Octavia filed into school with several other students, almost as nervous as she was on her first day. Mrs. Reed was giving out a quiz today, there was so much homework due, and they were starting a new song today in music class. That wasn't even thinking about how she had to make sure she was on her absolutely best behavior this afternoon...
"Heya Tavi!" Vinyl greeted Octavia by almost pouncing on her, wrapping a foreleg around Octavia's withers, her momentum causing her to bump up against the filly. Octavia swayed but didn't stumble, having already gotten used to Scratch's preferred method of greeting.
"Good morning Scratch. Are you ready for school today?"
"I'm ready for it to be over!" Scratch replied, removing her foreleg and walking beside Octavia. "I can't believe your mom's letting you come over later! Don't you do like five hours practice a day or something?"
"Only two." Octavia corrected. "Father said I am allowed to make it up over the weekend."
"Lucky you." Scratch rolled her eyes. "Come on, aren't you pumped for this?"
"Erm, yes, I am quite excited." Octavia replied. She could tell Scratch wasn't satisfied with this, so she decided to throw caution to the wind and added, "Yay."
"Come on, Tavi, you gotta be more excited than that!"
"Um, yay." Octavia repeated.
Octavia inhaled deeply, preparing her most enthusiastic cheer. "Oh," she exhaled, "We're here."
Vinyl looked up to see the classroom door beside them. She groaned and held a hoof to her face. Octavia stepped around her and opened the door, naturally letting her friend through first. Vinyl dragged her hooves inside, followed shortly by Octavia. After the first couple days, Vinyl had stopped trying to sneak off to the back row, so the two simply took their seats up front. Octavia carefully begun unpacking her school supplies; Vinyl slumped over her desk and sighed. Octavia was still amazed at how quickly the unicorn could go from bright-eyed and excited to completely listless and dreary.
"I'm rather worried for today's test." Octavia offered, knowing Vinyl was more excited when she talked, "I studied until bedtime. Are you worried as well?"
"There's a test?" Vinyl asked as she looked over, apparently unfazed. The gray filly gasped.
"Mrs. Reed told us!" She said, as if that explained anything. "Oh no, Scratch! Well, um, do you have your homework? We were supposed to study that, too."
"Nah." Her friend replied, waving her off. "Tavi, relax. Mrs. Reed gave these like every week last year. They're way easy."
"Are you sure?" Octavia still was worried for her friend. "What if you get a bad grade?"
"Tavi, you worry too much." Vinyl told her, sitting up and stretching. Most of the class had filed in by now, and the clock was just minutes from nine. Both ponies quieted down, Vinyl crossing her forelegs and resting her chin on them, Octavia sitting at attention, worried eyes shifting from her pencils, to Mrs. Reed at her desk, the clock, and finally her friend. In an instant, Vinyl's expression returned to one of incredible boredom. Finally the clock struck nine, and Mrs. Reed rose from her desk.
"Alright class," she began, getting everpony's attention, "I'm sure you all prepared for today's test. There will be no talking, no note passing, and no going to the bathroom until you are finished. Everypony get out a pencil, and I will pass out the test."
Octavia wordlessly passed Vinyl a pencil, another of their recently-formed daily rituals. She and Vinyl were nearly first to get the tests, and Octavia relaxed a little when she saw it. It was just like the homework, and she had gotten all those right when she had done them. With some help from her mother and father, but still. She immediately took pencil in teeth and got to work. She didn't notice Mrs. Reed walking back to her desk, but just a moment later...
"Psst, Tavi." The whisper was anything but subtle. Octavia glanced ever so briefly at Vinyl. Her friend gave her a sheepish grin, indicating she was perhaps willing to redact her earlier claims. Octavia returned her attention to her test. She sure hope Vinyl didn't do too-
"Psst, c'mon." Vinyl hissed again. Octavia glanced from her friend to Mrs. Reed, trying to give a subtle nod in the latter's direction. Maybe Vinyl hadn't heard the teacher's instructions, since she never did seem to listen.
"Just give me one, please?" Vinyl whispered. Octavia was, for a moment, entirely befuddled. She had already given Scratch a pencil. Then, aghast at the idea, Octavia realized what she meant.
