• Published 23rd Apr 2017
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7DSJ: Downtempo - Shinzakura

7DSJ Sidestory. Sometimes you can't escape truth. And worse, sometimes it comes after you.

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March 24: Make You Feel

The first thing I felt was a gentle shoulder, shaking me out of whatever restless sleep I got. I slowly open my eyes and look into caring green ones, framed with shaggy orange hair looking down at me.

“Plane just landed, sweetie,” my uncle Carrot says, hefting my backpack out from the overhead compartment. “We’re gonna start debarking in a few minutes.”

“Thanks, Uncle Carrot,” I tell him, stretching briefly, as the book I’d been reading earlier falls to the floor. I pick it up, glad Twily was willing to lend me her copy of The Interpretation of Dreams. I know she looked at me kinda oddly at first – not that I blame her, who reads Dr. Trammetung in their off-time? But with that informal contest I have going with Derpy, one of us has to get the top score in lit, plus one of us has to be the one to drive Ms. Cheerilee up the walls again.

I smirk inwardly. Really, I like her, I do. I generally tend to like most people, as others have figured out. But the truth is, there’s something about Ms. C. that reminds me a little bit of my mother, and well….

As the captain or someone makes an announcement on the plane’s speaker, I look out the window at the gateway to hell. Well, my personal hell, that is: Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, or XNA if you prefer to use the IATA code. The airport that handles all the little local farms, quarries and Bentonville, the town that’s my birthplace.

“Pinkie?” I turn to look at my aunt, Dazzle Cake, or as she prefers, “Cup”. She told me once that she got the nickname as a child by literally making cupcakes in coffee mugs since their house didn’t have a cupcake pan, and the moniker stuck throughout her life. Either way, she feels more comfortable with that than her birth name, and Uncle Carrot once told me he didn’t even know Cup wasn’t her real name until he saw her driver’s license.

“I’m fine, Auntie,” I tell her. “It’s just….” I don’t finish the words. She already knows what I’m going to say – she grew up here, after all.

Despite holding the twins in her embrace, she manages to put an arm around me anyway. “I know, dear. You don’t have to say a word.” Apparently I’m not the only one who remembers the crapfest that was last Christmas. I really don’t want to go through that shit again, I really don’t.

“Now, would you mind grabbing the twins’ baby bag for me? I’m having a hard time holding these two in one arm,” my aunt admits.

“Sure,” I tell her, grabbing it; out of the corner of my eye I can see my uncle already making his way off the plane so he can get to the luggage section – and the much-needed stroller – as soon as possible. Leaves me to walk slowly with my aunt down the concourse.

I’ll live.

I hope.

After what must have been about twenty minutes of playing catch-that-bag-before-it-goes-around-the-baggage-carousel-again far too many times, we’re loading the rental van Uncle Carrot picked up. There’s a slight breeze – why the hell is there always a slight breeze every time I walk through the airport? I could come on a perfectly clear day like this one, and somehow there’s a breeze! Rain? Breeze. Snow? Breeze. Post-apocalyptic zombie-infested Armageddon? Better get that mutant a windbreaker!

Well, at least the breeze takes my mind off the usual thought process I have when I’m here, which is the obvious: this isn’t my home. This isn’t where I belong. The farms and rural houses are as much my reality as the Little House on the Prairie shows my aunt occasionally plays on the Hallmark channel when the little old ladies have their Bingo and Crochet Nights.

Don’t get me wrong, this is where I came from once, and you can never really get away from that. So much of what makes me…well, me. But moreso, it’s what I’ve become that makes me the person I am.

As we all clamber into the rental, a Grand Caravan, Auntie Cup asks me to sit in the front with my uncle so she can change the twins, which I have no problem with. I switch places with her and as I do, my uncle asks me to find a station in town, since I’m here so often. I don’t exactly let him know that I tend to stick to the MP3s I have saved on my phone and my free subscription to Slacker that came with my S5, so I fiddle with the preselect button for a few.

