The visceral wind tore through the night, teasing the greedy tendrils of trees with the promise of the day's warmth and sunlight; howling through the trees like the sound one would imagine at the top of an exceedingly large mountain. Which is ironic, because that's where Octavia could have sworn she was, her head pressed deep in between two pillows, her snout unable to take in any air. After a few more minutes of almost smothering herself to death, she woke up, and rolled over, limbs splayed outward and tail resting between her legs.
“Oh dear, my mother would kill me if she saw me like this...” she remarked, her beautiful bloodshot purple-mountains-majesty eyes still hidden behind her eyelids. She reviewed the sentiment that alcohol was the source of her problems in her mind, nodding meaninglessly to herself in agreement, subsequently forgetting the conversation that had just taken place in her mind. She opened her eyes, landing herself in a struggle to bring the two light fixtures on the ceiling back into one single piece, the way it should be. It only occurred to her just then that she had woken up not to a migraine, but to a migraine caused by Beethoofen's twelfth symphony, her chosen alarm song recently. Seeing that it was nearing its end, she was already five minutes late getting out of bed. She rolled sluggishly out of the bed, her side perfectly aligning with the edge of the bed so that when she fell off, she landed on her hooves. Normally this perfected maneuver would have prepared her for the start of another perfect day, but her hangover would not have it so. She buckled under her own weight, not really realizing what was happening until her muzzle was already buried on the floor. She reached above herself and slammed the off button on her alarm clock with a hoof, and dragged herself to the kitchen.
“Coffee, I could really go for a cup of... Coffee...” she murmured, still only barely conscious. She began to talk to herself aloud.
“How did I even make it home last night? Surely I didn't manage to pull myself home when I was this drunk.”
“Oh, maybe I spent the night here drinking. Why can't I remember the time before I started drinking last night? I should at least be able to remember what I was doing before this whole mess began.”
“Oh shit, I have a job interview today.” she realized. That was why the alarm was set. She didn't set an alarm unless she had somewhere to be. The coffee maker uttered a beep to notify her of its completion, and she greedily accepted the rush of caffeine that came over her fifteen minutes later, wiping enough of the snow off her mental windshield that she could probably get through her interview. She got in the shower, humming the rest of Beethoofen's twelfth as she scrubbed herself clean of the dirt of yesterday. It was a shame she couldn't also wash away a migraine. She grabbed the towel and dried herself off as well as she could, combing her mane before leaving the room to allow it to dry better. She would have little time to lounge around this morning, seeing that she allowed herself an hour of extra sleep than usual.
“Real smooth, me. Give yourself barely enough time to get ready on the one morning you could really use some extra time.” she said, all in one deep lungful of air. She walked over to her cello stand, grabbing her custom instrument and throwing it in its case before heading outside. It was very bright outside, just like the winds tacitly promised an hour before. Her apartment was on the second floor, which while seeming like a luxury to most, was actually part of its downfall. Living in Canterlot was expensive, and there were no elevators in this two story apartment complex. She had to use the stairs every time she wanted to leave. Not that this was a problem for Octavia, because she was in good physical condition, and ponies weren't weak animals anyway.
She descended to ground level before setting off on her journey toward her (hopefully) new job. She broke into a light trot, one she had perfected over a few years, that she felt still looked eloquent, but did not shake her cello in its case too violently. It was just then that she realized she had forgotten her bow tie, which she decided was unimportant. Then she realized that she had also forgotten the bow to her cello, and she turned hoof and raced back to her apartment, now at least a few more minutes behind. She found it on the quilt patterned chair she always left it on, and cursed herself for forgetting it. She grabbed her bowtie, adjusting it until it was set perfectly upon her neck, and realized she had also forgotten her phone.
“Bollocks, how could I have screwed this morning up so badly?”
She looked around for a few more moments, making sure she hadn't forgotten anything else. She opened the cello case slightly, dropping the bow inside and clasping it again, throwing it back on her withers. Taking off at a smooth canter this time, she raced toward her interview. A canter is far smoother than a trot, due to the way the legs move when doing so, so she didn't have to worry about keeping the cello case in place. It was only a few minutes of cantering before she arrived at the small restaurant she wanted to play at. It would be an easy job, she would get to exercise her musical skills while she waited for school to start again in September.
It was a scary transition for her, moving from high school to university, but she didn't really have a choice. She had turned eighteen right as the school year ended, and her parents had encouraged her to rent an apartment and find work before the start of university, to her great chagrin. But here she was, living her own life without her parents (with the exception of the fact that they paid her rent). She supposed she had her independence to thank them for. She hadn't spoken to her mother in a few weeks, and she was looking forward to seeing her on the following weekend. She walked in the door, leveling her breath and making sure she wasn't too sweaty. She looked at her phone and realized that she had failed to turn it on. She held the power button while she looked around for the owner, who was also a hostess at the restaurant.
“Oh, Octavia, I called you, did you not get my messages or calls?” came a voice from behind. She spun around and greeted her hopeful employer.
“I just now realized it wasn't on, pardon me ma'am.” She genuflected slightly, allowing the mare to continue.
“I'm really sorry about this Octavia, but we accepted another mare to the position already, I was trying to get ahold of you to let you know.” Octavia hid her strong disappointment well, even managing a weak reassuring smile.
