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Numbers

by Pastel Pony

Chapter 1: An After-School Meeting


Numbers.

I know a lot about numbers.

I know how to solve equations, and figure out the best profit. I easily work out percentages. I can organize data into charts that look good, and impress ponies.

My numbers and I have impressed a lot of ponies...and made them like me.

I’ve studied all the high-society etiquette, learned the farm slang.

It’s part of my job to make ponies like me.

That’s what makes a good businesspony...

And I am a very good businesspony.

...Numbers will only get you so far in certain places though.

Sure, it’ll help you walk away in a firm financial state when your personal life comes crumbling down, but profit doesn’t ease the pain when your wife runs away to Prance with some two-bit fancy-looking unicorn.

However, I have discovered that those numbers come in handy during a custody battle …Judges like to see that large ranking salary when it comes to providing for a foal. I suppose that counts for something.

Numbers helped me keep my daughter...and she is the one thing I have done in my life that I am most proud of.


I lean forward as I walk and straighten my daughter’s tiara. That thing always looks like it’s about to fall of her head. I’m afraid it’ll break one day. It is very old… a gift to her from my mother before she...passed on. I wish she wouldn’t wear it to school, that’s just risking it getting damaged. Diamond really does love it though…

“Do you want me to pick you up after school?” I ask. Normally the butler does it for me, but I don’t have any meetings, and it’d be nice to spend some time with her. We’ve…grown more distant recently. “We could go to Sugarcube Corner for some ice cream, we always used to do that.”

She rolls her eyes. “Dad, that was when I was like… five. I’m too old for that now. Besides, I’ve got a thing with Silver Spoon after school.”

I chuckle. How can anypony think they’re too old for ice cream?

“Alright sweetie, maybe some other time.” Diamond rolls her eyes again, but nods. I don’t know why she does that so much...perhaps it’s just a kid thing? I ought to talk to her about it. It was, after all, considered rude when I was growing up.

She stops at the gate and looks at me. “Ok, we’re here. So...bye.” She turns to leave, but I grab her hoof and pull her into a hug. “Daaaaadddd!” She squeals, wiggling away. I grin sheepishly and lift a hoof to quickly fix her tiara again.

“Sorry,” I say. She huffs, and starts walking quickly down towards the little red schoolhouse. “Have a good day, Diamond!” I call. Her ear twitches, and she begins to walk a little faster.

I watch her little form all the way along the path until she reaches the playground, then turn to leave just as a pleasant voice calls out to me.

“Oh, Mr. Rich! Do you think I could have a word?”

I turn back to see Cheerilee trotting up towards me. As she reaches the gate, she leans against it and puffs a couple times to catch her breath, before placing a smile on her face and facing me.

“I was hoping to catch you! Do you think it’s possible for you to meet me after school for a little bit for a quick talk?”

“Why?” I ask.

“Well...I…” She looks down and shuffles her hooves, before biting her lip. “It’s about Diamond Tiara. I’d rather not say where everypony could hear us, and I must get back to the children… But… It is rather important. Do you think you’d be able to come here this afternoon?”

I shrug. “I’m not busy, so I guess so. Is...Diamond in trouble?”

She sighs, fidgeting slightly, and begins walking back toward to the schoolhouse. “You could say that.”


“Thank you for coming.”

I simply sit down across the desk from Cheerilee and wait. I’m almost afraid to hear what she might say. What in Equestria could have happened to merit an unplanned conference? I know Diamond’s grades are good, so it can’t be that. Maybe… I just hope it’s nothing bad.

She simply sits there in silent contemplation, until I clear my throat and ask the question that has been on my mind all day. “Would you mind telling me the purpose of this meeting?”

Cheerilee slumps pitifully. “I’m… I’m afraid the issues I wrote to you about last week have been persisting. Diamond Tiara’s… problems with the other students have been getting more and more out of hoof, and despite trying most suitable punishments, I’m having trouble trying to find the right disciplinary actions to get through to her.” She lowers her gaze. “Perhaps I never will.”

