That evening, by the end of her shift, Sonata's mood had been lifted significantly. With her pockets full of the extra tips she had received from all of the patrons stolen off of Patti's table roster, she was not only sure that her plan was off to a great start, but that she would also have the spare cash she needed to celebrate at the movies the following day. Luckily, she had obtained enough to spend time out without eating into her household's grocery funds.
The back rooms at Sammy's diner were eerily quiet as she collected her things, and headed back through the front to leave. What was also unusual was that, for the time being, the main floor of the restaurant was also devoid of the three waitresses who usually stayed a few minutes later, namely Patti and her cohorts. Shrugging this off as mere happenstance, Sonata walked quickly out into the cool evening air, humming a happy tune to herself. She had only taken a few steps into the parking lot before she heard the bell of the restaurant's front door jingle, and glanced back to see Peachy running up to meet her.
"Sonny! Hey!" she called while waving.
Sonata smiled, and waved back, waiting for her to catch up. When they stood before one another, the former siren waited for the green-eyed girl to adjust her sweater before they both continued on down the road.
"Oh. My. Gosh, Sonata. What you pulled today with Patti's tables? Absolutely brilliant!" Peachy exclaimed, waving her hands about for emphasis. "You've finally taught her a lesson. I'm sure of it. I think it's safe to say that she, Pumpkin, and Candy won't be messing with you again anytime soon."
Sonata smiled almost pityingly at Peach's lack of foresight. Stealing all of Patti's customers for the night was nothing, hardly something to inspire submission, that is, if submission had been what she was really after. In fact, the way Sonata figured it, first would come retaliation after which, of course, she would just have to follow up with increasing the pressure on Patti. That would most likely provoke desperation in the girl, perhaps the incentive to bargain for a truce, and when Sonata inevitably denied her this small comfort, then would come Patti's submission. At that point, and not a moment sooner, would Sonata extend to her the olive branch of peace. By that time, Patti would surely be so desperate for reconciliation that she would see this action as charitable, caring, sisterly, even. It wasn't, of course. Truth be told, she didn't really care all that much for Patti and her acquaintances, at all. The girl and her friends were crude, mean, the type of people that Sonata would much rather use to feed her energy cravings than befriend. Regardless, the former siren was sure that at that point, the brunette would feel an indescribable motivation to return her false love with the good stuff, the genuine stuff, in kind. "Oh, idunno about all that, Peach. It was just a couple of tables," she lied, smiling to herself.
"Now that's modesty," Peachy retorted. "It was definitely like all of her tables. Did you see her face? I thought she was gonna vomit by her second break, for sure."
Sonata smiled genuinely this time as she and Peachy rounded the corner onto a dimmer, less populated street. "Yea, I noticed that," the former siren replied, trying to hide the pride in her voice.
Their homebound walk was enjoyable, and not at all out of the ordinary for the first couple of minutes. However, as the two of them strolled past the entrance to a rather shadowy alleyway, two pairs of arms reached out to grab them both. Peach, not expecting this at all, began to scream, only to have the sound muffled with a hand clasped tightly against her mouth.
Sonata, on the other hand, didn't make a peep when the hands yanked her into the alleyway by her hood, nor when she was slammed up against one of its cold brick walls, Peach pinned beside her. She was hardly surprised to see Pumpkin and Candy standing in front of them both. In fact, one could say she had expected something like this to happen. "Patti," she murmured under her breath as the brunette stood at the backs of her cohorts, staring flaming daggers into Sonata's eyes.
At the sound of the other girl's name, Peach finally stopped struggling against Candy's grip, and opened her eyes.
"This really isn't like me, Sonny. Really it's not," Patti began calmly as she inspected her nails, "but it seems you've forced my hand. The money. Give it to me. All of it."
The stern glare that Sonata passed Patti spoke could, at a glance, be mistaken for one of self doubt and caution, but after the brunette's request, the former siren instantly gave her an amused grin. When she began to giggle, Patti, her friends, and even Peach were, at once, quite baffled. Noticing their confusion, Sonata quieted down, and cleared her throat. "Or else what, Patti? Are ya gonna hit me or something?" she asked with her too bright, too happy smile spreading even wider by the second.
