The world faded away. The only object in Lyra's consciousness was the mouth of Octavia pressed against hers. She felt as if the grey mare was sucking her breath away with each second that passed by. Her mind continued to reminder her how wrong it was and that she should break away and slap the pony in front of her.
But why were her eyes closing?
She felt herself slowly relaxing and leaning into the kiss. If Octavia hadn't broken away, she didn't know how far she would have taken it.
The classical musician only stared at her, Lyra finding herself gazing back into her pretty eyes. This feeling was all too familiar for the unicorn; it reminded her of their high school days when they would spend afternoons doing nothing but lying in each other's arms. Despite her blatant throwback to her high school days, her mind still nagged her on the underlying issue:
This was wrong.
How could she let herself enjoy reliving such experiences when she already has a loving marefriend? How could she look upon the mare in front of her with anything but disgust? She had a marefriend too, after all. Slowly, her mouth opened to speak.
The words didn't come from her mouth, but from Octavia's.
"That was... wrong of me. I shouldn't have done that."
Lyra's gaze softened. She continued to stare at the mare seated in front of her. A brick wall of thoughts and emotions slammed into her; she just didn't know what she could say. She let the pony continue.
"I'm so sorry. I..."
She could tell that Octavia was mentally torturing herself. She watched the mare's eyes close tightly, fighting back tears. The unicorn couldn't bare to see her old marefriend in pain. Slowly opening her hooves, she beckoned the pony forward. "It's... it's okay. Please, don't cry." It was but an invitation for the pony open her eyes' floodgates.
The two sat for a moment, locked in each other's platonic embrace. Lyra felt Octavia's tears run down her coat, staining her mint fur. Her arms only tightened around the pony; it felt strange for your to be wrapped around somepony who was not her lover, but she felt that the mare desperately needed her comforting hooves. Despite her actions, a single question poked at her consciousness.
The mare pulled away from her. "Wha- what?"
"Why did you do that?" She saw the distress in the pony's eyes.
"I- I don't know..."
Lyra's gaze sharpened. "Yes you do. Now tell me why."
Octavia looked away from her. The unicorn could see her trying to find some excuse or escape. She almost opened her mouth to speak and ask once more, but was stopped by the sound of an exhale from the other pony.
"I've missed you."
Lyra was unsatisfied by this answer. "Of course. Everypony misses somepony they haven't seen in awhile. Especially when it's someone they used to love. But we can't do that."
"I know, I know. I'm so stupid. So terribly, awfully stupid." Octavia shook her head, staring at the ground.
"You're not." The unicorn searched her mind for how she could respond. She knew that the classical musician was never the best with emotions, but her actions perplexed her greatly. "Can't we... Can't we both be happy? We're not together for a reason, and we've both find our own mares. We shouldn't have to deal with this."
Lyra could tell that the earth pony was fighting back tears once more. "I just... I saw how happy you were with Bon Bon... I saw how she smiled talking about you and how you two fit together so well... It's just..." She swallowed audibly. "It's everything that I was never able to do."
"I don't understand. You have Vinyl and she loves you."
"Does she really? I see her type everywhere I go. Who's to say that she won't drop me for some other mare or stallion at a moment's notice?" She looked on the verge of a absolute collapse, shaking her head at everything she said.
The mint unicorn found herself sitting up taller. "Get a hold of yourself! Don't you see what you already have? You don't need me anymore." She could feel the words burn as they left her mouth. "I'm sorry, but you can't try to hold on to me. I'm not the same pony from high school."
She watched the mare move forward, her body instinctively flinching at the movement but soon finding itself in a tight hug. "Th- Thank you..."
The pony pulled away from her. "For reminding me of where I stand. I really needed that." She looked down one final time, taking a breath. "I should go."
"I didn't mean it like that. I mean, Octavia, I love seeing you, but we just can't be together romantically."
"I know. It's getting late. I really need to go home. Tell Vinyl to meet me there. I've... I've a lot to think about."
