• Published 15th Aug 2015
  • 1,163 Views, 27 Comments

Romance in Adagio - Desideratium



Octavia. The musical artisan with a preference for quietude. A solitary figure, shrouded in enigma.

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Act 3: Perdendosi

You’re numb. You didn’t know what you were expecting, but whatever it was couldn’t have been further from the truth. Her father . . . had killed her mother and brother. In front of her.

The pieces begin falling into place. She avoids talking about her past. She lives with her grandparents. She doesn’t let anyone in, because she’s seen what happens when she does. And she’s stayed quiet, stayed strong, this whole time.

Tears begin falling from your eyes. You choke back a sob, but it’s futile. You put your head in your hands, shaking. The unfairness of it all tears you apart.

You allow yourself the tears, but when you hear the sound of an engine approaching, you immediately begin to take deep, steadying breaths. By the time Vinyl’s footsteps approach, you’re completely collected.

“Hey, uh, where’s Octavia?” You look up. Vinyl has a large bag of marshmallows dangling from her grip. “Did something happen?”

You sigh, and it shudders a bit. “I messed up, Vinyl.”

“What?”

“I messed up.”

Vinyl sits next to you. “What happened?”

“She told me, about her dad.”

“Oh, hell.”

“How can you keep that kind of secret for her? How has it not killed you?”

Vinyl is somber. “I try not to think about it. I try to pretend she’s still the same friend I had before it happened.”

You gaze into the fire. The flames had diminished slightly, but you have no will to stoke it. “She’s not going to forgive me for that.”

“How bad was it?”

“I dunno. Bad.”

“I don’t know what to tell you. You want my honest opinion?”

“What do you think?”

“I think you’re gonna have to try really hard to make that up to her. She didn’t talk to me for three months when I found out.”

“How did you find out?”

“She wasn’t at school for half the year, so I eventually tracked her down. Her grandma told me everything. That woman is the sweetest little thing you’ve ever seen, so at least I knew that Octavia was in good hands. Still . . .” Vinyl rubs her neck. “Terrible thing.”

You curse softly under your breath.

“I don’t suppose you’re in the mood to roast marshmallows,” Vinyl says. She tears the bag open with her teeth.

“Not really, no.”

“Well I’m gonna. Want to talk?”

“No. Sorry, but I need a minute.”

Vinyl nods. She impales a marshmallow on a metal rod and thrusts it into the fire. The flames lick hungrily at its white softness. Within seconds, the marshmallow ignites. Vinyl withdraws it, blows out the fire, then gingerly extricates the blackened husk from the stick. She pops it into her mouth without hesitation.

Her casual attitude annoys you, but you can hardly blame her. You had somehow expected her to feel as shaken as you are, but of course Vinyl has known all along what Octavia’s story was; she’s learned to cope long ago.

“Do you know the details? She didn’t tell me much.”

Vinyl frowns at you. “Don’t do this to yourself.”

You don’t respond. The fire has sunk low, leaving only telltale flames here and there. A hot bed of glowing embers coats the bottom of the pit, a mesmerizing, swirling desert of orange and grey. Up at the cabin, one of the bedroom’s lights go out. Octavia has gone to bed.

“I’m sorry, Vinyl.”

“Hrm?”

“That we had to end the trip like this. I shouldn’t have ever asked.”

Vinyl sighs and shrugs. “You had to find out sometime. Here’s as good a place as any to do it, I guess. No worries, I’m still having a good time. Hey, come on,” she says, seeing your downcast face. “Cheer up. Everything’s gonna be fine.”

You don’t believe it for a second. No amount of reassurance can disprove that something had snapped tonight. You’re determined not to see Octavia any differently now, but honestly, how can you not? This changes everything about your relationship. Vinyl seems to read your mind.

“You’re overthinking it. This’ll blow over and you’ll be friends again.”

She’s probably right. It may take a little while, but with the right coaxing, you should be right back where you left off. But not yet. You’re not ready to work through this; you don’t know how.

“I’m going to bed,” you announce. You stand and turn away from Vinyl. “Would you keep an eye on the fire?”

You don’t see Vinyl’s expression, but her tone, her hesitation, paints the picture for you. “ . . . Yeah. No problem. ‘Night.” Her tone isn’t angry, or sad. Just . . . disappointed. That’s the final straw for you. Through all of this, Vinyl had stayed constant, being the driving force pushing you and Octavia together. Unwavering, uncomplaining . . . you had never once stopped to think about the toll Octavia must be taking on her best friend.

