Aria sat in the back parking lot of the fast food joint behind Cookie’s shop with a half-eaten cheeseburger in hand. A completely burned out cigarette hung from her lips, unsmoked. Around her neck hung some oversized headphones attached to an old portable cd player she had stolen from some hipster garage sale a few weeks back. Her usually half-lidded and unamused eyes did nothing to hide the fact that she was currently lost deep in her own thoughts. Almost as if being pulled by a string, in one, slow motion, her free hand rose, reached toward her opposite side, and touched a hidden patch of darkened skin beneath her arm. She grimaced at the sensitive sensation, and then sighed.
She had the bruise ever since Midnight Swift had given it to her the first time he had ever forced her to sing for him. When she had received it, she was still but a filly, still growing, and far too innocent to have encountered what she had. In the freshness of its youth, her body, like any other aspect of one so young, seemed to have remembered and recorded that first experience of pain upon itself. Inevitably, all of those memories of her harrowing experiences had become attached to that one, hidden, patch of deep purple. Even after she was reborn into her sirenhood, still, that terrible piece of evidence of the cruelty she had endured had never faded. How could Cookie have known what would happen, the horrible feelings that would arise, when she had so carelessly brushed her fingers against it?
Reaching up to the space between her shoulder and collarbone, Aria then rubbed at a place where, very long ago, there was once the scar of a dagger scrape. It was a nervous and subconscious reaction, something she sometimes caught herself doing when everything began to feel too surreal. This was a way to remind herself that her life was something that was really happening, that all of these experiences was what had made her who she is, what had sealed her fate toward chaos, what had forevermore caused her so much secret shame.
The orphanage happened. Swift happened. Those desperate final moments happened. Your hopeless decisions upon that lonely beach happened. Don’t ever get to thinking that they didn’t. They made you. They brought you into your own divinity. You are them. They are you.
Once upon a time, Misses Clouds had told Aria that her scars didn’t have to define her if she didn’t want them to; however, anytime the girl happened to glance at her own otherwise pristine skin—besides the two or three shadows of scars or marks that were left—she couldn’t help but visualize every last scratch, every last bruise that those spiteful, long dead foals, and that brute of a stallion had given her. When she inevitably did, that’s when the anger, the resentment, the embarrassment would bubble up toward the surface. That’s when all those soft, painful parts of her would crust over inside of that hardened, vindictive shell she always seemed to present to the world. To her, this was the only option. To even consider forgetting, much less forgiving those who had conjured such a spitefulness within her seemed a dishonor not only to herself, but to her own ability to endure. She knew who “Aria Blaze” was because of these experiences. Aria Blaze was a fighter, a survivor, and a deliverer of karmic justice to all those who would hide malice behind a facade of innocence or righteousness. She lashed out like a whip at those who seemed ingenuine or naive in any way. She bid them all to recognize the world for the cruel and harsh place that it was, all because it had been cruel and harsh to her first. This was the way it had been; this was how she liked it. This was how, with the aid of her ageless powers, she had intended to keep it. Cookie should have minded herself before daring to touch that which was beyond her understanding.
The ash from the edge of her cigarette finally dropped, falling into her lap, and smudging her torn jeans in the process. Her work goggles, forgotten haphazardly atop her head, now collected sweat that dripped down the sides of her face in the afternoon sun. The heat sucked. Not being able to dive beneath the surface of some cool water whenever it got too unbearable sucked. Her home life sucked. Her job sucked. This burger sucked, and most importantly, that damned Cookie Dough sucked—really sucked. She sucked so hard you could flip her over, and run her across a living room rug to gather loose change.
Who does that loudmouth, cotton-haired, uppity, perfectly proportioned, so-and-so think she is, anyway? How dare she make me… me feel remorse for my crappy existence after all I’ve been through? Screw her little silent treatment. I’m the greatest, grudge-holding bitch on the planet. We can just duke it out, and see who comes out on top.
“Man,” Aria moaned, squeezing her eyes shut. She was doing it again. She was taking this way too personally, and if it was one thing that she didn’t need right now, it was a reminder of the fact that she cared about this particular mortal affair as much as she feared.
The pigtailed girl’s face contorted into a deep frown. It had been almost a full week since the Friday night incident at Bubbles’ bar, and since then, things had been awkward between Cookie and her, to say the least. She had amped herself up all of Sunday evening and Monday morning, readying herself to march straight into her boss’ office, explain everything to her—including what she could about her past without sounding insane—and then apologize profusely for her over-the-top outburst. Somehow, she had even managed to make herself feel good about the idea of doing so.
