Caramel Apple was stuck working the apple cart for the day. He was on loan from his own farm to the Ponyville Apples. He had been told it was because his cousins’ had a particularly heavy apple crop this season and needed sompony to keep shop while they worked. But he knew it was really because they didn’t want him around the farm. He sighed, looking at his cutie mark. It was three horseshoes, it should have been four. But it marked his talent, losing things. Or perhaps being lost. He wasn’t quite sure.
Maybe his talent was being useless.
He tried to be helpful around his farm, he really did. But everything he tried seemed to turn out for the worst. If he bucked some apples, they’d fall into the river. If he tried to plant some crops, nothing would grow on the land for days. He’d tried everything, but nothing seemed to work out. It was obvious his farm looked for any excuse to get rid of him. They’d given him a position as deliverypony for a while. He’d done his best, but they always made him take packages to the far reaches of the village, only to find that the patron hadn’t ordered anything. If he actually managed to find the address in anycase. He’d return to find they had ‘gotten the order wrong’ and finished the day’s work in his absence.
He sat his head down on the cart, feeling miserable. He hadn’t received a single customer all morning. It seemed this was going to be another thing he failed at. The ponies here knew very well of his reputation and either rushed past a little faster than usual, or ignored him completely. He imagined returning to his cousin’s farm in a few hours without a single bit earned. They’d be convinced he was useless too, they’d probably never want his help again. He’d already lost the grass seeds for the earlier Winter Wrap Up, not to mention the incident with Granny Smith’s false teeth. This would be the last straw he was sure of it, another bunch of ponies on the long list of those that would be better off without him.
“Hello?” said a voice. “I haven’t seen you around in a while. Where’s Applejack?”
Caramel snapped out of his reverie to find a purple unicorn looking at him. “Oh...Um...are you talking to me?” he asked.
“Well, I don’t think I’m talking to the apples.” She put on a friendly smile. “Well, technically I am, the Apple family going back generations and all. But I mean, I’m not talking to a physical apple as in the small fruit.”
Caramel just stared.
“Are you alright?”
“Um...Um..yeah...I’m fine.” Caramel stuttered. “Applejack’s back at the farm. It’s Applebuck Season.” He paused. “Would you like to wait for her to come back?”
Much to his amazement, she laughed. “Oh no, that’s fine. You can sell me some apples right?”
“Me? Oh!....Yeah, I mean sure! If you want to buy some, just call me the applepony!” Caramel paused. “I mean, I am an Apple pony.. Like you said....you know...cause I’m an Apple...well..not the...fru- well...You know.”
“Yes,” the unicorn said charitably. “I know. Don’t worry, Caramel.”
Caramel froze. “You know my name?”
“Of course, you’re Caramel. We’ve met twice before. When I first came to ponyville and during the Winter Wrap up. Remember? I’m Twilight.”
“Oh.” The memory surfaced in his brain. She was the one who’d found the grass seeds after he’d lost them. They’d somehow ended up on the roof of the bakery. “Yeah....well it’s nice to meet you again Twilight.” He tried the name on his tongue. It sounded nice.
“Likewise.” Twilight examined the apples around the cart. He couldn’t help but notice how nicely her mane was combed “Do you have any red Gala’s? They make a good replacement for rubies apparently.”
Caramel looked even more lost.
“My friend, he’s a dragon, you’ve met him too.” she raised an eyebrow. “Not very good with faces are you?”
His face reddened slightly. “W-well not really. I’m pretty forgetful,” he admitted. “I’m not sure how I could forget your face though... I mean, it’s a pretty memorable face. Not that it’s ugly or anything! I mean ...um...it’s a very nice face, and your mane looks nice too. If you don’t mind my saying that is. You probably comb it a lot...Um...Not to say that you...Um....You know what? I’ll get those Galas.” He ducked behind the counter before Twilight could reply. Searching hastily through the various apples he had in stock. Caramel pushed aside a basket of red Delicious, looking past the fugis and dodging around the Granny Smiths before finding the bushel in question.
“Ah! Here we are,” he said, lifting it onto the counter top. “How many did you want?”
“Oh, just two, I’m meeting Spike for lunch.”
