On Goblins and LiesMonochromatic
If I had known…
If I had known things would take that turn, that our relationship would fragment in such a way, I would have never allowed myself to be content with just one kiss.
She always consumed my thoughts, this is painfully true, but it was not the same after that date at the café. Where once I saw a future, now I saw myself clutching the remains of a fading dream.
Twilight Sparkle knew who I was, and it frightened me to realize it was my turn to find out exactly who she was. Where she stood. What she thought of not only me, but my profession and all the values it entailed.
There would be no agreeing to disagree here. No reluctantly relenting and accepting that she liked vanilla ice cream while I preferred strawberry. If she disagreed, if she asked me to change, I would not do so.
She knew that.
I knew it, too.
All that was left was finding out.
I wonder… Do you remember little Silver Blue? We spoke of him once, so long ago now.
The boy who died on a bench, alone and cold.
It was snowing the day that he died, and it was snowing the day I was supposed to meet Twilight again.
As I turned the corner into Pembrook Road, snowflakes descended from the heavens and transformed the street into a beautiful painting, much like the ones you’d find at the Lady’s mansion—white, pristine, clean.
But then I continued to walk, and the further I walked, the more the illusion revealed itself for what it was. The more the brushstrokes of snow became scattered and incomplete, uneven clumps tainted with dirt from the street and the tracks from carriages, bringing into perspective something entirely gray, filthy, and haunting.
At the time, I did not feel so different from Pembrook Road.
I didn’t want to go through with it. I didn’t want to go through with any of it. I loathed the fact that I’d been pushed to it, that something as simple as showing Twilight my shop was forced upon me, something which should have been wonderful turned sour by the circumstances.
I wanted to resent Twilight, and I did to some extent, even if I knew it wasn’t right.
I did what I had to do, I told myself, regarding my secrets and lies.
In fact, I didn’t like her anymore. Whatever silly affections I’d developed were now gone, replaced by the disdain I’d had before ever meeting her. Nevermind that she said that she was just upset over the fact that I lied; I knew what she was really thinking, and it was that I was nothing but a whore. That she was above me.
Better without me, just as the Lady thought she was.
Where before I’d dragged my feet, now they strode briskly down the pavement, the fear and dread weighing on me now masked by righteous fury and indignation. Well, I didn’t need her; didn’t need her approval or validation. I didn’t want her, either. She could go back to the north for all I cared.
Then I turned the corner at Bartow Road and saw her.
There she was, my darling beloved, looking dashing in a lovely coat as she made a show out of levitating two cups of coffee to the amusement of the local butcher’s children. Higher, they asked and the cups floated all the way up to the second floor. Lower, they asked and the cups delicately landed on the floor.
Upside-down, I wanted to step forward and say. Upside-down, diagonally, all around, and watch with delight as she complied. But I didn’t. I was too frightened to find she might no longer indulge me.
“Where you off to, Missus?” one asked. “A magic show?”
“No,” she replied. “I’m going to a shop near here. Maybe you can help me find it?” She took out the napkin where I’d written my address and showed it to the boys. “Carousel Boutique. I—” She paused. “I know the owner.”
“Oh!” said a child who oft repeated what he heard from his parents. He turned to his brother. “That’s the whore’s shop, innit? The one who did the dress for Honeydew?”
I quickly hid behind the building’s corner, buried my face in my hands and wished to die.
“It’s right near here, Missus! We play near it loads of time! You can’t miss it,” I heard the other say. “Are you a client of hers?”
All I heard as I pressed myself against the wall was Twilight’s reply. A startled and forceful no. No, no, no.
I’m not sure how long I stayed there. Hours or minutes, it all blurred together, the passage of time marked only by the snow falling on my boots. I held out my hand to catch the snowflakes and then watched as they melted and slid off my hand and onto the ground.
When I peeked around the corner again, Twilight and the children were gone.
I took a breath and went on my way.
Carousel Boutique, for better or worse, stood out among the other shops along Bartow Road.
Colorful and vibrant with fresh paint, it was quite unlike the other shops around, each and every one reflecting the passage of time in the cracks in the wall, the dirt in the paint, and the disregard of those who had nothing to prove.
