"Hiya, Apple Bloom! Do you want to hang out with me this afternoon? We're making toffee at the shop, and you can have some if you want!"
"Oh, hi, Twist. I'm sorry, I can't. Sweetie Bell, Scootaloo and I already had plans. Scootaloo went to Twilight's library to borrow the Equestria Job Guide and we're getting ideas from that to try and find what our special talents are."
"Oh... OK then. I'll bring you some tomorrow, then." Twist said, dejectedly. "Have fun!" she added, but Apple Bloom was already halfway down the school path to meet the rest of the Cutie Mark Crusaders at the gate.
Walking towards the street herself, she overheard them talking amongst themselves.
"Let's try... that one!" Scootaloo yelled, opening to a random page and pointing to the first heading she saw.
After a few seconds of reading, Sweetie Belle spoke. "What does a metaontologist do, anyway?"
"Let's ask Twilight! She's sure to know!" Scootaloo cried, strapping on her helmet.
Twist had barely a second to dodge aside as the scooter and wagon blazed past in a cloud of dust, propelled by the frantic flapping of the orange Pegasus. Coughing, she watched them race towards the library, its topmost branches visible in the distance over the rooves of the town.
Twist was still covered in dirt when she pushed open the door to the Bon Vivant sweet shop, named for its proprietor and the mare she was apprenticed to, Bon-Bon.
"I'm here!" she called out.
Bon-Bon trotted out from the kitchen.
"My dear, what happened to you?"
Twist shook her head.
"It's nothing" she replied, looking at the ground.
"It doesn't look like nothing. I'll run you a nice warm bath, OK? And you can tell me what happened. It's no good keeping your feelings bottled up like this. Believe me, I should know." This last sentence was spoken in a softer, quieter voice than the rest, and a far-off look flashed across Bon-Bon's eyes.
Twist accepted the offer.
"But shouldn't someone watch the shop?" she asked.
"Don't worry; it's usually quiet for the next hour, until Mrs. Cake picks up her toppings for the week. And I can hear the bell over the door from upstairs."
The bath was warm, and not overly hot. Twist sat there quietly for a few moments, letting the water softly remove the brown dirt from her alabaster coat. Bon-Bon, sitting by the tub, was the first to speak.
"So, what happened?"
Twist told her of the events of the afternoon.
"I swear, that Scootaloo has no concept of speed limits, or of road safety in general. But there's something else you're not telling me. It sounds like there's something deeper here."
Twist looked up at her, a sad look on her face.
"It's just... well, Apple Bloom hasn't had any time for me at all for months now. Ever since she met Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle at the cute-ceañera, we haven't even talked for more than a couple of minutes. She really was my only friend at school, and I barely even see her anymore."
Twist sunk down lower into the water, until only her eyes and nose were above the waterline.
"I know how you feel." Bon-Bon looked at Twist kindly, and continued. "Back when I was a filly, my best friend moved halfway around the world to Brismane. I was despondent for months. Back then I had a bit of a speech impediment. It still comes up every so often, when I'm stressed. Because of this, it was hard for me to make friends. But then one day, a new filly joined our class. She wasn't like everypony else either – she sat on her haunches instead of the normal way we sit, and she was teased mercilessly for this. But I saw a little of myself in her, and became her friend. Sure, we were still called names, "freaky fillies" was one of the more popular ones, but we had each other and that's all we needed. And Lyra and I have been together ever since."
Twist looked up at Bon-Bon.
"That's a nice story and all, but how's it supposed to help me?"
"Well, Lyra has a new music student called Harpica. She's new to Ponyville herself, and I think you two might just hit it off. Do you think you can give her a chance?"
A soft tinkle followed by a loud crash from downstairs interrupted them.
"I'd best go see what that is," said Bon-Bon.
Twist got out of the tub, quickly dried herself off, and followed her.
In the shop below, the Cutie Mark Crusaders were sitting around a table, heads in their hooves.
"What's the matter, girls?" Twist asked.
"We'll never find our cutie marks," Sweetie Belle lamented. "We've tried metaontology, epistemology, hermeneutics..."
"Industrial organisation, bioinformatics, econometrics, geopolitics," Scootaloo continued.
"Demography, ergonomics, bibliometrics, and sociolinguistics, but still nothing!" Apple Bloom concluded.
The three, in unison, sighed.
Bon-Bon appeared slightly confused. "What an odd list. I wonder..."
Looking closely at the book they had on the table, she chuckled.
"Girls... this is the Canterlot University Course Guide! You've been trying things far beyond the abilities of anypony your age!"
Sweetie Belle gasped.
"Scootaloo, I thought you said this was the Equestria Job Guide!"
"Well... Twilight was kinda busy, so she just pointed to the shelf it was on. I guess I grabbed the wrong book by mistake."
"Oh well, dears. You may not have found your cutie marks, but you're just in time to help us make a fresh batch of toffee. That is, if it's fine with you, Twist."
Twist nodded vigorously. The Crusaders cheered, their afternoon of academia forgotten, and the next few hours were spent amidst clouds of flour, fun, and friendship.