Lyra found herself scanning the mare's face, taking in all the familiarities one last time. "I understand." She hugged her one last time. "And thank you for doing this. All of this. If you ever need anything, anything at all, let me know."
Octavia only nodded. She looked like she may be on the verge of tears once more. The unicorn could only watch as she stood up and left the room, listening for the front door to finally close. She released a held breath when she finally heard it click. Her mind slowly returned to her; reality moved back into her consciousness. She was sitting in the kitchen, alone.
Reluctantly, she slowly shifted to her hooves, feeling her body heavily weigh upon them. If Bon Bon wanted to skip any sort of bedroom celebration for a successful business day, that would be okay with her. She trotted into the living room, wanting to say goodbye to the DJ that was still probably sitting there.
To her surprise, it was not Vinyl seated on her couch, but Bon Bon with a serious look on her face. "Hey Bon," she found herself saying, trying to casually grasp what the mare was thinking. "Where's Vinyl?"
"Home. She left."
"Oh." Lyra was slightly disappointed that she wouldn't get to say goodbye to her new friend. She had hoped that they would get to meet up once more so they could exchange more embarrassing stories about their partners. Still, it felt like there was something that Bon Bon was holding from her. "Some day, huh?"
"Sure, sure. You sure enjoyed it more than I did."
Now she was just acting strange. "What's wrong, Bon Bon? We had a great day of sales and just may have saved the business. Be happy!" She tried to put a cheerful spin in her voice.
She received a scowl in return. "Because everything is just so chipper when you're whoring yourself out!"
Lyra felt as if she had just been smacked. "Wha- what? What are you talking about?"
"You know exactly what I'm talking about!" she snapped. "An old marefriend pops up and suddenly your legs are spread wide open! Is that what you want? Do you really want to hurt me like that?"
The unicorn was both confused and wounded by her words. "I don't know what you're saying."
Bon Bon looked about to burst. "You know exactly what I'm talking about! I saw how easy it was for you to plant your lips on that pony!"
The breath was completely knocked out of Lyra. If she died right there, it would be fine with her. By the looks of it, that may happen sooner than she thinks. "I- That wasn't my fault!" She found her shock turning into retaliation and anger. "She leaned in and kissed me! You don't know what happened!"
"Oh I saw exactly what happened, Lyra Heartstrings! I saw how she suddenly became your seductress the moment she opened her mouth!"
"Listen to me, please. We were just talking and-"
"Just talking? Just talking?! I suppose this is 'just talking'." Her confusion only furthering, Lyra suddenly felt her lips attacked by Bon Bon's. It wasn't a loving kiss. It was an angry, loathing kiss; she could feel the pony's rage resonating from her mouth.
The earth pony broke, or more so pushed her, away. Lyra was dumbfounded; she had no idea what just happened or how to react to it. Before she could say anything, her marefriend stood up and stomped towards the stairs.
"I hope you enjoyed that, because that is the last damn kiss you're going to get for a long time! Goodnight, Lyra Heartstrings!"
"Bon, wait! I need you!"
"No. Go spend time with your other marefriend." The pony was at the top of the stairs by now. "And don't even bother coming up here unless you want to fall down a floor!"
The door slammed. When the echos finally stopped, a creeping loneliness surrounded Lyra. She could but stare at the ground in front of her. Of course, this wasn't the first time she had been exiled, but this time felt different. This time felt truly empty, as if she had no chance of redemption. She sat for a moment, hoping that it was some sort of cruel, twisted joke and Bon Bon would hop down the stairs and surprise her with a loving hug.
Hopelessness surrounded her. The one pony that she loved with all her heart had kicked her out of their room once more. She searched for a clock, finding it upon the wall. Her vision was too blurred for her to read it, but she could tell that it was late. Groaning, she threw herself upon her back.
Lyra curled up, trying her best to pretend there was a pony resting in her forelimbs as there should be. She attempted to shut her eyes, mentally begging for some sort of relief and the embrace of sleep. Something was missing for her, however. Something extremely important.