People whispered about my shop once, back when I had only just opened it. Told stories of how Lady Luna had paid for it, or that it was a gift from my more affluent clients. Others still, those who knew of my past, said it had been Lady Celestia herself who’d paid for my pretty, glittering storefront.
I had paid for it, of course. Not that they knew or cared.
I’d spent more money than I could afford on my little boutique and was quite happy with the result, until someone splashed a one-word description of my night job in black paint everywhere it could be splashed upon.
I don’t know who it was. I don’t much care. People walked past my store, whispering and whispering, and as I later found out, expecting the dear Lady of the Sapphire to fix my problems.
It must have surprised them to see that the only one fixing my store was myself, stumbling my way through painting a storefront and cursing the three buckets of paint I accidentally spilled.
Ultimately, what started out as a valiant attempt to show them I didn’t care for their judgement became a sad sight. A sad sight to see me sitting on the ground at three in the morning, my back to the wet walls, and my tears tinted blue from rubbing my eyes with similarly tinted hands.
I supposed it was inevitable I’d think myself stupid. I missed the mansion. I missed how easy it had once been to do things. I even missed Lady Celestia. I thought perhaps I really had made a mistake. I thought I really was what they accused me of. A rich little brat who’d forsaken a better life to try and rebel. A filthy whore.
No wonder they disliked me, I thought.
For days, my boutique remained as it was. Half-painted, the accusations still littered throughout, until the day I got a call from the school informing me my sister had skipped classes. I later found her outside my shop in the company of Spotless Rain, the owner of the local dry cleaners and my only client thus far, both of them dipping brushes into buckets of paints.
“Don’t mind them,” she later said as we painted, throwing a look to the other shops around. “Don’t you let them take your colors away.”
The next time I saw Twilight Sparkle, it was when she was waiting for me in front of my shop front, occasionally throwing glances at Spotless Rain and her daughter Amber, the two of them waiting for me with a small envelope of money.
Amber Rain saw me first.
“Oh, she’s here, momma!” she exclaimed, tugging at Spotless’ apron. She then waved to me. “Rarity!”
I noticed Twilight immediately straightened up, two cups of coffee floating prominently before her.
“Hello!” I greeted, only briefly acknowledging Twilight with a nod and then trying my best to focus on my friend and her daughter.
“Rarity! I’m so sorry, dear, I know you’re closed, but—” She gestured to her daughter and flashed me a toothy smile. “She really can’t wait until tomorrow.”
“Of course! Anything for my best clients,” I said. If only I could thank her for the reprieve she’d allowed me, the few precious minutes where I could put off the inevitable!
I moved to the door, pointedly not making eye contact with the Inevitable, opened the lock, and then stepped aside when the door swung open.
“Ladies,” I said with a gesture.
Spotless and her child wasted no time, hurrying inside the shop wherein Amber could admire my many dresses. Twilight, unfortunately, lingered. Was she too dreading her reason for being there?
We spoke simultaneously.
“Ah, Twilight, goo—” “I brought you coff—”
We both shut up as our words collided and fell into an awkward silence until I spoke up.
“Twilight,” I said with difficulty. “Good morning. It’s nice to see you.”
It wasn’t a lie. Or not entirely a lie, at least.
“Good morning,” she said in return and awkwardly offered one of the cups. “I brought you coffee.”
I accepted it, of course, but didn’t know what else to say besides a thank you. It was hard to find words to say when I was conflicted over seeing her at all.
She glanced to the shop and then back to me.
“May I come in?” she asked, and I appreciated that she did. I debated, for a moment, saying no.
“Yes, of course,” I said instead, putting on my best attempt at a smile. I gestured to the shop. “After you.”
I kept my eyes on her as I followed her in, watching as she looked around my boutique and took in the sights. The garments scattered all around, the designs pasted on the walls, the photograph of Sweetie on the counter, and the closed backdoor labeled with a very clear message.
OVER 18 ONLY
“Rarity!” Amber called, her mother having propped her up on the counter. “Do you have my dress?!”
“I do!” I exclaimed, putting on a smile and moving to the back of the room, quickly looking through dresses hanging from racks. After a minute, I retrieved a small gala dress, pink and puffy and wonderful, smiling at Amber’s delighted gasp.