“It's okay, I was stuck between this restaurant and another, but you helped make the choice for me.” she lied. She hated to allow other ponies to see her when she was weak, so she pretended that it was no problem that she wasn't hired.
“Thanks for your time, Ms. Persepony!” said the crushed cello player. She checked her phone again, to clear the missed calls from her phone history, when she saw her father had called. She was hesitant to acknowledge the calls, but in the end she decided to call him back. It was unusual for someone to call five times and leave three voice messages, and that wasn't including the seven texts he sent around the same time telling her to call him. He picked up the phone immediately.
“Octavia, I've been trying to get ahold of you all day, and last night. Where are you?” Her father sounded very strained, maybe a little raw, she would reminisce later. She pressed the phone to one ear, walking carefully on three legs toward the exit of the restaurant.
“I was at an interview, father. What's wrong?”
“Octy... Are you sitting down?”
“Father, you're scaring me. Tell me what's wrong.”
“Yesterday evening, your mother suffered from a heart attack.” Octavia stopped in her tracks, right in the doorway. Numbly she sat down on her rump, gasping audibly, putting her now unoccupied left hoof over her other ear.
“Father, is she okay?” She said slowly, the shock not yet having worn off. Tears were already making their way out of her tightly shut eyes, making levity of the horrible situation by racing down her face on dark tracks.
“Octy... She passed on early this morning, they got her heart beating again but it just couldn't last. I'm so sorry...” He finished, sobbing lightly.
“Oh god! No! We were going to have tea! On the weekend! Tell me it's not true! She can't be gone!” She cried, sobs wracking her body. Patrons in the restaurant were beginning to take notice of her. She still had her eyes closed, and her head faced the ground. A bright white colored mare with an electric blue mane approached, eyes hidden behind dark shades.
“Hey there, I can tell you're having a rough time of it, but I gotta get in there.” Octavia didn't hear a thing, she continued to sob with her father, fueling each other. For something this awful, they were able to put their past differences aside.
“Octavia, I want you to come home, I wish I could say it was for your own sake, but I'm hurting a lot too and I could use your company. I know we haven't gotten along in the past, but you shouldn't have to go through this alone.”
“Father, I-” she sobbed “I have to go.”
She shut the phone off, stowing it away in her mane. She stood, still sobbing, eyes closed, and tried to run immediately out of the doorway. Two things happened; her cello case caught on the door frame, and her body levied to left side, slamming into the white mare. The white mare had stood off to the left in the first place, to allow Octavia to pass, so when she hit her, she was already almost off the path. The resulting impact left her sprawling into a puddle of mud beside the path.
“Oh jeez! I'm so sorry! Let me help you up!” The mare extended a hoof. Octavia made no motion to get out of the puddle. After righting herself, she set her head on her legs and cried, a deep bellied sob. From inside the restaurant came the voice of the mare's boss.
“Vinyl Scratch, could you walk that mare home? I think she just got some bad news, and she looks to be in a bad situation. I wouldn't want her to have to go home alone. Just make sure she's okay, please! She lives a few streets over on Trottingham, in that one apartment complex. Right on the corner of Pegasus.”
“I got it, I would have asked you to let me if you hadn't asked.” Vinyl said. She wrapped her forehooves around Octavia's right, and pulled her up, against her will.
“Just leave me here!” She sniveled, no longer caring about anything. She was so very deep in the depths of depravity, she felt that she was fairly acclimated for a trip to Challenger Deep. She felt a hoof wrap around her midsection, and she was being pulled forward. Not bothering to open her eyes, she just stumbled forward in the embrace of the kind stranger, allowing them to lead her. After fifteen minutes of walking, they arrived at the corner of Pegasus and Trottingham.
“Excuse me, aren't you Octavia? I think we shared a class back in sophomore year. Music class. Is this your home?” Vinyl asked, trying not to be too loud for Octavia's benefit. Octavia sniffled, opening her eyes and looking up.
“Yes. This is my home.” She sobbed some more, walking toward the stairs.
“Do you want me to come in? Is there anything I can do?”
“I... I don't know.”
She stuttered, slinking up the stairs to her apartment. She rubbed her mud covered left side against the railing, to try to get some off before she went inside her home. Right now she cared little for keeping her home clean, but the deep social conditioning in her failed to grant her reprieve even in her darkest moment. Vinyl took it upon herself to follow Octavia inside, getting the feeling that Octavia was too much of a mess to get to her bed. She watched wanly as Octavia tried to jam her key in the door, but she had it upside down, and only grew frustrated as it refused to enter the lock. She had a sudden, violent paroxysm of anger and started to slam the door with her front hooves, the key falling to the floor.
“Whoa, calm down there girl. You're gonna be okay.” Vinyl was feeling especially sorry for her as she restrained the angry mare, to prevent her from doing any lasting damage do the door. With her magic she gathered the key and opened the door, leading her inside. She looked around quickly, setting the key down on the shelf by the door. She led Octavia to the bathroom, which she spotted across the room, its door ajar, revealing the posh purple carpet in front of the tub still damp from her earlier shower.
