Twilight was concerned, to say the least.
She crossed the gravel streets with firm, quick steps, again clutching the outdated map Flint insisted on giving her every time she stepped out. Though she made an effort to smile and greet passersby, her brilliant mind was distracted by the very simple fact she hadn’t the faintest idea on how to give a class.
How could she, when she had yet to receive one herself?
This was the thought that hounded her, whispered in her ear until she turned right on Incantation Avenue and saw her destination in the distance: a colorful pastry shop in a sea of gray and dreary buildings, as though it had sucked the life out of them and kept it all to itself.
Twilight’s heart sped up, and the frayed map crinkled in her iron grip.
She could be studying, she thought.
She could be taking notes on Rune Magic from North Ridge and his wife, she told herself.
She debated turning back. The odds of her ever meeting that child again were slim to none, after all. The city of Canterlot was grand and large and full of people who died still waiting for their next big break, their next big trip, their grand escape out a life they were too busy dreaming to appreciate.
“Imagine if you’d left,” I said to her once, as we sat on the bridge filled with rusty locks and dead secrets. I grabbed a nearby lock and tugged on it once before continuing. “If you’d just turned around and gone back to your mansion and your teacher and your life in the lap of luxury. Lived a perfectly simple life with proper friends.”
I turned back to her and saw her looking down at the water, her legs dangling over the edge of the bridge. Her hand glowed with magic, and with a simple gesture, a key floated up from inside the river and into her hand.
“What about us?” she asked.
“What about us?” I replied carefully, hoping for something and nothing at all.
After a moment’s silence, she threw the key back into the water, talked about her newest lesson with the Lady, and that was the end of that.
There she stood, my dearest heart, debating whether or not to keep walking towards the shop up until the moment something caught her attention. There was a brick wall next to her, on which a variety of posters had been plastered throughout the passing of the years. Some were brand new, advertising a business or product or new event happening in town. Others were faded, torn and disfigured by months or years of being left out in the cold.
None of them particularly caught her attention.
Save for one.
There, on the wall, was a very simple purple poster showcasing a single pair of red-tinted lips, two white words elegantly written below it. It was unfortunate, then, that she could not read them, as someone had found it entertaining to ruin this exceptional calligraphy by scribbling all over it and offering their own title below it.
“Whores?” Twilight murmured, her brow creasing.
She stepped closer, trying to ascertain the original title of the piece, but failed. There was nothing else written on it save for a small note helpfully informing the viewer that tickets were 100 bits plus tax.
Despite her idle curiosity, she moved away, determined to go back to her more pressing matters. She glanced back at Sugarcube Corner and after a long, very long stare, finally moved towards it with a determination that seemed to ease her nerves.
Shame that didn’t last long.
Twilight was only a few feet away from the shop when a loud, thunderous voice coming from inside the shop stopped her in her tracks. Moments later, a red-faced man stormed out, gripping his wife’s hand as she hurried behind him, her nose stuck high up in the air.
“Shameful!” the man thundered, high and mighty and haughty and many other more inappropriate words I will spare you from listing out. “Absolutely shameful!”
No sooner had she finished, a second woman rushed out like the hurricane she always was. Wearing a burnt and dirty apron, my beloved friend Pinkie Pie seemed all too willing to give her wooden spoon a much more violent usage.
“You’re shameful!” she shot back, incensed.
“I thought this establishment served decent people!” continued the man, driven by the repressed emotional flurry that comes with cheating on your loved one twice a week and knowing she suspects.
“This place serves hard-working people trying to make a living, you jerk!” snapped back my friend, whom I adore and cherish and should treat to dinner more often.
“Come on, Ruby, let’s take our business elsewhere,” huffed the man, stomping away into the streets with his wife.
To all of this, Twilight didn’t know how to react.
She watched, perplexed, as Pinkie stomped back into Sugarcube Corner. After a moment’s composure, she stepped in to find the source of this so called indecency and was surprised to find nothing of the sort. All she saw was a familiar little girl looking very stricken and an even more familiar woman, standing by the counter with a tight-lipped smile.
There I stood, dressed in a simple blue summer gown of my own design, my long violet hair tied up in a ponytail, a simple pink necklace hanging from my neck, and all the courage of the world in my heart.
I would love to say that Twilight was overtaken with emotion when she saw me again; that her eyes lit up and her heart thumped against her chest. I would love to say she thought to herself that she truly had never seen someone as beautiful as I.
But I would be lying if I did.
All Twilight saw was me. A simple young woman with a simple smile, my appearance as nice and lovely and clean as though I were the girl next door, so different from our first meeting at the train station.
