“You have got to be kidding me?”
The exclamation was loud, shattering the peace and tranquillity that the obligatory shop music tried to convey. A few ponies looked up from their browsing, eager to see what was going on and spread some gossip if it was worth their time.
The salespony noticed the peering eyes turn towards him and the customer he was dealing with and he quickly tried to take control of the situation. “Madam, there is no need to shout. If this dress is not to your... liking then perhaps we should look for something more... subtle,” he quietly responded, trying to keep his voice down enough so that the other customers couldn’t hear. Of course they only surreptitiously leaned closer, or moved to a nearer aisle as a result.
Vinyl glared at the clerk, which lost its effect somewhat behind her glasses but the scowl was still evident. “You mean ‘cheap’. Look, pal, I’m not worried that I can’t afford the thing, I’m offended by the fact you think I’d pay one-hundred and twenty-five bits for a dress that I’ll wear once! It’s not even my kind of style, just look at it, it’s all... frilly and stuff.”
In all fairness, as far as dresses could go, it was a beautiful piece. It was primarily black, cotton stitched along a saddle that fitted the dress to varying sizes around a pony’s midriff, stretching up as far as the chest and around the armscye. Embroidered along its rear towards the flank was silk lace, dyed a royal blue that didn’t ride up too high and flowed elegantly alongside the tail, allowing enough movement to view a cutie mark. All in all, the salespony was showing remarkable aptitude for his chosen career path; the colour scheme matched Vinyl’s coat and mane perfectly, and it suited her figure in a tasteful way.
“Well I am afraid we don’t stock garments that are notably less priced than this one, and it certainly is the most appropriate dress to suit you that we have in store,” the ever persistent stallion continued, trying to get around the immediate problem and at the same time make a sale. “If you would like, I could point you in the direction of a store with a... wider variety of wares to suit any budget and style, but I’m afraid most of the stores in this area will be fairly similar to this one. You may need to go a little out of your way to get there.”
The other ponies in the store had since grown bored and returned to their own business, Vinyl being unaware that she was being observed in the first place. She hated shopping, she hated wasting bits. Sure she would spend ridiculous amounts of money on silly things like extravagant lighting or interesting, though some would consider weird, furniture for her house in Ponyville but she’d never been one for clothes.
She hated how time consuming it could be. It wasn’t simply a case of buying something; she had to try it on, make sure it fit, make sure it didn’t clash with her mane and make sure it was comfortable. She grumbled to herself as she glanced at the large clock that hung on the wall behind the check out. It read five in the afternoon, and she still had to make an appearance at an exhibition at the convention for Radio, let a few ponies take a few photos of her for the local papers and magazines covering the event, and then get ready for dinner.
A heavy sigh was the next sound to escape the increasingly frustrated DJ, her horn lighting up as she extracted her cheque book and a quill from the side bag she had brought with her. “I hate shopping...”
Suppressing a satisfied smile, the stallion began to lead Vinyl towards the cashier desk, dress in tow. “Would you also like to browse the accompanying accessories for the dress, Madam? We have a wide selection of shoes, hair pins, bags and jewellery.”
Vinyl didn’t even look up, writing out a cheque for the dress and signing her name with a flourish. “... don’t push it.”
The salespony didn’t respond, simply nodding his head and folding the dress in a way that only those who did it for a living knew how. He then placed it in a box and left it on the counter before taking Vinyl’s cheque and placing it into the till. “Thank you for your visit, madam. Please do come again.” He smiled with a nod once more.
“Yeah, thanks,” she muttered, floating the box on to her back and making her way out of the store. “Stupid Lyra...” she whispered to herself, almost cursing the fact that they were such good friends that she would go to such lengths just to keep her happy. “I swear if she laughs at me I’ll follow her around all day tomorrow.”
The streets of Canterlot were still rather busy, ponies bustling from shop to shop in the shadows of the large buildings that surrounded them. Vinyl had considered buying a place in the city, an apartment to make things easier, but it was the hustle and bustle that put her off. She could never persuade herself to do it when she could just simply pay for a hotel room. She much preferred to be a big time pony in the big city and have a home away from it all to relax in.