“Heya all, you’re listening to station KQXD – Bentonville’s #1 source for jazz! I’m your sweet sweet host, Coal Flint and I’m gonna bring up some gorgeous tunes from Bola Sete in a second. But first, have you been paying attention to the news? That stuff coming out of California with kids and sex rings and mind control drugs? Man, don’t know about you all, but I ain’t ever sending my kid to school out west – too wild! All those poor girls—”

Before I can even react, I see my uncle’s hand reach over and hit the next preselect station, which, thankfully is playing something – anything – different than what I just heard.

“Can’t believe they’ve sensationalized that stuff,” he mutters and I mutely nod, not sure what else I can add to the conversation.

“You’d think we could get away from all that, even for a just a while,” Auntie Cup says from the back seat.

I wish I could. I really wish I could. But even if none of those other girls happened, I was – am – Pandora’s Box. I was opened, literally and figuratively, in the worst way possible. And once the box is opened, it can never be shut.

About twenty minutes later – and thankful that as ironic as it is, the classic rock station in town is less sensationalist than its jazz one – we arrive in the little suburb of Rockton and more importantly, pass an all-too-familiar wooden fence facing Western Farm Route 99, and it’s not long before we come across the old familiar gate with the PIE FAMILY ROCK FARM sign on it. Every time I see that thing I have to wonder how we ever manage to get by without getting sued by someone. I mean, let’s be honest here: I’m not a farmer’s daughter, I’m a quarryman’s daughter. And it’s weird enough having a rock quarry so close to a lake – Lake Beaver is that snake-like thing just on the other side of the hills from the homestead – and you’d think that we’d be either a fish farm, something to do with recreation or just a regular farm. But no, my ancestor Rhubarb Pie decided that he wanted this lovely little piece of land after the Civil War was over and it turned out to be shittacular for farming, but great for stonemining and stonecrafting…

…as the life-size granite sculpture of him and his wife, Laughs Lots (I have to wonder what my greatxwhatever-grandmother’s name originally was; I recall Mom telling me once that “Laughs Lots” is a translation from her Indian name) indicates. We drive by that and the business office to the quarry, as well as the employee parking lot and the structures for the corporation part of the complex. The residential area, where my family has lived since forever, is still a quarter-mile away, closer to the softer lands and a secondary, explorative quarry that was abandoned and over the years turned into a pond that freezes over in the winter. I think Dad’s considered building a residence-only road that will connect to Country Road 3124, but the quarry road is easier to access the city from.

As we reach the house, to our surprise, it’s surrounded by cars – and unless someone mistook the place for empty and decided to hold a rock festival on the quarry grounds (which in itself would be hilariously ironic), my parents are actually having friends over.

Weird, I didn’t think they even had any.

Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks that, as Auntie Cup picks that moment to comment, “Wait – when did my sister get friends?”

Uncle Carrot chuckles good-naturedly and added, “Maybe she didn’t. When I called, Ig noted that they were planning the company picnic around this time. That’s probably who it is.”


We pull up to the house just in time to see Dad pop out of the house carrying a monster-size cooler in those muscular arms of his. It’s always interesting seeing the contrast between the two father figures in my life. Uncle Carrot is wiry and, aside from strong forearms from constantly kneading dough, he’s fairly average in build. Dad, on the other hand, looks like an action movie star who decided to retire and take up the sylvan life; between his graying hair, those looks that remind me of Smoldering Smile when he starred in Star Trek, and that rock-hard (pun intended) physique from a life worked lifting boulders. As for their personalities, that’s a contrast as well: I know I got my somewhat agnosticism from Uncle Carrot and his ways; his family have never really been believers, though they say that God’s out there somewhere. Contrast that to my father’s own faith: though Maud’s told me she doesn’t recall the family ever going to church, one look at our house makes it clear they’re a God-fearing family. And that’s fine; I’m not going to say it’s not me, because I’m not 100% sure where my own thoughts are in the matter, but that’s not the point. The point is that in a sense, I’ve got two fathers: Dad’s nature against Uncle Carrot’s nurture, and I would hate to be in a situation where I had to choose between either.

We get out of the van just in time for Uncle Carrot to call out, “Hey, Ig, you throw a party and not invite us, man?”

