Octavia set the large brown cardboard box on the floor of her tiny home. It didn’t look out of place amongst the numerous stacks of other boxes that she had neatly organized and labeled. Most of it had been generic supplies and appliances that could be found in any home. The box she had just laid down, however, contained more personal items such as photos, books, sheet music, and the like. She removed a picture of Vinyl and herself that had been taken at last year’s Winter Wrap Up celebration. Octavia's face in the photo was confused and awkward while Vinyl seemed more than comfortable having her picture taken. Her left hoof was held around Octavia's shoulders to pull her into the picture while she slightly pulled down her glasses with her right one, making her look like a partied out version of the famous “Dub-lo Seven” spy.
In all honesty, she kind of missed having Vinyl around. Her antics became sort of a daily routine to deal with, and without them, things felt rather empty. But she had finally come to the conclusion that she needed her own space to practice as much as she needed to without interruptions or disturbances. After saving up whatever money she could, she said her farewells to Vinyl and purchased a small home not far from the shops in Ponyville. Even if the new house wasn’t massive, living close to the shops made things infinitely more convenient.
She set the photo down on the mantle above the cozy fireplace and moved back over to the box. Sitting on top was one of the most precious items in her collection. She lifted the thick, slightly aged book from the box. Her Idea Book; the complex amalgamation of all of the inspiration for the music she played came from that book. It contained information and sheets of some of the most beautiful pieces of classical music she had ever heard. Some of the more well known works of art were present such as, “Mane Elise” but there were also lesser known pieces such as “The Mare Among Many” and “Snow Dance.” There were several pages in the back of the book that had been purposefully left blank in case somepony wanted to take notes. Octavia had gladly filled up every ounce of available space, and when she ran out, she wrote on the sides and on the margins of the pages. She had prevented anypony from seeing the Idea Book; Vinyl had made an attempt to see it once, but soon stopped after she saw how defensive Octavia became over it. She wasn’t hostile, just sensitive. Upon seeing just how distraught it made her friend, Vinyl swore a sincere promise that she wouldn’t try to look again. She never did.
Octavia's new home had a distinct charm to its humble space. The lit fireplace burned brightly and accented the house in the way that only a fireplace could. Small shelves stuck out of the wall to the right of the front door, presumably for photos and other trinkets. A window rested on the opposite wall, perpendicular to the left of the fireplace. It presented a grand view of some of the shops to the far left, while the rest of the window remained a picturesque view of the mountains in the distance. It was truly a sight to behold.
The house had one bedroom as well as a decent sized bathroom and kitchen, which suited Octavia just fine. She was never one for guests. Despite playing at many prestigious concerts from Canterlot to Manehattan with hundreds of guests, her home was her own. It was her space to remove the bowtie, to allow her mane to become messy and uncouth, and to play the music that she wanted to play, not the music she was told to play. She had preformed her own symphonies and concerts of one that would never be heard by the ears of another. They weren’t pieces to be admired or critiqued; they were her feelings, her hopes and dreams. No pony but her had the right to judge the love, the sadness, or the anger that escaped through that music.
She walked over to the cello in the far corner of the room and ran her hoof across the delicate and glossy wooden frame. That cello had come to mean everything to her in this world. Octavia didn’t grow up a social butterfly as a filly, so she stuck to the ever loyal and non-judgmental embrace of her cello. It was her own diary, one that nopony could access without the key and talent to unlock its secrets.
She picked up the bow resting next to the cello and grabbed the small rosin block from where she had set it on the mantle earlier in the day. With a delicate hoof, she gently ran the rosin along the hairs of the bow. Standing next to the cello, she glided the bow across the strings and listened to the wondrous notes that meandered their away from the instrument. For the better part of an hour, she played whatever came to mind. With the crackle of the fireplace as her audience, she let her cello speak in volumes about her life and her solitude. The ethereal sounds flooded the room with the feelings of safety and security. Octavia was in her own little world.
