One-Sided Conversation

by Rambling Writer

Chapter 1: Hello Operator

Celestia noticed her in the middle of grocery shopping: Sunset, standing in front of the meat counter, looking very lost. She kept looking down at her phone and back up at the counter, like she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Celestia wasn’t sure which one Sunset didn’t believe and had to restrain herself from asking. She was busy, she had her own shopping to do, and she knew how embarrassed students could be if their principal approached them offering help in public.

When Sunset dialled a number and put her phone to her ear, Celestia immediately turned away. Privacy was privacy, and she shouldn’t get involved in Sunset’s personal affairs outside of school. She was not going to eavesdrop.

Unfortunately, Sunset had seemingly decided that, today, everyone got to eavesdrop.

“Hey, uh, Fluttershy? I forgot. How many pounds of ground beef do we need?” Sunset seemed unaware of just how loudly she was talking.

Celestia ignored it. There were plenty of reasons to want a lot of ground beef. A barbeque, maybe, with lots of hamburgers. Celestia focused her attention on the wine rack in front of her. She wanted to treat herself and Luna.

Sunset started twisting her hair around one of her fingers. “I did. I must’ve written it incorrectly, because there’s no way this number’s right.”

Definitely a barbeque, Celestia told herself, not believing a word of it. She selected a brand she knew was cheap, but had a very good taste for its cost. She stuffed it into her cart, failing to ignore Sunset.

“…Thirty-six?” Sunset asked breathlessly.

Celestia couldn’t help herself. She scooted a few feet away, to a place outside Sunset’s vision and pretended to be examining some bread so she could look at Sunset out of the corner of her eye. That was a lot of ground beef. Too much ground beef.

THIRTY-SIX?!” Sunset screamed, wildly flailing her free hand. “I-” She kneaded her temples. “I swear, you girls are helping me pay for this.”

Celestia knew that Sunset and her friends were often at the centers of… incidents. Was this one of them? Not that it mattered to HER. No. Sir. (She moved a foot closer.)

“I dunno, probably twenty each. Ground beef costs like three and a half bits per pound. I’ll get back to you on the exact number.”

Celestia gave up even pretending to pretend to ignore Sunset and leaned on her cart, her ears peeled.

“She does? Put her on, then.”

Muffled sounds. Celestia took another step closer. If she strained an ear, she could hear another voice, but not the words.

“Because I’m not paying for the whole pile of shredded cow flesh,” yelled Sunset, gesticulating wildly, “and it’s not my fault Angel got turned into a ravening monster! More than he already was, I mean.” Her voice dropped to almost a whisper. “Don’t tell Fluttershy I said that.

Okay. Celestia was done listening for today. This was eavesdropping and she needed to get home in time for her and Luna to decide on dinner. She took a step towards the dairy.

“Neither did I-” Sunset kicked at nothing and her fingers tightened around the phone. “Look, all I’m asking for is an even split, okay? Just-”

A screech emanated from the phone; Sunset yelped and nearly dropped it. It sounded like a rabid dog being fed through a malfunctioning woodchipper, even at this distance. As a hyperventilating Sunset put the phone back to her ear, Celestia paused in her step.

Put Twilight on! Put Twilight on!” Sunset yelled like it was the end of the world.

Luna could wait, Celestia decided.

“Music calms him down, remember?” said Sunset quickly. She squeezed the phone with both hands like it was a lifeline. “Sing something! Anything!”

In between the dogchipping, Celestia barely heard someone frantically singing something. The dogchipping died down slowly. The singing became softer. After about a minute, the dogchipping was gone completely. The singing went on for a little longer before stopping, then someone spoke.

Slouching against a shelf in relief, Sunset wiped her forehead down. “Alright, good, good,” she said. “We really need to make a playlist on somebody’s phone and drop it next to his cage on repeat.”

More voices. Giving students extra credit for divulging personal information was probably two dozen kinds of illegal, Celestia reminded herself.

Sunset nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind the next time I’m taking the magical equivalent of a flamethrower to a cursed garden.”

At least two dozen.

“No, that’s not sarcasm. It’ll probably happen next week.”

Several more shoppers had conspicuously stopped around the area. Celestia and a man stared at each other.

“I’d really prefer finding them in a situation that doesn’t require us to pony up. The cops are getting nosy.”

Celestia twitched and the man suddenly remembered some food he had to pick up on the other side of the store. She wondered if Sunset even remembered where she was.

“I know we won’t get in trouble, it’s just annoying!” Sunset rolled her eyes.

Although she wanted to un-twitch, anything involving the cops and her students sent Celestia’s Principal Instincts into overdrive. The only thing that kept her from stepping out and cornering Sunset was a lack of knowledge on the events, which meant it happened off of school grounds, which meant it ought to be None of Her Beeswax.

“Bon Bon? Okay.” But Sunset’s brow furrowed and she didn’t sound convinced. “She’s trustworthy, right?”

Bon Bon. Celestia knew her. Unassuming, bright, outgoing-

“Huh. Never would’ve expected that from her.”

…Aaaaand something else entirely, apparently. Something related to law enforcement.

“I guess. Look, I still need to pick up all that meat.” Sunset took a step toward the meat counter, then spun around and headed for another aisle. “I’m also getting comfort food, because heaven knows I need some. You want any? What kind?”

Sunset walked away, yammering about snack cakes. Gradually, normal activity resumed in the store. Celestia turned back to the wine rack and pulled the bottle from her cart. She stared at the label, unsure whether she should put it back or get another bottle.

…Another bottle. Definitely another bottle.

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