Wedding in White
written by Sugarberry
“Will the snow never stop?” complained Sugarberry as she and Chocolate Chip returned from the grocery store. The white stuff had been beautiful at Christmas, but its frequent appearance in the days since then had turned it into more of a drudgery. The mounds of snow at the side of the paths had grown higher with each passing snowfall until now it felt as if a pony was walking through a tunnel, especially when it was cloudy and dropping yet more snow. “We haven’t seen the sun in ages!”
“It’s not all that bad,” laughed Chocolate Chip, turning her face upward to let the white, fluffy flakes caress her face. “The sun peeked out from behind the clouds yesterday afternoon.”
“I must have blinked.”
“You were locked in the study composing,” Chocolate Chip clarified. “And by your mood today, I’d say that you’ve hit a snag in your story.”
“More of a rock wall, actually,” the mare admitted, shifting the groceries she carried. “My current project is set in the summertime, but this winter is so confining that I can’t think.”
“Well, the way I look at it is that the more snow that falls now, the less chance of it falling on my wedding day,” stated Chocolate Chip.
“There’s still so much to get done!” Sugarberry groaned, finding this new topic no less comforting than the weather.
“First things first,” rationalized Chocolate Chip as the two mares approached the back door of Sugarberry’s house. “We’ve got groceries to put away and Banderol to fetch. What do you want me to do?”
“Help me with the groceries, then we can both go over to Caprice’s; maybe she’ll have a snack ready for us,” brightened Sugarberry.
Chocolate Chip’s eyes lighted at the thought. “Yes. Let’s hurry. Maybe she’ll have those spice bars I like so well.”
With renewed energy, both mares hurried to get the milk put in the refrigerator, the nonperishable items in the pantry, and the main course in the oven before taking off once more through the backyard to what had once been Tabby’s home when she had been a single career pony.
Coming back to civilization and renewing ties with their families, Caprice and Dietrich had decided to resettle in Dream Valley to be near their son, Thomas, and their daughter, Elaine, both of whom had found their marriage partners in the years that Dietrich and Caprice had been marooned with the Yetis. Having a granddaughter was a wonderful delight, especially for Caprice, who looked forward as well to the month of May when a new grandchild was expected.
Tabby benevolently gifted her parents-in-law with her former home next door to Sugarberry’s, never having found a buyer who suited her specifications. Once more, the house was inhabited; and the path between the two homes was nearly as well-worn as when Tabby herself had lived there.
“Oh, you’re just in time!” Caprice smiled as she admitted Sugarberry and Chocolate Chip to the house. “I just tried out a new recipe, and I’d like your impressions.”
Chocolate Chip and Sugarberry exchanged a gleeful glance. “We’d love to... if you’re sure we wouldn’t be an imposition,” Sugarberry said. “Has Banderol been behaving himself?” She walked to the table where the little colt was so busy coloring in the coloring book Caprice had given him that he barely looked up to acknowledge his mother’s presence. Watching over his efforts sat the ever-present companion, Kitty-Kitty, the Puffalump. Across the table sat Faline, her picture developing prodigiously more neatly than the colt’s.
“He’s been no trouble at all. He and Faline have been busy ever since you dropped him off.” She smiled indulgently at the two foals. “You don’t know how nice it is to have little ones around again, although I did my share of caring for the Yeti youngsters when I was on the island. It just wasn’t the same as having my own granddaughter and little Banderol to look after.”
“Well, thanks to your help, Chocolate Chip and I were able to get our shopping done. As far as we can determine, we have enough groceries stockpiled now to handle all the wedding guests who will be staying at the house or dropping in... which means we’ve probably forgotten something crucial like... oh my gosh, Chocolate Chip, we did forget the celery, didn’t we?”
Chocolate Chip groaned. “You’re right. We were trying to decide on how much to get when Fern and Frond came by, and we got so caught up in admiring the baby that we went on without the celery.” She thought for a moment. “I’ll call Wigwam; he’s coming by anyway, so he can stop by Oakley’s and pick us up some.”
While Chocolate Chip took care of that detail, Sugarberry cut the bars as Caprice set out plates, glasses, cold milk, and coffee. As soon as Chocolate Chip was finished with her call, the mares sat down with Banderol and Faline to critique the new recipe.
Half an hour later, it was unanimously decided that the bars were a success. Dietrich, coming into the room from his home office, laughingly took note of the half-empty pan on the counter and the crumbs on the plates in front of the mares. “Lucky I came in when I did, or I’d have missed out on this... whatever it is. It sure smells good.”
The girls stayed to chat while Dietrich polished off a plate of bars himself, concurring with the majority opinion that the new recipe was a keeper; they were having such a good time that no one noticed the hour.
“Is it getting that late already?” queried Sugarberry, looking at the clock and jumping quickly to her hooves. “I’ve got to get supper started. Banderol, you’ll have to put the colors away.”
A dissatisfied scowl settled on the foal’s face. “Me stay,” he informed his mother.
“Daddy will be home soon,” Sugarberry coaxed. “You can show him your beautiful artwork.”
“Me not done.” The foal hunkered down to the task at hoof, applying red crayon to a tall, graceful pine.
Chocolate Chip giggled. “You can’t mess with inspiration, Sugarberry. I’ll get supper started while the young Rembrandt finishes his picture.”
“You shouldn’t have to...” began Sugarberry, but Chocolate Chip was already heading for the door.
“It’s the least I can do,” she called back as she disappeared.
* * *
If truth be told, the young mare was grateful for a chance to see her fiancé alone for a change. With all the wedding preparations, Wigwam and Chocolate Chip had found themselves with little opportunity for the long walks and cozy chats that sustained them. With the wedding only two days away, Chocolate Chip hoped for a few private moments with her sweetheart.
