Before diving into this, I think some background would be useful. When she was young, she had dreams. Dreams of shining and of making others shine. She made herself and others look beautiful; for that initial interim she held high. When she fell (south of Ponyville, Old Manehattan-land) her dreams became nightmares, seizing her by the hoof and never letting go. She was taken and put into a bed of rust and red crosses. I was one of the few who had the time to give. She wanted me dead but it pained her to see me walk out those sliding doors.
Now, I won't pretend I understand. I never will know what she went through for those ten months and two days. She had a constant sting in her side that she claimed she could only numb by sticking her head in the stove. Her nightmares became easier during this time. And I like to think that I did my best in the time that she had to make her comfortable, even when the sting became too painful to breathe.
But let it be known that this was all a nightmare that I chose.
I wonder if the burden that she left me was worth the memories that we wove.
10 Months, 2 Days
I first met her at the old boutique. It had been restored from a rickety tailoring factory and since made livable. Had you seen it fifty years ago there would be no bedrooms or even a kitchen installed. It had been a place for workers when Ponyville was a small hamlet, converted now into a place of plush luxury. Where she made her softest sleep had once been a room for looming. It was fitting that she would be sleeping in a chamber historically used for the making of fine clothing; purely by coincidence, she too had this penchant for making dresses. She was a fashionable kind, and at once caught my eye when I arrived in town. I was never a local of Ponyville, and, should you have conversed with her, you would scarcely believe that she was. Her tone and conjecture were more fitting of the aristocracy of Canterlot, of whom she sought bravely to emulate. She lived alone in Ponyville to escape from her family, although this was a revelation that took time and investment. To most, she described her presence in Ponyville as a simple stop at a junction, a terminal from which she would embark to greater places in the future. At times she claimed that she wanted to escape, but she was loyal to her homeland and despised being away from there for long periods of time. I never could take what she said without the smallest pinch of salt; she often liked to confuse things when it suited her best. It was a quality that I initially adored, but, like many parts of her, I came to despise.
When we first made contact she was all smiles and fragrance. Her tone was different to that of Ponyville: I had invested in her for this very fact, as it reminded me of the greatest pleasures of back home and my more refined origins commuting between Manehattan and Canterlot. I had no interest in dresses, but had attempted to learn as much as I could about them in order to appeal to the upper-echelons of society. Of course, my knowledge was painfully inadequate, and Rarity corrected me on every account. She always managed to find faults in my fabric-talk. I had asked her all sorts of questions, and she, having wanted a student since infancy, graciously told me everything she knew of the material world. It was a meeting that stuck with me until her walls tightened. It was not until our first conversation reached its end that she gave her name: Rarity, which was just perfect.
I left with no dress, for I had no reason to buy into that culture, only to observe it as one would a fine painting. Our first meeting left a prolonged impression upon me. I felt strangely connected to her, but she had hurried me away when she fell behind on an order. I don't know why I did not return to Old Manehattan that day, and asking me now would yield an entirely different answer than at the time. I would reason now that I stayed in Ponyville another day in order to help her through her troubles – my recollection of those past months is hazy at best – but at the time I can guarantee that I kept my heart on my hoof just so that I could see her again and attempt to understand why she was so fascinating to me.
I should give some context behind myself, as the part that I play requires it. I had always been the sort to focus on a single goal and pursue it strictly. I lived that sort of life simply because I had nothing to hold me back or to create reservations. I had flown the nest a long time ago, and my siblings were to me infants related by blood rather than bond. I had money, inherited from a favourite Aunt who had once been a wealthy land owner in Trottingham. She had left me the sum in order to spite her sister – my mother – of whom she greatly detested since childhood. It is a long story that I care not to tell; let it be known that it involved my father and, had things worked out differently, I would not be here today. It should furthermore be noted that I, caring more for the wealth of my deceased kin, chose the money over my surviving family, and have been without speaking with them since. I hope that this will explain briefly why I was able to uproot myself and drift into Rarity's world so easily.
Meeting Rarity was not entirely by chance. I had been directed to her by Twilight Sparkle, one of the senior authoritative ponies in Ponyville, despite being from Canterlot originally. I had known Twilight Sparkle since childhood, which should explain where I personally spent part of my life growing up, although as a youngster she was difficult to associate with. She went off to Magic Kindergarten whilst still a filly, and after that I didn't really see her again until by chance arriving in Ponyville years later. This Twilight Sparkle was a much different mare to the one that I remembered; she actually seemed to want to make friends, which was one thing that she always persisted was not necessary and would interfere with her studies. Because of Twilight's new position on friendship, however, I was able to meet with her and we got along well. I also met her friends, all of them bar Rarity in fact, at a small get-together that they were having in celebration of a Ponyville tradition. Rarity had not attended, although her dresses had been on display. That is how I came to learn of the beauty of her art.