"Oh, yes," she said to herself, stretching out. "I forgot the couch fort."
Knowing that it would be a long night of construction, she hopped up, trotting into the kitchen. With her magic, she poured and levitated another cup of cider to her muzzle. As she drank, she glanced at the package laying on the counter. Lyra realized that she had never actually opened it.
With her magic, she easily opened the package, levitating out the contents. She knew that it was most likely an issue of Batmare, but she secretly hoped that it was a copy of Fillyfooler or Playpony. Her collection was back in their room. She gave a slight empty and painful chuckle at the thought of Bon Bon reading them in her absence.
The unicorn finished off her cider and tossed the cup into the sink, promising to actually clean it tomorrow. She grabbed the comic book in her muzzle, bringing it into the living room and tossing it on a coffee table. Like a machine, she began constructing her fort once more, placing her pillows in the perfect arrangement. Her years of practice had taught her how to throw one together with precision, formulating the most efficient design for the greatest enjoyment to time ratio. That, or it was just fun.
It was always somewhat of a disappointment to her to walk in and see that Bon Bon was not to be in the fort with her. They had spent many nights locked in each other's forelimbs within her creations; she didn't always build them for solitude.
She sighed, levitating Batmare and diving into her fort. "Why can't I be like Batmare?" she asked herself. "She always knows what to do or what to say. She always does what's right and helps ponies." She frowned. "Not like I can help anyone at all."
Her eyes wandered the cover of the comic book, a triumphant hero staring back at her. "What's it like to do good for somepony?"
Sighing once more, she opened the book, diving into the pages.
*** *** ***
Dawn broke. Or was it afternoon? It didn't matter. It was Sunday.
Lyra's eyes opened to see nothing but darkness. She frantically thrashed about, trying to find a reason for her sudden blindness. It didn't take long for the comic book to fall off of her face.
The unicorn felt exhausted. She picked up the book, wanting to see what part she had fallen asleep in the middle of. "Oh yeah. Right when Batmare saves the..." she dropped the book. "Saves the damsel in distress."
Memories of Bon Bon drifted back to her. She still had a relationship to mend.
Pillows flew away from her the moment her body exited the fort. She promised herself that she would clean it up later. The mare quickly and very loudly scrambled up the stairs, nearly diving for the door to their-- her-- room. Her hoof rapidly tapped the wood.
"Bon Bon. Are you awake?"
"Go away." Lyra was hoping that her marefriend somehow forgot.
"Please. I just want to talk."
"We both already know that you can't keep your tongue in your mouth!"
That hurt. "Just come out, Bon Bon. You can't stay in there forever."
"I can and I will. Have a nice day."
Before Lyra could respond, she was interrupted by the sound of something heavy moving across the carpet. It sounded like... their dresser? This is worse than I thought.
She concluded that it would be futile to keep trying to pry at her. It didn't matter when the pony refused to listen. It felt like nothing mattered anymore.
A realization struck her; they didn't keep any food in their bedroom. Well, except for special occasions, but otherwise they had nothing. Bon Bon must not have eaten anything for a long time. Lyra jumped, entering full gallop down the stairs and into the kitchen.
Her magic lashed out everywhere. It didn't matter what she was grabbing-- hay fries, pancakes, waffles, veggie burgers-- she just needed to feed Bon Bon. She was almost positive that she poured orange juice into the oatmeal. Very soon, she was levitating what looked like a three-course mish-mash of second breakfast, lunch and dinner. Good enough.
She carried her plethora of plates and platters up the stairs, stopping abruptly when she stopped in front of the bedroom.
The mare cleared her throat, knowing that she would have to choose her words carefully. "Listen, Bon Bon. I... um, I know that you don't want to talk to me or see me, but you need to eat something. I brought you some food. I'm just going to leave it here, outside the door. If you want it, grab it. I'll be elsewhere. You won't have to see me."
She heard a sound, hoping that it was the door opening. To her dismay, it was the sound of the toilet flushing. Lyra frowned, hearing Bon Bon's voice from the other side.