She set down the bow and sprawled out on the small couch. As she got comfortable, an unfortunate thought popped into her head. Even though she had moved all of her belongings to the new house, she hadn’t had the chance to purchase any groceries. Although, she admitted, she wasn't much in the mood to cook anyway. She decided to go out for dinner and pick up some food sometime in the morning. She quickly fixed up her mane, replaced the bowtie around her neck, and carefully extinguished the fireplace. Afterwards, she threw her saddlebag around her back and placed a few bits inside. As she left the solitude of her fortress, the powerfully cool night breeze etched a smile onto her face.
The center of town was no busier than it had ever been. Couples and kids out past their bed times pranced up and down the street with a carefree rhythm. Octavia made her way past Sugarcube Corner to a small restaurant called “The Hay Barrel.” It wasn’t much, but she preferred it that way. The corporate owned food chains stayed in cities like Manehattan and Fillydelphia where they belonged. She feared the day that this changed.
The shop was thankfully still open, as patrons could be seen inside enjoying meals of various sorts. Octavia sat down at an empty table and glanced over the menu that had been set out beforehand. Soon after, she was approached by a rather tired looking stallion. Despite his appearance, he was still as friendly and enthusiastic as possible.
“Hello ma’am, what can I get for you this evening?” he asked politely.
“I’ll have the Sunshine Salad please,” she responded with a smile. She wasn’t starving but she figured that she ought to get something in her stomach. She hadn’t eaten since noon.
“Will you have anything to drink with that?”
“Just some water please.”
He took a second to jot down her order and then collected her menu.
“I’ll be right back with your food ma’am.” And with that he took his leave.
Octavia crossed her hooves and scanned the room for anything of interest. Most ponies were deeply engaged in conversation with family or friends. A few others were sitting alone, either reading or finishing their meals. Deciding to occupy herself, she pulled a napkin from the dispenser and retrieved a pen from the bottom of her saddlebag. She sectioned off the napkin evenly with horizontal lines and started writing down some music. Nothing in particular, just whatever sounded good. Half way down her improvised sheet music, the waiter returned with a small glass of water and a brown bowl containing the salad.
“Enjoy your meal,” he said with a smile and a nod.
As the waiter left Octavia went ahead and dug into the salad, periodically stopping to write in a few more notes. Her glass of water was gone in no time; being in front of the fire had made her incredibly thirsty. Even after she had finished her salad, she remained at the table until she had completely filled out the napkin. Convinced that what she had was good enough, she stuffed the pen and napkin in her bag and left five bits on the table for payment, as well as a tip. She exited the restaurant and turned to head home, eager to see how her quickly-written song sounded.
On her way down the street something had caught her eye near the side of Sugarcube Corner, but even as she squinted and looked harder, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Octavia continued walking, but was quickly shoved to the ground by something at least twice her size. She looked up from the ground to see a large stallion with the most sinister and nasty looking face she had ever had the displeasure of seeing. As she had confirmed he was much larger than she, but most of his build was concealed behind a thick blue jacket. He put a tree truck sized hoof down onto her chest and pinned her to the ground, restricting much of her movement.
“Well hey there pretty lady, you don’t mind sharing do you?”
It didn’t take an artist to draw a conclusion that he was talking about her bag.
“Lovely,” she muttered under her waning breath.
“What was that?” he spat, placing his hoof up to his ear. "'Fraid you're gonna have to speak up, dollface."
“I said eat dirt.” And with that Octavia slammed her right leg into his stomach. He doubled over and she took the opportunity to get up and run as fast as her hooves could carry her, but she was far from athletic.
"Where do you think you're going you little brat?!" Within seconds the brute tossed her onto her back and slammed his hoof into her stomach. She instantly seized up and clutched her gut. Another punch like that and she was going to be seeing her salad again. She rolled onto her stomach and did the only that seemed logical at the time.
