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April 19, 2012
Train TR3546: Eastbound to Ponyville
The first thing I noticed when I walked in was how comfortable they tried to make her.
Tubes of anesthesia ran all over her body like a sprawled mess of cables. A brace was put in place betwixt her chin and chest, and a pillow was doubled over to provide some supple support. I felt as though I had entered the room of a desperate revival attempt.
Rest easy, Octavia. This is not what it is.
In fact, the doctors were very optimistic. Susie had suffered moderate trauma to her throat, much to my relief. Reconstruction surgery was the only way to replace the part of her bones that broke during the impact. It was a delicate procedure, but the master surgeons succeeded in leaving Susie with a completely renewed throat structure that was sturdy enough for normal use, yet free of any potential for complications.
She couldn’t talk while I was there, but she could still see, and when she saw me I could sense the excitement explode over her face, especially in her eyes. They were like children’s eyes, a feature I had always admired from afar. They really were large, even for a pony. They gave the sense of wonderment and innocence, a trait I presumably would never believe she had received from her father. Her mother must have been a beautiful free flying spirit.
I didn’t know what to say, so I sat down next to her and just grabbed her hoof. I don’t know why it is that when you see someone who is in pain, the first reaction you have is to stay away. And yet, when the pony who is suffering is of great significance, you can’t help but want to reach out to them, touch them even. Touch is a very powerful force, even at its softest pressure. Many lovers fondly remember the beginning of their lifelong relationship with a touch, and enemies with years-long histories will recall many origins, but the most basic and most influential of them all is a brush of the shoulder. And when pain is the focal point of the matter, touch can possess magical healing powers, not of the physical pain, but of the pain not detected plainly. I massaged the tip of her hoof tenderly and looked into her great eyes, and though she couldn’t do it then with her mouth, I could see a smile form.
Now, although she couldn’t speak, she could communicate just as well. Hearing is a key component as I’m sure most ponies would say, and so I took the opportunity to pose my musically talented friend an idea: I told her that I was moving to Ponyville that night and I wanted her to come with me. At first, she gave me this sort of frozen look and it just about scared me shitless. I was very close to calling the doctor when she finally blinked a couple of times and looked up at me. Her lips were pressed very firmly and when she opened her mouth, she formed a word that I interpreted as “father.” I asked her if she were referring to Fancy Pants, and once again she went into a chilled state.
If I weren’t a reasonable mare, I probably would’ve reached over for the defibrillator and performed some kind of amateur medical operation myself, but I waited instead. She looked up at me, her eyes watering. She had this look of repentance and guilt, and at that moment I couldn’t understand why. Then it hit me: I never told her I knew Fancy Pants was her father, and neither did she inform me of the genetic connection between her and the wealthy business stallion. That I would probably begin to make nonsensical connections between that lewd, filthy pony and this sweet, innocent mare he (by a miracle of Celestia) had with some unknown mare is what stressed her to the point of tears.
I ran my hoof up to her messy mane and smoothed down the knots and gave her a warm smile. Of course I didn’t accuse her of anything malicious. If anything, I told her, she was a victim of his evil schemes, one of many perhaps, though I do not desire to be accurate about that assumption. I wiped the tears that moistened her pillow and told her my own story.
Everyone is a product of two ponies, whether each party is present or not. I was unfortunate enough to never have experienced the stability of having two parents. At home with mother, I was subject to amateurish wisdom riddled with shut doors and ample amounts of space. I couldn’t wait for the second and fourth Saturday of the month to arrive, for that was when I was whisked away on my father’s back to escape into a day full of fun and adventure. On one night, my father and I returned late and my mother wasn’t happy about it. I was sent to my room to play, but they didn’t make very thick walls when the mansion was erected long ago.
My mother barged into my room while I was playing with my dolls and she slapped them from my hooves. She demanded that I stop playing and she passed me a large black trash bag. She instructed me to fill it with any toy or article of clothing that I received from my visits with father. I asked her why. She slapped me across the face and accused me of disobedience. I filled that bag up to the brim and I remember she had the toughest time knotting it shut. She left the room and slammed the door to my room, and all that I heard was some words, a slammed door, and the squealing tires of my father’s car.
I was a timid child, often mistook for kindness. I was also very compliant, another feature absentmindedly interpreted as good behavior. That day, however, things changed inside me. I became more vocal with my classmates. I began to question the teacher and any authority figure that came my way. I thought more about direction in life and if it was even attainable. Thoughts that nopony would ever dream or accept that a child my age would have, and that made them very concerned, even angry. I was sent to the principal’s office many times and I suffered through silent car rides home. One time my mother was too busy and reluctantly asked my father to pick me up and entertain me until she became unoccupied.
