7 Months, 24 Days
"What are the options?"
"Well, I can go for the black silk or the red."
I preferred her in the black, but I was sure that she would pick the red. It was a gamble, but I pointed a hoof towards the red. She raised an eyebrow and frowned. "I prefer the black," she said, and I rolled my eyes in response. Now that I think about it, she probably did prefer black for a business meeting. The red looked too seductive, especially when she was going out in order to have a conversation with some high-flying noble from Canterlot about placing a bulk-order for her dresses. I was a little worried about her, but in the past month or so she had become a lot more secure around the wealthy and elite. I glanced across the room to her bedside table, noticing that she had chosen not to wear the sapphire tiara.
"When will you be back?" I questioned as she slipped on the black dress. She admired herself in the mirror and muttered a few words about not knowing when she would return, and that I probably shouldn't wait around for her. I asked if she wanted me to open the shop today, but she didn't think it was necessary. "Most of my good stock will be coming with me for the demonstration," she explained. "You would just be selling the concepts. We will open up again in two days."
"Why two?" I questioned. "What's happening tomorrow?"
She finally looked away from her reflection towards me, her lips curling into a pout. "You always forget things," she commented, tutting irritably. "I hate it when you forget things."
I searched my mind for what tomorrow was; was it some form of anniversary, or maybe a party? She kept her gaze fixed on me, her faith in me dying with every second that passed. I rubbed the back of my head nervously and she sighed, using her magic to lift a few dresses into a large bag. "I am glad that you pay attention to the things happening in my life," she huffed, and I exhaled an apology.
"I am going to the Royal Canterlot Hall, remember?" she said after half a minute of silence. "They are playing the Symphony of Seven Paladins. I would have invited you, but I am afraid that the tickets are incredibly difficult to get one's hooves on, and I am personally only attending as a guest myself."
I understood. The past month had, for Rarity, been an incredibly busy time. It had all started when she was featured in the Rococo Report which was my doing, it should be noted during the middle of last month. She had been anxious at first, but her dresses had been well-received and she had been invited days later to all manner of photo shoots. She was travelling a lot more now, and although I did my best to go with her as her personal associate, my uses were already beginning to dwindle. She had a chauffeur to carry her bags for her waiting outside, and when arriving in Canterlot she now had various ponies with which to mingle and discuss high-art. The clientèle that she now kept were far beyond me in class and sophistication, and as a result I already felt alienated from Rarity. I guess that was why making mistakes and having her in a huff with me concerned me so much; seeing less of her was a challenge in itself, but irritating her when we did get the time to interact was even worse. I bowed my head and shuffled my hooves against the carpet.
"I'm sorry," I said. "You've been busy lately. I get mixed up with what you're doing."
"We will open the shop again in two days," Rarity repeated. "I promise. And I will be able to tell you about the Symphony. We can catch up then."
I appreciated her gesture and nodded. She smiled and turned to leave. Her cat, Opalescence, did not seem so appreciative of her owner, however, and hissed at Rarity as she opened the door. Rarity nuzzled her pet and promised that she would return soon, guaranteeing a gift for the feline from Canterlot. This appeased Opal and she began to groom herself in approval. Rarity smiled and left, uttering a quick 'goodbye' before disappearing from sight. She had added that I should behave myself whilst she was away, and I made my own promise at that moment that I would.
With Rarity out of the house, I sat next to Opalescence and smiled down at her weakly. "I guess we both miss Rarity, huh?" I asked, but the cat had no intention of bonding with me and instead moved to claw viciously at her toy mouse. I sighed and looked to the door. It would be a while before Rarity returned, and without the option to open up the shop, I had little to do. I debated over whether or not to go and see Twilight Sparkle and the others, but I was soon distracted by a large book that had been left open on Rarity's work desk. I approached it curiously, folding the corner of the page over so that I did not lose her place. I checked the front cover. A Guide To Baroque Attire it read in fancy gold lettering. I turned to the introduction that alone spanned thirty pages and set about reading.