Knowing the evening’s menu, Chocolate Chip began peeling potatoes and had just put them on the stove to cook when a rap on the back door was followed by a robust, “Oakley’s delivery!” as the door opened, admitting an orange stallion with a grocery bag.
Grinning her welcome, Chocolate Chip met him half-way across the kitchen. “I’ll have to commend Oakley on his prompt service.”
“Oakley has nothing to do with it,” Wigwam stated, setting the purchase on the table and drawing the mare into his forelegs. “I was hoping for just such a scenario as this... you and me alone...” His lips met hers, negating the need for words.
The door opened again, but the country blue stallion that materialized, taking in the scene before him, stopped his forward progress and quietly retreated. Having already noted that the house was in darkness except for the kitchen, Vanguard surmised that Sugarberry was not yet home; he directed his steps to the house next door.
“I suspect that my wife and son are here,” Vanguard greeted Dietrich as that stallion opened the door.
“Sugarberry is even now trying to convince Banderol that Caprice will undoubtedly have more pictures for him to color the next time he visits,” Dietrich grinned. “Come on in.”
Sugarberry’s eyes had no sooner met her husband’s when Banderol clambered off his chair, his picture in one hoof and Kitty-Kitty in the other, and ran to his father. “Me color,” he said, holding up his work.
Scooping the foal into his forelegs, Vanguard admired his son’s effort. “Your trees are certainly... colorful.”
“Pretty,” agreed the foal. Then, his absorption in the art waning, he commanded, “Home!” and pointed to the door.
Sugarberry rolled her eyes. “Don’t you think you should say goodbye to Faline?” she suggested.
“Bye, F’line,” he waved merrily.
The little filly, still intent upon her own masterpiece- which was truly well-executed, the colors neatly within the lines- looked up to say goodbye, then slipped off her chair to stand by her grandfather.
“How about a kiss and a thank you for Caprice?” indicated Vanguard.
The colt leaned toward the mare, delivering a dutiful kiss. “Tank ‘ou, ‘Preec,” he said, then hid his face in his father’s mane.
“You’ll have to promise to come another day,” Caprice smiled on the foal. She then bustled to the counter, packaging the remaining few bars in plastic wrap. “For you,” she said, giving the dessert to Vanguard. “You’re the only one who hasn’t sampled them yet.”
“Thanks, Caprice. I’ve been wondering what smelled so good. But you’re not cutting yourself short, are you?” He sent a questioning glance to Dietrich.
“Another pan of some sumptuous offering will magically appear before bedtime,” assured the stallion. He patted his tummy. “And for now, I’m quite replete. You’ll be doing my waistline a favor.”
* * *
As Sugarberry and Vanguard and Banderol made their way back home, they encountered Licorice and Snapper just returning from their part-time jobs at Regal Ridges, Dream Valley’s premier hotel. “It’s okay if Snapper stays for supper, isn’t it?” queried Licorice by way of greeting.
“Of course, Snapper’s always welcome,” Sugarberry smiled at the young stallion who had struck up a friendship with Licorice when the two began classes at Pony Pride in the fall. “How are your parents?”
“Mom’s busy rehearsing the music for the wedding,” Snapper supplied, shaking snowflakes out of his mane, “and Dad’s the same as ever.” Turtledove, Snapper’s mother, was the organist for the wedding; and Remuda was a dealer at the casino. Snapper’s eyes came to rest on the bars in Vanguard’s hoof. “Caprice was baking today?” he asked hopefully.
“Be grateful she was, because I didn’t have time to make a dessert,” Sugarberry admitted, moving to open the door.
“Um,” Vanguard cleared his throat. “You might want to knock first.”
“At my own back door?” questioned Sugarberry, her hoof on the knob.
“At the least, stamp the snow off your hooves... noisily.” Vanguard proceeded to follow his own suggestion and was joined by Licorice and Snapper, causing Banderol to laugh at these silly antics. Sugarberry more daintily cleaned her hooves of the fresh snow before opening the door and walking into the room, and she grinned at what she saw.
As one would expect after such a blatantly enacted arrival of intruders, Chocolate Chip was by the stove tending to the pot of potatoes; but the high color in her cheeks, Sugarberry suspected, was not due to the heat from the stove if the guilty glance Chocolate Chip sent her way was any indication. Also, the white frothy streaks running down the side of the pan and pooling around the burner were definite signs of an unwatched pot.
Wigwam, for his part, stood at the refrigerator, two bunches of celery in his hooves. The stallion was not one to blush, but he certainly looked... distracted. Small wonder why, Sugarberry smirked.
“Everything under control?” she sang out as Vanguard, Banderol, Licorice, and Snapper filed in behind her.
“Oh, Sugarberry, I’ve made a mess of everything,” Chocolate Chip wailed.
“It wasn’t her fault,” Wigwam quickly clarified. “I... I took her attention away from what she was doing.” He offered the celery as proof, then frowned at Licorice and Snapper as they snickered and exchanged knowing glances.
“You two get out of the kitchen,” Sugarberry said, then stopped Licorice and Snapper with a warning hoof. “Not you two. Those two.” She nodded toward Chocolate Chip and Wigwam. “The bridal couple has some last minute... seating arrangements to discuss. We left the lists in the turret room, I believe,” she advised the brown mare. “The rest of us will get supper ready.”
Neither Chocolate Chip nor Wigwam needed further incentive, and they beat a hasty retreat. Sugarberry began the job of cleaning up the stove before moving on with the rest of the meal preparations, giving orders to her team of assistants as she went. Banderol plopped himself and Kitty-Kitty down on the kitchen floor to play with the real felines, Fluff and Raptor.