"Like, number two." Vinyl insisted. Octavia was beginning to get quite nervous. If Mrs. Reed heard, Vinyl would get in trouble. Right now, fortunately, the teacher appeared to be engrossed in a book and hadn't heard. Octavia wasn't fooled, however; adults always knew the moment you got in trouble, the filly knew that much. But Scratch was still pestering her.
"Pssst, Tavi." Apparently the filly had concluded that Octavia hadn't answered her only because she hadn't heard her properly. How Mrs. Reed hadn't heard Octavia could only guess. She really wanted Vinyl to stop before they both got in trouble. Glancing over at her friend, Octavia saw Scratch still giving her that sheepish smile. Octavia bit her lip.
"Tavi, psst. Number two. Psst"
"...it's..." Octavia finally caved. "it's the 'F' clef" She could talk to Scratch afterwards, help her understand the rules. At least it put a stop to her friend's requests. Until...
"Psst. Number six." Vinyl hissed. Octavia gave her a pained glance. At least that meant Scratch was getting through most of the test by herself.
"P-princess Celestia." she replied, glancing around. Nopony seemed to have noticed. She finished her test in a hurry. She put down her pencil and kept her head down, practically sweating over all the rules she had just broken. Had Mrs. Reed seen? How much trouble were they in? What would she tell mother after school? Mother always wanted to know how her day had been, and then she would find out... and if father found out...
"Alright, everypony finish up." Mrs. Reed said, getting up from her desk again. A few students still writing scratched down their answers at a furious pace. Vinyl put down her pencil right as Mrs. Reed started on the front row, putting her forelegs behind her head and smiling with success. Octavia could see Vinyl turn to her out of the corner of her eye, but the gray filly kept her head down. It was only after Mrs. Reed picked up her test, saying nothing, that Octavia began to relax.
"Now, on to today's class..." Mrs. Reed began as she headed for the board, tests on her back. Octavia drew herself to attention, hoping to herself that the rest of the day went easier than that.
"Octavia, Vinyl." Mrs. Reed called the fillies' names right as both slid out of their desks for lunch. The rest of the class went ahead, but Octavia saw a few classmates look at her as they passed, smug grins appearing on their faces. Octavia froze in place, half out of her chair. She knew instantly what it was; all morning the fear had stayed with her. Vinyl, meanwhile, looked slightly less concerned, and looked up at the teacher in confusion, her lunch sack already in her mouth.
"Stay behind for a moment." Mrs. Reed told them, taking a seat at her desk. Octavia nodded, finally sidling out of her chair. She trotted up to the front of the desk, keeping her head down. Vinyl followed suit a couple seconds later, still carrying her lunch. Nothing was said until the last student exited the room.
"I am, frankly, disappointed in you both." Mrs. Reed told them. Octavia felt her guilt grow with each word. "You have the potential to be nearly anything you choose, except perhaps subtle. But to reach that potential, I expect you both to work hard, study hard, and most importantly, do as you're told. I will be deducting points from both your tests, and you are to have a twenty minute detention, starting now. Do you have anything to say for yourselves?"
Vinyl carefully put down her lunch sack before looking up at her teacher. "Why'dya make the test so hard?" She asked, her attitude not even taking a hit. Mrs. Reed scowled.
"You're not in second grade anymore, Vinyl Scratch." The old mare replied crossly. "Starting this year, you are not my students. You are musicians under my guidance... and Mr. Trombone's." She added. "And I take music very seriously." She turned to the other filly. "And you, Octavia? Anything to say for yourself?"
Octavia could only shake her head, not bringing her gaze up off the floor.
"Then you can both sit, and think about how a proper musician would behave."
Both fillies turned back to their seats. Vinyl, without so much as a care; Octavia, with her hooves dragging at each step. They returned to their seats. Vinyl turned to Octavia, mouth open, and-
"No. Talking." Mrs. Reed's voice was so stern that Scratch's jaw snapped shut fast enough to make her wince. She turned back and raised a hoof.
"You may eat your lunch after detention."
Vinyl lowered her hoof.
