• 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 Three

Chapter 3

Months passed. Things got easier, and they got harder. Strings had shown her all the best spots for street musicians. Thanks to him she now knew the ends and out of the artsy districts and the places where people were more sympathetic, not that there were many of those places. Even so, half the time Vinyl only had a vague idea of what was really going on. Her life was becoming so fueled by her need for that high that sometimes she couldn't think about anything else. When she had it, she was mostly fine, but she began to worry about being caught. She would worry about being sent to jail, then being sent home. She didn't want to think of the way her mother would laugh. She looked over her shoulder every where she went, half expecting to see someone standing there, ready to cart her away. She couldn't sleep at night either. She laid awake, with wide eyes, listening intently for the sound of approaching hooves.

One night hooves approached. Vinyl's heart nearly jumped out of her throat, but she managed to keep from screaming. The police were coming. They were going to take her away. She was going to have to come home. What if she looked like she'd been using? What if-

Her panicking was cut off by a shadow. It was a large shadow. It looked like a phantom, but the owner of it was far from it. Honestly, though, Vinyl wished he was, for there was no mistaking the identity of the owner of those giant, blood red hooves. Vinyl felt herself begin to shake uncontrollably. She wasn't sure if it was because of her fear, the drugs, or a combination of both, but she couldn't quelch her tremors.

"There a reason ya snivellin' 'round on my street?" Red Hooves snarled at her.

She had hoped never to come face to face with this pony. She hadn't heard anything from Red Hooves, Golden Tooth, or Ruby Brooch since that first night in Manehattan. She'd hoped she'd never run into any of them again, but there he was, his big, dark red face right in hers, a strand of his grizzly black mane falling into the meanest pair of jetblack eyes she'd ever seen. There was no soul in those eyes, only malice and hatred.

"I didn't know you claimed this street," Vinyl heard herself saying.

Red Hooves snarled. "Damn right it's my street, little filly, and you'd do well to fuckin' remember it."

Vinyl wiped her nose and smirked a little. Later she would realize that she had behaved extremely recklessly that night, but in that moment her adrenaline kicked in and the drugs began to make her feel invincible again. What could this pony do to her? "Well, let's see," she said, glancing up and down the street, "the street sign says this street is called 11th Avenue... Is you're name 11?"

That did the trick. Furious, Red Hooves grabbed her mane and yanked her into the alley. Before Vinyl even knew what was happening he had a knife to her throat. "Ya wanna talk back again, littly filly?" he spat in her face, his breath like a vile mix of alcohol and rotten food. "Ya think ya funny? Well, let's see how funny ya are without a voice box!"

"RED!"

Red Hooves swore and pulled away from Vinyl. Standing down at the end of the alleyway was a familiar female pony with a beautifully styled ruby red mane. Vinyl felt relief flood through her body. If there was one pony that could save her, it was this one.

"What in the name of Celestia are you doing, threatening a poor little child," Ruby Brooch scolded.

"Stay out of the way in ya like ya head, Rubes," Red Hooves snarled.

"Stop trying to scare me, darling, it's never going to work," Ruby cooed, patting Red Hooves on the head. Vinyl didn't know how Ruby managed to get away with behavior like that, but instead of getting angry, Red Hooves backed off.

"The kid cheeked me."

"Of course she cheeked you, she's a child, that's what they do. I was a cheeky child too. The cheeky one's make the best adults in our world, Red. You don't want to kill a filly that might turn into a powerful ally for you, do you?"

Red Hooves snorted, then turned back to Vinyl. "What's your name, kid?"

Vinyl hesitated, chancing a glance at Ruby. She gave the slightness nod as if to say, "Tell him."

"Vinyl."

"Vinyl? That's all? No last name? No dumb nickname?"

"No. Just Vinyl."

"Well, 'Just Vinyl'... ya certainly lucky Rubes here came along ta get ya off the hook. Don't ever cheek me again, got it? And if I ever come huntin' ya down ya'd be wise to do what I tell ya."

Then he was gone. Vinyl let out a sigh of relief. She was safe, at least for now. Of course, now it seemed that she, like Ruby, was going to become a double agent. She was on call for both Golden Tooth and Red Hooves. The two seemed to be at war with each other. It was a war that she didn't want any part of, but had managed her get herself tangled up in anyway.

"That was a close call," Ruby said. Then she turned to Vinyl with a wry smile. "Long time, no see, child. How long has it been."

