A Leaky Roof
The day had started no better or worse for the farmer. Applejack had awoken of her own accord, dressed within seconds and breakfasted heartily. She had made it onto the fields and into the orchard long before her brother had even yoked himself in, and by the time the sun had risen fully above the snow capped peaks on the horizon she was a good acre into her trees for the morning, such was life during the early weeks of Apple Bucking season.
Yet as she faced herself in the mirror, the sun low in the western sky, she could not but ask where it had all gone so horribly, horribly wrong. Her eyes were puffy and raw, her fringe damp and matted, and her muzzle rooted in a perfectly defined frown.
She could only bear to gaze at the premonition for a few seconds before tearing her eyes away. She dived into her pillow, for the third time in as many minutes, in the hope that it would somehow dispell the hateful clump that weighed down her stomach. But the apple spotted linen was un-yeliding, and she thumped it with her hooves.
“Darn... stupid, good-fer-nothin’, ughh!” she wailed into it, unable to fully express her feelings for the blasted thing. Words came short of the mark , and she felt like crying again as a horrid clot forced itself up into her throat. She had done plenty crying in the last hour, and the thought of doing more was almost hurtful. She hadn’t cried this much since the day the solicitors had come to hand the farm onto herself and her brother. As she thought about it, a fresh lump slowly crept up her gillit, a much heavier one than before.
This time a set of perfectly short and descriptive words sprung readily to mind but he dispelled them. She didn’t fancy the idea of explaining just where Applebloom had picked up a fine new vocabulary to Granny Smith or Cheerilee, so Applejack settled for one more thump of the pillow instead.
She sighed, self loathing was getting her nowhere, and sprung up out of the pillow. Once again she looked into her puffy eyes, visibly reddening features, and the thick patches of moisture that had appeared around her snout and cheeks. She suppressed a snob, and was tempted to fling herself into the pillow once more, before a curt rap sounded from her door. Desperation settling on her face, she turned toward the window as the door opened slowly, through which two big, purple eyes gazed in
“Uhhh, Applejack, its me... Twili-”
“Ah know it’s you Twilight, Ah saw you comin’ up the road a few minutes ago.” she said, still looking out the window.
“Okay, well, I think you also know why I’m here.” said the Unicorn sympathetically.
“Ah have a fair guess. But’cha wasting you’re time, Twilight. There aint' nothin' wrong.” said the farmer, turning her head toward the wall as the purple Unicorn pulled through the doorway and around the bed.
“Uh huh. So the patches on the pillow are just from a leaky roof then?”
Twilight sighed quietly, preparing herself for a battle with her most stubborn friend. “You know, we are always here for you, to talk-”
“And listen, and never to judge. Ah know, Twilight, Ah know, but I don’t need it right about now. Ah very much appreciate that’chu would come all this way just to see that Ah’m okay, but the trip was a waste. There ain't nothin' wrong.”
They descended into silence, as Twilight helped herself onto the far end of the bed. Applejack had turned fully, and was looking at the wall with fierce intensity, he ears flat against her head.
“You know there’s at least an hour of sunlight left. I bet you could harvest maybe twenty trees in that time,” said the Unicorn lightly, gazing out into the orchard from her spot on the bed, “perhaps more if I came and helped you. In fact, I bet I could harvest twice as many trees as you could before sun-down!”
“Twah, I know what you’re trying to do, but It's not necessary. Big Mac said he would finish off the rest of my day when he went for lunch, said I could go into town and take a load off. If Ah want to spend some of that time here in mah room instead, Ah don’t see what the problem is. And besides, it’s cheatin’ to use you’re horn.”
“But you did go into town, Applejack, everypony saw you, and they saw you run out in tears!”
“Pinkie, Rarity,” Twilight counted off her hooves, “even Cherilee came to me about you.”
“Well then sug’, you’ve been misinformed. Ah certainly did not leave the town in tears.”
“Applejack, you aren’t making any sense. You just said you hadn't gone into town, yet now you're saying you did leave town, just not in tears!”
“Ah never said Ah didn’t go into town, only that Ah had chosen to spend some time here in mah room ‘swell.”