And so they sat, Octavia at least stewing over her mistakes. She never once blamed Vinyl. It was her own fault, she had broken the rules, and had gotten in trouble. She could also see why Scratch worked so hard to avoid detention. An eternity of shame could fit between the ticks of the clock, or so it felt to the little filly. She sat and stewed for several minutes, but there was only so much introspection for a third grader to do. Slowly shame faded into misery, and misery into dreary boredom. She looked to the clock, finding a mere ten minutes had passed. Octavia's head hit the desk.
"Alright. Off to recess with the both of you." Mrs. Reed finally told them, getting up herself. Vinyl moved like greased lightning, grabbing her lunch sack and out the door in ten second flat. Octavia hurried, knowing they'd have only just enough time to eat, but was a little slower on the uptake.
"Octavia." Mrs. Reed caught Octavia's attention as the filly passed. "It is never my intention to frighten you. I am not here to punish you, I am here to help you succeed. You have a lot of potential, Octavia. Do not squander it."
"Y-yes Mrs. Reed." Confused, Octavia simply nodded and left, almost galloping once she was out the door. She rounded the corner, hooves scattering, and ran right into Scratch. Quite literally, the two fillies tumbling down the hall. When they came to a stop, Octavia found herself pinning Scratch by her ear.
"Ahhh!" The earth pony filly yelped, jumping off her friend. Octavia stammered apologies so fast she nearly put a knot in her tongue. Scratch picked herself up, rubbing her ear.
"Hey. Mrs. Reed chew you out or something?" Vinyl looked around, finding her lunch sack spilled over. Her sandwich was still in its wrapper, fortunately.
"I, I suppose so?" Octavia replied. Vinyl nodded and picked up Octavia's lunch while she was at it.
"Yeah, um... sorry, I guess, for getting you in trouble. It's a lot easier to do that in the back."
"It was my fault." Octavia replied. "I should've followed the rules." She saw Vinyl give her a quizzical look.
"W-what? Did I say something rude?"
"You're weird Tavi. Thanks, too. Mrs. Reed's tests used to be way easier." Scratch headed for the field, placing her lunchsack on her back this time.
"Scratch? Could we please, if it's not too much trouble, not do that again?"
Vinyl looked at her like she was crazy. "Well how am I supposed to pass her tests?"
"...Study?" Octavia suggested.
"Hah!" Vinyl laughed and said nothing more. Octavia tried to respond, found she had absolutely no idea how to respond to that, and let the breath go. She very suddenly got a very bad feeling about something, but exactly what she couldn't place.
The two fillies got outside, passing another teacher as she watched over the students. Lunch was over for nearly everypony else, which at least meant Scratch and Octavia got a table to themselves. Octavia was just getting out her apple when Scratch stuck half a sandwich under her nose.
"Here, I owe you."
"Huh?" Octavia sniffed it, recognizing the tantalizing combo of peanut butter and marshmallow. She took the sandwich, giving Scratch a sincere smile.
"Thank you, Scratch."
"No problem. I-"
"Um, ssscuse me?" A filly approached them, whistling as she spoke. She was a wintergreen unicorn, slightly smaller than Octavia. Both of them turned to her, causing her to shrink away.
"Have, do you have my lunch? I put it right there..." The filly pointed to the table. Octavia and Scratch traded a glance.
"I'm sorry, neither of us saw it."
"Yeah. Tough luck." Vinyl shrugged. The filly let out a wordless whine, turning back the way she came. Vinyl shrugged again, getting to her half of her sandwich. Octavia bit into her half of the sandwich, keeping her eyes on the filly as she hunted around from table to table. She told herself that she'd help the filly... as soon as she finished this delicious sandwich.
The filly searching for her lunch went from table to table, occasionally approaching anypony still at them. She didn't seem to have any luck at the tables, and began to turn in place, scanning the rest of the field. Octavia watched as the filly jumped and ran off towards one edge of the field, where the building made a corner. Octavia could just see a much bigger unicorn filly - fifth or sixth grade, perhaps, with a rusty orange coat and pimply face - rustling through a colorful lunch box. Octavia watched, aghast, as the filly ran up to the bigger girl, only to get shoved aside almost instantly by an orange aura. The wintergreen girl was clearly pleading with the sixth grader, but that just made the girl laugh at her, levitating the lunch box up and dangling it above the smaller pony's head. The filly jumped up for it, much to the bigger girl's amusement. Then, with the lunch box right above the filly's head, the bigger girl popped it open, dumping its contents all over the filly. Octavia's jaw dropped to the table.
