• Published 9th Feb 2012
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HeartBeats and HeartStrings - DJ-PonRainbowFireJack



The story of the love and lives of Vinyl Scratch and Octavia

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Chapter Two

Chapter 2

A few weeks passed by. It was strange for Vinyl to experience the time whizzing by, and yet seeming to drag at the same time. In the weeks since she’d arrived in Manehatten the warm nights had cooled rapidly. Sleeping had begun to become difficult, so she’d started piling boxes on top of herself to keep warm. Winter was coming fast. Vinyl began to wonder if she would be warm enough to make it through the night. Then that pony came. That wonderful pony who, despite his outward appearance of class, seemed to harbor no ill will or disgust for ponies in her position. Just the opposite, in fact. She had been playing on a nicer street one day, desperate for an escape from the dirt and smell of the lower-end. Most of the ponies there were disgusted by her presence.

“There ought to be a law to get rid of scum like her,” one mare had said to friend.

But then he came strolling by, clearly out and about on a simple stroll. The tall, lean white unicorn with the stylish blue mane. He wore an elegant black suit and bow-tie that was so clearly fashionable that Vinyl expect a sneer. Instead, he looked at her searchingly through his monocle, his eyes concerned rather than disgusted.

“I say, my dear,” he said, his accent sounding like he was probably originally from Trottingham. It was too authentic to place his origin in Manehatten or Canterlot, though he probably lived in one of two now. “You seem to be rather young to be out on the streets like this.”

“I guess so,” Vinyl said, mildly taken aback that he was actually talking to her.

“Do you not have parents?”

“Not anymore.”

“And you’re living on the streets.”

“Yes.”

“I see. Well, it’s hardly within my authority to demand you to return home… But there must be something I can do. Nights tend to be quite chilly this time of the year… Ah, yes!” He took off his thick, woolen overcoat and tossed it to Vinyl. She caught it with a surprised expression on her face. “That should do the trick!”

“Umm… sir… you really don’t have to… ya know… give this… I mean… It looks really expensive.”

The fine-looking stallion laughed a little, his small moustache quivering. “My dear, money is not an issue for me, not at all! I could give away a hundred coats and still have enough money to buy myself a yacht. I suppose this is my way of giving back. Think of it as a gift.”

“Well… thanks… thanks a lot.”

“Don’t mention it, my dear, do not mention it!”

Her nights were more bearable after that. The coat wasn’t quite as pristine as it had been the day that stallion had given it to her, but despite the wear that had been brought to it by the streets it was still perhaps the warmest coat she’d ever owned in her life. It made sleeping on the streets easier, but by no means easy. The ground was hard and uncomfortable. She struggled to make enough money on the streets to eat. She was often hungry, tired, and more than a little dirty.

But she continued to play. Day after day she broke out her drum and played until nightfall. Usually she could manage at least a few bits a day. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to keep her from jumping on the nearest train and heading home. Whenever her will was weak she would find herself hanging around the train station, talking to Velvet Chapeau. He seemed to like her company, even if he never said so. She supposed it must get lonely running the ticket booth with no one to talk to. She learned that he had had a wife once, but she’d left him for another man. After that he’d fallen on hard times and had ended up meeting Golden Tooth. He didn't give detail about his experiences with Golden, but Vinyl got the distinct impression that he was definitely in debt to the reputable drug dealer.

Most days she spent on the same street she’d started out on. There were a lot of street musicians there. Some of them she talked to. Some of them seem to be incapable of coherent speech, but she talked to them anyways. Most of the musicians didn’t do a lot of talking back anyway. But there was one, a musician who called himself Strings, who seemed to have taken a shine to Vinyl on the first day they met.

“You call yourself Vinyl, eh?” he said, his sapphire blue eyes glistening.

“Yep. Like a record.”

“Aww, really? And here I was thinking that you were named after a piece of furniture.”

Vinyl tried to scowl at the caramel colored pegasus, but instead she found herself laughing. “You’re a piece of work, Strings.”

“I get a feeling you’re pretty much an entire pie of work, Vinyl,” he shot back.

Vinyl rolled her eyes, looking more like a thirteen year old girl than she had in weeks. “That was bad.”

“It’s my talent.”

“It must be… There’s no way that awesome guitar is your talent.”

“Of course not. Ponies would like to listen to my music if I were any good.”

“I like to listen to your music.”

Strings smiled. “Thanks, doll. You’re not too shabby yourself.”