“So who all’s goin’ to be stayin’ here again?” Licorice wanted to know as he got the plates out of the cupboard.
“Chocolate Chip’s grandparents, Forester and Camomile, will be arriving tomorrow morning. My parents, too.”
“What about Chocolate Chip’s parents?”
“Drifter and Twilight Jewel prefer staying at the hotel so they can have ready access to all the local restaurants to see what the competition is doing, and Lollipop has been invited to spend the weekend with Garnet and Wishbone.”
“Doesn’t sound too bad,” acknowledged Licorice, who had helped his parents at their bed-and-breakfast long enough to be accustomed to a wide variety of strangers in the house.
Snapper, whose college experience was far from ideal, began muttering. “You realize the wedding is going to be like going to classes at Pony Pride; Chocolate Chip invited nearly the entire faculty, as if we need to see them on our day off.” Without Licorice’s patient tutoring, the young stallion would have been completely lost. “I’ll feel like they’re about to test me on the names of the wedding party or what historical significance the wedding ceremony has or the ratio of out-of-towners to locals...” When Snapper realized the company he was in, he looked at Vanguard, his current math professor, sheepishly. “Sorry, sir.”
Saved by the bell, Snapper was relieved to see Vanguard leave the room to answer the summons at the front door, although his whispered, “I’m doomed,” to Licorice bore testimony to his mistrust of teachers.
* * *
“Prime!” Chocolate Chip squealed, jumping up from the window seat and scattering unemployed lists in all directions. “Oh, this is like old times!” She hugged the newcomer, a dark lemon-colored stallion with light green hair, who had been her classmate at Pony Pride and a trusted adviser while in New Pony.
“You’re lookin’ good,” Prime grinned as he pulled away to hold her at foreleg’s length. “Coming back to Dream Valley must have been the right choice.” He turned his attention to Wigwam. “Nice to see you again.”
“We’re both pleased that you consented to be one of our attendants. Chocolate Chip’s told me you kept an eye out for her while she was in New Pony. I appreciate that.”
“I wish I could have done more, but our schedules seldom clicked. Now, as its been a year since I was back in Dream Valley, I managed to finagle a few days off to catch up on friends at Pony Pride as well as to take in your wedding. And I have to admit that it’s great to be back.”
“We do have chairs in the living room,” Vanguard interjected, “in case any of you would like to sit down to do your visiting. I’ll go tell Sugarberry you’re here, Prime.”
* * *
“Another guest for supper?” Sugarberry said, looking worriedly from her husband to the stove and trying to calculate just how far the dishes would stretch.
“I can go home,” offered Snapper while looking longingly at Caprice’s bars.
“That won’t be necessary,” Sugarberry assured the young stallion. “Licorice, get out a can of salsa and a bag of chips; that’ll help stretch things.”
“Mom always adds water and a bouillon cube to the soup when more guests show up than she expected,” Licorice volunteered.
“But I’m not serving any soup,” Sugarberry pointed out.
“Ramen noodles!” Snapper said enthusiastically. “They’re quick and easy.”
“That just might work, Snapper,” smiled Sugarberry. “Thanks for the suggestion.”
“And Banderol loves them,” added Vanguard, going to the cupboard to grab several packages.
“I can handle this,” Snapper said proudly, taking the pan from Sugarberry and the noodles from Vanguard. “I practically live on these things,” he added, seeing the mare’s look of doubt.
“If you’re sure, I would like to say hello to Prime,” Sugarberry responded, taking off her apron and accompanying Vanguard to the living room, convincing Prime that it would be no trouble at all if he joined them for supper. After sharing the usual small talk, she excused herself to return to the meal preparation.
“Is everything going okay?” she queried.
“I’m just finishing up the noodles,” Snapper verified.
“And I added soup bowls to the table,” said Licorice.
“All right. Let’s serve up this meal.”
* * *
By the time the ponies were finished eating, Licorice and Snapper, who were both in their freshman year of college, felt comfortable enough with Prime to consider him their friend; and stories abounded of college life, teachers’ foibles, and the changes that had occurred at Pony Pride since Prime had left for the big city nearly three years earlier. Vanguard took the ribbing of the students good-naturedly and filed away some points that bore checking into to determine if some policies might need revamping.
Chocolate Chip and Wigwam got their fair share of teasing as well, with the three single stallions scoffing at the idea of wedded bliss- an oxymoron, they maintained- while Sugarberry kept her eyes on the availability of foodstuffs, and Banderol took advantage of the party atmosphere to feed Fluff and Raptor under the table.
Caprice’s bars had just been served with a generous dollop of ice cream when a familiar knock on the backdoor produced Wishbone and Garnet.
“If you’re having a party, why weren’t we invited?” asked Wishbone accusingly as he scanned the assembled ponies, his eyes sparkling.
“You’re here, aren’t you?” drawled Wigwam, standing to offer his chair to Garnet.
“I was just too tired to fix anything tonight,” the red mare sighed dramatically, dropping into the chair heavily. “It’s all those extra hours of work I have to do since we’ve been so short-hooved at the casino,” she added, casting a none-to-subtle glance at Wigwam.
“Hey! I had to do double duty while you and Wishbone were off on your honeymoon, didn’t I?”
The mare tossed her mane. “That may be; but before the wedding, I had to burn the midnight oil.”
“Well,” Wigwam grinned, “I plan to be burning the midnight oil after the wedding, but not at the casino.” His gaze settled on his bride-to-be who blushed charmingly.