Dad stops and gives us all a lazy smile. “Hey, you guys got here early!” he laughs and I feel at ease again. If I lived here, I figure I’d be a daddy’s girl for sure. Sure enough, in turn he greets us all, saving his best for last, namely me. He picks me up as if I was a little girl, swinging me around. “Hey, precious. Missed you.”

I reach up and give him a kiss on his cheek as he sets me down. Dad’s probably about the same height as Ms. Celestia, and she’s pretty tall for a woman – I wonder if she played basketball in high school? “Hi, Dad,” I tell him, glad to be back on the ground again.

“Seriously, though, I wasn’t expecting to….” He pauses as if a thought crosses his face, and already I know what he’s going to say…and if it weren’t for the fact that my aunt and uncle were here, I’d be screwed. “I’m guessing the issues in Canterlot are too much right now?”

“Actually, it’s Pinkie’s spring break,” my aunt interjects, “but we needed the vacation anyway, and besides, admittedly, yeah, it is a bit much out in town right now.”

Dad looks at me directly. “You weren’t involved, were you?”

I want to lie. I so very much want to lie. I’ve already lied to my aunt and uncle, via omission. But this is different. And what am I supposed to say, anyway? “Daddy, your little girl is a whore now?” “Daddy, your girl got gangraped by several guys she knew not to mention her boyfriend and then by the sister of said boyfriend?”

And then there’s that little realization I had, one I haven’t really told anyone at all. I suspect Rares knows, but we just relatively recently rekindled our friendship, and I don’t know what to say and I don’t know what to do.

Fortunately, Auntie Cup to the rescue. “Igneous, she’s fine,” she says to him, putting an arm around me. “I’d let you guys know if something did happen. But a few of her friends were impacted and that has an effect on a girl, you know?”

To my relief, he doesn’t pry further. “Just don’t tell Quartz about it,” he sighs and looks at us, then to me directly. “Pinkamena, you need to understand: your mother’s been working herself into a tizzy fit ever since she heard about what happened out there in your neck of the woods, and at one point I practically had to stop her from flying over to Canterlot and bringing you back. You can thank your sister for talking sense into her – Maud was here two weeks ago and managed to calm her down.”

I do a mental back-flip. Have I mentioned how much I idolize my older sister? Honestly, I wish I could be as outgoing and forward as she is.

So as my aunt and uncle excuse themselves to go get their stuff settled into the guest room, I accompany my dad. “What’s the shindig?” I ask. “And where’s Inkie and Blinkie?”

Dad smiled at my private nickname for them. “They also have spring break this week as well. Marble and her friend went down to Texas for the week with her friend’s parents. And as for Limestone, she’s camping with her girl scout troop on the far side of Beaver Lake this week. Sorry to say, you probably won’t see them this time around.”

My smile falls a little at that. I love my younger sisters, too, even though they’re unknown quantities as far as I know. I mean, Blinkie kinda reminds me of Fluttershy a little? And Inkie’s a bit kinda sorta like AJ, but not quite. I mean, it’d be nice if I could figure them out more, but that would mean I would have to actually live here and oh hell no.

“Now,” continuing his commentary, “this is the annual company picnic I throw for my employees. Although, truth be told, it’s more of a regional gathering of sorts. Most of them are quarryworkers, but quite a few of them are just neighbors. I’m sure you’ll probably get to know more than a few of them in time, right?”

A few minutes later, I’m both mingling with the locals and studiously trying to avoid my mother. I mean, last time we talked, we left on good terms, and I’d hate to see that fucked up again. Then again, it’s my mom. I love her dearly, but I know the woman – she’s a bigot and religiously intolerant. She and Auntie Cup are the mirror of me and Maud in that, well, I love Maud, and Maud loves me. And as for Mom and Auntie Cup…let’s just say that I probably learned most of my four-letter words from overhearing some of their conversations.

Most of the people present are surprised that I’m the daughter of Igneous and Quartz – I really don’t act like them, people point out, and I really don’t look like them either, as Dad always says I look like my grandmother, Surprise, plus, I’m almost never here. In hindsight, I suppose it’s just obvious that the locals always thought that there were only three Pie daughters. I’m really not sure how to react to that, but it’s not like it was meant to be insulting, so I let it pass.