“It’s so pretty, Momma!” she exclaimed, tugging on Spotless’ apron, her enthusiasm drawing a smile not only out of her mother, but Twilight too. “Look at it!”
Spotless helped her off the desk and she ran towards me, practically ripping the dress away from me when I handed it to her, then rushing off into my dressing room to try it on.
“Let me know if you need help!” Spotless called out before turning her attention not to me, but to Twilight. “And who’s this? I don’t think we’ve met,” she said to her, then damning me by asking, “Are you a client of Rarity’s as well?”
“No,” Twilight immediately said with such a force that even Spotless was taken aback. Said it with the same distaste she’d said it to those kids in the street, and it was hard for me not to… hurt at seeing how abhorred she was at the idea of me.
“Oh, my mistake!” Spotless said, recovering quickly enough.
“It’s all right,” Twilight replied, trying to save face yet struggling with how to continue, crossing her arms as if hugging herself. “I just… don’t… think I can do… that.”
I restrained the urge to groan if only because Spotless was faster.
“…Commission a dress?” she asked, and I’ll admit I revelled in her horror at realizing what Spotless had meant.
“Oh,” she said, and now she really didn’t want to look at me. “Oh—! I—! Oh.”
Spotless, too, caught on. “Oh, you thought I meant—!” She laughed with gusto, wonderfully amused by it all. “I see! What a reaction!” she teased, approaching Twilight and elbowing her. “I don’t think I could either. Might end up leaving my husband for her!”
Heavens, I loved her. I did dearly love her.
“Now, Spotless, if that’s a concern,” I said, crossing my arms and not caring that Twilight was there, “I do have flexible rates for group sessions.”
I couldn’t help but laugh when her cheeks turned pink.
“Rarity, don’t let Dusty hear you or else he might make us take you up on that!” she scolded, wagging a finger at me. “In any case,” Spotless continued, glancing at Twilight before turning back to me. “Who is this mysterious stranger, then?”
Weeks ago, the answer would have been obvious: A godsend. Now… Well, now, I faltered visibly, unsure of what exactly was the truth. Nevermind that I knew what I still thought of Twilight, what mattered was what she thought of me now.
So, unfortunately, I answered with that. And, even more unfortunately, desperate to amend for her earlier mistake, Twilight stepped in as well.
“She’s just an acquaintance,” I said at the same time as Twilight replied, “I’m a friend.”
We looked at each other in surprise and…
And actually, that’s not entirely accurate.
I looked at Twilight with surprise, whereas she offered me a shocked expression thinly veiled in hurt. Even Spotless was unable to think of a quick-fire way to lighten the mood.
“An acquaintance?” Twilight repeated, and I was tempted to throw back her own unkind commentary on my night job, but I knew I had to pick my battles, especially given that we had an audience.
“No, I meant friend,” I said quickly, a lie that I knew deep inside sounded shallow but was the only thing I could think of to make her stay. I tried to compose myself, offer a laugh that sounded more nervous than amused, and I turned to Spotless, trying to lighten the mood. “See, she was gone on vacation so long, it’s almost like we’re strangers!” When Spotless laughed but Twilight did not, I continued to speak, decisively now, “She’s a friend. A good friend. And a superb mage.”
Spotless took the bait. Or at least I’m telling myself she did. She might have just taken pity on me, but let’s pretend that wasn’t the case.
“A mage? Ooooh!” she exclaimed, turning to the mage. “What can you do?”
As she bombarded Twilight with questions, I used the opportunity to excuse myself under the guise of checking on Amber. I hurried off to the back and into my dressing room, closing the door behind me and leaning my back on it, my hands covering my face.
“Stars help me.”
“Rarity!” Amber shrieked, planting herself in front of me, the darling girl looking like a princess in her frilly dress. “What do yo—” At my anguished expression, her own delight vanished. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing, dear!” I exclaimed at once, moving forwards and kneeling down to her eye-level. “Nothing, nothing at all.” I cleared my throat and focused on her dress, offering a broad smile. “All that matters is this fabulous girl that’s come to grace my humble workshop.”