“Alright, you need to take a shower, before you can go to sleep. I know it's not your idea of grieving but you shouldn't get into bed dirty.” Octavia, somewhat more consolable than before, simply nodded, stepping into the shower and looking at Vinyl with expectant, bloodshot eyes, until Vinyl closed the door. After a few moments, the water could be heard running, fervently trying and failing to match the classy pony's tear production. Vinyl cleaned her muddy left foreleg in the sink, having gotten it dirty wrapping it around her barrel earlier. She paced around Octavia's well kept dining room, not really knowing where to go, and not sure she should leave her yet. She examined closely the photos framing the window over her sink. She saw Octavia curled up and asleep in a blanket, obviously from her younger years. A picture of a stallion and a mare she figured were her parents. An artist's rendition of Octavia's cutie mark, a purple treble-clef casting a long detailed shadow that took gracefully took the form of a cello at the back of the photo, seemingly off in the distance. She saw the symbolism, but wasn't particularly touched. The only things that intrigued Vinyl were new age music, and alcohol. And other mares, but she was would be remiss to be caught admitting that. After a few more minutes, Octavia emerged from the bathroom. The mud was gone, but the stress of the day was ever present.
“I think I'll go now, you look like you'll be okay.” Vinyl said, preparing to leave.
“No... I could use... Never mind, you can go.” Vinyl pressed on, not willing to leave out of sheer curiosity.
“What is it, what did you want?”
“I'm not really sure, I just don't want to be alone. You have work to do right? You should go.” Octavia again put on her bravest face, unwilling to be a burden.
“To be honest, the ponies at that bar can relax watching the hoofball game or something for a while. If you need a shoulder to cry on or someone to talk to, I'd be glad to do it.” It wasn't often that she displayed such kindness, but she felt a sort of kinship to a pony who had been through so much. It reminded her of her relationship with her parents. Octavia was silent for a while, and with no response, she felt, in the awkwardness of the situation, that either she had to leave, or keep the conversation going herself.
“Just start from the beginning. Oh, and you're Octavia right? I think we had a class together once, but it's all a little foggy now.”
“Yes, we did. I remember you, you were into that abhorrent electronic music. Ugh, that stuff singes my ears. How do you enjoy it?”
“Your crappy classical stuff could use a little wub. From it's owner, and in general.” She smirked at the double entendre.
“Wubs? That mentality is infantile and only further accentuates your puerility.”
“Oh never mind.” They lapsed into a semi-comfortable silence. Octavia's thoughts turned to her mother again, and she mourned for the loss.
“Oh Vinyl, this has been a positively dreadful morning. I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm just a little... Lost.”
“Tell me about it.”
“I got up early for my job interview, and my phone was off so I didn't get the call from the employer, who wanted to tell me not to come in, because I wasn't hired. I think you got my place instead. How dare they allow your ridiculous nail-on-chalkboard clanking to usurp my tried and true music?”
“That's a little hurtful, I've dedicated my entire life to this 'nail-on-chalkboard clanking'.” Ignoring Vinyl's comment, she continued.
“I got there, and was promptly fired. Not that I was hired, but I still feel like I got fired, because I was sure the position was mine.” She glared with animosity toward Vinyl, as tears formed in her eyes.
“I turned my phone on, and I saw a lot of calls from my father. I called him back, and found out my-” Retelling the story brought the event back to the front of her mind, and the pain found new ways to tear away at her heart.
“My mother died, over the night, and I couldn't be there for her in her last moments because I was drunk and didn't have my phone on!” She sobbed, and began to remember her mother in all of her glory. She remembered the toy violin her mother bought her, she remembered the look on her mother's face when, after a month of non-stop play with the violin, she mustered a tinny but perfect rendition of Mozart's opus 69 number 2, a piece traditionally played on the piano. And the grin she bore when the purple treble-clef appeared when she finished, mingling within her the pride in having done a good job, and the swell that making her parents proud brought to her heart. That time she and her mother got caught in the rain without an umbrella, and they raced home together, water gathering in their manes, slicking off their backs and down to the street, where they congregated in the storm drains, conflated to flood the streets but failing. They got home, and just looked at each other and laughed.
“Vinyl, I miss her already, I don't know what I'll do without her. I don't have anyone anymore.”
“Do you and your father...”
“We don't get along.” She sobbed hard now, harder than before. The oppressive loneliness set forth in her mind to ruin her, releasing the floodgates of tears. She gave up trying to be brave about it, just letting it go. It wasn't about holding in the tears anymore, just about making the sadness go away. Vinyl came closer to offer her support, and she wrapped her delicate, pedicured hooves around her neck. She bawled, a deep guttural sob, into Vinyl's mane. Her emotions bridled her, and she just entered the Indianeighpolis 500. Vinyl had little experience cheering ponies up, but she gave it her all, putting a supportive hoof around Octavia's barrel, gently stroking her mane on the other side. With each gut wrenching sob, she felt Octavia jerk against her. For one crazed moment, Vinyl had the urge to laugh, at the sheer absurdity of the way her first day of work was shaping up to be. She quelled it before the macabre mirth met her muzzle, knowing it was not an appropriate time to laugh. In the length of time sufficient for a small candle to have burned out passed, Octavia's fierce and virile bawling became a dulled, somber sob, which then became a slow, copious flow of tears, and then nothing.
She pulled back, face red and slightly embarrassed, and walked over to her bed. Vinyl watched her with vague intent as she patted her bed, and climbed into it. She turned back toward Vinyl, warm and still slightly damp from the shower under the covers, and thanked her somberly for having helped her.