"About a year."

"A year... I'm amazed it took that long for you to run into trouble with this crowd again, although," she narrowed her eyes as she peered into Vinyls, "looks like you found some other kind of trouble. You're eyes are redder than I remember."

Vinyl averted her eyes for just a moment, then replied. "I'm not in trouble. Just trying to get by."

"Understandable. It's a hard life on the streets. I imagine it makes it easier."

Vinyl nodded, but didn't reply. She didn't want to tell Ruby about the increasing paranoia and about the burning need for more. Not that that really had anything to do with the drugs she was taking. It was just a side product of living on the streets and having to deal with things like what she had been through tonight. Yeah, that was it.

Ruby sighed. “Golden Tooth is going to have to know about this. He’ll probably want to work out some sort of arrangement with you.”

“I’d rather work for him than for Red Hooves.”

“Trust me, honey, me too… Unfortunately my job description includes both.” Ruby shuddered.

“How did you manage to get in with him anyway? He, like, fuckin’ listens to anything you say.”

Ruby gave Vinyl a look as they walked down the street. “Look, my job description is simple. Do what I can to get insider information on Red Hooves so Golden Tooth can always be a step ahead. If that means getting involved in ways I rather wouldn’t, that’s what I do.”

Vinyl blanched. “So… you’re involved romantically with Red Hooves?”

Ruby Brooch laughed. “Oh, heavens, no… Red Hooves doesn’t have enough heart to be involved romantically with anypony. It’s just sexually.”

“And that’s enough?”

“It is when the man you’re dealing with has a moral and intellectual development about a thousand years behind schedule.”

Vinyl frowned. “So you screw around with Red Hooves to get in on his good side so you can get information for Golden Tooth?”

“That’s about it… And I keep Red from hurting smart asses like you, but that’s just me. That’s not what Golden pays me for.”

“That sounds like a terrible life.”

“It is.”

“Why do you do it?”

Ruby sighed. “It’s complicated. You see, I hate having to live like this. It's hell, and quite honestly I'd rather be snuggled up in one of those fancy houses in a silk robe in front a fireplace with a young beau feeding me grapes, but that's not gonna happen. I have a lot of respect for Golden Tooth and I owe him a lot. He saved me from life as a dirty street prostitute and he gives me luxurious things and protection. The least I can do is help him keep control over his territory."

"Yeah, I guess that's true. That's not the real reason though."

Ruby glanced at Vinyl. "What is the real reason, then?"

"You're in love with Golden Tooth."

Ruby Brooch stopped dead in her tracks. "What makes you think that?"

"I can see it in your face when you talk about him. Not gonna lie, hon, it's pretty obvious."

Ruby scowled. "Red Hooves is right. You are cheeky."

"I never said I wasn't."

Ruby glared, then started walking again, leading Vinyl down the dank underground paths that the time before she had been blindfolded in. Either Ruby was too preoccupied to remember to blindfold her or trusted her enough to allow her to know the path to Golden Tooth's lair. It wouldn't have mattered either way. The route was so confusing there was no way she was going to be able to remember it anyway. It wasn't until they were in front of the big oak door to Golden Tooth's office that Vinyl started to recognize the smell and the feel of the air. Ruby Brooch opened that door to reveal the large, gem-encrusted room with the desk in the center. "Golden Tooth, our little friend is back."

"Ahh," he said in surprise. "Miss Vinyl. Long time no see."

"I've been staying out of trouble," she said with a shrug.

"Until tonight," Ruby clarified. "Girl decided to mouth off to Red Hooves."

Golden Tooth raised his eyebrows, then with a slight smile on his face he asked, "How is it that you are still alive?"

"Ruby," Vinyl replied, jerking her head at the striking woman.

"Problem is," Ruby continued, "he knows about her now, Golden. He knows her name and he thinks that she might be of use to him. It's the only way I could save her life and you know I can't just let him kill innocent ponies."

"I wouldn't want you to," Golden Tooth said softly. "These are simply the consequences we must face when we work in this business. But," he looked at Vinyl, "I am sorry that you got dragged into this. That is unfortunate."

Vinyl shrugged. "I'll be okay. I can manage myself."

Golden Tooth shook his head. "Your confidence is good, but you must not be so certain that you can defend yourself against Red Hooves. It takes a certain amount of cunning to double cross a man who is convinced all of his loyal followers are double crossers. I am going to try to keep him as far away from you as possible, but if the time comes when he finds you I fear that I will not be able to protect you. You will be on your own."

