"Hey... Equestria to Pizz..." Grape waved a hoof in front of my face and stuck his tongue out in a silly fashion. "You there?"
As much as I wanted to get out of there, there were only two ways to do that: run or talk. Running would probably end up getting me caught, but talking could be worse. What if I said the wrong thing? I didn't want to get carted off to some mental hospital.
He leaned in close to me and asked, "You didn't forget about Vinyl's party, did you?"
His wide smile would be the death of me one of those days, I swear to it. It was just impossible to say no to that face. Well, time to play along...
"Of course I didn't," I answered, hoping he couldn't tell I was on edge. "How could I?"
Grape almost seemed puzzled for a second. "Well Strato already forgot. I even hoof-delivered his invitation."
Oh, Grape Vine... even you should know Strato would forget his own hooves if they weren't attached to his body. That pegasus could be more ditzy than that other mailmare from Ponyville that came around sometimes... and that was saying something.
I was actually about to voice my monologue when Grape interrupted me. "I probably should have expected it, but it was one of Vinyl's parties. You don't just forget about them."
That was more true than anything I'd ever heard. In fact, even after so long I could still vividly imagine the first party of hers I went to. The fact that I came home with a massive headache might have had something to do with it, but that wasn't important.
Hold on... was that party the one tonight, or some other one? I rifled through what I could still remember about all the others, and it didn't seem like I'd attended more than two. Although, I did remember the occasion...
"What's it about?" Please please please don't say her new job at that club downtown.
"She got the DJ position at Nightshift."
What the buck was happening here? Why'd that stupid machine pick this day instead of all the other ones from this time frame? I really had to get out of here. "Well, I really don't want to distract you, so I'll just get going now.
Just as I was about to turn around the corner, Grape added, "We could use some help with setting up..."
Don't look! I wish I had paid attention to that little voice in my head, because I was struck full-on by Grape's pleading puppy dog face. No, not the eyes! Anything but the eyes!
Okay, he shouldn't mind if I just explain... um... What was I doing right now? There had to be something that was happening somewhere else.
Well, time to lie again. "Look, I'm sorry. I've got that thing at the place."
Grape sighed dramatically and turned away from me, staring off toward the horizon. "Alas, it seems that our society is no longer willing to provide assistance to a stallion in need... I must now go off on my own, helpless and un-cared for."
An offhoof glance revealed a pair of mares on the other side of the street trying to hide their laughing. Great, we had spectators for this.
Grape continued his melodramatic monologue with an overdone sigh and looked back at me over his shoulder.
I sighed and gave in to his pleading. "I'll help, okay?"
He smiled widely and lunged forward, wrapping his hooves around me in a death grip. I would probably have lost a few organs if he didn't let up, but he must have heard my strangled wheezing or something. He let go of me, and for the second time since I ran into him - or rather, he ran into me - I found myself out of breath.
Grape just seemed to have that way with ponies... although that probably wasn't a good thing. He hugged me again, but this time, it was a lot softer. "Sorry..."
"It's fine," I said, still heavily panting - mostly trying to get air into him starving lungs. "Let's get going."
"Sure..." Grape promptly turned around and headed down the sidewalk. Perfect... if I can just get away while his back is turned, I'll be out of here.
But, as the phrase goes, the best laid schemes of mice and stallions go often awry. This was no exception, mostly becuase of the fact that he caught me as I tried to sneak away.
"Hey, the store's this way."
Isn't that just great... My chances of escape had vanished right before my eyes. "Right behind you."
After two more attempts to escape, Grape Vine had made me carry his saddlebags. I never really understood why he did it until he started cramming things in until they were close to bursting.
With Grape's bulky saddlebags almost pulling to within an inch of the ground, we finally made it to Vinyl's house. It really wasn't anything very special on the outside - a white house with plain wooden siding and a few windown set into the front - but everypony knew that it was the inside that counted.
...Well, at least the ponies that knew the infamous DJ PON-3. Only the true club denizens could recognize her outside her shows.
Grape threw the door open and gestured for me to set the saddlebags on the kitchen table. Meanwhile, he headed downstairs for some reason.
