“And that's when I told him—straight to his face, mind you—that 'if he wants to be first chair that terribly, then he simply must spend his time practicing his craft regularly instead of wasting the hours ridiculing students who are far more dedicated than him!'”
Vinyl Scratch nods at her friend's words. She sits at a table in the library, scribbling music notes onto an evolving sheet of paper before her.
Seated beside her, Octavia Melody continues ranting as loudly as her posh, whispery breath can manage in such a “quiet” place.
“And do you know what he did?” Her pretty face frowns. A toss of her smokey hair and she gestures as she speaks: “He laughed at me! As if what I was saying had no impact whatsoever! No merit! And I know it was all rubbish—so did he! It was all an act! Besides, he was sweating as he laughed! I drew him into a corner after he had emptied himself of all his arrogant drivel! He simply had no other recourse but to play the red-faced joker and act as if nothing I had said had actually hit home!”
Vinyl nods again. She continues etching a composition into being, using the warm vibrations from her best friend's voice as a secret tempo.
“You know what it is, of course. Ego! Male ego! He absolutely loathes the fact that a woman talked back to him!” Octavia bears a bittersweet smirk. Laced with pride. “And with all of his arguments debunked and his fuel tank running on empty, he resorts to sheer cowardice! Laughing awkwardly and hoping against hope that a sexist slant in the room will win others to his side against me! Well, guess what?”
Without looking up, Vinyl shrugs one arm up in the air.
Octavia fills it. “Nobody had his back!” Octavia laughs into the back of her dainty hand as she tilts her chair slightly towards the ceiling.
A few tables nearby hiss at her to be quiet.
Vinyl squirms slightly.
Octavia clears her throat, silences herself, and sits up prim and proper. “In short, nobody else laughed,” she speaks barely above a whisper. “He made himself look like an even bigger fool... and ultimately he just... sauntered off to the far side of the room to bask in his own shame. To be honest, I don't feel too terribly bad for him. His jealousy had reached a boiling point and he thought he could fluster me in front of everyone—an instead he reaped the consequences set by his own karma.”
A slight smirk crosses Vinyl's face.
“You approve, love?”
Vinyl gives a thumb's up.
“Mmmmmm...” Octavia folds her arms with a soft smile. “Somehow I knew you would. You truly are such a wonderful listener, Vinyl. You don't only hear what a person has to say. You glean understanding from it.”
Vinyl's lips contort into a bashful smile. She shrugs and keeps sketching musical notes across the sheet.
“There... must be so much going on in that head of yours,” Octavia says. “To receive so much information and yet be exercising so much creativity at the same time.” Her cheeks rosied. “Even still—you find the time to humor me. Day after day.”
Octavia's friend considers gesturing something—or else she is halfway towards coming up with a response—when she feels a warm set of arms embracing her from the side. She instinctually locks up like a popsicle with no sign of melting.
Leaning in and enfolding her in a deep hug, Octavia speaks tenderly. This time, her whispering voice sends tremorous vibrations up and down Vinyl Scratch's spine.
“I really don't know what I'd do without you, love,” Octavia says. She purrs. “Since the last semester when we discovered each other—I swear—you've made this stressful life worth living.”
Vinyl gulps. She tries to smile, but her face is grimacing. Her nose feels like exploding.
“Like my perfume?” Octavia hums. Eyelashes flutter. “It's lilac. Your favorite. At least I think it's your favorite. Remember that house party at Pinkie Pie's that we attended? I wore some that evening and you were smiling all night.”
Vinyl eventually nods. She's still encased in Octavia's hug. Taking a shuddering breath, she returns to her notepad.
Octavia remains clinging to her. “I was so proud of you at that party,” she says. “You played that experimental remix of Blue Danube. While I've never been too terribly fond of that track, I could tell that you were thinking of me when you selected it...”
A nervous nod, and Vinyl keeps scribbling notes... notes... notes.
“The reason it's working is because we're treating each other just like friends!” Sunset Shimmer says. Her hand is enfolded with Flash Sentry's as the two teenagers lean against each other where they sit at the cafeteria table. “We're taking it slow. And—in a lot of ways—we're treating things as if they've all happened for the first time.”
“My word...” Octavia holds a hand to her mouth. She sits next to Vinyl, opposite the table from the two. “...and for a moment there I thought it was just an act!”
