Let a Smile be Your Umbrella

by Pascoite

Chapter 1: Let a Smile be Your Umbrella

Derpy raised an eyebrow at the rumble of thunder behind her. Perfect. Not her shift on weather today, so she hadn’t looked at the schedule since early in the week. She quickly signed her timecard and jammed it in the appropriate bin before hurrying out of the post office and glancing up at the clouds. She’d forgotten about today’s storm and hadn’t brought her umbrella to work. No way she’d make it home before the downpour started.

Wait, had Dinky forgotten her umbrella, too? If so, Derpy would have to head over to the schoolhouse and wait to walk her home. No… No, Derpy definitely remembered rolling up Dinky’s green raincoat and packing it in her saddlebag this morning, along with the little collapsible umbrella that stayed in the pocket. No problem. Dinky would do just fine. Derpy would simply go home like normal and get dinner started so she’d have it ready when Dinky arrived.

Derpy let the corners of her mouth droop. The house had gotten kind of lonely this week, ever since her roommate Carrot Top had gone to visit her mother. Big, empty house, all to herself, for the next hour or two. Minus the ten-minute walk, she guessed. Or two-minute fly, but better not to be caught airborne once the wind picked up, especially while loaded down with her lunchbox, saddlebag, and the groceries she’d bought on her lunch break. So she’d walk, even though it pretty much guaranteed getting wet.

Oh, well. She’d better start on her way so she could get the pasta boiling and a jar of tomato sauce…

She’d forgotten her key.

One time. The one time she needed it, and she’d left it right on the counter. Carrot Top always got home first, and Derpy never had to use her key, so of course the one time!

She stomped a hoof on the post office’s front walk, and right on cue, the first fat raindrops landed on her forelock. Within seconds, they’d plastered it against the side of her head, and she had to squint just to keep the water out of her eyes. Did those weather ponies think they needed to fill up Ponyville Reservoir all in one day?

Maybe she should just stay at work until… No, she couldn’t have Dinky home alone. Derpy’d have to camp out on their small front porch, which really wouldn’t give her any shelter in this wind, and hunker down to wait. Dinky had one of her club meetings after school today, too, so no telling how late she’d get home, and she had the only other key.

Huffing out a sigh, Derpy plodded down the street. Or mud slide, as it had become. She hopped from one hump of dirt to another, over the surging rivers in the wagon ruts, but soon, even those gave way, the sodden mess sucking at her hooves with each step. She spread her wings for balance, but a gust caught one and toppled her over, splayed out in the muck. And with her groceries now immersed in swampy water. Perfect.

Just produce. It was fine. Everything was fine. She could wash it off at home, and it would still taste as good. No harm done, except to her pride, and she’d long since stopped caring about that. Quickly, she gathered up the vegetables she’d picked out at the market and shoved them back into her mesh bag, then balanced it between her wings again. Finally ready to go, and—

“Awww…” somepony said from one of the houses she’d just passed. Derpy stopped and craned her neck to see around the lamppost next to her. There on a front porch as small and useless for shelter as her own stood one of Dinky’s classmates—Twist, right?—beating on the front door and jiggling the knob. “C’mon!” she said. “Ugh, Mom won’t be home for another hour thtill.”

Derpy’s hooves should have been carrying her closer and closer to home. But she stood there watching poor Twist, huddled under the big tree in her small front yard—the leaves had gotten so saturated with rain that it was dripping even harder than the clouds. Derpy slumped her shoulders, then rushed to Twist’s side and arched a wing over her.

“Here, sweetie,” Derpy said. “I’ll keep you dry.”

Twist eyed her up and down. “Uh… thanks. But what are you gonna do?”

“I’m already soaked. Can’t be helped, but that doesn’t mean you have to get wet, too.” With a soft smile, Derpy tried to fan her feathers out as best she could. And scrunched up her nose to dislodge a stupid raindrop that’d found the most annoying spot to tickle. “Forgot your key?” she added with a wry smile.

“Yeth—yesss,” Twist answered. She folded her ears back and studied the grass between her hooves.

Might as well stay. Either get soaked here or at her own house, and she could at least be the company that misery loved. Plus Dinky had to come this way on her walk home, anyway. She let out a sigh. “It’s okay. I’ll wait with you.”

Twist looked up quickly with a half-smile, but she backed against the trunk and bit her lip.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Derpy added. “I’m Dinky’s mom. My name’s Derpy.”

Her stiff posture relaxing, Twist finally looked Derpy in the eye. One of them, anyway—Derpy gave her best shot at corralling the other straight ahead, but it wouldn’t cooperate at the moment. “Oh, yeah! I remember seeing you before! My name’th—” her whole body wilted as she gritted her teeth “—Twissst.”

“Good to meet you,” Derpy said with a nod. And for half a second, she was the little filly hoping nopony noticed when she lost her concentration and let her bad eye wander off. Or knocked something over. That was a long time ago, but… She shook her head.


