparkly and fresh, they had no difficulty getting looks and whispers. Flora blushed at the attention. Despite her natural beauty, she often felt awkward when stared at. Radiance, however, reveled in it, and it wasn’t long before one of the earth stallions approached them.
“So Radiance,” he said with a look and voice that screamed sleazy, “you want to go to the big party at the pond tonight? It’s going to be sick. We got music and ‘cider.’ It’s exclusive, but uh, if you go with me, I can get you in.”
Radiance smirked and continued to move on.
“Sorry. Not interested. Flora and I are going to a friend’s birthday party tonight, so we’re busy.”
The stallion looked at her as if he did not comprehend what she said. It was clear that he was not used to rejection.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold up,” he said, jumping in front of her and stopping her with his forearm. “Come on, it’ll be fun. I promise!”
“I said that I’m not interested.”
“You’re kidding, right? You serious?”
“Yeah, I serious,” Radiance said mimickingly while she pushed his arm out of the way. “I’m not going to the big party with you or anypony else. End of story.”
Seeing that he was going nowhere, the stallion snorted and smirked back.
“Whatever. Enjoy your cake and ice cream.”
“Thanks, dahling! I will!” she said with a Rarity-like accent. “Ta-ta!”
As he returned to his posse, Radiance tapped Flora on the wing and motioned at them with her head.
“Ah, that felt great. Can you believe that guy? Why I ever had a crush on him in high school is beyond me.”
Flora said nothing and continued walking, leaving Radiance standing. Seeing it as an obvious nonverbal statement, the white unicorn mare trotted a little faster in order to catch up to her pegasus friend.
“Hey now,” she said, “what’s going on? What did I do?”
“Nothing,” Flora muttered.
“But if I did nothing, then what’s wrong?”
Flora shook her head.
“No, I mean you did nothing. You didn’t have to do anything!”
Radiance stared at her as if she had grown a third eye. Her friend was not making any sense.
“Flora, sweetie, I’m not getting what you’re saying. I want to understand, but you need to just tell me what’s on your mind.”
Flora stopped abruptly, forcing Radiance to turn back.
“When we passed those boys, they weren’t looking at me! Not really. They were looking at you!”
Radiance wanted desperately to roll her eyes, but this was not the time.
“Oh come on,” she scoffed. “You’re gorgeous!”
“Doesn’t matter,” Flora shrugged. “I may be pretty, but I’m still invisible compared to you.”
Radiance hated being compared to others.
“Hey now,” she retorted, “that’s not fair.”
“Not fair? Who got invited to the party while I stood watching? I didn’t hear an invitation for me. Did you? Did you see him even look at me?”
“Wait,” Radiance laughed. “Let me get this straight. You’re mad because some dirtbag guy didn’t invite you to his overrated party? If you want him so bad, you can have him.”
“That’s not the point, Radiance. You’re a career supermodel! You’re the most gorgeous thing to come out of Ponyville since…your own mom! You are a literal superstar! I’m just some mare who likes flowers and painting. I’m a side dish compared to you.”
The two friends drew quiet for a moment. Radiance’s face crinkled with a sad expression while they stared at each other. After a few seconds, she spoke up.
“Is that how you see me?” she asked, deeply hurt. “A threat?”
Flora felt guilty. She never opened up like this, but something inside her just wanted to get it out now before she let it fester any longer.
“You know I don’t mean it like that,” she said. “You’re my best friend, but it’s hard being your best friend sometimes because you get all the attention. I’m not mad at you. Honest, I’m not. I’m just… jealous of you.”
Radiance’s heart broke at the thought. Even her own friends were insanely jealous of her. It was always like this, ever since she was a filly.
“You’re jealous of me?” she asked. “The one who is hated by practically every mare merely because of her looks? The one who is considered a spoiled filly by adults and a trophy to be won by stallions? Do you think I like being treated like another pretty face by everypony I meet?”
“No,” Flora murmured. “I guess not.”
“I’m really sorry you feel this way,” Radiance said, “and I’m not just saying that. I am truly sorry, but to be honest, I’m jealous of you too. You’re beautiful, but still considered smart and artistic by others. I wish I had that combination of beauty and respect.”
A tiny smile cracked on Flora’s face. Never in a million years would she think that Radiance was jealous of her. Forgetting her frustration, she gave her friend a hug.
“I’m sorry too,” she said. “You didn’t deserve that, especially not now.”
Radiance smiled as they let go.
“I don’t know,” she joked. “I might have a little bit.”