“Not an act!” Sunset Shimmer blushes slightly with a genuine smile. “We're simply... trying not to attract too much attention. Also not take things too seriously.” She looks aside at Flash. “Right, honey?”
“Holy cow...” Flash's other hand is holding a phone. His blue eyes reflect the Reddit Home Page. “...he really does look like a turtle!”
Sunset rolls her eyes. “That includes forgiving crap like that!” She playfully punches his shoulder.
“Ow!” Flash winces. He immediately drops his phone and looks nervously at Sunset and the two seated across from them. “What? What'd I miss?” A gulp, and he crookedly smiles. “Friendship is magic! Am... am I-I right?”
“Goddess, you're so goofy.” Sunset nuzzles him like a cat—or some other four legged creature from beyond a mirror. “But also wonderfully predictable.”
“That's cuz you can read minds, Sunset.” Flash found the time to wink. “Lucky that I gave you my heart. Now you've got the complete package!”
“It almost makes up for all the emptiness in your brain.”
“Wasn't much there before you came along.”
“Good saves.” Octavia sips from a cup of water and points with her pinky. “About one and a half points in two breaths, right there.”
“Eh...” Sunset Shimmer shrugs. “I cut him a lot of slack.”
Flash leans into her ear. “Who was cutting who some slack when he waited twenty minutes outside of your house when you slept in this morning?”
It was Sunset's turn to turn red. “Did you really have to use that ammunition?”
Flash shrugs. “Gotta fight for every inch!” He gestures at the table with his free hand. “We're in No Man's Land, here!”
Vinyl Scratch snickers. She's halfway through her bowl of ramen noodles, eating and slurping away. Before she can process a response to the couple's dialogue...
...she feels a warm set of fingers covering her free hand atop the table.
Vinyl stops in mid-noodling, even as she feels Octavia lean in to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with her.
The cellist speaks: “Well, I for one believe that the oddest couples make for the strongest bonds. If it works for meatheads and telepaths...” She winks. “...I assure you that it goes double for chatter boxes and quiet types.”
Sunset Shimmer's eyes land on the teenage musicians' joint hands, then back to their faces. “Awwwwwwwwwwww...” She coos.
“I... uh...” Flash's face meanders a dumb maze. “I had no idea!” He finally summons a smile and looks at Vinyl. “Congratulations and stuff!”
“Heeheeeee...” Octavia leans her head against Vinyl's shoulder. “Truth is stranger than fiction. Isn't it, love?”
Vinyl sweats, trapped between the table and Octavia's arms. After a deep, deep breath...
Octavia Melody is still snickering. She and Vinyl Scratch are halfway through the parking lot between the movie theatre exit and their separate cars.
“Okay... I hate to admit it, but I had a blast...” Octavia gestures with both arms. “An absolute blast!”
Vinyl smirks. She adjusts her shades under starlight. Crickets perform meager symphonies from bushes flanking the street lamps and parking spaces all around.
“I mean... I have read alll of the memes regarding that feature, and Rotten Tomatoes certainly wasn't too kind. But...” Octavia shakes her head with an immutable grin. “...it really has to be seen to be believe! How relieved I was to know I wasn't the only person laughing in the theatre!” She winks at Vinyl. “I could have sworn I heard you give a chuckle or two?”
Vinyl shrugs. She charades “cat paws” before forming a tight “circle” with both sets of fingers.
“Snrkkkttt...!” Octavia covers her mouth as her face turns red. “No I do not wish to see the mythical 'cat anus' edit!” She doubles over, laughing.
Vinyl catches the teenager before she could fall over. Both enjoy a breathy wave of snickers.
As Octavia calms herself, she gazes peacefully at Vinyl in the moonlight. “Y'know... I must confess... I was truly hoping we could have done something... … ...a little more special for your birthday, Vinyl.”
Vinyl cocks her head aside with a curious expression.
“But...” Octavia weathers a long-winded sigh. “It just wouldn't be you to settle for something that isn't simple.” She gulps. “That's what I admire about you, Vinyl. You're such... a clean slate. You're selfless and reflective and... so... so very pure.” Her cheeks start to turn red. “That's why I've thought of the perfect, most deserving gift for you...”
A confused look crosses Vinyl's face. Suddenly, her shades reflect Octavia's pursed lips—drawing closer.
A deep intake of air: Vinyl leans back sharply. She immediately regrets doing so, wincing at the full arc of her flinch.