Feeling that the conversation was getting out-of-hoof, Sugarberry pointed out to Garnet and Wishbone that they had a guest from New Pony.
“It’s good to see you again, Prime,” Wishbone said, shaking the stallion’s hoof.
“It’s a pleasure to be back,” Prime admitted, “and I’m glad to see that things haven’t changed too drastically. Some of my best memories are of the times we spent here in Sugarberry’s kitchen. Who of the old gang are still in Dream Valley?”
“Snowdrift and Troy...”
“They’re still a couple?” queried Prime, surprised.
“Snowdrift remains on the lookout for the perfect stallion; but until she finds him, Troy seems to be her best bet,” grinned Wishbone. Snowdrift and Wishbone, both from Neighberry, had started classes at Pony Pride at the same time; but their exclusive friendship had broadened as they met new ponies from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests. Snowdrift had soon earned the reputation of a heartbreaker, but she seemed to have met her match in Troy.
“She’ll graduate with Wishbone in May,” Garnet added, “but Troy has to hang around for another semester to get some credits that didn’t fit his schedule earlier.”
“Chip is working in Hayton at Software Solutions,” Chocolate Chip contributed. “And Frilly Flower decided to stay in town with Glenvale Insurance.”
“What about Current?”
“The last we heard he was on some oceanography project at Calimadad Island and having a ball.”
By this time, Sugarberry had rounded-up enough food to set a healthy offering in front of Wishbone and Garnet; and noticing that Banderol was nodding in his father’s lap, she indicated to Vanguard that now was a good time to put the foal to bed. Vanguard excused himself and accompanied his wife to Banderol’s bedroom. After tucking the blankets around the sleeping child, both parents kissed his silken cheeks goodnight and left him to his slumber.
Reaching the top of the stairs, the ponies heard the sound of laughter coming from the kitchen. Sugarberry stopped, a bemused look on her face. “Things are changing again, with Chocolate Chip soon to be Wigwam’s wife. It’s been so nice having her back with us; now I’m going to miss her all over again.”
“Yes, but you’ll be able to see her as often as you like; she’s not moving to the ends of the earth, you know... only across town. It’s just like when Tabby moved to the mansion; you accommodated the change and progressed from there.”
Sugarberry grinned. “Yes, and now we have Caprice next door. It’s a welcome change, but she’s going to spoil Banderol, you know.”
“More than he’s been spoiled by the two of us?” Vanguard chuckled, drawing his wife to him for a kiss. “I love you, my darling. That’ll never change.”
* * *
Thankfully, the snow had stopped around midnight, and the weather seemed to smile down on the forthcoming wedding to be held the following day. The white landscape lent well with the anticipation of the bridal ceremony, and the absence of snowfall made the last minute tasks easier to accomplish. It also ensured the arrival of wedding guests from out-of-town.
Drifter, Twilight Jewel, and Lollipop, along with Forester and Camomile, arrived mid-morning, having left Neighberry early in the day; the grandparents were satisfied to settle down in the warmth and comfort of Sugarberry’s cosy home, but Drifter and Twilight Jewel preferred to continue on immediately to their hotel while Lollipop headed for Pony Pride to intercept her brother after his Friday classes.
Sugarberry’s parents, Strawberry Shortcake and Strawberry Baskets, arrived in time for lunch; Banderol knew a good thing when he saw it and made the most of having his doting grandparents in the house. He soon found that Forester and Camomile were remarkably accommodating to the whims and wishes of a little foal as well, and he reveled in the attention.
It was early evening when Xavier arrived on the doorstep from New Pony. Having accompanied Chocolate Chip to Dream Valley for Garnet and Wishbone’s wedding in August, he had made the acquaintance of many of the ponies who would again come together to celebrate this latest pairing of ponies. He had eagerly accepted Chocolate Chip’s invitation to come to the house early so that the two of them could catch up on one anothers activities since Chocolate Chip had left her job at New Pony.
After sharing civilities with Sugarberry and her house guests, Xavier was drawn by Chocolate Chip off to a quiet corner to chat. One piece of news that Xavier relayed truly surprised the mare. “Blackcap and Sassy were on the same flight as I was, and guess who’s with them.”
The brown mare wrinkled her forehead in serious thought, going over in her mind their mutual acquaintances in New Pony. “I have no idea.”
“Tilly.” Xavier grinned, awaiting Chocolate Chip’s reaction.
“Tilly’s here, in Dream Valley?” the mare exclaimed. “She replied to her invitation with a blunt refusal, saying an old mare like herself couldn’t be gallivanting about the countryside, especially in the winter. She’s here?”
“You’d definitely know she’s here if you shared the journey with her,” Xavier chuckled. “If she wasn’t exclaiming over the sight out the window, she was complaining about her leg hurting or fussing to get the blanket wrapped more securely around her or...”
“I get the picture,” laughed Chocolate Chip. “But she can barely walk; how’d she manage to get to the airport?”
“Well, I don’t know the details; but Blackcap and Sassy must be living saints to have arranged it.”
Chocolate Chip’s eyes twinkled. “Now, that’s a label that Blackcap and Sassy have rarely been given ; but I know that Sassy has a heart of gold. Did you help them to the motel?” Blackcap and Sassy had wisely chosen different accommodations than Drifter and Twilight Jewel, as Twilight Jewel was still working through some misgivings she had about her son’s mother-in-law.
Xavier rolled his eyes. “I had to. It looks like Tilly plans to stay awhile, or else she brought her entire apartment with her so she doesn’t get homesick.”
“I hope she didn’t pack that cat of hers in one of her suitcases,” giggled Chocolate Chip. “I can see her doing that.”
