Don’t Cry, Dear
Scootaloo nudged the wooden door open with her snout. With a creak, it opened and revealed a dimly lit bedroom. Along the wall opposite the door was a cheaply made bed with a basic-looking beige frame and a tattered mattress that appeared to be many decades old. In the bed was a young pegasus mare, looking to be only in her late twenties. Her wings were spread out behind her back for comfort. Her coat was a deep red-orange and her matted mane a faded shade of bright yellow, reflecting her name: Morning Dawn.
Scootaloo took careful steps into the room. She had entered this room many times before, but for some reason, now it felt like there was an unnatural weight about the space, as if gravity had been turned up and was discouraging the filly from walking any farther. Scootaloo looked up at the mare and noticed that one thing that certainly seemed a little off was that she looked exceptionally tired. Her violet eyes which the filly shared were halfway closed and she had a serious look on her face.
On the left side of the bed, there was another pony. This pony was much older and a simple shade of beige, almost identical to the color of the bed frame. His simply cut brown mane hung loosely on both sides of his face as he talked to the mare with hushed tones. Scootaloo recognized this second pony: it was the doctor. She had been seeing the doctor around the house a lot lately. He was apparently a friend of her mother’s.
“Mom?” Scootaloo said, announcing her presence. Both of the ponies looked down at Scootaloo immediately, and the doctor stopped talking. Scootaloo’s mother, the mare in the bed, smiled warmly at her daughter. The doctor continued to hold his serious expression, though he did nod and give Scootaloo a warm greeting.
“Hey, sweetie,” the mare said softly. She coughed twice and held out her arms in a beckoning gesture, “Come on up here.”
Scootaloo smiled and walked around to the side of the bed opposite the doctor. She hopped once and flapped her wings furiously to assist her ascent to the bed, but it was a useless effort. She simply could not fly. She felt her mother’s hooves reach out and catch her before she fell and helped her onto the bed. Scootaloo landed on the soft material and sat down beside her mother contentedly.
“You know Doctor Honeysuckle, right?” the mare asked, gesturing to the stallion beside her. Scootaloo giggled.
“He has a funny name,” Scootaloo said.
“That’s not very nice,” her mother scolded lightly.
“Oh, it’s quite alright,” Honeysuckle said, “It is a funny name, isn’t it?”
Scootaloo nodded happily and looked up at her mother. Her mane was messy and she looked a little under-the-weather. Her mother had been sick before though, so it wasn’t anything to worry about.
“You look tired, mommy,” Scootaloo commented. Her mother smiled and shrugged.
“I am pretty tired, Scoots,” the mare replied.
“Well, why don’t you take a nap?” Scootaloo asked. The older mare chuckled and rubbed Scootaloo’s head with her hoof.
“That’s probably a good idea,” she said as if this idea hadn’t even dawned on her, “But for now, I think I’ll stay up.”
“Yay!” Scootaloo rejoiced. Doctor Honeysuckle laughed with Scootaloo’s mother this time.
“Um… miss Morning Dawn?”Honeysuckle asked, “Would you like me to come back in a few minutes?”
“Why don’t I just go take Scootaloo to bed, and we can continue,” Scootaloo’s mom said, then looked down at her daughter, “Alright, sweetie?”
“Aww… but I just got here!” Scootaloo protested.
“Well, it is getting late and we’re already past your bedtime,” Scootaloo’s mother explained, beginning to remove herself from underneath her bed covers.
“Oh, alright…” Scootaloo agreed, then got back up and turned around on the bed. She bent her legs and bounced a few times before jumping off the bed, getting a good amount of altitude before crashing back to the ground with a loud noise.
“Careful, Scoots!” Scootaloo’s mother called from the bed. Scootaloo turned around with a smile and watched with curiosity as her mother was helped out of bed by the doctor. She seemed to be having a little trouble, but the filly paid it no more mind. She bounded happily out of the room in front of her mom. She stopped at the door frame and waited for the mare to catch up, leaving Doctor Honeysuckle behind in the room.
Scootaloo walked into her room and hopped into her own bed. The covers were faded blue, which overshadowed the plain bed frame that paralleled her mother’s. There was a chunk of wall above the bed that had been missing at one point and was shoddily repaired with some extra drywall and some spackle. It was a stark white, contrasting the baby blue wall paint.
Scootaloo set her pillow up on the head board and bounced in place a few times while she waited for her mom to join her. It took a few extra seconds, but the mare eventually reached Scootaloo’s bedroom. Her steps were dragging and slow, but the burden of walking was not too much that she wouldn’t walk to her daughter’s room.