"Shut your mouth and hand over the bag!" The assaulter brought his hoof down and delivered a heavy strike to the back of her head, causing her vision to blur almost immediately. Without missing a beat, he delivered a nasty kick to her side, and looked like he was preparing for a second before suddenly stopping. He looked toward something before darting off in the opposite direction. The last thing Octavia's failing eyes picked up was a set of pink hooves running toward her.
When she came to, the first thing Octavia noticed was that her skull felt like it had been caved in. Different sections of her body were suffering from varying degrees of agony. Upon opening her eyes, she could see that her midsection had been bandaged up and that she was clearly in a hospital room. Octavia laid back on the bed and took a moment to absorb her surroundings. There was a medical cart with various tools to her left and a counter with a sink and cabinets further back. The room door was in front of her with a small window slit that allowed her to see into the hallway. A large window over looking the front campus of the hospital was pasted on the right wall. As far as she could tell, she was on one of the higher levels.
A doctor soon walked in and behind him followed a rather energetic pink pony. It took Octavia a moment recall who she was, but upon closer examination, she realized that she was one of the bakers over at Sugarcube Corner. Apparently she was her savior as well. What was her name? Pinkie- something; Pinkie Cake maybe?
“Hello there Miss Octavia. I’m glad to see you’ve finally awakened," he stated as he began jotting medical jargon down onto his clipboard.
“How long was I out?”
“Not long. We transferred you from the ICU roughly 12 hours ago. You’ve only been here about a day.”
Pinkie Cake had planted herself down on a stool in the corner of the room. The doctor flipped some pages on his clipboard and continued.
“Your injuries aren’t anything too severe. You have some bruising on your abdomen and you had a concussion when you came in; miraculously, nothing was broken. We’re gonna keep you in the hospital over night and then you should be free to go in the morning.”
Octavia sighed in relief. She was glad to hear that she wouldn’t be stuck in captivity for a ridiculous amount of time.
Octavia turned to her right and found herself staring into the great big blue eyes of her helper from last night. It’s a shame she wasn’t prepared for Pinkie Cake's greeting, because it nearly scared her soul straight out of her body. She recoiled a bit at the cost of slightly hurting her side in the process. She winced and clutched her side in pain.
“Oh- I’m so sorry!” she quickly apologized.
“No no, it’s ok. I’m just still a bit sore.”
“Well, I’m Pinkie Pie! I’m so glad you’re ok!” she cheered as she shifted her weight to lean against the bed.
Pinkie Pie. So close.
“Thank you Pinkie Pie. Do you– recall anything that happened the night you found me?”
“Weeeeell,” she started. “I was downstairs putting icing on my delicious chocolate cake when I heard some yelling outside. I thought maybe I was missing a party, and I never miss parties, so I went outside to see what was going on and I saw this really really big pony standing over you, but when he saw me he ran away, probably because I had frosting all over my face and looked like a ghost,” she giggled. “But when I saw you on the ground I knew you were hurt really badly, so I had Mr. and Mrs. Cake hold down the fort while I brought you to the hospital.”
Octavia closed her eyes and tried to picture the events of that night in her head. She remembered being attacked and remembered the attacker fleeing, as well as Pinkie approaching her. She didn’t recall being brought to the hospital, however. Her blackout must have occurred shortly before then. "How vexing..."
The doctor, whom Octavia had forgotten was even in the room, stepped forward and cleared his throat.
“Now even though you are being released tomorrow, you’re still going to experience quite a bit of pain. The best thing you can do for now is to get yourself some rest and avoid turning your midsection. You should be back on your hooves in no time. Considering the type of incident this was, however, I suggest you report this to the local authorities when you feel you are up to the task.” Octavia gave the doctor a nod and with that he left to tend to other patients.
“So you play the cello?” Pinkie asked excitedly. Octavia, at this point, assumed Pinkie was just trying to be polite and make conversation.