"Why would she do that?" She blurted out, forgetting her manners. Vinyl perked up and noticed Octavia's gaze. She twisted around, noticing the filly and big girl.
"Hah! Wow, talk about a tough break."
"That was... that wasn't impolite, that was, that was..."
"Bullying." Scratch filled in for her. Octavia furrowed her brow at Scratch, making the unicorn roll her eyes.
"That big kid just bullied her." The unicorn explained. "Y'gotta watch out for that. Man, Tavi, were you homeschooled or something? You look like you never saw a bully before."
Octavia looked down at her lap, feeling entirely uncomfortable. After a few seconds, she glanced back up at Scratch.
"What do we do?" She asked, deferring to her friend's knowledge on the subject. Scratch licked peanut butter off of her hoof.
"Make sure it's not us? You don't wanna get between a bully and whoever they're picking on." She replied, giving Octavia a look. The gray filly pursed her lips in thought.
"Hey, whatcha doing?" Scratch asked as Octavia got off the table. Before she left, she grabbed the apple stalk in her teeth. She trotted over quickly towards the filly, who was now sniffling by herself, most of her lunch in her hair or on the ground around her. She looked up as Octavia reached her, golden eyes shimmering with pitiful tears. Octavia placed the apple on top of the filly's upturned lunchbox, lest it get dirty.
"Would you like me to help you?" She asked. The filly didn't say anything at first, just looked at Octavia with those forlorn eyes. Beginning to feel uncomfortable again, Octavia tried adding, "Please?"
"O-okay." The filly finally said. They began to pick the wasted food up, baby carrots and a bottle of juice that had luckily missed the filly. Many of them weren't that dirty, but eating dropped food went against several rules Octavia knew of. Fortunately, she had thought of that.
"Would you like my apple? I've already eaten." Octavia offered the filly. The filly didn't seem to believe what she was hearing at first, hesitating with a hoof half-raised to accept the offer.
"Ahh now that's what I'm talking about." Both fillies turned to see the same older girl standing next to them, a devilish smile across her face. She lit her horn, lifting the apple off of the lunchbox and right in front of her face.
"Excuse me." Octavia interrupted the girl right as she was about to take a bite. "That isn't yours."
"Oh yeah? And what are you gonna do about it, runt?" The girl sneered. The other filly whimpered, and Octavia realized the big girl had a point. She backed up slightly, bumping into the mint filly.
"That's what I thought. Now why don't you two am-scray before I-" Something whizzed between them, and the apple disappeared from view. Octavia blinked, but the big girl whipped her head around.
"Hey, who did that!" She was answered by a blow to her face, a rock bouncing off her muzzle and to the ground.
"Sorry, I missed that first one." Vinyl stood several steps away, holding another rock in the crook of her hoof.
"Why you little!" By the time the sixth grader moved, Vinyl was already running away, cackling madly. Octavia and the mint filly glanced at each other. They could only watch as the bigger girl easily closed the gap on Vinyl. Only, right before the sixth grader lunged, the clever filly changed direction in an instant, running straight pass her pursuer. It bought her enough time to dash through one of the doors back into the school building, the girl just behind. And then they were gone.
"What happened?" A nervous voice made Octavia turn around. She had forgotten about the wintergreen filly until now.
"I suppose she got between us and the bully." Octavia told her. She found the apple lying on the ground, a chunk taken out of it from when the rock hit it.
"What? Oh, it's okay... I have some carrots..." The filly replied, giving a weak smile. Octavia smiled back half-heartedly. With all immediate concerns gone, Octavia's manners kicked in.
"Oh, and, my name is Octavia." She said, extending her hoof. She decided to forgo her full name for the time being. The filly hesitated again, and awkwardly shook Octavia's hoof.
"I'm Lyra." She replied.
"Wow, what a rush!" Vinyl Scratch popped up from behind them. Octavia startled slightly, but the other filly bleated and fell over, making both of them look at her.