"Did you say something?"
Sighing, she repeated her monologue, this time less enthusiastically, adding a "bye," to the end. Knowing that the pony wouldn't respond with anything positive, she trotted down the stairs. This left her with an entire evening, because it turned out that it was evening, to herself with no plans. She supposed that she could prepare to get fired tomorrow, but decided that she had dealt with enough sadness for one day.
It didn't take long after looking at all the food for her to figure out that she herself was hungry. She exited the kitchen as quick as she had entered, grabbing random food items and a cup of coffee. Her body plopped on the couch as she munched on what was probably a biscuit. Her comic book floated up to her.
"Well," she muttered to herself. "Might as well see how Batmare saves a damsel in distress."
*** *** ***
Early Monday morning and Bon Bon had still not left her room. Lyra stared at the closed door. She was happy to see, however, that the food she had left was gone. She was glad that her marefriend had enough sense to eat something and not starve. Not that Lyra's cooking put in a good word for her.
"Bye, Bon Bon. I'm going to go get fired." She didn't care if the mare heard her. She was altogether dreading finally facing her boss, but knew she couldn't just not show up. She had to go down with dignity. It was for that reason that she was still arriving early.
The unicorn didn't even bother with making herself breakfast. She knew that she would probably come right back home the moment she was fired and make herself a nice warm whatever-was-in-the-pantry.
She held her head high, trotting down the street. Higher than it would be if she was just going to work on any other day. This was her time to prove that she could go down with dignity. Her magic carried her uniform in front of her, neatly folded with her nametag on top. Her boss never did learn her name; maybe this would be a nice reminder.
Despite her confidence, there was still apprehension in her mind. She dispelled this immediately, asking herself what Batmare would do in a situation like this. She would be brave and ready to face any opposition in her path. She would swing in and be a champion of the common pony. Lyra smiled at the thought.
The Everfree Café peeked over the horizon. She always had hated how it looked. If it wasn't the only place that was hiring, she never would have even thought of working there.
At the same time she was thinking this, however, she thought of the money itself. What was she to do? Sure, Bon Bon had a good business day yesterday, but even if the pony accepted her back, they, or she, still wouldn't have enough money to pay the bills. If nothing else, Lyra had to bring home something to show for herself, if for no other reason than to prove to her marefriend that she still loved her.
It worried Lyra that Bon Bon would be mad at her for this long. As every couple will, they had their arguments, but none of them had been as earth shattering as their current spat. Without the feeling of the pony in her arms, the unicorn felt empty. It almost seemed like they would never kiss and make up.
Lost in thought, Lyra was surprised when her muzzle smacked into the door of the Everfree Café. "Oh yeah," she muttered to herself. "Pull."
It was an hour before the restaurant would open, but she was sure that her boss, for however much longer she could call her that, would be seated lazily in her office. She walked through the building, eyeing the empty chairs and all the spots she had to clean messes up. That definitely would not be missed.
Entering the office, she was greeted by the sight of Cinnamon Swirl leaning back in her chair, reading an adventure trilogy. Lyra didn't want to interrupt her, but thought of how she was going to be fired anyway. With a subtle cough, she announced her presence.
"Huh? What?" The classic comically flew from the mare's hooves. "Oh, it's you, Heartthings. Guess you finally decided to show up."
Lyra saw an opportunity to set things right. Quieter than she expected, she said, "It's Heartstrings."
"My name is Lyra Heartstrings." She felt her voice pick up. "Not Skyra Smartstrings, not Myra Cartrings, and definitely not Guyra Fartstrings." Against her will, her mouth turned into a smirk. She felt like Batmare. "I hope you remember that."
Her boss looked altogether bored. "Well, what did you want, Lyra?"
The unicorn trotted forward, levitating her folded uniform to the desk. "I'm ready."
Cinnamon Swirl but raised an eyebrow. "For what? Want me to wash it for you?" As entertaining of a thought that was to Lyra, she shook her head. "Then why are you wasting my time?"