"Like I said... I'll manage," she said, though she wasn't as confident now. This city was getting more dangerous day by day. It was like she had walked into a horror drama, but this was very real and there was no turning back now.

Once Vinyl had left Golden Tooth pondered her situation. For some reason he couldn't quite pinpoint he was interested in her well being. It was odd, as he hadn't been interested in the well being of a random street girl since he had pulled Ruby Brooch off of the streets in her teen years. He'd been young and foolish back then and he thought he'd rid himself of such gentle tendencies, but apparently not. He would like to be able to ignore it and go about his business as usual, but he couldn't. It seemed he was still as tenderhearted and silly as he'd been in his youth. That was an awful quality for a notorious drug dealer and underworld leader to have, but he could hardly change who he was. He would just have to contend with it.

"What are you thinking, Golden?" Ruby asked when she'd returned from escorting Vinyl away from his territory.

"That girl... I am concerned about her."

Ruby smiled. "I figured. You've always had a soft spot for young girls in trouble."

"I need to fix that."

"I don't think so, but I may have a self-serving bias."

Golden Tooth laughed quietly. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Maybe. She's using."

"I noticed the signs. Shame. Although I make my fortune in that trade, I wouldn't wish the side-effects on a girl as young as she... But... I could... yes... that could work." He looked at Ruby with a wry smile on his face. "Ruby, talk to my people, make sure she starts buying from them. I want regular updates."

Ruby nodded and left once more. Golden Tooth let out a sigh of remorse and rubbed his temples. What a strange conundrum he was now having. Under his current plan the more she used the more he would know if she was alive. Unfortunately, the more she used the more she damaged herself. He'd never been in a more tiresome situation, but he had to believe it would work out. It was the only way he could keep his focus.

Life was better for Octavia now, at least a little. Though she still had few friends, the rumor and the torment had finally died down to a tolerable level. Since the day Piano Forte had attacked her and Professor Allegro had discovered the crime it had been better. Octavia had been a little afraid at first that it would get worse. Bullies often angered then they thought they were tattled on. But it had gotten better, mostly because the offenders were no longer a threat to her. Piano Forte and her minions had been suspended and placed on probation. Even when she returned to school Piano didn't dare try to do anything to Octavia. If she did she would be expelled which would undoubtedly shame her family into hiding. Without Piano Forte leading the charge it became much easier for Octavia to ignore any comments, as they were always halfhearted without the ring leader to keep them going.

Not that Octavia was complete free of harassment. Piano still shot nasty comments at her under her breath and ponies still whispered, but it was nothing she couldn't handle, especially now that she had a teacher that she knew had her back. Since the incident, Professor Allegro had put extra effort into helping her and coaching her to become the best musician she could be. Whisperers said he did it out of pity, but Octavia knew better because he had told her otherwise.

"I don't want you to listen to anything anypony says about why I'm taking you under my wing, Octavia," he told her sternly after one session.

"You mean you're not doing this out of pity?"

"Not in the least. The incident from before... I made me realize how much you're actually struggling, not with music, but with the others. I had never realized that you felt like your teachers didn't believe in you. I want you to know that we do, at least I do. You are the most naturally talented and skilled pony I've ever had the great fortune to teach."

Octavia smiled, feeling truly proud of herself for the first time since she'd entered the school "I doubt that, sir, but thank you. I appreciate the compliment."

So things got better. She didn't feel so behind anymore and she felt like she was getting the education she'd signed up for. Finally things in her life seemed to be going right. It was a great relief to be headed in the right direction. She hadn't been cut any breaks in a long time, it was almost as if she was due one and life provided. Soon she found herself actually smiling again for the first time in a long time. Octavia was able to spend time with Viola again without fear of a horrible backlash. It seemed that everypony had been right. The rumor was finally fading and she could get back to a normal routine.