“Hold on!” I raise a hoof and stare at her. “What letters? What issues? ...What are you talking about?”

She blinks. “...The letters addressed to you I’ve been sending home with Diamond Tiara. I sent one last Monday and last Thursday.”

I quickly shake my head in confusion. “Miss Cheerilee, I haven’t gotten any letters from you.”

Cheerilee shrinks under my gaze. “Oh dear…” she whispers. “It… It would appear that Diamond Tiara has been keeping the letters I gave to her rather than give them to you.” She frowns. “That makes a lot of sense, actually.”

“Why didn’t you just send them to me through the mail?” I ask.

“It… just seemed a bit impersonal. I always send notes homes with the students when I need to let a parent know about something. ” She shrugs and crinkles her nose. “Normally the students deliver the letters without a problem. I write to parents for many different reasons, so the students know if I give them an envelope with their parents' names on it, they need to give it to them.” She pauses. “When you never wrote back to me, I assumed you were just busy with work and forgot…”

I sigh and lift my hooves to rub my sore temples. “Diamond’s an intelligent filly… She likely figured out what the letters were for.” Cheerilee nodded. “...Speaking of which, I still have no idea what those letters were about. What exactly are these problems Tiara’s been having with the other students? Is somepony picking on her?”

“The opposite actually.”

“...What?”

“Diamond Tiara has a tendency to tease and harass the other students, Mr. Rich. She...she bullies them.”

Tiara?
My Tiara?
...my daughter never hurt anypony in her life.

How can she….?

No.

“No…” I whisper. I stare at Cheerilee and then let out a slightly nervous chuckle. “I’m sorry, Miss Cheerilee. I thought I just heard you say my daughter bullies her classmates.”

Cheerilee nods, and I instantly feel queasy. “No...no, no, no…” I frantically shake my head, trying to drone out what I have just heard. “That can’t be right.”

“Mr. Rich…”

‘No!” I bring my hoof down onto the table with a sharp crack. “I refuse to believe that! If this was a real issue, why have you not tried to meet with me before?”

Cheerilee wilts. “When the teasing first came to my attention, I spoke to Tiara about hurting other ponies' feelings. When it persisted, I temporarily banned her from recess. After a couple weeks it seemed to go away, so I left it alone.”

“Then what makes you think there’s an issue now?”

“The teasing has started again, and worse than before.” She lowers her gaze. “I’m starting to wonder if it ever stopped. I...I think Diamond simply stopped making fun of the other students where I could see her. She’s been banned from recess again, but I’m sure it continues after school.”

I glare at her. “How do you know? If you don’t see it, then how do you know it’s happening?”

Cheerilee sniffles, and I realize that she’s truly upset. “I just can, Mr. Rich. I can see it in the way they avoid her during exercise, or arts and crafts. I can hear it in the sighs of relief that echo around the classroom when I take roll and she’s absent. I-”

I cut her off. “That isn’t real evidence of any true bullying.”

Cheerilee sits there for a second, staring at me. She lowers her eyes and sighs. “I’m sure of what’s going on... I'm not stupid.” She frowns angrily and chucks a folder at me. Inside are several letters, all addressed to Cheerilee. “I...I certainly know I’m right when Derpy writes to me because her daughter is crying about Diamond making fun of her for not knowing who her father is...Or when Rainbow Dash sends me a letter because Scootaloo told her that the only reason she was trying so hard to fly the other week was because of something Diamond said about her wings.”

I slump down in my chair as her words reverberate through my brain. My gaze can’t leave the letters that back up her claims. “She...she wouldn’t.”