The hotel wasn’t far from the store; perhaps a ten or fifteen minute walk to return to it. Once she had she was grateful that the number of ponies going in and out of the reception had dwindled, most of them having checked in or left the convention for the day. Making her way through the foyer and pressing the call button on an elevator by the stairs she waited, planning her next couple of hours in her head. The exhibition wasn’t until six, and she still had forty minutes to kill before then. Her thoughts turned back towards the mini-bar in her room and the delicious treats held within.
She was still imagining the food stuffs when the elevator arrived, a few ponies leaving as she stepped in. She didn’t want to ruin her dinner, but she figured a few choice chocolates wouldn’t go amiss. Her ears soon became under assault by the irritating elevator music as her hoof rose to press the button for her floor and with a ding the doors began to close.
“Hold the door, please?!”
Vinyl quickly placed her foreleg between the sliding doors and they stopped, retracting back as they sensed somepony between them. She left her leg in place as she watched a pony quickly make her way into the elevator before drawing it back and allowing the doors to close once more.
“Floor?” Vinyl then enquired, hoof ready to press whichever number the mare desired.
“Second, please.” The reply came, the pony taking a moment to collect herself after her brief canter to the elevator. “Thank you for waiting.”
“No problem.” And with that the silence was restored, the ever persistent music coming from the elevator’s speaker echoing slightly against the four walls.
With nothing better to do but wait for her floor, Vinyl moved to the back of the elevator and casually leaned against the rear wall, noting that the walls of the elevator that didn’t house the doors were mirrored. From her vantage point she could glance at the mare with her without rousing suspicion, and with her glasses on it was doubtful she’d be noticed anyway.
The DJ wasn’t one for staring at random ponies, but being in an enclosed space tended to make a pony want to know who they were in the space with. The first thing she noticed was the other pony’s cutie mark, a pink treble clef on a light grey coat. Obviously she was involved with music and so naturally there for the convention and the fact she chose the second floor was further evidence of that.
Vinyl got the impression that this mare carried herself very well. Not a single hair on her body was out of place, including her mane which showed no sign of distress from the brief dash to the elevator. Curiously, the only thing she wore was a bowtie, something Vinyl had never seen that much of.
She may have commented on it to her, boredom making her feel the need to start a conversation but another ding stopped her before she could and the elevator doors opened on the second floor. Without hesitation, the mare quickly left, trotting away at a brisk pace and taking a left down a corridor that led to one of the hotel’s conference rooms. Vinyl had watched her the whole way, more out of intrigue than anything else, but soon enough the elevator doors closed once more, leaving the mare to her thoughts.
The elevator continued by itself for quite some time, no pony seeming to want to catch it from an above ground floor to go to an even higher one. It stopped once though, picked up a maid, and carried on upwards until it eventually arrived on the twenty-first floor and allowed Vinyl off.
She quickly took note of which direction the numbers on the room doors were travelling and took a right to find her own. She magically drew her room key from her satchel counting off the room numbers in her head as she eventually found her way to room eighteen, and after allowing herself entry, placed her boxed dress carefully on a cabinet by the door.
The room was as one would expect it to be in a high-class hotel in the middle of a capital; expensive and ornate looking. Decorations littered the room on glass tables, bookcases and shelves. Soft, yet thick rugs also rolled themselves out in various places upon the ceramic floor, which prevented the clicking every hoofstep Vinyl would have made. There were only three rooms; a living space, a bedroom, and a bathroom, all lined up in a row and connected by a hallway that led to the door but that was all that Vinyl needed.
She made her way over to the spacious couch that occupied the wall facing a large window, the curtains drawn back to reveal the picturesque cityscape of Canterlot. She hadn’t switch on the lights when she entered, the setting sun instead casting the room in a beautiful amber glow, long shadows stretching along the floor from whatever obstructed the light’s path.
Vinyl sprawled out on the couch, a content sigh escaping her as she took the chance to relax, if only for a moment. She removed her glasses, placing them down on the armrest and taking her time to enjoy the view from the window. Her horn lit up and the handle on the mini-bar opposite responded with a click, opening the door and revealing the various treats inside. A quick glance and she’d made her choice, a chocolate bar and a bottle of Apple Acre Cider floating over.
“Five minutes... then I’ll go mingle...”
