“That pony is going to be my marefriend,” Lyra Heartstrings proclaimed.
At her side, she heard a clatter of plastic and Lyra turned, one eyebrow raised. The pegasus behind her in the cafeteria line had dropped her tray, but thankfully it hadn’t yet been loaded with food.
“M-m-m-marefriend?” Windy said, her face blushing a hot red.
Lyra grinned widely and floated the tray back up to the counter. “Yep!”
“But she’s… you’re… mares!”
“The flower that blossoms in the hearts of two pure maidens is the sweetest love of all,” Lyra said. “Or at least that’s what it says in some of those Neighponese comic books that Moondancer let me borrow.”
Windy stared at Lyra with big round eyes for a long moment before focusing her attention on the mare Lyra had pointed out. “But… Her?”
Across the room and seated alone at a long table, an earth pony with a curly pink and blue mane was glaring down at a half of a daisy sandwich. With one final grimace, she took a big bite, chomping the poor sandwich with much more force than necessary.
“Just look at her!” Lyra said.
Windy tilted her head sideways, trying to see what Lyra saw. The pony wasn’t unattractive. She was a little on the round side, perhaps. Her mane was striking but mainly because it was a little old-fashioned in style. But why somepony – why Lyra – would be head over hoof for her… Windy bit her lip.
“Isn’t she just dreamy?”
The earth pony had devoured the sandwich and locked her eyes onto a cup of pudding. Her eyes darted furtively, not noticing Lyra and Windy, before her muzzle dipped down and she went straight for the kill.
“Um…” Windy said.
Lyra turned to her and threw a foreleg across her shoulders, pulling her in close. Windy froze at the physical contact. “I’m gonna need help though. I’m gonna need a wingmare.”
As quickly as she had initiated the contact, Lyra let go and started walking forward, grasping both her tray and Windy’s with her magic. A few small plates floated up to land on the trays as she passed, a small salad and some sort of apple casserole.
Windy shook her head and trotted to catch up. “What? But! I don’t know what to do?”
“Just talk me up!” Lyra said, tossing some bits to the cashier. She marched off into the dining area, Windy trailing behind.
“Anypony sitting here?”
The earth pony looked up, her eyes narrowed as she sized up Lyra. They flickered for a moment to Windy, desperately trying to hide behind Lyra, but wrote her off and returned to the unicorn with the cocky grin. “Mph,” she said.
Lyra sat their trays on the table and plopped down. “Lyra Heartstrings, nice to meetcha!” Windy hesitated before sitting too. “And this is Windy Wander, my roommate.”
The pony ignored Windy’s wan smile and frowned at Lyra. “Bon Bon.”
“Let me guess, you go to the Sun Princess Institute for Culinary Excellence?” Lyra said, unfazed.
Bon Bon rolled her eyes. “How’d you figure that one out? The lack of a horn, or the absence of wings?”
“I-I know an earth pony in Fleetfeather Academy who’s taking the Weather track,” Windy chimed in.
Bon Bon shifted her fierce glare to the pegasus and Windy wilted, her eyes dropping as she poked at the salad in front of her. Suddenly a hoof jabbed into her side and she let out an “Eep!”
Bon Bon’s glare had faded slightly, and her brow was furrowed in confusion. Windy’s eyes shot sideways to see Lyra surreptitiously nodding at her.
“Um. Uh. Lyra, did you do something new with your mane?”
Lyra blinked, but then rallied and proudly threw her head back, tossing her spiky cyan mane. “I’m trying a new kind of gel,” she said.
“A mane that short makes you look like a fillyfooler,” Bon Bon said.
Lyra froze, the huge smile plastered on her face looking suddenly fragile.
Windy jumped in again in desperation. “What about your band? When are you guys playing next?”
“Band?” Bon Bon said sharply. For the first time, her eyes sparkled with something other than annoyance.
“Yes, Lyra’s in— I mean, is the frontmare for My Chemical Romanticore. They play, um, experimental lo-fi synthwave noisepop. And it’s really really good!”
Bon Bon relaxed a little, sensing the earnestness radiating from Windy.
“R-right, and we’re playing this Friday,” Lyra said, finally recovering.
“At the Blue Brew Coffeehouse a few blocks from campus,” Windy chimed in.
Bon Bon leaned forward, the faintest hint of a smile on her face.
