Sweetie Belle walked slowly to her apartment in downtown Manehattan, she knew that her sister Rarity was visiting today, but Sweetie Belle wasn't really looking forward to it; not that she didn't like her sister, on the contrary, she loved being around her. But the day cost her a lot of her energy, leaving Sweetie completely spent. Being a professional singer was hard work, it wasn't all about the singing per se, it was about winning the crowd, making them feel your voice rather than just hear it.
It wasn't exactly what happened today. The day had been a total fiasco; the drummer couldn't keep up with the tempo so the bassist had to work double hard to mask some of his mistakes, the other vocalist had a sore throat, leaving Sweetie to sing just by herself and the saxophonist was struggling to keep his instrument running... he looked like he would die any minute from a heart attack. Even though the crowd loved it; they didn't seem to notice that the only ponies that didn't screw up the show were Sweetie herself and Octavia the cellist, but Sweetie knew it wasn't perfect. ‘I’ll never make it perfect...’
Arriving at the apartment building, dilapidated building with various graffiti scribblings on the front, Sweetie gave a heavy sigh as she started to go up the stairs that lead her to home. She counted the steps until she arrived at her destination: Room 32-A. As she opened the door she heard a voice that was all too familiar
"Sweetie Belle, how marvelous to see you again! It's been so long after all... Oh, I hope you don't mind me being here. It's just that I couldn't wait all this time standing up so I started asking around and your neighbor gave me the extra key - such gentlecolt he was, a real charm... and cute too if you don't mind me saying. Say, have you ever talked to him? He seems to have some sort of interest in you, so I've noticed."
"Ugh... hello sis." Sweetie Belle answered wearily. She was well aware that the distance and lack of contact had some kind of ‘Pinkie Pie-ish’ effect on her sister.
"So darling, how was your concert today?" Rarity asked, voice booming with grace.
"It is not a concert, Rarity." Sweetie answered in the most polite tone she managed and sighed. "But I guess it was... nice." She shrugged.
"Nice?! I bet it was simply fabulous! I mean- who wouldn't love to hear your voice after all?" Rarity gave a nervous giggle; the only instance where she really listened to Sweetie Belle’s voice was when both were together and Rarity asked her to sing. But Rarity knew that if her childhood voice already was great, her now-matured voice should be even better.
"That's just it, sis... I..." She trailed off, not knowing what to tell her sister. Of all ponies in the world, Rarity knew that perfection is a must in these kinds of occasions.
"Sweetie Belle?” Rarity asked with concern. “Do you want to talk about it?" She said, noting the changes in Sweetie’s usually cheery mood.
"I..." She stopped and pondered on her answer for a moment "No..."
"Oh well, alright darling. I won't push you if you don't want to talk about it but... whenever you feel you are ready, I'll be here for you." Rarity said, placing a comforting hoof on Sweetie’s shoulder.
'But I do want to talk about it. I just don’t want to bother you with my problems, sis. You’ve been away for so long... I don’t want to ruin what little precious time I have with you because of my problems.' Sweetie thought, mentally chastising herself for being so egotistical. 'Just like my musical act... I'll just have to put on my mask and tell her that everything is fine. She doesn't need hear about my problems.' Sweetie was now struggling to keep a smile on her face and curiously enough, Rarity didn't seem to notice that was a fake one. ‘Strange... Rarity is often good at picking up small details.’
"You wanna grab something to eat?" asked Sweetie. "Most restaurants are closed on this hour so we'll have to order some food though... if that's okay, I mean." Sweetie bit her lower lip; she knew how Rarity was picky about... well, almost everything.
"I'd love to!" Rarity’s smile was a sincere one. "That way I'll be able to spend more time alone with my little sister!" Rarity said as she brought Sweetie Belle forth and embraced her in a tight, loving hug.
The sudden display of affection made Sweetie Belle feel terrible. She was fighting against her tears. ‘I don’t deserve this... I don’t deserve Rarity... I’m a failure... I don’t deserve nopony at all!’ Sweetie Belle quietly held her breath as not to alarm Rarity and ruin her sister’s reunion. Sweetie Belle felt that she would have to be strong for Rarity... for her sister... her big sister.