I shut the door to my father’s car and we drove for an hour in a misty morning fog. We stopped in the parking lot of Seaport Village and I undid my seat belt. We walked along the shore in silence, breathing in the cold salt air until it bruised our nostrils. We stopped on the dock and looked out into the haze. A single sailboat pierced the weather with its bright light as it slowly skimmed across the dark green waters. My father sighed and said he felt a lot like that sailboat. I looked up at him, but he kept his gaze on the ship.
After a few moments, I felt his cold hoof rest on my shoulder, and I could see him resting a knee on the sandy shore. He looked at me with warm eyes and he reached into a saddle bag that hung across his waist. He asked me if I remembered a locked door on the back wall of my closet, and I responded yes. He told me that inside that door was something he had meant to give me when I was older, but that given the circumstances he would allow me to retrieve it when I returned home. I reminded him that the door was locked with a very old, rusty padlock. He pulled out his hoof from the saddle bag and hoofed me an old key. With this key, he said, I would open the door that hid my present. He warned me to keep this a secret between the two of us, in fear that my mother would ask questions and ultimately send my present to the same fate my other gifts from father had. I promised, and we watched the sailboat a little longer.
When I arrived home, I promptly went to my room and closed the door. I went into my closet and, sure enough, the door was there as it had been since I could remember. I got on my knees and scooted closer. I pulled the key out of my backpack and examined it closely before I tried to open the door with it. It was one of those large, old fashioned keys that you only saw in antique shops. It was very heavy by today’s standards, and whatever color it was during its prime was now a flaky, rusty shell of its former existence. I lifted the padlock to its side and inserted the key. I held my breath and felt the palpitations of my little heart pick up speed. I gave the key a twist and, sure enough, I heard the click of the padlock unlocking. I removed the padlock and pulled the door open. It was dark inside, but unexpectedly clean. The room couldn’t have been more than three meters long and I could barely fit inside on my knees, but I didn’t need to go in. The present my father spoke to me about was right in front of me.
I dragged it out, giving my back leg muscles a hearty workout across the carpeted flooring. I stumbled onto my flank the middle of my room, and then I reached over the case and began to unzip it. As I heard the zipper making its way down the side, I wondered how my father was able to purchase and stash my present away without my mother knowing. I figured he must have broken into our home while we were asleep and done the operation with the stealth of the nighttime wind. When my little hoof could go no further, I scooted next to the great case and turned over the top of it. I couldn’t hear the sound of the air conditioning kicking on, but I felt the coldness strike me like I had fallen into an icy pond in the wintertime, for what I beheld took me by such surprise.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was the most beautiful thing I ever laid my young eyes on. I was afraid to touch it, believing it was crafted by the Princess herself. I sat there for minutes beholding its magnificent craftsmanship. The body was smooth and shiny. The strings tuned to perfection. The bow looked like it was made for a warrior. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t scream, cry, laugh, squeal, or anything. I finally mustered the courage to take it out of its case and behold it fully.
It was a cello, and it was mine.
And so, every evening when I finished my homework, I would practice cello in the closet. Mother was far enough away so she couldn’t hear the novice slide of the bow cross the strings of my wonderful instrument. I didn’t have any sort of curriculum, but to compensate, I slipped into my mother’s bedroom and snuck out with as many classical CDs I could carry. I would listen to them repeatedly and try to pick out any sort of stringed sounds to focus on. I would try to figure out the melodies and harmonies I heard and, when I felt confident enough, I would play alongside the CD. I used to imagine that I played alongside the great composers in a large concert hall filled with ponies. I would lose myself in the music streaming through my earphones, like I was being escorted by angels into a higher existence beyond the clouds. I even remember crying once.
One day while practicing, I had my back to the entrance of my closet. I always faced the door in fear of the rare occasion that my mother would come in to look for me. I was so confident that day that I forgot my protective instincts in favor of the trance of sweet music. It just so happened that my mother had been calling out for me for some time, so when she barged through the door of my hidden practice room, she had this look of frustration tainted with horror, causing her lips to purse and her eyes to scowl. I thought for sure I would get it, but what occurred surprises me to this day. She shifted her gaze from her trembling daughter to the trembling cello she supported, and like clouds that give way to the afternoon sun her glare gave way to soft amazement.
“That was you?” she asked.
I nodded, still shaking.
She took a seat on the ground and continued looking up at me with that same awe. She asked me to play again, and so I did. As I said before, I was a very compliant child especially with my mother. When I finished the piece I was listening to, she took her time to stand back to her hooves. She looked down at me this time, but this time she wasn’t angry or intrigued.
She was smiling.
She didn’t ask where the cello came from. She didn’t inquire of how her CDs appeared in my possession. She didn’t even ask why I hid myself in the closet all this time.
She just smiled. Then she hugged me.
“That was beautiful,” she said.