I seemed normal.
And I am, even if it’s a fight I carry with me every day.
“I’m so so so sorry,” Pinkie blurted out, going to me. “I didn’t kno—”
“It’s all right, darling,” I said quickly, not wanting to make more of a scene than we’d already had. I was fine, I was. It wasn’t the first time a client’s guilt had led them to humiliating me to make themselves feel better, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
Regardless, my concern was not towards myself, but towards the child grasping my hand.
Twilight noticed her as well, concern awashing her face.
Sweetie Belle clutched my hand with the same iron fist she’d punched a child with, and the childlike excitement at a new experience was replaced with the sobering realization that life was, for the most part, rather terrible.
Especially for her whore of a sister, no?
Not that Twilight had even pieced this together, wonderfully brilliant though she is. All of these odd puzzle pieces she’d seen and hadn’t yet realized were one and the same. All she saw right now was a child crying, and that was the only thing that mattered.
I do believe that’s why I love her.
I bent down to try and console my sister, to encourage her to smile for whenever her teacher arrived, but then Twilight stepped forward, her compulsion to act only digging us further into the rabbit hole we’d fallen into.
Both Sweetie and I looked up at her, and our beautiful faces twisted into horrified expressions at the mere idea that Twilight had possible witnessed the humiliation I’d just been put through.
I remember very briefly wanting to laugh.
It was just my luck, was it not? The beautiful girl I’d been thinking endlessly about had to walk in at the precise worst moment. Of course, of course, of course. I panicked as well, as I said, wondered if she had seen or heard what had just transpired, and I felt shame.
For the first time in a long while, I felt dirty.
It was disorienting, and upsetting, and enraging, and terrifying, these feelings I thought I’d long ago laid to rest, but they were all soon forgotten when Sweetie Belle pushed me to the side and ran out of the bakery.
“Sweetie!” I called out despairingly, rushing out behind her and stopping outside the shop. “Sweetie Belle!”
She did not come back. Why would she, when her sister had been humiliated in front of her teacher, and she’d been powerless to do anything about it.
When I looked back into the shop, I found several patrons staring at me, and the shame burned me even more.
“Shall I strike a pose for you all?!” I snapped, incensed, and felt some small amount of vindication when they all hurriedly looked away and returned to whatever they were doing.
I turned back towards the street and again ascertained the fact that my sister was long, long gone.
“Great,” I said when I stepped back in, too lost in my emotions and anger to care much about Twilight. I felt responsible, upset that my sister would miss her lesson with Celestia’s student just because of my line of work. “Fantastic. Splendid. Wonderful.”
Twilight watched me, still unsure of what to do or say. I turned to her briefly, compelled by her penetrating gaze, and we stared at each other for what seemed an eternity. I wanted to say something, anything to this mysterious stranger, but instead I looked away and she simply watched me as I marched to the counter and snatched my bag.
“I need to find her,” I said quickly to Pinkie, fighting away the tears twinkling in my eyes.
“I’ll go with you!” my friend immediately said, ready to close up shop just for me, but I shook my head and held her back with a hand.
“No, no, you have to stay here for whenever this woman arrives.” I opened my purse in a hurry, took out my wallet and then handed Pinkie a few bills. “Tell her something happened, and we’re terribly sorry for the inconvenience and that we want to reschedule.”
“But, Rarity,” Pinkie protested, “the city is so big, and Sweetie is so small, and you—”
“I’ll go with her.”
Out of all three of us, Twilight was the most surprised at the words that’d just left her lips.
We looked at each other, both wondering if we’d really heard what we’d just heard, and before I could say anything at all, a sudden rush of confidence overtook her and she stood up straighter than even before.
“I’ll help you find her,” she offered and extended her map. “I have a map.” She lowered her hand. “Though it’s not up to date. Maybe it won’t work. Do you have a newer map? Though why would you need a map if you live here? Actually, I’d get lost and I’d have to follow you, so I probably wouldn’t be much help at all.” She got what she considered was a brilliant idea. “I can levitate you to give you a better vantage point?” At my expression, she quickly retracted the suggestion and opened up her map, hoping it would point her towards a hole she could go bury herself in. “Hm.”
“You’re the strangest woman I’ve ever met,” I blurted, and when she lowered her map to protest, I reached forward and grasped her hand, the poor dear yelping as I dragged her towards the exit. “Off we go!”
We barely spoke as we set off in the direction of the boarding school. She tried several times to say something and get to know me, as the Lady had suggested, but would come up short in words whenever she tried. I think the only words we exchanged were to confirm the direction we were headed in.