Makes me wonder about my counterpart – the one Sunny hasn’t told me about. If my guess is right (as well as the physical properties of quantum physics, which I’d have to do a bit more research on), she’s either someone – somehorsie? – that Sunny grew up with or maybe Princess Twilight knows. I wish I had a way of asking Twi, but maybe that would be a bit gauche?

Dad waves over to me and standing next to him is an elegant looking woman who seems out of place despite her jeans and her polo shirt. Next to her is a girl around my age, and there’s something about her that reminds me a little of Rarity during the time when we weren’t speaking, not sure why. But I go play the dutiful daughter and join my dad.

“Pinkie, I’d like you to meet our new neighbors, Princess Amore and her daughter Radiant Hope. Prin, this is my second daughter, Pinkie. She lives with my sister-in-law and her husband out in California.”

The name is instantly recognizable to me, thanks to both Rares’ and Flutters’ reading habits. “Princess Amore? By any chance, would you be the author of the Vive Libre ou Morir series?”

To my surprise, the woman nodded. “You’re familiar with my novels? I didn’t think girls your age were into WWII action/romance,” she told me.

With an awkward smile, I had to admit, “Well, I’m more of a sci-fi fan, to be honest. But two of my friends back home are avid readers. Rarity, in particular, loves The Milice Francaise and the Stolen Francs, especially the way where Sur-Vayre was trying to seduce Sur-Glaine, but the latter loved her country too much to surrender to the Nazi turncoat, even though the desire was there.”

Whoops! I may have read a little more than I let on, and the critical look Mrs. Amore is giving me makes it clear she knows, too.

“A bit too much detail for not being ‘one of my fans’, I think,” she says with a laugh.

I blush at my error. “Okay, I did read that one because Rarity insisted,” I admit.

“It’s okay,” she assures me. “Truthfully, I prefer The Lord of the Rings over romance novels, myself. Anyway, it’s a pleasure to meet you. And this is my own daughter, Radiant Hope.”

As I offer a hand to Radiant Hope, I get the distinct feeling someone isn’t here because they want to be. That’s confirmed a second later when Mrs. Amore all but shoves her daughter practically right in front of my face. “Hi,” she says, reluctantly shaking my hand.

“Hi yourself. I’m Pinkie,” I reminder her.

“Radiant Hope. You can just call me Hope,” she says. “So, you’re from California, huh?”

“Uh, northern Cali,” I tell her. “You’d be surprised how many people think ‘California’ means either Frisco or LA.”

“Yeah, I get that – we just moved here from New York, but that’s New York state: Rochester, not Manhattan, y’know?”

“Oh, do I. You live in a relatively small place and everyone thinks you’re from the big city.”

I got her to giggle. “Yeah, no shit. So, you in town for a while?”

So, hours later, Hope and I are sitting around the bonfire, eating the last of the venison burgers – “Bambi Macs”, she called them, and I couldn’t help but laugh, though I hope Flutters never hears that – and generally joking.

“And so, Fruity tripped over the pencil and dropped the whole solution on Mrs. Tube’s shirt!” She was laughing hard, and honestly, so was I. Though I didn’t know her circle of friends, it felt good to see someone laugh aloud. Twi told me once that I had something around me regarding laughter and while I try to provide happiness and joy for my friends, more often I never feel like I have any for myself.

Still, being around Hope, it’s infectious, and I notice things about her. She carries herself much like Sunny or Rainbow. She’s well-read like Twily, and she plays instruments, similar to Tavi. She’s also got a build like Sunny’s, and I kinda blush inwardly. I really don’t need that right now, much less for Hope to misunderstand.

Sure enough, she does. “I take it you like what you see?” she asks me from across the fire. I say nothing; my mouth has gotten me in trouble before, and I’m at Ground Zero for All-Time Mistakes if I do the wrong thing – I’m not sure my aunt and uncle could save me from whatever my mother would do.


“Oh, please, I’m not stupid, Pinkie.” She gets up and sits down next to me. A lot more next to me, more than I’m kinda comfortable with, to be honest. She runs a finger across my face and then my lips. “You know, you look a little like Tiramisu, my ex. Oh, she had the body that could last all. Night. Long.” She got very close. “I suggest we get to know each other a little better, you know, like what I can do to make you feel good.”