“Oh yes,” she replied. “I’ve been playing it ever since I was a filly. It’s my way of escaping my hardships and being at peace. I’ve played it for so long that it’s really just become natural to me.”
“Wow! Is it hard to play? Well obviously it can’t be hard for you since you’re really really good a playing it and what not. I think you sound really good!”
“You’ve heard me play?”
“Of course silly,” she said like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “At the Gala, remember?”
Now that she had thought back on it, Octavia did faintly remember seeing her at the Gala. Being as long ago as it was however, not much in the way of detail came to mind.
“I think so. My head still hurts though.”
Pinkie placed her hoof up to her chin as if she was deeply in thought.
“There was something I was going to tell you but I can’t reme- oh, oh! I picked up your bag and brought it inside Sugarcube Corner last night before I took you here. Mr. and Mrs. Cake said that they would look after it until you were awake. Here I’ll go get it for you!”
She turned to make her way out of the door, but for some reason Octavia found herself stopping her.
She turned back to Octavia, seemingly both slightly confused and concerned.
“You don’t have to go get my bag. I’ll pick it up on my way home tomorrow. If it’s all the same to you, I’d much rather prefer the company. This place is kind of boring without somepony to talk to.”
Pinkie immediately brightened up and hopped back into the room. She wasn’t normally the type of pony Octavia would converse with, but with everything that had happened in the past few hours she was glad to have someone help her get her mind off of things.
“So Pinkie Pie,” Octavia began. “What exactly do you do at Sugarcube Corner?” Octavia was already aware that she was a baker, but she figured that any conversing was better than no conversing.
“Well, mostly bake. Sometimes I help Mr. and Mrs. Cake look after the foals while they’re out for the night. It’s really a lot of fun down there; you should come by sometime!”
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” she hesitated.
“Aww, why not?” It was very clear that she was disappointed.
“Oh I’m just not great at ‘hanging out’ with others I suppose. My cello work keeps me very busy and I don’t really have any friends. Well, I did have a roommate, but I just moved out recently.” Pinkie still looked fairly disappointed.
“I can try to come, but no promises,” Octavia finally caved.
Even after this Pinkie’s expression hadn’t changed much. Octavia was beginning to wonder if she had possibly said something to upset her. “Is something the matter?”
Pinkie huffed out a sigh. “Well you said you didn’t have any friends but I thought that since I brought you to the hospital and all that you counted me as a friend,” she said almost sheepishly.
This caught the musical pony off guard. The more she thought about it, the more Octavia did owe this mare something. She had done a lot for her in the past few hours, the least she could do was call her her friend, especially if that’s what she really wanted.
“I’m sorry Pinkie. I guess I’m still new to the whole friend thing. If you want to be friends that’s fine by me.”
Her face finally brightened up. She began to trot around the room before letting out a goofy sounding laugh. “That’s great! Maybe, one day, you can show me how to play the cello! Oh, and in exchange, I can teach you all I know about baking! Then you can be a musical baker! Do you think there is such a thing as a musical baker?”
Before Octavia had the chance to answer her rather silly question, the doctor walked back in the room, effectively gathering their attention.
“Alright Miss Pinkie, unfortunately visiting hours are up. You’ll be able to see Octavia again in the morning when she’s released.”
“Oh, alright. I’ll see you tomorrow Octavia! Take care and make sure to get plenty of rest!”
“Alright Pinkie. See you tomorrow.” And with that both ponies exited the room.
As she laid back on the angled bed, the musician began to trace the treble clef imprinted on her flank with her hoof. It was a habit she had gotten into whenever she was bored or nervous. Obviously, in this case, it was out of sheer ennui.
Octavia glanced at the clock to see it was half past nine. She found herself oddly missing the presence of her newfound pink friend. She had done a lot for her since the night she was attacked, not to mention that she was planning to see her again tomorrow, while all Octavia had to offer was her friendship, whatever that was worth. She decided not to dwell on it any longer and get some rest. The less time she had to be awake and feel the stinging at her sides, the better.