A sigh of frustration filled the room, shortly followed by a pounding of hooves on the floor. Lyra was quick to investigate, coming out from the bedroom to discover the problem. She still wore the dress she had met Vinyl in, not really one to have multiple outfits for different occasions. She doubted that anyone would care. She was only wearing it for Bon-Bon in the first place; she’d be much happier going out with nothing at all.
There was a large mirror situated in the main room, and before it sat Bon-Bon. She rested on her flank, forelegs up towards her head as she fiddled with her ears. Lyra raised an eyebrow at her as she approached, seeing the irritation etched on the cream mare’s face in her reflection. “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t get these things on...” She replied, trying once again to accomplish something with her ears before she slipped, dropping a pair of earrings onto the floor with a clatter. “I spent thirty bits on these earrings and I can’t even put them on!” She cried loudly, almost sounding on the verge of tears before Lyra sat next to her and gave her an affectionate nuzzle with the end of her nose.
“You know, you could have just called me in, Bon.” She comforted quietly, the earrings becoming enveloped in the aura of her magic before lifting themselves off the ground and fixing themselves gently upon the upset mare’s ears. “You don’t normally fret so much, it’s only dinner.”
Bon-Bon smiled at Lyra’s reflection, tilting her head to the left and right to admire the earrings, two golden lyres now clipped to the bottom of her ears. “I know, but it’s been so long since we’ve had a chance to visit Canterlot and I just want to make sure everything goes perfectly. If Vinyl’s coming I don’t want to show her up, I bet she goes to all sorts of fancy restaurants with fancy ponies now that she’s so famous.”
A snort of laughter came from Lyra as she imagined that, causing Bon-Bon’s gentle smile to turn into a confused frown. Lyra noticed and simmered her laughter down to a mischievous smile. “Vinyl is the last pony you’ll need to worry about that with, Bon, if anything you’re probably the most sophisticated and high-class mare of the three of us. You certainly shop like one at least...” Her eyes glanced towards the multitude of bags and boxes that threatened to block off the hallway.
“So I got a little carried away...” the two-toned pony defended, a light blush adorning her muzzle. “There’s not as wide a selection of stores to browse in Ponyville, I had to make the most of it. And I didn’t just buy things for myself, I got you the most adorable looking sweater, you’ll need to try it on later to see if it fits.” Lyra made a face at that; she hated trying on clothes about as much as Bon-Bon loved it.
“A sweater? Really? That’s just one of those passing fashions, when am I ever going to wear it?” She argued, retrieving a brush from the other side of the room and beginning to comb out Bon-Bon’s mane for her, always marvelled by the way the pink and blue never seemed to mix too much in the middle.
“Oh I think you’ll love it, just you wait. I bet you’ll wear it all the time once you see it.” She smiled, eyes closed as she enjoyed the brushing, content to sit with the mint green mare beside her for the rest of the evening if they didn’t have any other plans for the night.
A loud knock on the door caused Bon-Bon to jump however, startled by the harsh breaking of the silence. Lyra grumbled to herself as she relinquished the brush over to Bon-Bon, and then moved to answer the door. “Too early to be expected, loud, and has perfect timing to ruin the moment. One guess as to who it could be.”
On the other side of the door, Vinyl fidgeted. She shifted her weight from left to right and occasionally tapped her front hoofs on the floor. She knocked once again, realising that she was early, but she couldn’t wait around in her room much longer.
The presentation had gone as expected. Several ponies involved with the radio project were in attendance, not to mention many artists and producers. Sapphire Shores was to name but one, and of course Vinyl was a very popular yet obvious attendee.
She’d been asked so many questions about what she thought about radio and how it would affect the music industry in years to come. She was quite impressed with the sheer number of vague yet seemingly knowledgeable answers she’d come up with for each one. In truth she knew next to little about how it worked, but she did realise the potential.
After the initial presentations everyone was free to move about and discuss. She made sure to make certain she was photographed with many of the bigwigs behind it all, even a few snapshots with Sapphire, giving off loud, casual remarks about collaboration efforts between them to be overheard. It wasn’t until she realised that she wasn’t doing exactly what her agent wanted her to do in the first place and diversify did things get truly tiresome.
She tried to interact with a few of the more traditional ponies, but was met with little more than forced politeness. No true conversation was held, no genuine interest from either party. It wasn’t as if Vinyl wasn’t trying, it was just the upper class just didn’t seem to want anything to do with her. Several carefully choreographed meetings between herself and any moderately famous Canterlot elitist was her last resort, and after she felt enough evidence of her ‘mingling’ had been recorded she made herself scarce.