Everything about the simple plan seemed right as she walked into the shop that Monday afternoon, sat next to Wheeler who she gladly proceeded to ignore, pulled out one of the guitars she had been fiddling about with, and got to work. Waiting for Cookie’s arrival from an errand she had run seemed like no trouble until Aria heard the front door bell jangle, and the woman finally walked in, arms ladened with bags of components and strings. Their eyes met from across the room for just a split second before Cookie looked away. As she approached to enter through the workroom door, the former siren felt the confident smirk she had been wearing all morning recede. Her heart began to patter at a million beats a second, and she suddenly felt sick to her stomach as she remembered:
Wait a minute. I don’t apologize for anything.
Suddenly, she found her defensive shell crusting over once again. A haughty sneer spread across her face, and as Cookie silently walked through the back room toward her office without first acknowledging the younger woman like she usually did each and every day, Aria felt fresh anger rise within her.
“Right. Got it. Loud and clear,” she had murmured to herself. Tossing down her screwdriver, she had then quickly exited the shop to get some air, and calm her nerves.
That’s practically how things had been since then. She should have known that Cookie’s pride would permit her to speak only as much as her own would allow her to reply without being a spiteful bitch about it. Aria would just have to face the facts: that brief, lovely thing that had been their friendship was now over.
Sighing, the pigtailed girl jostled herself out of her thoughts, and gazed down at her cold burger. The thing had cigarette ash all over it. Grimacing for a moment, she then shrugged to herself, dusted it off as best as she could, and took a huge, unenthusiastic bite. It was disgusting—perfect fare for crappy moments such as this.
Rolling the mass about in her mouth whilst gazing around the empty parking area, it took her a moment to see the poof of white, curly hair directly across from her on the other side of the lot. Her chewing slowed to a halt as Cookie approached with a bag in hand. Gulping the lump down, Aria quickly moved to toss the burger aside, and fire up a fresh cigarette. Her hands shook when she popped it between her lips and lit it; so, she sat on them afterward until they were numb. There was no way that Cookie was going to see that she made her nervous. At least Aria got some small comfort from the sight of the green haze that trailed the other woman. There was solace in knowing she didn't have to feel uneasy alone.
As the other woman approached, and inevitably stood before her, arms crossed, Aria had to peer down at her just slightly from the tall platform she was sitting upon. It was a good feeling, towering over her. She felt powerful. It felt like Cookie was at her mercy.
Swinging her legs back and forth, the former siren scanned her over whilst the other woman did the same. It was like one of their high stakes poker games all over again—straight faced and full of false confidence.
“Hey,” Cookie muttered.
“Yo,” Aria replied cooly, jostling the cigarette around in her mouth.
That was the extent of the conversation until, after another uncomfortable silence, Cookie leaned over to place the bag on the ground, took one of her hair bands off of her wrist, and tied her hair back. Picking the bag up again, she peered at Aria.
Shoot me in the face. Those damn eyes.
Aria felt her mettle melting away in Cookie’s line of sight. The shivering in her arms came back with a vengeance; so, she decided to cross them.
Cookie reached into the bag, rooting around for a second, before pulling out what appeared to be a blue, tupperware box. At first she held it out toward Aria who remained unmoved, eyeing the thing suspiciously.
“I, uh…” Cookie began before clearing her throat. Finding that nothing of real value would escape her mouth, she simply shoved the box into Aria’s lap, trusting that the younger woman would not let it fall. She didn’t. “Here. This is for you.”
The former siren didn’t say thank you. It wasn’t like she could have had the chance to anyway since after the box was practically thrown at her, the white-haired woman had then immediately turned tail, and marched away back toward the music shop. She had reached a quarter of the distance there before pausing, and turning around to stare at Aria once more.
“Don’t take too long. Some chick is having a crisis over her one-string banjo in there,” Cookie said.
Aria’s eyes shot wide open. For a split second, she could have sworn that she had seen… Yes, it was—a smile. Cookie had smiled at her. Did this mean that Aria had won the grudge match?
That’s right. Better smile.
“Uhh, yea boss. Be right in,” the siren barely managed to croak. Cookie turned to leave again, and Aria watched her until the woman had disappeared around the side of the building.
Alone in the lot once again, Aria now took the time to stare down at the tupperware container in her hand. Removing the lid, the wonderful aroma of baked brown sugar and vanilla immediately hit her nostrils. Inside of the box was what appeared to be at least fifteen, uniquely-shaped, and decorated sugar cookies. Nose wrinkling in confusion, she lifted one of the odd shapes, and stared at it for a second. Turning it around to its other side, she snorted at the instantly recognizable sight of an erect middle finger throwing a glorious bird into her face.
“The hell…?” she murmured under her breath, taking a moment to shake off some of her cigarette ash before popping it back between her now smiling lips.