I cried, for the beauty of the sound of my mother’s approval was like ascending to an even higher plane of the heavens, like lying on the bed of Princess Celestia. It was more beautiful than even the music itself. I was in heaven, and I was accepted.
I was loved.
It was evening, and it was time to shine. I stood behind the curtain in the school auditorium waiting for my name to be called. I fidgeted the new pink bow tie my mother bought for me with the night’s performance in mind. She said it brought out my beautiful purple eyes. But for some reason I couldn’t get it to look straight, it kept wanting to favor the left side. Never matter, for the announcer called for my presence out front. A crooked accessory would have to do.
I stepped out onto the stage and the round of respectful applause started. My ears picked up a few childish sneers, but they paled with insignificance to the task at hand. I stopped at the spot light and brought my hoof over my eyes. I surveyed the audience looking for my mother.
There she was, dressed in her Sunday best wearing the biggest grin on her face.
Satisfied that I had found her, I stood straight and addressed the parents, grandparents, and other important ponies of my intentions. I even remember the exact words:
“And now fillies and gentlecolts, tonight I will perform a composition of my own design entitled ‘Cello Sonata No. 1’.”
The older ponies were very impressed with my presentation.
I lifted my bow up to the strings, but before I started I felt the need to add:
“And in case anypony in the audience is curious, I do intend to compose a No. 2 very shortly!”
That declaration received a few chuckles and laughs from the audience.
Finally, after a deep breath, I lifted the bow up to the strings and pressed gently. I was about to glide over the first note when the door to the auditorium burst open. Everypony, myself included, turned their head to see who had arrived late to the show.
It was my father.
Instantly, I felt a mixture of overwhelming joy and fear. I wasn’t sure if my mother knew he was coming and I was afraid to find out how this would turn out. I quickly scanned the audience to find my mother and hoped that either she didn’t notice or didn’t care to see him.
She was looking right at him. In fact, she was waving him down.
I shifted back to my father and witnessed him walking through the crowded seats towards his ex-wife. He sat down next to her, looked at her, and smiled.
She smiled at him.
I felt a rush of inspiration possess me like a demon and without warning, my bow took to the strings and began to play. I had never felt like I did that night, not in my closet, not on the shoreline at Seaport, not even in my dreams.
The audience took notice.
I was nearing the end of my song, just a few measures left. I was compelled to look up and allow instinct to take over. I saw my mother and father with their eyes glued to me, unblinking, undry.
I felt my own eyes start to water.
Alas I played the last note, a low, vibrating D-flat and whisked the bow away as if opening a treasure chest filled with priceless jewels. I stared at the floor for a few seconds, sweat trickling down my face. I could only hear silence at first, but gradually a thunderous applause filled the room. I looked up and witnessed the result of the emotional ravaging my cello delivered. Classmates cheered, parents hollered, grandparents clapped and smiled. I looked for my parents to see if they held a similar reaction, but it was difficult to find them with everypony standing. I finally spotted them behind a well-dressed stallion and craned my neck to get a better view.
They were locked in a blissful embrace, forgiveness and love emanating its warmth up to the stage.
I couldn’t hold myself back. I dropped my instrument and ran to them. I cut through the audience and pushed through chairs until I reached my parents. I threw my hooves around them both and for that one moment, we were a family, and we loved each other. That’s when I heard an even louder hollering. I looked up to find several ponies pointing to their own flanks. At first, I didn’t understand why they were showcasing their cutie marks at me. Then it hit me. I looked at my flank and there it was.
A purple treble clef.
I was lifted off the ground and onto my father’s shoulders as the entire auditorium cheered for my new addition. Tears continued to make their way down my face as I knew now what I was meant to do.
My songs brought ponies together, even those who loved once long ago.
I was eager to compose my “Cello Sonata No. 2” so I could continue to bless the ponies of Canterlot with my miraculous gift.
I have yet to play my next song.
I finished my story, and I found my own hoof being held and caressed. Her eyes were smiling and her heart was pure. Then, she surprised me by saying yes. I didn’t stay long after. I wanted to give her time to rest. I told her once I found a place to stay, I would contact her by telephone with the directions on how to arrive. I would be there waiting for her at the train station.
I left the room with an overflow of joy springing from my heart that spilled over my entire body. I hadn’t felt like this since, well, since I was a child playing the cello.
I stood in front of the police station, illness took me by the stomach and thrashed me about until I could feel the crawl up my throat again.
I couldn’t be sure if she would be there. Maybe she was transported to another location, maybe even sentenced and shipped off to her permanent residence of deserved punishment. Or maybe she wasn’t kept at all. She could be back home, living, breathing, continuing her reign of supreme control over all who rest under her authority, though rest may be stretching it.
