Gretchen flicked her cigarette butt to the ground and stomped on it with slight frustration. She had been waiting outside Canterlot High for about a half an hour. School had ended, but so far there was no sight of her best friend. Of course, she had never been comfortable with the term "best friend". Not in recent years, at least. Bitter Honey liked the term very much, however, so she tolerated it.
They had been together since they were toddlers. Inseparable, some had called them. It wouldn't have seemed that way if judged solely by outward appearances.
Bitter Honey had consistently won the yearbook's "Most Cutest" superlative for as long as anyone could remember. Her freckles, short-cut hair, and stylish glasses made sure of that. She was the type who always tried to help and encourage everyone she could. She even had a reputation of being an innocent, as she often politely asked others to tone down their language. It was her art which won the most hearts, though. The main hallway of CHS was graced with a grand mural featuring charging Wondercolts which featured her name painted in neat cursive.
Gretchen, in contrast, looked like a classic delinquent. Leather jacket, ripped jeans, with half her head shaved. Her red eyeshadow was overapplied as if it were war paint, just as her mother used to wear it at her age. Many assumed she must have spent time in juvie at some point, but the truth was that she hadn't gotten into too much trouble and even earned decent grades in class. A lot of that was due to Bitter's positive influence. Not that she would admit that, of course.
They had indeed been close almost all their lives, however there seemed to be something going on for the last few days. Bitter just hadn't been herself. Her hyperactivity had dulled, her movements becoming sluggish and awkward. The joy she always had upon her face had faded more and more each day. Bitter would usually spend some extra time in the art room after the final bell, which was why Gretchen was currently waiting. It was time to get to the bottom of all this.
Gretchen snapped to attention when she heard the front doors opening. Out came Bitter herself. She seemed tense, clutching her backpack straps for dear life it seemed.
"Hey, Bitter Bitch!" Gretchen playfully called out. Usually, the prudish Bitter would chastise her for such vulgar nicknames, but that wasn't the case this time. She flinched and stopped cold.
"Bitter?" Gretchen asked as she approached her. "You okay?"
"Yes," she heard Bitter say softly. "I got to go..."
"Hold up!" Gretchen said as she grabbed Bitter's arm as she was about to walk away.
Gretchen swung Bitter around to face her. Gretchen's eyes widened when she stared into those of her friend. Bitter's eyes seemed empty. Without life. Almost zombie-like. If Gretchen didn't know her friend so well, she would of thought she was high on something.
"I... I'm looking forward to your party tomorrow..." Gretchen finally said, not able to come up with anything else.
"Okay," Bitter said distantly.
With that, Gretchen let go of her friend's arm. Bitter stared at her for another moment before turning and slowly walking off. Gretchen let out the breath she didn't realize she had been holding. All of their lives together, Bitter had made Gretchen feel many emotions. This day, Bitter made her feel one she never thought she would or even could give her.
Gretchen quickly got home after the encounter. She cranked up some death metal before relieving her anger upon her poor pillow. As her fists sunk deep into the fluffy material, she couldn't help but to think about how bad she had choked. She still didn't know what was up with Bitter Honey.
She gave her pillow one final blow before flopping onto her bed. She was exhausted, both physically and mentally.
A buzz was felt. Gretchen fished her phone from her pocket to see a message from Bitter. She immediately sat up to read.
94hnt dvj/erjqgmn ,,,aweewtg %<
"The fuck?" Gretchen uttered as she squinted at the nonsense.
She immediately texted back.
Seconds passed, turning into minutes. Gretchen was about to send another message before there finally came a reply.
YESOP EKALB trust dont_hes a laZy hackkkkkkk
Bitter u need me 2 come over?
More seconds, more minutes. Gretchen began to wonder if this was even Bitter. Had her phone been stolen? Was she talking to some thieving troll? Oh, they were so going to get it if Gretchen caught them...
I'm sorry, Gretchen. I guess that I haven't been thinking straight lately.
Gretchen let off a sigh of relief. There was the girl who texted in proper sentences she loved and tolerated.
Whats the matter?
I'm not sure, honestly. Hey, are you and your mom still coming tomorrow?
Gretchen smirked and rolled her eyes. What kind of question was that? Even with all the recent weirdness, she wasn't about to miss such an important day.
Duh bday bitch
Gretchen laughed when she received an unamused emoji along with the word, "Language". Yep, Bitter was definitely back to herself. For now, at least.
And don't bother bringing a present or anything. I just want you there. Love you.
Lol no homo right?
A minute passed without Bitter answering. Gretchen's smile dropped as she braced herself for another bizarre reply.
Sure. No homo, as you say.
Gretchen stared at the message. She felt as if a specific tone was radiating from it. Was it... disappointment? She shook it off.
C u tomorrow weirdo
Sour Sweet sat in the driver's seat of her mother-in-law's old station wagon. In her lap were two bags full of baking ingredients. Sour had first thought it was nice of Niban Person to offer the ride to the supermarket, however she was quickly reminded why she hated riding with her. Namely, the fact that Niban controlled the radio dial.
"See, folks, the problem with these kids today is that they are taught from Marxist kindergarten to Leninist college that there is a correct answer to everything," the obnoxious host droned on. "There's a correct answer to climate change. A correct answer to homosexuality. A correct answer to the theory of evolution. To the theory of gravity. To what color the sky is. To whether you should stick your weewee in the light socket after the vacuum tube didn't work out so well..."
"Niban, please turn to something else before my mind turns to mush," Sour sighed as she rubbed her temples.
Niban gave her daughter-in-law a gentle smile. "And that's the kind of attitude that will make me vote for Filthy Rich for another twelve years."
Sour rolled her eyes, deciding to drop it. Especially since she knew that Niban was the type to never deal in threats, only promises.
"But he does make a good point, though," Niban continued. "I still can't believe that you put poor Bitter Honey in that Canterlot High hovel. What was wrong with Crystal Prep Academy?"
Sour stared in disbelief at Niban. "What was wrong with Crystal Prep? What was wrong with Crystal Prep? You mean other than the miserable, toxic environment that both your son and I had the suffer through for four years? Gee, it's a complete mystery."
Niban shrugged. "Seemed fine to me."
"The only way it could've been decent was if Cinch had gotten fired right after her BS at the Friendship Games and Cadance replaced her." Sour sighed. "But that's the kind of stuff for alternate realities, unfortunately."
"All I know is that I would trust an exclusive and uniformed curriculum based on pure mental superiority over whatever new age, kumbaya garbage the ivory tower libs want to shove down the throats of our innocent children in public school."
Sour cracked a smile. "Niban, I find that your solution to elitism being just more elitism to be very endearing."
Niban fell silent for a moment, before responding, "I'll take that as a compliment."
Sour chuckled to herself. Sparring with her mother-in-law was fun in it's own way, but she had more important things to focus on. Her daughter's sixteenth birthday was tomorrow. Everything had been planned out. There would be a small party at noon with family and friends and presents. Later that night, it was off for a private dinner at the Il Cavallo Regazza Italian restaurant. Thankfully, the ban which was handed down during Sour and Second's disasterious first date had long since been forgotten.
Yep, just a nice celebration with loved ones as well as dinner between father, mother, and daughter. Bitter had seemed a bit moody around the house lately, but Sour was sure tomorrow would make everything more delightful.
Nothing could possibly go wrong.