5 Months, 7 Days
"Dear Miss Rarity,
I am writing to you in order to explain my situation. I have watched you for many months now and have observed your artistic vision with an eager eye. You are truly something special, and all of Canterlot love what you have provided. Manehattan may have caught onto your enterprise first, but Canterlot is where you belong. You should certainly consider becoming a permanent resident.
On a more personal note, I have become increasingly interested in you. This may sound forward, especially as you consider me a friend and close associate. But before you refuse my offer, I just wish it to be known that I can make great things happen for you, and that I would hold you in the most lionised esteem known to pony-kind. When you are not here I miss you terribly. It has become increasingly difficult to find time when you are not engaging in business meetings or attending balls and dinner parties. You are certainly the crème de la crème of high-society, and I look forward to when I may see you again.
5 Months, 5 Days
Rarity was coming home today. She'd been away on a week-long trip in Manehattan. I would have gone with her, but she personally insisted, for this trip in particular, that I should stay at the shop and run it in her absence. She had left a lot of stock that needed selling, most of it dresses and hats that she was happy with, and had instructed me to sell what I could. She would be happy to know that I had done exactly that, and had sold pretty much everything that she'd asked me to. In fact, because business was so good Rarity's name was really beginning to become a tourist attraction for Ponyville I had pulled a few things out of the back-room and sold them as well. One customer had been interested in a floral ball-room gown, and although it hadn't been on Rarity's list of things to sell, I'd known that she had something that fit the bill that she'd made weeks ago and just left in the back to rot. The pony had paid good money for it, and I was excited to see the look on Rarity's face when she saw what I had sold across the week.
The bell of the store chimed and I looked up happily from the desk, half-expecting to see Rarity. Instead it was Twilight Sparkle.
"Wow, the shop is looking empty..." she commented, looking around at all of the bare pony mannequins. I smiled back at her, falling back into my seat. "Yeah, business is really good at the moment."
"Rarity must really appreciate the help that you're giving her," Twilight added. I looked down at the stock list, observing the many ticks beside the listed dresses. Twilight lingered in the doorway for a moment, glancing around the shop floor. "So is Rarity not back yet?"
"Not yet," I replied. "She didn't give a specific time. I think she had some stuff to do in Manehattan before coming home, so I expect she'll be back around lunchtime."
"It's after lunchtime," Twilight said, pointing a hoof towards the big clock. "She must be running late."
I hadn't noticed the time.
Twilight didn't really have any business with me, although she probably had a hundred questions that she would have asked, had we been in a more private situation. She looked around awkwardly. "Well, I guess I'll be off," she said. "How about you and Rarity come and find me when she gets home?"
"If it's not too late," I responded, and Twilight, realising that my mood had turned sour, took her leave around that time. I sighed and checked over the stock list again. I must have read that damn thing enough times to be labelled 'obsessive'. I couldn't shake the feeling that those ticks would erase themselves. A while passed and I decided to head into the kitchen and make myself a sandwich; anything to take my mind off of waiting for Rarity to get back. I began to butter the bread, and then stuck my head in the cupboard to scan for anything that looked edible. I suddenly felt a cold sensation on my flank and instinctively shot up, bashing my head on the interior of the cupboard. I heard a concerned noise and pulled my head back, rubbing it with a hoof the second that I was free. Rarity was standing there, all plastered in colours, looking rather apologetic indeed. I nursed the bump on my head, doing my best to smile rather than wince.
"When did you get back? I didn't hear the bell ring."
"Darling, I took the back entrance," she said with a guilty expression. "I know you like to sneak up on me sometimes. I thought that I would return the favour. I am sorry that you banged your head."
Funnily enough, the pain had completely subsided. I decided to make the sandwich up for her instead, insisting that she sit and tell me all about her trip. She spoke at length as she happily munched on the sandwich, explaining how she had not eaten a proper meal all week. "It has been completely hectic," she explained. "I have barely had the time to sleep, let alone gulp down a meal."
"You need to take better care of yourself," I said. "It's not healthy to keep pushing yourself as hard as you are."