Patti cocked an eyebrow, and took a step forward. "Yea. That would be the general idea," she said matter-of-factly at which time Sonata practically burst out laughing whilst trying to muffle the sound with her hands. This obviously proved successful in raising the brunette's hackles, and she pushed past Pumpkin in order to get to the girl. Reaching out with one arm, she grabbed the end of the former siren's ponytail, and yanked it hard, wrenching her neck to the side in what was clearly an excruciating position. Sonata's slightly knocked knees very nearly caved in on themselves at this sensation of pain, only to be reinforced by Patti's leg coming up against her thigh to pin her securely against the wall. Grabbing the blue girl's collar, Patti then brought her face very close. "Listen, you little bitch. The grown ups have got places to go and bills to pay. So, I want all of the money, and I want it now, or else the only tips you're gonna be getting from now on are tips on how to conceal a black eye and a busted schnoz. You understand me?"
Despite the stinging pain running across her scalp, Sonata's expression went rather grim, save for the amused glimmer that still remained in her eyes. Though caught in quite the precarious predicament, she didn't seem fazed by any of Patti's threats. "Go on, then. Hit me," she stated quite seriously.
"Sonny!" Peach managed to interject before she was silenced once again by Candy's hand.
"What, you think I won't?" Patti laughed.
"No, I totally want you to!" Sonata replied, a sincere expression upon her face. "Hit me, Patti. Get it out of your system, but you know Mr. Salami isn't gonna like this."
A pregnant silence befell them all.
"Who do you think the Salamis are most likely to side with if I were to tell them about this, huh? Their favorite waitress ever... or you?" Sonata said with a giggle. "Silly Patti, I've got your money, I've got the popularity, and I've got the hearts of the Salamis. But you... You've only got your big, scary threats, your super spooky dark alleyways, and your job." She snickered again. The sound of her laugh echoed through the alley in the eeriest way. "Gosh, when you think about it, that's really not much of anything at all, is it, Patti? How much do you think you'll have left after I go telling the Salamis about this, with a bloody nose to boot? You think they'd care that their customers would rather tip their best waitress instead of some big, ol', violent meanie? Gee, they might even dock your pay, but then again, I bet if I cried enough, they'd probably just fire you. All of you."
The gleam of Sonata's smile, as cute as it was in any other setting, in the now darkened alleyway worked instead to send a chill down the backs of everyone present. The expression on the faces of Patti and her cohorts revealed their quickly failing courage. Sonata's eyes darted over to stare at Pumpkin who now stood with her arms folded apprehensively across her chest. Her mouth worked vigorously on her gum, popping it again and again.
"I hope you guys are good at retail, cause you know how big Mr. Salami's mouth is. You'd probably never be able to get a restaurant job in this town ever again. He's been here for like, a gazillion years, though. So, I still wouldn't count on those other jobs either," the Siren stated outright. Her gaze shifted back toward Patti whose nerve, by this point, had clearly failed her. By and by, she let Sonata's hair go, and removed her knee from across her thighs. Candy had long since released Peachy, choosing instead to stand next to Pumpkin who was looking very much like she would like to leave.
"See, Patti? Doesn't it feel good to be just a little bit nicer?" Sonata asked. No one could decide whether she was being facetious.
Patti seemed to be thinking deeply to herself, rolling possibility after possibility over in her mind, but nothing of worth happened to come to her. When she finally lifted a finger to say something, the look on her face was nearly desperate.
This made Sonata's brow furrow. 'Oh, Patti. Gonna beg for a truce already? How boring,' the former siren thought. She then reconciled herself to salvaging the brunette's pride for the time being with a timely interruption. "I'm gonna keep this money, if you don't mind. Cause, you know... Ya snooze, ya lose and all," she giggled, shoving her hands deep into her pockets to secure her cash. "But, who knows. Maybe Monday will be better for you. See ya, Patti!"
The blue girl shrugged her shoulders as if finalizing the entire conversation, and just like that, casually turned to walk out of the alley, leaving Patti and her companions behind in their state of utter confusion. Peach, suddenly realizing that she didn't belong amongst the three, rushed to follow.
The two of them walked down the street in silence for a long time, watching the streetlights turn on one by one before Peach finally mustered up the nerve to speak. "You really surprised me back there, Sonny," she squeaked.
Sonata turned to look at her, but when she did, she noticed Peach recoil a bit. A slight haze of green began to envelope the girl, but the Siren simply shrugged it off as being energy residue from their recent encounter. "Sometimes I surprise myself! Anyway, who doesn't like surprises, right?" Sonata blurted, offering her disarming smile.
This appeared to reassure the angel-eyed girl, and she laughed in response. "I'm sure Patti and her friends won't be wanting anymore of them for a while," Peach retorted, nudging Sonata in the shoulder.