Both felt a bit awkward at the moment and tried to move on and pretend nothing even happened. There was plenty else to talk about and they had time while they walked around town to shop for Orion’s birthday gift. Finding what they was looking for, Radiance decided to stash their presents in Rarity's boutique, since it was a little closer to Twilight's house. As they left and turned the corner, they could see Bismarck approaching in the distance, pulling a wooden cart of food. No doubt it was for the party. Flora began to shift her direction to say hello to him, but Radiance began to walk in the opposite direction, ignoring him entirely.
"That was Bismarck over there, in case you didn’t see him," Flora said, trying to keep up to her friend’s faster pace.
“Yep,” Radiance replied.
“So you’re not going to talk to him?”
Flora sighed. Playing peacekeeper between these two was hard enough without the grumpiness.
"I heard you and Bismarck had a bit of an argument again."
“Oh yeah? Who told you that?”
“Of course he did,” Radiance huffed.
"He told me his side of the story,” Flora said, attempting to goad her into talking. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“What’s to talk about? Just take what Bismarck told you, flip it around, and you’ll have my opinion on the matter.”
Flora shook her head. It had always been this way. Like their mothers, Bismarck and Radiance’s personalities clashed the most of their group of friends. For years, they had been good friends, but they usually got in each other's faces more often than not. Fluttershy always said that Rarity and Applejack were the same way for a long time. Even after they resolved their differences, they still remained total opposites. Flora knew that her friends were mad at each other right now, and she prayed that they would stay civil when they saw each other at the party.
“Nice to see you air out your feelings today,” Flora replied. “Good talk.”
Radiance glanced at her friend with a raised eyebrow. Was she hearing things?
“Look at you,” she said playfully. “Flora’s adding a little sarcasm to the menu!”
Flora shrugged with an innocent expression.
“I’m here if you need me. Whenever you and Bismarck get into it, somepony needs to make sure it doesn’t go too far.”
“Well I appreciate the gesture, Flora. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Flora replied with a smile.
Reaching the house, the two friends took their presents and hid them away for retrieval later. No sooner did they leave that they ran into Orion and his friends.
"Hey Flora. Hey Radiance. Whatcha doing?” Orion asked inquisitively.
Nearly caught with the presents already, Radiance knew she’d have to keep it cool.
"Oh nothing really,” she answered. “We just got back from the spa. What have you three been up to?
"Just here to give you the invitations to my birthday party. It's tonight."
Radiance and Flora took the cards and looked at them. Arts and crafts were not Orion’s forte, but they knew that it was the thought that counted.
“These are really nice,” Flora said cheerfully. “Thank you very much, Orion.”
“So will you guys be there?” Bucky asked. “We already have Tempest and Bismarck and Berry and Cherry coming!”
"We wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Flora answered.
"Great!” Orion replied, crossing off the two names on a list that he kept in his bag. “You guys are the last ones, so I’ll be going home to help my mom. See you then!"
And as quickly as he appeared, Orion bolted away with Peach Cobbler and Bucky giving close chase. Just as they left, Radiance and Flora let out a long sigh.
“You know, we’re not kids anymore, Flora,” Radiance said as they watched the young foals take off. “We’re getting older.”
“Yeah,” Flora replied quietly. “Scary, isn’t it?”
“Sure is. I mean, what do we do with our lives now? What’s going to happen? Are we going to stay in Ponyville forever or will we all split apart?”
“I have no idea. I don’t like to think about it.”
“I mean,” Radiance said, leaning against her house, “I’m spending more time in Canterlot these days than in Ponyville, you may end up on an art tour soon, Bismarck is often on the road with his work, and I’ve heard that Tempest may be moving to Cloudsdale at some point! Will Orion’s birthday secretly be the beginning of goodbye for some of us?”
Flora made her way to Radiance’s side and rested against the house wall as well.
“I have no idea. Hopefully we can stay in Ponyville a little longer. Even if we all leave soon, we should enjoy the time we have together. Let’s not worry about it.”
Radiance believed in what Flora said, but there was something going on deep inside of her that felt wrong. Something in her gut felt uneasy about the future, but she couldn’t pinpoint just what it was. Even stranger, it didn’t feel like fear of the future or mere nerves. The only way she could explain it was a deep pit in her stomach that felt like, whatever it was, it was going to happen soon. Seeing it as possible lack of sleep or too much stress, she chose to ignore the premonition, though she could not forget it.
“Yeah,” she said in a daze. “Let’s just have a good time tonight.”