"I'm ready to be fired," she replied confidently.
"What are you talking about," she paused for a moment, deciding what to say. "Heartstrings?"
Now Lyra was just confused. "But, aren't you going to fire me? I mean, I didn't show up on Saturday and didn't even tell you. I've done an absolutely terrible job with each and every one of our customers and I've hated your guts since I started working here. Why wouldn't you fire me?"
The pegasus stared at her for a moment, a completely blank expression on her face. Without warning, she broke into laughter. It was more of a cackle; the shrill, soccer-mom type of cackle.
"Why are you laughing?"
"You thought-" she was interrupted by more of her own laughter. Slowly, she began to collect herself. She almost wiped a tear from her eye; Lyra didn't see what was so funny. "Tell the truth, this is your first real job, isn't it?"
"Well, I mean-"
"Yeah. I thought so. First of all, that Saturday I thought you'd like some extra pay, so I asked you to come in. Not like I told you that you had to, right?"
"Well, you kind of did."
"'Kind of' being the key. I can't require workers to come in on weekends. The royal police would have my head. That's overtime. Y'know, getting paid to work when you aren't supposed to."
Lyra was dumbfounded. She didn't think anything like that existed in the restaurant business. In fact, she was positive that it didn't and that her boss was just making it up on the spot. Then again, her aversion to waiters had never led her to research the job.
"And secondly," the mare interrupted her train of thought. "I can't fire you. Even if I wanted to."
"What?" This was too much to take in for the unicorn. "Sure you can! Just sign the paper and let me go!" She had counted on getting fired.
"Take a look around. How many ponies are working here? Do you know how hard it is to find people to work in an awful restaurant like this?" At least it was no secret that the place was horrible. "I was relieved when you came along. Without you, we would have gone right out of business. As a benefit, you're probably the best waitress I've ever hired."
Lyra almost fell backwards. The words "best" and "waitress" just didn't compute for her. All this time, she had thought that her boss was being mean to her because she was doing a terrible job. Apparently, that was just her personality. The mint mare suddenly felt sympathy for her boss, having to live with an eternal annoyed outlook.
"We done here? You need to get to work soon."
"Y-yeah..." Lyra wheezed. This whole ordeal had knocked the wind out of her. Lethargically, she levitated her uniform and nametag. As she trotted out of the room, a low grumbling resonated from her stomach. She realized how much she had relied on getting fired to make her day work. Now she was starving, at a crappy job and wasn't going to get home to try to talk to Bon Bon for a long, long time. But at least she was getting paid for it.
She promised herself that she would actually eat at her next lunch break. For now, she had work to do. The store was about to open and the breakfast crowd would arrive soon, and that meant irritable parents and screaming kids.
"Fine, son, we'll get you hay fries for breakfast!"
And it began.
*** *** ***
She hadn't counted on being absolutely and wholly exhausted. Her entire work day was completely unexpected. Lyra had been completely unprepared for working morning and afternoon, only a meager lunch to fuel her. She almost hated her boss for not firing her.
The unicorn regretted each and every time that she mistreated her waiters and waitresses. She realized how awful it was for her to mouth off to them or refuse to tip. A new respect for the people who bring food was truly born for her. It was almost disappointing. She hadn't wanted to stop hating food service personnel.
Her exhaustion was only intensified upon the realization that she didn't have anypony to hold in her hooves when she went home. Provided she would have the energy to make it home at all, that is.
She was asked by her boss to lock up for the night. It made her happy to hear that because it meant that Cinnamon trusted her. A hateful respect was growing for that pegasus, but a respect nonetheless. Lyra decided to do something nice and do some last-minute cleaning before she closed the store.
While she wiped one last table, another wave of exhaustion washed over her. She felt her hooves wobble as she stood. I don't think I'll make the walk home, she thought to herself. This... this table looks nice and comfortable. She allowed gravity to take her; she was snoring by the time her body made contact with the wood.