Octavia’s room is silent. You’re not sure what you would have heard -- soft crying maybe -- but there are no signs that she’s awake. You lie down on the couch and fold your arms across your chest, staring at the darkness above you. The faint, flickering glow of the fire tosses an orange splash across the ceiling, then is suddenly extinguished. Seconds later, the door creaks open, then shuts immediately. Vinyl doesn’t speak to you; she pads across the floor and disappears into her room. Light spills out from under the closed door for a moment, then she turns the lights out.

You don’t sleep well.


The drive home is uncomfortable.

Octavia takes the back seat and stays silent the entire drive, even through Vinyl’s vociferous music selection. You don’t dare look back at her, so you’re not sure if she stays awake for the duration, or naps. Yourself, you’re exhausted but can’t bring yourself to sleep. You and Vinyl periodically take turns driving.

This drive feels much longer. Being trapped in your own mind hardly helps -- your consciousness is a disastrous mess of anxiety and worry. You want so badly to help Octavia, but the prospect of working around such an elephant in the room scares you. How do you return to normalcy? Will Octavia even let you try?

Arriving back at your home comes at a surprise. You’re dropped back into reality by Vinyl hitting the breaks and cutting the engine. “Here we are,” she announces unnecessarily.

“Thanks Vinyl, Octavia,” you half look over your shoulder but don’t meet Octavia’s eye. “That was a blast.”

“Need a hand with your bags?” Vinyl offers.

“Nah, I can manage. Thanks.”

You assemble your bags in a small pile outside the car, then wave to Vinyl. Octavia is looking at her lap. Vinyl waves back, then kicks the engine back on. She reverses out the driveway at breakneck speed and thunders off. You palm your house key and sling a bag over your shoulder. You’re home.

You don’t unpack just yet. You toss your bags on your bed haphazardly and sink into your desk chair. Mindlessly, you boot up your computer and flip through all the unread notifications that had piled up while you were gone. Nothing too exciting, except . . .

An email catches your eye. The name of the sender is familiar, but only vaguely. You open it hesitantly. You notice the Canterlot school insignia in the top left corner, and remember where you had seen that name before -- the school’s music teacher.

It’s an invitation. An invitation to join the Canterlot Chamber Orchestra as a pianist. Evidently, Octavia must have put in a good word for you with the man in charge. You smile absently as you scan the information. Come early to school Monday . . . clear a space in your schedule . . . Best wishes, blah blah blah.

The prospect excites you. The last time you had earnestly played the piano was for recitals when you were twelve. Six years later, it’ll be nice to play with purpose again. And . . . you frown momentarily, struck with sudden concern. To be with Octavia.


You join the orchestra without a hitch. The conductor, a portly little man with a toupee, instantly admits you after a brief audition. The students in the orchestra are just as responsive -- the class has a very tight-knit feel to it, so you’re welcomed with open arms. The music is challenging, but nothing you can’t handle. You’ve joined, however, at an inopportune time -- the Hearth’s Warming Eve performance is fast approaching -- but catching up is no trouble.

Unfortunately, the cellos are placed far from your piano, so Octavia’s music is drowned in the collective ensemble of the orchestra. Octavia herself rarely looks your way, treating you with the same frostiness that you had received on the drive home. You barely notice, however. During your down time, you talk -- or rather listen -- to a bubbly, purple-haired violinist named Symphony, who is over-the-moon excited to welcome you to the orchestra, and a more conservative boy named Royal Riff, who is polite to a fault.

“ . . . So next week we’ll start practicing with the choir for the finale,” Symphony spouts, forging wildly ahead on her exhaustive explanation of the upcoming performance. “So the room’s gonna get a little crowded, ‘cause there’s like, forty extra people in here. But it’ll be fun! The choir’s full of great people. Like Sunset Shimmer, I’m sure you’ll like her . . .”

You inadvertently tune out from what Symphony is saying. You appreciate the distraction she provides, you really do, but trying to stay attentive is even harder than when talking to Vinyl Scratch. You keep your gaze affixed on her face, nodding every now and then to keep up the interested look, but allow your thoughts to wander.

“Do you have plans for lunch?” Royal Riff interjects.

Startled, you come back down to earth. Both violinists are looking at you expectantly.

“Um, kind of. Did you have something in mind?”

Royal Riff shrugs. “Nothing worth distracting yourself over. No matter.”

This brings up a whole new issue that you hadn’t considered. Lunch in the tea room. What’ll that be like? With Octavia being so frosty, you don’t know how she’ll react to sharing a meal with you. You’re tempted to take Royal Riff up on his offer, though you don’t even know what it is, but you’ve made a promise to Vinyl. You need to try.

The conductor retakes his podium and silence falls as he raises the baton. Symphony and Royal Riff turn forward, bringing their instruments to their necks. Your fingers alight on the keyboard, ready for the cue.

The baton falls, and you begin to play.