Putting the cookie down, and picking up another, she laughed out loud this time to see that it was decorated like the most sour-faced smiley she had ever seen. There were a few cookies that were simply word balloons with various expletives printed into them—Aria’s favourite being the one that just said ‘UTTER SHIT’ in all girly, pink caps. Discarding her smoke, she popped the treat into her mouth, and took a bite. Digging deeper, she found another shaped like ‘Beauty’ the guitar she had been babying the week before. Coming upon the last cookie, her smile widened, and something leapt in her chest as she gazed down at a shape that looked exactly like the star accessories she liked to put in her hair. Next to this cookie sat a simple, folded note. Aria bit her lip nervously, took another bite of the cookie to preoccupy her teeth, and then picked the paper up.
I owe you. Dinner tonight at my house?
She choked. The cookie in her mouth fell to the ground as she read off the proposed time and Cookie’s home address—her honest-to-Chaos official location of residence. Suddenly, the racket of the entire world was drowned out by the sound of her own racing heartbeat. She felt her face practically catch on fire as she finished reading the message.
Don't bring up the fact that I did or said any of this to my face, or I will be forced to strangle something… Something cute… Like a pony or something.
The Cookie Monster
Aria’s jaw was hanging open. She felt as if she might soon follow her cigarette in falling to the ground if she didn’t take a couple of deep breaths, but for some reason the air had turned thick, impossible to breathe. Something weird was happening to her face; it felt as if it were stretching too much in the wrong directions. Her cheeks went numb, and her mouth was curling up into itself like a dying insect. What was going on with her chest, heartburn? Maybe these nasty burgers had finally given her a heart attack.
Oh, thank you sweet seas. Just let me die... Wait, no, not yet.
She folded the note back up, and tossed it back into the tupperware container. Closing the lid, she then leaned back against the brick wall, an utterly content smile upon her face. Opening her mouth, she could have never predicted in a million years that she might eject the most disgustingly gleeful squeal she had ever heard coming from anything, ever.
Her hand instinctively balled into a fist, and careened itself into her mouth to shut it up. What was happening to her?
Turning in horror to peer into the cracked side view mirror of a lonely van that had been parked nearby, she caught a glimpse of herself, and nearly screamed at the sight of the stupid, blushy grin that was plastered all over her maw. Her eyes went wide as she finally understood what was taking place, why her heart felt like it was about to burst out of her chest like one of those aliens from that movie—which, at the moment, seemed more preferable—and why a rock had apparently decided to settle in the very center of her throat. These were feelings that she had rarely felt. Perhaps they had come on this strong only ten times in her entire life. No wonder she had thought it was indigestion.
Turning to face the back wall of Cookie’s shop, Aria allowed her expression to slowly droop into a terrified gawk as flashes of a sprightly, honey-colored mare coursed through her head.
Worst. Work day. Ever.
Except, this time she really meant it. For the fifth time that afternoon, Aria had been jolted out of her anxious reverie by the sound of Wheeler whistling in her ear, only to stare down, and find herself trying to hammer a twist-in screw into a beat up guitar with the backend of a cold soldering iron.
“Dammit, again?” she hissed at herself before placing the iron back into its holster, and running to go fetch some scratch remover. Wheeler watched her closely, very much amused.
“Bit preoccupied there, Blaze?” he snickered stroking the fuzz upon his chin. Aria sighed.
“Not right now, Wheeler. I’m not in the mood.”
“Alright. I’ll just wait until you—Aria Blaze—are in the mood to have a chat,” he stated, making finger quotes as he watched the girl violently rubbing the scratch remover into the surface of the tarnished instrument. Her eyes occasionally darted up toward the door. Wheeler, noticing this, smirked.
“She ain’t gonna be back for another twenty minutes,” he continued. As he did so, Aria seemed to rub harder and harder. “What’s so damn urgent, anyway? Don’t tell me you’re quittin’ or somethin. We ain’t even been to Bubbles together ye—”
Aria dropped the rag she had been wiping the scratch with, spun around, and snatched up Wheeler’s collar into her fist, drawing him close. Her eyes were wide with restlessness, and from this distance—or lack thereof—the red man could see a sheen of sweat collecting on her skin.
“Mud? I will promptly put my boot into your esophagus, so help me,” she growled, her eye twitching erratically.
“Now, you hold on there, little missy!” Wheeler said, beginning to feel equally irate. “I was just joshin’ with ya!”
“Fuck Josh!” Aria yelled, releasing the man’s collar. She never even noticed the startled expressions upon the faces of the few shop patrons who then quickly proceeded toward the door. “Fuck your jokes, and fuck your constantly trying to figure out how to worm your way into my pants! It’s not gonna happen! Not now, not ever! So, do me a favor, and stuff it!”
She began to collect the scratch remover and the guitar to go put them away. As she turned around, Wheeler, who had surprisingly managed to keep a half amused look on his face while staring down the brunt of her rage, cleared his throat. Aria’s entire body stiffened up at the noise. She took a deep breath.
