4 Months, 11 Days
"Maybe I've done enough."
Perhaps I had already done enough for Rarity, but it was hard for me to stop. The kind gestures were natural in her presence. Last night I had soothed her into a gentle sleep by softly rubbing her back and caressing her mane, which she appreciated immensely. It had been nice just getting some time alone with her without her worrying about orders and quotas to fill. Of course, this business with Mr. Cross and Mr. Orange hadn't helped matters. Rarity had, quite understandably, made as much effort as possible early into her career to meet with the big names. Unfortunately, things had now fallen into a state of contention, as both of these important, powerful ponies had different ideas on how to distribute Rarity's dresses.
It was the opinion of Mr. Cross that Rarity should keep things exclusive to him; that she should move to the big city and create a monopoly within the industry. Mr. Cross wished for Rarity to use her talents to make more than just dresses he had also hinted at her making jewellery and ornaments with her penchant for crafts which he would sell through his businesses in Canterlot and Manehattan. The Glass House was a prime example of a large and exclusive store that could have ownership over Rarity's trademark. The reasoning, I believe, was that if Canterlot and Manehattan held the legal rights to Rarity's creations, it would attract major business from across all of Equestria to these two cities, which would naturally benefit Mr. Cross' business immensely. It was a draconian stance, but I could understand where the arrogant bastard was coming from; in business, it is natural to attempt to dominate the market, and Mr. Cross was certainly a dominating character.
Mr. Orange, on the other hand, was a pony that I had never met, and I was thankful of this. My one meeting with Mr. Cross had ended in disaster and almost jeopardised my position with Rarity. If Mr. Orange was anything like him, I could stand to be as far away from him as possible. I knew little about Mr. Orange as a pony, only that his involvement in the textile industry had made him and his wife rather wealthy indeed. From what I had deduced, Mr. Orange had little interest in keeping Rarity's dresses exclusive to one market, and instead wished to push them into wholesale. It was Mr. Orange's reasoning, so I had gathered, that if he took the designs and concepts that Rarity created, he could employ others to copy the designs, mass-produce them and sell them all across Equestria. Mr. Cross had made it clear that he was absolutely against replication and wished for every dress to be hoof-stitched by Rarity; comparatively, Mr. Orange was happy to sell Rarity's dress-concepts by the thousands to a mass-market.
Both had good arguments, but neither affected me. All of this information I had gathered from what Rarity had told me, as well as from a few letters here and there that sadly hadn't made their way into Rarity's hooves (or had arrived slightly later than they should have). I did not appreciate that Rarity was being forced to make such a difficult decision. If it had been up to me, I would have told her to cut off all ties with both ponies; they were playing a game far beyond Rarity's capacity. She was better off when supplying Ponyville alone. I detested the media that had swept down upon her, striking her with greedy corporate talons.
I pulled myself up from the chair beside her bed and approached the window, drawing the curtain across. I looked down below and saw a couple of ponies walking by, although they did not appear to be related to the media. It appeared that today we were being left alone from the mobs of journalists desperate for a story. I glanced across to Rarity; she was lying face-down in her pillow, snoozing softly. I trotted towards her bed and pulled a blanket across her body, which she instinctively tugged closer to herself for warmth. I watched her sleeping for a few moments, allowing various thoughts and feelings to pass through my mind. None of them would I share. To distract myself, I vowed that I would make her breakfast in bed.
I was careful of stepping on the loose floorboard at the top of the stairs, for its groan was penetrating and could easily wake my sleeping Rarity. On the way to the kitchen I spotted a couple of notes and letters that had been posted through the letterbox and dealt with them accordingly. At my destination I set about putting together some food. I cooked some eggs and topped them off with a sprig of parsley, making sure that I placed the garnish on the plate just right, as she was very specific when it came to minor details. I saw a loaf of bread that I could have made myself a sandwich from, but I didn't have the time for such things. I returned to Rarity's room, balancing the plate on my back. She had rolled over since I had been downstairs, and was now facing towards the chair where I would perch. I took my place and watched, moving a hoof to stroke a strand of purple mane from her face. She had that smoky, messy morning-look about her, and proved to be an incredibly attractive sight to my tired eyes.
"Rarity," I spoke. "I made you some food."
She opened an eye slightly, in a state of light-sleep but registering my voice. "You didn't have to do that..." she whispered sleepily, but I smiled and nudged the plate onto the bed. She stretched, yawning deeply and propping herself up on the bed, her back resting against a plush, red pillow. She blinked a couple of times and observed the food, biting her bottom lip.