When we reached the school’s big blue building, we rushed to the entrance, spoke to the porter, and my relief was immense at being told that Sweetie Belle had indeed gone back to her dorm.
This did, however, mean that Twilight and I had to part.
I turned to her awkwardly and offered a pained smile.
“Well. Thank you for helping me,” I said.
“O-Of course,” she said, even if privately she admonished herself for not doing anything but following me around. “Is there anything else I can do?”
“No, that’s all right,” I offered once I realized asking her to come home with me would be more than inappropriate. I looked back towards the building and grasped the necklace on my chest. “I… Sorry, I really must—”
“I understand,” she said, stepping back and gesturing towards a nearby bench, not wanting to lose her new friend. “I’ll wait.”
My heart sped up, and though I wanted to say many things, I said none at all and instead offered a silly nod, turning towards the building and rushing in.
X x X
She waited until the sun made its descent into the horizon, her nose stuck in some silly book about ghosts and labyrinths. So absorbed in it was she, she did not realize I’d returned until my voice startled her out of the scene she’d been reading.
“You’ve picked a lovely bench,” I noted, sitting besides her, one hand on my lap and the other on my necklace.
“Thank you,” she replied and her smile turned into a soft smirk. “Hopefully no one died on this one.”
My vexed expression made her laugh and she closed her book, enchanted by me as I was by her.
“I don’t think anyone has died,” I said rather theatrically, putting on my best story-telling airs, “but that red-stain over there isn’t very comforting.” We shared a laugh once again and I now offered a sincere smile. “Thank you. I appreciated your company.”
“Is your sister all right?” she asked, and her concern warmed my heart. Was she not perfect? Yes, she was.
“She’ll be fine,” I said. “She’s just very, shall we say…” I licked my lips and gestured with my hand. “… very defensive of me.”
“Why?” Twilight asked, her curiosity overriding her already poor social tact. “Because that man called you indecent? You don’t look indecent. Why did he call you that?”
I laughed, a little shocked by her lack of restraint. “Well!” I exclaimed. “Getting right to it, aren’t we?” I took a breath, prepared to explain, and yet… I couldn’t. The shame returned. “I-I… I’m a seamstress,” I said finally, which wasn’t a lie at all.
I was a seamstress, first and foremost, to the point I was more than willing to intimately know the human body if it meant excelling at my craft.
“A seamstress?” she asked, failing to understand why on Earth would that qualify me as an indecent person. “Do you make your clothes too revealing?”
I bit down a smile. “I… suppose you could say that, yes. My fashion is very avant-garde, you see.”
“Right,” she said with a nod, the poor dear assuming my biggest indecency was making skirts and dresses two inches above the knees. Bless her, really.
I looked towards the streets, and my mind dallied over towards the Lady’s student. I hoped she wouldn’t be too upset by Sweetie’s lack of presence.
“I’ll have to reschedule my sister’s class,” I thought aloud, and what a surprise it was when my mystery beauty nodded at once.
“That’s fine with me. What day would work best for her?” she asked, nevermind that hours ago she’d been wanting to get out of the entire affair.
I turned to her, confused. “Pardon?”
“The lesson,” she elaborated. “With your sister? She asked me to teach her…?”
I gawked at her, eyes wide, and somewhere in Canterlot, I knew Fancy Pants was laughing at me.
“Wait, wait. Wait a moment,” I said, stumbling over my words and trying not to curse out fate or destiny or my poor choices in life. “You…” I sat up straight and smiled politely. “What’s your name?”
“Twilight,” she said. “Twilight Sparkle.”
I started to laugh. I couldn’t help it. Fancy Pants had been right all along, damn him, and to make matters worse, I didn’t care. I was completely enchanted by Lady Celestia’s little student, and I wanted both to be furious and relieved, so I laughed instead.
“Why are you laughing?” she asked, a bit disconcerted.
“Twilight Sparkle,” I repeated, tasting every syllable in my mouth. “That’s a rather pretentious name, isn’t it?”
Her reaction was immediate and even more enchanting. She slammed her book to her chest, offended and embarrassed. It was adorable.
“My name is pretentious?! Your name is Rarity!”
“I never said I wasn’t pretentious, either,” I pointed out, and finally offered my most dazzling smile. The one I would only ever reserve for her. “It seems to me, Twilight Sparkle, that we’re going to be the best of friends, you and I.”
So the first words Rarity said to Twilight in their first meeting were about someone dying on a bench and the second time they meet Rarity’s first words are to call Twilight the strangest woman she’s met. I’m looking forward to what Rarity will first say the third time they meet.
And the destined love begins.