She’d left too early, however, and after making it back to her room she realised she still had an hour before she was to meet Lyra and Bon-Bon at their room. She couldn’t wait around for long, her stomach rumbled at her and she’d have given in to temptation and raided the mini-bar once again if she’d remained much longer. And so she got dressed, not caring too much about the rest of her appearance and set off, arriving at the room number Lyra had given her a whole thirty minutes before she was meant to.
She was about to raise her hoof to knock again when she heard a click and the door swung open. She held a blank look upon her face as she observed the irritated face of Lyra staring back at her. They stayed like that for a few moments, Vinyl’s hoof still raised until she broke the silence. “You’re going out in that? You could have made an effort; you wore the same thing earlier.”
“Well I’m surprised you’re dressed in anything at all... but you can’t be seriously considering going out in those glasses.” Lyra replied, not biting at Vinyl’s fish for a reaction. Indeed, Vinyl still wore her purple glasses, her eyes hidden behind the lenses and giving nothing away to what she was thinking, though her smirk was still a good indication.
“Of course I am, they’re great! Might get you a pair for Hearth’s Warming this year, you could do with a new image.” The DJ finished, still grinning before looking up and down the hallway. “Well...are you going to invite me in, or what? I’m not too fond of people seeing me in this dress if I’m by myself.”
Lyra pretended to consider it, watching with enjoyment as the grin on Vinyl’s face eventually fell away, but before long Bon-Bon spoke up, ruining Lyra’s fun. “Who’s at the door, is it Vinyl? Let her in I want to say hello!” she called, causing Vinyl’s grin to return in its full beaming glory.
“Yeah, it’s Scratch.” Lyra called back with a sigh, lowering her head and stepping aside in defeat, allowing Vinyl to saunter past her. As she did so her blue tail, still unbound and as casual as ever, flicked up and caught the mint unicorn on the nose, flustering her further and causing her to slam the door shut.
Her outburst went unnoticed though as Vinyl was suddenly tackled by the cream earth pony within the room, forced up onto her rear legs as Bon-Bon brought her hooves around her in a hug. “Vinyl, it’s so good to see you again. You look fantastic, is that a new dress? Where’d you buy it from? It matches you so perfectly.”
Vinyl could only laugh, hugging back once the initial shock had passed and waiting for her to let go before even attempting to answer. “What, this old thing? Nah, had it for ages, just thought I might give it a bit of use for once,” she replied with an air of disinterest before she felt a sharp tug on the back of her dress.
“You left the price tag on, genius.” She heard as Lyra came into view, floating the tag in front of her as she walked off towards the bedroom without breaking her stride.
“Oh... did I? ... well would you look at that. I must have forgotten to take it off when I bought it... all that time ago... yeah.”
“You’re such a silly pony, Vinyl.” Bon-Bon laughed, moving back towards the mirror to resume getting ready. “But you’re early; I haven’t even had time to put on my dress yet.”
“Well you know me, Bonnie, just couldn’t wait to see you,” the white mare replied, wandering over towards what looked to be a small store’s worth of merchandise. “Wow, really went to town with Lyra’s cheque book, eh?” she commented, beginning to casually browse through the bags and boxes.
“ My cheque book actually... I couldn’t find Lyra’s.” At that point Lyra returned. Her brow rose as she caught the last snippet of conversation. “A shame too, I’ve pretty much mastered forging her signature. Harder than it looks considering she does it with magic and I have to do it the earth pony way.”
“You’re just lucky I love you so much that I don’t mind, that and the fact I’ve been able to forge yours for the past six years.” Bon-Bon simply rolled her eyes at that response, but she held a subtle smile, knowing they were only teasing each other.
“You two are weird.” Was all Vinyl had to say on the matter, attempting to unceremoniously unwrap one of the boxes she’d found intrigue in, until Lyra noticed.
She quickly trotted over, bumping Vinyl with her flank and wresting the box from the DJ’s magical grip with her own before placing it back in the bag she’d extracted it from. “I’ve laid out your dress on the bed, Bon,” she then spoke up, glaring daggers at the otherwise unconcerned expert at invading personal space. “You wanted the blue one with the pink frills right?”