Her friends were kind and talented, and always indulging in lessons of friendship, but I cared more about the mysteries of Rarity than watching Rainbow Dash perform aerial tricks. I did my best to learn everything that I could about her from her friends, but they told me that Rarity often isolated herself with her work. She would spend hours, I was told by one pony by the name of Applejack, fiddling away in what she would personally describe as organised chaos, attempting to perfect that which was already perfect. She had a meticulous eye for detail, but one that left her obsessive. Whilst remaining a good friend to those other ponies, Rarity was described as being a comfortable loner, and combined with her regal beauty this was one of the more captivating features of her form. I resolved to learn more, oblivious as I was to the coming storm.
8 Months, 15 Days
"Keep your eyes closed."
"This is foolish..."
"Just keep them closed..."
I took Rarity by the hoof and guided her from the landing into the bedroom. She usually objected to my little games, but I liked playing them with her anyway; I could tell that she was grateful, even when she was trying to remain as composed as could be. We had been associating for just over a month, but she wasn't yet entirely comfortable around me. Rarity had made it known to me that she wasn't in the position to start a relationship, and that this would remain the case for the foreseeable future. Romance was never my intention with this pony; I merely loved her artistic vision and her creative passion and wished to see them flourish. I wanted to spend time with her learning her ways and methods, but I would describe the infatuation as delicately platonic. Perhaps I foolishly believed that if I invested enough time with her she would change her mind, and that we would one day fall in love. One thing I came to realise about Rarity, though, was that she rarely changed her mind when she gave that stern, wide-eyed look. That particular look was the only way that I could truly guarantee that she was being serious.
"Can I open them yet?" she asked sweetly.
She did, and her heart must have skipped a beat when she saw her name on the front cover of Manehattan's biggest designer magazine, the Rococo Report. She gnawed at her bottom lip, but I explained to her the connections that I had spoken with in Manehattan and the positive things that they had said about the dresses that I had sent to them. Rarity became indignant – I should have guessed it would happen – and I had to spend a considerable amount of time calming her down. As it turns out, the particular examples that I had sent off were, in her words, 'horrible'. She could not believe that I had sent her work to great fashion designers without her consent. Doing nice things for Rarity was always a case of walking on egg shells, even when the intention was pure. It was so easy for her to jump from elation to disgust. Her unpredictability at this point was still forgivable: perhaps it was because we were relatively new to communicating on a regular basis, but she tended to let me off and hold fewer grudges at that early stage of contact, and I was more tolerant of her neurotic whims.
I gave her some room to vent. "Would you like me to leave?" I asked, but she shook her head and gazed back towards the magazine. Although there was no image of Rarity – the pony on the front of the magazine was a photographer of some kind – the caption on the front hinted that there was some form of review of 'the next up-and-coming star' within. She beamed up at me quite suddenly and nudged the edition closer.
"Read it to me," she demanded, and I did as she asked, flicking to the correct page that I had bookmarked the moment that I had read the article.
"Ponyville is home to lots of rural charm," I began, "but none is more charming than a small, unassuming building called Carousel Boutique. Within the four walls of this converted loom, one might stumble upon the humble beauty known as Rarity." She liked it especially when I mentioned her name; she had an almost permanent smile on her face as I read the article to her.
"'With her dazzling dresses of ornate extravagance,'" Rarity repeated to herself after I had finished reading. "Those journalists like to use fancy language when describing what is basically just boring old fabric..."
Her low self-esteem was a quality that, just over one month into our situation, I was willing to appease. I used many rehearsed words to make her feel better about herself: telling her that she was talented and beautiful, articulate and special. Of course, none of these were lies, but they were speeches that became common on my lips. She would eventually become immune to these words; it became increasingly difficult to get her to smile. But on that day, when the article was published, she was smiling happily, and even put a hoof on my shoulder in thanks.
