There ain't nothing quite like a sunny morning on a farm, but as a daughter of the Apple Clan, I'll admit I’m probably a bit biased.
Ain’t no one ever accused the Apples of being overly cultured, but no one ever accused us of being lazy neither, or leastwise not for long. That, among other reasons, is why I usually greet the dawn with a smile after having been up for a good half-hour beforehand. Only exception may be in the heart of summer, when the day dawns a mite early even for me.
To this day, I ain’t particularly comfortable lazing about in my bed during the morning. Today though, I can’t say as I have much of a choice seeing as I made a promise to a very particular woman, and this woman is mighty particular when it comes to me making good on my promises to her.
Can’t say as to why she was so adamant about me spending the morning flat on the bed aside from just preferring my company where we ain’t gotta worry about side-eyes and jeering from my sister, brother, Granny, or whatever other of my extended family happen to be about. I ain’t about to complain, though. One thing you learn as a farmer is that it ain’t proper manners to question the good things when they come your way.
That said, around now, which is about nine in the morning if I reckon how the sun’s coming from my window right, I’d normally be out in the orchard, and that I ain’t is making me a bit antsy.
As to why I’m reckoning time rather than checking my alarm clock? Well, I’ll tell you why, and that’s because it's mighty hard to move around when you’ve got about a hundred pounds and loose change of beautiful woman draped across your back. She’s been there for about half an hour, and the whole dang time she’s been doing the same thing, which is tracing her finger around my bare back.
I ain’t commentated on it, mind you.
Leastwise, not til now.
“Darlin’, what in tarnation are ya doin’?”
Rarity laughs a little as she traces her finger in another random pattern. Her giggle can brighten up a whole room and I count myself powerful lucky it's my room she's lighting up. She pokes my back here and there, and between those pokes, she draws another tickling line.
“Playing a game, dear,” Rarity says.
Can’t say I’ve ever known another woman who can smile with her voice. I ain’t even gotta be looking at her to hear that little curve on her lips.
“And what game is that, might I ask?”
There’s that laugh again. I’d move a mountain if it meant hearing it every day.
“Can’t you guess, darling?” Rarity traces another set of lines as I turn my head on the pillow to look up at her.
The sun is high enough now that the half-pulled drapes aren’t doing much to keep the light out. The rays glint and gleam off that beautiful porcelain skin of hers. Unlike my tanned hide, Rarity’s soft as a feather, and to this day I can’t properly account for what it is she sees in me, but, well…
Proper manners, and all that.
“Tryin’ to tickle me?” I offer, and she laughs again, and shakes her head, sending those curly purple locks dancing around her smile. “C’mon, Sugarcube, Ah ain’t no good at this.”
“Try again,” Rarity says as she draws another line.
“Mm… getting warmer, dear,” Rarity says.
How this gal can look so dang perfect right after waking up has always been a mystery to me. That’s a talent I ain’t ever had, just… looking good. I’ve always been a mite jealous of girls who can just walk out the dang door looking pretty as a picture, but I reckon god graced me with talents in other ways, and I’ve always been satisfied with that.
“C’mon, Rares,” I grumble. “Ah’m feelin’ a little left out in the cold here.”
“Oh don’t start pouting,” Rarity leans down and brushes a kiss over my shoulders. “It’s just a game.”
“What game, darlin’?” I narrow my eyes up at her, then smirk. “Or do I gotta wrassle it outta ya?”
“Jacqueline Apple you are a callous brute,” Rarity’s tone is haughty, but her voice is still smiling. “Fine… I’m playing connect-the-freckle.”
I turn my head and crane my neck, and Rarity laughs quietly as she drags her finger lightly across my back.
Sure enough, Rarity is dragging one perfect, pale finger from one freckle to another along my back. Like my brother and my sister, I’ve got freckles on just about every inch of my body. It’s the sorta thing that comes with the territory of working in the sun all day. You get’em on your back and your face and your shoulder, and all over your arms, elsewise you burn something awful.
“Have I ever told you how much I adore your freckles, darling?” Rarity asks, and there’s a little less smile in her voice and little more of a frown. “Honestly, have I? I truly can’t recall.”
“Well… can’t say as I rightly recall neither,” I admit. “Seems like a mighty odd thing to compliment a body on, though, so I reckon not.”
“What a shame.” Rarity sighs quietly and lifts herself off of me, finally letting me roll over onto my side. “Can I ask you another question, my dear?”
I raise an eyebrow at her, but nod.
“How often have I told you that you’re beautiful?”
“How… what?” I laugh as I roll over onto my back and tuck my arms under my head. Which reminds me that I probably oughta shave and shower. “Rares, I ain’t what anyone’d call beautiful.”
She sighs at that, and I frown. I reckon by that sound I said the wrong thing, but I ain’t got anything in me but the truth. I ain’t beautiful. Pretty? Sure… momma always called me pretty. But I figure I’ve got a little too much muscle to be winning any beauty pageants.
“Hm, I thought so,” Rarity’s voice is sad as she turns and tucks her knees under her arms and stares down at the bed beside me. “I’m terrible, then, aren’t I?”