“The next words outta your mouth better be the frikkin secret to the meaning of life,” she said in a dangerous tone. She heard the man fishing around in his pocket for something. A few seconds later, she heard the sound of a piece of paper being unfurled.
“Nuclear Sunburns,” Wheeler said in that smug tone of his. "But you were close!"
Aria’s back straightened. Her shoulders hitched upward, and stayed there. Slowly, she turned around to peer wide-eyed at the man who was now holding a worn and crumpled band flier in his hand.
“The Nuclear Sunburns?” she croaked. Wheeler nodded slowly, his grin spreading.
“Tonight only at The Hole.”
Aria froze for a moment before dropping everything in her arms back onto the workbench, and snatching the flier from his hand.
“Bloody gimme that!” she gasped, practically shoving her nose up against it.
No way. There was no way the Nuclear Sunburns—only one of her most favourite hardcore bands ever—would choose to tour here, of all places. Showcasing the most gorgeous, skull crushing riffs she’d heard in the last decade, and not to mention, Bender Bridges, otherwise known to be the fastest fingers currently in the underground, the Nuclear Sunburns had, years ago, come to hold a special place in Aria’s guitar-obsessed heart. She had never had a chance to see them live anywhere else, thanks to Adagio’s iron grip upon her personal affairs. Of course, that grand bitch called fate would make it so that the one and probably only opportunity that she would ever get to go to their concert would occur now, like this, at the mercy of “Muddy Wheelduuurr,” and on the very same night she was invited to spend the evening at Cookie’s. As her eyes slowly rose to meet Wheeler’s, she caught sight of the two tickets he was now dangling in front of his grinning face, and quickly motioned to snatch them from him. Anticipating this reaction, he yanked them just beyond her reach.
“Woah! Calm yer tits there, Sugar!” he laughed spitefully. “Do you know what I been through to get these?”
“I don’t wanna hear about whose junk you had to cup to get ‘em, Mud,” Aria began. “How much do you want?”
This situation was still salvageable as far as Aria was concerned. Cookie and she shared very similar tastes in music. Perhaps the woman could be persuaded to go out to a concert after dinner that night. After all, getting to a Nuclear Sunburns gig late was better than not going at all.
“It ain’t exactly about how much I want,” Wheeler began in a cheeky tone. “It’s more about what I want.”
Aria sneered, and crossed her arms, blowing a loosened strand of hair out of her face.
“If it takes place anywhere beyond this shop’s front door, then no. If it has anything to do with a body part of yours that's below your hairline, then the answer is no,” she growled. Wheeler seemed to think to himself for a second while touching his hair, then his beard, and then looking somewhere down below.
“Well, shoot, I got about four o’ those,” he murmured. Aria groaned wearily, letting her arms drop to her sides.
“One date,” Wheeler finally blurted, getting to the point. “That’s all. Meaning one and only one of these tickets is up for grabs. I pick you up, we maybe get somethin’ to eat, get tanked down at Bubbles, and then...”
He flicked the edges of the tickets twice with the fingers of his free hand, and leaned back comfortably against the workbench. The former siren now looked utterly incensed.
“Wheeler, you don’t even like the Sunburns,” Aria began. “Just sell me both the damn tickets, and I’ll hold your hand right now for ten seconds without hurling. That’s more than a fair deal.”
“Oh contrair-y,” he replied in his heavy country accent. “For your information, I’ve been listenin’ to the Sunburns for years, ever since that one week me and that Mint-whatever girl were a thing.”
Aria snorted, and cocked an eyebrow, finding it amusing that somehow that Mint chick Sonata was currently obsessed with had found a way to pop up into her own little world. This town was too damn small.
Still, Wheeler currently presented to her a rather large problem; nevertheless, it was one that, in her heart of hearts, she already knew the solution to. Sighing in defeat, head bobbing backward, she picked up her dropped guitar and work materials with a sense of finality. Turning, she then headed toward the back of the room to put them away.
“Ey! Where ya goin? I need yer address so I can pick ya up tonight!” Wheeler exclaimed, swiveling his chair around to face her.
“I’m not going to the concert, Wheeler,” Aria murmured almost as if saying the words caused her physical pain.
“Well, why the hell not?” the man asked, his shoulders slumping in defeat.
“Because...” Aria hissed through her teeth, now irritated by his nagging. There was a brief pause before she heard Wheeler sigh, pull a piece of paper from somewhere, and begin scratching something upon it.
“Well, here’s mah number in case ya change yer mind, and I am expecting you to change yer mind,” he said, slapping the paper down in front of Aria’s work space.