"That was most generous of you," she said earnestly, and I knew that I had done something right. I think it was that particular event that made me want to continue doing nice things for Rarity, and it was also the event that made her want me around more often. Although I'd only known her for a month, she had grown to enjoy my company, and after I had presented the article to her she asked me to stay for the rest of the day. I mostly just sat around whilst she worked, occasionally greeting customers who entered her boutique. I naturally inquired with every customer if they had come to see Rarity's things because of the article, but they were as surprised to see it as Rarity had been. Rarity saw that as a negative, but I successfully inverted her thought process on that one: if she was getting customers without the additional advertising, she would undoubtedly get some great publicity once the big fashion names picked up on her.
I sat at the counter most of the day dealing with the financial aspects of her work. She appreciated this, as Rarity was more of a creative entity than a bureaucratic one. She was poor with numbers, but I helped her organise the finances of her store and even pushed a few additional sales by using token phrases:
The locals didn't quite understand this jargon – it was more of a big-city kind of pitch – but they happily purchased more of Rarity's fine wears when they thought that they were getting a better deal. In fact, if I recall, Rarity closed the shop an hour or so earlier than normal, because she had more than exceeded her sales quota for the day.
She thanked me for sticking around. Before that, I don't think she'd wondered at all where I had been staying since being in Ponyville. To call Rarity self-absorbed would do her an injustice, but she did enjoy talking about herself more than inquiring into the lives of others. That was just fine with me, as I rarely had anything interesting to say. My life, at that point, revolved around Rarity's career and her whims. I explained to her that I had been staying at a tavern in the middle of the village, near the big fountain that had been nicknamed the Phoenix Feather, as a year or so ago, or so I am told, Princess Celestia's own Phoenix burst into flame beside it. Rarity nodded, glad that I at least had a roof over my head. She asked me a few details about where I was from and what I was doing in Ponyville: it seems strange that after being in town for over a month she only now was asking these questions, but that was how Rarity's mind worked. She did not think of the immediate things; too often she focused on what the future brings.
I bid her farewell and took my leave of the boutique. It was a cold night, but I felt warmed by the belief that I had made Rarity genuinely happy. The trot back to the tavern had never felt so quick as it did that night, until Rarity's world temporarily left my sight.
8 Months, 14 Days
I woke up early that morning. I'd never been one to sleep for particularly long stretches, but I must have been lying in bed staring at the roof since four in the morning. I still cannot recall why I could not sleep very well that night, but I remember leaving the tavern by five and going for a walk around Ponyville. It was still dark. Dark, with vicious clouds above. The Pegasus Sky Patrol would be having a busy day shifting it all – they were naturals at getting up early. I perched on a bench near Carousel Boutique and sat staring into a puddle; the rain the night before had left sporadic patches along the path. I looked good: wide awake, despite my lack of sleep, and full of colour. Occasionally a pony would pass me on their way to work – usually those working the surrounding farms – and I would greet them with a little wave of the hoof. I was still getting to know these ponies, but they seemed to be a welcoming bunch.
I think I made my way over to Carousel Boutique around half past six. I didn't expect Rarity to be awake, but I tried to open the door anyway. As a matter of fact, the door was unlocked and the familiar bell chimed, signalling my arrival. I didn't see Rarity. Instead there were all sorts of ponies wearing every colour you could possibly imagine, most of them armed with cameras or quills. They were a fashion crew, and they were here for one very clear reason. They barely acknowledged me, although one large stallion did tell me to move several times, as I was apparently blocking the best light in the room no matter where I stood. The ambush were all muttering about Rarity, and how she still had not emerged from her room. I grew a little concerned. I wondered if nerves had gotten to her. You must remember that I felt responsible for everything that happened on that day; it was because of me contacting the Manehattan media that these ponies had come to see Rarity.
I tried to get by and see her, but my way was blocked by enthusiastic ponies. Luckily, they didn't know that Rarity had another entrance into the back-room. I had learned this the past month, and often used it when I wanted to surprise her with my arrival: the bell at the entrance was too much of a give-away. I left the boutique briefly and trotted around the back, entering through the rear. I took the second staircase up to her bedroom and lightly tapped on the door.
"Rarity, is everything okay?" I asked. I knew that she would recognise me. I heard a small voice and then the latch on the door clicked. I butted the door open with my head, using a hind leg to quickly close it after me. Rarity made her way back towards her bed, flopping out pathetically.
"What's wrong?" I asked, remaining still.
She lifted her head slightly to look at me. It was the first time that I had seen her without her mane brushed and curled.
"I am unwell," Rarity said slowly. "I feel nauseous and my head feels as if it is splitting in two. My back hurts, and my hooves are itchy. I cannot breathe... I am having palpitations..."