Her worries quickly faded, and she gasped in delight, giggling and twirling around for my benefit. “Isn’t it pretty?!” she asked, which obviously it was since I had made it. “I look like a princess!”
I tapped her on the nose. “Darling, dearest, you are a princess.”
“I am a princess,” she repeated gravely before giggling again and running out of the room. “Momma, look! Look! I’m a princess!”
In the solitude of my dressing room, I took a minute to calm my nerves and then finally followed her out, finding reprieve at the fact that a somewhat-smiling Twilight was watching Amber flaunt her dress to her mother.
“Rarity, she looks wonderful!” Spotless exclaimed, overjoyed.
“I’m a princess!” Amber exclaimed for what must have been the tenth time before rushing to me, arms lifted up for a hug. “Thank you, Rarity!”
Rather than hug her, however, I took her hand in my own and bowed down to kiss it. “It’s my pleasure, Your Highness,” I said, which again only caused even more delight to the child.
After another five minutes of parading around, Amber finally relented when her mother asked her to go put her own clothes back on. Such a pretty dress should not be worn in the streets, and she didn’t want to have to come back to have me fix it that same day.
Once her daughter was gone, and it seemed like Twilight had discarded any desire to leave, Spotless turned the conversation to me.
“Twilight was just telling me all about her magic abilities!” she exclaimed. “You should have Lady Luna enlist her to help Rainbow Dash with keeping out your trouble clients once she’s done with her studies.”
Twilight’s eyes widened and she turned to me. “Rainbow Dash?” she asked, shocked, before clearing her throat and asking in a much more composed tone. “…She works with you at the Sapphire?”
I froze. “Ah… Yes…”
“Oh,” she said, still in the same measured tone. She seemed intent on wanting to say something else, but instead looked back to Spotless. “Thank you for the suggestion,” she said, politely, “but I don’t think that job’s suited for me.”
“Well, if you ever change your mind, I’m sure Rarity can put in a good word for you.”
Imagine that! Twilight Sparkle working at the Sapphire Carousel! That would be the day, wouldn’t it? The day hell froze over, I thought, and the day Lady Celestia exiled herself in shame, no doubt. Her two protégés working at a brothel! If Lady Luna were petty, she’d never let her forget it.
Regardless, where were we?
Eventually, all good things must come to an end, which in this case was Spotless and her daughter leaving. They paid my fees, gave me many hugs, and after politely telling Twilight it was so nice to meet her, they marched out the door and left me to face what I had wrought.
There we stood, Twilight and I and the silence of the boutique, broken only by the fading chimes of the door bell. What did I even say to her?
“Rainbow Dash works at the Sapphire,” she said, obviously not struggling with words as I was. Twilight Sparkle, my darling beloved, knew exactly what she wanted to say. “You told me you met her through your tailor job.”
An accusation, yes, but more than anything a statement of fact that I could not deny. So I didn’t.
I walked over to a rack opposite of where she stood, looked through my garments, and then replied, “Yes.” I forced myself to turn around and look at her. “I’m sorry.”
She cared little for that.
“Applejack called her a liar when we were playing Word Scramble,” she continued, as impassive as she was relentless. “So she knows too. Does she work there, as well?”
“No, but her brother does.”
She said nothing for a moment. Merely took it in for a second that felt eternal.
“Does Pinkie work there, too?”
“No, she doesn’t, she—”
“Works at the bakery on Seventh Street, where I met you,” she completed. She paused a moment. “Does she know?”
Lord, did I mention already I wanted to die? Because let me tell you, I wanted to die.
“Yes,” I confessed. Yes, yes, just stop, make it stop, please.
Twilight’s expression was … not grim, but decidedly less than pleased. “I assume Sweetie knows,” she said and finally some sort of emotion laced her voice, in this case sarcasm, “And I’m guessing Sweetie’s friends know, too, right?”
How her face fell when I nodded my head.
Every single person in that household, she realized, including Flint, knew. Everyone knew, but her.
“Uhm. Wow,” she said, hurt. “All right.”
“Twilight, wait,” I pleaded “You don’t understand—”
“Not through any help of yours, no.”
“That’s not fair,” I protested, stamping my foot on the floor. “That’s not fair, and you know it isn’t! Yes, they knew! But what did you expect? Of course they knew! They’re my friends!”