“It was no problem, Octavia. Anything within reason for a pony having a bad day.” Vinyl pulled out her phone, searching her contacts for 'My Number'. For the life of her, she could never remember her own phone number. It didn't help that her memory was pretty shoddy, and she never got the chance to give her phone number to people. Vinyl's life was strangely placid for a pony whose life was dedicated to the entertainment of others. She felt at home around very few ponies.
“Hey, is it okay if I write my number on some paper here for you, in case you... Y'know, need someone to talk to or something like that?” She spotted paper on the Formica counter top, and some pens in a falsely ornate pen holder. She didn't hear a response, and upon looking back over at her new friend, she discovered she was already asleep.
“Son of a gun.” she whispered to herself softly, making up her mind and scrawling quickly her phone number on a post it note. She had the impulsion to put it on Octavia's nightstand, because she felt that it may go unnoticed on the counter, but she thought that would be somewhat intrusive. She settled for placing the note under a magnet on her fridge. She studied her work, nodding affirmatively, deciding it was not too intrusive. It read: Octavia, if you need someone to talk to, I want you to know that I'm always available. I really have nothing better to do. Call me, Vinyl. Her phone number was written in blocky but very well defined print under this. On her way back to the restaurant, it occurred to her that a simple call me might have sufficed, but it was too late now. There was no way she was going back in there to fix her possible mild over-zealotry. She figured she would never get a call back anyway. She meandered all the way back to work, and sat behind her workstation. A few of the rowdier, more drunken ponies cheered as she threw on one of her recently made songs, absentmindedly disk jockeying while she thought about today's encounter. Ms. Persepony approached from the side to ask her about her morning excursion.
“Did you ever find out what happened to that mare? I feel so bad...” Vinyl prepared to tell her about it, then realized it was possible that her newfound friend may not enjoy having her story told to all open ears.
“I don't know if she'd be comfortable with me discussing it with you, but she's going to be okay. She got some bad news over the phone.”
“Poor mare. Thank you for taking her home, Vinyl. By the way, what is this great tune playing right now?” Vinyl smiled, back in her realm.
“Ruby Skies and Violet Clouds.” Ms. Persepony nodded, going back to her work, which was mainly delivering food and maintaining customer satisfaction. Vinyl would probably kick back and enjoy the ride if she owned a business, but Ms. Persepony was obviously more motivated than she was. And more than likely, that was why Vinyl was not the boss.
Vinyl set the needle down on a new track, and went over to the bar. A few ponies exhibited their disappointment that she gave up her seat behind the machine for a drink, but she looked back at them with a dark countenance, and they suddenly found that they had a renewed interest in their food. She took a seat casually at the bar, waiting for the barmare to come over.
“Hey, new filly, what can I getchya?”
“I'll have a beer.”
“Food and drinks are on the house for you, but not alcohol sweetheart. You sure you want it anyway?” Vinyl checked her money pouch. She had some bits.
“Yeah, I'll go with it.” The barmare looked at her expectantly.
“Oh, uh, anything's fine. I just want a buzz.” A bland brown bottle slammed down in front of her moments later, and she didn't bother to read the label before taking it into the crook of her hoof with a sweep and chugging a tithe. She set it down in front of her, glancing over at the barmare again. “I never caught your name.” She said, trying to be social. She might not be a social
butterfly, but she could certainly masquerade around as one.
She looked around the room, at the different items inside. A few vinyl records were hanging from nails on the wall, all of different sizes and genres of music. The hood of a Nascolt racing car. Six small televisions, tuned to different channels. Ponies found the seats where the program they were interested in watching would be in easy viewing. It stood out to her that the less popular programs were facing fewer seats, and that it must have taken months of watching how many people congregated around each television to figure out how to position them.
“I'm Starry Night.” The barmare replied, walking back over and setting her hooves on the counter.
“What's their name?” She pried, omniciently and pretentiously, in a way that only a pony who frequently spent time around other brooding ponies could.
“What? There's no pony on my mind.” Vinyl retorted, and she was telling what she thought was the truth. It wasn't really anypony on her mind, but she was feeling pretty lonely. Hearing about Octavia's life and goals reminded her of the fact that she herself didn't really have any. She took another swig of her beer.
“Just thinking about a lot of things, really.” She didn't give Starry Night another chance to respond, starting to move back toward her setup. She realized she hadn't paid for the beer yet, and tossed more than enough bits on the counter before heading back. She didn't like the way Starry had acted in front of her, and just wanted to get back to her work. Within a few minutes of finishing her beer, she was slightly inebriated and feeling a whole lot better, but in reality just feeling a whole lot less. The loneliness would come back later when her shift ended and she left for the night. She distraitly flipped disks on her machine, occasionally switching to another song when ponies seemed bored. After many hours passed, Ms. Persepony came over and dismissed her from her station. She left her equipment on site, heading home for the night. She found a stone right outside the door of the bar, and kicked it all the way home. She let herself in the home quietly, hoping not to disturb her grumpy roommate. For once, she was successful, and she quietly slipped into the sleeping bag in the spare bedroom.
Octavia awoke later that night, feeling somewhat better, but the gnawing pressure in her chest continued away at her heart, memories like langoliers to the past. She knew it would be a long time before she was feeling good again. She retrieved her cello from its case, a wonderfully commissioned poplar and spruce production, varnished in dark brown and shinier than a newly minted bit. She lovingly twisted the knobs at the bottom, tuning it to perfection. Holding the bow loosely in the crook of her fetlock, she began. The somber but compelling tune of the moonlight sonata began to resonate, through the room and through her soul. She let herself glide into the music, being enveloped by its mellifluous embrace. She slowly worked her way back from the place she was standing to her favorite chair, the melody never fluctuating. She eased herself into it, sinking into the chair, relaxing her legs until she was merely cradling the cello to her barrel and bringing the music to life.