“Alright, settle down now, or you’ll never get to sleep.” the mare instructed, ceasing the filly’s eager bouncing.
“Much better,” Scootaloo’s mom said. She chuckled and rubbed Scootaloo’s forehead affectionately, “Now why don’t we fix your pillow…”
Scootaloo pouted due to the fact that she had just righted the pillow on her head board, but this action went unnoticed by her mom. She sat forward and allowed the mare to grasp the rough pillow, fluff it a few times, and set it back down on the bed horizontally. Scootaloo laid back and felt her body fall back so that she was lying flat on her back rather than sitting upright. She shifted a few times to get her immature wings in a comfortable position, then looked at her mother, awaiting approval.
“Scootaloo… I think we need to talk about something,” the mare said, her tone lowering a little bit. Scootaloo felt her heart sink and she looked up at her mom with fear. Morning Dawn laid down on her stomach beside her daughter on the bed and got comfortable.
“Am I in trouble?” Scootaloo asked meekly.
“Heavens no,” the mare replied with a little chuckle, “You are not in trouble.”
“Oh, thank goodness!” Scootaloo said with relief, “I thought you would be angry with me for leaving the milk out all day…”
“The milk’s out of the refrigerator?” the mare responded, this time with curiosity.
“Scootaloo,” Morning Dawn said, forgetting all about the very notion of being angry at her daughter, “This is very important, okay?”
“I’m going to be taking you to stay with grandma and grandpa in Ponyville next week,” the mare said, “is that alright?”
“Yes!” Scootaloo said excitedly, “I love visiting grandma and grandpa!”
“Well, you won’t be just visiting them, you’ll be there for awhile,” Scootaloo’s mom said.
“Oh… well, I guess that’s alright,” Scootaloo said, then suddenly brightened, “Can I stay when the school year starts so I can miss some school?!”
Morning Dawn chuckled and shook her head, “No, you’ll be going to Ponyville Elementary… at least for now,”
“But…” Scootaloo said, trying to digest this, “what about my friends here in Stable Creek? Will I ever get to see them again?”
“You’ll see your friends again, sure!” Scootaloo’s mom said, “But you’ll meet a whole bunch of new friends in Ponyville,”
Scootaloo didn’t know what to make of this situation. This was all so… sudden. She had never even heard her mom mention the idea of staying with grandma and grandpa before, why is she saying it now? And why are they staying so long?
“Why are we staying there so long?" Scootaloo asked. Her mom’s smile dropped and she looked away from her daughter’s face. This worried Scootaloo, “What’s wrong, mommy?”
“I… won’t be with you at grandma and grandpa’s.” Morning Dawn said softly, “I’ll be staying in a special place in Canterlot.”
“Are you staying in the castle?!” Scootaloo asked with wonder. Her mother laughed and shook her head.
“No, no, I’m not, I’m…” she hesitated, then continued with the same tone, “I’m just staying in a hospital.”
This confused Scootaloo even more.
“Are you sick?” Scootaloo asked, cocking her head to the side.
“I’m a little sick, yes,” Morning Dawn said, then patted Scootaloo’s hoof with her own, “But everything’s going to be alright, I promise.”
“Okay,” Scootaloo replied softly.
“Now, I need you to listen very closely to this,” Scootaloo’s mom said much more seriously. Scootaloo nodded several times and listened like her mom instructed.
“Scootaloo, I need you to be strong, okay?” she asked. Scootaloo nodded.
“There’s… going to be a time when I’m no longer here,” she said slowly and cautiously. Scootaloo looked at her mom with confusion, but the mare continued a little more strongly, “I don’t know when it’s going to be, but you have to promise me something.”
“Mommy… are you… going somewhere?” Scootaloo asked, her eyes beginning to tear up.
“I… might be,” Morning Dawn replied uneasily.
“What?” Scootaloo choked out, now tearing up more.
“Shhh, don’t cry, dear don’t cry…” her mom cooed, reaching over to wipe Scootaloo’s tears away.
“You’re not leaving me, are you?” Scootaloo asked fearfully.
“I will never leave you, Scootaloo,” her mom said, “But…”
Scootaloo’s heart sank at that word.
“If ever I am not around, I need you to remember to be strong for me, okay?” Scootaloo’s mom asked directly.
“I need you to promise me,” her mom said, a little more urgently.
Scootaloo breathed heavily and squeezed her eyes shut, afraid to look her mom in the eyes. All this was so sudden… so different. She and her mom were so happy! Why was she leaving?
