Dear Mom and Dad,
I know I haven't written to you in a few weeks but it's been pretty hectic since school started. I've told you about some things already but the police said that I should tell you everything. I think this is the easiest way so I'm writing it all into a letter. This is also in part to the constant whining of my friend from school. I mentioned her to you before but I don't think I managed to convey the full sense of annoyance she can bring to any situation. I suppose I might as well start at the beginning of the school year and detail all the events that led to this letter and subsequent police custody.
Everything began two days before classes started. The carriage dropped me off Saturday morning and I moved into the dormitories with a bit of help from the driver. He was really nice about it too. I think he knew I was a scholarship student because I was actually polite. Not to say the students here aren't polite but that's something that I'll write about later.
Moving in was easy with his help so I got done in no time. I did want to get the lay of the land so I wouldn't spend my first day completely lost in the halls though. I know we saw it a bit during the tour but you just can't tell how big Clementine's Academy for Girls is until you've been lost looking for a specific classroom. The other girls must have a map on standby because I still got lost but it didn't matter on a Saturday. Still, the entire school was absolutely beautiful. Well, it was clean and really well taken care of unlike Rising Acres Public was. The halls were all shiny white and black tile. It made me feel like a chess piece and I couldn't help but play the knight.
Playing knight through the school halls got boring after a bit, also embarrassing. So I went outside to look at the greenhouse and all the other things they had. Oh it was so beautiful, you both would have loved it. I saw every type of blooming flower. There were roses and bluebells and daisies. I thought about getting a few seeds to send back to you, dad, but I decided against it. I'm pretty sure you don't have some of these back home though. I want to show you when you get here if you don't ground me forever. Please?
Anyway, it was on my way back from the greenhouse that I met her. And if she'd stop looking over my shoulder and poking me I would get on with it. Sorry, she's rather insistent and impossible to deal with. She also needs a breath mint.
I was leaving the garden via the outdoor activities area. I hadn't bothered changing into the school uniform for various reasons. I didn't really want to get it dirty was the logical one but the lack of uniform is probably part of why they pegged me for the new scholarship student. I had hoped to keep my status as a scholarship student a secret, but I learned later that keeping a secret in the Academy is near impossible for a lot of reasons, one of which being the pony breathing down my neck. I had also hoped that my status wouldn't matter much once I proved that I was worthy of a place in the school. Turns out I didn't have the chance to prove myself to anyone.
I was passing the tennis courts by the track where some ponies were running when I suddenly found myself surrounded between the bleachers by a group of fillies. The ringleader, an earth pony, stepped out to talk to me. “Well well, I know most of the students at the school and I don't know you. Guess that makes you a new student.” She was smiling but it wasn't a friendly smile. She had her cutie mark already too, it was a gold ingot which I suppose just enforced her place in high society.
“Yes, I've only just arrived this morning.” I replied You know I've never been cowed by anyone, let alone the rich. Still, it never hurts to be polite.
“Well, I've never met you before today, how about you girls?” She turned back to the other ponies with her, all of them were smiling as they shook their heads and said no. That wasn't friendly either. “So that makes you the school's new charity case. Not sure why the school is letting itself sink so low but what can you do?” She laughed and her entourage obediently laughed with her. She was starting to get on my nerves and I couldn't help but defend myself.
“You can trot somewhere else. I worked hard and I got in because I deserved it, what did you do to get in here?”
She laughed at me and her group laughed dutifully along with her. “Nothing so dull as work. Why bother when I can get anything I want already. It's only you poor, destitute types that have to get your hooves dirty and I'm happy to let you dirty yourself up for me. How about it, you like work so much, why not work for me? I'll even pay you.” She grinned at me and I was just about ready to punch her. “You'd have to dye your mane and tail of course but that pales in comparison to the benefits I could provide you with.” That was when the she I keep mentioning showed up.
At first I thought she was a pegasus, the way she soared over the other ponies and landed next to me. She was an earth pony though, a bit smaller than me, possibly because I haven't lost all my foal fat. Someday. Anyway, she had the cockiest look on her face I've ever seen. “Hey this looks exciting, haven't seen you all summer Carat, it's been a real vacation.” The head filly, whose name I now knew as Carat, was staring daggers at the newcomer. She'd finally lost that annoying air of superiority and I wasn't sure I wanted to be there anymore. .
“I thought they'd finally kicked you out, now push off Pusher.” Carat ordered. Pusher laughed right in her face.
“You all are looking the wrong way, track's over there.” She nodded over at the track. “If you wanted to see brilliance, that's where I was. Setting records and kicking flank. So leave the filly alone and pay me some attention.” I was about to object but thought better of it. These two obviously had some history and if they wanted to fight about something they could leave me out of it. I didn't want to get targeted any more than I already was.
“Or what Pusher? You'll go tell on me? Maybe you should go to the police.” She laughed and, unsurprisingly, her posse laughed with her, more surprisingly, so did Pusher.