"Scratch, are you alright?" Octavia asked, immediately worried over the scratches and scuff marks Vinyl had suddenly gained. Vinyl puffed up like a canary in response.
"Eh, the big dummy didn't know what hit her." Vinyl told them both. Octavia and Lyra looked at her with wide eyes.
"You... fought her?" Octavia asked. She had entirely mixed feelings about that, but surprise that her friend was still standing won out.
"Sure did. Well, kinda. More or less. I tricked her into jumping on me near a teacher." Vinyl slowly came down off her high. "I guess you owe me one now." She stuck her tongue out at Octavia. Octavia smiled, hiding a giggle with a hoof. She suddenly felt good about something... she just couldn't place what.
"I suppose I do."
Octavia sat down on her stool, keeping her cello propped up against her. She'd have to wait until Mr. Trombone was done with the rest of the students before he could help her get the behemoth bass back where it belonged. As she waited Lyra approached her, walking awkwardly on three hooves as she clung to her lyre. She stopped just a couple steps away, looking away and suddenly hesitating.
"Hello Lyra." Octavia smiled, trying to be friendly. Lyra startled and looked up at Octavia, trying to smile back.
"Hi Octavia. I, um, thanksss. For lunch." The whistling between the filly's teeth nearly made Octavia cringe.
"Oh..." Octavia wasn's sure how helpful she had been, really. "You're welcome. Wasn't practice nice today?"
"Oh, yeah. You're very good at your... big violin."
"Cello. Thank you. Your harp is quite pretty."
"Er, thankssss... it's a, a lyre..."
The two fillies grew silent, their cumulative social ineptness reaching daring new heights.
"Can I asssk sssomething?" Lyra finally asked. Octavia nodded.
"Isss, isss Scratch, I mean, do you think... can I be her friend?" Lyra eventually managed to ask, almost begging Octavia with her eyes. Octavia blinked a couple times before she made sense of Lyra's request.
"I don't see why you couldn't." Octavia replied, entirely befuddled by the filly. Lyra lit up at her response.
"You really think ssso?"
Octavia noticed Mr. Trombone coming over and got off her stool, still carefully keeping the cello propped up until he took it with magic. Lyra hopped alongside Octavia as the earth pony put away her bow.
"How do I do it?" Lyra asked her, eager but quiet.
"How do I, um, be her friend?"
"I can't say I know." Octavia admitted. "I'm not sure how it works. But, you can be my friend."
"Oh wow, two friends? What do I do? I've never had two friends before." Lyra still clung to her lyre even after Octavia put away her bow. They began to head for their bookbags by the door.
"I haven't either." Octavia admitted. "I suppose we just... well, Scratch talks a lot, but I never know what to say."
They exited the music room right as the school bell rung, signaling the day was officially over. Octavia picked up her pace a little, wondering where Scratch had gotten off to. The filly had bolted once Mr. Trombone had ended class, not even putting away her tuba. Which was about average for her, but Octavia hoped she wasn't supposed to find her way to Vinyl's home on her own.
Lyra was still with her, since they both were heading for the exit, her lyre sticking comically out of her saddlebags as she walked. Lyra kept glancing at Octavia as they walked, quickly taking notice of Octavia's eyes on her instrument.
"My mom said I had to play it. It's traditional."
"Oh, I see." Octavia figured she should add something more, if only to make her offer of friendship worthwhile. "My mother plays the piano, but my father plays the violin. I was going to as well, but..." Octavia trailed off, unsure how to explain how she had wound up with the cello. The last of the students from other classes were filing for the exit, and the two fillies joined them. Once outside, Octavia finally found Scratch, quite impatient as she stood to the side.
"There you are! Come on, Tavi!"
"Hello again Scratch." Octavia took her friend's attitude in stride. "I'm sorry I'm late."
"H-hi Scratch." Lyra piped in, fidgeting from side to side. Scratch obviously hadn't noticed her until then, and looked a little confused at her presence.
"Hey whatsyourface." Vinyl turned straight back to Octavia. "Come on, let's go."
"Alright. We'll see you tomorrow then, Lyra."