* * *
The dinner with Rarity went pleasantly well. Rarity didn’t seem to mind the cool food much. She seemed way more interested in how was Sweetie doing with her life and her career. Sweetie swiftly shifted the conversation into another direction when her career was brought up. Sweetie’s mood seemed to improve a bit when Rarity mentioned various memories she had of Sweetie getting in trouble with the other Cutie Mark Crusaders. Dinner ended with Sweetie proposing a trip to see their parents in Canterlot, which Rarity eagerly complied. She tried to clean the dishes, but Sweetie’s insistence that she was a guest made her drop the issue.
Rarity was now asleep in Sweetie Belle’s bed, again on the insistence of the latter. Sweetie thought that Rarity being, well... Rarity, she wouldn’t be too happy to sleep on the living room’s couch. She lay down on the couch, a thin blanket covering most of her body. Her mind drifted towards her fillyhood friends, Applebloom and Scootaloo, who she hadn’t seen in a long time. 'What the hay; what could they possibly want with a loser like me?' Even though Sweetie Belle’s season was sold out in weeks after its announcement, she didn’t think that she was being too harsh on herself. She knew that nopony suspected that any problems happened during the shows. Nopony but herself; and it was enough for her.
Sweetie Belle got up from the couch and sighed heavily. She rubbed her face with both her forehooves and walked towards the kitchen. She looked over and saw Rarity’s saddlebags over the counter. A feeling of foal-like mischief rushed through her as she trotted closer to the saddlebags and rummaged through its contents. She saw a bottle of Apple Cider with a small envelope taped to it. She grasped the envelope in her teeth and opened it with her magic. She levitated the note inside before setting it down over the counter to read it properly.
Dear Sweetie Belle. I hope Rarity gives you the bottle instead of drinking it herself. It somehow reminded me of our time as the Cutie Mark Crusaders and I just had to send one to you and one to Scootaloo. Life in the farm is very busy, but I’m handling everything as best as I can. AJ says that I’m a very hard worker and that she’s very proud of me. With Granny Smith gone, AJ left me in charge of making Zap Apple Jam. The next harvest should be in a couple of months. I’ll be sure to send you a sample!
I hope you enjoy the Cider. It’s my first time helping AJ and Big Mac in making it. Don’t drink it all at once!
Always your friend, Applebloom.
Sweetie Belle folded the note and placed it back inside the envelope before continuing to explore Rarity’s saddlebags. Her hoof connected with something hard and she levitated to see what it was. Before her stood a picture of the three Cutie Mark Crusaders, each wearing their respective cape. Sweetie Belle giggled when she noticed that Scootaloo’s cape was still torn from that incident at Fluttershy’s cottage. Sweetie turned the picture and saw Scootaloo’s styled signature.
Scootaloo, the RainbowBolt
Suddenly, tears started to form on Sweetie's eyes, streaming down her cheeks. ‘I have so many perfect ponies around me... why can’t I be perfect myself?’ Sweetie Belle pressed the picture hard against her chest and sobbed quietly. Her horn lit up, being embraced by a dark purple veil. The Apple Family’s Golden Apple Cider bottle was soon enveloped in the same purple aura as it levitated towards the crying mare.
Sweetie Belle magicked the cork out of the bottle and grasped it with her forehooves, letting the picture Scootaloo signed fall to the floor. Sweetie began drinking straight from the bottle, tilting her head upwards and only paused when she felt her lungs complain about the lack of oxygen. Four gulps was all it took for her to empty the bottle completely, but to her id made no difference. Sweetie Belle remained the same; no changes... no perfection.