Right at that moment, the bell at the shop’s front door rung, and Cookie stepped in ladened with a ton of bags as usual. However, catching sight of her in that instant, interestingly enough, didn’t seem to rile Aria into a state of panic. A sense of comfort washed over her as she became settled in the feeling that, somehow, in some small way, she had taken back the reigns of control in her life. She passed a rather content look toward Wheeler supposing that maybe today wasn’t necessarily the worst work day ever after all.
“Not gonna happen, man. I’ve got plans.”
Once, whilst sifting through an old nature magazine to find the wildflower photo feature contained therein, Sonata had stumbled upon an interesting fact. She had learned that baby bottlenose dolphins did not sleep at all for the first couple of months of their life. When they became old enough, their resting would entail half of their brain powering down while the other half stayed awake. This would interchange in periods of “sleep” that weren’t really sleep at all. For all intents and purposes, these creatures went their entire lives without completely shutting down into that blissful state of unawareness that land mammals seemed to need so much. Now, standing on shaky legs as she tried to blink away the wavering haze before her tired eyes, Sonata wondered to herself how feasible such a thing would be for a pony turned siren turned human. After all, she had been a sea dweller for a large portion of her life, even though she could never remember a night where the need for sleep didn’t beckon to her. Maybe that was just an addiction left over from her previous days on land. Maybe it was something that had to be weaned out. Still, after all this time, the urge had never seemed to change. Before the loss of her powers, tiredness was never a problem because there was never really a reason to be tired. Now, of course, things were much different.
It had been about a week since she had put her plan into motion against Patti Mint, and in that week, Sonata had learned quite a few more things about the whole “not having powers” bit. For one, it was pretty much impossible to keep track of the desires of a crowd of non-enchanted beings, no matter how much one tried. Rushing about the restaurant floor, the former siren felt like a chicken with its head cut off. One minute, one of her tables would want a drink refill. The next, another one would be asking for a dessert menu. Soon enough, it would come time to check up on Patti’s tables, and inevitably outdo her services. This part was the hardest because it required Sonata to think up a scheme to win the patrons over; thus, it would be necessary that her story change according to what she assumed each customer wanted to hear. The elderly would, more often than not, hear about how much she loved to volunteer or visit her non-existent grandmother. Young women got overly lavish compliments about their looks. Young men would simply get a good look at the ‘gals’ as Aria would call them.
Of course, considering the new, increased number of people she was tending to, her attempts at winning absolutely everyone over could never prove completely successful. There had been quite a few times where the customers did not respond to her enticements at all, in which case, she was begrudgingly obliged to allow Patti to collect her due tips from those particular tables. However, more often than not, this didn't happen.
There was no such thing as time anymore, especially now that she had decided not to take any days off for fear that Patti would work without her knowing. As a result, everything began to flow into everything else, and at once, became one giant, swiftly rolling blob of faces, voices, actions, and commands. Perhaps it was inevitable that, after a time, mistakes would be made as delirium set in.
Sonata teetered up against one of the kitchen counters in her usual place next to Peachy as she awaited her next order. To any onlooker, it was immediately clear that the blue girl was out of sorts, to say the least. To those who knew her well, the change was startling. Her eyes had become gaunt, ringed with darkness, whilst the pop of her pretty, blue skin had faded, becoming rather drab and dull. Her usually cheery disposition had ebbed into an exhausted struggle to simply maintain an air of cordiality with those she interacted with. This would all happen in between the time she would spend lost in her own disoriented thoughts.
“Order up!” a voice called from somewhere in the haze. Sonata had barely heard it as it floated around on the edges of her awareness.
Indeed, there was an uncomfortable silence that permeated the kitchen, save for the sound of various sizzling entrees. All of the waitresses, save for Patti who was looking rather exhausted herself, seemed to be completely cognizant of the fact that whatever was wrong with Sonata, it had much to do with the blue-eyed brunette. This seemed obvious at the moment seeing as how the former siren was now passing the eeriest of raspberry glares in Patti’s direction. She seemed blithely unaware of the four more pairs of eyes trained upon her as a heavy green haze began to fill the room. Pumpkin and Candy stood in silence, tapping their fingers, and popping their gum as they tried their best to manage their anger whilst warding off the increasingly disturbing vibes they had been getting from the former siren. J.R. glanced up from his grill every now and then to look at them all curiously. He was never around the waitresses long enough to be privy to their affairs, but even to him it was clear that something was going on, and that Sonata was at the center of it all. Peachy stood by Sonata’s side, arms crossed, wearing a strange look of both worry and irritation upon her face as she wondered what was happening to her friend. Stealing a peek, she glanced at the girl just in time to catch the hints of a bizarre smile creasing her lips. Something in Peachy recoiled as she tried to deduce what exactly was going on in Sonata's head.
Patti, oh, Patti Mint,
Soon, soon, soon...