"Well, if I keep doing it, it wouldn't really be a surprise anymore, would it?" Sonata asked, tapping her cheek thoughtfully.
This statement seemed to surprise Peach. "You're... going to keep doing this?" she asked.
"Eh. Ionno," Sonata lied as she shrugged, and began to hum to herself. Peach's friendly smile faltered again. Sonata, quickly losing herself to her own thoughts, never even noticed. They walked the rest of the way down the street in silence, Peach taking a moment every now and then to glance questioningly at her companion. She didn't know what it was she was searching for there, but it felt like, somehow, now her sweet, bubbly friend was a little bit harder to find inside of the person Sonata had put on full display a few moments prior.
When the two girls reached the corner where they usually split to go their opposite ways, Sonata turned, and smiled at Peach. The smile unnerved the angel-eyed girl, and she took a small step backward, forcing a laugh. "I... I guess I'll see you Monday, then?" she said with a shrug.
Again, Sonata tapped her cheek thoughtfully, then gasped when a brilliant idea came to her. "What about tomorrow? Wanna see a movie with me?" she asked.
Peach scratched the back of her head, and glanced down at her shoes. "Idunno, Sonny. I don't really have that much spending cash this week," she mumbled.
"Oh, don't worry about that, silly. It's my treat!" Sonata offered, patting down the sides of her rather fat pockets.
Peach hesitated for a moment, her eyes darting around. Finally, she let out a big sigh, and gave Sonata an affectionate grin. "Well, then, I suppose that's an offer too good to refuse," she laughed.
Sonata bounced around gleefully, blurting out all of the plans she had in store for them the following day before the two finally parted ways after one, last, friendly wave. As she continued on down her block toward home, Sonata couldn't help but suppose that perhaps things were beginning to look up.
"Really, we were just so lucky to have caught you with a free space this week, and right before our trip! I just don't know what we would've done if Cryssie couldn't see you for four whole weeks. You know about her stubby finger condition, right? Heavens, I don't even want to think about how she would sound after a full month away from the piano," the hyperactive, pale, blue-skinned woman crowed.
Adagio Dazzle sat across from her upon a sickeningly floral patterned couch, in a sickeningly floral decorated piano room, sipping from a small cup of tea in order to hide her clear disinterest in what the woman was saying. Pulling the cup away from her lips, she looked the jittery woman over, and forced a small smile of her own. "Well, the piano is a fickle instrument. The ability to play it can be rather... tenuous," the curly-haired girl said before taking another sip from the cup, hoping the edge of the piece of china could hide the roll of her eyes.
The other woman had begun to nod furiously before Adagio had even managed to finish her sentence. "Absolutely right. That's what I always tell her. Use it or lose it, little missy! But do you think she ever listens to me? No, of course not. And what is a musical performer without at least one instrument under their belt, right? Why, she would have never even made it into the 'Star Seeker' talent search finals if she hadn't played that fantastic piano solo you taught her. And, just between you and me, my neighbor Stellar? She was so jealous when I told her the news. Why, I thought she would just explode..." she rambled on.
At the sound of the woman's voice, Adagio felt her rage levels rising. Thus, she decided that it would be best to tune her out all together. Of course, as her luck would permit, soon after, she heard her name being called. When her eyes bolted upward to stare at the woman, the expression on her face told her that an answer was currently expected for something she had not heard. "I'm sorry?" Adagio blurted, wiping a drop of tea from her lips.
"I said: How long have you been playing again? I'm so sorry, I just keep forgetting, but you're a pro. So, I'm sure it was for quite a while, right?" the woman asked, taking a sip from her cup.
Adagio's gaze could not grow any wearier. This woman, Ms. Crescendo, was an absolute oddity, one of those secretly unfulfilled mothers who only raised their children to be an image of the life she wish she had lived during her own youth. To the former Siren, the other woman's endless talking was an obvious giveaway. She talked so that she wouldn't have to think about how unhappy she was with her own life. She talked so that she wouldn't have to genuinely absorb the news of others' good fortunes when they expressed them to her, and regardless of whether Adagio could, in any way, find the jittery woman amusing, one thing was for certain. Her endless talking was had the ability to instantaneously drive the Siren toward violent thoughts.
As Ms. Crescendo continued to sip the tea, waiting for Adagio's reply, the yellow-skinned girl cocked an eyebrow in the usual fashion, and smirked. She placed her cup and saucer down upon the coffee table in front of her, and crossed her arms. "Oh, for about five hundred years now, give or take a year," she said, staring daggers into the blue woman's face, looking for any reaction whatsoever. As she expected, she received none. Ms. Crescendo had barely heard her, and continued to sip on tea as she nodded her head. Adagio's smirk now turned into a smug smile. "Of course the first two hundred years were all on harpsichord," she continued. Still more nodding from the blue-skinned woman. "You know... Because the piano hadn't been invented yet."