“You've always been a poor wit.” She reached up and seemed to brush her hoof against Carat's mane, Carat flinching away from the touch. Then she suddenly jerked away as Pusher pulled several hairs from her mane and held them up. “What have we here?”
“You bitch, you pulled out my hair.” Carrot whined. “Does it still look OK? Did she mess it up too badly?” She tried to look at her own mane by spinning in circles. “I'll report you to the dean.”
“Calm down, I didn't pull...oh I guess I did but that's not what I meant to do. Look at this.” She held up several hairs. “Such a beautiful chestnut color aren't they, well, most of them. But this one, this one is seems to be rather blonde. Strange for one who wouldn't share a moldy apple with a starving pony to share her hairbrush.” I saw Carat's expression change from angry to something altogether different.
“What are you talking about?” She asked.
“Only this, these hairs don't match up. Looking closely, this blonde hair was rather recently dyed too. That means a pony who's recently changed mane colors.” She smiled and I wasn't the only one who who started looking at the other ponies in the group to see if there was one with dyed hair, not that I could tell, I'd never seen them before and it wasn't obvious. There were a lot of fillies with golden manes though.
“I don't know what you mean.” Carat said. “Stop making things up.”
“Oh you may not know yet, but I'm not done.” She held the hairs close up to her eye. “Judging from this I'd say the color underneath is rather brown, darker than yours but still near enough. You never could stand anyone sharing your mane color, always wanted to stand out in the crowd but never wanted to change yourself.”
“So what, I deserve to stand out. I'm amazing.” She snarled, not at all acting amazing.
“Well nothing to get in trouble over, but you know, sneaking a colt into your dorm room is bad enough, but what would daddy dearest say if he found out you were bringing one of your little hangers on to bed with you every night. School's a place where you learn but I don't think that would be a lesson he'd want you to know.” She smiled at Carat and took a deep breath.. “Amazing what you can learn from a stray hair, isn't it?” She flicked them up and the hairs blew away into the wind.
“I won't forget this Pusher. You'll regret it if you ever breathe a word about this to anyone.” She turned and stamped off, the others followed her at a distance.
“Thanks for that.” I said to her and she smiled at me, a friendlier smile than I'd seen all afternoon. “You're brilliant, I couldn't even see that hair.”
“Yeah, me neither.” She laughed. “Four years and she hasn't realized I'm in the room behind her and you have no idea how easy it is to hear things through the walls if you have a rig for it.”
“You mean that was just a trick? You didn't figure any of that out?” I was completely fooled. She'd seemed like a genius.
“I could have figured it out with the hair, there just wasn't one, so I improvised.” I felt rather cheated though I'm not sure why. “Don't look so down kiddo, I'm still a genius.”
“Don't call me that, you cannot be older than me.” I said to her. “And you could try some modesty.”
“Modesty is for people who have modest abilities. Welcome to the Academy, nobody here, pony or griffon, is modest so you better start learning how to brag.” Pusher grinned at me. I guess I smiled back a little and that seemed to encourage her. “There you go cloudy-flank, show me a few teeth and the world smiles at you...or something. I'm Shallo.”
Of course you are is what I didn't say, what I did say was “Pleasure to meet you, I'm Grace.”
“Well that's good to know, course it hardly matters.” She was smiling at me not unlike she had smiled at Carat. It was a predator smile and it made me nervous. “See, I know you're a new student easy enough, same as those idiots earlier. And if they can figure something out, it's only because it's more obvious than the muzzle on your face. Come, walk with me to the lunchroom while I tell you all about yourself.” She started walking off before I could even say yes or no, and she kept on talking. “See, the way you carry yourself is just so different. You're all shy and anxious. Most of the fillies here act like they belong even on day one. They're just so used to being special especially when they aren't, and believe you me, most of them aren't. You walk differently, it's all in the flank. Speaking of, there aren't many at the school who haven't got a cutie mark by now.”
“Well neither have you.” I said in my defense. I get a bit self-conscious about my blank flank so she got me blushing.
“Now there's no need to get snippy. Just saying, most of these girls already found their place in life, even if that place is in the shadow of daddy's bank account.” She shrugged. “Idiots.”
“I see, but that can't be the only thing.” I said. I was only partially listening though, mostly I was just following her. I knew where the cafeteria was but she was going around in a completely different direction than I had expected and I wanted to remember it.
“Of course not. See, looking at your hair I can deduce that you're from Hoofington, not exactly high society.”
“Maybe I had my mane styled, did that occur to you?”
“Oh please, that's got self styled written all over it, I bet your mom taught you because you don't find that in a salon.”
“Yeah, she did.” I looked at my hooves, she knew me at a glance, and I wondered if I was so out of place at this school.