A few hours later, you pull open the door to the tea room, only to find it devoid of either of your friends, which piques your curiosity. Normally, either Vinyl or Octavia beats you here and has started on tea. Today, no one. You don’t bother turning on the lights; the sunlight from outside illuminates the room well enough.

You don’t often prepare the tea, but you’ve watched Octavia enough to understand the process fairly well. As you begin, you hear the door open behind you and you glance over your shoulder. Vinyl slips into the room.

“Hiya,” she says, falling onto the couch. “No Octavia?”

“Dunno,” you reply. “I saw her this morning, but not since.”

Vinyl remains quiet as you finish brewing. Octavia still does not show up. You get out three teacups, just in case, but you aren’t optimistic. Even after giving the tea a few more minutes to seep, Octavia remains conspicuously absent. Vinyl has taken a seat at the table, her feet propped on Octavia’s chair. You place a steaming cup in front of her then take your own seat.

“Don’t suppose you’re in the mood for a game of chess?” Vinyl says halfheartedly.

“Not really, no. Sorry.”

“Me neither.”

You had forgotten your lunch today, so you and Vinyl sit in silence, occasionally sipping.

“Do you have Octavia’s address?” you ask abruptly.

Vinyl raises an eyebrow. “Yeah?” she says, prompting you to explain further.

“I thought I’d go visit after school. Just to check up on her.”

Vinyl looks at you with mild concern. “You sure about that?”

“No,” you reply honestly. “But I figured it’d be worth a shot.”

Vinyl sighs heavily, downs the rest of her tea, then gives you the address. “Need me to write it down?”

“No, I can remember it. Thanks.”

“Just . . . be careful.”

The words “be careful” sound strange coming from Vinyl Scratch, but you heed them nonetheless. “Thanks.”


Octavia lives in a rather nondescript house. More nicely presented then most, with a fresh coat of paint and vibrant green lawn, but it doesn’t stand out from the rest of the homes on the street. Its demeanor is much like Octavia’s herself. A car is parked in the driveway, a lavish black convertible that you’re certain isn’t Octavia’s.

You make your way up the flagstone path to the front door, a heavy wooden slab adorned with a thick pine wreath. A shiny brass knocker stares you in the face, but you knock on the wood instead. A dull thud reverberates, but you’re not sure if anyone inside heard. You’re tempted to knock again, but as you raise your fist you hear footsteps approaching. Not Octavia’s -- too brisk, to heavy. The door opens, and you’re met with a pleasant-looking elderly woman wearing an apron and a light dusting of flour over a flowery dress. The aroma of something warm and sweet wafts out.

“Hello,” she says. “What can I do for you?”

“Hi,” you say. You had expected Octavia to open the door. You’re not sure what to say to her grandmother. “I’m, um, a friend of Octavia’s. From school. Is she home?”

“She is,” the woman says with a smile. “Would you like to see her?”

“Yes, uh, if that’s alright.”

“Come on in.” She steps aside and beckons. You step inside. The decoration is nice, but very dated. It looks like the epitome of any old person’s home. “Have a seat, I’ll be just a moment.”

Nodding in thanks, you sink onto a yellow sofa. The furry thing you had taken for a cushion next to you meows irritably. It uncurls and sits up, revealing its true form to be a chocolate brown cat. The cat regards you balefully. It’s look clearly says, “You’re not welcome here.”

Octavia’s grandmother ascends the staircase, disappearing into the floor above. “I hope you don’t mind cats,” she calls back. “Crescendo is a tad territorial, but he’s all talk.”

“Not at all,” you reply. You raise your hand for Crescendo to smell. He sniffs briefly, then turns away from you and curls back up into a coil. Fine then, you think. I didn’t want to talk to you either.

You hear muffled voices from above, to faint to discern any meaning from. One sounds like Octavia’s. One voice raises slightly, then both fall quiet. A few more words from Octavia’s grandmother, then silence. Footsteps now, only one set. Your heart sinks. Your suspicions are affirmed when Octavia’s grandmother reappears at the top of the staircase and begins to descend.

“I’m sorry,” she says, a forced smile stretched across her face. “Octavia has taken a bit ill. This may not be the best time.”

“Oh, that’s alright,” you say, standing. Crescendo meows at you again. “It’s not that important, I can talk to her at school. Hope she feels better.”

Octavia’s grandmother gives an apologetic look, then leans in close. “You aren’t her boyfriend, are you?” She winks conspiratorially.

“What? No, no I’m not.”

“Hmm.” She smiles innocently. “One of these days, perhaps.”

Not bothering to ask what she means by that, you move to the door. “It was nice meeting you.”

“And you as well. Take care of yourself.”

“You too. Goodbye.”