"Oh, okay." Lyra nodded, glancing between them. "Bye!" She waved to them as they walked off. "See you tomorrow!" She called out once they were away a little.
"What's with her?" Scratch asked her friend. Octavia just sighed.
"And this is my room. Momma calls it my pad." Scratch guided Octavia into a large, studio-like bedroom. Several posters were stuck to the wall, low enough that Vinyl had obviously done them herself. Records, most still in their covers, littered the floor along with several toys, and her bed was up against a wall, nearby windows only giving a view of other shops. Octavia stepped into the room, taking it all in.
"Pretty sweet, right?" Scratch asked. Octavia nodded, deciding that the room was, all things considered, pretty sweet.
"Who are all these ponies?" She asked, nodding to some of the posters. Scratch stepped forward, and gave Octavia a sidelong look.
"Uhh, the Beat-tails?" Scratch's tone of voice nearly made Octavia feel bad for asking. She wasn't even sure what that meant, and so decided to turn her attention elsewhere.
"You have so many records. Father says I'm not allowed to have any yet..."
"Yeah, it's awesome, mom just gives me old ones from the shop. I just got a new Bon Colti record!" She turned to Octavia with a giant grin. The earth pony filly realized too late she was supposed to react.
"Oh, that's wonderful."
"You have no idea who that is, do you?"
"None. Sorry." Octavia hung her head. Scratch gave her a light punch on the shoulder.
"Well you're about to." She picked her way through the littered records, making her way to the player. She set the record going, put the needle on, and... nothing. Octavia wandered over to her.
"Is it brok-"
"Hold up." Scratch told her. She gave the record player a swift smack and it roared to life.
"I'M A STEEL HORSE, LET'S RIDE. WANTED-" Vinyl quickly took the needle off, but the music had already blown Octavia away. Quite literally; she had reared up in fright at the noise, quickly tripping over the cluttered floor and landing on her back. Vinyl stuck her head into view, blue mane lit like a halo by the light above.
"Sorry. Let's try that again."
"What, what was that?" Octavia asked. Vinyl grinned from ear to ear.
"That? That was the power of Rock and Roll."
After a little organizing and fiddling with dials, Octavia and Vinyl were sitting up on Vinyl's bed, Vinyl with her hooves behind her head, eyes closed as they listened to another one of the records.
"I don't understand this one."
"What's not to get? He's the eggman, and the walrus." Vinyl told her. "It's right there."
"Rock is... strange." Octavia replied. "But, this is nice, of course." She had almost forgotten her manners.
"What do your parents even listen to?" Vinyl asked her. Octavia frowned, thinking of that herself.
"Vinyl? Octavia?" A knock on the door accompanied Vinyl's mother's call. Vinyl sat up just as Karaoke Scratch entered the room.
"Kiddo, didn't I tell you to clean this place up yesterday?"
"Uhh, I dunno." Vinyl replied. Her mother rolled her eyes.
"Anyway, I wanted to see if you kids could do with a snack."
"Awesome! Snack time!" Scratch hopped off the bed in an instant.
"Um, that would be nice, Mrs. Scratch." Octavia said, taking a bit longer. She backed carefully off of the bed, dangling her back legs over before lowering herself to the floor. She turned around and quickly picked her way towards the door, following after Scratch and her mother. Vinyl and her mother had gone ahead, but Octavia knew which way to go. According to Scratch, their hallway made one big loop anyway, which the filly had brought up in the context of, as she had described it, "epic neverending tag games of doom". So Octavia trotted down the hall, finding herself smiling as she went.
The filly passed a few doors on her way, and her eyes wandered to one open doorway in particular. As she passed it she saw several art easels, finished and half-finished paintings propped against the wall, the easels, a drawer - the room was just filled with them. A lot of them didn't seem to be paintings of anything in particular, just pleasing patterns of bright color. Looking at them reminded Octavia of when she had passed the long trip from Saddle to Canterlot cloudwatching. She realized she had stopped to view the paintings, and hurried after the Scratchs, admonishing herself for getting distracted.
Around a corner, down the stairs, and Octavia found Vinyl and her mother in the kitchen. Vinyl looked rather grumpy, much to Octavia's confusion, pushing something around on her plate.
