"C'mon now, you can do better than that!"
"Put yer back into it!"
This had been the process for most of the morning.
After breakfast, Applejack led you to the western side of the orchard to begin harvesting that area. She quickly taught you how to 'properly' buck apples from the trees. To her, it was some sort of incredible, ground-breaking science, it seems. To you, it just seemed like kicking trees.
While you weren't bad at it per se, Applejack was better by miles. It took you roughly three or four bucks to fully harvest a tree. Five bucks for particularly stubborn ones. For her, she only had to use one buck, sometimes two. She even harvested smaller trees with a single kick from one leg.
You didn't really care about being outdone though, and just wanted to focus on getting through this as soon as possible. Applebucking was nowhere near as tiring as pulling that infernal plow you used yesterday. If you could just do this for the rest of your time here, you'd be fine.
Though it didn't help that Applejack was yelling at you like a drill instructor.
"C'mon, speed it up!" She yells, as she give a tree a kick.
"Y'know, the less time you spend yelling at me, the more time you have for harvesting." You say back in a prodding fashion.
"If you would pick up the pace and get yer flank moving," she pauses to kick a tree. "I wouldn't have ta yell at ya!"
There was just no reasoning with her. She was more stubborn than a mule. Not wanting to waste more time, and not wanting to be yelled at any further, you continue bucking.
You approach an average sized tree. From the branches was a plethora of fruit for which the tree got its name. You find the flattest part of the trunk, and line yourself up with it. Turning to face away from the tree, you look back and align your back hooves with it's base, rear up, and...
With that, it began raining fruit. The apples fell into the few bins you had placed around the tree beforehand. Rather than pick up all the apples, you placed the bins around the trees to catch the majority, and then picked up the stragglers afterward.
You managed to get most of the apples with one kick, but decided that it would be best to go ahead and finish off with another buck. Rearing up again, you...
The rest of the fruit fell from the limbs and into the bins. There were a few that had missed, and you proceeded to scoop them up and place them in random bins. Not taking your time, you did so rather hastily. Might as well save Applejack's breath for her.
Satisfied with your work, you look around to see the bins in this small patch of trees were all filled. You look to Applejack for further direction.
"Alright, let's move on to the next batch. Bring the cart over." She says, as she begins to trot towards the next section of trees.
"Aye aye, captain." You call back.
You walk over to the cart of bins and attach it to yourself. The two of you had brought plenty of bins, and the cart was stuffed with them. As you harvested, the mountain of bins within the cart was shrinking, making it easier to move. The more you worked, the easier it was to pull the cart, so the work balanced itself out.
Trudging forward, you bring the cart to a small opening among the trees to stop. There was no need to take any filled bins. Applejack said that Big Macintosh would bring another cart through and pick up all the produce later in the day for storage.
Stopping, you unhitch yourself and begin to set the bins beneath the trees. Not caring about doing so delicately, you haphazardly toss the bins beneath the branches. As you do so, you cast a glance over at Applejack. Your eyes meet hers, and she quickly looks away.
"C'mon, let's get a move on." She says, trotting towards a newly equipped tree. "We got still got plenty of trees to buck. And don't call me 'captain!'"
"Apologies," you say in that teasing voice she loves so much. AJ simply rolls her eyes and begins bucking.
You push the cart back a bit to give the two of you some extra room. Trotting up to another tree, you prepare to resume the monotonous task of the day. Looking out toward the field, there were still plenty of trees to harvest. Today is gonna be a long day, you think to yourself.
"So where ya from?"
The sound of Applejack's voice caught you off guard. Stopping mid-buck, you look over to her. She wasn't looking at you, and was focusing on the tree behind her instead. After kicking it twice, she casts a glance over to you.
"Well?" She asks.
She was actually trying to start a legitimate conversation with you. You figured you wouldn't hear anything but orders and demands from her during your time here.
"I lived in Manehattan for most of my life." You pause to kick the tree. "I just moved here about a couple years ago, actually."
"Manehattan? I lived there for a little while." She responded.
"A little while as in...?"
"Oh, about two weeks, maybe. I can't remember, I was just a little filly."
"Two weeks?" You chuckle a bit. "I'd hardly consider that LIVING there. Sounds like it was just a vacation!"
"Not exactly," she says, sounding a little apprehensive. "I left for the city to get away from the farm for a little bit."
"Really now? A hard-working mare like you wanted to take some time off?" THUNK! "Whatever could have sparked that?"
"I just...needed a little time away from this place, that's all."
You stop for a second and look at her. You could tell you weren't getting the full story here. Seeing as you were only here temporarily, why would she care about hiding some big secret from you?
"Is that the only reason? Really?" You ask, trying to pry the rest of the information from her.
"Y-Yes, really. I just wanted some time away. I left to spend some time with my Aunt 'n' Uncle Orange. Nothin' else."
At least you got a little more information. Time with her relatives seemed like a likely story, but there was definitely something else. She didn't seem to be the best of liars.
"Yes! There's nothin' else to it!" She yelled.
"Okay, okay, no need to yell." You reply, putting your hooves up in a mocking defensive fashion.
She simply stares at you for a second, before resuming her kicking.
A slightly awkward silence passed. Whatever she was hiding from you apparently held an extremely personal value to her. Should you really press for details, though? If it really does matter to her that much, pushing for information would only serve to make your life here harder.
Then again, why were you so interested in figuring it out? This mare didn't really hold any value to you. As far as you were concerned, you were her slave. Once you had payed off that silly, little debt, you probably would never speak to her again.
With that in mind, you figured you would just drop it, and carry on to other possible topics.
"So," you start. "What do your folks do?"
You went back to kicking trees, waiting for a reply. You didn't hear anything, even after what seemed like minutes passed.
"Applejack?" You say, turning towards the country mare.
She wasn't facing you. You couldn't see her face on account of her head hanging a little low. Her hat obscured her features from view entirely. She wasn't even moving.
"Er...something wrong?" You ask, ever so slightly concerned. Why? You didn't know.
Rather than giving a reply, AJ gave an absurdly strong kick to the tree behind her. Every fruit from the tree fell to that kick. You could have sworn you heard wood splitting as well.
After a short moment of silence, she speaks up. "It's nothing." With that, she begins to walk the other direction, harvesting trees farther away.
Looks like you struck a nerve. Why would she react so bitterly to such an innocent question? Unless...
Thoughts of yesterday begin to flood into your mind. When she had asked about your father, and how you responded. That slight look of concern and guilt in her eyes. They were definitely genuine. Even at the time, they didn't seem fake, and she gave off a true vibe of concern. Why she would have done that, there could have been only one explanation. Were her parents...?
The idea of her having given you true sympathy yesterday didn't seem so far-fetched now. There was no falsehood in her response just now. It would take a certain kind of bitterness to evoke a response like that. If her parents truly were...gone, then maybe she did have an idea of what it's like...
Even then, her parents probably didn't do to her what your father did to you. Still, you were a bit worried that you might have just said the worst possible thing to her. You hoped that this little moment wouldn't come back to bite you later.
With your only conversation partner gone, you went back to your mundane task.