The days passed awkwardly, that was the best way to put it. Vinyl and Octavia never spoke of what had happened, but Octavia lived with a constant wariness. She never knew what would make Vinyl mad. She never knew what would make Vinyl panic. Between the drugs and the obviously troubled past, Vinyl was almost entirely unpredictable.
Of course, it wasn’t just her habits and history that made her such a pain to live with. There was also the fact that Vinyl was, in fact, just rather irresponsible. Beyond simply being sloppy or disrespectful, she seemed to go out of her way to cause trouble. The incident of the fallen refrigerator was hardly the last of its kind and Octavia was running out of acceptable ways to handle the situation. There was one day when Octavia was working alone in her music room when Vinyl poked her head in, looking entirely nonchalant.
“If ya hear me yell in pain, don’t worry about it, ‘kay?” she said before withdrawing and retreating to her own bedroom. Octavia blinked for a moment, then registered what Vinyl had said. She leapt to her feet.
“Vinyl, what the hell are you doing?” she exclaimed. She tried to open Vinyl’s door, but it was locked. She knocked furiously. She heard Vinyl make a noise of annoyance from inside, then the door opened and her illicit houseguest poked her head out.
“Oh, you thought that I would just let you do something that would cause you to hurt yourself?”
“Vinyl, what are you doing in there?”
“Don’t worry ‘bout it, babe! It’ll be fine. It’ll be awesome once I finally get it to work.”
Octavia scowled, unpleased with the secrecy. “Vinyl, this is my house. That means my rules. I demand to know what you’re doing in there!”
“I don’t remember nothin’ about you havin’ to know what I’m doin’ all the time in our rules list,” Vinyl quipped back stubbornly. “I’ll show you when I finish.”
“But you’ll hurt yourself!”
“Ain’t no thing, babe, I got it under control!” Then the door was shut in Octavia’s face.
Octavia stood nervously outside the door, unsure if she should go in and intervene. On one hoof, if Vinyl wanted to do something stupid and get herself hurt, Octavia ought to let her. Maybe then she’d learn from her stupid mistake. But then again, Octavia didn’t own the apartment… What if Vinyl destroyed something? It would come out of Octavia’s own pocket and the blue maned unicorn most certainly couldn’t afford to pay her back. Octavia rocked back and forth nervously on the balls of her hooves, listening to rather unsettling pops and bangs issue from behind the closed door.
Suddenly there was a frightening loud crack, followed by an equally frightening yell. Octavia’s heart jumps into her throat and she tried the door knob, but it was locked again. “Vinyl! Vinyl! Are you alright? Are you hurt! Did you break anything?”
The door creaked open again to reveal her housemate. Her mane and coat were both fringed and her mane was sticking straight up. She blinked for a moment, then looked sheepishly at Octavia. “Well that’s didn’t work as good as I’d hoped…”
“Vinyl, what in the name of Celestia were you trying to do?”
“Uhhh… tryin’ to create strobe lights with my magic. Ain’t really got there yet…”
“Vinyl, why in the world would you want to create strobe lights?”
“Atmosphere, Octopus! Ain’t never gonna get good enough to play in a club if I don’t master a basic spell like that!” She scowled and looked down. “But I’ve always been worthless at magic, so I guess it’s no surprise that I failed so bad.”
Octavia’s heart went out to the down trodden filly in front of her. “You’ll get it eventually. Just, ummm… try not to blow up my house, will you?”
Vinyl waved a hoof dismissively. “You’re house it’s fine. It’s myself that I blew up.”
“Well, good then… I mean…. Not good, per say, but… you know what I mean…. I’m putting my hoof in my mouth.”
Vinyl laughed and patted Octavia on the head. “Ain’t no thing, Octagon. I’m just gonna go wash up then I’ll be okay.”
“Octagon? Why am I now Octagon?” Octavia exclaimed as Vinyl retreated to the bathroom.
Vinyl looked back at her and shrugged. “Don’t know, babe. Just another one of those “Oct” words I guess.” Then she closed the bathroom door and left Octavia completely dumbstruck in the hall.
This wasn’t the only incident of this nature that had occurred. Vinyl had a habit do doing experimental spells and charms that seemed to go horribly wrong. In some ways it was sad. The disasters she was causing were often akin to the kinds of things young unicorns who had not yet mastered their magic made. Small fires, small explosions, setting her own mane on fire… but she was over sixteen years old. By that age she should be able to do magic without a hitch. But that didn’t seem to be the case, not at all. It seemed that she never had a proper magic education and, as a result, her magic was still on par with the magically ability of a much younger filly. More than anything Octavia wanted to be able to help her, but how could she? She was an Earth Pony and knew nothing of how to cast and succeed at magic.