Excuses. There was no time for them. I needed to know the rest of my story. I needed to know what happened after that night. I needed to know where my father was.
I needed to know what happened to my Cello Sonata No. 2.
I waited patiently in the interrogation room paying no attention to anything in particular except the lines of wood stain that ran along the length of the table. It had never occurred to me before how easily a pony could lose herself in the simplest of things when she’s under stress. Normal everyday objects become weapons. Sounds become threatening and their source an impending doom. Small and insignificant details, like the lines of a table, become a message revealing the secrets of life. Where do they lead? Why do they curve at the end? Does this signify a troubling end or a realized higher existence? Will I become rich or marry the stallion of my dreams? What is the meaning of life?
My thoughts were broken by the sound of the door opening, and there she was. The mare who brought me into this world and who many times made me wish I could leave it.
The police stallion led her to take her seat, which she did, then he told me I had five minutes, which I accepted. He left and we plunged into our little game of twenty questions.
1. Where is my father?
That’s not a proper first question to ask your mother.
2. Why is he gone?
You’re not wavering, are you? Don’t you remember what Crumpet told us in the dining room?
I ask the questions here mother! You’re the one under trial, not me! Why is he gone?
Fine, if your memory is even more broken than mine, he’s extremely ill.
3. What does he have?
Beats me. But I do know that it originates from HIS side of the family.
4. If you don’t know, then why have you hidden him away with no care?
I never said he was without care.
5. Who is with him?
He is attended to by the staff. And before you ask who is qualified to do so, it is Bailey. His family had the same disease running rampant for generations now.
6. Why was he at the recital long ago?
The one at the preparatory I presume? Simple. I invited him. How else could he have gone?
7. What compelled you to do so?
Stupidity. Short sightedness. Naiveté. Take your pick, they’re all the same.
8. Why did you smile at him?
Because (she got a little sentimental here, or at least softer) when I saw him look at you, I felt like my faith was restored in him. That whatever problems we had in the past could be fixed by a little inspiration. And that little inspiration was you.
9. Do you still love him?
The feeling has weaned over the years, much like anything else that exists on this earth. Nothing retains their color or their quality. It’s best you learn that now, Octavia.
10. Do you even love me?
You know, if you waste your time asking emotionally-driven questions like that, you will never get the answers to your most burning questions.
Of course I do! I’m your mother for god’s sakes!
11. Then why did you and father separate?
In no way did our separation define my constant love for you, Octavia! Your father left because he simply couldn’t take the pressure of running a family. Your father was a drifter, always going where the wind took him, and on one of his adventures he stumbled upon a soft spoken rich girl. She fell in love and thought he did too. They both shared a love for music, which ultimately brought their hearts together. They had a child. A precious little girl. They decided on the name Octavia, after his grandmother who raised him.
Then, something changed. You cried and he would leave the room for me to take care of you. You would make a mess and he’d have a smoke in the patio while I cleaned up. You asked for things and he’d groan something awful, and then it usually came out of my bank account. I practically raised you all on my own and he just stuck around so I could “raise” him too. That’s when I realized what his real motives were. He just wanted to use me. The night he came to the recital I thought he had changed. I thought for sure when he heard you play the music we both adored, he would reconsider his choices and be your father. But I was wrong. That’s why he left.
12. So, you’re saying that I robbed him from you? You’re accusing me of you and dad separating?
13. Then what are you saying?
You didn’t rob him from me. I saved you from him.
14. Why was I never told this?
Simple. You weren’t ready.
15. Why would you think I couldn’t take it? I learned to play the cello as child for god’s sakes!
Because, you’re naïve.
16. How am I naïve?
You thought you could bring us together with your music? You thought you could live on your own to follow you “dream” and create your “Second Sonata”? Look how that turned out for you!
17. I suppose you think I got that from my father, right?
The disease, perhaps. But your innocence of life, you got that from me.
18. Didn’t you say it was father who wanted you two to be together?
I lied. I thought if I gave you a light picture of your father to leave with for the rest of your life, you would forget how much he hurt us. That was naïve of me.
19. How do I know you’re telling the truth?
The stallion you call father.
20. Where is he?
Go home and ask Bailey to drive you there. And if he asks any questions, give him this.
How did you get this?
It was mine.
But father gave this to me.
And I gave it to him.
The cello, too?
No. He gave it to me as a gift.
How did it end up in the closet?
Another matter you will have to ask him about.
21. Why did you take great pains to keep me from my second sonata?
We are all just products of our experiences. We cannot change who we are, only our decisions. If you want your second sonata to be great, you must be made into greatness.
The door to the room opened, breaking my thoughts once again. I still had many questions.