It was this statement that finally got Ms. Crescendo to glance upward with a gasp, and when she did, she saw Adagio sitting back comfortably, unafraid in her seat, arms and legs crossed, simply waiting for something, anything, to happen. After a brief pause, the other woman began to laugh heartily. Wiping a stray tear from her eye, she swatted a hand in Adagio's direction. "Oh, Adagio Dazzle, you absolutely slay me," she sighed, shaking her head.
Adagio grinned brightly, her jaw just a tad too stiff. She gave a small, weary chuckle of her own. "If only. If only," she whispered to herself through clenched teeth.
All of a sudden, like a gift from the heavens, a loud crash came from upstairs.
"Maaaaaaa!" an ear splitting voice shrieked from somewhere unseen. "I can't find my Star Seeker packet, and I wanna show it to Adagio! Where'd you put it?"
"It's on your dresser, Cryssie, dear!" Ms. Crescendo called in return, somehow still managing to sound polite while doing so.
"It's not there!" the voice replied, sounding now as if it might begin to cry.
After this, the pale azure colored woman quickly bolted upward to her feet, nearly dropping her teacup and saucer. Placing them down gently, she passed a cordial smile toward Adagio who still sat cross legged on the couch, feigning patience. "Pardon me a moment," the woman said, raising a finger. She then turned around, sped out of the room, and up the stairs in the hallway.
No sooner had she completely disappeared from view did Adagio let out a giant sigh of relief. Rising quickly to her feet, she marched toward the baby grand that sat nearby, and plopped herself down upon the piano chair. She gazed angrily at the collection of magazines and old mail that sat atop the thing, wondering why anyone would hinder the sound of such a beautiful instrument by using it like a cheap coffee table. Not bothering to open any of her booklets just yet, she straightened her back, reached her hands out, and flexed her long, elegant fingers. The crack of the joints could be heard just before they came down heavily upon the keys, running through tumultuous arpeggio after arpeggio. Up and down the board she went taking her anger out on the instrument.
She closed her eyes as she played, having long ago memorized every inch of the board. Making an attempt at shifting her mind away from what the song was blatantly trying to tell her proved a complete failure. Try as she might, her mind's self imposed fog gradually began to dissipate. All that remained as it did was the truth of her current predicament. No matter how much time she gave it, no matter how patient she tried to remain, it never faded nor did it dim, and the truth was that here sat a thing that was once Adagio Dazzle. There was a time when that name would invoke reverence, and another in which it would invoke awe, and then eventually fear. Yet, now the name meant very little, if anything, to anyone else. Did that mean that she meant nothing, and served no purpose? She had to struggle with keeping at arms length the notion that, now, she was even less than a mere shadow of her former self—the utter indignity, the utter unfairness of it all.
These mortals that she was now forced to live subject to in exchange for pieces of green paper used to mean very little to her. To her they were mere prey, sustenance for her power. The ones whom she could tolerate, even the ones whom she had learned to appreciate, could never penetrate her immortal mind with their naivety. And, was it not fate who had deemed this so? Was it not fate that had ripped and scarred, mashed and molded her sistren and her into what they had become? If she could have had it her way, she would have been a shining example of a simpler kind of joy. She would have sung, and she would have been content with others loving her song. She would have been content with a grand estate in the countryside, gardens filled with birds to sing with, and a happy, mortal life. It wasn't inappropriate or too much to ask for, but alas, destiny had surmised otherwise. It was destiny that had led her down the path to becoming the type of bitter creature that would serve a needed purpose in the universe—the need for chaos. It was destiny that did this by destroying all that she had held dear in the dawning of her life. So, when the truth of her purpose was finally revealed, she had accepted it, as all the sirens did, saying 'Damn it all' to her previous life and desires, knowing that they could never be hers. Eventually, she learned to like this new being she had become, reborn from strife. She became a vessel of the very chaos she reaped, just as destiny had wanted her to. Thus, it seemed obvious that it was also destiny that had brought her and her fellow sirens down to this current, deplorable state. She had been duped, hoodwinked, bamboozled. Could anyone really fathom the notion of being used up, and thrown away by the universe itself, to be deemed useless by creation, tossed out like dirty rags into a void of nothingness when one's job was over, and in such an unjustified manner?