She began to fall into a state of semi-consciousness, easing the turmoil in her heart. She continued to play as her fugue-state mind considered her mother again. In her almost dream like state, the perverse thought momentarily occurred to her that she was bringing the bow across her mother, in spirit, like a knife, and she flinched back to reality, faltering slightly. Tears escaped her eyes as she brought Beethoofen's fourteenth symphony to a close. She decided she would go see her father after all. It was getting late, but she would hail a carriage in the morning. She chose another piece she knew by heart to play, this time the skater's waltz. She delighted in playing music not designed for the cello on the cello, she felt that some pieces had a certain quality to them that really made them stand out when played on string instruments.
After a few hours of playing song after song, her playing arm was sore, and she didn't feel like playing anymore. She knew if she continued for too much longer, she would grow tired of playing and not play at all for weeks. It had happened to her before. She gingerly placed her cello back in its case, clasping it with the bow inside. She was feeling pretty down, like a pony who had just been shown that the only thing they were good at was something not needed by society or the world at large. Her heart was still caught in her throat, and try as she might, she couldn't sleep. She opted to get a glass of milk to relax. Somnolently sauntering into the kitchen, it took little time at all for her to notice the crooked fridge magnet, and the paper that lay below it. She had forgotten completely about Vinyl's offer. She pulled the paper out from under the magnet much like one would pull the tablecloth out from under tabletop paraphernalia. She set it on the counter to the right of the fridge, and brought out her milk. She made a mental note to get more, as the container had about one more serving left. She turned it over, and regretted it instantly. Charity Thunderhooves' picture appeared, framed in condensation. Have you seen this pony? Call crimestoppers to report any sightings made. Help reunite her with her parents.
Things like this always depressed Octavia. She sullenly placed the milk back on the shelf, letting gravity do its work in closing the fridge door. She was about to take a sip of her milk when she decided she could go for a little alcohol. Just a bit. She reached into the cupboard above the fridge and retrieved a bottle of French Merlot. She usually enjoyed more expensive but refined wines, but since she was diluting it with milk, she had no qualms with using a cheaper, harsher wine. She poured about a third of the milk's total volume in, bringing the cup almost to the brim. She left the bottle on the counter in case she wanted to have more later, and took a sip of her concoction. It was disgusting, she thought. After a while, the taste would no longer matter anyway.
She walked back out of the room and sat in her chair. Everything felt surreal to her. She hadn't quite reached the last stages of grief yet, and right now she was too boggled to try to figure out just where she was. She glanced back over at the counter, which she was just barely elevated enough to see over the edge of. She spied again the yellow paper that Vinyl Scratch had written her phone number down on. No, it's too late to be bothering other ponies. Besides, she's barely a pony at all! Who wears sunglasses that gaudy? She looked like a laughable contestant on Equestia's Got Talent. She quickly admonished herself for speaking so negatively about a pony who had helped her get through her darkest moment. Even so, she proved to be a decent pony, despite her obvious lack of fashion. She took another sip of her alcoholic milk concoction.
She wondered about the afterlife, too. Was it possible that her mother was out there, watching her right now? Would she approve of the way Octavia was handling life? What if she no longer cared about her, now that her earthly ties were cut? The oppressive thoughts ran amok in her head, and her solution was to go to sleep. She would sleep until morning, and then contact her father. She washed down the last of her cup, and sat in her favorite chair for fifteen minutes, putting her mother to rest in her mind, and after the alcohol took its hold, she climbed forlornly into bed and took to sleep. Streets away, Vinyl Scratch too slept, and while her sleep wasn't as dreamless as Octavia's, it was by no means more restful; she stood in the middle of a plain the entire time, the boredom and loneliness encroaching even upon the most peaceful moments of her day. She groggily awoke around 4 A.M., unhappy and disenfranchised with the idea of sleeping again. She decided to remain awake listening and creating new music for the rest of the morning.
Octavia threw on a scarf, heading out for a morning of travel. Her parent's home was only twenty miles away, but in city streets, it could be quite a trip. She stood quiescent at the edge of the sidewalk in the street, looking straight forward and lost in thought, keeping an eye out for a carriage. She had escaped the clutches of the tears, for now, but that was not to say that she was not sad. She was still despondent, but she had been set free of the weeping. A carriage materialized out of the early morning fog after a few minutes, and she hailed it over. With utmost professionality, the stark black and white maned stallion came to a stop, making sure he didn't force her to jump over a puddle to get into his carriage, which was no small feat with the sheer amount of water that crowded the street, begging for the opportunity to sully a hoof.
When she noticed a checkered strip on his flank, she also realized that he was actually quite old. She took her seat in the back of the carriage, and gave him the instruction to take her to the nearest intersection to her home. From there, she could direct him to her house.
“You don't happen to be going to that nice dark blue house on Trafalgar, do ya? I just took a mare who looked just like you there the other day.” He said, not knowing what he'd done. When she didn't respond, he looked back, not slowing down or straying off path, hallmarks of a great carriage stallion.
“Oh I'm sorry, is it something I said?” He inquired, upon seeing her looking down.