22. Why did you hide my father away from me?
23. Why didn’t you pay attention to me while I was growing up?
24. Did my coming into this world really cause your love to dissipate?
25. Where did the cello come from? Was it yours?
26. Do you know how to play?
27. Do you love me, or do you love my music?
28. What do you mean I need to be made into greatness?
29. Are you implying that you and father aren’t great?
30. If you really are the victim of father’s so called infidelity, then why did you drag me into your world of hurt?
31. Wasn’t it painfully obvious that all I wanted to do was to make you and daddy happy?
32. Were you the only one who was happy with me?
33. Was daddy not happy with me?
34. Did daddy love me?
35. Or did daddy love my music, too?
Perhaps it is best to leave these questions unanswered. My heart disagrees, but this is a case where the rational mind must overpower the heart’s fluttering. The mind and the heart must work in unison, lest the pony drive herself into a mindless and heartless frenzy.
The air was chilly, and the sun was still climbing the sky, but I had one more pony to visit.
Bailey was surprised to see me at the house. His familiar face wrinkled into a smile and a frown, if those two can even coexist is not a rational argument to be honest. He asked me what I was doing there, with the upmost respect as was his natural way of doing things. I held up the key so he could see the antique design twirl slowly at eye level, and asked him to take me to see my father. He stuttered for a moment, reaching into his breast pocket to retrieve a handkerchief so he could blow his nose. It looked like he was battling a cold, and for that I felt a little guilty for asking him such an important favor. But as always, faithful Bailey walked over to a small chest and took out his keys. He picked up his cap from the closet and turned to me with a smile. He was ready, and so was I.
We drove eastward from the city until I could see tall, blonde waves of grain rock back and forth with the wind. The countryside was seldom visited by our family, so when I looked out and saw the long strand of weather-beaten wood rails whizzing past my window, I felt nothing. When I lowered the window and feel the cool rush of cloudy air on my face, my mind drew a blank. I looked beyond the remaining road ahead of us and saw the majestic white tops of the mountains surrounded by a reverent fog, and I wondered what it would be like to be at the very peak. How can anypony find the balance to withstand the pressure of tipping to one side and falling prey to the fatal pull of gravity? The thought brought me to a shudder, and prompted my attentive chauffeur to close the window for me.
We pulled into the driveway which was nothing more than a large gravelly area covered in weeds and cigarette butts. I stepped out of the car and looked down at my hooves and noticed I had stepped on three of them. I looked up and saw the door to an old shack that decorated an otherwise barren wasteland of tumbleweeds and dirt. I turned to my chauffeur and he gave me this apologetic look that I never saw before. We walked to the front steps and stopped on a chipping porch that needed more than just a coat of fresh paint. An ancient wicker chair rocked lonely to the wind, missing the stronger days it used to be sat in. I honestly didn’t know what to make of this place, it was so run down and unloved. I felt no attachment whatsoever.
“Your father used to come here all of the time,” said Bailey.
“Not much of a place for free spirits, I’d say.”
After a brief moment of silence, Bailey walked back to the limousine. He said he would wait for me inside. I thought he would want to see my father after such a long time. Though they weren’t close friends, they did share interesting conversations now and then.
“Your mother forbids it,” he replied.
Poor Bailey. Even from jail, she held his tender heart with a grip of iron.
Most doors wait patiently to be knocked, hoping that their light drum tap will bring joy and welcome to those who reside behind it. This door demanded with a scowling, deteriorating face that it be left shut, never to allow light to penetrate its darkened soul again. I placed both hooves on the door tenderly and gave it a push. Somehow, this felt safer than turning the rusting knob. To my surprise, the rough door broke in two and collapsed, and I was engulfed in a swirling mist of dust and debris. I reacted with my hooves covering my face but then, I felt them being pulled off gently by a force of tender touch. I opened my eyes slowly in the midst of the dusty fog, but through all that I beheld the being that stood and stood alone.
He wrapped his light hooves around my neck and pressed his head against my ear. I felt the grooves on the nape of my neck and smelled the strong odor of sanded wood in his mane. He nuzzled me softly and whispered in my ear “my little girl” “my darling Octavia”. As he spoke, my eyes wandered all over the house and picked up nothing more than a dark space illuminated by a single light bulb in the middle. Under this lone light source stood a table, and on this table were the tools of the trade. The trade of a musical instrument maker. I broke away from my father’s embrace and gravitated slowly to the lit workstation like a fly attracted to the brightness. I wasn’t familiar with any of the tools I saw, but I was familiar with his current project, and it struck me as impossible.
My cello, refinished to perfection.
Before I could ask, he swept the cello up from the table and hoofed it to me. He disappeared into the darkness for a moment and came back with my bow. This too had been given an upgrade. As soon as he passed me my bow, he took a few steps back and grabbed a stool from underneath the table, and scooted it under him. He took his seat and crossed his legs, and he asked to play for him the song he fondly remembers from the one recital from long ago. The song that crumbled the walls of Jericho and allowed the two lovers to reunite within the Promised Land of love and devotion.