The door closes behind you. You swear under your breath. You’re almost certain that Octavia isn’t sick. She didn’t want to see you, that was all. How are you supposed to help her if she won’t let you in?

You start walking, head down, hands in pockets. Anger swirls in your chest, rising to heat your face. All you had ever tried to do was be Octavia’s friend. At one point, you had even tried to be more than that. And what had you been met with? Nothing.

But no, you rationalize, Octavia has been one of your closest friends for months now. She only pushed you away when you tried to get too close.

Your anger stamps out the voice of reason. She has no right to be angry at me. I’ve been nothing but accommodating.

Can you really not allow her a day to be upset?

No, I can’t. I’ve done nothing to deserve this.

That’s just unreasonable. How many times have you needed to take a break from a person? Remember that time when you spent a week away from Eiffel and Noteworthy because they laughed when you told them your elementary school crush?

This is different.

Not especially.

Yes it is. She has no right to be offended.

You don’t know that. You don’t know what she may be going through right now.

You forcibly shut off the shouting match in your head. Arguing with yourself just makes you more upset. A breeze chills your spine, and you zip up your jacket. A patch of clouds cover the sun, darkening the sky.

If Octavia is going to shut you out, then so be it. You’re beyond caring.

Right?


“Hey, Riffs?”

Royal Riff turns around. “Yes?”

“What are you doing for lunch?”

“Many of the orchestra and choir students are eating in the choir room. Would you care to join us?”

“Sure.”

Symphony turns around and beams delightedly. “Great! There are so many people I want you to meet!”

“Looking forward to it,” you say with as much enthusiasm as you can muster. “We should pay attention though,” you say as Symphony opens her mouth, undoubtedly to launch into a long-winded introduction of said people. “Looks like we’re about to start.”

The conductor retakes his podium and silence falls as he raises the baton.

The baton falls, and you begin to play.

Hours later, you join the throng of people pouring into the choir room. Surprisingly, the room is already packed with people. You scan the crowd for Symphony or Royal Riff, but find neither. You step to the side, away from the stream of bodies coming through the door.

“Looking for someone?” says a voice behind you.

You turn to see a very pretty girl, her hair a fiery swirl of red and yellow, looking at you. “Um, kind of. Have you seen Symphony around?”

“No, but I was going to meet her here. She’s probably just not here yet.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Do you want to sit with us? I’m Sunset Shimmer, by the way.”

You introduce yourself. “Nice to meet you.”

“You too. C’mon, let’s go find a seat.”

You follow Sunset through the crowd. She leads you to a large group sitting in a corner and you balk a little. That’s a lot of people. It’s too late to turn back now, though, so you hesitantly take a seat next to Sunset. She smiles warmly and introduces you to the people surrounding. You know most by name-- Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy. Some others you recognize only their faces. You nod politely after each introduction, but stay quiet.

Your pocket vibrates. The message on your phone’s screen is from Vinyl:

“Where r u?”

You shove your phone back in your pocket. You’ll talk to Vinyl later.

“Something come up?” Sunset says.

“Nah, nothing important.”

Sunset nods. The conversation had started up in full around you, leaving you in the dust. After a minute, Symphony and Royal Riff show up, holding hands, and take a seat beside you, giving you someone to talk to.

The crowd is intimidating. You feel like the outsider of the group, which, in reality, you are. Symphony and Royal Riff are fine company, but seem to be more interested in talking with each other rather than you. You’ve entered the game ten steps late, and it’s all but impossible to catch up. Sunset, though, is more accommodating. Even while keeping pace with all the conversations taking place around her, she still finds opportunity to chat with you.

After a while, your phone vibrates again:

“Where r u?” Vinyl writes again.

And then, a few seconds later:

“Octavia’s here.”

“Are you sure you don’t need to take that?” Sunset asks concernedly.

You swipe the notifications away irritably. “It’s fine, really.”

Fine. What a word for it. Is this fine? Is Octavia? You hadn’t even stopped to consider it, but is Vinyl? Come to think of it, Octavia is probably angry with Vinyl too, for going behind her back with all the scheming. Vinyl had brought it upon herself, though, you reason. Whatever chewing out she has to sit through, she has no one but herself to blame. Angrily, you shove your phone back into your pocket and glance down at your watch; ten more minutes.

Ten more minutes until you can escape. Until then, you let the chatter wash over you, feeling like a beacon of solitude in this sea of sociality.

When the bell finally does ring, you jump to your feet eagerly. Not bothering to say goodbye to the group, you sling your backpack over your shoulder and make your way through the milling crowd around the door. You burst free into the hallway and make a left, striding purposefully in the direction of the Psychology classroom. Rounding a corner quickly, you accidentally collide into someone.

