Gretchen flicked her cigarette butt to the ground and stomped on it with slight frustration. She had been waiting outside Canterlot High for about a half an hour. School had ended, but so far there was no sight of her best friend. Of course, she had never been comfortable with the term "best friend". Not in recent years, at least. Bitter Honey liked the term very much, however, so she tolerated it.
They had been together since they were toddlers. Inseparable, some had called them. It wouldn't have seemed that way if judged solely by outward appearances.
Bitter Honey had consistently won the yearbook's "Most Cutest" superlative for as long as anyone could remember. Her freckles, short-cut hair, and stylish glasses made sure of that. She was the type who always tried to help and encourage everyone she could. She even had a reputation of being an innocent, as she often politely asked others to tone down their language. It was her art which won the most hearts, though. The main hallway of CHS was graced with a grand mural featuring charging Wondercolts which featured her name painted in neat cursive.
Gretchen, in contrast, looked like a classic delinquent. Leather jacket, ripped jeans, with half her head shaved. Her red eyeshadow was overapplied as if it were war paint, just as her mother used to wear it at her age. Many assumed she must have spent time in juvie at some point, but the truth was that she hadn't gotten into too much trouble and even earned decent grades in class. A lot of that was due to Bitter's positive influence. Not that she would admit that, of course.
They had indeed been close almost all their lives, however there seemed to be something going on for the last few days. Bitter just hadn't been herself. Her hyperactivity had dulled, her movements becoming sluggish and awkward. The joy she always had upon her face had faded more and more each day. Bitter would usually spend some extra time in the art room after the final bell, which was why Gretchen was currently waiting. It was time to get to the bottom of all this.
Gretchen snapped to attention when she heard the front doors opening. Out came Bitter herself. She seemed tense, clutching her backpack straps for dear life it seemed.
"Hey, Bitter Bitch!" Gretchen playfully called out. Usually, the prudish Bitter would chastise her for such vulgar nicknames, but that wasn't the case this time. She flinched and stopped cold.
"Bitter?" Gretchen asked as she approached her. "You okay?"
"Yes," she heard Bitter say softly. "I got to go..."
"Hold up!" Gretchen said as she grabbed Bitter's arm as she was about to walk away.
Gretchen swung Bitter around to face her. Gretchen's eyes widened when she stared into those of her friend. Bitter's eyes seemed empty. Without life. Almost zombie-like. If Gretchen didn't know her friend so well, she would of thought she was high on something.
"I... I'm looking forward to your party tomorrow..." Gretchen finally said, not able to come up with anything else.
"Okay," Bitter said distantly.
With that, Gretchen let go of her friend's arm. Bitter stared at her for another moment before turning and slowly walking off. Gretchen let out the breath she didn't realize she had been holding. All of their lives together, Bitter had made Gretchen feel many emotions. This day, Bitter made her feel one she never thought she would or even could give her.
Gretchen quickly got home after the encounter. She cranked up some death metal before relieving her anger upon her poor pillow. As her fists sunk deep into the fluffy material, she couldn't help but to think about how bad she had choked. She still didn't know what was up with Bitter Honey.
She gave her pillow one final blow before flopping onto her bed. She was exhausted, both physically and mentally.
A buzz was felt. Gretchen fished her phone from her pocket to see a message from Bitter. She immediately sat up to read.
94hnt dvj/erjqgmn ,,,aweewtg %<
"The fuck?" Gretchen uttered as she squinted at the nonsense.
She immediately texted back.
Seconds passed, turning into minutes. Gretchen was about to send another message before there finally came a reply.
YESOP EKALB trust dont_hes a laZy hackkkkkkk
Bitter u need me 2 come over?
More seconds, more minutes. Gretchen began to wonder if this was even Bitter. Had her phone been stolen? Was she talking to some thieving troll? Oh, they were so going to get it if Gretchen caught them...
I'm sorry, Gretchen. I guess that I haven't been thinking straight lately.