One day Vinyl was laying in the middle of the living room floor, wallowing in another one of her failures. Octavia sat on the couch, sipping a green tea and looking down at her with a mild amount of annoyance. As bad as she felt for the girl, the wallowing was more than a little ridiculous. But she did nothing for fear that whatever she said would offend Vinyl and cause her to have another outburst.
“I’m such a failure to ponykind,” she said miserably. “I don’t even deserve to be a unicorn.”
“That’s not true, Vinyl, you just haven’t had proper training.”
“I should be able to cast simple spells like this.”
“Even the strongest of unicorns start out untrained and uncultured. It takes practice and grooming to get good at it and quite frankly you have had neither of those things… Which is, of course, not your fault.”
“Yes it is… I’m a failure… I never even tried to learn magic.”
“I doubt you were in an environment that made you feel like you ought to.” She was dangerously close to Vinyl’s past again and she knew it, but she could think of nothing else to say.
“I’m a failure.”
“Fine! If you want to believe that that is your own prerogative. But you’re not.” Her face softened. “I wish I could help you, but as an Earth Pony I am worthless in this area… But… If I could teach you something else would that make you feel less worthless.”
Vinyl didn’t move a muscle. She just stared at the ceiling for a long time, apparently thinking, before she finally said, “Maybe.”
“Remember how I told you I could teach you to read music?”
“If I taught you that, would it make you feel less worthless?”
“Only if I’m good at it.”
“Vinyl,” Octavia said crossly. “Look at your cutie mark.” Vinyl hesitated, then glanced down at the mark on her flank. “What does your cutie mark depict?”
“A music note…”
“And what does that mean your special talent is?”
“That’s correct.” Octavia got up briskly and pulled Vinyl to her feet. “You’ll be able to read music. Now stop wallowing in your own self-pity and come with me to the music room!”
“Yes, ma’am,” Vinyl said meekly as Octavia stalked, her nose in the air, into the music room. Vinyl followed closely behind, rather docile and obedient for once in her life. Octavia said down at the piano and motioned for Vinyl to join her. She pulled out a very old, very basic music book and opened it.
“What do you already know?” she asked.
Vinyl hesitated. “Not much.”
“Do you know anything?”
“I know the piece is in four-four time… I know that’s a quarter note,” she said, prodding at the sheet music. “And that’s an half note… and that’s a whole note… and that’s a quarter rest… where are all the other kinds of notes?”
“So you know rhythms… that’s not surprising, considering. This is a beginner’s piece, so most of the kinds of notes aren’t being used yet. Let’s start with some scales then. Do you know what a scale in the key of C starts in?”
“I’m gonna take a random stab at this and guess C.”
Octavia smiled. “Very good, Vinyl. I’m glad you’re powers of deduction are up to par.”
Vinyl shrugged. “I try.”
Octavia placed her hoof on middle C. “A scale in the key of C progresses quite simply. It is just the white keys and the piano follows the alphabet. There are eight notes in a scale. C D E F G A B.”
Vinyl nodded, then copied her playing. “Okay, now what?”
“There are other scales too, but we’re currently working in the key of C, so I’m going to familiarize you with the sheet music. Now, do you know what this is?”
Vinyl squinted at the page, leaning in very close. “That’s the… umm… trebleclef?” she said uncertainly.
“That’s correct. The notes in that staff in piano music we play with our right hoof. And the other staff?”
“Bass clef… Left hoof?”
“Good… you know more than you think. Now, on the staff you have lines and you have spaces. The lines go like this,” she placed her hoof down on the piano and played the notes as she spoke the words, “Every Good Boy Does Fine… E G B D F. Got that?”
“E G B D F…. okay… what about the spaces?”
“The spaces on the trebleclef are really quite simple to remember. They spell out ‘face’… F A C E.”
“Face… got it… so what about the other staff thing… that one got the same letters?”
“Oh, goodness no! On the Bass Clef the lines spell out Good Boys Do Fine Always. G B D F A.”
“G B D F A,” Vinyl whispered, almost to herself.
“And the spaces spell All Cows Eat Grass. A C E G.”
“What’s with all the silly phrases. They sound like rhymes for little baby fillies.”
“It’s just a memory device. Something that a lot of beginning musicians use to remember the scale. I know, it’s very silly, but I’ve found it works.”
Vinyl rolled her eyes, then shrugged, and copied all of Octavia’s playing. Once she finished she moved on to actually trying to play the music in front of her. Octavia was floored with how quickly the teenager learned, but then again, she probably shouldn’t have been. Vinyl had a special talent for music after all, even if she did want to waste on becoming a DJ, and ponies with a talent for music excelled in whatever music they chose to practice.