“Yes,” Twilight said, icily, “and I’m just an acquaintance.”
I’ll admit that tears filled my eyes, as did anger, too.
She stared at me, and though her eyes widened, she said nothing.
“I said leave,” I repeated, the chimes of the door bell startling her when I gestured to the door and it magically swung open. “Because clearly you came here to make us both miserable, so I suggest you leave now that you’ve accomplished your mission.”
“That’s not true!” she protested.
“No? What are you doing, then?” I asked, stepping forward. “What is this? What exactly is your angle here? Because so far it feels like that’s all you want to do.”
“Me?” she shot back, accusing. “You’re the one who said I was an acquaintance!”
Though before I might have tried to defend myself, now I didn’t feel inclined to do so.
“Yes, I did! You know why? Because with how you’re acting about all this, that’s exactly what it feels like we are! Acquaintances!”
She flinched at that, opening and closing her fists.
“You lied,” she said, quietly.
I took a breath. “Twilight, I already apologized,” I pleaded, desperate. “I’m sorry! I am! I just don’t… Why is this so important? Nothing has changed!”
“Everything’s changed!” she shot back.
I threw my hands up in the air. “Only because you’re letting it!”
“And your—!” She faltered. “Your job at the…”
“At the what? At the Sapphire?” I asked, anger bubbling up again. “What about it? That shouldn’t matter because it’s my businesses, Twilight, not yours. And besides, it’s just a job like any other!“
“It’s not!” she protested. “I mean, it is, but—!”
“Careful, Twilight,” I interrupted. “I would suggest you pick your next words very, very carefully.”
And so she spoke with care, “It’s not… It’s not just a job like any other.”
“It is,” I said, and faced with her silence, I made a mistake and doubled down. “It is!”
“Why did you lie about it then?” she demanded, balling her hands into fists. “If you really thought it was just a job, then you wouldn’t have needed to lie to me about it.”
“I’m sorry, Twilight,” I said, trying to keep my cool when faced with a good point, “but I didn’t think you’d understand.”
“I would have tried!” she snapped, and I replied in kind, stepping towards her.
“Oh? What? Like you’re doing now?!” I shot back and gestured haphazardly. “Is this supposed to be you trying to understand? Is it?!”
“That’s not fair! You never even gave me a chance to try and understand.”
“Fine, Twilight. You’re right,” I said, trying not to sound venomous. “You’re right. Forgive me for being so terrible. This is all absolutely entirely my fault. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with me. I’m sorry I was afraid to tell the student of the woman who shamed me out of her house that I was a prostitute!”
“I’m not Lady Celestia!” she shot back.
“I know that, Twilight!”
“Then why didn’t you tell me?!”
“Because I care about what you think!” I exclaimed, confessed, whatever you want it to be, but there it was, plainly stated, the worst thing to ever happen to me. For the first time since Lady Celestia, I’d allow myself to care about someone’s opinion so much it hurt to breathe.
Twilight said nothing. I doubt she even knew what to say.
“You’re right,” I said, not angry, not loud, just resigned. “It doesn’t matter what I think, it isn’t just a job.”
Whether I wanted to or not, whether it mattered to me or not, the fact remained it still mattered to the vast majority of the people who walked our city.
“I don’t know what you want me to say, Twilight,” I continued as tears stung my eyes. I forced myself to look at her. “I already apologized. I already admitted I lied. As I said, my job is just a job to me, but I realize that doesn’t matter much at this point.”
So I asked her.
“What do you want me to say? What do you want me to do?”
“I don’t know,” she said eventually, and I might have laughed under different circumstances. “I just… I’m sorry…” Her voice lowered, took the tone of chastised child, “I really did want to see your shop, but then…”
But then life caught up, no?
“Well, here it is,” I said, gesturing half-heartedly. “Carousel Boutique. I didn’t lie when I said I was a tailor.”
“You said you were a seamstress.”
“It’s all the same thing, isn’t it?”