She felt her stomach burn and twist inside of herself. When she felt the nauseating feeling, Sweetie darted to the kitchen sink, only to empty herself over it; alcohol out of her stomach and tears out of her eyes. She felt her stomach completely empty, but the bitter taste in her mouth and the nausea remained. She felt her legs cease a bit and fell hard on the kitchen floor before curling up in a ball. “Look at me... I’m a failure! I can’t even control my stomach, how am I supposed to control my life?!” She nearly screamed the words. One of her hooves let go of her leg and she started banging it hard against the wooden floor, making the counter tremble.
The loud noise of the apple cider bottle shattering on the floor beside her made her jump in surprise. She lifted her head and looked at the sharp glass shards that were splattered on the floor. For a moment, she felt like picking those razor-like shards and plunge them deep into herself, but she furrowed her brows in anger when she saw her multitude of reflections on the shards staring at her with disgust. “Monster!” She accused the deformed reflections. “Weak!” She levitated one big shard towards her and looked deep into her reflection’s eyes. “You’re probably too pathetic even for that!”
"For what, darling?" Sweetie Belle jumped once more when she heard Rarity’s groggy voice. The noise probably had awoken her, but she was sleepy enough not to understand what Sweetie was talking. She just bit her lower lip and shot another glance at the shards scattered across the floor. Mustering her courage, she looked up to meet her sister’s eyes, cringing when she saw Rarity’s eyes moving frantically from herself to the glass shards and back to herself...
"Sis... I... I..." She trailed off and began to sob. Rarity just trotted up to Swetie and lay beside her, hugging her in a kind embrace. Sweetie Belle, feeling her sister's embrace just let herself go and cried even more, trying to wash those bad thoughts away. Rarity remained silent the whole time, just hugging her sister as tightly as she could. Minutes passed and when Sweetie’s anguish seemed to make her only sob and sniff, Rarity broke the silence.
"There, there... it's okay... Rarity is here now... big sister is here now." Rarity said in a soothing voice, rubbing her hoof through Sweetie’s.
"I'm sorry I've ruined your visit, sis! I'm sorry that I've failed you! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry..." Sweetie’s sadness acted once more. Her breathing was becoming more and more irregular and frantic.
"It’s okay, darling." Rarity said as she held onto her tighter, calming Sweetie Belle a bit. "You'll have a heart attack if you keep it like this! Deep breaths." Rarity said as she began breathing deeper herself, allowing Sweetie Belle to mimic her. Sweetie took one deep breath and held the air in her lungs for a while; she then exhaled and repeated the procedure over and over again until she was only sobbing on her sister's shoulder.
Rarity kept waiting for her sister to say something because she didn’t want to push Sweetie Belle over the edge once more. But as more minutes passed, Rarity felt that she needed to say something to her sister.
"So, uhm... Sweetie, darling, tell me what's wrong." Rarity asked in the most sweet voice she could muster; cleverly masking her shock for seeing her sister in such condition.
"Oh sis... I didn't want for you to see me like this... It's not what it looked like..." Sweetie lied to her sister, but Rarity was alert now. She knew something was wrong with her sister. Sweetie felt that Rarity knew what she had been contemplating a few moments before.
"Just talk to me, Sweetie. I want to help you!" Rarity said as she got up, still holding her sister close, and walked herself and Sweetie to the couch. "We've been through so much together... I do want to help you with whatever problems you might have." Rarity gently pushed her sister away from her to look in the eyes. Sweetie's mane and fur were a mess. Her eyes were bloodshot and blurry with tears. Sweetie used her forehoof to clear her nose and sniffed, but Rarity didn’t seem to notice; she was focused on the important task she now had; being there for her sister.
"It's just that I... I..." Sweetie bit her lower lip and looked away from Rarity's eyes. She gave her little sister a 'go on' nod and Sweetie spoke again. "I feel like I'm nothing... worthless! I feel I shouldn't be graced with such great ponies like you in my life... I mean- you've all been so good to me and I feel like I did nothing to deserve it. You all have your perfect lives and..." Rarity cut Sweetie’s self-demeaning speech with her hoof.
"Oh you silly filly... Don't you see? Perfection doesn't exist."