“You met my mother. She passed away yesterday, and I'm heading home to meet with my father.” The stallion looked visibly shocked, and she felt bad for making him feel guilty like that.
“I was totally out of line there, ma'am. Let me make it up to you, this ride's on me.”
“That's unnecessary sir-”
“It's nothing. I would feel like a bad stallion accepting your payment anyway.” He interrupted, and she acquiesced. She wasn't going to fight with him to allow her to pay him. A few minutes passed in blesssed silence, before she began.
“I couldn't help but notice your cutie mark. Were you a racepony?” He smiled back at her.
“The best of my time. Ever heard of Flash Thunderhooves?”
“You're him? I would never have guessed!” It was at that moment that life, in all of its complexity, took another turn for the coincidental.
“Wait, I saw a pony on the back of a milk carton... She kind of looked like you... Er, nevermind, it's not appropriate of me to ask.” He snorted.
“Charity. I miss her a lot. This world is a horrible place, I still can't believe she's gone...” He bemoaned. She felt instantly sorry about having brought it up, but she lost the courage to apologize when their conversation again lapsed into silence.
“So you were a famous racepony, did you make a lot of bits?”
“More than you could ever imagine. I spent it all hiring private detectives and trying to politicize my daughter's disappearance. So now I pull a carriage. I still do have some money left, but I'm saving that for her college fund, I know we'll find her someday.” Octavia didn't tell him that only one in ten missing children were found alive if more than a month had passed since their disappearance. Not that Flash wouldn't know that, but it would still be a horrible thing to mention. Her surroundings descended into familiarity, and before too long she was staring out the window and into her own, the second story window that once was her bedroom window. A pang of deep sadness and longing hit her when she saw the house.
“Well, this is it. Thank you so much, Flash. I know they'll find her!” She exclaimed just loud enough to sound sincere, but not vociferous. It wasn't that she wasn't sincere, she did hope they would find Charity, but she was in no mood to be chipper or hopeful, she really just wanted to lay down in the grass and stare at the house forever. She didn't look back at the crunch of gravel as the carriage pulled away. She walked up to the house, pulling a hoof back to knock on the door, then choosing to go inside without knocking. While it certainly didn't feel like home right now, it was home.
“Father, I'm home!” She yelled, and this time she paid no mind to her volume. In a style very much unlike him, her father skidded out into the hallway.”
“Octavia! I thought you weren't coming! Why didn't you answer your phone?”
“I just didn't have the heart, I wasn't in the mood to talk. I'm sorry.”
“It's okay. Please, let us have a second shot. I was irresponsible and I know that, but please forgive me. Claire did, and you're all I have now Octy.
“Okay, father. But let's not talk about this right now.” He nodded in comprehension.
“The funeral is in two days, which will be thursday. I thought you might like to bring your cello, play one last song.” All was silent, just a mare and her father. One wouldn't have known they were in a room with two grieving ponies if they could not see them. A grandfather clock ticked in another room. Octavia remembered it in great detail from her childhood, its intricate oak design, a beautiful crescent moon pendulum and solar clock face.
“Yes, I will perform. But I'd have to go back to my apartment to retrieve it, it didn't occur to me to bring it until now.”
“Okay, do you want to go now, or tomorrow?” Octavia had an uncharacteristic surge of anger.
“What if I wanted to go on wednesday, did that ever occur to you?” She spat, and before he could reply, she amended.
“Sorry... I guess I'm a little stressed out. Let's go tomorrow. I could use a cup of coffee.” He motioned toward the kitchen.
“I have some coffee, sure.” He turned his back, exiting the room. She followed him. Had some coffee. The rest of the day passed in general monotony. They spoke very little, and when it was time to go to bed, her father opted to sleep in the guest bedroom. He wasn't quite ready to sleep in their bed again, not yet. Octavia of course slept in her own bed. She pulled the covers over herself, and soft snoring could be heard just minutes later. She had a surprisingly easy time sleeping seeing the events of the most recent days.
Vinyl's day was also very uneventful. After her shift at the Pomegranate Promenade, she walked down to the river. It ran alongside canterlot, into the foothills and all the way out into the ocean. At this point, it was fresh water. She stared down into the moonlit water, its luminescence casting a glow on her face. She couldn't see her reflection, as the full moon's reflection perched itself atop her neck. If she could have seen her face, she may have seen the small tear rolling down her gracefully sloped muzzle.
“She never called me.” She turned around and went home. Sleep came easily to Vinyl, it always did. It was just a portal to tomorrow to her,
Reclaiming her cello proved to be a simple affair. She and her father had a silent ride in the back of a carriage to and from her apartment. Her father made a few comments about how clean she kept her home, sparing any comments about the Merlot still sitting on the counter. The days leading up to the funeral passed in relative silence. Her father made few motions toward patching their relationship, and she made no flagrant attempts at it either. She hadn't really thought much of it at all until the carriage ground to a halt in front of the cemetery. She had her cello strapped to her back, and was wearing an ornate black scarf that her mother had once bought for her, ironically in case she ever had to go to a wedding.
She claimed it was fashionable but not too flashy, which would be a no-no at a funeral. After a while, a crowd had arrived. Most of the faces she knew. Family and childhood friends, some of her mother's co-workers, and a few unfamiliar ones too. The sun shimmered in this sky, determined not to allow them one moment of self pity. A priest took a spot at an alter, conveniently positioned in between a few graves nearby, out of the way of the guests. Her father had thankfully chosen a closed casket funeral. She didn't know how well she would have been able to handle seeing her dead, even for one last time. The priest began to speak shortly after everyone stopped talking.