"Did I mess up on the parsley?" I asked, gulping in the back of my throat. She shook her head and looked towards me. "-No. You got it just right."
This was going to be a good day. I just knew it. She tucked into her food, eating it down incredibly fast. She left nothing on the plate, and her eyes almost seemed to be begging for more. I smiled and took the plate from her, letting it rest on the bedside table. "What are you going to be doing today?" I asked, and she fell back into her pillow, sighing. "I have some concepts to work on," she said. "In my inspiration room."
I had never been into her inspiration room. It was the only area of the boutique that I was excluded from. I had free navigation of the downstairs and work-floor, and the upstairs areas such as my room, the bathroom and, quite often now, her own room. But that inspiration room was out-of-bounds. She had mentioned it only a few times to me, but she spent most of her free time locked up in there, and it was implied that it was Rarity's private space. "Do you want me to look after the shop?" I questioned. "You had a note posted saying that a shipment of fabric had been put around the back of the boutique."
"Was it the cotton or the wool?"
"The cotton," I said. "And a few rolls of silk should be arriving later."
"That will suffice," she said, clearing her throat daintily to remove the last traces of sleep.
"It'll be nice," I said softly, allowing a moment of silence to pass us both. "I guess I'll open the store up," I added, and she looked at me with a slight sense of panic.
"-Not yet," she said. "Just...wait a little while."
"I like you being here," she explained quickly, perhaps embarrassed by the thought. "Did you stroke my back last night?"
"Sorry about that."
"I liked it," Rarity said in a low-voice. "You found the points on my back that relax me."
I guess I didn't have much experience with ponies of the female persuasion, and so her compliment to my hoof-skills was greatly appreciated. In all honesty, I had delivered a fumbling hoof-poke rather than the implied masterful stroke, but if she had enjoyed it I could not fault my own abilities. "Excellent," I said in response, laughing slightly.
"Perhaps you would do me the honour of entering my inspiration room today?" she asked in a husky voice, and my eyes widened. "I could use your opinion on something."
"Are you sure, Rarity?"
"I would not have asked if I was not sure," she said. "Your opinion is always of importance to me."
She seemed certain in her conviction, and I was hardly in a position to object. I waited there for a little while longer until she became aware that I had seen her without her make-up and perfectly-brushed mane. It was one of the very few times that one could witness Rarity without her articulate grooming and pruning. She didn't even request that I leave her room as she prepared herself in front of the mirror, continuing her conversation with me. The topic turned away from dresses to more light-hearted discussion. As she strolled around the room looking for various feminine things I couldn't help but be reminded that her hooves were still muddy. I didn't want to say anything and ruin the mood, but I felt I owed it to her. The prints from downstairs I had cleaned up during the night, but Rarity's hooves were still a little brown from the mud outside.
"Your hooves are muddy," I said under my breath, and she looked down at them. I half-expected her to enter a panic, but aside from noticeable embarrassment she did not seem too distressed. "-Then I shall have a bath before getting dressed," she responded, and I took that as my signal to leave. "I'll go and grab you some towels and leave them outside the bathroom," I said. "I'll be waiting downstairs for you."
"Why not wait in the inspiration room?" she questioned suddenly.
"Are you sure you want me to go in without you?"
"Darling...I would not have asked if I was not sure."
My answer was obvious. I left her room and opened the landing cupboard, locating three towels one for her body, two for her mane and tail and folded them neatly outside the bathroom. She crossed me on the landing and smiled up at me with her big, blue orbs of innocence. "I shall see you in there soon," she said happily. "I ask only that you not move anything within the room. It is...organised chaos, but everything has its place in my mind."
"I will not touch a thing," I promised, and she nudged me slightly, entering the bathroom with her towels hovering just in front of her. I turned towards the inspiration room and closed my eyes, my hoof touching the knob. I heard the distant cry of the letterbox snapping shut downstairs, but decided to ignore whatever was being posted through just this once. I had more important things to concern myself with. I twisted the knob and pushed my way into her inspiration room Rarity's inner-most secret within the old loom.
4 Months, 7 Days
"I want you with me the entire time."
"The entire time?"
Rarity had certainly decided that my uses were once again of maximum importance. It had been a little while since I had felt so useful to her, but over the last few days we had rebuilt some of the walls that had crumbled. Where we were wasn't even really important; it was the simple fact that Rarity had forsaken the idea of taking a free airship trip to Manehattan to take the train with me instead. She had insisted that it just was not fair that I would have to travel without her, and my own trip to Manehattan would now be infinitely more pleasant than it would have been without her company.