“So is Pinkie lying to me? About your little episode outside the bakery this afternoon?”
“She’s been known to do so.”
“Prob’ly just thinkin up gossip. Prob’ly saw me runnin’ away with mah hat down over mah eyes and dramatised it”
“So you definitely ran away then.”
“No, Ah did.... but, but you … Ughhh.”
She flopped into the pillow once again, and Twilight suppressed the smirk that threatened to form on her lips.
“Thats fine, then. Perhaps they just lied a bit, or started some gossip. I know what they can be like, they’re my friends too Applejack. Still haven’t explained how the pillow got covered in tears, or why you won’t look at me. And you are a terrible liar Applejack.” she said, looking down at the figure of her ocre friend splayed out across the sheets.
“Mfff hmm. Hmmm rhnnn. fuuuhhhn khff!” came the loud reply and Twilight suppressed a giggle, which instead made it’s way out as a snort. This had an almost instantaneous reaction though, as Applejack’s face immediately spun around and bore into Twilight’s. Her lips grimaced, and her green eyes were rimmed with red veins and puffy skin, and the matted, moist fur on her cheeks was ruffled and discordant.
“Leaky roof huh?” asked a suddenly concerned Twilight. “Are you sure you don’t want to talk about what's wrong? I think you need the support, especially now.” she said with sympathy, leaning closer toward Applejack as her hooves patted the farmer’s knees affectionately. They were swatted away by a hoof.
“Ah don’t need your support,” — she turned away — ” b’cus there is nothin’ to support. There Ain't nothin' wrong, and Ah don’t see why you, or any more of our ‘friends’ can’t see that they did me wrong... that is, that there is nothing wrong. B’cus there aint’.”
Twilight raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything. Applejack slowly sunk back into the pillow, this time letting her chin rest in the unforgiving fabric. A moment passed over the two, and in the intermission Twilight gazed around the room. Despite knowing the filly for over a year, she had never seen the inside of her room. Although, it held no surprises for the young scholar.
The room was spartan, at least to her eyes. There was the bed they sat on, which sported a bedsheet of red apples on an orange background. To the left of the bed, a window and to the right, the door. Directly across from the foot of the bed, a mirror and bedstand. No cupboards, no carpets, no rugs and nothing but the necessities.
“This is definitely your room, Applejack.” she said, “Ole’, dependable, honest Applejack, who would never tell a lie...”
“Shut u...” Applejack stopped herself with a cough, “Please don’t Twi’. Ah don’t want t’think about it.”
“Thats okay, I suppose.” she said, pandering her chin with a hoof. “Hey, why don’t you tell me about your trip down to the shops instead?”
“No. That would be thinkin’ ‘bout it. Can’t be doing that.”
“Ah HA! So something did happen while you were down there!” cried the excitable Unicorn, “So what is it then? Did Rarity say something? Or did pinkie pie do it? Ohhh, was it your brother?”
“Twah, Ah said the-”
“Or was it Applebloom? I know she can be a handful at times.”
“Twah, t’ain’t mah family, or mah friends, or-”
“Is it... Are you, you know,” she coughed and motioned toward her belly, blushing, ”that time?”
Applejack turned around, confusion in her eyes.
“Gah! Guh! NO! Why... how could’ya even think that? I went down into town!”
“Okay, okay, sheesh. Just covering the bases. So was it Rainbowda-”
“Consarnit Twilight!” yelled Applejack, “It Aint mah body, it aint mah family and it aint,” — she turned away — “ain’t mah friends. Jus’... jus’ keep your nose outt’a this. Ah said it before, Ah appreciate you comin’ up here to see me like this, but t’aint necessary. Ah’m fine.”
Twilight hung her head, and Applejack sunk into the pillow. Another awkward silence descended over them both. Applejack tried not to start sobbing again, the ghastly knot in her throat ever present. Twilight shuffled around a bit, trying to make as little sound as possible. About a minute passed before Twilight spoke up.
“Okay. I give up. You win, Applejack. I don’t believe you, but if you’re just going to be stubborn about this, I’m leaving.” she said in an accusatory tone. When her friend made no motion to answer, Twilight added hastily, “If you change your mind, and want to talk, I’ll be up all night.”
