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A glowing pencil twirled and skittered along the paper under the gaze of purple shades. Smooth, curving lines arranged into a certain pattern littered the entire sheet, much to the teacher’s confusion.
“Are you okay, Vinyl?” she asked, drawing the attention of the entire class.
For a moment, the pencil paused in its delicate activity, and its controller raised her head off the table slightly. “Yeah.”
The teaching mare hesitated before continuing, and a few of the students turned their heads subtly, also interested in the DJ’s behaviour. “It’s just… you’ve been drawing nothing but treble clefs since we began today. I know you’re already quite a skilled artist, but surely you could use some practice at defining texture like the rest of us.”
“Probably.” Another unbroken line, swirling around and trailing off with a little flick.
Trying a different approach, the teacher brushed imaginary dirt specks from her coat to appear nonchalant. “Last week, you mentioned that you might know somepony who would be willing to model for us?”
Finally, Vinyl stopped doodling and gave her full attention. “Yeah, I haven’t asked her yet. But I was thinking, don’t we have, like, professional models or whatever?”
Grateful for a proper response for once, the mare smiled. “We do, but they’ve modelled for my class for years now and I want somepony new to have everypony sketch. It’s not good to get used to drawing the same ponies over and over.”
The white unicorn simply nodded and began drawing yet another of the musical symbols that occupied her mind.
But the teacher was determined not to let the conversation end that easily. Vinyl had always been one of the more outspoken members of the class, so seeing her being so quiet was worrying. “So who is this mystery mare?”
“Earth pony, grey fur.”
“What’s her cutie mark? Maybe I’ve seen her around the campus.”
Vinyl subtly moved a hoof to cover as many of the treble clefs as possible. “I can’t remember. Haven’t known her for long.”
“Well, I’m certainly excited to see her. Do you think you can convince her to come in next week?”
“Yeah, no problem.”
Satisfied that all was once again right in her classroom, the mare went back to the front of the class and the other ponies returned to their own conversations and work. All except one, that is. A stallion with a narrow face and a coat of dark brown was sitting beside Vinyl, eyeing her ‘work’ with interest. His name was Shady Oaks, and he was the only pony brave enough to talk to a silent DJ.
“Yo, what’s up with you today, dude?” he whispered, nudging her hoof.
“Nothing. What’s up with you?” she hissed back, continuing to trace those silken lines.
“Wonderin’ why you’re being a zombie, mostly.”
“Stop wondering, ‘cause nothing’s wrong. Don’t you have some texture to define?”
Shady snuffed a laugh. “Come on, I only took this class because drawing is easy as hay and doesn’t have any exams. Seriously though, what’s up?”
“Don’t act like we’re best mates, okay? Just back off.”
The earth pony shuffled away, his long black hair unfurling like a shield between his eyes and Vinyl. “Whatever. You don’t have to be such a bitch about it.”
“Go cry to your mum,” muttered Vinyl without thinking.
Celestia, he’s right… what the hay is wrong with me today?
It seemed as if her years of experience making friends and being sociable were all going down the drain, leaving an angry core that couldn’t even hold a conversation.
I can’t be like that. What if I was a bitch to Octavia?
Her chest clenched at the thought, and she knew the problem had to be fixed before it got worse. Lightly tapping Shady’s hoof to get his attention, Vinyl took a deep breath. “Listen, I-“
“Don’t worry about it,” he replied instantly, brushing his hair aside.
“I think I know why you’re so weird today.”
Heat slowly crept up the DJ’s neck as she cautiously inquired, “Yeah?”
“My little sister Lillycup is in your psychology class. She said the tutor is always picking on you.”
Lillycup? That tiny light brown mare who always looked nervous?
“She said that?”
“Yeah. Also told me that you were kinda mean to her in the first tutorial, but she forgives you.”
“Uh…” Vinyl wasn’t sure what to say to that.
“Don’t worry, I forgive you too, dude. Going to that class every week while knowing that the teacher is just gonna be a dick to you must be frustrating.”
That was it!
Pretending to hate Octavia must be messing with my head. No wonder I’m being a jerk today.
But that stopped now. This DJ wasn’t about to let Psych control how she behaved.
“You have no idea.”
“If you ever feel like getting wasted and forgetting about it all, I can hook you up with cheap booze. Keep it on the down-low, though.”
Vinyl scratched her chin thoughtfully. Drinking buddies can come in handy, after all. “I might just do that. Here, put your number in my phone.” She floated the object in question out of a saddlebag and over to Shady, who took it with a grin.
As he tapped his own digits in, it was difficult to ignore a certain other name in the contacts. “Octavia?” he whispered. “You’ve got Octavia’s number?” Blood rushed to her face and she began to stammer before being interrupted. “Half the stallions here would kill for that number, and the other half are gay. Damn, it must be awesome being a DJ and getting to talk to all those higher-ups.”
“Uh, yeah, it’s pretty sweet.” Did he not realise that the cellist was also in her psychology class? Or was he playing a game with her?
“Here.” He handed the phone back cheerfully. There didn’t seem to be anything malicious about him, that’s for sure. But how could she tell?
The rest of the class passed in an uncomfortable haze for the white unicorn. She managed to stop drawing treble clefs and did a quick sketch to demonstrate her knowledge of texture, earning kind words and a smile from the teacher, who clearly assumed that everything was now back to normal.