Sonata broke out into a tiny giggle as she repeated the phrase over in her mind, daydreaming about the day Patti would worship the ground that she walked upon. Weary eyes trained on the brunette, it was clear to see that the girl had been worn down. A few days ago, the plumes of negative energy escaping from Patti had peaked; her defiance of Sonata’s will was delicious to behold, but gradually, as she realized more and more that perhaps she had underestimated the former siren’s craftiness, and as her own exhaustion set in, those hazy emerald surges died down to a small spurt. Now, the only massive waves of negative energy came from those that honestly didn’t matter to Sonata much at the moment. In her world, where only she and Patti existed, the air was practically still and clear. Patti’s resistance was waning. For the time being, Sonata figured she could continue to endure, knowing what bliss awaited her on the other side. Indeed, in a short time, surely…
Patti, oh, Patti Mint,
Soon, soon, soon…
The sore patch between her chest and neck began to itch. She scratched it, supposing it was just more fatigue setting in.
“Order up, Sonny!” J.R.’s voice cut through the fog. She jolted into alertness, and quickly bounced forward.
“Oh! S-sorry, Junior! I’m on it!” she cried racing up to collect her plate. J.R. smirked at her as he plopped the thing upon her tray.
“Don’t call me Junior, Sonny. What’s going on with you lately? You seem pretty out of it.”
“N-nothing, J.R.,” the blue girl giggled nervously as she spun about, and headed toward the door.
The last thing Sonata had expected when she had reached her table was the harsh awakening that she received.
“I specifically said no onions,” the woman at the table said as she removed the sunglasses from her face, using them to motion toward her plate. Sonata gave her an astonished look.
“B-but, I don’t remember you saying—” she stammered as she whipped her notepad back out, beginning to flip through its pages.
“I’ve been allergic since childhood, sweetheart. Are you going to try and tell me that I forgot about that? I said that I absolutely didn’t want any onions.”
“B-but—” Sonata continued on, bewildered by the fact that, yet again, she had gotten another order wrong, something that never happened under normal circumstances.
“Are you gonna argue with me? Because I don’t have time for arguments. Just make the burger over, or we can take it up with your manager. How about that?” the woman asked, giving Sonata a threatening glare. Utterly deflated, the former siren snatched the plate back up, turned tail, and shuffled back into the kitchen.
There was a look of vindication upon the faces of Pumpkin and Candy as Sonata took her walk of shame back through the kitchen area. However, Peachy eyed her worriedly as the former siren reached out with her occupied hand to plop the plate down in front of J.R.’s station.
“Sorry. Fudged it again. No onions,” she muttered, never once looking at him. Instead, she continued walking toward the back room door, and disappeared through it. Dropping her tray, Peachy followed close behind.
She found Sonata splayed out upon the bench that sat between the lockers, staring up at what seemed to be a photo that she was holding in her hands. Her locker was wide open, blocking Peachy’s path. When the green-eyed girl slammed the thing shut, and loomed imposingly over her friend, to her surprise she found that Sonata could only manage a befuddled smile.
“Oh heeey, Peach!” she mumbled, stifling a delirious snicker. “Whaz wrong with yer face?”
Peach was not amused.
“Sonata, what is going on with you? Ever since last Friday you’ve been acting so strange, and the way you’ve been behaving around Patti… It's starting to worry me.”
Sonata giggled as her eyelids began to droop.
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about me, Peachy. I couldn’t feed off of you even if I wanna… I mean, I wanna which is weird cause I don’t usually wanna do that to friends, but by the seas, have you smelled you? It’s like… crazy good, but it probably wouldn’t be worth it… I think. Not that you wouldn’t taste super good… or… anyth—...”
The siren’s words trailed off as her train of thought floated away like a feather in the wind. She stared at the ceiling in confusion.
“Sonny! What are you talking about?” Peach exclaimed, her face going red.
“Huh?” the blue girl asked, apparently having forgotten that her friend was even there. “Oh heeey, Peach!”
There was a pregnant pause as Peachy Keen stared down at the bewildered girl, shaking her head. Taking a moment to glance up at the clock on the wall, she breathed a sigh of relief when she noticed it was almost time for her break. Reaching down to grab Sonata’s arm, she pulled the girl up into a seated position.
“Sonny, you’re taking a break with me. We’re gonna get some caffeine in you, and then we’re gonna talk.”
She reached out to grab the photo that the former siren was holding in her hands, only to recoil as Sonata lashed out toward her. The blue girl’s eyes suddenly went sharp and alert.
“Don’t touch that!” Sonata yelled, pressing the photo to her chest. Realizing what she had done, her gaze softened. “I mean… It’s just that this is really special to me. I don’t want anything to happen to it.
Peach rubbed her hand nervously for a moment before nodding.