“Suit yerself.” said Applejack into the fabric.
Twilight rose off the bedsheet, and moved toward the door. She opened her mouth to say something, but looking at the collapsed body of her friend on the bed, she seemed to lose the ability to do so. She swallowed, then strode through the doorway, leaving Applejack to her pillow.
“Here to talk about that leaky roof?” asked Twilight’s silhouette, here more subtle features unnoticed with the light on her back.
“Huh, yeah. May Ah come in?” Applejack said with a flat smile.
Six hours had passed, and by that time the street outside Twilight’s Library was bathed in darkness. Nopony was out in the town center, the shops and stalls had closed, and the moon was covered by a thick veil of clouds.
“Its lookin mighty like rain this eve’nin, after all.” she said gazing up at the black sky.
“Yes, I suppose.” agreed Twilight, standing aside.
As they entered together, Twilight noticed Applejack’s ire was less obvious than before. Her blood-shot eyes remained however, and her flat smile had sunk into the frown she had worn at the farmhouse hours before. She lay down next to the closest bookshelf, apparently too exhausted to move any further. Twilight halted and bit her lip, as her strongest friend wilted into the floor. She had never seen the young mare so troubled. Not even the ‘orchard incident’, as the Elements had dubbed Applejack’s mental breakdown almost a year ago, compared to her state now. To Twilight, she just looked empty, deprived of the spark that had warmed her own heart since they’d met.
“Hey, Applejack,” she said quitly, “I’m going to get a drink. You stay there, okay? I’ll be right back.” The farmer just nodded and mumbled an incoherent reply.
Twilight returned a second later, glass of water in tow, and sat beside her friend.
“Before Ah start, Ah jus’ want to make it clear to you,” said Applejack, with an echo of the authority she normally spoke with, “there aint, and never was, anything wrong!”
Twilight let out an exasperated sigh.
“Yes, Applejack, there is something wrong. Look at yourself! Everypony I talked to can see-”
“No, Twilight! Wrong is losing your parents! Wrong is losing the farm! Wrong would be watchin’ one of you fillies go through all ‘o’ that alone.” She exploded, throwing herself nose to nose with a surprised Twilight. “What happened to me today, what Ah went through, can never ever be called wrong. Ah didn’t lie to you neither, ‘cus when Ah said there weren’t nothin’ wrong, Ah was tellin’ the truth.”
Twilight had keeled over, and was now being straddled by the farmer. They both lay there for a second, Applejack’s eyes making up for the lack of strength in her voice. But then her gaze drooped, her face scrunched up, and she turned away.
“Applejack, I understand that you’re trying to put on a brave face, but sometimes its better to admit you have a problem. Please tell me what happened. You aren’t just making this hard on yourself, but me, and Pinkie, and even Rarity too.”
“Well Sug’,” said Applejack with a sniff, “Ah s’pose thats jus’ why Ah’m here.”
“So yer’ perfectly happy taking over for me?”
“No catches, no asides, nothin’?”
“Okay, well, much appreciated, Big Mac, dun’ work too hard now!” jeered the farmer before she dashed off through the endless corridors of trunks leaving her brother to himself. She was well chuffed with the work she had accomplished over the last few hours, at least twice that of yesterday’s yield. When her brothers baritone called her out of her workers revive, she obliged his offer immediately. Her organs, too, were happy with the prospect of a break, having gone stoically without lunch for two days in a row.
Despite her family's attempts to relieve her of the habit Applejack could go without lunch, and sometimes even breakfast, for days at a time during the months of harvest. Plus it had been weeks since she had gone into town, and she was beginning to feel pangs of loneliness. Her only contact with her friends the last seven days had been the occasional visit from Fluttershy, who owned some of the neighboring land.
Her grin grew bigger as she passed the lines of already harvested trees and by the time she made it to the road that dissected her orchard in two her grin had graduated into a big, goofy, childlike smile.
