"Okay," you say, heaving breaths. "I think we're done here."
The sun was now setting across the farm, and the day was finally beginning to cool down. After your little...moment, with Applejack, you had worked alone for most of the day. It was boring as all hay, but you didn't have much else to do. At least it wasn't as hot as yesterday. The work was repetitive, sure, but it wasn't exactly easy. Had it been any hotter out here, you might have sweated yourself to death.
Resting against a tree, you wipe the sweat from your brow. Hard work should always be rewarded in your book, and right now, your reward was a nice, little rest in the shade. You managed to harvest a large quantity of the trees here. It would only take another day to finish off what was left.
Off in the distance, you can see a large, red figure pulling a cart. Big Mac was making his rounds to pick up all the apples you and AJ had just harvested. You considered going over to talk with him, but dismissed the idea. You were in no rush to speak with him. And if anything, you'd see him at the inevitable dinnertime later on.
Instead, you lean back and fold your hooves behind your head, once again taking in the serenity of the land. You hadn't seen Applejack ever since that awkward conversation earlier. You figured it might be for the best. You still aren't certain as to what sparked her response. Obviously something to do with her parents, but what exactly?
Not wanting to dwell on it, you silence your inner monologue and close your eyes. A crisp scent wafted through the area. It was that strange smell of the country air. It was hard to define, especially with the scent of apples infecting it as well.
You had considered just taking a nap here, but decided against it. First, and foremost, if AJ found you, you would never hear the end of it. Like you needed to have her yelling at you more. Second, this probably wouldn't be so great on your back. Trees don't make the best beds for anything that isn't a pegasus.
Instead, you simply relaxed against the base of the tree, listening to the sounds of birds, bugs, and breathing.
Huh. Weird déjà vu...
Falling to your right while letting out a disturbing yelp, you take a face full of dirt. You hoped this wouldn't become a sort of ritual between you and that little filly.
Bringing yourself back up into a sitting position, spitting out bits of soil on the way, you turn to see the ever excited face of Applebloom.
"You have a nasty habit of sneaking up on ponies, don't you?" You ask, teasing.
She looks genuinely embarrassed as she rubs her foreleg, looking away. "S-Sorry...I didn't mean ta scare ya..."
Smiling at her adorable display, you comfort her. "Don't worry about it, I've had worse scares." You lean backward into a more comfortable position. "So, what brings you out here?"
"Oh, I was just gonna tell you that dinner is almost ready up at the house!" She begins to look a little nervous. "And, well..."
"...Yes, go on." You ask, encouraging her.
"I was gonna ask what y'all are doin' tomorrow..."
"Well, I'll probably be working some more..." You take a sly look on your face. "What? Little Applebloom isn't asking me...on a date, is she?"
Her eyes go wide and her face grows beet-red. "N-No! No! I was just, uh..."
Letting out a chuckle, you continue. "Calm down now, I was just kidding. So why do you ask?"
"Well, all my friends are busy tomorrow, n' I was wondering if you wanted to hang out with me..." She says, still embarrassed by your joke.
With a smile, you reply. "Well, I'd be honored, but AJ will probably put me right back to work finishing this field tomorrow." You lean close to Applebloom and whisper. "That mare can be such a slave-driver sometimes!"
Applebloom starts giggling, which you can only find to be adorable. It's strange. The sight of this filly giggling brings back such warm memories of...her...
"I wouldn't think AJ would put you right back ta work tomorrow..."
"Why is that?" You ask, genuinely curious.
"Well, tomorrow is Sunday. We usually don't work on Sunday." She looks away with a slight hint of sadness in her features. "Well, most of us, anyway..."
"What do you mean by that?"
She looks off into the distance. Following her gaze, you spot the object of her attention: Big Macintosh. "Big Mac works all the time, even on days off." She looks to the ground. "He never has any time for me..."
Seeing this filly this sad caused your heart to ache ever so slightly. "Hey, c'mon now, don't think that way. He's just such a busy guy, is all."
"Yeah, but even during the holidays, he works. I'm afraid he's gonna work himself to death one day..." She let's out a depressed sigh.
"Hey, don't talk like that." Your sudden, serious tone caught the filly off guard, and she suddenly looks a little frightened. Toning it down a bit, you continue. "Look, I'm sure he would love to spend time with you. But running a farm like this takes quite a bit of work, y'know. Somepony has to keep up with the place."
She doesn't seem convinced. You can't stand to see this adorable little filly this sad. For whatever reason, you decide to humor her.
"Hey, look. I'll see what I can get worked out with AJ, and tomorrow, you and I will have tons of fun."
"Really!?" She exclaims.
"Of course! And as for Big Mac?" You say, leaning in close. "Don't worry about him. I'll take care of it." You punctuate your sentence with a wink.
Suddenly, the filly leaps forward and wraps her hooves around your torso. "Thank you! We're gonna have so much fun!" She buries her head into your chest.
Your heart melted a little at the adorable display. It's hard to think that a sister of that Applejack could be this sweet. Perhaps AJ herself wasn't so cold after all...
It hurt you a little on the inside as well. Had this little filly really been that desperate for her brother's attention? To the point where she adopted a sort of surrogate brother in you? Granted, you had plenty of experience dealing with scenarios like such as this, but it still tore you apart knowing she was this hurt by the lack of time spent with her brother.
Yet with this filly...you felt something. A strange connection. It was as if you had known this child all your life. But then again, with all the memories she managed to conjure up in your mind, that didn't seem so far-fetched. She was very similar in her mannerisms to...her...she also had the exact same eyes...
Shaking your head, trying to clear your thoughts, you pat the little filly on the back. "Don't sweat it." She releases herself from you, and backs up, looking at you. "Now, you said dinner was ready?"
She enthusiastically nods her head, and turns towards the house. "Right this way!" She says, waving a hoof. After she turns around, you roll your eyes at the cute, little display.
Getting up, you trot over to her side. You decide to ask about her friends.
"Hey, you said that all your friends were busy tomorrow?" She nods. "With what, may I ask?"
"Oh, Ms. Cheerilee gave us all this big essay to write. Scoots and Sweetie are doin' it tomorrow."
"And you've already done it?" She nods again. You playfully muss her mane, being careful not to undo her bow. "Look at you, being the overachiever!"
She blushes slightly, making your heart melt a little more. "I just wanted to get it out of the way..."
"And that's a good thing! Opened up a day on your schedule, right?" She nods yet again. "Besides, I'm sure this Cheerilee will be quite happy."
"I don't think she would've gotten mad...she's a really nice pony..." She looks up to you, a slight sparkle in her eyes. "I think you two would get along really good!"
"Ha ha, if you say so. Next thing I know, you'll be setting me up on dates with her." You say jokingly.
"W-What!? N-No I wasn't! I was just, er, um..." She looks towards the ground, blushing.
Looking at her, you realize that she might really have been considering doing just that. You shake your head, chuckling slightly. It was silly, thinking this filly would be a catalyst in your love life.
"C'mon now. I was kidding! You gotta lighten up a little!" You say, mussing her mane again. She looks away, a blush still present on her face.
The house was coming into view now, and the two of you walk the rest of the distance in silence.