There was a time when she had enough power to control an entire world. Then one cool summer evening, in the blink of an eye, that power was snuffed out like the weakest of dimming candles. It was crushed like an ant underfoot by the same kind of naive, simple minded creatures she once drained for sport, idiots that could never even fathom the type of pain she had experienced, lifetime after lifetime. Now, here the three of them were serving these talking food bags, watching as the little creatures realized the types of little dreams, and gained the types of little accomplishments that she and her sisters would have gladly given anything to have for themselves those many lifetimes ago.
Adagio's fingers stopped moving, resting on a soft and somber chord, one which was both familiar and terrifying to her. Her widened eyes stared down at her fingers as she just now realized how out of breath she had become pounding away at the piano. "So close," she breathed to herself, barely above a whisper. A small bead of sweat formed upon her brow. She lifted her hands, placed her shaking fingers very deliberately upon a particular set of keys, and after a beat of silence, pressed down.
She sighed and closed her eyes as the keys rang out the infamous melody, the song that they had sung the evening they had lost their powers. The Battle of the Bands was not the first time she and her fellow sirens had used that incantation. On the contrary, it was an ancient and quite meaningful melody to them. Born out of a shared strife and desperation during the dawn of their lives, and sung only during moments of greatest distress or despair, that song had saved them in times when all hope had seemed lost. It had delivered them from all sorts of powerful magic, riots, angry mobs, secret schemes, and even their own penchant for self destruction. It had wrought merciless sorrow and vengeance upon those that were foolhardy enough to claim themselves as worthy challengers. Though the spirit of the incantation, over time, had changed the words and rhythms of the song as they were expressed and funneled through the girls, its living soul still remained the same. The haunting melody had endured even beyond the sirens' ability to use it, but back when they could, she and her sisters had wielded the song like a sword with endlessly sprouting blades. The crushing power of their voices would crescendo, chorus after chorus, until their foes, no matter how mighty, were inevitably vanquished. It had worked every time. It was supposed to have worked at the Battle.
A small smile escaped her when the notes of Aria and Sonata's harmonies blended beautifully into the mix. The sound of their distinct voices had, naturally, implanted themselves upon her brain, and she remembered them fondly as one would the birthmarks of close siblings. Aria once had the best soprano of them all. Ethereal, holy, it floated like a single golden thread in the wind, dancing and twirling gorgeously, capturing the minds of anyone within earshot. With this voice, she would reel them all in. Sonata's strong, twisting, heart wrenching alto would confuse them, cloud their mind, and weigh them down, thwarting off any innate desire to escape. Adagio's piercing lead would then easily penetrate them, infest and replace their minds, playing them like puppets to do the girls' bidding.
A small laugh escaped her. Truth be told, it was bubbly Sonata who had surprised her and Aria with the most powerful voice of them all. It didn't take long before she had realized that it was the girl's undying righteous passion and devotion that had made this so. Adagio remembered how rapturously the blue girl had sung during what would be their final battle. She had sung with utter abandon, her incantation so powerful that her voice had begun to harmonize, and double over upon itself—an ability that had taken Adagio quite a while to perfect. What was heartbreaking about the girl's efforts was that they were all for Adagio and all for naught. So much faith Sonata had put in her, and she had betrayed the girl with her failure.
By and by, Adagio's lips parted, and a sudden look of worry crossed her face. It was almost as if she expected to be struck down again if she dared say anything. Slowly, the words came, cracked, broken, and defeated.
"What we have in store, all we want and more. We will break on through..." she trailed off, and so did the sound of the piano. Her hands now rested uselessly upon the keys as her lips parted again.
"All we want..." she repeated, only managing to whisper it this time. Something wet began to form at the corners of her eyes as she meditated, in that pregnant silence, upon those old, familiar lyrics. Now, after two thousand years, here the invocation sat, flat, dead, and useless upon the tip of her tongue. "We will break on through," she sighed with finality, bowing forward to allow her head to rest upon the top of the piano. The two tears that had been threatening to fall for the past few minutes finally ceded under their own weight, and plopped unceremoniously onto the shiny, black, lacquered surface.