“Sorry,” you say quickly, looking to survey the damage. You freeze.

It’s Octavia.

She stands still, her hands clasped together at her chest. Her mouth opens, but stays silent. She looks like she wants to say something, but your accidentally vigorous greeting has belayed her words. She closes her mouth, then opens it again. “Symphonic . . .” she starts.

You look down and walk past her, leaving the rest of her sentence trailing after you. The general mumble of the crowd obliviates her words, thankfully. Whatever she had to say, you’re not interested. Something about seeing Octavia doesn’t compute, though -- she has Art this period, why would she be all the way down the music hall? Art is the furthest class away from the choir room; why would she take such a detour?

Is it you? Did she come to see you?

That makes no sense either. How would she know that you were there? The only people who knew were Royal Riff and Symphony. There’s no way she could have overheard.

You push thoughts of Octavia out of your mind as you sit down in Psychology. Despite the distance you had to walk, you’re still one of the first ones in the class. You glance up at the board, going over the agenda for the day, then pull out your textbook and start reading.

Vinyl texts you several times throughout the class, all of which you ignore. You’ll talk to her later, when you’ve cooled down sufficiently. When that might be . . . you’re not sure. You’ve always had anger issues. You don’t blow up at people or flip tables or anything like that. Your anger is silent and perseverant, festering inside you with no way to escape, and you’re left to fume while it gradually dissipates. This anger could last days.

“Sorry. Can’t talk now,” you type out one-handed under your desk, after making sure the teacher’s back is turned.

A few seconds later: “K. Txt me after school,” from Vinyl.

Her perseverance is admirable, but infuriating. You need time to steam, and you don’t want to explain all of that to Vinyl. Pushing the problem to later, you stealthily slip your phone back into your pocket and resume your note taking. But your focus is gone. You read over the lines on the blackboard a dozen times before registering what they say, scrawl down something unintelligible in your notes, then immediately forget what you had written.

Physics is not much better. Having the liberty of sitting at the back of the room, you put your head down to rest your eyes. You don’t know for sure, but you may drift off once or twice.

When school gets out, you don’t even consider texting Vinyl. You mute your phone, plug in your earbuds, and walk home. After cranking out tomorrow’s homework, you microwave a package of pizza rolls and flop onto the couch. The TV is on, but only for the purpose of background noise. Your eyes unfocus, blurring the moving picture into an incoherent psychedelic swirl.

When your parents get home, you give automatic answers to their questions, putting little thought into anything but popping roll after roll into your mouth.

“How was school?”

“Fine.”

“Do you have much homework?”

“No.”

“Meet anyone new today?”

“No.”

The last one is a lie, but you don’t want to explain Sunset. You don’t want to explain why you didn’t eat lunch with Vinyl and Octavia.

After a time, the questioning desists and you’re left alone to watch the awful sitcom that had been playing in the background. Your food had run out, to your dismay. You’re tempted to go heat up another batch, but standing up seems to be outside the realm of possibility right now.

The living room gradually darkens, too slowly for you to notice, until you’re sitting in the pitch black with only the glow of the TV illuminating the room. Time for bed.

Despite your tiredness, you are forced awake by your thoughts. You lay in bed, staring at the ceiling with unfocused eyes, absently watching a spider make its way across your field of vision.

You still care about Octavia, there’s no sense in denying it.

So why can’t you talk to her? All those months ago, you had dreamed of being the one to sweep her off her feet. To be the one to completely understand what she’s going through, to be the one she confides in. But now . . . you have no real reason for your avoidance.

You’re angry at Octavia for taking a day to fume, while here you are, taking much longer than that. Thoughts and emotions swirl about in a dizzying loop, until your weariness takes hold and knocks you out.



“This next assignment will be done in pairs.”

The words you had dreaded to hear ever since kindergarten, now even more so. You look down at your hands. You can feel Octavia’s gaze on the top of your head, but don’t give her any acknowledgement.

Three weeks ago, before you had gone on your trip, you would have met her eye.

You feel a tap on your shoulder. Gratefully, you turn to look. A fellow orchestra mate, Beauty Brass, taps the paper in front of her and gives you a questioning look. You nod and turn completely to face her, but not before glancing covertly at Octavia. She’s staring at Beauty Brass, frowning. She, you notice, is partnerless. Guilt tugs at your stomach, but you ignore it, focusing on the assignment instead.

The rest of the hour crawls by. Vinyl texts you once or twice. You reply in one-word answers.

You eat lunch in the choir room with Sunset and her crew. You’re still the outsider, even after coming several times now. The majority of your time is spent in silence, laughing at a joke every now and then in an effort to feel included.

You miss the tea room. Even if you don’t want to see Vinyl or Octavia, you still wish for the peaceful solitude that the room provides.