“Okay, Sonny. Just meet me outside in five, alright?” she murmured, turning around, and heading back out through the doorway.
Sonata watched her go. When she was sure that the girl was gone, she sighed with exhaustion, and stared down again at the photo. In it, in vintage, Prohibition-era clothing, posed her two sistren and herself in a wash of grays, blacks, and whites. Despite the strange appearance of their varied apparel, they all seemed to be wearing smiles upon their faces. They weren’t necessarily smiles of glee or smiles of excitement. More so, they were smiles of confidence, smiles that clearly depicted three beings who knew exactly how special they were, beings who were determined to make sure that everyone else could see it too.
Kissing the picture, Sonata then slowly rose to her shaking feet, placed the item back into her locker, and slammed its door shut.
After walking out to meet Peachy to collect their coffees, Sonata then headed out toward the back at the girl’s insistence that the fresh air would do her some good. Huddling together on an old bench that sat by the edge of the lot, Peachy waited for Sonata to get a couple sips of the drink down before she turned toward her, and sighed.
“You know what I’ve realized lately, Sonata? We don’t really talk to each other much about… y’know… important things which is weird because we’re always talking. It doesn’t always have to be about stupid stuff though. You know that you can talk to me about what’s bothering you, right?”
Sonata blinked at Peachy. As sweet and sociable as the former siren was, even she had enough experience with the fickleness of mortals to understand that such a thing could never be. As sirens, she and her sisters had learned long ago that bearing their whole hearts to mortal beings—ponies and humans alike—was foolhardy unless they were asking for a witch hunt or a cramped, cold cell in the belly of a madhouse. That kind of existence, a life filled with secrecy, half truths, and downright lies, became par for the course. It was something that, over time, drew them into themselves and each other until, eventually, very little of their understanding of mortals remained besides the fact that they were to be fed off of for sustenance. Sure, they lived and mingled amongst them, and they had all become fantastic actresses on that front, but they knew, and even the dimmest mortal could feel, that there was a perpetual wall, a chasm between them when interacting with the girls. It was something that seemed utterly unbreachable. They wouldn’t mesh with their circles so much as they would haunt them, looming about their so-called friends with knowing, almost hungry expressions upon their faces. Their presence in a room was lauded as they leached more and more adoration from others, but only in that reverent way one might laud a queen or celebrity—gingerly, with the utmost caution, and as much obedience as could be managed. Even though Sonata had perhaps been the best at hiding, even ignoring, the differences between her nature and the mortal world, still that impenetrable rift seemed ever present.
The former siren sighed, and gave Peach a pitying smile. Taking the last swig of her coffee, she placed the cup down beside her, and tapped her fingers upon the lid. Her expression settled into one of deep contemplation. Squinting and nodding slightly as she seemed to decide on something within herself, she tilted her chin toward Peach, meeting her gaze with one of profound appreciation.
“The stupid things are plenty, Peach. I bet you’ve noticed by now that my sisters and I kinda freak people out sometimes… a lot of times.”
Peach cracked a smile as she remembered Aria’s strange behaviour at the movies the week prior.
“Yea, just a bit,” she snorted. Sonata couldn’t help but grin in return.
“We’ve never really gotten the whole “friendship” thing, and we always kinda ended up getting rid of people who got too close in a way we didn’t like.”
Sonata continued to labor through her words, trying her best to fit her siren truths into a digestible package for mortal ears.
“But I haven’t gotten rid of you. That stands for something!”
There was a brief pause as Sonata glanced toward the restaurant, and happened to catch a glimpse of Patti through the window, pulling her apron off. It seemed the girl was about to go on her break. Sonata’s eyes narrowed, and she continued to talk whilst watching the brunette disappear from her line of sight.
“Things have been like, super stressful with my sisters and me, but you don’t have to worry about that, Peach.”
Sonata’s eyes widened with interest again when she saw Patti, Pumpkin, and Candy exiting through the front door of the restaurant, and heading across the street to a quiet corner. Patti walked in between them both, her arms crossed self consciously about her chest whilst the two other girls occasionally rubbed her back.
“I’ve got a super weird hunch that I’ll be feeling a lot better, really soon— Say! Where are they going?” Sonata blurted motioning toward Patti, and her friends. Peach was suddenly jolted from her enjoyment of this rare, seemingly intimate moment with her friend. Her head spun around to look at the other girls.
“Oh man, how long have we been out here? They’re going on their break now. We ought to get back, and man the floor.”
The angel-eyed girl got to her feet, and had taken a few steps before she realized Sonata wasn’t following. Noticing the former siren’s eyes still trained sharply upon Patti and her friends, she crossed her arms and sighed.
“Enough, Sonata! I don’t know what your deal is with Patti, but it’s time to let it go!”