Vinyl winced. “I’ve been getting worse… I haven’t eaten in a while. It hurts my playing.”

Strings sat up straighter. “Well, then, why don’t you come on back to the little flat I share with a couple of my buds today, sweetheart? We probably don’t have room to put you up for the night, but Titanium’ll be more than happy to put a little grubby in your tubby!”

Vinyl raised her eyebrows. “Yeah, sure, but if you ever say ‘grubby in your tubby’ again I’m breaking your guitar strings.”

So that evening she followed Strings back to his apartment. It wasn’t very nice, but at least he had a place to stay that was mostly protected from the weather, even if it wasn’t heated. It was dark and shabby, but they had a fairly soft couch and a fireplace that held a weak fire. To a pony who had been living on the streets for weeks it was heaven.

“Hey, Titanium, I brought home a friend today,” Strings said nonchalantly.

Titanium, a vibrant silver pony with stark white hair and pale blue eyes, stuck her head out of what must be the kitchen. “Oh, good!” she said warmly. “I do love new friends! What’s you’re name, sweetie.”

“It’s Vinyl… And don’t call me sweetie… please,” she added as an after thought.

Titanium let out a squeal of delight. “I like you.” Then she turned to Strings. “Storm and Sparkler aren’t going to be home tonight until later. They were being all cryptic… They’re probably out to get the candy again.”

“Sweet… I’ve been needing a fix,” String said from the couch, raising his hooves in victory.

Titanium rolled her eyes. “I can never decide if you don’t do it yourself because you’re lazy or because you’re scared of getting caught.”

Vinyl cocked her head in confusion. “Candy?”

Titanium shot Vinyl a piercing look. “Cocaine,” she clarified. “Did Strings not tell you that we indulge?”

Vinyl shrugged. “No… but it’s cool. I don’t care.”

“Sweet,” Strings said, bumming a cigarette. “Want a light?”

Vinyl gladly accepted. She’d been smoking for a year before leaving home, but she hadn’t been able to afford anything since leaving. It had been an aggravating couple of months. It was calming to be able to inhale the smoke deep into her lungs, warming some of the lingering coldness from the outside air.

Titanium came into the living room with a glass of wine and sat down on the couch. “Supper will be ready in an hour or so. So, Vinyl… What brings a little filly like yourself onto the Manehattan streets?

Vinyl hesitated. She never talked about her past with anypony. It wasn’t something she was comfortable with. It felt too personal and she was trying at all costs to avoid getting personal with anypony. “I ran away from home.”

“Any particular reason?”

“Bad family life… but what about you? What do you do?”

“I am a courtesan,” Titanium said with flourish, flipping her mane.

Strings snorted. “She’s a hooker,” he clarified. “A normal, plain ol’ street hooker.”

Titanium hit him. “There is nothing glamorous about the word ‘hooker’, Strings,” she snapped.

“And there’s something glamorous about being one?”

She sighed. “Well, no. Not really.” She looked at Vinyl. “Don’t become a prostitute if you can avoid it. It kind of sucks… a lot.”

“No pun intended,” Strings cut in, earning him another smack.

Vinyl decided quickly that she liked this pair. Though they were hardly orthodox, they had a fun-loving outlook on life in spite of their circumstances that Vinyl could appreciate. Before long she was laughing and making jokes with them, a hot bowl a stew in front of her face. It had been a long time since she’d been able to enjoy anypony’s company. She didn’t think she’d ever had so much fun eating with other ponies. She thought back to her days as a child with a pang. Family dinners had never been enjoyable. They had always been filled with yelling. Yelling and screaming and hateful words. Hateful words that she hoped she had escaped forever.

Suddenly the door burst open and admitted three more ponies, two pegasi and a unicorn. The first pegasus was violet in coloring, had a bright green and black mane that was styled like in a Mohawk. Her eyes were indigo and piercing. The second pegasus was the color of clouds all over. The unicorn was bright pink with a purple mane.

"Look who we found!" the pink unicorn said cheerfully.

"Oh my goodness! Violet!" Titanium gasped. "I didn't know you were going to be in town.

"Neither did I, but it turns out that we're deploying to the Griffon Lands in a few and they've sent everypony home to say 'goodbye' to their families and all that sappy shit. The Equestrian Army is sentimental. The griffons are going to kick our asses."

"So we're actually engaging in conflicted, eh?" Strings said.