"But... but you always said that all your dresses had to be perfect all the time! You wouldn't stop working until they were the way you had imagined... Come to think of it, you kept working on them even after they were already finished!" Sweetie said a bit louder than she'd intended, slightly angered at her sister’s hypocrisy.
"Yes I did... but you see, Sweetie, even your big sister can be a big foal sometimes. I... know what you're going through... I even think that I am to be held responsible for that. I've always been so stern when it came to perfection that I sometimes forgot that it is something impossible to achieve. I think I might just have been a bad example for you. But I always told myself that you were smarter than me... that you wouldn't believe me and my senseless acting..." It was now Rarity’s turn to diverge her gaze from her sister’s. Small tears formed in her eyes, blurring her vision on the sides.
"Rarity, please! It's not your fault.” Sweetie Belle said, noting her sister’s suffering. “It's just me... I am the one who can't get it right, not you." She hugged Rarity closer and tighter than ever, mentally berating herself for making her sister feel that way.
"Yes, Sweetie, it is my fault. But I really don't think arguing about whose fault it is will help. Tell me... what's on your mind?"
"Well... as you are already aware of, I'm the lead singer of... I guess you could call it a band. Anyway, I feel like I'm dragging everypony-" Her thoughts shifted towards Octavia and she felt a little guilty. "... well, almost everypony, by myself. Sure the audience loves it; but I... feel that there is something missing and I just can’t put my hoof on it. I feel like it is my fault... maybe I'm demanding too much of the... the band. But still... I want it all to be perfect. I need to be perfect. I just..." She trailed off without finishing her sentence, not knowing what she could say to complete it.
"Sweetie... there are still some things you need to learn about life. After all, you are still a very young pony." Rarity wasn't lying; Sweetie was now the same age Rarity was when she opened the Carousel Boutique to business on her own. "You are actually lucky, dear sister, for when I started my business I was alone. Sure I had Pinkie already as my friend but... I needed somepony really close to me... someone that I felt I trusted completely. Looking back now, I wish I had you with me." Rarity said smiling sadly to Sweetie Belle.
"Oh sis... at first when I heard you were coming over I... I felt scared. I didn't want you to find out that I had these... problems with myself, but I also didn't want to make you feel like I was hiding something from you... I know you have an eye for minor details and it's just...” She sighed. “I'm sorry.”
"Sorry for what, darling?" Rarity said, a bit confused at the seemingly unnecessary apology.
"For wasting your first weekend with me in months... for not making you proud of me..." Sweetie bit her lower lip and looked down.
"Sweetie, could you give me one moment, please?" Rarity said, a blank expression on her face.
Sweetie just nodded and kept her gaze locked at the floor, mentally berating herself. 'You've done it, Sweetie Belle. Congratulations! Now your sister hates you. She'll just pack her things and leave...' Sweetie Belle heard the sound of the stroking of a quill on a parchment. ‘Now she’s probably writing to mom and dad, telling them how much of a failure their daughter is.’
Rarity trotted back to the living room. A light-blue aura surrounding both her horn and a small envelope. "Sweetie Belle, I am very concerned about you. I have written this letter and made preparations to-"
"To leave as soon as possible." Sweetie said completing Rarity's sentence for her. "Don't worry, sis... I won't hold it against you... I wouldn't want to be near myself either..."
"Would you let me finish?!" Rarity said, a tone of stern annoyance on her voice. She knew this angst was doing no good to Sweetie Belle at all. Rarity walked up close to her sister and looked her deeply into her teary eyes. "Don't ever, even for a brief second, think that I'd abandon you!” She said, leaning forward and hugging Sweetie. “I just wrote a letter to Fluttershy telling her that I'll be staying here for another month, so she’ll have to take care of Opal for a bit longer." Rarity broke her embrace and looked over Sweetie Belle and smiled warmly when she saw her sister looking at her in confusion. Soon Sweetie also began to smile, one of the purest joy, plastered across her face. Rarity couldn’t help but giggle a little. "I will stay here and we will talk about these problems if you wish to. I really want to help you, Sweetie Belle; I don't want you to feel the helplessness that I once felt in my life. I know I haven't been a very good sister when you were a filly... but I want to make up to it!" Rarity said almost pleading to Sweetie Belle.