I hated Manehattan, and had vowed not to return since the last few trips. But circumstance continued to pull me back towards the city of my birth, and I was now becoming slightly less hostile towards it, as long as we avoided the inertia of the media and the slums. I had informed Rarity that we should avoid these ponies and parts of the city at all costs, and she had agreed; for this trip was not a business meeting, or a large ballroom party, but was instead a simple time of leisure and relaxation. Rarity had contacts that could allow her to travel by airship across most of Equestria now, but she had personally insisted that a train would be more interesting, especially as I wasn't permitted to use the airship.
"It has been a while since I have been on a train," Rarity remarked as I ordered us a couple of warm drinks from the vendor. "I have been taking carriages or ships recently."
"I spent a lot of my youth on trains," I said, and she nodded. "You are from Manehattan. The old part of the city, correct?"
"It is best avoided," I said between gulps of my drink. "There's nothing of value there."
"Your birth place," Rarity said simply. "That is important to me."
For the duration of the journey we spoke about things external to the fashion industry. She had been taking a little bit of time off over the last couple of days. After our interesting experience in the inspiration room, we had become quite a lot closer to one another, and she had vowed that she would make some time for the two of us. So far, she had stuck to that promise well; yesterday we had gone for a walk around the lakes surrounding Ponyville, and the day before we had sat around as she attempted to teach me about the history of art and fashion. I didn't really get it, although she had been impressed that I had made an effort to read A Guide to Baroque Attire several months ago. I believe it was the gesture that she most enjoyed.
As the train pulled into Manehattan station, Rarity was the first to hurry from the carriage, showing unusual enthusiasm. "Where are we going?" I asked as I did my best to keep up with her. "You said you wanted to come to Manehattan today, but didn't really provide me with a suitable answer as to why. Is something happening today?"
"Just wait and see," she smiled. I shrugged and approached her. "Would you like me to get a map from the station?" I questioned, but she shook her head clearly, over the last few months she had gained an in-depth knowledge of Manehattan's complex network of streets. "Don't leave my side," she mentioned in passing, which got me a little worried about where we were going or what we would be doing. We headed down some streets that I wasn't familiar with, and the sound of music soon began to resonate amongst the busy crowds of the city. "What is this?" I asked, turning a corner with her as the music grew louder. Before us was a large parade, complete with a delightful marching band who were dressed in red and gold cardinal outfits. The crowds that had gathered around were thick and dense, but she managed to pull me through them to help me gain a better view.
"I used to come and see this parade all the time when I was younger," she said. "My mother and father always brought me and Sweetie Belle here. They still bring her some years, although I rarely have the time to attend."
"Are they here this year?"
"Quite possibly," she nodded. "But it would be near-impossible to find them in this crowd. I did not come to meet with them, at any rate; I came to show you."
This was clearly an important parade for Rarity. I gathered that it was called the Golden Gown Parade from what Rarity told me, and that the centrepiece above the marching band was an enormous golden bell that chimed every hour for twelve hours. It was a long parade, but I would have been prepared to stay there the entire time had Rarity wished it. As things turned out, we only remained for an hour or so, during which time I purchased some cotton candy for the both of us. Rarity munched on it happily, licking the sticky remains from her hooves. It was so unlike her, but I guess childhood nostalgia does funny things to ponies. After she had seen all she needed to see of the parade, she took me by the hoof and down a small alleyway where she spotted a little café. "I came here a few weeks ago," she explained to me, and we must have stayed there for a good hour or so, sipping drinks and eating delicious, Manehattan food.
The day drew on and the sky began to dim - Winter Wrap-Up had been less than a week ago, and so it was still the time of year where it grew dark relatively early. We ended up walking down the long street where most of the commercial buildings were, but at night-time, as I had predicted months ago, the lanterns that had replaced the trees of old really were beautiful. We walked between the perfectly regimented aisles of orange lamps, holding hooves to the best of our ability. I would have said we remained with our bodies touching for warmth on this cool night, although perhaps there was an air of romance to the scene.
"I have enjoyed spending this wonderful day with you," she said to me as we walked. "You have experienced a wonderful part of my childhood with me."
"I enjoyed seeing the parade."
"I wish we could have stayed."
"We can go back, if you like," I suggested, but she shook her head, smiling. "No, it is fine."
"There's always next year, right?" I asked, but she did not respond to such a question.
"-I wish to come again to Manehattan soon," she said instead. "I have shown you some of my childhood. I would love to see some of yours."