Violet rolled her eyes. "I know, it never happens, right? But yeah. The griffons started causing some trouble at the borders so they're sending us in to sort it out. Nothing pressing but we've gotta nip it in the bud while we can." Violet heaved a heavy sigh then her eyes fell on Vinyl and they narrowed with suspicion. “Who’s this?”

“This is my friend, Vinyl,” Strings said in a relaxed voice. “Vinyl, that’s Violet Bolt. The gray pony is Storm Cloud. The pink one is Sparkler.”

“Hey,” Vinyl said. The other said nothing.

“She was really hungry, poor thing,” Titanium cooed, patting Vinyl on the head. Vinyl lurched away with a scowl. Finally Violet Bolt chuckled a little.

“Leave the girl alone, Titanium, teenagers don’t like that shit,” she said.

Strings looked at the other two ponies. "Did you get it?"

"Duh," Storm said, tossing a bag on the table.

Violet scowled. "You guys need to stop with this shit."

Sparkler rolled her eyes. "Get a grip, Vi, it's not gonna kill us."

"It might."

"Violet's been clean ever since she joined the army two years ago," Titanium explained to Vinyl. "She likes to bitch at the rest of us about it whenever she's around, but she never stops us from doing it and she never reports us."

"Your lives, your decisions. 'Sides, I don't want the lot of you arrested." Then she looked directly at Vinyl with a harsh expression on her face. “Speaking of... Kid, if you tell anypony about this blow I’m going to fuck your face up, understand.”

Vinyl smirked a little. “My lips are sealed. I can't judge you guys. I’ve never done drugs, but I’m not, like, squeaky clean.”

“Wait…” Strings cocked a head. “You’ve never done drugs?”

“She’s thirteen, Strings,” Titanium said crossly.

Strings waived a hand in dismissal. “We’ve gotta fix this shit. Give me the stash!”

Vinyl couldn’t believe what was happening, but she did nothing to stop it. Strings showed her how to make a line of coke and how to us a rolled up piece of paper to snort it. Part of her told her not to do it, but she ignored it. The rest of her company, minus Violet who was looking like she wanted to stop all this from happening, cheered when she finished, then they indulged in the white powder themselves.

The high was incredible. She felt invincible, indestructible. She felt like she could conquer the world on her own. It got late and Titanium left to go to work, but she wasn’t tired at all. She didn’t feel in the least bit hungry, though all she’d had to eat recently was the stew Titanium made. Soon she found herself moving about the place, straightening things, cleaning things. She had so much pent up energy that she felt like she needed to release. She could go on like this for hours. The others laughed at her, but she didn’t care. The feeling was too wonderful for her to care.

It was so wonderful that she had to feel it again, then again. She couldn’t stop. It kept her from being hungry when she had no food and it kept her from being tired when it was too cold to sleep. It kept her going. It gave her energy. Then she needed it. What little she was making on the streets with her money, and amount that did, at least, grow with the passing months, was going to giving her that feeling. But the feeling took more and more to achieve as time went by. Soon it was intertwined with jitteriness, jumpiness, and even a little bit of paranoia. But she couldn’t stop. She needed it to survive.

Octavia kept her head low as she walked through the halls, but nothing could block out the whispers. Piano Forte had been true to her word when she’d promised that she would make Octavia's life miserable, but Octavia could have never guessed how much it would affect her life. She hadn't thought it possible for her peers and teachers to look down on her anymore than they already did, but she had been wrong. The rumor that she was a lesbian shot through the school like a flaming arrow. Nopony confronted her about it to her face, but Octavia could see in the way the other students whispered and sneered that they had all heard. But that's not what hurt. She'd come to expect such behavior from the children at the school, but the teachers were treating her differently too. They rarely addressed her directly and, when they did, it was with such a scathing look of disapproval that Octavia had stopped offering any opinions or insights in class to avoid the moments when she'd have to face their disgust.

The only ponies that stuck with Octavia through all of this were Viola and Mocha Latte, but even they could offer little comfort. Octavia only ever saw Mocha on weekends and poor Viola was starting to suffer backlash from it as well. Piano Forte, furious that anypony dare be friends with Octavia, had started a rumor that Viola was Octavia's secret lover. As a result, she too kept her head down and her lips sealed, only offering a reassuring smile when the others were looking away. It wasn't fair, not to Octavia, but especially not to a pony as sweet as Viola. She'd done nothing to deserve this other than be Octavia's friend. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be anything anypony could do, so Octavia did the only thing she knew to do: played music.

