Why is he acting like this?
I turned to confront the red-faced unicorn in front of me. There was no way I’d let him push me around.
“Listen to yourself, Bale!” I shouted, standing up.
He rose to meet me. “No, Vinyl, you listen to yourself! Seriously, what in the name of Luna made you think that things would just go back to how they were? Have you forgotten my brother just died?”
“What a stupid question!” I retorted. “It’s because I know he’s dead. That's why I’m asking you now!”
For the first time in a while, Bale didn’t shoot back. I took that opportunity to continue, willing my tone to soften.
I paused momentarily, searching for the next words. “So what if we don’t have a singer! We have each other and the talent that we’ve been given. Do you really think he’d like to see us at each other’s throats? He wouldn’t, Bale. He would want us to continue with the band.”
After taking another swig of his drink, Bale found his voice again. “That’s corny horse manure, Vinyl, he’s dead… he doesn’t give a buck what goes on now.”
I just couldn't let Balefire waste himself away. As much as I hated him now, he was like a brother to me, and in all truth, he was all I had left.
Trying to keep calm, I spoke. “Bale, you have to learn to cope. Dawn’s been gone for a month now, and you still act as if it happened yesterday…”
“Shut up!” he howled suddenly, making me sit back down on my haunches in surprise. He got up from his own chair and advanced on me aggressively. I was afraid he was going to hit me. “You wouldn’t understand.”
Out of all the assaults of anger and hate I’d deflected in the last hour, this one blew through my defense and struck me in the heart.
How dare he?
“What?” I growled, losing control of my emotions then and there. “I don’t understand? You take that back, Bale! While I was sitting at your brothers bedside, watching him die, you were out drinking!” I pushed up from my chair and put my nose against his. “I don’t think you understand.”
He went deathly quiet. I could tell a dangerous amount of rage was building up behind his façade.
“Bale…?” I squeaked, my anger dissolving into fear. “Bale I’m…” when the first hoof hit my head I reeled, falling over the back of the chair I was sitting on. As the second hoof came down on me, I rolled out of the way, narrowly dodging the strike. “Bale!” I shouted, moving out of the way of yet another attempt, “Bale, what the buck are you doing?” Without a word he fixed me in a hateful gaze and advanced.
I scurried backwards to get away from him, using the chair I’d been sitting on to give me some cover. Instead of moving around the seat that now blocked him from getting at me, he picked it up in a field of red unicorn magic and tossed it aside. It sailed through the air before smashing against the refrigerator. Seeing his approaching figure, I tried to retreat further, but my tail hit the wall. I was trapped.A few more paces and he was looming above me; his head was silhouetted by the hanging light fixture. He reared up, and I covered my face with my hind hooves to protect myself. When he came down to finish me off, I cringed fearfully. To my surprise, instead of the strike hitting home it smashed into the floor a mere inch away; the bang echoed around the trashed kitchen.
“I’m leaving, Vinyl,” He grumbled, his anger dispersing as quickly as it had arrived. “If I stay around for much longer, I’ll just end up hurting you.” He looked away.
Shaking visibly I got up, placing a hoof on his shoulder. When he turned to gaze at me, I could see the tears. They sparkled like crystals in the corners of his eyes. It was clear that he regretted his behavior. “You can keep the house. Clearly, you’re the better off one of the two of us. Stay as long as you can pay the rent.”
“Where are you going?” I wanted to say more, I wanted to explain how much he meant to me, how he was like a brother and how if he left, I would have nothing again; however, something held me back.
“A little settlement on the outskirts of town, Stallionshire, it’s where I was born. Have you heard of the place?”
I shook my head.
“Well that’s where I’m going. There’s nothing left for me here, Vinyl."
I’m something! The voice in my head screamed at him.
“At least you’ll have ponies there that’ll keep you safe,” I whispered, trying to feign encouragement.
“Hardly so, but in the least I’ll be back with my family… or what’s left of it,” he murmured before turning away from me and cantering over to the door.
As he opened it, revealing the streets of Manehatten, foggy and bathed in the diffused glow of early morning, he turned back to me for a final time.
“Thanks for the ride, Vinyl. I’m… I’m sorry it ended up this way.” He took in a deep breath, as if he was preparing himself to continue. Instead, however, he sighed and looked away from my face and at the faded horizon in front of him. “I have to go, goodbye.” He left without waiting to hear my response.
When the door slammed shut behind him, I collapsed. The hard reality that I was on my own again, as if I’d never met Bale and Dawn, as if I was never part of their band, numbed me into a cold stupor. I was hopelessly, blatantly, alone.
Even after a few drinks, I was still feeling depressed. I just couldn’t accept the reality present at the moment. In a foalish manner I kept shooting glances towards the entrance of the Drinking Trough, expecting Bale to walk in with a smile across his face and say it was all set up; that his brother was alive and that they had a venue planned for tomorrow night.
“You called me over?” The bartender, a new pony I hadn’t seen before tonight, drew my attention away from the doorway.
“Yes, I’d like another drink please. The same as before,” I replied, trying to smile; I failed miserably.
The ringing at the entrance made me turn suddenly. An earth pony cantered in, shaking a thin layer of rain from her coat. Something about her stood out from the rest of the ponies that sat in groups around the dimly lit pub. I suspected it was the fact that, unlike the majority of customers the bar was serving, this filly was gray; a very unconventional coat color. I watched her intently as the she stopped and scanned the sitting place; she seemed to be looking for a spot. Turning away momentarily, I took note that beside me there was just that.