I picked up my bow and pressed the strings gently. I tried to remember the right note and positioned my left hoof appropriately. After nearly two days without picking up my cello, it should’ve been like two lovers falling into each other’s embrace after two days of being apart, an eye-rolling yet heartwarming scene altogether. In fact, the entire ordeal should have been the greatest moment of my life: Reuniting with my father, reuniting with my cello, reuniting with answers to my questions. I should be on the floor on my knees, bawling my eyes out like a small babe begging my father to hold me a little longer whilst the dance of the darkness continued to stalk my every thought and movement. This should’ve been the greatest day of my life.
And yet, it wasn’t. I felt empty, unmoved. I would liken it to a composition that is birthed in your mind’s eye that excites for one day and, when finally put to paper and worked over for hours at a time, becomes boring, repetitive, and uninspiring, tossed to the side with nonchalance in favor of the next great idea. The sad truth is that this is a vicious cycle, one that leaves the artist in fits of rage, depression, disbelief, and doubt. Sometimes all at once. The only way to break the cycle I’ve discovered is to accept your supposed frailty not as a weakness, but as your defining characteristic. That which brings the unique flavor to your carefully concocted masterpieces that leaves the audience with a taste of satisfaction and a hunger for more in the future. Sometimes such radical change calls for the tables to be turned completely over so that new inspirations can be set, even if it means making a mess. Any mess can be cleaned, what matters is what you use and how you use it. Time is a given, but effort is the variable. One must realize not all can coexist if greatness is to be attained. Things must be let go.
And that was why I refused to play my Cello Sonata No. 1 for my father.
If I told you that it at that moment my spirits were set free, I would be lying to you. In fact, anyone that tells you that once you make a stand for yourself everything is flowers and candy is a fucking liar. I don’t know when I’ll ever feel “free”, but it certainly didn’t and won’t originate from that moment. Was I cheering to watch a grown, sick stallion cry? Did I feel like I was soaring into the sky as I beheld my father’s body tumbling to the ground? Do you honestly think I was at peace when I rushed outside to call Bailey in to check my father to see if he would make it? Seeing my father cradled in the arms of an old limousine driver didn’t feel like a victory over a longtime foe, but like I struck one of my own. He was carried into bed, the covers pulled over his entire body.
The old chauffeur held up his hoof. He would be alright. He needed rest.
We started for the door when we heard a faint rasp of the throat. I turned to find my father pointing to my cello on the ground. His eyes pled me to take it and to make of it what I wanted. He was leaving it to me. It was my choice now, and he understood it. I nodded, and he went back to sleep.
Bailey started the car as I lingered on the front porch looking in. I had so many questions that I’m sure you can list for me if I gave you the chance. But I wouldn’t. Not now. My heart just isn’t ready for the emotional investment. Staring at my cello lying idly on the broken floorboards was a fight between the learned experience and the learned truth. What would it have taken me to go in, retrieve the instrument, and take it with me?
Nothing and everything.
I reached inside the house and shut a door for the second time.
I reached inside the train and pulled my cumbersome weight onto the step, mesmerized by the running of the gravel beneath my hooves. What a thrill it was to stand just mere centimeters from the ground whilst the train took me on the journey to a new beginning. I looked out beyond the horizon and spotted the Equestrian Mountain Range, the sole landmark that unites every major city in Equestria, even if it is just by sight. To think that soon I would live in a town that sat at their feet filled my heart with anticipation and inspiration like a cascade of fresh mountain water. Before I went inside to take my seat, I looked back and gazed upon the vanishing city of Canterlot set in front of a glorious sunset.
Canterlot: Your industrious beauty and tireless heart will rest within the covers of my mind like a pleasant memory. Once more, soon I hope, will I return to caress your sidewalks with my hooves and kiss your ocean waves with my smile.
Perhaps I was a little facetious with my “cumbersome” weight comment, but ever since I met Pinkie Pie, I’ve had more than enough fills to last a seven year famine with delectable cupcakes and muffins. In fact, not one second passed before I was assaulted with a large cake slathered in white frosting and sprinkled with every color imaginable. I had forgotten that the party pony wanted to celebrate Rainbow Dash and Apple Bloom’s “Get Well” party in the train car, but she did a fabulous job reminding me with the endless strands of streamers that hugged the walls and pounds of confetti that fluttered in the air. Though I’d much prefer a quiet gathering with as few close friends as possible, I have a feeling I will get used to the idea of being welcomed like a birthday girl every time I pay a visit to Sugarcube Corner.