I dumped the bags' contents out. Four donut boxes, a banner, three packs of multi-colored glowsticks, and a box of Carrot Cola tumbled onto the table... and that was only one side. What else had he packed in there? To my surprise, I found two packs of cookie bites, three bags of potato chips, a glass bottle of some clear liquid I wasn't going to ask about, and a large wooden box.
Despite my inner voice screaming for me to not open it, I had to see what made those bags so heavy. I pried the lid of the box open and stood there agape.
Rocks... Grape Vine had bought a box of rocks. How did that help with setting up a party? And why had he made me carry them?
Grape and Vinyl appeared in the hall just past the doorway to the kitchen, still in the middle of a hushed conversation. Even though I couldn't hear any of it, it almost seemed like their 'conversation' was more of a heated argument. Still, there were more important things to discuss... mostly why there was a box of rocks in Grape's saddlebag.
But just as I was about to ask my question, Grape violently stormed past Vinyl in a huff.
"What just happened?"
Vinyl trotted over to the table and sifted through the supplies we had brought. She picked up the chips and soda and levitated them over to the counter.
Now my interest was piqued. "What was that?"
Vinyl scoffed and answered, "I really don't want to talk about it."
She picked up the three bags of chips and ripped - and I mean ripped - them open. Then she poured them into some clear plastic bowls she pulled out of the cupboard beneath the sink.
Just as I had one package of glowsticks firmly grasped between my teeth, Vinyl finally talked on her own accord. Of course, her question sounded more like an order. "Take these down to the basement, 'kay?"
"I don't know, carry 'em on your back or something. Just do it."
The agressiveness in her voice was surprising. I'd never heard her sound so mad ever before.
"Well can't you see it's impossible? If I do, I'll just spill them."
Vinyl practicaly screamed at me. "For Celestia's sake, just do what I bucking say! Is that so hard?"
That was it. I couldn't do this anymore. But I had to be firm without sounding angry. "I'm not going to help you if you're just going to yell at me. Just tell me what's wrong."
Vinyl turned away form me and hung her head dejectedly. "Sorry, okay? I'll tell you later." She quickly added, "But that's only if I feel like telling you."
Well, at least it was progress. As Vinyl took the bowls downstairs, I picked up another two packages of glowsticks and followed to the basement.
In the style of one of her parties, the speakers and mixing table were already set up in the corner. Two tables had been pushed together against the far wall, and a punch bowl full of green liquid and strawberry slices had already been laid out. I broke the seals on the packages and dumped the glowsticks out on the first table. She had set the bowls down and was already three steps up when I caught her again.
"Look, I know you don't feel like talking about it, but maybe I could help." Maybe this time she'd respond.
Vinyl trotted back down to me and stared at me for who knows how long. "Promise you'll listen?"
Why wouldn't I listen? Something had to be wrong, and I wasn't going to leave a friend in need. Then she opened up.
"You know this morning? That was when I got the letter from the manager at Nightshift."
"M-hmm..." So far, so good.
"Well, I went to that plothole of a stallion Grape had hooked me up with. You know what he said?"
Whoa- that was unexpected. Vinyl had always seemed so happy around Glazed. Granted, I almost never saw them together, but... "What did he say?"
Vinyl made a pair of air quotes and recited in a masculine voice, " 'Wow, Vinyl, I didn't know you were that kind of mare.' You believe that?"
By that time, I think my jaw was all the way to the floor. He said that? That was like bucking down a beehive and not expecting to get stung. Stallions like that almost made me want to kill myself out of sheer embarrassment of being the same sex as them.
Vinyl continued her rant, slipping out of her imitation voice. "So anyway, I said 'What's that supposed to mean?' and he said 'Nothing'. Complete bull crap, that's what it was." She sobbed weakly and elaborated. "And I really thought he was better than that. Shows how stupid I can be."
"Vinyl, you're anything but stupid." I brought her into a gentle hug. Even though I wanted to cut that stallion's tongue out, I had to be there for her first. "And you're definitely not like that." Still, I could probably free up my six o'clock tomorrow.
"So can I help with anything else?"
Vinyl scanned the room quickly and thought about it for a second. "Well, I still need to hook up the speakers... Coud you get the drinks down here?"
She winked at me. "Just be sure to grab both of 'em."