“We are gathered here today,” he paused, looking around for effect, and probably because he was barely cognizant of himself at this point, “to mourn the loss of a dearly beloved pony. She was loyal, and it was always her goal to keep her friends in bright spirits, just like her own.” He looked ancient, and Octavia wouldn't have been surprised if he was delivering the speech for himself, too.
“It is always hard to lose somepony so good and honest, so pure and full of life, but it is important to remember that this is all part of the Divine Plan. She has moved on, but not left. She is still here, in our hearts. Let us bow our heads in prayer for her safe passage into the afterlife.” Octavia lowered her head and closed her eyes. She cared little for speeches like this, but they did have a way of getting to the heart. A few straggler tears made it past her shut eyelids, but she put up no resistance. The old guelding droned on after the prayer, but Octavia was trying hard to tune him out. If she heard any more, she might start crying. It was socially acceptable for her to be crying, but she thought she'd had just about enough of that. Eventually, the pony stopped. He looked up, and around.
“I understand that there is a lady here tonight who would like to play a song in honor of the lost.” Octavia cringed at the way the old pony phrased it, but she nodded dourly and stepped forward. She wasn't sure how close she should be from the coffin, but she assumed a five foot range would be about right. No one would criticize her performance anyway. She had never been a pony who experienced stage fright, but the sobriety of the occasion put a fear in her. She snapped open the two latches to her case, and pulled out her cello. For one frightening moment, she didn't see the bow, but it appeared when she began to lift the cello out of its case. She set it down, the spike digging slightly into the dirt, and rested some of her weight on it.
Bow in hoof, she lowered her arm and began to swing, side to side. Rocking her memories to sleep, the memories of the attendees, she held them in her grasp and rocked them gently as she stroked the strings of her instrument adroitly, with an undeniable precision that, on any other occasion, would have warranted a price tag. A sweet but somber miasma of music emerged, filling the area like the scent of a freshly baked cake fills a kitchen, and Octavia imagined she were laying down a red carpet for her mother to walk on. Walk away. Walk right into... What? She had never been a staunch believer in the afterlife, but times like these made her wish she was.
As it drew to a close, she realized she had been rocking back and forth the whole time, the cello with her. Nopony was watching her. They spent the entirety of the piece with their eyes closed and heads down. There was no clapping, no celebration for the song's end. Only a few sniffles, a sob, a little bit of eye drying. Unceremoniously, she placed her cello back in the case, placing the bow beside it in the foam cutout for it. I really need to begin remembering to place it there, that was quite a scare. She clasped it, and took her place among the ovular crowd once again, as the priest called for a eulogy.
Octavia's father delivered one, and she thought it sounded like he'd done a lot of practicing. He delivered it beautifully. A few other ponies shared their thoughts, and pretty soon she found herself on yet another silent carriage ride home. She examined closely the difference between focusing on certain spots as they went by, and allowing them to rush by in an unfocused blur. The jury was still out on that study, as it was interrupted by her father's arm around her back. She turned around, and for the first time in years, returned the embrace.
She returned to her apartment later that evening, after a somewhat heartfelt goodbye to her father. She would have to come visit him sometime, she had grown to respect him a lot more in the absence of her mother. Her mother, being truly the greatest mother Octavia could have asked for, left her with no desire to patch relations with her father. She entered her apartment flipping on a light. The Merlot was still on the counter. She went through the motions of making sure everything was in its proper place, before pouring herself a full glass. She probably wouldn't want up with a hangover if she cut herself off at one, so she put the rest back in the cupboard. With all of the grace of a pony about to get hammered, she plopped down in the stool adjacent to the counter.
The yellow piece of paper was also undisturbed. She turned her back, grabbing the remote in one hand, and turning her television on. It immediately revealed an overhead view of a theater, orchestra in progress. She identified it as one of Mozart's earlier works, but couldn't put a finger on which. She continued to sip her drink as she idly flipped through the channels. A medical documentary about a man with a mysterious disease caught her interest, and she began to watch it. Before she found out what disease he had, she lost what touch of sobriety she had left, and no longer cared. She turned back around to get another glass, before realizing she had already stowed the bottle away. Then the yellow paper again caught her eye. This time, it also caught her interest. She studied the graceful curves of Vinyl's calligraphy under the dull accent lighting. She reached the numbers. Pulling out her phone, she dialed the number, pressed send, and held the phone to her ear. It rang a few times, then she began to hear loud music. It dulled considerably after a moment, and she heard a cheery voice emerge through the din of other ponies speaking
“What's up? Who's this?”
“Hello Vinyl, this is Octavia.” Vinyl smiled on the other side. She remembered after all!
“Hey there! Whatchya need?”
“I don't actually know why I called you. I guess it's because I'm a little drunk, I'll let you go. Sorry for the bother.” Octavia said, chastising herself for ever having called Vinyl in the first place. She was probably relaxing to her music when she rudely interrupted her.
“Hey, it's all cool. I was pretty bored anyway.” Vinyl hesitated, but felt there was nothing to lose after a moment. “You want to hang out sometime?” After a few moments of hesitation, Vinyl heard what she was hoping for.