I finally got around to convincing Pinkie that half a slice would do and took my seat next to a window. I looked out among the friendly crowd and spotted the athletic flyer, happily partaking of the delicious pastry and laughing with the others. I’m happy to report that her wing has made a full recovery and she’ll begin rehabilitation later this week. Although her wing is still encased in a protective film of a strange rubber-like substance unknown to me, she’s able to move it fully, slowly with no pain at all. And much to her joy, she’s been encouraged to move it around as much as possible to loosen the tight muscles in preparation for the therapy to come ahead. However, she was sternly warned not to push her wing too far, lest she risk the possibility of reinjuring the tender area. Something tells me that will be quite the task for the adventurous pegasus, but something else tells me that her apple bucking friend will keep an eye out for any suspiciously rapid movements.
Aside from the occasional glare at Rainbow Dash, Applejack seems, over all things, relieved. And who could expect anything different when considering what the poor soul has been through? A booming business, a sickly sister, a new city, and a wayward pet? Just the thought stresses me out! And yet, her strong resolve and sharp mind has pulled through for the hard working pony. And, I’m happy to report that her little sister, sweet Apple Bloom, is with us in the train. She’s been released as fully healthy with no complications or need to take anymore distasteful medication. I’m sure the young filly would eat anything else besides those medicines, and she sure look liked she missed having desserts after the way she devoured her slice of cake! However, she’s not the only filly indulging more cake than her tiny mouth can handle.
Sweetie Belle took a seat next to me and was more than excited to share all the wonderful things Ponyville has to offer in between globs of cake. The moist chocolate cake made it a little difficult to understand her, but I could pick out Sugarcube Corner, the Carousel Boutique where her sister works, the Ponyville Library where Twilight does her studies, and her school. She was really excited to introduce me to everypony she knew, including Miss Cheerilee the school master, Derpy Hooves the mailmare, Big Macintosh, Apple Bloom’s older brother, and all her friends from school. For the most part, I smiled at her ecstatic introduction to everything Ponyville, but what she shared next was so important, she even wiped her mouth with the back of her hoof to announce it. She wants to begin taking cello lessons, and she wants me to be her private tutor.
Before I could give an answer, her sister came rushing in with the most perfumed handkerchief I had ever smelled. It got the attention of every pony in the room, suffocating the sweetness of the cake with the tangy aroma of some forbidden fruit. She wiped Sweetie’s mouth furiously and followed the cleaning with a close inspection. A scrupulous moment later and Sweetie was dragged to the restroom against her will across the carpeting for a thorough wash with water and soap. Now that I think about it, I haven’t really gotten to know Sweetie’s older sister, Rarity. From the outset it would appear we have much in common, except for maybe tastes in perfume. Ah well, I suppose one of the few missions I will accomplish during the first few days in Ponyville will be to pay a visit to the Carousel Boutique. Besides, I can’t stand the stain with which my bow tie greets every passing eye. It’s time for a new one, or perhaps a new look altogether. A new look for a new town! How exciting the prospect!
I stood up to serve myself another slice of cake (just one, mind you) when I realized that neither Fluttershy nor Twilight were present. I found it a little odd that two members of the Elements would be absent from their good friends’ “Get Well” party. I placed my empty plate on the table and set out to look for them. I walked through the first door and was immediately met with darkness and the smell of refurbished furniture. I took small, dragging steps down the hallway of business class seats and avoided making much eye contact with the ponies that tried to slumber in their upright and uncomfortable positions. I exited that car and was standing in what appeared to be the viewing car, a large car made up almost entirely of windows. It was kind of a neat thing to be surrounded on all sides by translucent glass save the floor (thank Celestia).
After adjusting to the reemergence of bright light, I spotted Twilight Sparkle seated clear across the car concentrating hard on a piece of parchment with an aura of magic orbiting a feathered quill. After approaching her and exchanging friendly greetings, I asked her what she was doing. She was penning her first friendship report since her visit to Canterlot and needed some peace and quiet to concentrate. Taking it as a hint, I began to make my way back. She told me I didn’t have to. In fact, she asked me if I wanted to read her draft. I hesitated at first, but her smile reassured me that this was nothing to feel ashamed about. I took the parchment from her magic and read:
Dear Princess Celestia,
During my trip to Canterlot, I’ve learned that sometimes being a good friend means dealing with things that are difficult to talk about. It may seem daunting, but if we just take a deep breath and trust in the power of our friendship, then no barrier is too tough to break down when we sit down and have a heart-to-heart conversation. Sometimes, you might learn something new about your friend you never imagined and that can go a long way to not only build understanding, but strengthen bonds between friends. I could say that I’m bringing this lesson back with me to Ponyville, but I got something even better, or should I say somepony. She’s the one who taught me this wonderful lesson. She’s beautiful inside and out. I can’t wait to introduce you to her.