The days passed Vinyl whizzed through the music books like wildfire. Octavia taught her more whenever they were both home for her to do so, and when Octavia was gone at class or work Vinyl would sit in the music room and practice for hours on end. Octavia would have been a little concerned by how much time Vinyl spent on doing just that if it weren’t for the fact that there was little else for her to do. All things considered, though, Octavia was both impressed and proud of how much effort Vinyl put into learning the craft. It seemed that the young girl had a thirst for knowledge, as much as she tried to hide it, and she absorbed the new information like a sponge. All in all, Vinyl was the perfect student and Octavia was proud to be her teacher.
Vinyl squinted down at the page, a frown on her face. She knew the notes... she had learned all that. But for some reason she was having trouble telling the difference between notes. It wasn't that she didn't know. She knew what she was looking for, but for some reason she just couldn't see what she was looking for. Was she stupid? Was living in this boring apartment making her lose brain cells? She squinted her eyes and leaned in toward the page, trying to make sense of the fuzzy, garbled mess.
"Vinyl, are you alright?" Octavia asked, looking up form her homework to frown at Vinyl in concern.
"I can't make sense of any of this... it just looks all blurred together... I think I'm losin' brain cells," she replied bitterly.
Octavia cocked her head and stood. "That can't be the case, Vinyl. You've been doing wonderfully." She crossed the room and peered over Vinyl's shoulder. "This isn't that complicated."
Vinyl made a noise of frustration. "I know it ain't complicated, Octopus! But I can't see it! It's drivin' me crazy!"
Octavia raised her eyebrows. "You can't... see it..."
"Yeah... am I gettin' stupider or somethin'?"
Octavia smiled slightly, then started to laugh a little. Vinyl was a little offended. What the hell was so god damn funny? Did Octavia think it was amusing that she was struggling. Was the pompous gray mare laughing because this proved that she was a better musician than Vinyl was? Vinyl scowled and crossed her hooves across her chest, scowling. "What the hay is so amusin'?"
Octavia giggled. "Oh, Vinyl... have you not considered that maybe you can't see because there's something wrong with your eyes?"
Vinyl gaped for a moment, taking that in. "There ain't nothin' wrong with my eyes!" she snapped. "Only nerds and old ponies have bad eyes."
"That's hardly true, Vinyl. There's nothing wrong with needing vision correction."
Vinyl bit her lip. The last thing she wanted was to have to walk around wearing glasses like some kind of loser. For one thing, there was nothing that would make her look stupider. For another, there was no way she could afford to buy glasses. Glasses were expensive. Maybe if she worked really hard she could force her visions to get better.
"I don't want glasses," she said finally, turning back to the sheet music and leaning in close to the page, squinting to see the markings.
"It doesn't look like you're going to have much of a choice, Vinyl, not if you want to continue your music. You need to be able to see."
"Well, what do ya suggest I do, huh? I can't afford glasses."
"I don't mind getting them for you."
Vinyl sighed. "I'm tired of bein' a burden on you, Octopus... I want to be able to help out, ya know? I feel so helpless."
Octavia sat down next to Vinyl and put a hoof on her shoulder. Vinyl's automatic reaction was to pull away, but she stopped herself. She stared down at the floor, trying not to make eye contact with Octavia, who was staring at her quite intently. "Vinyl, you are not a burden. I want to help you. Nothing would make me happier."
"Why though? I've done nothin' but make everythin' suck for you big time."
"I like helping you. It gives me some sort of purpose outside of my music. And I need that. We can't exist in only our careers and hobbies. We have to find meaning in our peers. And I care about you and I've chosen to find meaning in that."
Vinyl blinked for a moment, taking that it. It seemed ridiculous. God dammit, it seemed extremely ridiculous... and yet... on some level she knew what Octavia meant. She had felt the connection too, from the moment the two mares had made eye contact. There was something there, something that should be cherished. But that was sappy. There was no way she was going to say that out loud. So instead she looked at Octavia and wrinkled her nose. "You're weird, Octopus. Fuckin' insane. But whatevs... if ya wanna buy me glasses you think I need that's your own deal I guess."
Octavia smiled slightly. "It would truly be my pleasure to be able to help you, Vinyl. I don't, however, appreciate being referred to as 'fucking insane.' That is extremely crude."
Vinyl grinned. "But that's what you are. Completely crazy. It ain't even funny."
"I resent that."
"No you don't. You like it."
"I absolutely do not."
"Whatever you say, Octopus."
Neither of them said anything for a long time, knowing that in many ways Vinyl was right. Octavia didn't have to admit it out loud for Vinyl to realize the truth. Though she would call Vinyl crude, rude, and uncouth, Vinyl knew that Octavia liked having a friend that would say exactly what was on her mind without sugar coating it. Vinyl suspected that Octavia had had very few friends who told her the truth.