“It’s going to be awesome.” Lyra grinned. “You know, if you’re not doing anything.”
Bon Bon groaned softly into her pillow. She had been having worrying dreams. Again.
Her legs kicked out, groping for a familiar source of warmth but finding only cold blankets. “Lyra?” she mumbled.
Had she fallen out of bed again? It wouldn’t be the first time. But Bon Bon couldn’t even hear Lyra snoring, the sound that she had grown so used to that she found it hard to sleep without.
She groaned again and scooched over to peek onto the floor on the other side of the bed. Empty.
“Lyra?” she called out again, louder.
It definitely wasn’t normal for Lyra to be the first one up. Which meant something might be wrong. Alarming images swirled through her head, the worries that she had worked so hard to suppress, but which still lurked in the corners of her mind. Lyra had left her, because she had grown bored, because of something Bon Bon had done, because Lyra had found out—
Bon Bon squeezed her eyes shut, forcing herself to take deep breaths and remember what her doctor said about handling anxiety.
Then her nose caught a whiff of something burning, and she realized the house was probably on fire.
She made a dash for the door, but the blankets still tangled around her legs caused her to tumble right off the bed to land on her muzzle. With a whimper, she kicked them away and bolted, through the door and down the stairs, the smell intensifying as she headed straight for the source, ready to leap into the fire and save her Lyra—
Her Lyra who was standing in the messier-than-normal kitchen, chopping up carrots as a frying pan behind her let out a plume of dark smoke. Lyra grinned sheepishly as she saw Bon Bon.
“Aw, this was supposed to be a surprise,” she said. “I was gonna make you breakfast in bed. Only it’s a lot harder than I expected.”
Bon Bon exhaled, her beating heart slowing down. “Lyra, dear, you need to flip the pancakes.”
Lyra’s eyes widened and she turned around, a spatula floating up in her magic to deal with the now-charred pancakes. “Oh, right. I was working on them but then I had this brilliant idea for carrot hashbrowns, because I know you like carrots, and they’re basically the same thing as potatoes, right? Hey, since you’re up now, do we have any maple syrup?”
Bon Bon trotted forward to sit down at the kitchen table. “No, I think I used it all up when working on my new maplemint lollipop recipe last week.” She looked askance at Lyra. “What’s going on? Is there some special occasion that I’m unaware of?”
Lyra grinned and bounced slightly on her back hooves. “What makes you think that? Does it have to be a special occasion to make breakfast for the most beautiful mare in the world?”
Bon Bon felt her cheeks grow hot. Lyra was not the most sneaky of ponies, but she had a particularly well-honed ability to throw Bon Bon off with unexpected flattery and attention.
Bon Bon looked down, as a pile of papers and envelopes slid across the table in Lyra’s magic aura.
“Check the mail for me, sweetie?” Lyra sang out, turning back to chopping carrots.
Bon Bon blinked. “Ditsy never gets to our house this early in the morning.” She flipped through the first few pieces of mail. “And all of these are actually addressed to us.”
“I went out for a jog this morning and passed by the post office,” Lyra said. “And figured, hey, why not?”
Bon Bon narrowed her eyes, carefully studying Lyra. Her expression radiated sincere innocence. Cautiously, Bon Bon looked at the mail in more depth. Junk. Bills. Junk. A postcard from Lyra’s parents. And then at the bottom, a particularly large envelope.
Manehattan Media & Publishing. Not a particularly familiar sender. Bon Bon peeked up one last time at Lyra, only to see her back turned. Carefully, Bon Bon opened the envelope and slid the contents out.
Her jaw dropped open as she saw a huge picture of Lyra adorning the cover of Sound & Stable, one of the biggest music magazines in the business. Big block letters along the bottom spelled out HEARTSTRINGS - Exclusive Interview!
“Lyra! Y-you… Sound & Stable!”
Bon Bon leapt up, and flew over to her marefriend. Lyra happily grabbed her hooves and they twirled in a circle across the kitchen.
Lyra grinned. “Well, I might have lied a tiny bit about needing to go to Manehattan last month for family business. Turns out my agent sent a copy of my latest album to someone she knew, and they loved it! They’re calling me best new artist of the year.”
“No way!” Bon Bon let out a high-pitched squee. “Finally, you’re getting some recognition! I always knew it!”