Octavia is left leaning forward, her kiss grazing nothing but night air. She blinks a few times, then gazes at Vinyl's body posture with legitimate surprise. It takes her breath away.
“Vinyl...?” She leans back, looking delicate. Fragile. Wounded.
Vinyl clenches her teeth. Her heart is beating a mile a minute. It summons the sweat from hidden pores all across her neck and shoulders.
Octavia clutches the air next to her face. “But of course,” she murmurs. “I see,” she breathes. Her eyes turn glossy, but they're accompanied by a peaceful smile. “... … ...it was too soon.”
To that, Vinyl can only wince harder. She holds it in. She holds it in...
“I... I was being too fast,” Octavia says. “I'm terribly sorry. You...” Her voice shakes a bit, but she steadies it with a beautiful expression. “You've been so... so wonderfully patient with me. All these days. Listening to my incessant prattle. Humoring my mood swings. I've been a zig-zagging Spitfire, but you remain my constant plateau.”
Vinyl's lips quiver. She stands in a slump, rubbing the back of her neck, trying to summon something—anything...
And that's when she feels Octavia's fingers clutching her other hand.
“It's okay, love...” Octavia sniffles. The gloss in her eyes are now twinkling stars, receding. “...I can wait.”
Vinyl finally summons a smile. It's a reflection of Octavia's. For that, she feels immeasurably guilty. She closes her eyes, thankful—as always—that the shades mask so much.
Vinyl Scratch shuffles through the hallways of Canterlot High School.
Her head hangs low. Her expression has no substance—no mirth. Her shades obscures any leftover semblance of a soul.
None of the students talk to her.
None of the students look at her.
One zig in a zag of zombies, and it eventually limps her to her locker.
She opens it and props her backpack up to get to its contents. The thing is covered all over with patches—all of which had been sewn on by Vinyl herself over the semester. Mostly pop culture-ish things: band logos, album covers, video game character sprites. There's a big empty spot of canvas on the top center of the backpack—the most visible part of the bag. Even as Vinyl fetches one textbook and replaces it with another, her gaze remains locked on the unmarked spot of canvas. It's blank to everyone else—but not to her mind.
With a loathsome breath, Vinyl starts shuddering. She hates it whenever it comes to this, but she surrenders to the meditative urge nonetheless. She zips open a pocket in her backpack. She reaches in... reaches in deep. Somewhere in the furthest resources of the canvas compartment—buried beneath colored pencils, erasers, and crumpled-up music sheets—there's a rectangular-shaped patch. She knows it when her fingers touch it. Vinyl takes the thing out and scrunches her teenage body against the locker so only she can see it. As she does so, she slides her shades up, momentarily exposing her sad, rosy eyes.
Four reasons to be proud of.
And yet four reasons to hate herself.
It would fit so easily against the empty space of her backpack. It would take less than half-an-hour to sew on. And yet...
“Vinyl...?” The voice comes from a corridor away. Musical. Echoing.
She clenches her eyes shut.
“Vinyl...?” Closer. Playful. Warm and endearing beyond an impenetrable veil. “Where are you, love?”
She clenches her teeth. She wants to scream—mostly at herself—but she can't even do that.
Who else will talk to her?
Who else will smile at her?
Everything is just so awkward as it is. Even the best of her ends up crumpled, thrown into a pocket, unread.
It would fit so easily...
“There you are!” Octavia's voice rattles through the moment. A solitary anchor to the flood. She can feel the smile without looking; swim to it blindfolded. “Running a bit late, are we?”
Vinyl sucks her breath in. She shoves the patch back into the backpack, seals it tight, and drops the shades over her tears.
When she turns to Octavia, she is smiling. A calm, neutral, friendly smile. All she has ever given anybody.
Octavia takes it and returns with a tender hug. “Well, no fret. I'll just tell Miss Cheerilee you and I ran into a rival gang of bass fiddlers along the way to class.”
Her hand enfolds with Vinyl's without asking.
Vinyl walks along. Silent. Tethered.
Hugs are the hardest thing to come out of.
“I heard the most awful thing on the radio this morning!” Octavia smiles aside at her double reflection. “Tell me—have you ever listened to that Rebecca Black song straight through?”
A head shook.
“Well, evidently I was trapped into giving it a listen. The DJ was attempting to make a point about post-modern musical aesthetics and did you know what he said...?”