She nodded in agreement, tearing off the crust from the sandwich with her dainty hooves. "Don't worry, I won't be going away again for a while now, so you can lavish me with as much food as you like over the coming weeks...as long as I do not become fat."
You can imagine how happy I was that she wasn't going to be leaving again for a while. "How come?" I asked simply, and she explained that she had sold everything that she had taken with her, and thus needed to make some more dresses before she could even think about going on another trip. Her attention turned to how well I had done the past week; she moved a little closer to me when she mentioned that the shop floor had looked rather empty when she had tiptoed through. "Unless you are hiding my dresses somewhere, I imagine that you had a productive week?"
"You could say that," I smiled. "Everything on the stock list has gone." I paused for a moment. "I guess you'll have to stay even longer now. You need to re-stock the shop before you can worry about making excess dresses to sell elsewhere."
She grinned and nudged the plate to me with a hoof. She had left the crusts perfectly trimmed. "Did anything arrive for me while I was away?" she asked, looking around the kitchen. I shook my head quickly. "No. But Twilight Sparkle did come looking for you about half an hour ago. She wanted to see how your trip went, I think."
"Ah, I see," Rarity said, yawning. "Perhaps I shall visit her tomorrow. I would rather just spend tonight relaxing. I am finding myself more and more tired of late. It was a long trip back from Manehattan, after all. Oh, and you will never believe who I bumped into whilst I was there."
"Mr. and Mrs. Orange. They are Applejack's Uncle and Aunt. Terribly nice ponies, and certainly representative of the upper-class of Manehattan. They wanted to know how The Apple Family are coping. Have you seen Applejack?"
"Earlier in the week I bumped into Applejack in town. She seemed fine."
Rarity appeared relieved to hear this.
Mr. and Mrs. Orange were wealthy aristocrats living in Manehattan. Whilst not residents of Canterlot themselves, they had many strong connections with the Canterlot elite and were no strangers to dressing up fancily. Mr. Orange made his fortune in the textile industry, and he and his wife were major contributors to a large corporation dealing with the exportation of linen and cotton. It was no great surprise that they had had a profound interest in Rarity; they certainly existed within the same sort of occupational spectrum. Rarity told me a little more about how Mr. Orange had met with her during her week stay in Manehattan to discuss helping her dresses sell to a national market. "At the moment I work on a fairly regional level," she explained. "But Mr. Orange has the contacts and the charisma to help me sell my dresses throughout all of Equestria. He says that the northern regions would be particularly interested in what I have to sell, as they don't generally get fashion like mine up there. It's a tragedy, really."
I nodded. Rarity had lost none of her flare, and her confidence seemed greater than ever before. She slipped off of her chair and stretched out her hooves, letting out a louder yawn than I believe I could muster. "I'm going to have a lie-down," she said to me. "Thank you so much for looking after the shop for me this week. I am extremely grateful." Of course, it was absolutely no problem, and I told her this much. She beamed from ear to ear and took her leave of the kitchen, only to poke her head around the door again moments later.
"Are you sure that nothing arrived for me?" she persisted, and I nodded to myself.
"Yeah, nothing. Were you expecting something?"
She left without a word, and a few seconds later I heard the creaking of the wonky floorboard at the top of the stairs. I sighed and prodded my stomach with a hoof. I no longer had an appetite. I lifted the plate and took it over to the dustbin. I flipped open the lid, ready to pour the crusts into the murky depths. My eyes caught five or six strands of torn paper, and I quickly poured the remnants of Rarity's meal over them. I didn't want to see those again. I closed the lid of the bin as fast as I could, almost dropping the plate on the way to the sink.
2 Months, 2 Days
I'd avoided Pinkie Pie's party. They'd asked if I'd wanted them to save me a slice of cake, and, to keep up appearances, I'd accepted. I could just throw it away with the countless other pieces and they wouldn't know; my waste disposal had become a pit of lies over the past few months. Somehow, cake didn't taste good any more. Perhaps my opinion on it would be better if every other day Rarity wasn't served the same sickly-sweet gooey mess that dared call itself a cupcake. It wasn't like anything that I'd tasted from the bakery in Ponyville; it was clinical and inauthentic.