You go home, do homework, then sit in front of your computer until it’s time for bed.

Rinse, repeat.

Rinse, repeat.

Loneliness sets in. You have a plethora of acquaintances, but you had pushed away your only two real friends. You want sorely to make peace with Octavia, but you’re not ready for the ensuing conversation. Before the trip, you had smiled at her when passing in the hallway. Now, you look at your feet.

Unexpectedly, you begin to gravitate towards Sunset Shimmer. Often times, despite the hubbub of the crowd, you are able to have a one on one conversation with her. She seems earnestly interested in you and your life, asking about your friends and family, hobbies and interests. Interestingly, she is particularly interested in hearing about Vinyl. Given Sunset’s own musical background, you’re not surprised that she’s curious about Vinyl’s work. More and more lunches you spend with Sunset. Your initial nervousness around the crowd dissipates over time, but you still prefer not to be an active participant. You’re more casual, more open around Sunset, though.

Every now and then, thoughts of Octavia bubble into your consciousness.

Despite your chilly attitude towards her, you still see Octavia every day. The routes to class coincide perfectly, so you always know exactly when and where you’ll see her. You know when to look down, to pretend she’s not there.

Then, one day, you don’t see her.

Her seat in Literature is conspicuously devoid of an occupant. Then later, at that intersection on your way to P.E., you don’t see her either.

The next day as well, you don’t see her. Or the next. All the normal intersections you normally find her at, nothing. You find yourself hoping to see her as you round a corner, but you never do.

You wait another day before texting Vinyl your concerns. It takes you nearly an hour to swallow enough pride to tap out the four-word message:

“Have you seen Octavia?”

It takes another hour for Vinyl to respond. “Didn’t you hear?”

“???” you reply simply. Vinyl’s tone, evident even over text, is worrisome. Her immediate reluctance to answer. You stare at your phone screen, waiting. You’re tempted to call Vinyl, but you’re not sure if you’re ready to have a verbal conversation. Instead, you wait.

Another few minutes, minutes that last hours, before Vinyl responds.

“She got in a car accident last week. She’s in the hospital.”

All the breath is driven out of your body. You feel like you’ve been punched in the gut.

Car accident. Hospital. A strange combination of words; the likes of which you’ve only heard in movies or books. The kind of thing you don’t think about as being a real thing, the kind of thing that only happens to other people. But to other people . . . everyone else is other people.

“What happened? Is she okay?” you manage to type.

“She’ll be alright. It wasn’t too bad. The other guy isn’t too hurt either.”

“How’s she doing?”

A long pause. “She’s been better.”


You have lunch in the tea room with Vinyl the next day.

Your relationship with Vinyl hadn’t taken the hit that it had with Octavia, but it is still awkward. The conversations had been less open, less familiar. Less like conversations and more like small talk.

Vinyl’s spark, the characteristic that drew you in from the beginning, had smoldered. She slumps in her chair, forlornly looking at the table. Like her, you don’t eat -- you hadn’t eaten since the previous evening. You hadn’t made tea either; you simply sit across from each other at an empty table, neither of you sure what to say.

“Have you gone to visit?” you ask.

“Yeah. Every day since.”

“How’s she doing?”

Vinyl snorts derisively. “Not great. Not only is she strapped to a bed with a broken arm, collarbone, and three ribs, but she’s got to worry about all the school she’s missing and the performance coming up.”

You can relate to Octavia’s pain. A few years back you’d been bedridden for a couple of weeks because of illness. Getting back into the swing of things after that kind of thing can be extremely difficult. “Are you going today?”

Vinyl nods wordlessly. She taps a pen on the table, sounding out the beat in her head.

“Can I come?”

Vinyl shrugs. “Don’t see why not.”

“Thanks.”

“Keep in mind, you haven’t talked to her in a couple weeks. If there was any time to tread carefully, it would be this.”

“I will.”

The rest of the school day passes at a snail’s rate. You rehearse conversation after conversation in your head, wondering how you’ll talk to Octavia when the time comes. Each imaginary exchange sounds more awkward and tasteless than the last.

After the final bell rings, you meet Vinyl at the parking lot. She doesn’t greet you. You don’t greet her. The two of you walk in silence to her car. You drive in silence to the hospital. You stand in silence as Vinyl talks to the receptionist. You wait in silence for the elevator.

Your silence is broken by Vinyl lightly knocking on the door leading to Octavia’s room, then slowly pushing it open. The room inside is nearly bare, housing only a bed, a small chair, and an ugly-looking mass of medical machinery. The smell of antiseptic, of sterility, permeates the air. Not necessarily a bad smell, but a somewhat unsettling one.