Turning her head to the side, away from the keys, Adagio decided that it would be best to not dwell on how little she believed the words of that song anymore. By and by, the world came back into focus. It was only then that she caught sight of a shiny beauty of a letter opener teetering precariously off the side of the baby grand, next to the pile of papers and magazines. She scoffed when the first inclination that entered her mind was that of destiny, any siren's sworn enemy, now bidding her to snatch it up right away, and plunge it deep into her own chest. The smirk on her face slowly turned into a thoughtful smile as she mused on how hilarious it would be for spoiled little Crystalline Crescendo and her utterly irritating mother to descend the stairs, and enter their blooming nightmare of a piano room, only to find all of their beloved roses and begonias splattered with red. Lying there would be Adagio Dazzle, expired only after having dug her dirty shoes into their disgusting couch. The horror. A small snicker escaped her, and then died, as did her smile, when that single, morbid thought began to gel and solidify within her brain.
As she slowly sat up, and began to reach out with one shaking hand, she recalled the time she had lied to her sisters about ever even having these types of urges. It had happened during one of many dark and volatile evenings following the Battle of the Bands when her companions had accused her of not taking their feelings for their profound loss seriously. All three of them had been going through the darkest parts of their depression, but only she had decided to feign an air of composure bordering aloofness, barking loudly about meaningless chores instead of allowing the other two their due time to grieve. After all, she was the one who was always cool, calm, and collected. She was the one who was supposed to be utterly unbreakable.
Alas, right now, she couldn't help but try to convince herself that maybe Aria and Sonata did not, in fact, need her to be strong for their sakes. Perhaps this was all an elaborately self-constructed excuse in order to keep herself here. Maybe it was all just a frilly lie.
Her hand closed around the cold letter opener, and brought it up to her face. Strangely enough, she laughed, and rolled her eyes at it, almost as if the letter opener itself could be made to feel inadequate. Still, when she looked at it again, it was as sharp and menacing as ever. The fact that she felt shaken at the sight of the thing only worked to irritate her. Nothing disturbed her inner confidence unless she deemed it be disturbed. Thus, taking a deep breath, she decided she would just have to prove to herself that such an insignificant object could never faze her. Adagio Dazzle, no matter how much she was wrongfully punished by fate, would always be a survivor. She would always be a fabulous woman worth being; nothing could change that. Thus, she resolved herself to proving this with a test. Reaching toward her collar with her free hand, and without looking, she undid the top button of her blouse, exposing the butter-hued flesh of her chest. Keeping her eyes open, steady, and trained upon the blade in her hand, she turned the tip of the letter opener toward bare skin, and simply sat there for a moment, meditating.
Pros and cons—she recognized herself as a rather rational-minded being, and was usually very good with weighing the both of them. Yet, lately, she had to admit that some of her more level-headed thoughts had begun to seem absurd, whilst what she would usually call irrational had slowly begun to make a great deal of sense. She had chalked all of these strange ruminations up as being a result of her withdrawal symptoms, only so that she wouldn't be required to accept them for what they really were—logical and enticing. It was true that all it would take was just one quick shift, one swift decision, and she might have been allowed the chance to scoff, be it ever so briefly, in the face of destiny, destiny who had trapped her within endless lifetimes by feeding her own pride and sense of self importance. However, for as long as she had known herself—and it had been a very long time—Adagio never once had known herself as a loser or a quitter. Then again, perhaps pushing the blade in wouldn't be quitting. Maybe it was victory in disguise. Perhaps, it was time she think radically.
The coldness of the blade as it touched her skin, stung in a way that forced her into alertness just as soon as a horrible, shrieking voice came echoing down the hallway toward the piano room.
"Adagioooo! Look at my Star Seeker booklet!" the voice cried, shaking her out of her daze. The former siren was startled, and jerked the blade, accidentally leaving a long, red scrape upon her chest. At first she went wide eyed, her mouth agape, as the deep cut began to sting. She barely had time to settle her own nerves before a preteen girl with light blue skin bounded into the doorway to face her.
Adagio could only imagine what type of spectacle she was putting on as the smile on the girl's face slowly dissolved into a look of nervous questioning. It was all the curly-haired woman could manage to just sit, and stare for a split second, letter opener in one hand, blouse top unclasped, and fading tears in the corners of her eyes. She had been caught being vulnerable and unsettled in her feelings, and that was utterly unacceptable. So, she resolved herself to do what Adagio Dazzle did best when she was hurt which was, namely hurt someone else. She managed to catch her breath, and quickly cross her arms, tucking the clenched letter opener beneath one of them while simultaneously hiding the now bleeding, red mark down the center of her chest. She cocked a haughty eyebrow in the girl's direction, and smirked. "Once again, Crystalline Crescendo, you seem to have mistaken me for someone who enjoys the slow frittering away of their time. I'm going to the restroom, and when I return, those ballades better be impeccable."