“Not sure where yer gettin’ that,” I say with a chuckle. “Ain’t askin’ ya t’butter me up, Sugarcube. Ah’m pretty enough fer you, and that’s more’n enough fer me.”
“But you are beautiful, Applejack,” Rarity says softly.
I sit up and stare at her for a long minute, and she smiles a sad little smile back at me before reaching up and slipping her fingers through my hair.
“Look at this hair…” Rarity says almost reverently. “Like sunlight woven into gold.” Her hands trail down across my face, then down to my neck and over my shoulders. “And a back broad enough to lift the ego of a woman who forgets to remind her girlfriend how lovely she really is.”
“Rares, Ah’m a farmer, not a beauty queen,” I say with a laugh. “You ain’t gotta feel bad ‘bout not tellin’ me all that classy junk, ‘cause with the best will in the world, it ain’t all that important to me.”
Rarity waves her hand dismissively and sighs in that melodramatic way that usually earns a roll of the eyes from our friends as she slings her legs off the edge of the bed, and stands up. Neither us sleep wearing much in the way of clothes, or much in the way of anything, so I get a mighty fine view as she walks over to the dresser.
“Rares, hold up a minute,” I say as she reaches the chest of drawers, and I scoot over to her side of the bed to gesture at her. “C’mere.”
She looks back at me over one perfectly delicate shoulder and smiles. Her expression is still a little somber, but it warms when I hold out my hand. She turns away from the drawers and comes back to my side, folds her arms over her bare chest, and smiles down at me.
“T’weren’t no reason,” I say with as much cheek as I can manage. “Just wanted t’watch ya walk away again.”
Now, let me tell you a little about my momma, Pear Butter. She had a bit more education than my Pa, and had something of the poet in her. There was a word she liked to use for herself, and for a few others, mostly women but a few men, and it’s a word I found I liked an awful lot.
Ain’t that just the prettiest word?
Of course, it ain’t precisely… complimentary. That being said, it might be as I like it because I happen to like me some mercurial ladies.
And Rarity? That gal’s got enough mercury for an industrial thermometer.
“APPLEJACK YOU LOUSE!” Rarity’s mood swings from somber and serious to mad-as-a-wet-cat and the next thing I know she’s snatched up a pillow and set to boxing it around my ears.
And I’m laughing as hard as anything.
It only takes a few seconds of her swinging that pillow before she’s laughing too, though, and by the sixth swing I’ve caught it, then I’ve caught her, then I’ve got her in my arms and dragged her down to the bed. Rarity flails but her heart ain’t in it as I wrestle her back onto the bed and pin her down.
There’s red on her cheeks. My Rarity’s got the prettiest blush in the whole wide world and there ain’t a person alive that can convince me otherwise.
“Honestly, Rares, just tell me what’s wrong,” I say as I trace my fingers over her face and through the messy violet strands of her hair. “Ah ain’t much good at guessin’ games, ya know that.”
“I know,” Rarity chuckles as she returns the soft touches, and it takes me all of a second to realise she’s started connecting the freckles on my face now too. “I’m just… I think I’m just realising that I don’t say the things I think about as often as I ought to, and now I’m scared that I’ve been taking you for granted, darling.”
“Can’t say as I know what ya mean, Sugarcube,” I say as I roll off of her, stand up, lace my fingers together and stretch them high over my head.
“Like that, I mean,” Rarity says, nodding towards me as I lower my arms.
“What?” I ask as I grab one of my cleaner plaid button-downs and pull it on before fishing around for some pants and jeans.
Rarity laughs and shakes her head again as she stands, then pointedly rolls her shoulders and stretches. It’s a nice, long stretch too. Rarity’s got a limber sort of body, kinda like Rainbow Dash but with more curves, and I can’t help but fit my fingers to my mouth and let out a short wolf whistle before going back to dressing.
That makes her laugh, but the sound cuts short into a dry kind of chuckle.
“That.” Rarity gestures to me, and I raise an eyebrow while I pull on my jeans. “No matter what I’m doing, you never fail to make me feel like the most beautiful woman in the room, Applejack, even if you do it in a slightly crude manner.”
“Ain’t ever claimed otherwise, Rares,” I reply with a laugh.
“I’m well aware,” she says dryly. “But my point is that when I stretched, you let me know in no uncertain terms that you were watching and that you liked what you saw.”
“So…” Rarity trails over as she wraps her arms around herself, and that pretty blush colors her cheeks again. “When I watched you stretch, I said absolutely nothing in spite of the fact that when you stretch it does things to the muscles in your back and arms that make me want to tackle you to the floor.”
Now that gets a blush out of me. My Rarity ain’t the type to talk like that even in private, and I ain’t going to pretend that didn’t make me feel mighty good about myself.
“Well you’re always welcome to tackle me whenever ya feel like it, Sugarcube,” I say with a broad smile.
“I doubt your grandmother would approve of finding us sprawled on the kitchen floor, darling,” Rarity replies with that smoky little grin of hers.
“Well now yer just teasin’,” I say.