Your stoic outer shell isn’t often cracked, but the pitiful sight of Octavia’s frail form nearly breaks you.

She’s a mess of sterile white bandages, with an IV protruding from her arm and disappearing into an alien-looking device at her bedside. Her hair is unwashed and messy. She has a stack of books at on her nightstand, with one lying open in front of her. Her complexion is pallid, face devoid of any blood. Her gaze is vacant, staring unseeing at the wall opposite her.

When she sees Viny, she smiles weakly. Her gaze moves to you as you follow Vinyl into the room and she pauses, frowning slightly.

“Hi,” you say, forcing as much of a smile as you can.

“Hi,” she repeats, after a brief pause.

Vinyl sits down heavily on Octavia’s bed, causing the whole thing to bounce. “Brought you the tunes you asked for,” she says, handing Octavia a stack of CD cases. “Let me know if I missed anything.”

“Thank you, Vinyl.” Octavia sifts through the CDs, studying the titles one by one.

You remain standing awkwardly, not wanting to interrupt the two girls. Octavia, while battered and broken, doesn’t actually look too distressed. In actuality, she looks more tired than anything.

“How’s your day been?” Vinyl asks. “Nurses treating you alright?”

“It’s been fine. The staff is exceptional here.”

“Food okay?”

Octavia sets the music down and rolls her neck uncomfortably. “Food could be better, but it’s more of the stillness that annoys me.” You and Vinyl look at each other concernedly. “You don’t realize how much you miss walking until you aren’t allowed to do it.”

“When you get out of here, we’re gonna be going on some long walks, believe me.” Vinyl reaches into her backpack and pulls out a stack of books and loose papers. “Got the homework you needed.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t kill yourself over it; you’ve already dodged death once this week, I’d hate for it to be for nothing.”

You glance at Vinyl with alarm. Even for Vinyl, the joke seems overly tactless. “Vinyl . . .” you say warningly, but to your surprise, Octavia smiles at the joke.

“I suppose not,” she says. “Thank you for coming. I do enjoy the company.”

“Now hold on a second,” Vinyl says, grinning. “It sounds to me like you’re trying to kick us out.”

“Not at all. Feel free to stay all night, if you like.

No longer able to ignore the tiredness in your feet, you pull up a chair and sink into it. Octavia’s gaze follows you as you move. Despite her tired-but-cheerful tone, there’s still tension in the air. You hadn’t spoken a word to Octavia since the night at the cabin. You don’t know what to say. Thankfully, Vinyl is more than capable of doing all the talking.

“So Royal Riff and Symphony finally made their whole shindig official, and to be honest, it’s a little gross. Holding hands and baby voices and all that nasty. And you know Applejack? Her big brother in college started dating Rarity, which is all sorts of weird. And Flash Sentry broke up with that new girl, forgot her name. So now every eligible bachelorette is lining up at his feet . . .” Vinyl blunders on with the gossip, oblivious to the disinterested look Octavia is giving her.

You unintentionally tune Vinyl out. Your gaze rests on Octavia’s hands, folded neatly on her lap. It’s hard to ignore that one arm is in a sling. You can’t bring yourself to look higher than that, though; you’re not sure what meeting her eyes would do.

“And what’s up with you?” You snap back to attention. “You look like someone died,” Vinyl says, referring to you.

“Vinyl!” you say incredulously. Vinyl had never been the most sensitive of people, but you had thought she would have the decency to tone it down at a time like this.

“What?” Vinyl asks, raising an eyebrow.

“Don’t . . . say that kind of thing!”

“It’s fine,” Octavia says. You look to her questioningly. Her face had flattened, all the emotion wiped from it. Her levity is baffling; her own near brush with mortality should elicit at least some concern, but here she is going along with Vinyl’s jokes, not a care in the world for insensitivity. “If I wasn’t able to cope with a few tasteless jokes, I would have abandoned her long ago.”

You smile gingerly, not quite knowing what to say.

“How are the rehearsals coming along?” Octavia asks, filling the uncomfortable silence.

“Fine. The evening practices are a bit tedious, but it’s really coming along. Do you . . .” You pause. “Do you think you’ll be well enough to perform?”

Octavia frowns and looks down at the stack of music Vinyl had given her. She rifles listlessly through the cases. “I’m not sure. The doctors say that I can leave in about two weeks, but that’s only tentative.”

“I mean . . . with your arm and all.”

Octavia plasters on a false smile. “I’ll be well enough. And if I’m not, I’ll play anyway. No one has to know that it’s broken.”

“That’s the spirit, girl,” Vinyl chuckles. “Play through the pain; the art must come first.”