“I wouldn’t be all that surprised if she had,” agreed Xavier. “Oh, Andrew and Ribbons n’ Lace were on the same flight, too. I understand that Fern and Toby have a daughter.”
“You’ll meet the little darling tomorrow.”
Their tete-a-tete was interrupted as Vanguard arrived home with Licorice in his company. Wigwam was not far behind. He had eyes only for Chocolate Chip, but he could not resist tormenting Sugarberry.
“You’ve been worrying for weeks that the wedding might be jeopardized by a snowstorm. Have you heard the weather report for tomorrow?”
“And you would believe the weather pony?” shot back Sugarberry.
“In this instance, yes. Who’s going to turn down clear skies and sunshine?”
“I can’t argue with you,” Sugarberry relented. “I’m happy about the forecast myself.”
“By the way,” said Licorice, “While I was on duty, your friends from Vulcanopolis checked in at the hotel... Giorgio and Enrica Guardini.”
“Wonderful!” bubbled Chocolate Chip. The prospective bride held Enrica in high esteem because of that mare’s successful effort to smooth over some ruffled waters between a disillusioned- some might have said, stubborn- Chocolate Chip and a woebegone Wigwam two years earlier. “It will be great to see them again.”
“My, my,” smiled Camomile. “Guests all the way from Vulcanopolis! I’m impressed.”
“Did Falda arrive from New Pony?” Chocolate Chip asked Licorice.
“Not that I noticed,” the young stallion admitted.
“Isn’t it time for the bride and groom to report to the church for the rehearsal?” Sugarberry broke in.
“Oh, dear! Where did the time go?” Chocolate Chip darted to Wigwam’s side and pulled him toward the door. “Xavier, come on!” she called over her shoulder.
“Impatient, isn’t she?” chuckled Forester.
“Tomorrow is her wedding day, Forester,” Camomile chided. “It’s a big day in a young mare’s life.”
“I know, I know.” Forester leaned over to buss his wife’s cheek. “And I’m not so old that I can’t remember that it was a pretty important day in this stallion’s life, too... the day we got married.”
“Oh, Forester!” Camomile blushed like a filly.
* * *
“Wigwam,” Fr. Isaac shook his head. “Several sedate steps to meet the bride with her parents is all that’s necessary; loping halfway down the aisle is entirely gauche.”
The snickers from his attendants caused Wigwam to cast them a warning glance which did little to stop their mirth. “You said to come forward to meet the bride and escort her to you. That’s what I did.”
“Your enthusiasm is to be commended,” Fr. Isaac stated drolly, “but I think Drifter can safely get his daughter to the front of church without your assistance.” The bridesmaids giggled.
Under his breath, Wishbone said to his fellow groomsmen who consisted of Teepee, Xavier, Prime and Sprinter, “This is the guy who said he’d wait for Chocky for as long as it took.”
“Just you wait, stripling,” Wigwam growled, overhearing the remark.
“Drifter... Twilight Jewel... Chocolate Chip... why don’t you try the walk down the aisle again? Garnet, you precede them.” Fr. Isaac resumed control of the practice session. “And, Wigwam, hold your position until they’ve reached this first row of pews.” He motioned to Turtledove at the organ to begin the processional once more.
This second attempt went much better, although Chocolate Chip was hard pressed not to hurry forward when Wigwam winked and smiled endearingly at her, his eyes inviting... perhaps too inviting for Drifter, who refused to turn Chocolate Chip’s hoof over to the stallion in this practice session. “Tomorrow... and not a moment sooner,” he warned Wigwam with an understanding grin.
Garnet and Wishbone were admonished to take good care of the rings while the two golden bands were in their possession before and during the ceremony; and, when Fr. Isaac was sure that everyone was aware of their cues and would not embarrass themselves on the morrow, he released them, promising that he would make a showing at their rehearsal party at some point in the evening.
It was an exuberant bunch of ponies that made their way from the church to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe where family and friends were gathering to make the most of this last day of single life for Chocolate Chip and Wigwam.
* * *
The Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe had never looked so festive. In preparation for the evening, a group of ponies had decorated this favorite gathering place with streamers and bells and a collage of pictures of Chocolate Chip and Wigwam that followed them through the days of their foalhood, adolescence, school days, and careers. Many familiar faces appeared at their sides in these photographic glimpses of the past, and the majority of those faces also presented themselves in the living flesh this evening to share in the celebration of the anticipated uniting of two well-liked and respected ponies.
The counter was open and ice cream treats flowed freely even though the winter air was brisk outside; the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe was warmed by more than the establishment’s furnace as the local inhabitants mingled with the out-of-towners and renewed acquaintances with old friends or shared the local gossip with the pony next door. Behind the counter, Scoops was assisted by Licorice and Snapper and Parsley.
By the time the wedding party reached the ice cream parlor, a sizeable number of ponies had already congregated, surprising Wigwam and Chocolate Chip with an enthusiastic huzzah as the couple entered the shop.
“Are all these ponies here because of us?” Chocolate Chip whispered to Wigwam.
“I’m sure the free ice cream was an overwhelming enticement,” the stallion responded, grinning.
Teepee overheard. “As much as it hurts me to admit it, brother, you’ve actually proven yourself to be quite well-liked in this town. Everyone is happy to see you and Chocolate Chip make a match of it; this gathering is an expression of their approval.”
“In a few months, you and Bittersweet will be in the same boat,” Wigwam noted. “And let me tell you, it’s a great place to be.” He looked at Chocolate Chip, his love obvious in the light in his eyes.