Scootaloo looked back up at her mom and gulped.
“Will you be strong for me?” the mare asked, lifting Scootaloo’s chin so that she was looking up at her mother’s eyes.
“I will, mommy,” Scootaloo agreed.
Morning Dawn smiled, “Thanks.”
A moment of silence passed between the two. Scootaloo had no idea what was going on. One minute she was just being tucked in, the next she was afraid her mom would be gone the next day! It didn’t make any sense!
“Why don’t we try something?” Scootaloo’s mom asked.
“Okay,” Scootaloo agreed quickly, eager to get off the subject.
“Close your eyes for me,” she instructed. Scootaloo did as she was told, and her mom closed her eyes as well.
“Now… think of a sunny valley. It’s all grassy, it smells lovely and fresh, like blooming lilacs…”
“Mom, why are we doing this?”
“Just listen to me, Scoots, trust me,” her mom replied.
“Okay, I see it, I see it…” Scootaloo said, her eyes closed tight in concentration.
“Now, I want you to feel the sun on you… feel how it warms you up and makes you feel happy on the inside,” she said.
“Kay,” Scootaloo replied.
“And right in front of you are three trees... you know what willow trees look like?” her mom asked.
“They’re willow trees,” the mare said, “the two on each side are very tall, but the one in the middle is the tallest. Can you imagine yourself walking over to that tree?”
“I… think so,” Scootaloo said.
“And right under that tree, I’ll be sitting there,” she said.
“You’re there?” Scootaloo said, “But why?”
“Let’s not worry about that… do you see me there?” she asked.
“Yeah… and I… um…” Scootaloo began.
“Yes?” her mom asked.
“I… don’t know why, but… I see a flower in your mane,” Scootaloo said.
“Oh yeah? What kind?”
“A lily,” Scootaloo said.
“I like lilies,” Scootaloo’s mom said. They both opened their eyes and looked at each other. Scootaloo was completely calm now. Not a single tear was left in her eye, and she looked almost as if she could go to sleep right then and there.
“You like that?” the mare asked.
“Mmhmm,” Scootaloo replied.
“Makes you feel pretty happy, huh?” her mom said.
“It does!” Scootaloo said, “Thanks.”
“Now what I want you to do is every time you get sad or lonely, just think of that,” Morning Dawn said, “and I’ll be there.”
“Okay, mommy,” Scootaloo said with a smile. The older mare got up and stood beside Scootaloo’s bed. With a slow lowering of her head, she gave the orange filly a peck on the forehead.
“Remember that I will always love you,” Morning Dawn said, trying her best to hold back her own tears that were now threatening to pour out, “Alright?”
“I love you too, mommy,” Scootaloo replied.
Scootaloo’s mom left the bedside and walked over to Scootaloo’s bedroom door. She flicked the light off, leaving the filly in darkness, save for a single nightlight on one end of the room. Scootaloo stared at the light while she attempted to make sense of the situation, but for some reason she simply could not bring herself to think about it. She knew that she should be worried, but she felt calm. Her mother would always be there for her, no matter what, and that will never change.
* * *
One year, two months, and three days later
* * *
Scootaloo bade farewell to Sweetie Belle and Applebloom as the trio left the schoolhouse. The day was mild and the temperature moderately warm. Ponyville had just left a terrible heat wave, so the eighty degree heat somehow felt cooler than it really was. Applebloom had tried to convince the girls to go crusading after school, but today was special for Scootaloo.
As the small orange pegasus left her friends, she felt a sinking sadness creep into her body once again. She remembered the feeling. It was the feeling she had exactly one year prior to the present day. It was stronger then, but it was still evident. This feeling was one that made Scootaloo want to isolate herself from society, if only for the day. Thankfully, the walk home was short.
When Scootaloo entered her grandparents’ home, she was surprised to see both of them in the front hallway with their travelling clothes on. Scootaloo’s grandfather wore a hat that belonged several decades in the past, and her grandmother had a set of summertime shoes that almost looked modern, but not quite.
“Hey, Scoots!” Scootaloo’s grandpa greeted happily.
“Good to see you!” her grandma also chimed in.
“Hi grandpa, hi grandma,” Scootaloo greeted, “nice to see you too. What’s with the getup?”
“Well, we’re gonna go somewhere special,” her grandpa said, “and we’d really like you to come with.”
“Do I have to?” Scootaloo asked, knowing full well that today was not the day for social activity.