Unfortunately, it still nagged in the back of her head. Though nopony said anything to her face again, they still whispered. She could deal with the whispers during the day. She could laugh them off and have friendly conversations and focus on her work and on her music. At night, however, while everypony slept, she thought about it. For some reason she couldn't get the idea of what life would be like for her if she actually did like girls out of her head. She would be ostracized from high society and probably never invited to play at any venues or gatherings worth playing at. She would ultimately fail as a classical musician and all of her hard work would go to waste. Then there was her family. Her family, while it didn't have high society origins, was just as closed minded and sheltered. She had grown up on the rock farm that had had little laughter. Her parents were extremely old fashioned and her older sister... She didn't really want to think about what her older sister's reaction would be. Ever since her little sister had come out of the closet to the family, the eldest Pie daughter had been stubbornly refusing to speak to her. She insisted that it was impure and that she wouldn't accept her little sister back into the family until she repented. Octavia didn't want to be in the same position. It would be uncomfortable for everypony.

So it's a good thing I'm not, she thought to herself. Otherwise all of this could actually mean something. She felt a pang somewhere in the bottom of her stomach, but she ignored it. She couldn't afford to examine it.

Though she didn't know it herself, Vinyl was in a terrible state. Her body trembled as if she were shivering, but she wasn't really cold. She was often short on breath and her surges of energy had given way to restlessness. She couldn't sleep anymore. Somepony was watching her, she knew they were. Ever since her encounter with Red Hooves she had been certain that he was always lurking around the corner. She began to hear voices and whispers everywhere she went, particularly at night when darkness set in. Most noticeably, though, was the need. She needed her fix more than she needed to sleep, drink, or eat. Over time she began needing more and more to feel satisfied. She struggled to find enough money to pay for her need and as a result she lost weight rapidly. Not that it mattered. She was never hungry anyway.

It was with a certain amount of reluctance that she allowed Strings and Titanium take her out for her fifteenth birthday. She hadn't meant to tell them that it was her birthday at all, but it had slipped out one day and they would take no for an answer. So they snuck her into a club, which Vinyl did notice with a certain level of appreciation had female dancers up on the stage. She hadn't even told them that she liked mares. She suspected that this something that Strings had wanted. They piled into a round booth along with Storm and Sparkler and ordered drinks all around. Nopony questioned Vinyl's presence, though she was clearly too young to even be in the club, but Vinyl didn't really notice that. Instead she allowed herself to sink into the monotony of the thudding bass, watching the girls dance. The music... it was mind numbing. Vinyl wrinkled her nose a little and glanced up at the DJ. There was so much he could do, not to mention better songs he could play. Vinyl shook her head and returned her attention to the the dancers. No point judging him, even if she did know for an abosolute fact that she could do better.

"Yo, V," Strings said to get her attention. "In honor of your birthday we've all decided to band together to help you out a little. We've noticed how much you've been struggling to afford it, so we bought you this. Don't open it all the way here, though."

He passed her a tiny paper bag on which somepony, probably Titanium, had written "Happy Birthday, Vinyl!" and decorated with little balloons. Vinyl peeked inside to see that they had banded together to supply her with coke that she wouldn't have been able to afford herself. "You guys are awesome," she told them, and she meant it too. Sure, it might be a little unorthodox to give drugs as a birthday present, but she couldn't think of a better gift.

"We're glad you like it," Titanium told her. "I have to admit, I wondered if it was smart, considering how young you are, but we just wanted you to be happy."

"Happy birthday, kiddo," Strings said, taking off his own green fedora and placing it on her head. "Keep the hat. Now, come on," he said with a grin. "Let's sneak into the corner of this joint and share that candy."

Vinyl snatched it up and held it to her chest, glowering at Strings like he'd just threatened to steal her firstborn. "Don't you dare touch this... It's mine... I need it! You keep your grimy hooves off of it!"

Strings backed off, looking a little unnerved. "Alright, alright... geez... touchy."

Vinyl exhaled. "Sorry... I didn't mean to... Sorry."

Titanium looked at Vinyl with concern. "Honey, are you alright? You seem a little off... I don't like seeing you like this... You're like a daughter to me."

Vinyl froze. "What did you say?"

"I said, you're like a daughter to me."

A loud buzzing filled Vinyl's ears. No... No, this couldn't be... daughter... she couldn't be a daughter... she couldn't have a mother. Memories started flooding back... The rain flecking her face, wondering what she did to make her mother throw her out on the porch... the yelling... the screaming... the accusations and threats.... Mother... Daughter...

Suddenly she jumped to her feet, clutching her paper bag tightly. "I have to go," she said robotically.

The others said things as she departed, but she didn't hear them. This had been a mistake. They had been a mistake. She couldn't afford to be close to anypony. Family couldn't be trusted. Nopony could be trusted, hadn't she decided that on the train to this awful city? She'd allowed herself to get way too close to Titanium and Strings and she'd almost compromised her own self-reliance. She wouldn't let that happen again. She couldn't get close to anypony, not really anyway. No friends, only convenient acquaintances. That was the promise she made for herself.