Derpy jerked her gaze around to see two fillies pointing and laughing from beneath their very frilly, very expensive parasols. Were they talking to that poor filly? No… no, they were looking directly at Derpy. Really? What kind of little brat would speak to an adult that way? A knot forming in her shoulder, Derpy opened her mouth to shout back, but that image of her past only reared up in her mind again. They only wanted the reaction. They wouldn’t get one.

“Wow, you two just look great together,” the one with glasses said. “Get soaked much?” They stared for a moment, then rolled their eyes and stalked off. Good riddance.

“Thorry,” Twist said, a tic shooting through her cheek. “I mean, sssorry. That you have to be seen with me. You could just go home.”

“I don’t mind,” Derpy replied. “Besides, I forgot my—” She bit her tongue and took a cleansing breath. No need to take away the kid’s hope. She squinted after the two rude children. “Don’t listen to them, by the way. You’ll find ponies like that all your life. Some of them actually grow up, and some don’t. A few of my best friends were once the ones who made me cry at night. And a few who used to be my friends took their places. A lot of them never change, sadly enough. But you will.”

Twist sucked in a quick breath. “Really?” Her lips pursed, she scraped a hoof against one of the tree’s protruding roots. “I hope th—so. I’m always so… awkward.”

Derpy nearly hugged Twist with her outstretched wing, but it was the only thing between the filly and getting drenched. Not to mention that hugging a child she didn’t know that well probably wasn’t a very good idea.

Beside her, Twist scratched a shape into the soft earth, something like a hook, with… with stripes. A candy cane. “And sorry for—” She licked her lips, and her voice dropped to a low murmur. “Mom’s got me in thpeech—ssspeech therapy. I know it bugs ponies to listen to me.”

Derpy’s chest nearly split in two. She had to fight down the spasm in her throat before she could force out any words. And she had just the right ones ready. “Why would it?”

By the way Twist’s eyebrows shot up, she’d made the right choice. “My… my lisp?”

“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”

A brief grin crossed the filly’s face before she got control of it. “Oh. Well… I have one, so—”

“Don’t worry about it,” Derpy replied, flicking a hoof toward her. And flicking the built-up raindrops right at her face. Stupid! “Sorry!” Derpy whipped her head around to find a dry cloth in her saddlebag and offer it to Twist, but she only succeeded in flipping her wet mane at the poor girl.

“Sorry,” she said again through clenched teeth as she rubbed a hoof between her eyes. “I didn’t mean…”

Twist took off her glasses, wiped the water off, and replaced them on her nose with a shrug. “You don’t worry about it, either, Miss Derpy. You stopped to help me ’cause you were nice. I’m not gonna complain.”

“Still,” Derpy said. “I just—” she looked down at the puddle forming around her hooves and watched the gray pony staring back “—I just do stuff like that sometimes. I don’t think, or… I can’t help it. I mess things up. I always mess things up.” One of her reflection’s eyes rolled askew.

“Oh.” Twist cocked her head and raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know. I’ve never heard anything like that.”

“From the gossip mill? Or maybe the newspapers? You must have.” Kind of hard to avoid in this town, but at least most ponies didn’t seem to hold it against her. Until they thought she was out of earshot, sometimes.

But Twist shook her head. “No, I mean at school, when Dinky talks about you. I’ll tell her how Mom makes candy with me, and she just smiles and says how much she likes your muffins or how you help her with her homework.” She clicked her tongue. “Then Silver Spoon has to tell us how her mom decides which shade of sapphires to wear every morning, but it’s better lith—listening to that than what she usually says.”

A tingle ran through Derpy’s chest, like the one that always did when she’d take that first step off a cloud, those few seconds of buzzing nerves until she’d snap her wings out. “Th-thanks,” she said.

“For what?”

“Never mind.” Derpy chuckled and watched the rain trickle over her feathers to drip off her wingtip on Twist’s far side. “You’re just really sweet and genuine, and you don’t know how refreshing that can be. And you don’t let anypony tell you what to be.”

Half of Twist’s mouth curled into a smile, but she squinted at the ground. Derpy didn’t feel like explaining, though. Twist had gotten the idea, so good enough. As a filly, she’d stood there herself, listening to the popular kids tell her exactly what she needed to do to fit in. Like they’d ever actually let her if she did those things. They’d find another reason, then another.

“Um…” Twist said.

Derpy squeezed her eyes shut. How long had she let her mind wander? Stupid! A filly with an unfamiliar adult? Way to make her feel comfortable. “I think they’ve stored this weather up for a while. It’ll probably rain all night,” she said with a glance at the overcast sky. Not quite as heavy a rain now, but heavy enough.

“Oh, yeah! You get to help out with the weather, right? Do all pegasi? Gosh, it must be fun to fly!” With a hoof clutched to her chest, Twist sighed.