There was a long moment of silence. Octavia and Vinyl sat entirely still, staring at each other, each looking deep into the other's soul. Vinyl wondered what Octavia saw when she looked. Probably a no count, good for nothing loser who was throwing away her talent on her dream to become a DJ. Sure, Octavia obviously liked having Vinyl around, but there was no doubt in Vinyl's mind that Octavia saw her as largely useless. And maybe she was right. Vinyl had no job, no direction. All she had was a sharp personality and a drug habit. What good was she to Octavia? What could she possibly offer the mare, no, the world?
Finally after a long silence Octavia spoke. "I'll take you to the eye doctor tomorrow. You have to be able to see to go into music."
"Ya have to be able to hear more," Vinyl said in an almost argumentative tone.
Octavia rolled her eyes. "Yes, but how do you plan to write music if you can't see?"
"Who says I want to write?"
Octavia heaved a sigh. "How to you be able to see your decks if you can't see."
Vinyl cocked her head. "Fair point. Alright, alright, you win. I'll let you let the eye doctors dick around with my eyes." She fell silent for a long time, thinking. If she needed glasses what would that do to her image? Sure she could wear contacts, but she didn't really relish the idea. But what if....? "Hey, Octavia?"
"Can I get... sunglasses... ya know, the prescription kind."
"I don't see why not?"
She thought a little longer, a memory forming in her mind. An old memory from the days she preferred to forget. She sighed heavily and tried to shove it away, but it remained. It wasn't an uncomfortable memory in itself. In fact, it was a happy one. But remembering her old life did nothing but cause pain and that was just the way it was. But the memory refused to go away, so she allowed it to enter the forefront of her mind. Her sister, the designer that she was, trying to get Vinyl to practice her DJ-ing by spinning for the fashion show she was planning. It would have been amazing if it had ever happened. It never had, but they had planned as if it were going to and they had all the money and time in the world. Her sister had designed Vinyl a pair of sunglasses to go with her DJ look. It was then that they'd come up with her DJ name as well. It had been a long time since Vinyl had thought about DJ Pon-3 and her purple lenses...
Custom lenses. Damn, that would be expensive. That would be too much to ask... but Vinyl found herself wanting them so much. It was the one link to her past that she could not only bear, but wanted to cling on to. Those good times with her sister, the one pony who had supported her dream and would have done anything to help her achieve it. She missed that desperately. She looked down at the ground, trying not to think about it. It would only cause pain and she already had to deal with that enough as it was. Vinyl took a deep breath and shoved the memories down, but the rock in her chest remained. It wasn't leaving. Her breath quickened and her thoughts dashed around her head at unreal speeds. She jumped to her feet, her heart pounding.
"I have to go," she said quickly as she darted out to her bedroom, retrieved her relief, then escaped quietly to the alley way.
The relief washed over her as she took the drugs. She had gone too long without, that's what was causing these problems. She just had to get high again and she would be fine. Vinyl slid to the ground and put her head in her hooves. Forget about the past. Forget about that past. She had to forget. It was the only way she could carry on. Forget the bad parts AND the good parts. It was the only way.
But what if it didn't matter. What if they came for her anyway? Her panic, after a brief moment of relief, returned full force. Her heart was pounding against her chest so hard that it hurt. Her head was reeling, her mind spinning around. She curled up around herself and tried to calm her breathing, but it was no use. They were watching her, just waiting for the right moment to bring her back home to HER. She was useless and worthless, not worth Octavia's time. It was only a matter of time before Octavia realized what a burden she was and abandoned her. Vinyl wouldn't blame her either. She was a burden. Too much baggage to match up with how useless she was. She ought to run. Leave before Octavia realized how much time, space, and money she was wasting. It would be better that way. She needed to get out. Shaking violently, she got to her feet and tried to stumble down the alley, away from Octavia's apartment.
A figure appeared in the alley. "Vinyl?" Vinyl was too panicked to recognize the voice.
"Leave me alone! I don't want to go back!"
"Vinyl!" The figure grabbed her as she tried to run away. Vinyl screamed and struggled against the surprisingly tight hold. "Vinyl, you don't want to go back where? Vinyl, what's wrong?"
Vinyl, breathing heavily, finally recognized the voice. "Octavia?" What are ya doin'?"
"You ran out so quickly. I was worried."
"Why? I ain't worth worryin' about."
"You absolutely are. You are a young mare with a bright future. You just need to get your hooves planted."
"Ain't never gonna happen. I'm not worth your time, Octavia. I need to leave before you realize that and abandon me like everypony else."
"I will never do that, Vinyl. You are worth it. You are a good friend and a good pony. You just have some issues and I understand that. Please, don't go."
Vinyl shook her head and slumped. "I have to."
"No you don't. Come on. Just come back inside."
Vinyl didn't fight. She allowed Octavia to lead her back inside without a struggle. As much as she wanted to go, as much as she knew that she would be out on her ass one day, she didn't have the strength to fight. Octavia sat her down on the couch and left to prepare dinner while Vinyl, still shaking with fear and panic, listened for the ponies that would come to take her away.