Gretchen let off a sigh of relief. There was the girl who texted in proper sentences she loved and tolerated.
Whats the matter?
I'm not sure, honestly. Hey, are you and your mom still coming tomorrow?
Gretchen smirked and rolled her eyes. What kind of question was that? Even with all the recent weirdness, she wasn't about to miss such an important day.
Duh bday bitch
Gretchen laughed when she received an unamused emoji along with the word, "Language". Yep, Bitter was definitely back to herself. For now, at least.
And don't bother bringing a present or anything. I just want you there. Love you.
Lol no homo right?
A minute passed without Bitter answering. Gretchen's smile dropped as she braced herself for another bizarre reply.
Sure. No homo, as you say.
Gretchen stared at the message. She felt as if a specific tone was radiating from it. Was it... disappointment? She shook it off.
C u tomorrow weirdo
Sour Sweet sat in the driver's seat of her mother-in-law's old station wagon. In her lap were two bags full of baking ingredients. Sour had first thought it was nice of Niban Person to offer the ride to the supermarket, however she was quickly reminded why she hated riding with her. Namely, the fact that Niban controlled the radio dial.
"See, folks, the problem with these kids today is that they are taught from Marxist kindergarten to Leninist college that there is a correct answer to everything," the obnoxious host droned on. "There's a correct answer to climate change. A correct answer to homosexuality. A correct answer to the theory of evolution. To the theory of gravity. To what color the sky is. To whether you should stick your weewee in the light socket after the vacuum tube didn't work out so well..."
"Niban, please turn to something else before my mind turns to mush," Sour sighed as she rubbed her temples.
Niban gave her daughter-in-law a gentle smile. "And that's the kind of attitude that will make me vote for Filthy Rich for another twelve years."
Sour rolled her eyes, deciding to drop it. Especially since she knew that Niban was the type to never deal in threats, only promises.
"But he does make a good point, though," Niban continued. "I still can't believe that you put poor Bitter Honey in that Canterlot High hovel. What was wrong with Crystal Prep Academy?"
Sour stared in disbelief at Niban. "What was wrong with Crystal Prep? What was wrong with Crystal Prep? You mean other than the miserable, toxic environment that both your son and I had the suffer through for four years? Gee, it's a complete mystery."
Niban shrugged. "Seemed fine to me."
"The only way it could've been decent was if Cinch had gotten fired right after her BS at the Friendship Games and Cadance replaced her." Sour sighed. "But that's the kind of stuff for alternate realities, unfortunately."
"All I know is that I would trust an exclusive and uniformed curriculum based on pure mental superiority over whatever new age, kumbaya garbage the ivory tower libs want to shove down the throats of our innocent children in public school."
Sour cracked a smile. "Niban, I find that your solution to elitism being just more elitism to be very endearing."
Niban fell silent for a moment, before responding, "I'll take that as a compliment."
Sour chuckled to herself. Sparring with her mother-in-law was fun in it's own way, but she had more important things to focus on. Her daughter's sixteenth birthday was tomorrow. Everything had been planned out. There would be a small party at noon with family and friends and presents. Later that night, it was off for a private dinner at the Il Cavallo Regazza Italian restaurant. Thankfully, the ban which was handed down during Sour and Second's disasterious first date had long since been forgotten.
Yep, just a nice celebration with loved ones as well as dinner between father, mother, and daughter. Bitter had seemed a bit moody around the house lately, but Sour was sure tomorrow would make everything more delightful.
Nothing could possibly go wrong.
Bitter Honey sat solemnly in her room, listening to her newest friends. Some were downers, but some were amusing. She just wished she could see them.
<To continue or not to continue?>
<Worthless. It's all worthless...>
<And that's when the Fire Nation made the donuts.>
Speaking of which, the smell of baking snapped her out of her daze. Her vision was filled with nothing but a blank spot of wall. How long had she been staring at nothing? She couldn't tell. Her mind wondered about the aroma. Cake? It smelled good. Was it a special occasion? Oh, yeah. Her 50,267th birthday. Right.