She was growing steadily more insufferable. I moved to perch next to her on the bed, touching her face softly with my hoof. "This is all nerves, Rarity," I said. "I know you wanted Stardom, and now that it has arrived I can understand that you would be anxious."
Rarity shook her head, her eyes squinting together. "I'm not nervous. I feel genuinely unwell! I have for weeks. I cannot go and greet those ponies..."
I was entirely focused on making her dreams come true. She had spoken to me at length of the power of those dreams, and I felt as if they were slipping. I butted against her horn with the top of my head, lifting her in my hooves and helping her to stand. "Come on, Rarity. This is who you are, and who you were born to be. All of those ponies have come to see your work. I heard ponies from all over Equestria down there. Let's not keep them waiting any longer, huh?"
She sighed. I had convinced her, and she was willing to follow my every word on that occasion without a shadow of doubt. She shooed me out of the room so that she could prepare herself – she had been wearing a pink nightgown when I had entered – and assured me that in five minutes she would be out.
2 Months, 6 Days
"How is Rarity coping?"
"Pass on our best wishes."
"Five minutes of fresh air won't do her any harm."
It was the same deal again. I was staring blankly at Twilight Sparkle, who had that usual look of mock-concern on her face. It was the expression of a pony that had given up. Rarity had not yet adopted it. I sighed and nodded to Twilight, clearing my throat of the usual sickly deposit that gathered whenever she and her friends asked me the same questions.
"Oh, she's doing okay," I said dryly. "The usual. She's still working on that scarf. It's a funny story, actually. She was knitting away at it and one of the staff saw her and commented that it reminded her of one that she bought in Ponyville a couple of years ago. Well, when Rarity told her that it was her who once supplied Ponyville with scarves and so on, she couldn't help but remark how much of a small world it really is. Remember those fuzzy scarves that she used to make?"
Of course Twilight Sparkle remembered. She used to lap those up whenever Winter Wrap-up came by. I'd only been in Ponyville for one of those, a couple of months ago. I remember it being a fun day with the gang; we were all wearing the scarves that Rarity had made for us. She hadn't been able to attend, but when seeing her that evening she'd been incredibly excited that the ponies were enjoying what she had made for them. It was a shame that she didn't work from the boutique now, but anypony would have agreed that it just wasn't practical.
"I'm on my way to see her now," I said. "I'll pass on your wishes, as you say."
"All Rarity needs is a positive attitude," Twilight yapped. "I was doing some reading the other day. I found a great book on homoeopathic remedies for all sorts of ailments. It's surprising how much healthier a pony can become just from having a better outlook. At first I was sceptical, but the book appears to have some credible sources behind it. I'll give you the book at some point."
That was just like Twilight – a textbook junky, but one that really needed to learn to keep her mouth closed. I knew the last thing that Rarity wanted was to read some bullshit book on the power of cosmic energy.
"Thank you. She'll definitely appreciate that."
"Oh, and before I forget: Pinkie Pie is having a party this weekend. We'll be hoping to see you there."
"...I really must be going."
I did not want any part in Pinkie Pie's party. It was cruel how quickly these ponies could shift from discussing intimate issues concerning Rarity to boasting about the upcoming joys of a party. Rarity would not attend, and Twilight Sparkle knew this; the last three or four times that she'd mentioned parties to me, she had conveniently forgotten to mention Rarity. She would not attend, but the mere gesture would be appreciated. I did not like Rarity being ignored and excluded by her friends.
I don't know what time it was when I arrived at my destination. It was irrelevant, really. Rarity was usually asleep nowadays anyway, so a few hours here and there didn't make the slightest bit of difference. I approached the desk and gave my name, although this was just procedure: I knew full-well where Rarity was and by now they were more than familiar with me. They kept an eye on me, as usual, but things had died down since my big apology. I passed a mirror, although I was now beyond checking my appearance. I probably looked completely awful, but that was okay, because so would Rarity.
I sort of drifted to the door and twisted the knob. Rarity was sleeping soundly. I was glad that her dreams were less hostile than mine of late. I perched on a seat beside the bed and leaned a little closer to her. She was definitely submerged in some alternate realm and looked content to stay there, at least for now. I closed my eyes tightly and sat back in the chair. If I could just catch a little bit of sleep now, she couldn't accuse me later of neglecting her. I feared her waking far too soon, and the usual silence that would fill that crippled room. There was a clicking noise and I opened a single eye, noticing a white-clad stallion whose name I keep forgetting standing in the doorway. He said some shit about the next steps and progress. Our options were minimal, he would come to confess.