Overtaken by her thoughts and emotions, she stole of into and alley and desperately broke into her bag. She poured a large amount out onto a box and used a nearby piece of litter to make it into a line and snort it. It didn't help. She sat on the ground and rocked back and forth outside of the club, shaking.

"You okay?" a high voice said.

Vinyl looked up. It was one of the girls from the club. She was bundled up in a large coat and wore a worried expression. Her eyes were wide and blue, like sapphires in her face. She too held a paper bag.

"I- I'm fine... This shit doesn't work," she said, her voice shaking.

The girl smiled sympathetically. "That happens after a while." She held up her own bag. "You can try this dope if you like. It'll make you happy. I don't usually share, but you look like you need it." She pulled a hypodermic needle out of her bag.

Vinyl was too far gone to realize what a terrible decision it was. She was too lost in her need for a high to realize that she, as she injected the drug into her veins with this dancer, she was quite possibly signing her own death certificate. All she knew was that it did help. She felt a rush euphoria that made everything that had happened seem irrelevant. She looked into the dancer's pretty eyes and smiled. "Thanks."

"Don't mention it," she replied breathlessly. They were very close.

Slowly Vinyl moved in and kissed the girl. She didn't know why she did it, even later. A rush went through her body as she held the girl close to her. The comfort of another pony without the personal connection. That was good. That was acceptable. She backed the girl into the side of the building. Sparks flew as they joined together. Then it was over and Vinyl felt nothing. No love, no friendship. Just a desire fulfilled and the euphoria from the drugs. She turned to leave.

"Wait!" the dancer called. Vinyl turned. "Will I see you again?"

She smirked, then continued to walk away. "Don't count on it, doll-face."

Octavia couldn't believe how time at passed. She was about to graduate from the Conservatory. It was incredible. Ever since she'd managed to put the torment behind her and throw herself fully and entirely into her studies time had flown. Now she was in her final year, preparing her graduation piece that she would perform in front of the entire Academy, the parents of the graduates, and many members of prestigious music groups. Some of them may even be looking for new members for their groups. It was quite possibly the most nerve wracking experience of her life, but she tried to put that fear aside as she composed the piece under the guidance of Professor Allegro.

The day before the night of her performance, however, her teacher dropped a bombshell that brought all of Octavia's anxieties to life. "Octavia, I suppose it's only fair to warn you... I have invited the two remaining members from the Equestrian National String Quartet to listen to you play. They are in need of cellist and I have reccomended you as a wonderful choice."

Octavia was so alarmed that she was actually careless enough to drop her cello on the ground. "Y-you invited the EQUESTRIAN NATIONAL STRING QUARTET?"

"It's nothing to worry about, Octavia. They are just coming to hear you play."

"NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT! They are undeniably the most accomplished and prestigious string quartet in ALL OF EQUESTRIA! What if I mess up? What if I play a note wrong?"

"Don't worry, Octavia. You've been working on this piece all year. You will not mess it up if you don't allow your nerves to get the better of you. Just calm down and I am sure you'll be fine."

If only Octavia could have that much confidence in herself. The night of the concert she sat and waited for her performance time with clammy hooves. There were so many ponies out there and right in the front row were the first and second violinists of the Equestrian National String Quartet. She could see their faces, stoic and unchanging as each of her class mates played. They never looked impressed or disgusted. Octavia had no way of gauging their opinions. Her heart began to race.

"Calm down, Octavia," Viola whispered to her, clutching her viola in hoof. "You'll be fine! You've been working on this piece all year and it's amazing!"

"How can I calm down? The two remaining members of the Equestrian National String Quartet were invited here to hear me play! They're here for me!"

"That's a good thing, Octavia," Viola said with a quiet laugh. "I wish I could be good enough to attract the attention of the Equestrian National String Quartet!"

"What if I'm not good enough? WHAT IF I MESS UP!" she shout-whispered in reply.

"You'll be fine. I have to go play now... best of luck to you Octavia."

Even through her panic, Octavia noticed that Viola's piece was exquisite. She didn't know who Viola thought she was kidding. She was perfectly good enough to attract the attention of any string quartet she wanted to get into. Octavia wasn't so sure about herself. Everypony kept telling her that she was talented, but what if they were just humoring her? She kept going over all the things in her head that would have made her piece better... She couldn't perform tonight. She just couldn't.