The phrase echoed in Sonata’s mind, sounding very much like the chiding Aria had given her over the weekend. Forgetting herself, her head snapped about to glare daggers into Peach. For a moment, a terrifying look of rage was plastered across her face. Peach recoiled as Sonata watched a giant burst of green escape from her aura. Catching herself, the blue girl sat up straight, and feigned calm.
“Y… you’re totally right, Peach. You’re right! I think she’s got the point by now. I’ll lay off of her. I double promise,” the former siren lied with the sweetest, and most practiced of smiles. There was a pause until Sonata realized Peach was still waiting for her to follow her into the restaurant. She laughed nervously, twisting a finger around the end of her blue ponytail.
“I’ll be right there. I just need a sec to myself to think… and stuff.”
Peach passed her a suspicious smirk, and then, turning her palms upward in defeat, spun around to head back inside. Sonata did her best to look meditative and calm until the girl had disappeared out of sight. Almost immediately after, she bolted upward to race across the street in the direction Patti and her cohorts had walked off toward.
After a few moments of searching, she found the trio together amongst some old crates and garbage cans in a shady backstreet. What was it with Patti and alleyways? The brunette was currently seated upon a large, empty crate, hunched over to grip her knees, with the most exhausted expression upon her face. Opting to stand hidden behind the mouth of the alley, Sonata tried her best to listen in on the three girls’ conversation.
“...And I had to drop some of my classes in order to make the extras up at my other gig at the Tank,” Patti said with a scoff. “Hell of a way to spend the rest of my senior year, pouring shots into some skeezy dude’s mouth for six hours a night, but my professors kept looking at me all sad all the time, anyway. Drove me nuts. I thought one of them was gonna take me out back, and shoot me like a rabid family pet or something.”
“So, why don’t you just quit, Patti?” Candy urged, taking a few steps forward into the brunette’s line of sight. “Just find something else, and quit this dump. Then you could free up some of your time again, right?”
Patti rolled her eyes and groaned.
“Okay then, Candy. I’ll just quit Sammy’s, and pray that my landlord enjoys getting paid in candy bars and ramen. I’m sure that will work out. I’ve told you a million times, I’ve looked everywhere. There’s nothing open. This damn town is too damn small.”
As Sonata hid just outside of the alleyway, listening to Patti’s two companions trying as best as they could to comfort their downtrodden friend, she couldn’t help but be reminded of her sisters and herself, or at least what she wished her sisters and she were more like. It was clear that, despite their lack of showing public affection, they really did care very deeply about each other. To anyone else, this might have seemed sweet; however, it only worked to make Sonata seethingly jealous.
How was it possible that these three mortals, in their short, insignificant existence, had managed to create a more loving connection than three eternally bonded sisters? How dare her precious, blue-eyed target pull toward someone else for comfort when what she should have been doing was finding a way to appeal to Sonata’s sense of mercy? Had the former siren known that Pumpkin and Candy would actually turn out to be genuine friends to Patti, she would have surely found a way to get rid of them first.
The pop of Pumpkin’s gum echoed throughout the alleyway, snapping Sonata out of her thoughts. As the orange-hued girl sighed heavily, and pushed herself up off of the wall where she had been leaning, a grimace spread across her face.
“I still think you should just kick her ass, and take the cash back,” she said. “I’m sure Sam won’t fire you over it. This is a pretty big deal, Patti.”
“No!” Patti exclaimed, waving an arm at her companion. “Sam hates me. If any of this blows up, you girls know I’m gonna be the first to go; so, just do me a favor, and lay off of the blue bitch, alright? I’ll figure this out on my own.”
It was clear to Patti’s cohorts as well as Sonata that the girl didn’t actually believe what she had just said by the way she then bent over, and slammed her face into her palms. There was a pregnant silence as her friends considered their companion’s wretched predicament. Ever so cautiously, Candy Ice spoke up once again.
“Well… why don’t you just tell her you’re sorry? I mean, you don’t have to actually mean it or anything, right?”
From where she was hidden beyond the lip of the backstreet, Sonata felt her skin growing warm as a small smile began to spread across her face. She licked her lips in anticipation of Patti’s imminent breakdown.
Yea, Patti. Why don’t you just tell me you’re sorry?
“No…” Patti murmured, her voice dripping with enough venom to instantly obliterate Sonata’s smile. “That is completely out of the question. I’m not that desperate yet.”
Sonata felt such anger rising inside of her chest that she began to shake, and the hue of her cheeks went purple. She heard Pumpkin scoff.
“Are you kidding me, Patti? Your situation sounds pretty damn desperate to me. What other choices do you have?”
Too many, Sonata thought as she immediately turned, and began walking back toward the restaurant in a huff. Her raspberry eyes seemed to glow with rage as, bit by bit, she settled upon what should be done about the last bits of her pesky Patti problem.