Bitter clutched at her head and sighed. She wished she could think clearly. She kept having to remind herself of her own name.
<Empress Turquoise Sunsheen. That's a good name for you.>
"I like it," Bitter said aloud to no one.
She then groaned and got up. She needed to get out of there. She also wanted a piece of that cake and wish whoever's birthday it was a good one. She went over to her door and reached for the knob.
<She's going to kill you.>
Bitter froze at the warning. She would end up standing still for a half an hour contemplating whether or not to risk leaving the safety of her room.
The Person House was already packed when Gretchen and her mother, Gilda arrived. Many of her classmates were there as Bitter was fairly popular. The rest were Bitter's family, such as her grandparents from both sides. Gretchen glanced over at Sour Sweet currently greeting someone she didn't recognize, however.
"Starlight!" Sour cheered as she hugged her. "How's it been?"
"Oh, just great," Starlight answered happily. "We've just established three more branches of Our Church. It's been quite a busy year."
"Of course, some of us are getting a bit antsy with how things are going in the country lately. We may relocate and create a settlement elsewhere. We're looking into some land in Guyana right now."
"It can get pretty hot in South America, you know."
Starlight winked. "We'll pack plenty of Kool-Aid, believe me."
Gretchen peered around for the person of honor.
"Bitter's still upstairs," she heard a voice say.
Gretchen turned to see the friendly face of Bitter's father, Second Person. "Oh, hi, Mister Person. Uh, thanks."
She was about to head towards the stairs, before Second held something out to her.
Gretchen cringed when she laid eyes upon it. It was a floppy eyesore in the shape of a birthday cake, complete with cloth candles sticking up on top. She gave her elder an annoyed look. Did he really think Gretchen of all people would want to be caught dead wearing something like that? Then again, Second had always been a dork in addition of being the world's biggest simp. Or he could've just been trolling her.
"Bitter's been a bit down lately," Second began to explain. "It might give her a laugh." He gave her a wink.
Gretchen found herself not being able to argue with that logic. If she were to look like a fool, at least she'd be doing it for Bitter.
"It better give her a good laugh..." Gretchen muttered under her breath as she snatched the hat out of Second's hand.
Reluctantly, Gretchen put it on and glanced at her mother.
"Looks good on you," Gilda said, trying her best not to laugh.
Gretchen rolled her eyes as her mother and Second went off to join the other adults. Finally, she could go find Bitter. However, before Gretchen could take a step on them, Bitter Honey appeared at the top of the stairs. Gretchen opened her mouth to greet her before noticing the distant, emotionless expression upon Bitter's face. Bitter descended the stairs and passed her best friend without so much as an acknowledging glance. Not even to the stupid hat she was wearing. Gretchen's spine shivered.
Bitter started making her way through the crowd. Some naturally tried to converse with her, but she dodged them as if they poisonous.
"There she is!" Sour Sweet cheered when she spotted her. "The birthday girl! Come on, everyone. A one and a two and..."
Everyone joined in for the chorus of the Happy Birthday song. As they did, Sour retrieved the birthday cake she had prepared. It was a grand confection with baby blue icing, the number sixteen written in white frosting with rainbow sprinkles, and complete with the same number of candles positioned around the top. Bitter didn't react to the singing, nor made a move to blow out the candles. By the end of the song, many began to notice as they exchanged awkward and confused glances. That included Bitter's mother and father.
"Uh, okay, Bitter..." Sour began with a concerned tone. "Let's dig into this cake, shall we?"
As she said those words, Sour held up a slicing knife in her hand. For the first time, Bitter showed emotion. Her eyes went wide in fear. That fear only lasted a moment, however, as it then turned into pure rage.
"I KNEW IT!!!" Bitter abruptly screamed, causing everyone to jump. "I KNEW YOU'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO KILL ME, HAVEN'T YOU, YOU FUCKING BITCH!!! YOU WON'T GET ME!!! CUNTS LIKE YOU NEVER WIN!!!"