“Oh come on, don't look so depressed, it's adorable. Looks very show pony-ish.” She pushed open a door marked employees only and I hesitated for several reasons. Part of it was my mind processing what she said and the other was me being a good filly. “Well come on. I know people here, it's all good.” She kept walking and, against my better judgment, I followed. “So there's your hair all figured out. Moving on, I'm pretty sure that you were also aiming at a lot of schools and the best one that gave you a scholarship was this one. We took you in so you probably got in to a lot of them but couldn't afford Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Youngsters which is why you aren't there.”
“Hold on, how'd you know about that.” I had been looking at the kitchen we were walking through, there were a lot of people running around cooking and cleaning the chrome but none of them paid us any attention once they saw Pusher.
“Simple, it's the best school for unicorns like yourself and yet you're here.” She shrugged as if it were nothing. “Also I read the files on everypony that comes into the school. I've got a key to the offices and the superintendent just loves me.” I followed her through the kitchen doors and into the cafeteria. It was pretty empty right now, only a few tables had anyone sitting at them.
“What!” Once again, she floored me. “You can't-that's private. You're just a huge fraud. This whole time you let me think you were some kind of genius and the whole time you were repeating things you read.” I don't know why I felt betrayed, I'd only known her for ten minutes. I thought it was just because she'd gotten into my private files.
“Come on, give me some credit, the stuff about Celestia's wasn't in there. I got that how I said. Our school offered you a rare scholarship, that means they wanted you so you must be a great magician. Celestia gets all the best magicians in general but the fact that you're here means our offer was better. Also I can tell you a few other things I learned on our walk just to prove my magnificence. Your favorite food is candied apples. When we passed the cook making them you drifted over and your nose went right to them. However you pulled away real quick when you saw the same cook making the hayseed cake. That doesn't indicate a dislike, that indicates an allergy, a bad one too.”
“Yeah.” I said, a bit abashed. She had caught some things with some legitimacy so maybe she was right. She finally stopped walking at a table and turned to face me. “The brand of alfalfa he was using is one that messes me up pretty bad. It's expensive so it wasn't really a problem before. I guess you are pretty smart.” I conceded. She positively beamed and then I heard a groan from the table. There on the other side was a griffon, I'd never seen one before and I hadn't realized the school had griffon students, she was obviously a student since she had the uniform on.
“Grace, this layabout is Gabrielle.” Pusher said with a brief gesture.
“Nice to meet you.” She said. “You've complimented her, bad idea. She'll be floating away for months.” I looked at Pusher and she did seem sort of out of it. She had a rather smug smile and a far away look in her eyes.
“It's nice to meet you. I've never met a griffon before.” I said, trying to be polite.
“Yeah, some ponies haven't. That's why I get to sit way over here all by my lonesome. My feeding habits tend to offend some of you veggie types.” She snorted and that's when I noticed what she was eating. It was a fish, seeing it lie there half eaten left me a bit queasy. “Still, Shallo doesn't mind it much and we work well together.”
“What do you mean by work well together?” I had to ask, it didn't make sense.
“Well she's the laziest griffon you'll ever meet.” Pusher said coming down from her joyful high.
“Yes I am, but it's my last year so I've got to take at least one gym class. I thought a martial arts class would be the easiest. Shows what I know.”
“She was awful, but she ended up in my class somehow. She can be terrifying so people think she can fight.” Pusher laughed. “Basically she failed at everything. Still, I'm pretty awesome so it turns out that I can make her look really good. So we made a deal. She becomes my wings and I help her pass gym class.”
“So far it's been real easy.” Gabrielle said and finished off her fish. I still felt a bit ill about it so I focused my eyes a few inches from her head.
“Well that doesn't make sense but I guess I understand.” I took a seat by the lunch table and Pusher sat right next to me.
“So Gabby, any juicy new gossip come around the grapevine since this morning? I need to start the new year with a scoop.” Pusher licked her lips.
“Sorry Shallo, only the new filly, I assume that she happens to be the one you've attached yourself to.”
“Well you'd be right. I just can't keep her away from me. She's obsessed.” She stuck a foreleg over my shoulders. I glared at it, then at her. Gabrielle just laughed.
“Stop that, you've been dragging me along. Don't make me out to be weird.”
“She does that and she'll probably never stop.” Gabrielle stood up and picked up her tray. “You caught me at a bad time, I've got stuff to do. So I guess you'll have to deduce things on your own. Shortcuts lead to failure you know.” She walked off laughing and Pusher shouted something obscene after her.
“I said that to her once when she asked for my help in gym. Hasn't stopped her laziness yet and now she won't let me forget it.” She rolled her eyes at me. “Well kid, I've got to do a few counts of breaking and entering or something, so forgive me but I must say goodbye. What's your room number so I can say hello again later?”
“Oh, um, I think it's room nineteen C.” Her question caught me off guard. I really shouldn't have told her.
“Ah, well I'm looking forward to seeing you tonight then. Sweet dreams kiddo.” She hopped up and trotted off in another direction before I could react.
“Hey,” I shouted after her, “you cannot be older than me!” It didn't matter, she was already gone.