She didn't pay much attention to what she played. It wasn't important to remember the notes. The important part was the comfort that was brought to her while she played. Her cello carried her off to some other land where Piano Forte and her rumor didn't exist. It was just her and the music. Sometimes Viola would play with her. When they didn't play, they would sit in silence and stare at the wall, hoping beyond hope that some miracle would happen to end this nonsense.

But miracles didn't grow on trees. After months of this carrying on she had learned not to expect miracles. She just hoped that eventually, somehow, it would go away. But Piano Forte did not seem inclined to let that happen. Every time, without fail, that it seemed that the rumor was finally going to fade into oblivion she would stage some situation that would make it all start up again. Octavia really began to believe that she was never going to catch a break.

"Have you ever wondered why Octavia never goes to any parties or anything like that? It's because she's embarrassed!" Piano Forte said over lunch one day.

"Why is she embarrassed to go to parties?" another pony asked.

Piano Forte rolled her eyes. "You know why! All she'd do is stand on the wall looking awkward all night, trying not to be attracted when the girls danced. It's not like she can dance with guys."

"So you think she really is a lesbian?"

"I know she's a lesbian," Piano continued. "Didn't I tell you about the time she tried to hit on me?"

Octavia gritted her teeth. So now the rumors were progressing from incomplete stories into flat out lies, were they? She wanted to stand up and deny it, but she didn't. It would be better for all involved if she just ignored it.

"Oh my Celestia, she hit on you?"

"Totally. She wasn't very good at it either. Don't worry. I told her I'm not into that sort of stuff."

Octavia let out a sigh of relief. She had been slightly afraid that Piano would decide to go into gruesome detail with her lie and paint Octavia out to be some sort of creepy lesbian rapist. Then again, who would believe that? Octavia couldn't imagine herself even asking out somepony, let alone having illicit relations with them. She shook her head and returned to her lunch. Let them talk. She would escape this eventually.

"They're telling lies now," Octavia mentioned to Mocha Latte that Saturday. She and Viola were sitting at the counter. Octavia had decided that, considering all the hell that Viola was going through and considering the fact that the sweet filly was still being nice to her, that she would treat Viola to a day away from the school at her favorite get away spot.

Mocha leaned on the counter and raised a single eyebrow. "They weren't already telling lies?"

"You know what I mean! Instead of telling half-truths to spread the rumor around, Piano's decided to take matters into her own hooves. Apparently I hit on her."

Mocha snorted. "That's a laugh."

"I told her that even if Octavia were a lesbian that she would have better tastes than to hit on her," Viola said quietly.

Octavia looked at her roommate in disbelief. "When did you tell her that?"

"In class when she was spouting off the story again to anypony who would listen. She's really awful. I don't know how a pony could end up so awful."

"Bad breeding," said Mocha Latte. "These rich families... They inbreed to keep the blood in the family and they turn out like that."

Viola frowned. "I'm from a rich family."

Mocha looked down awkwardly. "I mean... They're not all like that... but... dammit, Oct, you need to warn me when you're gonna bring richies in here."

Octavia giggled. "I'm sorry, Mocha. I should've mentioned it. Then again, you could try to be a little more friendly with all ponies."

"That was hella awkward," she said with a shudder. "I didn't mean to offend you," she added to Viola.

"I'm not offended. The upperclass can be extremely unbearable," Viola said with a smile.

"You're tellin' me? I have to deal with those snot-rockets all day, having a shop on this street corner. It's hell."

"Don't be over-dramatic, Mocha," Octavia said softly. "You love serving the snooty customers because you like to complain about them."

Mocha shot Octavia a dirty look, but didn't deny it. Both Octavia and Viola laughed, causing Mocha to look at them nastily again. It was good to be hanging out with ponies that didn't judge her every action. Friends were a good thing to have. They kept you sane in times of hardship. If she didn't have these two ponies she didn't know what she'd do. She wouldn't wish friendlessness on her worst enemy. Perhaps that was why it was such a key part of Equestrian culture and history. The country was founded upon the pillars of friendship: the Elements of Harmony. From the beginning of Equestria as they knew it the founders had built the country based on these principles. It was a good philosophy to live by.

But friendships didn't shield you from everything. Back at school she had nopony to protect her when things got ugly. She was tripped, teased, and harassed so much that it was all she could do to keep herself from packing up and leaving. She packed her bags several times over before changing her mind, deciding to stay, and unpacking everything all over again. She didn't ever cry. It wasn't worth it to cry. It was easier to get through the day if she hardened herself to the harassment and focused only on her studies. She stopped going to the meal hall to eat, preferring to snag something and dash off to her room or neglect to eat at all. She keep her head down in class, focused entirely on her work and on her playing, ignoring the stares and whispers.