"There you are kiddo." Mrs. Scratch smiled at her. "How do carrots sound, eh?"
"That would be lovely, thank you." Octavia nodded, approaching the kitchen table.
"See that? Now who's lame." Mrs. Scratch pointed her quip at her daughter, who sunk lower in her chair, steam all but rising from her brow. Octavia clambered onto a chair, aware she was missing something. Vinyl's mother handed her a little bowl full of baby carrots. Now that she was up there, Octavia could see Vinyl's bowl was still quite full.
"Is something the matter, Scratch?" Octavia asked, trying to catch Vinyl's eye.
"Yeah Vinyl, something the matter?" Her mother came around the table, continuing to tease her daughter. Vinyl grumbled something indecipherable.
"So, you kids having fun?" Mrs. Scratch took her place at the table. Octavia nodded, and not just to be polite.
"Ever so much, ma'am. Thank you again for inviting me."
"Easy does it kiddo, I already told you you're welcome here anytime. Maybe once you're done - you're both done that is," she began, nudging the expertly-pouting Vinyl, "we can..." As Mrs. Scratch spoke, a series of high-pitched chimes grew more frequent and insistent, forcing her to stop. She turned to the doorway out of kitchen with an annoyed look on her face.
"Okay, okay, I'm coming. Sorry girls. Vinyl, touch the fridge and die, li'l monster."
Vinyl grumbled something that might have been approval. Maybe. Octavia glanced from Scratch to her mother. The entire dialogue just... unsettled her. She knew it wasn't a polite thing to think of somepony, but it was Octavia's first experience with a family besides her own. She supposed they were just... different.
Vinyl waited for her mother to leave, and finally straightened up, still looking grouchy. Octavia glanced around, wanting to ask her friend what was wrong but unsure if that would be rude.Vinyl still hadn't touched any of her carrots. After munching on one herself, Octavia decided she just had to say something to cheer up her friend.
"Once we're finished, would you teach me how to play tag?"
Vinyl finally snapped out of her funk.
"Teach you how to what?"
"Play tag. I've never played before."
Vinyl just looked at her, sapphire eyes searching her.
"Tavi, are you from the moon or something?"
"No... we moved here from-"
"No I mean, like, have you had fun before?"
"Of course! I mean, yes. Sorry."
"Forget it. Come on already." She began to get off her chair.
"What about the carrots?" Octavia asked. Vinyl stopped and groaned. She got back onto her chair, folded her forelegs on the table, and rested her chin on them. Octavia frowned.
"If you want..."
"Don't worry about it." Vinyl told her. Octavia paused, but figured the best thing to do was finish her snack quickly then. Scratch said nothing the entire time, but seemed willing to wait. Octavia knew not finishing her plate would be impolite, but so would making her friend wait, right?
"I'm finished, thank you. Are you?" She bothered to ask, despite the fact Scratch still hadn't touched a single carrot.
"Yeah, let's go."
The two fillies got off their seats, leaving their remaining food on the table. The kitchen let out to a tiny hallway between storefront and living area, and while Octavia went for the staircase, Vinyl pushed the door open to the store area.
"Momma? Me and Tavi are gonna- Mom!" Vinyl rushed through the doorway, wiggling through the gap rather than pushing the door open wider. Octavia froze stiff for a moment, three stairs up. Almost immediately she came to her senses, and ran the way Vinyl had gone, afraid for Mrs. Scratch.
"They let you go early?" Vinyl was rather happily nuzzling at the legs of... a mare Octavia didn't recognize. A pegasus pony, her blond braided mane and gentle green coat looked like they had been left in the sun too long, their colors faded. Octavia approached, curious, but not wanting to intrude. Vinyl's mother stood behind the cash register, simply smiling and watching them hug. She caught Octavia in the corner of eye.
"Hey kiddo, don't be shy. Cat, I told you about Vinyl's little friend, right?"
"I remember." The pegasus looked up, and Vinyl let go of her hoof. "Now ain't you cute as a button." She approached Octavia. "Nice to meet you."
"Octavia Vitula." Octavia supplied automatically. "Miss...?"
"Now that's where things get complicated." The pegasus chuckled quietly. "Just call me the other Mrs. Scratch."