“Precisely.” Octavia sets the music aside, placing the stack on top of a small heap of get-well-soon cards sitting on her nightstand. You immediately feel guilty for not writing one, for not being aware of Octavia’s condition. “Now, what has been happening at the school? What of importance,” she adds when Vinyl opens her mouth.

“Not much worth noting,” you shrug. “Rehearsals. Midterms coming up. Couple people having nervous breakdowns. More rehearsals.”

You and Vinyl bounce off each other for a while, filling Octavia in on the goings-on during her absence. Octavia listens with rapt attention, hungrily taking in any news of the outside world. She really must be taking her solitude hard if details about school-sponsored pep rallies are enough to pique her interest. Once you’ve exhausted current events, conversation splits off into your customary territory: anything and everything.

It’s as though the past few weeks have been erased from your timeline, like nothing has changed in your relationship. The gulf that had been erected between you and Octavia falls to pieces, and you’re free to speak your mind again.

You didn’t realize how much you missed Octavia’s sense of humor. The subtly clever jabs in just the right places that poke just enough holes in your dam to start a flood. How she complements Vinyl’s inordinate whimsy so well, tampering the storm with her composure. Her truly remarkable understanding, of Vinyl and of you.

The sun crawls below the horizon, darkening the room slowly enough that you don’t notice until you’re sitting in the dim twilight. You yawn behind your hand, checking the time. You had been here for nearly four hours, though it didn’t seem so.

Your fun is halted when Octavia laughs so hard that she bruises her already cracked ribs. Wincing in pain and wiping away tears, but still laughing, Octavia mutely gestures at you and Vinyl. You’re too busy guiltily giggling at her predicament to respond in any way.

Finally, Octavia takes a deep, stuttering breath. “Get out, before you kill me right here and now!”

You glance down at your watch, sighing. “Yeah. We should probably go. Try not to break anything else, how about?”

Octavia glares at you, smiling. “Don’t count on it.”

You and Vinyl reluctantly stand and file out the door, waving behind you as you go. When the door closes, Vinyl elbows you playfully, but painfully. You open your mouth in protest, but she shakes her head and points down the hallway. Understanding, you nod. Whatever Vinyl wanted to say, she didn’t want Octavia to hear. Once you get into the elevator and the doors slide closed, Vinyl drops the pretence.

“Congratulations. I’d say that all bridges have successfully been mended.” She slugs you on the shoulder, adding to the pain in your arm. “That went way better than I thought it would. You may as well just marry the girl right now.”

“Ha ha,” you say, thumbing the button for the first floor. You turn away from Vinyl so she doesn’t see your cheeks reddening.

“But you’ve gotta keep the ball rolling. That means you’re coming tomorrow too.”

“I was planning on it.”

“Sure you were.” Vinyl turns around to inspects her reflection in the mirror on the back wall. She tousles her electric hair and adjusts her glasses, peeking over the rims to get a better look. “You’re not just saying that to spare my feelings?”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s not your feelings that I’m worried about hurting. I feel bad enough that I haven’t been coming up to this point.” You lean up against the wall next to her.

“Yeah,” Vinyl says thoughtfully. “You’re gonna have to make it up to her somehow.”

“Huh?”

She smiles sweetly. “You’ll think of something.”

You and Vinyl aren’t as talkative during the drive home. You’d burnt out your batteries during the past couple of hours, so you’re perfectly content to be left with your thoughts. You say a brief goodbye when Vinyl drops you off at home, then immediately go inside and lie down on your bed.

You’re gonna have to make it up to her somehow. Vinyl’s words repeat themselves over and over in your head as you stare at the ceiling. How, though? Flowers? No, too overt, and Octavia is not a perpetuator of that kind of cliche. Something meaningful, not just an empty gesture because Vinyl told you to. Something to make up for how horrible you’ve been. Something to show her you still care.

The answer comes to you, in one glorious stroke of inspiration.

Comments ( 9 )

Sorry about the long wait folks. This act went through more drafts than there were songs in the Season 3 finale. Thousands upon thousands of words, scrapped. This just goes to show, never go with your first draft. That would have been a disaster.

Anyhoo. Enjoy.

Not to worry. I'm just trying to figure out how many sides this polygon really has. :trixieshiftright:

I hope they sort this whole mess out.

:3 Awesome man :) keep up the good work :D

I really like this story a lot, the dialogue and emotion are very well enunciated and presented, and I really hope to read on to the solution of this conflict.


Like, no, really, I need to see where this goes. :twilightsheepish:

Excellent work on this chapter!

COME ON!!!! Let's see how this ends!!!

So 'Your' name is Symphonic? I'm not sure if you put that there accidentally or if you told us 'Our' name earlier and I completely missed it.

It's been 3 years! There are 2 stories I've been waiting to end for 3 years, don't you dare tell me that it's all over!

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