“You really do need to, yes.” Scootaloo’s grandma replied, nodding her head.
“Well… okay,” Scootaloo said.
So, Scootaloo’s grandparents hailed a pony-drawn cab and helped Scootaloo in. Scootaloo didn’t hear where her grandfather had instructed the cab to go, but before she knew it they had taken off. They weaved through town, passing by ponies going about their lives. She even saw Sweetie Belle and Applebloom outside of Carousel Boutique.
On and on the cab went, to a far off corner of town that few ever went to. There were a number of houses and a lonely park, but very little else of worth… that is, except for where the cab ended up.
“Here we are, folks,” one of the drivers called from up front. Scootaloo and her grandparents exited the cab and looked forward at the expanse of freshly cut grass and small islands of stone before them. There was a thin, old-looking sidewalk that extended from this place and connected with the street. It was not big enough for a cab, yet certainly large enough for three ponies to walk on. The group walked forward and Scootaloo looked up to read a sign that hung above the sidewalk:
Scootaloo sighed with a shudder and continued forward, deciding then that she would not cry. She was strong. Her mother wanted her to be strong.
Seven rows in. Fifteenth stone on the right. The stone was a beautiful red granite that shone in the sunlight and reflected Scootaloo’s mournful face. Over the right side of the stone, the shadows of a nearby tree’s leaves covered half of the monument. Scootaloo turned and looked at the tree that was casting shadows on the stone.
Hm, Scootaloo thought, never noticed before… it’s a willow tree
Scootaloo’s grandmother pulled out a bundle of lilies that Scootaloo didn’t notice before. The middle-aged mare sniffed and placed the flowers at the bottom of the grave. Scootaloo looked forlornly at the long, curved petals of many colors. The selection of flowers ranged from a bright yellow to a burnt orange to a striking white with red stripes. Scootaloo picked up that there were no tiger lilies.
“My mom loved lilies,” Scootaloo pointed out, “Except tiger lilies… she just called them weeds.”
“She learned that from grandpa,” Scootaloo’s grandmother said with a weak laugh.
Silence then enveloped the trio of ponies. The two middle-aged ponies mourned the loss of a loving daughter while the young filly thought of her dearly departed mother. A few birds chirped overhead. Their songs almost sounded remorseful, as if they empathized with Scootaloo’s suffering. Scootaloo mentally thanked them for the sentiment.
Twenty-nine years of life
Loving mother, daughter, friend
Bringing light to a darkened world
Below the engraving was a depiction of Scootaloo’s mother’s cutie mark: a sunrise. The image was in full color, showing the vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red that a sunrise produced. Scootaloo always thought that her mother’s cutie mark was almost as realistic as an actual sunrise. The stone engraving hardly did it justice, despite its spot-on accuracy.
Once several minutes had passed, Scootaloo’s grandmother tapped her on the flank. Scootaloo turned and looked at the older mare. She smiled down at Scootaloo in a comforting gesture and sighed.
“Would you like a few moments alone?” the grandmother asked. Scootaloo contemplated her answer and nodded her head.
“Come, let’s leave her for a minute or two,” the mare said to her husband, ushering him away from the grave. Scootaloo watched them leave and looked at the gravestone. She felt so wrong… like there was a part of her missing, and she had felt that way for a year now. Her mother was the most important thing in her life. They did everything together and were there for each other… but what about now?
“I know you wanted me to be strong,” Scootaloo said to the stone. Its dead silence served almost as a reminder that there would be no answer, “but… it’s so hard…”
Scootaloo screwed her eyes shut and shook her head, trying her absolute best to hold the tears back. She sniffed and made a few unpleasant sounds in her efforts to stop the crying, but her attempts were becoming more and more futile by the second.
“Why’d you go like this…” Scootaloo asked, her voice shaking. She opened her eyes again and looked at the beautiful stone.
“I mean… you left me all alone!” Scootaloo shouted. She shook a bit and bit her lip, the emotions running high enough to flood Canterlot. She choked out one sob, but stifled it immediately after it was released.
Then, Scootaloo remembered something that her mother told her months before she passed. The filly remembered the sense of calm that she felt… the way it relaxed her. So, she set herself down on her stomach and closed her eyes. She cleared her mind and replaced all thoughts with the image of a grassy valley.
She could feel the warm sun beating down on her face as she looked around this imaginary valley. She could sense the way the long grasses brushed against her legs as she walked through them, their light fronds tickling her skin. The sun was golden and powerful, obscuring any area beyond this little slice of paradise.
