“Applejack, that dress is just ever so darling on you!” The older mare gushed. Applejack smiled stiffly and fluffed her hair, remembering what her aunt had told her.
Never forget Applejack, that high society is a dance, a complex series of steps in a set order. If one makes a single error, the entire performance is ruined.
“Oh, can you believe Auntie Orange just gave it to me? Isn’t she the sweetest?” Applejack prattled; barely hearing her own words. The mare chuckled, rubbing her hoof on Applejack’s face in the most irritating way imaginable. “You are such a doll!”
Applejack smiled, carefully taking a sip of lemonade.
Not too fast, and not too slow. Keep in time with the rhythm of the conversation.
The conversation faded away from Applejack and into a new topic, allowing her a brief respite. She sighed gratefully, taking a look around her. She was in the famous Manehatten City Gardens, said to be one of the most beautiful in Equestria, and she hadn’t moved a hoof from this table. She could barely even see the garden.
Of course, she shouldn’t complain. When Aunt Orange received the invitation, she squealed with happiness. It was an immense honor few ponies received, and she should be pleased with it. Besides, it would be a huge boost to their image. If Applejack wanted to be a sophisticated city pony, she couldn’t pass any excuse to improve her image.
And yet, she couldn’t help but feel that the entire thing was…overrated. It was the same as every other of the million garden parties she had attended, same boring insipid conversations about hats and styles and whatnot. Same hoity-toity, noses-stuck-in-the-air ponies, living in their own world and oblivious of everything else around them. At first, it had been fun. Applejack couldn’t have been more out of place, but if there was anything she liked, it was a challenge.
But now that she figured it out, it was just boring.
“…isn’t that right, Applejack?” The voice of her uncle cut in, bringing her back to reality. She realized that she had zoned out, fallen off the beat. Horseapples.
She nodded, and the conversation continued undeterred.
“Can you believe that hat Blossonforth was wearing on her head? Have you ever seen anything so tacky?”
Applejack twitched. She happened to like Blossom very much. She might be a little strange, but she was a very nice pony. But make one small move, and every single high class pony in Manehatten was against you. She hardly thought it was fair.
There was one escape however, one that any filly could use to escape any situation without worry.
“I need to use the little filly’s room.” She whispered to her aunt. She nodded, waving her hoof in the direction of the nearest one. Applejack snuck away in the general direction, then peeked behind her to see if her aunt was paying attention. She was engrossed in conversation. Applejack quickly ran into the hedges surrounding the garden, hiding her from pony eyes.
She peeked through the other side of the hedge, looking both ways. Nopony was in sight.
Relieved, she walked out onto the cobblestone path and took a look around. The hedges were too tall to see over, making the garden more like a labyrinth. But it was undeniably beautiful.
Rows of roses ran alongside the path, each row a different color. The path curved and twisted, seeming to go on forever, and the longer she walked down it, the more exotic and strange the plants were. There were even little bitty cherry trees, not even as tall as her knees! They covered the path in miniscule, light pink petals, swirling around in the wind.
Clip clop! Clip clop!
Applejack froze, as the sound of approaching hoofsteps grew louder. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to be back here. Maybe she would get in trouble.
Clip! Clop! Clip! Clop!
Applejack, beginning to panic, looked for a place to hide, and jumped into the nearest bush.
Only to find it full of thorns.
She yelped, trying to get out of it. But the more she struggled, the more stuck she was. Each movement seemed to rip her dress a little bit more. Every bit of her was caught in the thorns, and she couldn’t get away from it.
“What’s with you?” a lazy, drawling voice asked. Applejack looked up, to see a grey colt right in front of her. After seeing the position she was in, he grinned a cocky grin. “Looks like you’re a damsel in distress, in need of assistance from a hero!” He posed heroically.
“I ain’t a damsel in distress.” Applejack snapped.
“You talk funny.” He said, ignoring Applejack's glares. “So if you ain’t a damsel in distress, what does that make you?”
He rolled his eyes. “I know that. But I gotta help you. I’m gonna be a knight when I grow up, and a knight has to rescue fair maidens.” He hopped right up to her. “So, how can I, Sir Lancer, rescue you?”
Applejack ignored him, instead slowly began to take off her dress.
The little colt covered his face with his hoofs, red with embarrassment. “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?”
“What are you getting’ all upset about? Ponies run around naked all the time.” Applejack retorted. The dress now off, she could concentrate on getting the rest of her out. She winced. Some of the thorns had dug in pretty deep. If she wasn’t careful, it would get even worse. She began pulling them out, one by one.
The colt watched her, just the teeniest glimmer of worry in his eyes. “Are you sure you don’t need help?”
“I don’t need no help from nopony.” Applejack answered firmly.
“Well, I guess I’ll just keep you company then. It’s not much fun to be stuck here all alone.”
Applejack paused, and the colt readied himself to be told to buzz off. Instead she smiled. “Thanks.”
So he did, telling her all about his “exploits” as a knight, his castle guarded by dragons and a lava moat, and bragging about how his father was the greatest warrior in Equestria. At the very least, he was entertaining.
At long last, she got the last thorn out, and stepped free from the bush.
“…And then I said, ‘Fiendish witch! You shall not pass’-Oh hey, you’re free!”
“Yup.” She picked up her tattered gown, which Aunt Orange had spent so much money on. “Aunt Orange is not going to like this.” She muttered.
Applejack didn’t look so good. Covered in scratches, smeared with dirt, her hair, once in a neat little bun, now a tangled ruined beehive of a mess.
“Don’t it hurt?” Lancer asked.
Applejack shrugged it off. “I’m a lady, not a sissy.”
“I don’t think you’re much of a lady.”
Applejack opened her mouth to tell him off- but belched instead. It set off a giggle fit in Lancer, and soon they were both rolling on the ground.
Still giggling, Applejack wiped her eyes with a shaky hoof. “Guess I’m not much of a lady huh?”
“Nah. That’s what I like about you. You’re not boring, like the other fillies here.”
Was that a compliment, or an insult? Applejack responded by shoving Lancer to the ground. “Betcha I can run faster than you!” She dared.
“You’re on!” Lancer spit on his hoof and held it out. Applejack hesitated, than spat on her own and high hooved him. Soon they were racing all over the garden, and they raced until it was time to go.
Their parents came up the path, running up to them when they caught sight of them.
“Applejack! What happened to you, sugarcube?” Uncle Orange asked, dusting her off.
“She fell in the bushes, and I rescued her!” Lancer said, puffing his chest with pride. The adults chuckled. “How very brave of you, what do we owe you?”
“No reward is required; a knight only serves to do good.” He said, feebly attempting to sound humble.
Aunt Orange picked Applejack dirty torn gown off the ground. “We must be leaving dear; you must be so tired after your big day.” She winked knowingly. Applejack wrinkled her nose. “Eww.” The aunt and uncle laughed again, turning to go. Applejack, however, stayed behind.
“You lied.” She hissed.
“So what? No ponies are mad, so it’s okay.”
Applejack rolled her eyes at him. “I still don’t like it.” She insisted.
“Yeah, well next time will be different!” He promised. “Next time I’ll save you from real danger. From an evil enchantress, or a dragon, or a hydra!”
Applejack just laughed at him. “Like that’ll ever happen. I think your cutie mark will be in making up stories, not knighthood.” She left him there, fuming.
“I'll show you!” He shouted at her. “I WILL be a knight one day! I promise!” He trotted off into the sunset, trying to look heroic. Instead, he tripped over a pebble and fell flat on his face.