She had to. Her name was announced to the entire auditorium full of ponies. Clutching her instrument tightly she walked shaky-legged out onto the stage. The audience sat in silence waiting for her to play, but Octavia couldn't see them through the blinding stage lights. That was a plus. Trying to keep her hooves from shaking she played her first note.

The moment she slid her bow across the strings of her cello all of her anxiety vanished. It was just her and the music. She didn't think about the ponies in the crowd, she didn't think about the fact that she was trying to impress Equestria's greatest strings group. She simply played the music she had composed from her heart. She played as she had practiced all year, but with more gusto and more perfection that she had ever played in her life.

When her last note shimmered to the ceiling a odd hush was over the crowd. Then slowly, as if waking from a trance brought on by her music, the began to erupt in the loudest cheers she had ever heard in her life. These ponies... These high class, high society ponies... cheering loudly and uninhibitedly for her. Octavia swelled with pride as she took her bow. She glanced over at Viola, who mouthed "I told you so," then over at Professor Allegro who was smiling in pride. But she couldn't look at the talented musicians who had been invited to hear her play. She couldn't.

After the concert was over Viola ran up to Octavia and threw herself on her in a hug. "I TOLD YOU YOU WOULD BE AMAZING!"

"Oh my! Please get off of me, you're making a scene," Octavia said in embarrassment.

"I'm sorry," Viola said, wiping a happy tear away from her eye. "But you were just so incredible. That piece was perhaps the most moving piece I have ever heard in my life."

"Well, thank you very much, Viola. Your piece was astounding as well."

"Thanks... but it wasn't as good as yours."

"Oh, but it was!"

"Good job, Oct. I'm proud of you," Mocha Latte said from behind her.

"You did come!" Octavia said in surprise. "I thought you only went to underground concerts nopony's ever heard of!"

Mocha laughed, apparently too happy for Octavia and Viola to scowl at the comment. "Course I came. Couldn't miss listening to you play your original piece."

"Excuse me, young ladies," a handsome sounding voice said.

Octavia turned and felt her jaw drop in a very undignified manner. Standing in front of her were the very ponies she had been so sure she would fumble and fall in front on when she performed. She almost thought she was dreaming, but there they were in the flesh and blood. The first and second violinists of the Equestrian National String Quartet.

"May we speak to the pair of you in private?"

"O-of course," Octavia stammered.

"Wait... me too?" Viola said, stunned.

"Yes, the pair of you."

"I'll wait," Mocha said, clearly understanding the gravity of this moment.

The two famous musicians led the younger musicians into a more private area of the lobby. "Young ladies, I am Accellerando, the first violinist of the Equestrian National String Quartet," the dignified gray stallion said, looking directly at the girls with his piercing yellow eyes. "My partner is Bruscamente, the second violinist." The sky blue pony nodded her head and flipped her icy blue mane, but said nothing.

"Y-yes... I am aware."

"We couldn't help but notice tonight that the pair of you truly stand above your fellow classmates. We would like to ask you to join as our new violist and cellist."

Octavia was speechless. She couldn't believe it. It was happening. The day she had dreamed about since her cutie mark had appeared on her flank had finally come. She was being invited to join the most critically acclaimed string quartet in the entire country, just out of music school. She must be dreaming. But no... it seemed too real.

"You're inviting me to join?" Viola squealed.

"Yes," Bruscamente said in a rather superior tone. "We found the pair of you to both be stand out performers. Now do you accept or don't you?"

"Yes!" Viola squealed, clearly fighting not to do a victory dance.

"And you, young Octavia?" Accellerando said, looking deep into her eyes. Octavia felt her knees go a little weak.

"I... umm... yes! Yes I do!" Octavia managed.

"Then if you will kindly follow us... There are formalities that must be taken care of unfortunately."

As Octavia and Viola followed their new quartet members out of the auditorium Octavia made eye contact with Piano Forte. Piano, who was graduating with no invitations to join groups of any sort and without honors, was watching Octavia walk out of the building as a member of the Equestrian National String Quartet with a look of horrified disbelief. Octavia couldn't help herself. In a moment of uncharacteristic childishness she briefly stuck her tongue out at her old enemy and shot her a superior smirk. Who's the talentless one now, Piano? Who's the talentless one now?