Sweetie felt as if a beacon of light was now illuminating the dark sea inside her mind. She just pounced at Rarity, sending both tumbling down on the floor. Rarity was startled with the sudden move, but soon relaxes when Sweetie hugged her once more with tears of happiness in her eyes. "Oh, thank you, sis! Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!!"
Rarity returned the embrace before lifting Sweetie’s head with her hoof in order to look her in the eyes. "Now now, Sweetie Belle, my stay here won't be just for leisure. Although we will spend time together as sisters, I really want to talk to you about these feeling that you have toward yourself. I know you don't agree with me but I think that, being the source of them, so to speak... it is my duty as a sister to help you!" Rarity paused for a moment. "I'm sorry, you've probably heard more 'I want to help you's tonight than you must've had your entire life. I just feel like I need to get a message across and believe me, little sister, I will stop at nothing until I see you 110% better!"
"I don't care how many times you say it.” Sweetie Belle said, lowering her head to rest on Rarity’s chest. “Just as long as you are by my side. That is more than I could've ever dream of..." Hearing this made Rarity’s tears pour from her eyes silently. She knew that she would have to be very patient with Sweetie. She knew that changes took time, and even a month might not be enough. ‘And if it isn’t... Then Fluttershy will just have to handle Opal for a bit longer.’ Rarity thought.
"Now, how about some sleep? We both are very tired and we have a whole lot ahead of ourselves." Rarity said, nuzzling Sweetie’s mane.
"Uhm... sis...?" Sweetie Belle shyly asked.
"C... Could I..." She paused for a second, blushing lightly. "Could I sleep with you on the bed tonight?"
Rarity gave her a small, content giggle. "Anything for my dear sister!"
* * *
"Bye Rarity! Wish me luck!" Sweetie said as she trotted towards the door. Rarity could notice a rapid improve in her attitude in just one night. ‘It’s amazing... just having somepony around seemed to change her behavior entirely.’ Rarity was glad for that, but she wanted this better change to be a permanent one.
"Good luck!" Rarity said a little too late, Sweetie was outside the apartment building now. Her excited running occasionally made her bump with some random ponies on the street. They all called her names, some even shaking their hooves at her, but she didn’t care. Rarity went towards the living room and located one of Sweetie's 'band' recently published vinyls and quickly set it to spin. “Well, a little music while I clean up this mess is sure to make things easier.”
Suddenly a tune of jazz-rock mix started to come out of the speakers. Rarity couldn’t help but giggle a bit; it sure was an energetic beat. Rarity gave herself some thought and shrugged. ‘No pony was watching. What do I care?’ Seeming to forget her lady-like composure, Rarity got up on her hind legs and began to dance wildly to the music. Even though she had no experience in dancing to such tunes, she knew a thing or two about improvisation.
Rarity danced around the apartment with a broom as her companion. She cleaned up all the shards from the floor almost automatically. She found herself still dancing to the tune when it ended. A new music began to play; a much less energetic tune than the previous one. Rarity gasped and her eyes widened when she recognized Sweetie Belle’s voice along with some other mare’s. Rarity stood paralyzed and let the broom fall from her hooves, which landed with a loud clank on the floor. The sound wasn’t enough to wake Rarity from her trance-like state. The notes hit her ears softly, echoing gently through the apartment.
The notes shifted abruptly and, but the vocals were stubborn, like both were playing a game of tag with the tempo and the harmony. Rarity noticed that ‘the game’ had some rules, maintaining all its elements in order, forming a very pleasant melody. The world turned into nothing for Rarity. The music ended, but Rarity kept motionless. Her eyes were moist from the most beautiful thing she’d ever hear in her entire life. Rarity’s lips quivered a bit as she tried to voice what she had heard, but her mind could only think about one thing.
‘Perfection... it does exist.’