I move her hand back – I won’t ever be touched like that, not by anyone, unless I want it! “You have me read wrong, Hope,” I tell her, fighting back my anger and disgust. I don’t want to take it out on her. She wasn’t the one that caused my pain. She’s not Cicely. And if there is a God, she’s definitely not like her, either.

And thankfully, she backs off. “Okay, okay, I get it, sorry. Just…I’m the kind of girl that knows what I like, and you were sending signals, okay?”

I shook my head. “No. I wasn’t. I…appreciate that you find me attractive, but…no, sorry.” And this just went into awkward as hell city. “Look, I’ve had a long flight and a long day, so I’m going to go get some sleep, okay?”

I watch her rub the back of her head and I wonder if I’ll see her again. “Yeah, okay, so…look, friends?”

I hope so. I offer my hand again. “Sure,” and she shakes much easier this time. “See you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, sure,” I tell her and reach for the water pail to put out the rest of the fire.

“Look, Pinkie….”

“Hey, it’s okay, I get it. Maybe I just send out signals unintentionally – happens, right?”

She doesn’t look convinced. “Yeah, I guess. Maybe. Anyway, see you tomorrow.”

She waves and I walk off while I pour the pail of water over the flames, hearing the sizzle and watching the gray tendrils of smoke escape into the sky. When I turn around, she’s well gone and I walk over to the farm house. Waiting there, no surprise, is my mother. I look at her and she looks at me and I instantly know that this is going to be one of those conversations.

“You didn’t pay your respects, Pinkamena,” she told me simply.

I shrug, figure it was better than any of the retorts I was already planning. “I figured I’d run into you sooner or later, Mom,” I tell her. “Dad was the one that decided to introduce me to several of the workers and neighbors. They were surprised to find out that you had a fourth daughter.”

“Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it,” she said coldly and I wonder what kind of fight she and Auntie Cup had. While it’d be hell choosing between Dad and Uncle Carrot, there’s pretty much no contest when it comes to Mom and Auntie Cup. Don’t get me wrong; I love my mother. But it’s also hard to love someone you know gives lip service to your life.

“Mom, if this is going to be another one of those discussions why I’m more like Auntie Cup than you—”

“No; I’ve already had that argument with my sister,” she tells me. “Just…you make it hard, Pinkamena. I’m the one that gave birth to you and you treat me more like a distant relative than the vessel through which God gave you life.”

“I recall reading something about respect or something in the Bible, once,” I comment, thinking about it. I’ve actually read the Bible, as part of my literature class. Also read the Koran, the Nihon Shiki and the Bardo Thodol – that’s the Tibetan Book of the Dead, if you’re into that sort of stuff.

Hey, I like keeping up on esoteric subjects. Helps in case of esoteric subject emergencies.

“I don’t think you should be out late at night,” she tells me, changing the subject. “And I’m not sure that you should be friends with that Radiant Hope character. She’s got the markings of a sybarite, if you ask me.”

“You mean a lesbian?” I ask, and I see my mom blanche. “Amazing you still have problems with that word,” I observe. And mind, it’s just an observation. Probably the wrong time to make one, but then again, when it comes to my mom, is there ever a right time?

“That is not a word you should be saying.”

“Mom, I’m a teenager and I live in California,” I remind her. “I’ve heard much worse and I’ve said much worse. Whether or not you approve is immaterial, though I’ll keep that in mind. The point is that Matthew 7 applies: ‘judge not lest ye be judged’. What Hope does or does not is hers and her mother’s business, not mine and not yours. As an upstanding member of the community, you should remember that, right?” My mom is slack-jawed at my comment, but I didn’t exactly say anything wrong, per se.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” I say as walk past her. But just to be on the safe side, I pause to kiss her on the cheek. “We might disagree on well, everything, Mom, but I do love you, okay? Night.” She doesn’t say anything as I walk up the stairs towards Marble’s room. With my aunt and uncle in the guest room – formerly Maud’s room – that leaves me in my kid sister’s.

But as I reach the top of the stairs, I see my aunt standing there, waiting for me. “I know what you’re going to say, Auntie,” I tell her, “and yeah, I agree.”

Auntie Cup smiles. “Well, that makes it much easier for me, then. Pinkie, she’s just being a mom. I get that way sometimes with you, and you know I’m going to be that way with the twins when they’re your age.”

“I know,” I admit, “and that’s why I have the greatest aunt in the world.” I give her a kiss on the cheek and a hug. “Night!”

“Good night, Pinkie,” she tells me as I slip into the bedroom.

I make my way towards the bed, and my bag. I reach over and pluck my charger out of the bag – roaming does a number on the phone’s battery – and let it charge for the night. Looking at the screen, I note that it got down to three percent charge – the CHARGE ME NOW! alert prominently displayed until I tap it away – and that could be bad if my friends are trying to send me something.

I take the time to change into my sleepwear and put away my dirty laundry, when my phone chimes. I look at the notification display, and my heart suddenly swims with joy.

Hey, Pinkie, Tavi and I are in LA! Let me know if you need anything from here and we’ll get it. Miss ya and wish you were here!

I text back something, trying to hold the phone and not fumble my answer.

Greetings from the middle of nowhere! I’ll send you a long, looooooong list, because I could use a few things! Miss you too and hope I’ll hear from you later in the week! XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO and I’m running out of emoji!

The image of three dots appeared below my message indicating Sunny was texting me a reply! Yay! And after a few seconds that felt like the better part of an eternity, her new message chimed in, and I dived right in.

XD That’s you to a tee, Pinks! There’s this gourmet chocolate place down the street from our hotel. I know I’m going to get you some, but just wanted to see if there was anything else you wanted. Anyway, you have the whole week, so don’t forget to text!

I hammer out another quick response.

You neither! Night!

I set the phone down, the widest smile on my face since I got here. I don’t think I’ve told my friends this, but if it wasn’t for Sunny, I wouldn’t be alive. I feel embarrassed to admit it, but after everything I went through, I wanted to end it. End it all. I went to sleep earlier because I saw a little girl with the same shade of hair I have, and…it tore me apart.

The child I’ll never have, because I destroyed him or her. The sin I’ll forever live with.

“I want to die.” It’s a mantra I’d repeated for so long to myself, especially when being bullied by someone so, well, capable of it as Sunny was. And then when she mutated into that…thing…and an alien princess gave us powers that to this day I’m not sure I understand, we ended Sunset’s reign. And I said something that I’ll always regret. My strike two in the baseball game of life, if you will.

Thankfully, Twi was a better person than I was at the time – and that’s saying a lot, given that she’s not really human. And she appealed to my better angels and won me over. Reluctantly, but she won me over. She saw something in the flame-haired bully that I sure as hell didn’t see then, and truth be told, didn’t want to see.

But then Sunset changed and she became my friend. Moreso, she changed because she wanted to change, not because she was forced to. And that gave me the courage to talk to the girls I’d rekindled my friendship with and tell them the truth.

All these months Rarity and the others have helped me get through it, day by day, step by step. Talking to me when I need it. Hugs when there are no words that could truly express. And love when I so desperately needed that, like an anchor. I love them, my friends. They’re more than friends to me, they’re the sisters from another mister, meaning the world to me just as much as Maud, Inkie and Blinkie.

Even still, I haven’t told them everything, though, because I’m not sure I’ve worked out everything for myself.

I do know this much, though: Sunset Shimmer is my friend now, a dearest friend of mine. I wanted her dead, and she gave me life instead. And she continues to do so every day since.

I reach into the bag and pull out the Bluetooth speakers that go with my phone and link them up. Then I throw on a little Thundercat – man’s got some seriously awesome tunes, and Apocalypse is an awesome album – and climb into bed, planning to sleep.

Tomorrow’s another day, after all.

Author's Note:

Well, here we go. This story had to be done, because, well, It's a pivotal one in the 7DSJ (and larger Berylverse) cannon. It's gone through several incarnations and this is just the latest.

It's also a part of a three-part Pinkie Trilogy within the Berylverse.

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