I'd been sitting in the bathroom for a long time now. Somepony had left the tap running slightly at the sink, and so every three seconds without fail I would hear the sound of dripping water. I was trying to arrange the frequent sound into a melody in my head. Perhaps if I tapped my hoof against the door I could add a little bit of percussion. Then I'd just need to find a few other make-shift instruments and I could perform my own rendition of the Symphony of Seven Paladins. Rarity would no-doubt appreciate that. The urinal cakes could be my audience.
I heard the door open and another pony entered. He didn't stay for long; just washed his hooves and then dried them off on some paper towels. I held my breath until they had left. I remained immobile for a few more seconds; enough to tell that the ignorant bastard had ruined my musical project. I hoisted myself up and approached the sink. He'd twisted the tap tightly to prevent it from dripping.
I made my way back towards Rarity's room, passing a few ponies that were now familiar to me. Well, most of them were; I spotted a couple of new faces. I would have to come up with names for them next time my attention was slipping.
I wanted to call the brown-haired mare Chocolate Cake, because her scent was nauseating.
Rarity was awake, lying on her side and staring into space. When I sat down beside the bed her eyes flickered to me, although she didn't really focus.
"Where were you?" she asked.
"Making music," I responded. "You know, I always wanted to be in a musical troupe when I was younger. I grew up watching the Octavia Quartet, both generations, in fact. Even the latest iteration is pretty good."
"Do you have something for me?" Rarity questioned, sitting up against her pillow weakly.
"Not yet," I said. "I couldn't get in contact with him."
"Why...am I not surprised...?" she muttered under her breath, and I only just managed to avoid barking at her.
"I will do it," I insisted. "Just...be patient. It takes longer than you'd think."
"If it was me...I would have had it done days ago..."
Of course she would of. She could say whatever she wanted and I would have to agree. It was my job as the puppet to just sit there and nod, regardless of who she was putting down. Most of the time it was me. I'd like to say that things were the way that they had been before, but she was still angry with me: I could tell from her continuously bitter tone. No amount of apologies could change that, it seemed.
"Hey, somepony left you some grapes," I said, hinting with a hoof to the stalk. "Did you eat them all by yourself?"
"Don't...call me fat..." she said. "I hate it."
"Well, I mean-"
"Don't...make small-talk. I can't stand it."
So that was that. I just sat there in silence and stared at my hooves. I could have left it would have been so easy to just get up and go but I was stuck to that chair as if a magnet was beneath it. The white-clad stallion came in and checked Rarity; for him she sat up and fluttered her eyelashes, and did exactly as he asked. When he left she let out a deep exhale of breath, closing her eyes. "He's lovely..." she mouthed. "A great stallion with a big heart."
I nodded. It seemed to be all that I could do nowadays.
"I want you to do something for me," Rarity suddenly said, gulping in the back of her throat. Her mouth was dry. I offered to help her drink her water, but she didn't want me to treat her like an infant. She clumsily gulped at the water, swallowing it down painfully. "It is Pinkie Pie's party today, is it not?" she asked when she caught her breath.
I nodded, but she seemed to hate that.
"Yeah. Yes, it is. I think..."
"You don't think...you know..." Rarity muttered. "Go to the party. Just go."
"I'd rather be here with you..."
"I would rather you not be here with me," Rarity answered bluntly. "Go...go on and enjoy your party. Leave me alone again like you always do. I don't want you here. Your presence...I hate it." She folded her hooves over each other, turning back against her pillow. I tried to speak, but no words formed. At least nothing that she wanted to respond to, anyway. How long could Rarity keep punishing me for? I didn't deserve what she was putting me through. If I left, she would only hold it against me the next time that I showed my face. And if I didn't go, she would resent me for staying. I sat there, my eyes fixed on her docile form, weighing up the decision in my head. I could see the rim of her pillow growing damp. Tears, probably.
I remained rooted to the spot. In this sort of stalemate position, it was almost impossible to get through.
I don't even recall which of the two of us said the words: