It was noon the next day.
Applejack stumbled out of bed feeling quite groggy. Her guilty conscience didn’t humor her with at least a good night’s sleep. Normally, everypony on the farm woke up at the crack of dawn. It was a ritual she had remembered ever since she was a filly about Applebloom’s age. Granny Smith would be severely cross with any lazy pony who wasn’t ready to work in the early morning. Applejack only needed one punishment to know never to make the mistake of oversleeping again. She remembered her grandmother’s words:
“There you are Applejack!” she said bitterly. “I suppose you had such good dreams that you couldn’t be bothered to wake up on time could you have? You overslept didn’t ya’ young lady?” Little Applejack looked down at the floor and shed a tear in shame.
“Yes ma’am.” She said meekly. She began to sob. She was so upset that she disappointed her Granny, who in turn had a sad look on her face when she knew what had to be done.
“Hand me that switch young lady.” Applejack bawled in fright as she did what she was told out of obedience. Granny held her over and brought the switch down on her flank. Applejack screamed and begged her grandmother for mercy. Granny only brought it down again.
“I’m doing this because I love you more than anything, Applejack. Know that this hurts me more than it hurts you.” The words hardly reached Applejack who was still bawling. She didn’t even notice when a single tear fell out of Granny Smith’s right eye.
She had nightmares last night ranging from Granny Smith’s bad side to the possible side effects of an overdose of the sedative she surreptitiously fed Big Macintosh last night. She jolted herself awake in fear of her dreams becoming reality and raced to his bedroom door. She cracked it open to find her brother snoring peacefully. That meant the sedative had done its job since Big Mac was never asleep after the crack of dawn.
She turned and walked out the door to the supplies shed. There was still work to be done. All the young saplings had to be covered for the winter against the elements. Applejack was sure she could do it alone. But it wasn’t easy. The saplings had to be covered separately in what looked like huge burlap sacks and tied around the base of the tree. This alone would take all day and well into the evening. It was back breaking work indeed. Simply getting the covers to fit around the trees at the top and down to the bottom while avoiding catching the fragile branches was with each tree its own Odyssey. But no job, no matter how big, was considered undoable by Applejack, especially when she had something to prove to herself.
No time was wasted. She immediately set to work tying the strings and fitting the covers over the trees as she raced against the daylight. She had calmed down since last night as she realized that Big Mac would eventually wake up from his drugged sleep. She began to justify herself by conjuring up the pretext of wanting to be able to show how much she could do without the constant help of her big brother. It was all part of her promise to Granny Smith to do the best she could. She paused for a moment. She felt uneasy. Since when was drugging Big Macintosh and fooling herself afterward part of her promise? She still didn’t feel completely right with herself. That was her specialty. When something wasn’t as it seemed or as someone put it out to be, Applejack could sniff it out in a Manehattan minute. She had a knack for shaking the truth out of other ponies that were lying to her. And right now, she had the feeling she was lying to herself. She noticed the sun was shining unusually brightly, for it was inconceivably hot for an autumn day. The heat started to scorch AJ’s back. It was torture to bear the covers on her back as the sun heated them up. She started to sweat, and the heat made her mind swim even more.
She set back to work trying to take her mind off it. A branch recoiled at Applejack when the cover slipped. The branch gave her a fearful scratch in the face over her right eye. Fortunately, her eye wasn’t damaged at all. The wound just smarted terribly. Applejack fought back a cuss. Cussing was for dishonest ponies like the ones she saw loitering by the hospital the other day. She gasped.
Applebloom was still in the hospital.
She worried herself sick at the thought of the condition her poor sister was in. Was she awake, or was she still unconscious? Was she alright either way? She felt alone and helpless. If only she had someone else to pull her through.
A cool breeze relieved her face as she looked who came out of the farmhouse. Big Maintosh looked groggy and confused. Bull-headed as Applejack was when it came to help, she sighed in relief and dashed over to him to wish him good morning. She forgot all about her competitive urges. To hell with them anyway, she thought. They ran contradictory to what she stood for anyway. It made no sense to try and sabotage her brother. She loved him dearly with all her heart. She stopped outside the shed where Big Mac was getting some supplies of his own.
“Hey there, brother.” She said cheerfully. “How’d you…” She trailed off. Big Mac turned around. He didn’t share Applejack’s cheerful disposition. He looked tired and bewildered like he was in shock about something. He looked at her and frowned.
“AJ?” He asked, “Did you notice something strange about the oats last night? Or wonder why the sedative was opened?”
Applejack’s heart sank. It was the way Big Mac asked his questions. He wasn’t stupid. He knew something was up and Applejack had something to do with it. He just wanted to know why. Applejack just stood there. Her heart was palpitating as she tried to speak, but nothing came out. She couldn’t lie to him, she was the worst liar in history and she was sure her brother already knew she did something. But at the same time she couldn’t bring herself to tell him what she had done. She imagined Big Macintosh’s trust slipping through her hooves like sand. She felt nauseated.
“Sis?” He asked once more. He got no answer. He sighed and walked off to continue covering the saplings. He decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she thought he was working too hard. But Applejack’s strange, sneaky behavior worried him greatly.
Meanwhile, Applejack found herself to be picking up the pace of her work again. Her embarrassment made her feel sick to her stomach. The rest of the sweltering day went on forever, letting Applejack stew in her own guilt. Just as soon as night came, the temperature plummeted and made the air frightfully frigid. AJ decided not to eat dinner lest another temptation should arise. She was tired and cold. She just flopped into bed and started snoring. Tomorrow was another day of facing her dear brother whom she loved dearly, but also wanted to beat him at everything to prove something she didn’t even know to her passed grandmother. Her head was swimming as she finally fell asleep from utter exhaustion.
The winds were howling again.