Twilight kept telling herself that she couldn't be having flashbacks - she hadn't been there. She hadn't been there! But that only made it worse.
She hadn't been there to stop Rarity from falling to her death. She hadn't been there when the dragon had killed Spike. She hadn't been there when Braebrun was killed in the orchard. And she hadn't been there when Pinkie had thrown her party.
But none of this excused her from blame! It was her fault that Rarity had had her magic wings; she should have known her friend better! The fabulousness was bound to go to her head - she should have foreseen the tragedy, and been able to stop it. But she hadn't - and she could not. Only the Wonderbolts and Rainbow Dash had been in a position to try but not even Rainbow's prodigious flying had been fast enough to save Rarity.
Twilight knew that Rainbow blamed herself for Rarity's death, and knew that her friend's failure had been compounded by her inability to reproduce the sonic rainboom - hardly surprising in those circumstances but it had threatened to break the pegasus. "Rainbow Crash" even the more friendly of pegasi called her, and after Rarity's death, how could she argue against it?
But Twilight knew that it was her own fault, and not Rainbow's. And that her friend's sadness and humiliation was also her fault. She may not have been the final cause of Rarity's death - like she had not been the final cause of Spike's - but she was the one to blame.
Oh Spike! How could she have ever driven him to leave? She had been so stupid - so insensitive! It was a dragon that had killed him...but Spike! She had brought him forth from dragon's egg in Canterlot, he had trusted her, loved her even, and she had driven him away! And all for nothing... After she had found Spike's body she had sent Owlicious off too. After that she was all alone.
The trip to Appleoosa had seemed like the perfect oportunity to make a new start. A train ride to visit Applejack's cousins. Honest Applejack! Even Rainbow had come out of it enough to chase the younger buffalo. But it had all gone wrong. Pinkie's song had driven a rift between pony and buffalo, and the buffalo stampede through the orchard had left the place in ruins and brave Braeburn dead. The journey back had been suffocating in its silence. She knew that everypony blamed themselves for the disaster - for once nopony blamed her. But nothing she could say could help matters. Nothing at all.
She had hardly seen Applejack in the weeks that followed, the earth pony spending all her time at Sweet Apple Acres, immersing herself in the business of the farm, not seing anypony, not doing anything but work, work, work. The one time she had tried to go there to see her, Big Macintosh had blocked her way and shaken his head. "Nope", he had said, and she could not fail to get the message. Applejack did not wish to see anypony.
And then Pinkie had thrown her party... Twilight had not been alone in judging it ill-timed, in bad taste, and not at all something she wanted to go to. But she had not expected everypony to react in that way. To be honest she had not thought about it at all. It seemed that nopony else had either.
It had been Mrs Cake who had come to the library not wanting to disturb her, but... Twilight had gone with her Sugarcube Corner, but Pinkie would not see her, had refused to leave her new friends. Mrs Cake had explained the nature of these "new friends" - a bucket of turnips, a pile of rocks... and Twilight had used her magic to break in. Maybe she had Pinkie out of it, but the once happy-go-lucky pony had hardly come out of the building since.
Pinkie had refused to go to the Gala with them - to tell the truth she had sent no word, only sending the ticket back by the mail. It had taken three days, the ticket mysteriously lost in the post, but Twilight knew not to ask why. It would only embarass the poor pegasus involved.
The Grand Galloping Gala - surely that would be the perfect turning point, a chance to rebuild her life back in the familiar surroundings of Canterlot. Business was business and Applejack had come along, still subdued and spending her time focused on Applebloom who had had Pinkie's ticket, one of the few blank flanks there. Rainbow Dash had joined them at the last minute, pulling their chariot herself through the clouds, whilst Fluttershy had been the only other enthusiastic pony, determined to see and befriend the fantastic animals of the palace garden.
Everypony had agreed that what had been Rarity's ticket should go to the friendliest pony they knew and after a series of twists and turns (*) it had been bestowed upon Seafoam. But the beautiful unicorn had not travelled with them, Princess Celestia sending two of her pegasus guards to fly her honoured guest to the palace.
The Grand Galloping Gala was the best night of the year - yes? Wrong! Although at the Princess' side, Twilight had little chance to talk to her, and had found herself sad and alone even in the midst of so much finery. Applejack had fared little better, sales being awfully low and had eventually let Applebloom loose on the unesuspecting customers. There had been a few more sales, mostly at apple-point, before eventually a unicorn prince had led his friends in and demanded they end their silly provincial games.
But Fluttershy had fared the worst - and that had been the biggest humiliation of all! The bursting in of the palace doors, the horde of animals racing across the dancefloors, and the gentle loving pegasus roaring at the top of her voice "You are going to LOVE me!". Princess Celestia had got them out of it, but Twilight knew that everypony had viewed them as sent home in disgrace.
Seafoam, it seemed, had had a lovely time, feted by all as a special guest and taken under their wing, as it were, by Twinkle and Moondancer. She had been flown back to Ponyville by the royal pegasus guards, only vaguely aware of her friends' disgrace.
Twilight shook her head and sighed, looking across her room towards the window. Most nights she could barely sleep a few hours, and this promised to be one of those where she got no sleep whatsoever. No matter how much she told herself it was not all her fault, that she had not been there to help her friends, another voice leapt in and negated it, shouting that it was her fault, that she SHOULD have been there to help her friends. And alone at night, Twilight knew which voice she believed...
(*) In this timestream some of the episodes we know from late on in Season One could not have happened, so "The Spirit of Generosity" as I would name the new episode where Rarity's ticket is given away to the friendliest pony in Ponyville, and that being Seafoam, is a major replacement episode.