A warm grin sprouted on Derpy’s lips, but she played it off with a shrug. “Yeah, all of us have to help out sometimes. I only get called in for big events, since that’s not my main job.”

Twist cocked her head. “What do you do, then? I don’t think Dinky’s ever said.”

“I work at the post office. Front desk or sorting room, mostly, but sometimes I get to make deliveries,” Derpy replied, waving a hoof around at all the houses. “Especially when we get really busy, like right before Hearth’s Warming.”

Twist’s ears perked up, and she bounced on her hooves. “Oh! Dinky did say that once, that you got to handle all the cool packages from different countries.” She leaned in even further and peered closely at Derpy’s eyes. At least Twist wouldn’t likely bug her about them, but… Fine, let her have her look. Everypony else had to.

“Hey, I think I remember you! Last year, you brought me a package from my aunt, didn’t you? Almost bedtime on Hearth’s Warming Eve, and Mom said I’d have to wait a few days for it, but you still showed up.”

Derpy glanced at the front of the house again. Maybe, but they all blended together. Hard to remember any one in particular.

“In the dark,” Twist continued, “with snow piled on your head. All the way from Manehattan, too, but you said it was important, and no way were you gonna let a present sit at work while a filly was waiting for it. Not at Hearth’s Warming.”

Oh. Yeah, she… She guessed she did remember that night. She’d stayed out to make sure all the presents made it before midnight, but by the time she got home, Carrot Top had already tucked Dinky in for her. Falling asleep on that of all nights, without her mother there. She said she didn’t mind. She always said that. And then she’d awakened the next morning, tore into her presents like any filly should, yet couldn’t stop smiling. Not the ecstatic grin of that year’s toy fad, but something more… thoughtful. Derpy rubbed a hoof at her cheek. She could almost feel her daughter hugging her again—

“That was so nice of you!” Twist said, wrapping her hooves around Derpy’s foreleg and nuzzling her shoulder. “I hope I’m as neat as you someday.”

“You already are,” Derpy answered while scuffing a hoof through the waterlogged grass.

“But flying!” Rolling her eyes to peer out from under her shelter, Twist scanned the clouds. “It must be soft up there.”

“I’ll take you sometime, if your mother doesn’t mind. But you have your own talents. An earth pony of your age?” Derpy gave a low whistle. “I bet you could lift two full-grown pegasi already.”

Twist giggled and blushed.

“Did you notice?” Derpy added.


With a wink, Derpy said, “You haven’t lisped in a while. You didn’t even worry about it, fight it, or try to keep up an appearance. You were just Twist, and it all took care of itself, didn’t it?”

Her blush only deepened. “Oh. Yeah. But I don’t think it’s gone for good.”

“Maybe not. But it’ll change. You have to trust that and stop stressing about it. When you relax, you do fine,” Derpy said with a gentle elbow to the ribs. Twist tried to hide her face, but a smile crept out anyway.

“Hey, here comes your mom!” Derpy said with a wave to Bon Bon, who raised an eyebrow at her daughter.

“Oh, you’re home early!” Twist said, hopping out from under her cover to give Bon Bon a hug. At least Bon Bon had remembered an umbrella—she sidled closer to Twist to shelter her with it. And—ow!—Derpy could finally fold her wing in, which repaid the favor with a cramp.

Bon Bon patted Twist’s head. “You okay?”

With a nod, Twist pointed a hoof at her new friend. “Yeah. Mith Derpy wath—was just waiting with me. I-I forgot my key again.”

“And I—” Derpy started, but no. She didn’t need to tell Twist about her own similar lapse of memory. The filly didn’t need to look up to somepony like that.

Bon Bon waited a second, then tousled Twist’s mane. “No harm done. And thanks, Derpy. Can I offer you my umbrella?”

“No, thank you,” Derpy replied, already shifting her weight toward the street. Nothing would get her dry again, and a little rain never hurt. “I’ll manage.”

But she felt a small tug on her leg. “Miss Derpy?” Twist asked softly. “Does it really get any better?”

Derpy grinned and crouched down to the filly’s level. “Yes. Some things you grow out of, and some things you don’t. But they make you who you are, and…” Muffins and homework. Heh. If that’s what stuck in Dinky’s head, then so be it. Not bad at all. “I wouldn’t change a single thing. I have a good home, I love my daughter. And I got to meet a sweet filly like you.”

Twist gave Derpy a hug, then trotted after her mother. “Did you make a friend today?” Bon Bon said as she shut the door. The answer hidden away, inside the house, but Derpy knew.

She waved good-bye, in case somepony was watching out the window, then she set out for her own home. Just a few more blocks, through the driving rain, and Dinky would unlock the door for her soon enough. She smiled up at the clouds as the rain washed over her face. Perfect.

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