“I’m afraid she would and has, Mr. Rich. The other children are terrified of her, I can see it. Do you think I don't know my own students?” Cheerilee sinks down and buries her face in her hooves. “I...I don’t know what to do anymore.” She shivers for a second, before bursting into tears, sobbing as she tries to speak. “I-I’m at my wit’s end. I can’t get through to her, and I can’t… I can’t remove her from the school just for teasing, the area regulations only allow for expulsion due to physical bullying. If… If you c-can’t find a way to m-make her stop, I d-don’t know what I’m supposed to d-do anymore.”

I can only stare at her, shock running through my body at the sight of the normally cheerful mare bursting into tears because of...because of my daughter. Diamond Tiara has hurt her. Diamond Tiara has…

“I… What do you expect me to do?”

“F-Fix her,” Cheerilee whispers, still unable to look at me. “Fix her… or move her… or… Just do something before she breaks everypony else.”

“But…” I can only stare, before slowly standing up on shaking legs, then turning and fleeing the schoolhouse.


I end up at the stream.

I always seem to wander here when I have a lot going on in my head... On top of the bridge that spans the little river of water dancing its way down the little path it has cut through the grass… It’s a good spot for thinking.

Normally I come here when making a large business decision. To invest in something or not, to buy this or sell that, to support the small independent business or the already stable large company…

But today I’m here for my daughter.

The water shimmers like the little rhinestones of Diamond’s tiara, and I can only stare at it as I replay the conversation with Miss Cheerilee over and over and over...and over.

Could I be wrong about my own daughter?
...How come I never noticed before?

Do I really care?

I shiver at the thought. Could I really be unwilling enough to see my own daughter’s flaws that I would just ignore what Cheerilee had told me? If what she had said was true… It was possible I already had been too blind too see what should have been obvious for months.

I gaze at the apple tree by the river, and remember the way she laughed at the little yellow filly in the the bunny suit when I took her to Sweet Apple Acres. At the time I’d merely thought it a giggle between friends. Now… now I was not so certain.

The simple fact stood before me like it always did...in numbers. Fifteen unhappy fillies and colts...remove just one from the equation, and everypony else would benefit. It was something I had no qualms about before when the same problems arose in the workplace. Employee causing trouble? Get rid of them to create a better work environment for the rest of your ponies, and likely increase production due to happier workers.

This wasn’t some workers complaining about a colleague, though… This was a schoolteacher asking me to either fix my daughter… or remove her.

Cheerilee’s words come to mind again. Derpy, the friendly mailmare… her sweet little daughter... crying because of Diamond… because of something Diamond said to her to intentionally make her hurt.

I feel sick to my stomach. It’s too fast, too soon… I wasn’t prepared for this, not in any way. Lifting a hoof, I run it along the maroon fabric of my tie. Despite all the other ones I own, this is my favorite. Diamond found it when she was little and sewed the dollar sign on it to make it match my cutie mark. I turn the tie around and stick my hoof in the small pocket I had added inside the seam, sliding out a little picture of Diamond Tiara from when she was merely a foal. I always keep it there, so I can have a reminder of why I work hard everyday… to provide for my beautiful daughter.

Tracing a hoof along the edge of the photograph, I let out a sigh. I can find no fault in those large, innocent eyes, and that joyful smile. Then… I see eyes that roll in embarrassment, a smile that turns into an annoyed huff and a frown.

And then I understand.



...Where did I go wrong?

Author's Notes:

First time writing from a guy's point of view, and first time using present tense.

...why the buck not?

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Other Titles in this Series:

  1. Numbers

    by Pastel Pony
    18 Dislikes, 14,832 Views

    Filthy Rich has always considered himself to be a good parent. But when Miss Cheerilee requests a meeting with him, he may have to face the fact that his darling daughter isn't as perfect as she seems.

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    1 Chapter, 2,347 words: Estimated 10 Minutes to read: Cached
    Published Mar 16th, 2014
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    When the desperate tears of a teacher force Filthy Rich to at last see his daughter for what she is, it will be less than easy for him to rediscover what it means to be a father, and uncover the diamond of a filly he hopes exists in his daughter.

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