Octavia woke up the next day to a nurse working quietly at organizing some materials in the nearby cabinets. When she spun around, she seemed surprised that her paitent had woken up.
“Oh, Miss Octavia! The doctor will be in shortly with some forms. After you fill those out you’ll be free to go,” she smiled.
Octavia smiled and turned her head to the other side of the room where the stool was. She actually found herself disappointed that her pink friend had not been there. Nevertheless, she was excited that she would be sent home where she could recuperate on her own accord. Not to mention get a hold of her cello, if her midsection was up for the task.
After what seemed like a short eternity, the doctor nudged the door open with the top of his head. He carried a clipboard in his mouth that was presumed to be Octavia's set of forms. She angled herself on the bed, while the doctor set the clipboard down on her lap.
“Alright Octavia, if you’ll just take a moment to fill out these forms then we’ll get you squared away and you can be on your way.”
He removed a pen from his shirt pocket on set it down for her to use. The forms were not complicated to fill out, but the process took longer than she had anticipated. When she finished her work, the nurse took up the clipboard while the doctor assisted her in getting down from the bed. The musician's stride and balance were unsteady at first, but there was noticeably less pain. As long as she didn’t turn her torso too hard or too fast, then she was able to move around freely.
“If you’ll follow me, I’ll go ahead and direct you to the exit,” he said in a professional tone. Octavia trailed behind him throughout the almost bland looking corridors. Medical notices and memos were posted on several corkboards littered throughout the hallway. She ran her hoof across the glossy texture of the pristine tiled walls and admired how cleanly they looked.
They approached the front desk where Octavia was surprised to find Pinkie Pie had been waiting. When she saw the duo approach, she excitedly bounced out of her seat and over to them. The doctor gave Octavia a nod, indicating she was free to go, and returned to the innards of the hospital. She turned back to Pinkie and noticed she had Octavia's saddlebag strapped around her. She placed it on the floor and excitedly hugged her, although she was still mindful of her bandaged torso.
“I’m so happy you’re finally out! I’ve been waiting here for awhile now, but visiting hours don’t start up until noon. I brought your saddlebag too in case you needed it,” she said pointed down at it with her hoof. Octavia reached down and carefully placed the bag on her back. Judging from the weight, she concluded that nothing was taken by her would-be attacker.
“I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me Pinkie. It’s nice to know that there is somepony out there that’s watching out for me.”
“Oh, don’t mention it. I couldn’t just leave you like that could I?” She gave her a reassuring smile that told her that she probably couldn’t have if she tried. It just wasn’t in her personality to leave somepony alone in their time of need. The grey mare concluded that Pinkie had been a much better patron of things than most other ponies would have ever been. That wasn’t something that could be over looked.
“Hey Pinkie, is the shop open today? I could really use a bite to eat. Maybe I can bring my cello by and we can play some music too.”
She gasped louder than anypony Octavia had ever heard. “You mean, we could be musical bakers?”
“Only if you’re up for it!” she found herself saying rather loudly.
“Of course! Come on; let’s go get your cello!” she said rushing Octavia out the door.
“Oh that’s no problem; I can get it.”
“Are you crazy? With that injured back of yours you could get hurt, and no pony would be around to help! I’m coming with.”
Octavia smiled and realized there wasn’t really any way she was going to convince her otherwise. They left the hospital and were greeted with the powerful rays of Celestia’s great sun. Its tender embrace lovingly warmed her coat as she took in the fresh air and the sounds of nature’s presence. Pinkie hopped happily at her side as they made their way in the direction of Octavia's house at the other end of town. She took a second to reach into her bag and pull out the napkin that she had written on at the restaurant. After a moment, she crumpled it up and tossed it into a nearby trashcan. It was time to start a newer, happier song in her life, and for the first time ever, a true friend was going to make that happen.