“Yes, I suppose that would be fine.”
“Great! When do you wanna meet up? I'm almost done my shift here at the Pomegranate Promenade, you could meet me here.”
“I'll come running.” She assured Vinyl, with a sarcastic lilt.
“I'll see you then!” Vinyl ended the call, stowing the phone back away in her mane. She would have been said to glow, had anyone seen her before she contained her excitement. Finally, I'm going to hang out with somepony!
She threw one last disc on. It was her longest song. She remembered how long the walk was to and from her apartment, and figured it would take her about that long to get here. She would extend into unpaid overtime, playing an eight minute song, but she just wanted to have something to do for the entirety of her new friend's trip here. Celestia forbid she have to wait one moment without something to occupy her. She turned her thoughts back to the music just in time for a bass drop. She smiled, nodding her head to the music, and was able to stave off her excitement for a little longer. The music lapsed back into placidity again, and her head nodding slowed slightly. It picked back up, the beats doubling in speed, over and over, until they were almost a blur, then wham, and it dropped again.
Octavia stumbled in through the old fashionably decayed saloon doors as this happened, and she waved her over. In her current state, Octavia was moderately suggestible, and she went over to where Vinyl was sitting. Normally the sheer volume of the music booming through the bar would have damaged her ears and left her indignant, but she wasn't fully aware of her surroundings. Her music finished, and DJ pony pulled the needle off her track, returning it to its place in her bag. She grinned widely at Octavia, who managed a sheepish smile back.
“I'd offer you a drink, but I think you should probably lay off on the drinks for now. How light of a drinker are you?” Octavia giggled a little.
“I could probably get drunk eating a spoiled peach.” Vinyl laughed, gesturing toward the bar with a hoof, and walking in that direction.
“Hey Starry, can I have a lettuce pate with fries?” She directed toward the barmare. “Octavia, you want anything?” She asked, much softer.
“I could go for a... Whatever you're having.” She gave up on her paltry attempt to recall even one of the dishes this place was known to serve.
“Make that two, Starry.” She turned back to Octavia.
“So, where have you been? Are you, well... Are you doing okay?” Octavia fiddled with her mane.
“Her funeral was today, I played a song on my cello.”
“Wow, that must have been hard.”
“I miss her, life is just a little... Different. Without her. I don't want to talk about this Vinyl, let's talk about your life. What do you do for fun?” Vinyl accepted the change of subject with ease.
“I write music, like all the time. When I'm not writing it, I'm listening to it.”
“Hmph. You call that stuff music? It's more akin to clanking. Instead of making me feel emotion, it just makes me feel like someone started a meat grinder nearby.”
“You'd know what a meat grinder sounds like, cannibal.” Ignoring the insult, Octavia pressed on.
“Real music has well defined tones, it flows, it makes you feel something, and not the phantom pain of your muscles and sinew being torn apart.” The mental picture made her giggle at her own retort.
“Octavia, you don't respect my music, I get that, but you also said that it didn't have well defined tones, or flow. Maybe it doesn't make you feel anything, but it sure makes me feel something. And the tones are well defined, and it flows just like any other music.” Octavia had little to say to that, so she was grateful that the barmare brought their food. Octavia retrieved some bits from her pouch, placing enough to cover her food, and a slightly generous tip for the barmare's welcome interruption. She grabbed a fork and began to eat, shoveling the food in but still managing to be classy. A feat that boggled Vinyl's mind. She began to eat her's as well, seeing that Octavia gave up.
“I'm going to make you like my music, Octavia. You'll be hanging on by your teeth in excitement for the next album.” Octavia finished her mouthful. “You're not supposed to chew with your mouth open. Anyway, I'm more likely to infatuate you with my own music, which has hundreds of years to its credit.”
“Don't cling to the past, you'll get old fast.” Octavia smirked.
“I am in little danger of growing old any quicker than the next mare. But thank you for your concern, I see you've made it your prerogative.” Vinyl pretended to know what prerogative meant.
“For the sake of courtesy, I'll give your racket a shot. But it's getting pretty late now, and I think I should be getting home. Thank you for a wonderful night, Vinyl Scratch.”
“No problem Octavia, I'd like to hang out with you again, if that's cool with you.”
“That's perfect. When do you have a day off work?”
“Actually I have tomorrow through Sunday off. So we could hang out again tomorrow.”
“Okay, you have my number now. Let me know when you wake up, I'm an early riser.” She hugged Vinyl.
“Thanks for everything, including that walk home. I appreciate it.” Vinyl hugged her back.
“No biggie, cya tomorrow.” Octavia stepped outside, momentarily assaulted by the warm and humid air. The warmth seeped into her bones, and by the time she was home, her eyes were jaded with the air, and asserted their dominance, as she merely collapsed onto the bed and fell asleep. She claimed to be an early riser, but tomorrow she was going to sleep in.
Vinyl arrived home a little later, taking a trip to her favorite spot along the river again. The moon was waning, and she got a clearer glimpse of her face. However, this time, no stray tear rolled down her face.
“Hey, river. I made a new friend today. I know you can't hear me, but thank you for supporting me. You've been the only thing that never gave up on me, never gave up in my presence. Thank you, old gal.” She somnolently walked back to her residence. For the first time she could remember, the sorry state of the domicile she rented a single room of was a welcome sight, and she dreamt lightly and happily.