“Ah, well you’ve picked yourself a good apple. Nothing better than a Red Gala to fill you up!” Caramel attempted a smile. He shifted through the apples piled in the basket, trying to find the best two to give her. “So...um....It’s a nice day isn’t it?”
“Oh yes, Rainbow Dash did a fine job of clearing the clouds today. It’s so nice I might take my books outside later. I’m studying paleolithic runemancy today, and this weather is just perfect for reading.”
Caramel stopped himself from asking what most of that meant. “Yeah. Super reading weather for sure.” Caramel fumbled with the apples some more, trying to ignore his heart hammering away in his chest. She was being so nice. Why was she being so nice?
He found two apples and after a quick check to make sure they were the best in the bunch, gave them to her. “That’ll be two bits.”
Twilight frowned. “I thought it was four bits for two apples?”
Caramel floundered for a moment. “Oh...well it is! But you see um...you were so...well... I mean....well...You see you seem so...That I..." He paused. "...We’re having a sale,” he finished lamely.
“Oh, well that’s lucky.” She smiled. Caramel instantly decided she had the best smile in the universe.
Twilight turned to leave. Caramel’s mind raced on how to get another word in.
“Um, wait!” he held up a hoof. “That...sale, I forgot, you get three apples with that. Not two.”
Twilight paused. “I only need two, it’s just me and Spike.”
“Well....what if somepony else came with you to lunch? You know...for the extra apple?”
Twilight pondered this for a moment. “That’s not a bad idea. There’s somepony I’d love to have lunch with.”
Caramel’s heart soared.
“Fluttershy’s probably taking a break from tending to her animals about now. She works so hard. She’d appreciate it if I invited her to lunch.”
It fell back into his hooves with a lurching thud.
“Could I have a Granny Smith instead of a Gala for the third apple?” asked Twilight. “She likes those best.”
“Sure....no problem.” Caramel mumbled. He fetched her the apple in question. Twilight floated it into her saddlebag and turned to leave.
“Thank you very much. I’m sure she’ll enjoy it.”
“You’re welcome,” Caramel replied, crestfallen.
“Have a wonderful day Caramel.”
His ears perked up when she said his name again. He was still amazed she’d bothered to remember it. She’d knew him, and was still willing to talk to him, and buy apples no less! He felt thoroughly out of his depth.
It suddenly occurred to him that he hadn’t replied.
“Oh! Yeah, thanks, you too-” But she was already walking down the road by the time he’d opened his mouth. “Twilight.” Caramel said the name slowly. He felt afraid that if he said it too fast the words might get away. Caramel sighed, sitting his head on the counter and staring dreamily after her as she headed off towards the center of town. “Twilight...” he whispered again, to himself this time. He really liked that name. “Twilight...”
“What about her?”
Caramel jumped, whirling around to see his cousin Applejack.
“Oh, nothing!” he said quickly.
“The way you said it, it sure didn’t sound like nothin’.” The orange pony eyed him suspiciously.
Caramel quickly searched for something to change the subject. “I sold some apples!” He pointed to the bits lying on the counter.
“You did!?” Applejack quickly hid her shock. “How many?”
Caramel glanced at the bits, knowing he was three short. “Two.” he lied. He would have to bring some apples from his own farm next time he came over. He didn’t want to tell Applejack he’d gone around giving her apples away. Even if it was to a friend.
“Well, good for you Caramel!” She slapped him on the back in a way he was sure would leave a bruise. “You might be cut out for this yet.”
“Thanks...” Caramel groaned.
“Now, why don’t I help you pack up? If we hurry, I reckon we’ll be back at the farm in time for dinner.”
He brightened at this. Things were looking up.
“Sure, I’ll get the-” he was interrupted as he tripped headlong over the stopping blocks in front of the cart. “Ow...”
“Whoa there!” Applejack looked him over worriedly. “Are you alright sugarcube?”
Caramel got slowly to his hooves. “Yeah, I’m alright. I scuffed my leg a bit but...” he noticed she was staring. “What’s wrong?” He followed her gaze, she was looking past his head at something behind him. He turned around to find the Applecart speeding down the hill into the horizon.
To Be continued