There was no response and for a moment Twilight considered going back to the barn, where the rest of her friends and the orange pony’s somber family waited. It was tempting; her hooves ached miserably and she never did enjoy these types of conversations to begin with, who would? However as she thought about turning away her head dropped guiltily and her mind focused on the other, much less comfortable, talk that she would certainly be forced have with Apple Bloom if she tried to return alone.
“You alright AJ?” She raised her voice slightly and it echoed in a whisper around them. She switched from hoof to hoof irritably and let out a soft snort, afraid that she’d again get no response.
“It’s the last piece.” The orange pony pointed to the only food on her picnic blanket and took a deep breath. Her smile seemed sincere, but anypony could tell that there was little happiness in it.
Twilight glanced mutely at the pie tin for a few seconds before her eyes flickered back to study Applejack. “Yes it is.” She said each word slowly, mouth turned up into a cheesy grin; afraid that if she didn’t respond overly cheerful her friend might retreat into her shell once more.
Applejack shook her head and giggled. “I’m sorry for not being more hospitable Twi, my mind’s been elsewhere…” She looked up at the sky and sighed, her eyes blinking rapidly. “Here.” She scooted over and motioned for twilight to step onto the small picnic blanket. “You can come and sit down, if you feel like it.”
Twilight let out a small sigh of relief and nodded gratefully. “Thanks.”
Applejack waved a hoof in the air, implying that the purple pony needn’t worry, and went back to staring at the trees sprawled in front of them on the little hill. Her mane twitching between her shoulders in concentration.
“So,” Twilight searched her mind desperately for something to hang onto, something to keep the conversation going and her friend talking. “Did Granny bake that pie?” Inwardly she hit herself. Of course Granny baked it, why else would she have brought it with her?
The young apple farmer didn’t seem to care though and her face visibly lifted in happiness at the mention of Granny Smith.“Never have figured out how she does the crusts.” She dropped her shoulders forward and snorted. “I learned the mixture easily enough for the apple batter.” Her tail slid gently over the grass, the lush green stalks bending easily beneath the weight. “But those crusts…” Her smile turned into a toothy grin and she brushed absently at her bangs.
“I guess some things just come with time.” Twilight said quietly.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
After that, conversation died away and they sat for an hour or so in silence; watching leaves chatter in the breeze, daylight fade with the unicorn’s ritual, and the crickets begin to sing in the distance.
Afraid that their meeting would end with their last conversation Twilight spoke up again. “Applejack,” Her voice broke nervously as she prepared for what she was going to say next. “Your family is very worried about you.”
Applejack nodded. “I figured they would be, but honestly Twilight I just took a day off. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.”
“But you never push off work.” Twilight focused heavily on her front hooves and twirled them across the checkered blanket. Her eyes flittered nervously to rest on the pony next to her. “It’s just not like you is all.”
“Needed some time to myself.” Applejack hugged her knees and pushed the conversation elsewhere. “Did I ever tell you about my first apple tree?” Twilight shook her head and the orange pony went on. “It was a scrawny thing, barely came up to my shoulder at the time.” She smiled as she spoke. “And that’s saying something too considering I was just a little filly.” She stopped and her eyes glazed at the memory. “I was so proud,” She said, chest puffing out. “So happy to finally have my own plant to look after, my own fruit to raise.”
“It sounds like it would be wonderful.” Twilight shifted to lie down on her back, watching the clouds drift lazily above them.
“It was.” Applejack gripped her knees tighter. “But the tree was sick to begin with and I found out later that it was given to me for that very reason.” The joy drained from her face and she sighed. “It was so that I would learn to accept that sometimes you can’t save them all.”
Twilight looked up at her friend and her face echoed the hurt that she saw on the farmer.
“I was told that all things are temporary and no matter how stubborn or how good you are,” A tear slipped down her cheek. “some things…” Her voice cracked. “Granny held me that night and she said some things are just like that.” Applejack took off her hat and placed it between her hooves. “We held the funeral the next morning.”
Twilight blinked to keep from crying and pulled herself up off the ground.
Turning to face her friend, Applejack dug her hind legs into the ground and the blanket balled into little knots around her hooves. “I miss her.” Tears came freely now and her lips curved into a trembling smile. “You know,” Her chest rose in one long breath and she wiped an arm across her face, building up the courage to continue. “I don’t think Sweet Apple’s gonna win that pie contest next month.” Her smile widened and the tears came harder, but she didn’t bother lifting a hoof to her eyes this time and let the streams work their way down her cheeks.
“Applejack…” Twilight, unsure what to do, broke into tears herself and grasped her friend in a fierce hug. “I’m so sorry.”
“I’m not.” The farm pony let out a small sniffle. “She would’ve wanted it this way.”
The crickets grew louder and both ponies looked up to see the moon being placed in the sky.
“I guess it is getting a mite late.” Applejack said standing up. “We should probably be heading back.”
“I’ll help you pack.” Twilight reached for the piece of pie at the blankets center and then paused. “Hey Applejack?”
“Um, Granny Smith…” The question died on her lips and Twilight turned red in embarrassment. “About…”
“The apple tree?”
The unicorn thought about it and looking into her friend’s eyes nodded. “How was the funeral?”
Reaching into her hat Applejack pulled out a worn orange and yellow handkerchief. “It was a simple passing.” She held onto the cloth, tracing the apples in its design for a moment. “Nothing less.” Then stretching her arm out, she placed it over the apple pie slice and smiled.