“That’s the one,” Bon-Bon replied, placing the brush onto a nearby table as she finished with her mane. “I’ll get changed and we’ll head out a little earlier than planned, no sense in hanging around here if we can be spending it together at the restaurant.” Her voice grew quieter as she entered the bedroom, leaving Vinyl and Lyra alone together where Vinyl promptly decided to sit on the couch. Lyra was quick to join her, sitting in that odd way she often did. Vinyl didn’t even bat a concealed eyelid at the unusual position the green unicorn took, however, already very familiar with her friend’s eccentricities.
They sat in silence for a few moments, the lighting from the various lamps in the room bouncing off the floor to ceiling window and reflecting both the ponies back at each other. It was Lyra who spoke first, having considered something to say. “Thanks.” Though she hadn’t considered an awful lot.
Silence reigned once more. A minute ticked by before Vinyl had concocted her response. “For?”
“For going out of your way to get a dress for dinner; I appreciate it. But you didn’t have to spend so much on it, anything would have done really,” Lyra explained, leaning back with her elbow on the arm of the couch and resting her head on a hoof.
“I didn’t really have a lot of time to get one. Don’t worry about it; you can just repay me by coming to my gig tomorrow night. You won’t be getting any sleep anyway so you might as well both come join in.” The Disc Jockey smiled, and then went pensive as she seemed to gain an idea. “... I wonder if it’s possible for me to shake the whole hotel... I think I’m going to need some more speakers.”
Lyra laughed. She’d always found the random thoughts that seemed to pop into Vinyl’s head humorous, as crazy as they seemed. “Alright, we’ll come. Just try not to get carried away with it; you don’t want to cause another blackout.”
“Oh don’t bring that up again, it wasn’t my fault. If the ponies want more pumping bass then that’s exactly what they get. I’m a crowd pleaser, if a little bit of darkness and an electrical fire comes as a result of that then so be it.”
“Yes but the fire brigade isn’t really the best way to bring a concert to an end, is it?” Lyra finished, leaving the question hanging in the air.
A few minutes later and Bon-Bon returned. The navy blue dress Lyra had laid out now covered her form, starting from her chest and flowing back over her flank, trailing down towards the floor and ending in a frilly, pink border. The matching pink saddle on her back was separated by a golden band and to finish the whole thing off she wore a complete set of pink slippers, which clicked upon the floor as she walked.
“All ready to go, girls?” she enquired as she checked her reflection in the mirror one final time whilst both Vinyl and Lyra extracted themselves from the couch.
“Ready when you are, I’m starving.” Vinyl replied, eagerly heading towards the door in the hopes that it’d rush the pair into leaving.
Lyra rolled her eyes and followed and soon the pair were simply waiting for Bon-Bon, who, when satisfied with her appearance, picked up a petite satchel bag and threw the strap over her neck. She looked down towards Vinyl’s hooves as she approached, frowning a little with concern as she noticed the lack of shoes. “I’ve got a lovely pair of black slippers that you can borrow, Vinyl,” she said before changing direction to rummage in the bags in the hallway.
“It’s fine, Bonnie, I’ll survive. Let’s just go.” Vinyl insisted, not really wanting to detract anymore from her usual style.
She was of course ignored and Bon-Bon returned with the set of aforementioned hoofware. “Nonsense, they’ll look beautiful on you and match your dress perfectly.” She set them down in front of Vinyl and with a sigh from the DJ she put them on, slipping all four of her hooves into them. “There, much better. Now we can go,” Bon-Bon declared, opening the door and stepping into the hallway.
Vinyl followed but as soon as she was in the open her vision suddenly became a lot clearer and brighter, her hair rustling as her favourite possession was stolen. She quickly spun around just in time to see her glasses zoom into the room, wrapped in a teal aura of magic, and land gently upon the couch. And then the door was shut, a smug look on Lyra’s face. “We’re going to dinner, not a rave. Let the world see those beautiful eyes,” she teased before heading down the corridor, a giggling Bon-Bon in tow.
Vinyl simmered for a moment, contemplating forcing the door open to get them back out of spite. But instead she chose the high road, not willing to stoop to that level. “Fine,” she called out as she began to follow. “But you can bet your last bit that I’m going to see you in that sweater I found.”
Lyra’s step faltered.