Adagio had barely managed to hobble into the bathroom, and lock the door before her legs collapsed from under her. She fell to the floor. It was only now that she inhaled a loud, rapturous gasp as a sense of exhilaration consumed her. Gawking down at the long, bleeding line upon her chest, she contemplated why such a seemingly small thing had incited such a grandiose feeling inside of her. After all, this certainly was not the first time she had been wounded, and it certainly was not the worst wound she had ever received. In fact, she had been healed of mortal wounds, and restored from the brink of death a few times during her life with the help of her and her sisters' powers. It was this thought that made her realize that now, being powerless, every little scratch she received would, henceforth, be permanent. Perhaps this explained the revolutionary feeling that now enveloped her, making everything around her spin. It was a feeling she hadn't known for quite a while. It was that strange mix of fear and wonder at the unpredictability and the inevitability of death.
Her eyes were dripping tears when she finally snapped out of her daze. Glancing at her right hand, she realized she had been clenching the letter opener the entire time, and immediately threw it into the corner in disgust. Lunging for the toilet paper, she yanked a long trail through the air, and slapped it against her chest, desperate to staunch her bleeding. Instead, she accidentally began to smudge even more blood onto her once pristine white blouse. This made her panic. Her hands flailed through the air as her breath quickened. "No. No, no, no!" she pleaded to no one in particular as her eyes darted around the room. She spotted the sink, and immediately reached out to clench onto its side. Gingerly pulling herself up to her feet, she leaned over the basin. Moving to reach into the cupboard inside of the mirror, she spotted something therein that made her freeze—her own reflection.
Red eyed, face completely flushed, hair a sweaty, disheveled mess, and blood smudged all about, Adagio could only gawk at whatever this wretched thing was that stared back at her. The sight filled her with disgust, and it took a moment to remember that it was herself that she was looking at. Still, she sneered at the reflection, and spat into the sink. The fog that encapsulated her began to clear, and slowly she managed to stand up straight. What a mess, crying like a worthless, spineless rat because of one scratch? Is this what she had been reduced to? Certainly not. Not if she had any say in it. However, as these thoughts rushed through Adagio's mind, she couldn't help but feel slightly unsettled by the notion that perhaps she didn't have any say. Destiny was a powerful foe, but she had yet to admit to herself exactly how powerful. One thing was for certain, though. If she was going down, she wasn't going down without a fight.
Taking a deep breath, she reached up toward her hair, tugged it all back, and wrapped it around itself, forming a gigantic bun. Then, she turned on the cold water, and bowed over the sink basin. Splashing the cool liquid onto her face and the back of her neck made her feel an infinite number of times better, and when she stood up straight, she was pleased to find that her reflection again resembled something of its proud owner. Reaching into the cabinet, she found a small tin of band-aids, and plastered about seven of them along the stinging trail on her chest before closing up her blouse, and rinsing out as much of the blood as she could. In the end, a large pink smudge remained, emblazoned across her chest, evidence of her moment of weakness. She resolved herself to wearing her sweater over it until she could reach the sanctuary of her house.
After cleaning up the rest of the bathroom, she found herself standing with her hand on the doorknob, head leaned against the door. She wanted to venture outside, but she knew that, at this point, her day was completely shot. There was no way she was going to make it through another twenty minutes of Crystalline's boorish piano pummeling with her sanity intact. Alas, she knew she could not remain in the restroom forever, and inhaled deeply.
Barging out into the hallway, she made a quick dash for her sweater on the hook by the front door. Once it was secured around her body, she called out to Cryssie, feigning concern. "How's it coming? Are you ready for an audience?"
She felt almost as if she could cry as she entered the blindingly tacky piano room again, and knew that she might have to make a quick dash back to the restroom as she neared Crystalline. Then, suddenly, by way of some divine providence, a blessing was bestowed upon her. She froze mid-step when she heard them. Eight measures, she counted. The sound of eight whole measures of what should have been eighth notes came mangled and slow. The source?—Crystalline's unpracticed fingers.
It didn't matter what the excuse was, really, Crystalline and her mother knew the rules. Adagio had made it very clear to them on day one that she would not entertain students who refused to practice. Thus, barely being able to hide her own content, she bid the child and her mother farewell, reminding the girl that she expected all of the same ballades to be perfect by the time she got back from her competition. Bashfully, Crystalline agreed while Adagio quickly collected her things, payment for the day included, and headed out of the front door.