Bitter shot her hand up and knocked the tray presenting the cake out of her mother's hands. The cake splattered upon the floor. With that, Bitter ran away and back upstairs. The slam of her bedroom door rang out. Everyone was left in stunned silence. Never before had any of them witnessed such anger, language, or action out of Bitter.
"Told you not to put her in public school," Niban stated flatly, breaking the silence.
"Mom, please..." Second whispered. He turned to everyone else. "Uh, it seems Bitter isn't feeling well. Maybe we can celebrate some other time."
Many visitors took the hint, nodded understandingly, and began to leave. Gretchen glanced over to her fellow students from CHS.
"OMG, what was that?" one sneered.
"I always thought she was strange..." another admitted.
"Oh, man!" a third laughed, quickly texting everyone in their contacts. "I wish I got video of that!"
Gretchen's fists tightened. Those fake bastards. They weren't Bitter's real friends. Gretchen was her real one and she wasn't leaving. Bitter needed her.
As the great majority filed out, Second let out a deep sigh. He looked over to his wife. Sour's eyes were fixed on her labor of love on the floor. She appeared as if she hadn't moved an inch since the bizarre outburst from her daughter. Finally, her gaze slowly met his.
"This is how it started," she managed to utter. A tear ran down her cheek. "This is how it started with me..."
Bitter Honey felt like a small child again. She was cowering in the corner of her room, wrapped in a blanket for pseudo-protection. Her door was locked so her mother couldn't rush in to decapitate her. She only had her new friends to comfort her, even if she could barely understand them now. They were becoming more excited, talking over each other.
<ZYXWVUT Kettle corn needs more tartar sauce SRQPONM The filmography of Gary Busey provides the most poignant commentary of the 18th century urban youth within Peru. In this essay, I shall... LKJIHGF It's Thursday, mah bois. Yee haw! EDCBA Gretchen, when are you going to eat this poor girl's French fries, already? Now I know my CBA's, next time won't you rant with me?>
Suddenly, light began to show through the blanket's fabric. She could of sworn she had turned the light off of her room. Curiously but cautiously, she stuck her head out. She gasped as she realized that she wasn't in her room anymore. Nor her house.
A dark forest surrounded her. She stood, letting the blanket drop to the ground. She was about to take a step forward before a rustling noise halted her. Out from some bushes scurried a small, but fierce-looking animal. It looked as if it was half bird, half reptile. Before Bitter could react, the quick creature darted toward her and then the unexpected happened. It phased right through her legs as if it, or possibly her, were a ghost.
"Aw, what a cute chicken-snake," Bitter said in a sweet tone before growing sour and spouting, "Yeah, better run before I deep fry your ass!"
Bitter put her hand over her mouth. She had never spoken in such a tone-shifting manner. In fact, there were a lot of things she hadn't ever done before that she was doing lately. As she reflected on her behavior as well as her unfamiliar surrounding, she began to yearn for some kind of guidance. Any kind of direction would do.
Bitter's attention suddenly fixated on a specific point of the forest. She felt something pulling at her. Something telling her to walk that way.
Bitter passed through the seemingly unending forest. Even the various chilling sounds of unknown creatures couldn't sway her attention away from the force that was leading her. Finally, she reached the end of the tree line. Ahead of her was a plank bridge covering a small crevasse and beyond that was the ruins of an ancient structure. In the middle of that, she saw the shimmering top of a pink structure. She knew that was the place she needed to be.
Her feet sprinted at full speed. She crossed the bridge, not even thinking of the possibility that the rickety thing could snap under her. She ran up the hill and swung open the large wooden doors to reveal the illuminated treehouse within. Bitter took a step forward when she was suddenly blinded by a bright glow. When it died down, Bitter found herself facing a sparkling being who looked strangely familiar.
"You do not belong here," it said in an echoing, yet monotone voice.