I brought her the twelve pack and that clear liquid Grape had put in his bags when I wasn't looking. Her face almost literally lit up when she saw the bottle. "For a scatterbrained idiot, he sure knows how to pick stuff out."
As she popped the lid off, the sweet scent of vanilla and hard alcohol filled the air. It may not have looked like much, but if the smell was anything to go by, it was strong. "What the hay is that stuff?"
Vinyl emptied the bottle into the bowl of lime-green punch and explained, "Gray Horse vanilla- the best stuff ever."
"That sounds disgusting."
"There's nothing wrong with it..."
"I'm not saying there is."
Vinly smirked and tossed the bottle - or at least what was left after it hit the cement wall - into the wastebasket next to the speaker setup. But the smashing sound almost sounded like a door opening too. That was-
The sound of hoofsteps from the main floor pulled our attention away from anything else that still needed to be set up. Somepony from upstairs called, "Vinyl, you seen Pizzicato?"
Vinyl was just about to answer when I brushed her aside and headed up the stairs again. "Yeah, I'm here. What's-?"
Cirrus stood there just inside the door, her wings fully extended and her mane covered with droplets of sweat. She scoffed at me. "Why the buck are you out here? You practically gave us a heart attack."
Uh oh... that wasn't good. "Huh?"
"We're not some moving crew you can leave behind. Besides, your little fillyfriend was freaking out." She latched onto my foreleg and dragged me out the door. I managed to catch a glimpse of Vinyl waving goodbye before Cirrus finally let go at the street corner.
Another three blocks later, we reached a brick building lined with curtained windows. I followed her into the lavishly decorated lobby. Those couches over in the lounge looked really comfortable...
"Hey," Cirrus called from the elevator. "This way." I stepped into the elevator after her, and she hit the button for the fourth floor.
I leaned against the bar anchored into the wall as the door slowly slid closed. This thing just didn't seem as fast as it had back in the future. It lurched to a start, and I barely caught myself as I fell. The ride was a lot rougher than I remembered it being. It almost seemed like the entire cart would drop every few feet.
"Better get used to it, scruffball," Cirrus joked, bumping her flank into mine in a vain attempt to knock me over again." You're the one that's supposed to live here."
"Who are you calling scruffball, candyplot?"
I immediately regretted saying that- and for good reason. Cirrus shot me a dagger-filled glare and scoffed. "Really? And after I didn't kill you for leaving..."
The rest of the ride up had been surprisingly boring, especially when I considered all that had happened to me today. Or was it today? It had been night back in the future, but now it was late afternoon. I wasn't even tired! How did that work?
Oh holy sweet Celestia... What if I met myself? Maybe the real me had come back while Cirrus was out. Buck me up the plothole with Luna's forehooves. If that happened, I may rip a hole in the space time continuum and destroy Equestria as we know it.
Okay... that might be a bit much. But still, what if I did meet myself? I couldn't weasel my way out of that if I tried!
Cirrus pushed the door open and led me into one of the messiest rooms I'd ever seen. A tacky blue flowered couch had been pushed up against the wall, trapping a lamp and a picture behind it. Not to mention the layer of clear plastic that crinkled under our hooves with every step. Then I saw the mess that they called a kitchen.
Even with the magnificent wooden floor and oak cabinets, it almost looked like a magical tornado had gone through the room and thrown the dishes and cookware in random places without rhyme or reason. I pulled a frying pan out from under a stack of plates and grumbled something I'd rather not repeat, just in case any foals were listening.
Somepony in the hall across from the living room grunted painfully - a cry which was followed by a muffled crash. Somepony other than the twins asked, "You okay, Strato?"
Well, time to see what a mess they'd made of that room.
Sure enough, Cirrus was pulling on the at the far corner of the bed in mid-flight, whereas Octavia was pushing at the other end. Through all this, a sky blue pegasus stallion with a snow-white, windswept mane crouching between the two solid objects. Upon closer inspection, Strato was literally quivering, probably for fear of being crushed. I wouldn't blame him... nopony wants to be stuck between a bed and a wall.
I pushed against the heavy wooden frame with all my might, and eventually, it budged- but only a little bit. Meanwhile, Octavia threw herself into the bed frame in one of the greatest acts of strength I'd ever seen from a mare. She might have shifted it about four inches.