Directly in front of Scootaloo appeared three trees, all willows, and all arranged in a triangle shape. The two trees in front were very tall, but the willow behind these two was much taller. Scootaloo remembered this now. She galloped forward fervently, a smile even beginning to jump to her face. But, when she arrived at the trio of trees, there was nopony there.
Scootaloo looked around the trees, but nothing showed up. Scootaloo tried to imagine her mother sitting below the tree, but no matter how hard she tried, it didn’t work. Scootaloo cried out in frustration, not in her head, but out loud, so that everypony and everything could hear her.
“You said you’d be here!” Scootaloo cried, “You said you’d never leave me! What was that, a lie?!”
Scootaloo mentally kicked the trunk of the willow tree.
“How could you leave me like this?!” Scootaloo cried, “I thought you loved me!!”
There were no restraints on her tears now. They fell long and powerful down her face. Scootaloo opened her eyes, the fantasy valley disappearing. In front of her was that same cold stone, her mother’s name displayed in bold lettering upon it. It was a cruel joke. Scootaloo was in the presence of the one she lost, but she was unreachable. Her mother was right below her, yet she had never felt so far away.
“I thought you loved me…” Scootaloo cried, this time much softer.
“But I do love you, Scootaloo,”
Scootaloo looked up in surprise and turned her head around a few times, looking for the source of the voice. It sounded so similar to her mother’s voice, she could have sworn it was her. Scootaloo searched the area quickly and only found her grandparents standing at the sidewalk a good distance away.
“Mom?” Scootaloo asked tentatively. Suddenly, her vision faded and she found herself back in the valley. Any normal occurrence such as this would have scared the filly, but she felt a strange sense of calm. Slowly, the fantastical valley that Scootaloo and her mom imagined those many months ago came into focus, but it felt more real. The colors were brighter, the smells were almost detectable, and the sun shone behind the three willow trees as a beautiful sunrise, and in front of the tallest tree with a yellow lily in her mane, was Morning Dawn.
“Mom!” Scootaloo shouted, running forward to greet her mother. She leapt forward to give the mare a hug, but went right through her. Scootaloo fell on her imaginary face and quickly jumped up and turned around. She looked bewildered at the mare, who simply laughed and faced her daughter again.
“My angel… this is still only your imagination,” her mother said soothingly. Her voice was strong and very present, like she was speaking from the very hills that surrounded the valley. Scootaloo’s heart sank a bit, but she looked at her mother with adoration and appreciation.
“Why did you have to go, mom?” Scootaloo asked, not taking her eyes off the mare. A few tears formed under Scootaloo’s eyes, “I miss you.”
“Shh, don’t cry…” Morning Dawn said. Scootaloo wiped her own tears and remained strong, resisting her urges to sob.
“I haven’t left, Scootaloo” the mare said.
“But… you’re gone… I saw it…” Scootaloo said softly.
“I may not be among the living,” her mom started, “but as long as you keep me in your heart, I will never leave it.”
“You’ll always be in my heart,” Scootaloo said, “but… it’s not the same without you here.”
“I realize things will never be the same,” Morning Dawn admitted, “but you can make things the best that they can be, and that, Scootaloo, is what makes you strong.”
Scootaloo smiled and nodded her head. Her mother smiled back at the filly and took a deep breath.
“Scootaloo, I must go… I love you so much,” the mare said. She took a few steps forward and bent her head forward. Scootaloo knew that it was probably just her mind playing tricks with her, but she could have sworn that she felt her mother’s kiss on her forehead. Scootaloo’s heart beat quickly as she watched the mare begin to walk away.
“This valley is beautiful, by the way,” Scootaloo’s mother commented as she walked away, “I particularly like the sunset. It fits me.”
The last thing Scootaloo saw was her mother’s smile. The filly opened her eyes and she was once again sitting in front of her mother’s grave. She felt a sense of creeping sadness fill her body at the realization that what just happened was all in her head, and that reality meant that her mother was truly gone.
Scootaloo didn’t feel quite so devastated, though. She felt a sense of closure. Her mother was gone, yes, but she wasn’t alone. She had two loving grandparents that were taking wonderful care of her. She had two amazing friends that would be by her side for the rest of her life. She had a great life, all she had to do was keep her mind on the good aspects of it.
When Scootaloo left the cemetery with her grandparents, she decided that she would go find Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom. She would always have a hole in her heart where her mother should be, but it wasn’t quite so bad when she had her friends.
Besides, today could very well be the day she gets her cutie mark!