The fresh, early evening air did much to lift her spirits. She even managed a smile as she neared her bus stop. Thankfully, Cryssie's lessons were always scheduled last on her daily rounds, for obvious reasons, and by the time they were done, she was usually drained.
Collapsing onto the wooden bench by the stop, she sighed wearily, leaned her head backward, and allowed her eyes to close as she contemplated more enjoyable things like dinner and the much needed bath awaiting her at home. Her brow furrowed slightly as Aria crossed her mind. She wondered whether or not the other girl had actually made it out on time, and whether or not her later work schedule would also spell more late nights out doing who knows what.
All of these thoughts dissipated as the sound of slow and steady footsteps approached. Adagio's eyes opened up in a moment of realization, and immediately, she reached toward her collar, removed her sunglasses from where they hung, and casually placed them upon her face. She listened as the second lone bus patron neared the bench and stopped, the heel of their shoe kicking up some gravel. Spotting a flash of yellow and red, and the shine of a leather jacket out of the corner of her eye, Adagio pretended as if she didn't notice the girl now taking a seat on the complete opposite side of the bench. Tilting her shaded face away, she waited for the other girl to stop staring at her, as usual. By and by, she heard her shuffling inside of a bag, and pulling out what the former siren assumed was a book. Only then did Adagio turn her gaze back toward her front.
Anyone who knew them both might have found the scene almost comical, and one would be justified to suppose that Adagio might feel nothing but fury at the notion of having to share a daily bus ride home with the one person who had caused her so much grief. Still, the reality of the situation was that the sight of Sunset Shimmer, while once enraging to her, now only managed to inspire feelings of slight discomfort and irritation. The damage that the little turncoat had done was immeasurable and beyond repair, but after a time, it had dawned on the former siren that continuing down the path of vengeance, especially in their weakened states, would only lead to her and her sisters' own destruction. So, she decided to put that all aside for the time being in order to focus on more important matters, namely keeping her sistren and herself alive.
Still, the rides had been awkward, to say the least. Considering that neither of them had any desire to speak to the other, they consisted mostly of Sunset trying her best to take brief glances at Adagio while not being noticed, and the curly-haired girl, clearly noticing her doing this, trying her best to keep her shaded eyes directed toward the front of the bus. She figured that the less emotion she showed, the more Sunset would wonder what was going through her mind, and the more she wondered, the more she would worry. This thought, at least, gave the former siren some small joy.
A few moments later, Adagio noticed the bus coming up the hill, and slicked her hand over the front of her tightly bound hair in relief. With a sigh, she got to her feet, and quickly made her way toward the bus stop sign post, eager to get on board first. This was yet another small pleasure of hers. She knew that Sunset would always relinquish the front of the line to her, probably thinking that her former nemesis might retaliate violently if she didn't. Smiling smugly to herself as the bus came to a stop, and the doors opened directly in front of her, Adagio took her time stepping daintily into the vehicle. Her one regret was that her hair was not loose today so that, perhaps, she might be able to flip it backward into the other girl's irritating face.
After getting onto the bus, Adagio took a few steps into the aisle before completely stopping, a thought having struck her. She then began to search through her pockets and musical booklets as if looking for something. Truth be told, she wasn't searching for anything at all. Instead, she was simply trying to force Sunset Shimmer into taking a seat so that she might be able to sit directly behind her. Ever the devious Dazzling, she knew that not only was Sunset too proud to show fear or to relinquish worried words to her, but also that without being in the leather-clad girl's line of sight, she would make the honorary Rainboom so many delectable flavors of uncomfortable. She had had a long, hard day, and deserved a pick-me-up. Being front and center when those deliciously green fumes of worry and fear began to leak from the girl's every pore seemed like just the tonic that her mood needed.
Much to Adagio's dismay, Sunset still proved to be as stubborn as ever. She tapped her fingers, shuffled her clothing about, even cleared her throat loudly in an attempt to signal to the former siren that she wished to pass. Seeing as how Adagio prided herself on being unrelenting when it came to getting what she wanted, she decided to take that particular opportunity to pull a small compact and lipstick tube out of her sweater pocket. She then began to apply lipstick, very, very slowly.
"Say, can you girls have a seat, already?" the bus driver, a stout, bearded man, yelled.
At once, Adagio heard a soft, defeated sigh come from behind her, and smiled victoriously as she heard Sunset Shimmer finally take a seat. Moving quickly, she then took the seat directly behind her, and settled in for quite an amusing ride. As the green fumes began to twist and twirl off of Sunset's body—smelling distinctly of suspicion and paranoia—Adagio grinned, and licked her lips.