But the second Vinyl walked out the door, her phone was out and dialling. Constant arguing was taking a toll on her social skills, and that needed to end quickly if she was to remain good at her job.
“Hello Vinyl!” the slightly tinny voice of her friend greeted happily. “How was drawing?”
“Same old, same old. What’s up?”
“I am completing a history assignment at the moment. Oh, and I have some exciting news!”
The DJ smiled at how enthusiastic the normally-calm mare was. “Yeah?”
“I received a notice telling me that somepony has been assigned to my room! Oh, I hope it’s you!”
“Don’t get your hopes up, I’m probably not important enough to share with you rich ponies,” she replied, chuckling a little to make it clear she was joking.
“Don’t talk like that. Hm… darn, I just remembered that I know the student coordinator. I should’ve gone to see her and requested you as my dorm mate.”
“I don’t think that would’ve worked.” Vinyl hoped her grin wasn’t audible. “She’s probably not allowed to let students choose who they share with.” It was becoming difficult not to laugh.
“You’re probably right.” Octavia sighed. “I’ll just have to hope that they are friendly.”
“Or sexy. Or both! Then you’d never be bored.”
The cellist giggled at that. “You have a one-track mind, Vinyl.”
“I regret nothing. Hey, there’s something I wanted to talk to about.” She looked around to make sure nopony was close enough to hear. The building was almost empty now that her class was over.
“What is it?”
“You know our… pretend arguments?”
“Um… I don’t know if I can do them anymore,” Vinyl said simply.
“Cause… I don’t like arguing with you.”
“But we’re just pretending.”
“I know, but it’s still… I don’t know, but it’s not fun anymore.”
There was a moment of silence in which she bit her lip worriedly.
“What should we do then?” the cellist finally replied, her happy mood having clearly abated.
“Maybe… not argue, instead we just don’t talk to each other during that class. We’ll act like we just can’t even stand the thought of speaking now. Like, we hate each other that much.”
“Well… okay. I thought you liked trading insults with me, but if it’s bothering you that much then I’ll agree to stop.”
Vinyl winced. “I do like trading insults with you, really. It’s just… I’m still acting bitchy even after we stop arguing, and I don’t like it.”
“You don’t seem ‘bitchy’ when we are doing our little assignments. Are you sure you’re not just being too hard on yourself?”
The DJ snorted before replying. “Well obviously I haven’t been bitchy with you.”
“How is that obvious? I’m not following,” queried the mare on the other end.
“Uh, I meant, like… well it doesn’t matter. What I’m worried about is that I might become bitchy with you, and I guess I like you too much to risk ruining our friendship.” The words came easier than expected, and for once Vinyl didn’t feel as though there could have been a better way to get her message across.
“Oh. Well, if you phrase it in that manner, I understand what you mean. Very well, from now on we shan’t talk in class.”
“And… thank you for saying that.”
“That you don’t want to risk ruining our friendship. Having never experienced one before, it feels nice to be reminded that I now have one, and that it’s with somepony who seems to value me as much as I value them.”
Vinyl felt a little awkward having everything spelt out like that instead of just taking it as a given, but when she considered that Octavia had nothing else to draw from when it came to this kind of situation, it became a lot more tolerable. “Hey, no worries. I’ll text you a hundred times a day if you want and remind you.”
They giggled together, and the DJ took advantage of the brief gap in spoken conversation in order to once again make sure that nopony was nearby. An irritatingly familiar mint-green unicorn was making her way down the hall beside an orange mare with carrots on her flank.
“Maybe one or two texts to that effect would be nice, but you don’t have-“
“Crap, sorry, I gotta go.” Without waiting for a goodbye, she exited the call and slipped the phone back into its pouch.
“She’s the one I told you about,” Lyra whispered to her friend loudly, clearly not actually trying to hide her words. “So, Vinyl, were you talking to your new marefriend?”
It turned out that there were some upsides to being forced into a battle of insults every week. Namely: a razor-sharp wit and good reflexes.
“Nope, I was talking to yours,” replied the white unicorn with a wink. Lyra seemed slightly dumbfounded, and her friend broke into laughter.
“S-shut up, C-Top,” muttered the mare irritably.
Vinyl didn’t stick around for a second bout. “I’ll leave you to whatever it is you were doing in this building together… alone.”
She let those words hang in the air and marched straight past them, heading for the exit.
Unwilling to let her get away with the last word, Lyra called out, “I’m not gay!”
The DJ mentally wished herself luck and took a stab in the social dark. “Does Bonbon know that?” she shouted back.
A brief pause, then the quiet voice of ‘C-Top’, inquiring, “What does she mean by that, Lye-Lye?”
The air outside tasted of victory. A huge grin stretched her cheeks almost painfully, but it was so worth it. Lyra would have a fair bit of difficulty digging herself out of whatever it is she got stuck in. Even without the details, it looked messy.
With success flowing behind her, as well as the knowledge that the only ponies she needed to be mean to now were those who deserved it, Vinyl was feeling pretty good about her lot in life. In a few days, she’d surprise Octavia by moving in while the cellist was in a class or something, and they’d be able to spend all night talking face to face, instead of through a phone.
And then she’d really be in heaven. All Octavia, all day long. This time, Vinyl didn’t even bother coming up with an excuse. She liked being around that grey mare, and there was no point denying it.
It was the… other things… that could use a little denying.