“Take a look at the article,” Lyra said, winking.
Bon Bon hastily returned to her seat, and stared at the cover image one last time before flipping the magazine open. Her eyes flittered across the text and images of Lyra being interviewed, so overjoyed that she was unable to process more than one tiny flash at a time. Here Lyra explained her creative process in just as poetic and enigmatic terms as always. There she touched on formative bands that had influenced her work – names that Bon Bon knew and had heard many times over. Across one side ran a greyscale image of Lyra on a park bench with her lyre cradled in her forelegs, eyes closed as her hoof rested on the strings. It was perfect.
And then Bon Bon turned the page and froze.
The last page of the article held a photo of the two of them standing side by side in the back kitchen of Canter Candies, Bon Bon wearing an apron stained with chocolate, and Lyra’s arm draped across her shoulder. Bon Bon knew it all too well, a picture from the one-month anniversary of the opening of her shop. She had a copy of it herself, hanging on the wall behind the store’s counter.
Her eyes moved to the text below the photo.
So Miss Heartstrings, are you still an eligible bachelorette, or is there a special somepony in your life?
I’m afraid this heart is taken! By the loveliest of ponies, my marefriend ever since college. Bon Bon is my love, my muse, my source of strength throughout everything. She’s the reason I’m here today. I had a very particular pony in mind when I wrote ‘Song for Sweetie Drops’, my first single off the new album, you know. I don’t know what I would do without her.
Bon Bon looked up, the color draining from her face. Lyra looked up from the carrots, but the smile dropped off her face at Bon Bon’s expression. “Bonnie? What’s—”
“You have to call them,” Bon Bon said. “Cancel it. Back out.”
“What?!” Lyra shook her head vigorously. “No, I can’t. Do you know what kind of chance this is? And as far as I know, they’ve been out for a few days now in the major cities. I was supposed to get an early copy, but you know how mail can be around here.”
Bon Bon’s hoof jabbed down at the magazine. “Why did you have to tell them about me?”
“Is that what this is about?” Lyra said, the words coming out sharply. “Look, I know you can be shy, but that’s a good picture of us.”
“It’s not about the picture! Why did you have to bring me up at all?”
“What, am I not supposed to talk about you?”
“Yes!” Bon Bon shouted. “I’ve told you, that’s what I want! A quiet life in a quiet town! Not— Not this! Never this!”
“So you don’t want me to make it big,” Lyra said bitterly.
“That’s always been your dream, not mine,” Bon Bon snapped. As soon as the words left her mouth, she regretted them. Her face turned down, ashen.
“I thought we were in this together.”
Bon Bon felt tears forming in her eyes. “You’re the one who never wants to get serious. Every time we talk about actually getting mar—”
“I’m going out,” Lyra said, her own eyes tightly closed. She used her magic to jerk a slip of paper off the fridge, the magnet holding it up clattering to the floor. “Did you write maple syrup on the grocery list?”
Bon Bon swallowed. “No,” she said, in a small, weak voice.
“I’ll remember it,” Lyra said, marching past Bon Bon. A moment later, Bon Bon heard the front door slam shut.
Tears trickled down her face and plopped onto the magazine’s glossy pages. She mechanically rose and trudged over to turn off the stove, grabbing the frying pan in her teeth and carrying it back to the table.
The charred pancakes crunched in her teeth. They even had chocolate chips in them. Her very favorite.
On the other side of town, the Friendship Express pulled into the station, the first train of the morning coming from Canterlot. Ponies stepped off, mostly day-trippers from the city wanting to spend some time poking around in Ponyville’s quaint market square. Several stallions and mares dressed in ties headed to board the train, ready for their commute into the city.
“Out of my way!” a voice barked out.
A cream-colored mare shoved a grey stallion back and stormed out onto the platform, sizing up Ponyville with one baleful eye and disapproving of what she saw.
“A small, dirty town filled with small, dirty ponies,” she said out loud, ignoring the offended look a passing pony gave her.
She glanced around, and then stomped over to a pony in a uniform, currently busy speaking with a middle-aged mare and her foal. “You!” she said. “I’m from out of town, and looking for a pony named Lyra Heartstrings.”
He turned from the two ponies and then did a double-take. “A-aren’t you…?”
She rolled her eyes. “My name is Bon Bon. Now take me to Lyra.”