Hawkley came forward to greet his boss and Chocolate Chip. “Before this party gets out-of-hoof,” he smirked, “we’d like you to introduce your wedding party to those who aren’t acquainted with all those involved.” Waving his hoof in the air and bellowing out an order for quiet, Hawkley then proceeded to make known the bride and groom as a few of the guests had not yet met one or the other. Wigwam and Chocolate Chip, taken by surprise at this formal beginning to what had been arranged as a very informal gathering, whispered together a moment before deciding to present their attendants in the order in which they would process into church the next day, beginning with White Dove and Sprinter.
Wigwam grinned at the Native Pony mare of white as she stepped forward, her creamy yellow hair a silken braid. “White Dove and I were not only classmates for what seemed like a lifetime by the time we graduated but also next-door neighbors who shared many exciting adventures exploring our parents’ farms; we both learned at the same time that one never taunts an irate mother goose, although I was the one who discovered just how hard a pinch those orange, rounded beaks can inflict.” Wigwam rubbed his rump, causing everyone to laugh at the mental picture of the two little foals being chased- and conquered- by a protective feathered fowl. (Tabby especially empathized, as she had experienced vindictive wrath from Quackers, the insolent green-headed duck.) Wigwam continued, “White Dove has since pursued a nursing career, currently in Stableton.” He did not go on to explain that the gentle mare had recently suffered a sudden and unexpected end of her own engagement.
“All of you from Dream Valley are familiar with Sprinter, who was also a classmate with White Dove and me. We won’t go into any of the exploits in which he and I were involved; but suffice it to say that we were frequently on the black list of our older siblings who thought our sense of humor was in poor taste, to say the least. In spite of- or because of- those humble beginnings, Sprinter in now in charge of drama productions at The Tableau here in Dream Valley.”
The gathered ponies politely applauded this first attendant couple before Whispering Birch and Prime stepped forward. Whispering Birch, as Wigwam’s sister, received a fair amount of affectionate razzing from her brother while Chocolate Chip introduced Prime with a proud assessment of his accomplishments since they had met as students at Pony Pride. She followed with a touching presentation of her sister, Lollipop, and the stallion in New Pony who had befriended Chocolate Chip when she was new to the city, Xavier. The budding romance that had since sprung up between Xavier and Lollipop was obvious.
With no holds barred, Wigwam did the honors for Teepee and Bittersweet, recounting several instances of sibling rivalry between himself and Teepee (which Teepee was quick to repudiate) and the demanding association between himself and Bittersweet that had indirectly thrown Teepee and that mare together and had led to their pending commitment in May.
Chocolate Chip, who over the last several months had worked through her feelings of jealousy concerning the vibrant mare who had monopolized Wigwam’s time over the construction of Native Dreams, could sincerely smile over Wigwam’s tongue-in-cheek presentation of Bittersweet as a no-holds-barred manipulator who knew how to get what she wanted. Fortunately for Chocolate Chip, Bittersweet had wanted Teepee, not Wigwam.
The last attendants to be presented were Wishbone and Garnet, newly married themselves in August. Chocolate Chip hugged her younger brother, the only friend she had for support when she had been growing up in a less than ideal home-life. Wigwam admitted that he, too, had come to consider Wishbone as his own flesh-and-blood younger brother... albeit an irritating one at times; and Garnet had become a sister to both Wigwam and Chocolate Chip not only through her marriage to Wishbone but also through her unfailing friendship and her valuable expertise at the casino.
With the introductions taken care of, the party began in earnest; Scoops and her helpers were kept busy providing ice cream goodies for everyone while the jukebox played a variety of songs, all of which had been specially provided with the upcoming wedding in mind. Love songs, wedding songs, and love-gone-awry songs provided a background to the noisy chatting and laughing that took place between the ponies.
“Van, Sug, this is just like old times!” exclaimed Tabby as she and Thomas joined their friends at a corner table. “Ah, the good ol’ days.” Settling her chin on her hoof, Tabby sighed in dreamy delight as she watched the activity around her. “Except for all the different characters, and relationships, and everything else. Actually, it’s nothing like the old times...”
“Yes, the two of you are married ladies now,” Vanguard warned, not remembering those uncertain days with quite as much enthusiasm as Tabby did. Toby, Tex, Driftwood, Quarterback, Wigwam, and others had played too big a part in Sugarberry’s life for his comfort before she had consented to be his wife.
“Foof!” Tabby countered. “Just because we’re married doesn’t mean we can’t have any fun.”
Vanguard and Thomas exchanged a comic glance. “So marriage just drains life of all its fun?” queried Thomas.
“Well, it does limit a pony,” Tabby admitted. Looking at Sugarberry, she reminisced. “Remember what good times we had whenever a new stallion came to town? What with a surplus of mares and so few stallions, everyone wanted to be noticed. It was so funny! Especially Tiffany.”
“I don’t remember anyone running after me,” Vanguard noted.
“Well, yeah. You’re a math teacher,” Tabby said, as if that explained everything. “And besides, Sugarberry would’ve scratched out the eyes of any mare that looked at you,” she informed the stallion. “There’s no accounting for taste,” she added mischievously.
“I seem to remember that the one mare I wanted to look at me turned her back on me every chance she got,” mused Thomas, pinning his wife with a telling gaze.
“You were a veterinarian!” Tabby said the word as if it were some terrible disease. “I couldn’t handle the competition. Besides, I got over it.”
“If you think she was cool toward you, imagine how Tex felt,” Sugarberry placated Thomas.
“I never put worms in her lunch box,” Thomas reminded the mare.
“But you did put me out of business,” Tabby nodded authoritatively. “Tex was a creep, though.”
“I wonder where he is now.”
“Butch hasn’t seen him since he went south to marry Bolivia, and no one else ever hears from him.”