Your Faithful Student,
It was the nicest thing anyone’s ever written about me, a sentiment largely absent from my youth onwards. I felt the tears begging to come out the corners of my eyes, but I refused to let them out. I turned to Twilight and damn it all, she wasn’t helping my struggle at all as she released the waterworks from her own eyes! A few shared hugs and tears later, we fell silent as we beheld the rushing desert landscape painted with the soft glow of the recently risen moon. I was reminded of Princess Luna’s gentle words of wisdom. I was also reminded of Rainbow Dash’s tale of intense struggle against the wiles of nature, and as I pondered the miles of grainy sand and jagged rocks that whizzed by, I was awestruck by the amount of determination it must’ve taken to get as far as she did.
It was late, and all the ponies had settled into their bunks for the night. The sounds of slumbering ponies filled the car, and to say it was soothing to the ear would be like saying staring directly into the sun is a pleasure for the eyes! Perhaps it is because I usually had a large room all to myself growing up, but I had so much trouble trying to sleep with that snoring striking my ears! I wasn’t frustrated or anything. In fact, even if it was quieter, the anticipation of a new beginning would’ve kept me wiled up far beyond the scope of sleepiness anyway. I looked below and found the slumbering Fluttershy nestled into a yellow ball in the bunk. She had turned in early even while the party was in its prime, a schedule that Twilight assured me was not foreign in the least. I suppose when you spend your time caring for animals that rise when the sun does, you mimic the early rising routine naturally. I wonder what a day in the life of an animal keeper is like. I suppose I will have to add that to my list of things to discover about Ponyville.
As I ponder the new things to come in Ponyville, I can’t help but reminisce about the old I left back in Canterlot. Like my father’s car. Before I left my mother’s house for the train station, I gave Bailey the keys to the old girl and told him to do whatever he willed. As I turned to leave, he asked me how I would get to the train station without a ride. I faced him one last time and smiled.
“I’ll just take the bus,” I said.
I could see him fighting tears, so I decided to leave him a happy memory by embracing him. You know, thinking back to the days when he was my faithful chauffeur, I couldn’t tell you that I hugged him before. I bet he felt a little unnatural at first, but then the squeeze of acceptance came not much later and for the first time, I basked in the warmth of his fidelity and hard work.
“Say goodbye to everyone for me, Bailey.”
“As you wish, Miss Octavia,” he replied, tipping his cap.
I will also be leaving my doctor behind. In fact now that I think about it, I never really gave him a proper farewell. I just took the bus and made my way to the station to meet up with the girls. I do hope he doesn’t misunderstand my motives and forgetfulness. Oh what am I saying, of course he’ll understand! He’s a major reason why I’m on this train anyhow! Wasn’t his parting words that one night before that “dark” moment at my apartment “I think you’re ready”? How prophetic those words were! Maybe I’ll write him someday.
The only other ponies I can think of at the moment are Lyra and Bon Bon. After I left Susie’s room yesterday morning, I walked past Lyra’s old room to see if they had gone as they said they would.
I was compelled to ask the nurse tending the bed where they had transported Lyra and her marefriend. According to her, they were back in Ponyville in the house they shared before the entire ordeal with the disease took over their normal lives. They determined that if Lyra was only going to be around for a few weeks or days or whatever, they’d rather be home than in some impersonal hospice. I was both gladdened and saddened by this bit of news, happy that I would be only hoofsteps away from the two mares that stole my breath the first day I ever took the bus, yet sad that it may be only a finite number of times I will see the two together living together. I must make the most of it. Every second counts. Perhaps a musical collaboration with the lyrist is in order, that is if she feels like doing it.
This train of thought leads me to ponder the fact that I am cello-less and journal-less. Yes, I have also left behind my journal with my father presumably since my cello was at his house yesterday. To this moment I have no idea how they got there, except that maybe he visited me late that night and found the cello just lying there, abandoned and alone. Whether he read the journal or not is another mystery, but one that I won’t delve on too much. My sincere hope is that if he did read it, that he understands that I love him and that I have grown much in the past two weeks.
And why would I need my old journal back if I now have this one, presented to me by Pinkie Pie herself? She wrapped it and everything, a fine job for someone as ecstatic as Pinkie. I guess gift wrapping is part of the Pinkie Pie party package! This journal suits the job respectably, despite the fact that it features the name of the Canterlot Medical Center on the front, followed by “Memo Book”, but it’s the thought that counts, and I already have first hoof knowledge of what goes in that crazy brain of hers!
My, what a wonderful sunrise! Ponyville must not be far. I admit that a rush of anxiety has me gripped within its cold hand. New beginnings are never easy and I don’t expect them to be. However, when you have…
And the vigor of youth, anything is possible.
You know, this is the first time I’ve ever been on the train, and for what it’s worth, it is much better than taking the bus.