“Actually,” Twilight said, as if the tension had to be paused so she could quickly offer a fun fact, “it isn’t. According to the definitions of both words, a seamstress is simply one who sews, whereas a tailor specializes in fitting suits and other similar types of clothes. You’re actually more of a dressmaker, if anything.” At my pointed silence, she blushed. “Sorry. I just… Anyway.” She looked around the shop, her eyes scanning the many beautiful dresses lined up on racks. Her eyes alighted on one of my more recent pieces, glittering with interest for a moment as she moved towards it to take it in her hands. “This one is very pretty.”
“…Thank you.” I said, a bit taken aback.
“Did you make it?” she asked, and then quickly said, “Wait. Sorry. No. I don’t know why I said that.”
I smiled. “Actually, a goblin comes in at night and makes all of these and I just take the credit.”
She snorted. “Right. I know you’re being sarcastic, but did you know there’s a fairytale about elves who made shoes for a poor shoemaker?”
I blinked at her. “Sarcastic? Darling, I’m not joking.”
“Yes, you are,” she said, and after a pause added, “Wait, you are joking, aren’t you? Goblins don’t exist.”
“Twilight, don’t invalidate my sister’s species.”
She laughed. “Sweetie isn’t a goblin, Rarity.”
“You’re right,” I sighed, crossing my arms. “She’s more a banshee of the seven hells, but I love her regardless.”
“The little girl from earlier was nice,” she said, trying to move the conversation along as she turned her attention back to the dress she’d liked, trying her best to ignore the elephant we’d invited into the room. “Do you often take commissions like those?”
She turned to me, the light-heartedness she’d gained vanishing quickly. I must have sounded rude. It wasn’t my intention. I was simply tired. Tired, and though I loved her, I wanted to be alone.
“I’m sorry, Twilight,” I continued, “but I think I might have to ask you to leave.”
“Oh.” She opened and closed her fists, helpless and surprised at being kicked out after what seemed to be a positive interaction. “I see. I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright,” I said. “I’m just tired is all, and I still have to finish some costumes for a performance tomorrow night.”
In my defense, this wasn’t a lie.
“A performance?” she asked, her eager curiosity apparent despite the awkwardness between us.
I stared at her for a moment, debating what to do. Eventually, I decided that if she really wanted me to be transparent with her, then I would be so regardless of consequence.
My fingertips glowed with magic and a single sheet of paper levitated from my desk and into her hands. A simple purple flyer showcasing a single pair of red-tinted lips, two white words elegantly written below them.
“A burlesque show,” I elaborated and smiled wryly, tilting my head, “and I am its star.”
Though I noticed her blanching at this, I forced myself to ignore it and instead continued to speak.
“I’m also responsible for its costume design. There’s about fifteen different costumes in it, and I designed and made them all myself,” I said with reserved pride.
Burlesque, you see, was in many ways what led me there. So many loathed their own bodies, loathed who they were beneath fabric… It was an enticing challenge, you see; the idea of creating clothes that made taking them off a spectacle within itself.
Does that make sense in any way?
She gestured to the room with the sign forbidding minors from entering. “Is that where…”
“Yes,” I said, clearing my throat. “I can’t display them for obvious reasons, along with other…” I licked my lips. “Similar items I’m working on.”
“And there’s a showing tomorrow?” Twilight asked, and I was concerned by the line of questioning, did not like where it might be going.
“…Of Crimson Lips?”
I hesitated. “There is, yes.”
I said as much before, didn’t I? There would be no agreeing to disagree here. If she asked me to change, to stop what I’d done or was going to do, I would not do so.
She knew that.
I knew it, too.
“Twilight, I—” It was hard to speak. Hard to say what I wanted, torn between wanting to convince her this wasn’t necessary, she didn’t have to see, we could just pretend, and yet knowing that neither of us deserved to love a lie.
My sentence trailed off just as life slammed its gavel and Twilight delivered hers.
“Could I come see it?”
OH JEEZ YOU GUYS ARE KILLING ME
This was also one of the most realistic arguments I’ve read in a fanfic (and writing in general, if I’m being honest). No one is in the right here, and no one is in the wrong. This is hurt feelings exploding.
And good on Twilight wanting to go to the show. Maybe this will help break some of her boundaries for the better. (Also I so want to go to a burlesque show so badly. They always look like so much fun!)