The fact that Octavia was there finally registered. In fact, I think a lightbulb - or maybe some sort of exclamation point for whatever reason - may have actually appeared over my head. "What are you doing here?"
Octavia gave one final push, and Strato slid himself out from his precarious prison. She turned to me and said, "Is there something wrong with me choosing to help you move in?"
Cirrus was laughing again. Oh Celestia I hated that laugh. It was one of those really annoying things that just got... well, for lack of better wording, really annoying after a few seconds no matter how many times you heard it.
"Will you just shut up already?" I asked, if a bit harshly.
Cirrus sighed and turned away from me, still flapping in place. "And to think I was ever your friend."
Whatever... she'd always come back to me whether she liked it or not. It'd happened so many times in the past that I'd grown used to it. Every day we'd fight about something strange, and later that night, we'd make up as if nothing had ever happened. I was probably lucky that Cirrus even chose to talk to me after some of the stuff I'd put her through.
Then there was her polar opposite of a twin brother. Strato was probably the worst friend a pony could ask for on his own, but as long as Cirrus was there to keep him in line, there wasn't a problem. Sure he could be a bit arrogant, and then there was his insatiable desire for a good mare almost every night, but that didn't matter.
Cirrus flew back out to the living room, closely followed by Strato on hoof. And now I was alone with Octavia. The way she stood there was just so attractive. Now that I got a second look, I could see how I'd been so enamored of her. There was just something about the way she smiled, the way her eyes lit up at the tiniest of things, her perfectly curved flank, the way she was staring at me with a confused look in her eye...
"What?" I asked, shoving the bed frame back against the white wall.
She smirked and replied, "Were you just looking at my flank?"
"No no no no..." I had to defuse this bomb before it got out of hoof. "Of course not. I just really love your, um... cutie mark."
You just failed so badly. Octavia's smirk turned into a playful grin. "Oh sure... So my cutie mark is so amazing that you keep staring at it?"
"You know I didn't mean it that way."
Both of us broke into an uncontrollable fit of giggles. Then Strato charged back into the room. "You guys coming or what?"
"Could we just have a moment here?" I begged. I'd rather stay here and do nothing but talk with Octavia than keep moving furniture. Honestly, we could do this any other day.
"If we get this done now, we can get to Vinyl's early," Strato tempted, dangling a metaphorical bag of oats in front of me. "You know you want to..."
I checked with Octavia, and she flashed me a weak smile and nodded in agreement.
You know, now that I got a second look, it almost seemed like Octavia was just being pulled along for the ride. Maybe she didn't want to go.
Once we made it to the hallway, I pulled her aside and looked straight into her eyes. "Were you going with us tonight?"
"I suppose I could," she mumbled, just barely speaking loud enough for me to hear her.
She actually didn't. That was certainly new- and it meant that I had left her alone to go to Vinyl's party. Wow... I had been so naive back then I almost couldn't believe it.
I steeled my will and asked again. "Were you planning on going with us?" Before she could reply I included one of the worst ideas I'd ever come up with. "If you don't want to, I could find something else to do."
She thought about it for a few seconds and answered, "You went to my after performance celebration that one time after I played in Canterlot. I could go if you want me to."
"Do you actually want to?"
"I suppose so."
That wasn't enough of an answer to base anything off of. "If you don't want to go, just tell me."
"I'll go, alright? It'll be a nice change of pace compared to some of the other things I've done."
Cirrus yelled from the other room. "Get your flanks in here, you two!"
For a split second, it almost seemed like Octavia wanted to move in closer to me... Hold on. The way her eyes nervously shifted around trying to avoid my own spoke whole volumes about how ignorant I'd been. She'd been begging to go farther than our hugging and quick hen-pecks for a while.
No! Keep track of what's already happened. As much as I wanted to kiss her sweet lips again, I had to keep myself restrained. There was no telling where anything would lead if I altered anything.
Before either of us could go out to assist the twins, I leaned in a kissed her cheek lightly. Nothing too serious, but still something. She sincerely smiled for the first time since I'd seen her again, and we both headed out into the living room, ready to take on even the heaviest of furniture, which was good considering the amount of stuff we still had to move.