“Oooh... mysterious. Who’s that over there?” asked Tabby, focusing on a mare and stallion off to the side of the room who seemed out of place.
Following her friend’s gaze to the late arrivals, Sugarberry made a guess. “The mare could be Fabia, Chocolate Chip’s boss from New Pony. She does look lost. I’ll invite her to sit with us.” So saying, Sugarberry stood up and moved away to approach the visitors, neither of whom had ever been to Dream Valley.
“Excuse me,” she said to the mare. “I’m Sugarberry, and Chocolate Chip asked me to be on the lookout for her friends from New Pony. I suspect you’re Fabia?”
“Yes. Nice to meet you, Sugarberry. And this is Tarn, once a coworker of Chocolate Chip.” Fabia indicated the stallion next to her. “Someone’s having fun,” she added with a grimace as a burst of loud laughter erupted from the area in which Wigwam and Chocolate Chip were currently talking with their siblings.
“Chocolate Chip looks happier than I ever saw her in New Pony,” commented Tarn. “Which stallion is her fiancé?”
“Wigwam is the orange stallion; his brother is next to him, the pale blue. The rose-red stallion is Chocolate Chip’s brother, Wishbone.”
“And we’ve met Xavier,” Fabia said, “and the dark yellow... but I can’t place his name.”
“Prime. So you’re not a complete stranger to all the faces here tonight.”
Fabia’s eyes twinkled. “However, there are several faces I’d like to get to know better,” she admitted.
Sugarberry grinned. Tabby was right. Even Fabia wanted a chance at the local stallions.
“Head me in the right direction and I’ll make the introduction,” Sugarberry promised.
“For starters, who’s the aqua stallion with yellow hair?”
“His name is Sprinter; he’s a close friend of Wigwam’s and directs the acting talent in town.”
“And the blue stallion... the one with violet hair? He’s single?”
“Yes; that’s Hawkley,” Sugarberry stated; and as if he heard his name mentioned, that stallion swung his head up and met her eyes directly. He grinned and separated himself from a conversation with the mothers and grandmothers of the bride and groom who were still expressing some concern over the reception details at the casino.
“Good evening, Sugarberry,” he greeted. “Where’s Banderol?”
“Home with my mom and dad,” Sugarberry informed him. “He’ll get a good night’s sleep that way and will enjoy the wedding more.” She then turned the stallion’s attention to Fabia. “Fabia, I’d like you to meet Hawkley, the one who keeps Wigwam’s casino running smoothly... depending on who you believe. Hawkley, Fabia was Chocolate Chip’s manager at her job in New Pony.”
“Hawkley...” Fabia extended a hoof.
“This is indeed a pleasure,” Hawkley drawled, taking the pastel mint-colored mare’s hoof in his for a long moment. “You could surely teach me a thing or two... about operating the casino even better.”
A soft blush tinted Fabia’s cheeks. “I hope to get a chance to see you at work,” she replied.
“Would you like a sundae?” Hawkley asked, extending a foreleg for the mare to claim. With a wink at Sugarberry over the top of Fabia’s head, he led the mare toward Scoops and the counter.
Sugarberry looked ruefully at Tarn. “I’m sorry; I didn’t get a chance to introduce you to Hawkley.”
“Never mind that, Sugarberry,” laughed the stallion. “If you don’t mind, I’ll hang out at your side until I spot a single mare to whom I’d like an introduction.”
“Come sit at my table; you can scan the field from there. And maybe Tabby can advise you.”
“Tabby?” queried Tarn, turning his attention to the table Sugarberry indicated. His eyes lighted as he spotted the red-haired pink unicorn who sat there.
“She’s married,” Sugarberry quickly noted. “But she enjoys matchmaking.”
“Does she have a sister?” Tarn asked playfully.
“No, but she does have a cousin that is almost identical to her. She’s married, too, however. But the groom has a sister, Whispering Birch.” She nodded toward that mare. “And Chocolate Chip’s sister, Lollipop, is over there.”
Tarn’s gaze swept over the cool, composed Whispering Birch, then settled on the vivacious Lollipop whose blue curls glinted under the lights. “Lollipop,” he said, savoring the feel and sound of the name. “She’s a beauty.”
“Yes, Xavier certainly thinks so,” Sugarberry remonstrated with a frown.
Taking the hint, Tarn turned his attention elsewhere, just in time to see a pale blue pegasus with rainbow hair walk into the shop. “Now, there’s someone who could light-up my life.”
“Falda,” Sugarberry sighed. The mare was too pretty for her own good. But as Rubicon was not on the premises and Hawkley seemed to be occupied with Fabia, Sugarberry made the introduction, then excused herself so that she could compare notes with Tabby on this unexpected matchmaking venture.
* * *
As Sugarberry, Vanguard, Licorice, Wigwam, Chocolate Chip, and her grandparents walked home, Licorice peered skyward. “There’s Orion,” he noted, pointing in the direction of that constellation.
“Oh,” said Sugarberry. “That’s one of the few I can pick out; Orion’s belt is easy to spot.”
“Where’s Pegasus?” queried Wigwam, scanning the sky overhead that was a deep, dark expanse dotted with stars.
“More to the west,” advised Licorice.
Everyone’s gaze panned to the indicated spot. “There aren’t any stars there at all,’ Sugarberry observed.
“That’s because a cloud bank is moving in,” Vanguard said. “Wasn’t it supposed to be clear tomorrow?”
“The cloud will pass,” Wigwam said in an assured voice. “There’s nothing but sunshine and clear skies in the forecast.” He grinned at Chocolate Chip.
“‘Beautiful snow, from the heavens above, pure as an angel and fickle as love!’” quoted Forester.