Piano Forte didn't like that. She didn't like that her rumor didn't seem to be outwardly affecting Octavia anymore. Sure, she was skipping meals, but she seemed to have found a way to stop suffering and that was simply unacceptable. The game had to be stepped up a notch.

So it was. One day after class Piano Forte and two friends, a blue unicorn and a yellow pegasus, cornered Octavia down a deserted hall. Octavia looked around desperately, but there was no escape. They had her trapped.

"Hello, Octavia," Piano sneered. "We noticed recently that you seem to be lonely."

"No, actually, I'm fine," she said, trying to push away from them. Piano's minions pushed her back.

"Don't lie to us, Octavia," Piano said, her voice mockingly sweet. "We know you want a little company. A little reminder that we all still remember you."

"We remember her all right," the pegasus cackled, scooping Octavia up and hoisting her into the air, effectively preventing her from dodging what came next. The blue unicorn's horn glowed and sent out a zap of electricity. As it coursed painfully through Octavia's body her mind reeled with disbelief. The whispers and occasional pranks she could handle, but this? This was not only a physical assault, but a blatant misuse of unicorn magic. As far as she understood what they were doing was extremely illegal. But it didn't stop them. She was zapped again and again until she couldn't feel it anymore. Finally, when they'd exhausted their fun, they packed up and left her, breathing heavily on the floor. She had to tell somepony about this. She could deal with the little things that happened, but this was too much. She had to throw her fear of confrontation and retaliation aside and fix this. She struggled to her feet and began to limp down the hall.

"Octavia?" a kind voice asked from behind her. It was one of her professors, Professor Allegro. "What happened to you?" His voice was alarmed as he looked at her ragged state.

Octavia shuddered. "I was... I was attacked."

"By whom?"

She shook her head. "I don't know who the pegasus and unicorn were... But it was... nevermind, it's not important."

Professor Allegro put a hoof on her shoulder. "No, Octavia, it is important. It's extremely important that you feel safe at this school. If you don't tell me who did this to you it will only happen again."

Octavia breathed deeply. It hurt. "Piano Forte. It was Piano Forte."

Professor Allegro sighed. "This is the pony that started to rumor about you as well, is it not?"

"You know about that?"

"Everypony knows about that."

Octavia winced. "Yes, I suppose so," she mumbled.

"It'll go away, Octavia. It will get better. Rumors like these die down and they certainly don't affect your career."

"You don't believe the rumor?"

"It doesn't matter if it's true or not. Being homosexual doesn't affect talent or personality. You would still be the same talented Margaret Octavia Pie you were born regardless of your sexual orientation."

Octavia sighed. "Tell that to the rest of high society."

Professor Allegro sighed. "High society has always been notoriously behind the times. They'll catch up with the rest of Equestria eventually. But that doesn't matter. You just keep being you. Now come on. Let's get you to the nurse to make sure you're not hurt too badly."

As they walked Octavia thought about what Professor Allegro said. He was right, of course. Being gay didn't change who a pony was. It hadn't changed her little sister at all, except perhaps make the young filly a little happier. But she couldn't make high society see that. It was lucky that she wasn't actually a lesbian. The rumor may not hurt her career, but if she was actually that way... No matter how natural it was, no amount of talent would save her in the eyes of the upperclass. Not to mention her older sister. The older sister who had turned on their younger sister the moment the truth about her had come out. It wasn't fair and it wasn't right, but that's the way it was.

"Professor Allegro," she said after a long silence. "Do you really think I'm talented?"

He gave her an appraising look. "Octavia, you would not have been admitted to this school if you weren't talented. In fact, you're extremely talented, probably the most talented musician in this school."

"Nopony else thinks so," she muttered.

"Give them time, Octavia. Give them time."

"How much?"

"As much as it takes. I promise, you will go far. I'll break my back making sure you get all the exposure you need to succeed."

Octavia was surprised. She had never known that her teacher had so much faith in her as a musician. She thanked him, but her mind was already elsewhere. What if she did go far? Could she become world renowned? The thought of so many ponies knowing her name made her shudder a little, but it was also intriguing. What would it be like to be famous? What would it be like to be appreciated?

What would it be like to be loved?