“Filly!” I shouted before realizing that I had. I caught myself. It was too late. Her gaze slid across the room and rested on me. Figuring I’d already been heard, I brought a hoof up and waved. She started making her way towards the bar stool beside mine.
“Thank you,” she said, smiling. Her voice held an interesting quality; it was young, authoritative, and… repressed?
The bartender, my drink levitated carefully in a field of magic, approached the new customer.
“And you, what would you like to drink?”
“A glass of Sangiovese, please,” she said without hesitation, pronouncing the name perfectly.
All I understood from that was the name of the drink rhymed with please.
“Say what now?” the bartender grumbled, placing my drink down in front of me.
“Well, we don’t have any.”
“You don’t? Bother. Alright, how about a Chardonnay?” Her voice had taken a hoity-toity tone that grated on my nerves.
“Nope.” Some nearby colts who were overhearing the preposterous drink names began to snicker.
I turned and looked incredulously at the gray filly. Feeling merciful, I mentioned;
“You might be in the wrong place, ma’am. This is the Drinking Trough, not the Spangled Stable. All they sell here is hard cider and light.” What I didn’t say was how badly I wanted her to go. I didn’t like the attention she was drawing.
She turned to me with a mischievous smile, a reaction I was not expecting in response to my comment.
“Sorry, did I miss a joke?” I asked, feeling insecure.
“Not at all… I’m just messing with you,” she said pointedly, turning to the equally confused bartender. “Give me a hard cider, please.” Her voice had returned to normal. Taken aback, I shifted my weight onto my hunches and looked her over.
“Well, it worked,” I finally said, allowing the ghost of a smile to appear on my muzzle.
“I know,” she replied, retrieving the drink from the bartender and downing it in one go.
“And you can drink,” I mumbled.
“Yes,” she said. “Clearly.” From the way she spoke, to the point and concise, I suspected she wanted me to ask her something.
“So… what’s your name?” I said, taking a stab.
“Zanger Octavia, but I prefer everypony to call me Octavia.”
“A fancy name,” I observed.
“Respectably given to me by a fancy mother and father,” She countered.
So that’s how she knew all those wine names.
“Your from the upper class sector on Golden Hoof?” It was a guess, but an educated one at that. Golden Hoof was the closest ‘elevated’ neighborhood in the city.
“Yes, though I don’t like telling ponies that. It’s hard enough to escape my parent’s scrutiny for a night. Do you know the extents I went too to just come here?”
“No.” However, I was interested; I liked this curious filly more and more every second. Funny how opinions can change so suddenly. A pit formed in my stomach as I recalled Bales transformation over the last month.
As if sensing my bleak recollection, Octavia’s tone changed. “I think you need a drink,” she stopped long enough to hail the bartender over, “a strong one at that. I heard the news about your band.” Her words made me perk up visibly.
The very realization that I was known further then the confines of lower class pubs overwhelmed my prior despair.
“You know about Up-3?” I said, my eyes widening.
“Ya, I went to one of your venues about a year ago. You guys rocked!” Her excitement faltered momentarily. “What happened?”
No amount of drink would loosen me up enough to explain to Octavia the details, so I just shrugged.
“Life happened,” I replied simply. I could tell she understood I didn’t want to expand.
Quickly, she changed the topic. “Well I think you have an immense amount of talent. I’m guessing now that your band days are over you’ll be attending the Academy?”
In response, I screwed up my face.
“Sorry, what are you talking about?”
“You mean you don’t know?” For a second I suspected she was bugging me again, but her tone quickly abolished that hypothesis.
“No, I don’t,” I said, feeling rather foalish.
“Manhattans Music Academy, of course!” she exclaimed.
“Never heard of it,” I admitted.
“I’m surprised. Hasn’t anypony recommended the place to you? Your father or mother possibly?”
A shadow crossed over my face.
“I don’t have any family, Octavia. Bale and Dawn were all I had.” When she gave me a questioning stare, I clarified: “Balefire and Dawnfire were the other members of the band.”
Now it was Octavia’s turn to be embarrassed. “Of course, I can’t believe I forgot… it’s just been some time now. Actually, I forget your name as well. What is it again?” she asked sheepishly.
“Vinyl Scratch. However, Vinyl will do just fine,” I replied with a smile.
“Vinyl it is,” Octavia replied. “So, Vinyl, since nopony has said it yet, I recommend you look at getting a degree in the Musical Academy. With all the money you must have made in the band, I’d imagine you could afford the first year at least.”
The offer was tempting, but the notion of gaining a formal education was intimidating.
“Here,” she said, reaching into her saddle bag and pulling out a card in her teeth; I took it from her with a bout of levitation. “It’s their business card. All the contact info can be found on the back.”
I flipped the card over and read.
“Thank you,” I said. “But I don’t think I’m up to doing something like that.” I levitated the card back into her pack.
“Why?” She looked crestfallen. “You more than qualify.”
“I might, but I don’t have any money. The little I have is going to go into getting myself a home in that motel by Fourhoof Park.”
“I’m sorry, Octavia, but it’s just not possible. Besides, I’m a busker at heart. I’ll fail miserably at anything formal. Did you know I don’t even know the names given to the different tones and methods in which I’m playing?” From the way she gawked, it was clear she hadn't.
“Really? Well then that’s even more spectacular! You’re a natural, Vinyl, embrace it!” she said exuberantly.
Again I shook my head “As natural as I might be, I don’t think I’m prepared to tackle a formal education.” I really doubted my ability, obviously. I was hiding behind the reassurance of my own stubbornness to change. I’d already taken a leap of faith once, and look where that got me.