“Grandpa!” Chocolate Chip scolded. “Our love is not fickle; if it was, I’d still be in New Pony.”
“I was only reciting poetry,” Forester soothed his granddaughter. “Had to get up in front of an audience at a school program once when I was a little guy and relate it from memory; I’ve never forgotten that poem.”
“And what would a little more snow hurt, anyway,” reasoned Camomile. “In fact, it would make the day all fresh and clean like the new beginning you two are about to make.”
“As long as it’s only a light dusting,” amended Sugarberry, thinking of the hassle of clearing all the paths again.
Arriving at the house, Licorice bid everyone goodnight and disappeared into his basement room. Wigwam stayed long enough to take some teasing from Strawberry Baskets about his last night of freedom. Then Chocolate Chip escorted Wigwam to the front door while the rest of the family retired for the night.
The stallion drew Chocolate Chip into his forelegs and gave her a gentle kiss. “Tomorrow,” he whispered, a wealth of promise succinctly stated.
“Tomorrow,” Chocolate Chip repeated softly, caught in Wigwam’s tender gaze. “Thank you for waiting for me.”
“I love you so much, Chocolate Chip. What else was I to do?”
Chocolate Chip narrowed her eyes. “If you aren’t aware of all the beautiful mares in Dream Valley by now, I’m not about to point you in their direction.”
Wigwam grinned. “But there’s only one beautiful mare for me, and that’s you.” He brushed her forehead with another kiss, then turned and opened the door- and groaned. A white, feathery snowflake danced inside, settling on Chocolate Chip’s nose where it quickly melted. “It’s snowing!” Wigwam said quite needlessly.
“But not that hard,” Chocolate Chip pointed out. The powdery flakes sprinkled down under the porch light like an assembly of fluttering angels. “It’s probably nothing more than a flurry.”
“We’re getting married tomorrow, even if this turns into a blizzard,” Wigwam stated. “Whatever it takes, you and I and a couple of witnesses will show-up on Fr. Isaac’s doorstep, if that’s the best we can do.”
Chocolate Chip giggled. “That suits me just fine.”
“And once we’re married, it can snow until June for all I care.” Wigwam caught his almost-bride in his forelegs and delivered a resounding kiss that left her breathless. “Until tomorrow,” he murmured; then he left.
* * *
“Manitou, you knew I’d want you to be here, didn’t you?” Wigwam hugged the great furry wolf that met him on his arrival home. Wigwam sat down on the porch steps next to the beast in the increasingly heavy snowfall, and Manitou whimpered.
“You were part of my dream quest just as Chocolate Chip was... only I found you much sooner than I found her.” Wigwam chuckled. “The wait was worth it, though, knowing that she loves me heart and soul as I love her.”
Wigwam had seen his chocolate brown mare in his dreams long before he met Chocolate Chip, and he had found the real flesh and blood pony delightfully more entrancing than the elusive image that had haunted his thoughts. It may have been a rough road to arrive at this point, the eve of his wedding, and he had tread carefully; but now, with the goal in sight, he had no complaints.
The stallion stroked the wolf’s heavily furred neck. “I’m glad you showed up to share in my good fortune,” he said, then laughed as a wet tongue licked his cheek from the other side. “Halona! You, too! This in indeed an honor!” Not having been under Wigwam’s care as a pup, Manitou’s mate was rather shy of this doting pony. The she-wolf, however, allowed Wigwam to scratch behind her ears before she settled herself in front of Wigwam and Manitou, her yellow eyes alert and her ears twitching to every muted sound.
“Are your young ones nearby?” Wigwam asked, peering into the darkness beyond his lighted front porch.
In answer, Halona whined softly, and several dark shapes pulled away from the evergreen shadows off to the right. “So this is a family affair,” Wigwam said. “That’s appropriate, as Chocolate Chip and I will form our own family unit tomorrow. And some day we’ll have our own little ones to love and care for, too.” The stallion smiled, looking ahead to a bevy of fillies and colts enlivening his and Chocolate Chip’s days.
The cold nose of the wolf brought Wigwam from his pleasant fantasy. With a nudge, Manitou let him know it was time for him to call it a night. With one parting glance skyward at the falling snowflakes and a final pat for each of the wolves, Wigwam bid them goodnight.
* * *
Slowly coming out of sleep, Sugarberry became aware of a strange noise that rose and fell. It did not worry her tired mind at first, but each successive battering of sound pulled her closer to wakefulness until her eyes popped open and her brain began functioning clearly. The first thing she realized was that Vanguard was not at her side. That, along with the continuing rustling outside the window, unnerved her.
“Vanguard!” she whispered hoarsely.
“I’m here.” The stallion’s voice came from near the window. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“What’s that noise?” Sugarberry slipped out of the covers.
“It’s snowing like crazy and the wind is blasting it against the house,” Vanguard explained as she crossed to him.
“This can’t be happening!” Sugarberry groaned. “We’ll all be snowed-in by morning, and it’s Wigwam’s and Chocolate Chip’s wedding day!”
“It could stop snowing as quickly as it began,” Vanguard tried to assure his wife; but a particularly heavy gust of wind hit the house, making his words sound unbelievable even to his own ears.
“What about all the wedding preparations? We won’t even be able to get to church!”
“Sugarberry, your worrying won’t stop the storm. We’ll have to wait until morning before we know what’s going on for sure.”
“You’re right. I won’t worry.” Sugarberry allowed Vanguard to guide her back to the bed. “It’s just that...”
“I’m not worried. I’m merely... concerned,” the mare pouted.
“There’s nothing you can do except get some sleep. When it’s daylight, you can worry.”