A single breath of wind played with her mane, passing across the nape of her back and blowing any loose strands asunder. It was a thirty minute trot to the outskirts of town, where she would find a small bakery home to an excitable pink bundle of energy that somepony had mistaken for an equine being. Applejack chuckled at the thought, and with the promise of an entertaining afternoon on her mind she took up a bouncy trot toward the roofs and steeples that poked up above the crest of a far off grassy knoll.
Without the convenient shade of a million apple trees, she soon felt beads of sweat trickling across her rump and down her hind legs, but she was too enraptured with the stunning beauty of the autumn stained fields to care about the resilient heat. She even began to hum a small tune, some familiar tune that came naturally to mind. Soon enough, she was trotting to the beat, and her mind was revelling in the simplicity of nature.
“Ohh, hey, thats Pinkies tune, in’it?” came a voice from behind her.
Applejack jumped to the side with a yelp, which just caused the voice to laugh.
“Oo, Blimey, I didn’t mean to frighten you there, sorry. It just sorta’ reminded me of that song we all sang a while back, thought I’d pipe up.” said a tan earthpony sheepishly.
“Pfft, don’t worry bout’ that or nuthin. No harm done Ah spose,” she said before eyeing her sudden companion up and down, “hey, ain’t you that Davenport feller from quills and sofas?”
“Ah ha, yes, thats me. You’re the ahh, you’re the farmer right? From just up the road? Ohh, bugger, I’ll remember it. Umm... g-golden, Golden Harvest?” He asked with a hoof on his chin, eyeing Applejack intently.
Applejack just laughed.
“Ha ha, no, that ain’t me, although she lives just up the road from us. We’re the Apples, the orchard folk.”
“Yes, I do remember now! Saved the town from a herd of cattle a while back, or so they tell me. Anyway, my sincerest apologies for interupting Ms Apple.”
“Don’t mention it.” she said, noting how greasy the stallion looked. Her stood very still, trying hard to go unnoticed, and it was only when he started whistling tunelessly that she was compelled to question him.
“Ahh, Mr Davenport?”
“Yes Ms Apple?”
“Are you, uhh, are you going t’head into town now?”
“Ohh yes, of course, uh, yes. Whenever I suppose.” he said
“Any time soon?”
She eyed him, unconvinced, before starting off herself. Almost instantly, she could hear hooves behind her, a springy thud-thud-thud like her own. She slowed her pace, and so did he, she sped up and he followed suit. She broke into a canter and so did her shadow, although it was only a few seconds before she could hear panting and spluttering from behind. She dug her fore hooves into the ground, coming screeching to a halt. Low and behold, she was shunted from behind as Davenport came careening into her rump a second later.
“Mr Davenport,” she said through her teeth, “would you mind followin’ me over to the right a bit?”
“Following you?” he asked incredulously, “I am doing no such thing.”
“Then what is it that you want, Mr Davenport?”
He coughed uneasily and gazed away.
“Ahhm, actually Ms Apple,” he said, tapping his forehooves together and staring intently at the ground, “I would rather like to ask you a question?”
Applejack started, the message taking a while to sink in.
“Uhh, well, okay Mr Davenport.” She said uneasily.
He moved very close, until they were almost touching snouts. Any closer and she told herself she would turn and give him a taste of Kicks McGee, but he halted centimeters away.
“Ms Applejack” — His eyes shifted left and right, eyeing their surroundings intently — “are you, ah, are you okay?”
She gazed at him dumbly.
“Are you okay?”
“Uhh, yeah, Ah seem to be.”
“Okay. Well, I heard from some mates of mine that you were... well, that is to say. Actually, no, It doesn’t matter what they said. You were here and I just ran in to you and I thought I’d ask but its okay now so I shantbotheryouanymoreMsApplejackGoodday!” he cried, galloping away from the crushing awkwardness of the conversation.
“Oh Sweet Celestia!” Twilight sighed in relief, the fear in her eyes washing away. Applejack let out a flat chuckle, watching her younger friend well up with anger and angst as she had regaled her meeting with the towns furniture salespony had been a priceless vision. “Applejack, you made it sound like he’d...he’d-”
“Pfft! Who, Davenport? Ha-ha, ohh, Twilight, good gracious no. You spend more time with him then Ah ever would, d’ya think he’s even capable?” she asked.