She spoke, of course, of where I grew up. It was not somewhere that I was remotely interested in returning to, but rejecting a request from Rarity was something that I could not do. After a moment of hesitance I nodded my head, and lowered it down to rest against her horn instead. "If that is something that you wish to see, then yes, we can come again."
And so we stood there in the centre of the street, locked in an embrace to which nothing could compete. The ponies of the city passed us by, and each of them watched us with a tentative eye; but none even registered within our world, as the lights of the city flickered as pearls. I kissed her once on the cheek, and softly again on the horn. Everything was perfect. I do not recall when we eventually returned home and fell asleep, but I do remember that we were together the entire time. It was, as they say, sublime.
2 Months, 1 Day
I have no idea what time I woke up. I had ended up going to Pinkie Pie's party last night and catching the evening festivity. Afterwards I had gone out to a bar somewhere. Staying in Rarity's company yesterday would have made me do something that I would later regret. After insisting I leave her be, I had, for once, obliged. I wanted to punish her; by leaving her to think about what she had done by sending me away, she would hopefully realise that without me, she was alone. No other pony even cared about her. She had deliberately avoided telling her family about her sick state of health, and I was in no position to seek them out and inform them. It would betray Rarity's trust, but my main concern was that it would put other ponies in the way. Sharing Rarity had been too difficult in the past. I wasn't going to allow it to happen again.
I almost fell down the stairs. I wasn't going to open the shop today. If anypony wanted to buy something they could go into Manehattan. What was the point in dresses, anyway? Ponies looked nicer when they weren't wearing them. Fashion was a cruel game of ripping off ponies with unnecessary attire. The kitchen was full of the usual stuff that I couldn't stomach. I really wanted some chocolate cake. But there was no cake in the boutique. Like an idiot I hadn't brought some home with me. Pinkie Pie had asked me so many times to take a slice of cake back with me. Why didn't I? What was possibly going through my head to decline cake of the chocolate variety? Now banana, on the other hand, can disappear from the Cake's menu and I wouldn't even bat an eyelid. I wonder if Mr. Cake knew whilst growing up that, with a name such as his, he would end up running a bakery?
I slipped outside briefly to check if any large packages had been left outside the door. None had, and so I returned to my den and sat behind the desk. I rang the bell a few times to listen to the chime. "Rarity, somepony is here to see you!" I mocked, shouting upstairs even though nopony would hear. "Ding ding...hey there, mind if I buy a thousand dresses from you and work you to the bone so that you stop eating?" I needed to come up with a name for my fictional corporate fat-cat. Maybe Mr. Cross. I did my best to adopt a Mr. Cross tone to my voice. It sounded good enough to me.
"Yes, my dear! I'm this cheating scumbag who has like, fifteen wives and seven-thousand companies across Equestria, and I'm still not happy. I want a piece of Rarity as well, because why the fuck wouldn't I?"
The door opened and I ducked behind the desk. Like an idiot, I'd forgotten to lock the door after coming back inside. Had somepony seen me? If they had noticed me through the window I would curl up in a ball and implode.
"Hello?" a voice called, setting off the bell as he opened the door a little more. "I heard voices from within. Is somepony there?"
I peeked around from behind the desk. The pony wasn't one that I recognised. Green mane...sandy body. I struggled to make out his cutie mark. It was just some round thing. Not considering him to be any sort of threat he did not look especially important I stood up from behind the desk and pointed an accusing hoof towards him.
"The shop is closed!" I said. "I'll press charges unless you get off the property!"
"Please, be calm!" the voice returned. "I am just looking for somepony a Miss Rarity. I believe that she owns this boutique?"
"Who are you?"
"My name is Mr. Orange. I am from Manehattan. I would really like to speak with Miss Rarity."
"She isn't home."
"Do you know when she might be returning?"
"I see. It is just that I have sent numerous letters to this address asking for her to respond and she has not yet replied to a single one. I thought it best to come and see for myself if everything was okay."
"Everything is fine," I growled. "Rarity isn't around at the moment. I don't imagine she'll be at the boutique for a while, so you can stop sending your letters here."
"...Do you have an alternate address by which I can contact her?"
Shove it up your ass.
"No, I don't."
"Could you pass a message on for me?"
"Tell her that I miss her, and that I really must speak with her urgently."
"Okay, Mr. Orange. I will pass your message on. Leave it to me."
"Thank you, my good fellow."
"Do you want to write it down in letter format as well?" I questioned. "You seem to like sending letters."
He seemed confused, and shook his head rather quickly. "No, I am sure that your verbal account will suffice." He turned to leave. "You will tell her, won't you?" he asked, and I smiled to myself.
You can count on me.