“Well, no. But they way you were this afternoon, this evening. Sheesh, Applejack, I’m sorry for jumping to conclusions!” she scolded.
Applejack let out a few more out bursts of mirth before her face drooped once again.
“Yeah, well. If thats the case, Ah guess Ah’m worse than Ah thought. Much worse...” she trailed off, scrunching up her face once again.
“Uhh, Applejack?” Twilight asks, concern overtaking the anger in her voice.
“Well its just like Ah said, aint’ it? Ah jus’ overreacted is all, cep’t now it seems that Ah’ve gone and got you all worked up over nothin’.” she dejectedly murmured.
Twilight had no idea how to manage what was slowly taking over her friend like a disease. She had never seen her so destabilised by self pity. Twilight was of half a mind to gather the whole group, to perhaps bring the truth out of Applejack.
“Ah know what your thinkin’. This stays between us, for now atleast. Ah don’t think Ah could face Rarity of Pinkie after what happened today. Don’t worry bout’ me, ‘kay? Ah’ll tell you whats going on soon enough. Let me jus’... lemme jus’ gather mah thoughts for a sec.” she said into her forelegs
“Okay, thats fine. Truely, you can take as much time as you need. Heck if you don’t want me around, I can go upstairs for a bit and leave you alone with your thoughts?”
“Yeh. Thats sounds like a good idea.”
Twilight rose and made for the stairs up to her study. Applejack watched her rise up the stairs, watched her gaze solemnly pan across where Applejack lay, watched as she she shook her head. Applejack winced as Twilight shut the door behind her and the library descended into soundlessness. A familiar pang of guilt sit up her side, one that had troubled her more and more as the day had worn on. Even now her dear friend, the only one who had thought to come and at least ask if she was okay, was studiously going about her business at this late hour of the night.
She knew she should atleast have the courtesy to answer the questions that had been posed in front of her. But despite her gut feelings, she just... couldn’t. There was no way she could describe it to herself, let alone her friends. Some force from within her was ripping out her ability to talk, a well honed tradition of the Apple family, and it was grinding her heart to see it happen.
But then again, she had yet to lie today. When Twilight had insisted that something was wrong, she had told the truth: There was nothing wrong. She had experienced wrong before, perhaps more so than any of her friends up to this point. That day the solicitors had come, with their greasy mane’s and black suits and million dollar grins, their big fancy words about wills and money and property.
She had seen it in their eyes, the very first time they had said sorry. They weren't sorry, there was no honesty in their gaze as they sat down Big Mac and Granny Smith. She had looked on from behind a doorway, to see exactly what was happening, what they looked like. They looked like filthy liars, that much was clear to her. No real sympathy, no dull ernesty in their faces as they discussed the issues with the will. Just two stallions going about their business, waiting for their fat pay check at the end of the day.
That day was wrong, the whole event was wrong. Watching Big Mac fight back tears as they hoofed over their father's old yoke. How she herself began convulsing as her mother's old hat was produced, battered and beaten as Applejack had ever seen it. It was all horribly, horribly wrong.
Yet here she was, splayed out across the wooden floor of Twilight’s library, fresh tears forming in her eyes. She was thankful it was Twilight who had come to save her from her self pity, rather than perhaps Rarity or Pinkie, or even Fluttershy. She knew that of all her friends, this librarian might be able to understand something of what was going on. Better than any of her other friends, at least. It was perhaps more blind hope than anything, but she dispelled the thought. She was safe, and happier than her old self hours before.
In the silence she could hear the scratching of quill on parchment, fast and careless, and she knew exactly who the letter was for. It made sense, to Applejack, that she of all ponies would be the first Twilight would send for. The bite of betrayal didn’t last long, if it had lasted at all, and Applejack was happy to be silent and wait for the cavalry to arrive.
With the trace of a thin smile on her face, she closed her eyes, and ran through the events of the day once again. Perhaps, if Twilight was taking was taking this so seriously, she was duty bound to do as much to help. There wasn’t anything wrong with that, after all.