I take a step over to her and she just smiles silently up at me, batting those beautiful eyelashes a few times. The looks she gives me makes my whole body go warm and fuzzy. Don’t really matter what kinda look it is, neither. She can be smiling at me from across the kitchen, or looking up at me while we’re making love, and it just makes me feel like I’m on top of the whole dang world.
Everything is lighter and brighter with her around.
“Gosh, Ah sure do love you, Sugarcube,” I say softly.
For some reason, that puts tears in her eyes. Not sad ones, mind you. I know what grief looks like better than most. It’s more like… surprise, or something close to it.
Before she can say a word, I sweep her off the bed and into my arms. Rarity makes a quiet squeak of alarm as I heft her up, but the fear lasts less than a breath before she’s laughing again. Her arms lock around my shoulders, and her weight settles across me in that easy sort of manner while I lavish her face with kisses.
Her giggles are cut short as our lips meet, and lets out a happy little hum against my lips.
“I love you too.” The words are warm against my lips as we pull back. “And I am so, so lucky to have you.”
“Ain’t nobody luckier’n me, darlin’.”
“There you go again, dear heart,” Rarity says wanly as she pecks a kiss on my cheek.
I let her down so she can get dressed, and like always I watch her the whole time. I can’t help it. If Rarity’s in view then its dollars to fritters that I’m gonna end up getting distracted and start looking. That ain’t so bad in the bedroom but it’s a mite problematic when you’re outside hauling a hundred pound bale of hay on your shoulders and run smack into the barn wall instead of walking through the door because a pretty girl walked by.
And I swear she gets dressed slower when I’m watching on purpose.
We Apples are made to lay down roots. That’s something my Papaw told me.
He told me: ‘Jackie, when you find someone, and believe me you, you’ll know’em when ya see’em, you’ll know what I mean when I say that Apples lay down roots.’
And he was right. Looking at Rarity now, I know he was right beyond a shadow of a doubt. Right now she’s putting on a dress, a pretty thing she made herself, nothing fancy, for once. Just a long, breezy, ankle-length skirt to keep the sun off her legs, and a white cotton blouse with blue embroidery that I think Granny helped with.
“You remember when we first met, darlin’?” I ask, and Rarity looks up from the bed where she’s pulling a stocking up on long, lovely leg.
“The country fair, I believe, wasn’t it?” She says. “We were seven, I think.”
“Mhm, s’funny how things work out, ain’t it?” I say with a laugh, and Rarity chuckles and nods. “I remember this dusty little girl cryin’er eyes out ‘cause she lost’er folks in the middle’a the fair right outside mah family’s food tent.”
“Ah, yes,” Rarity’s chuckle turns thin. “I do recall something like that as well.”
I nod and cross my arms across my chest. “True, but Ah don’t think AH ever toldja this part.”
That got Rarity’s attention, and she perks up.
“Ah saw ya, and then went inside and said ‘Momma, momma, there’s a princess outside and she’s scared!’ and lookin’ back I’m pretty sure Ma was tryin’ not to laugh,” I say, smiling as I remember the look on my mother’s face. “And my momma said, ‘well then, Jackie, you better go make sure she gets back to’er castle, but don’t take too long, y’hear?’ an’ Ah just nodded like Ah’d been given the keys t’the kingdom and told ta use’m wisely.”
“I remember that,” Rarity says with a small laugh. “I’d gotten distracted by something and wandered away from my parents, and when I looked back they’d gone.”
Even now, twenty years later, I can still see little terrified Rarity, sitting on the side of the dusty Fair pathway near the Sweet Apple Acres food tent crying her eyes out. Sometimes folks would come up to ask her what was wrong but them she’d just wail harder.
That lasted right up until I walked up to her.
“Are ya lost?”
The little girl with purple ringlets and porcelain skin looked up at me. Fat tears were clinging to her cheeks which were muddy from the mix of dust and water.
“W-Who’re you?” Rarity still had her adorable little Whinnysotan accent back then, before she got her high Canterlotian tones down.
“Mah name’s Applejack, Princess,” I declared, a hand on each hip like a superhero from a comic book.
She blinked owlishly at me. “P-Princess?”
“Aren’t ya a Princess?” I asked, absolutely sure of myself in a way only a seven-year-old can be. “Ya look like a Princess!”
“Well, uhm, sure I am!” Rarity stood up and dusted herself off.
She was wearing a lacy white dress, and her rear was dirty and stained a little green from the ground. Her hair was short back then, falling around her shoulders in soft curls, and her shoes were these dainty little slip-ons that weren’t any good for walking out in the dirt.
“Ah thought so!” I stuck out my hand again. “If yer lost, Ah’ll get ya home, Princess.”
“R-Rarity!” She said, and this time she spoke with an almost cartoonishly posh accent. “My name is Princess Rarity, and you’ll be my knight!”
“Sir Applejack at yer service.” I made a clumsy salute, and Rarity laughed.
It was the first time I heard her laugh but it wouldn’t be the last, and even then I remember thinking it was an awful pretty laugh.
“A lady knight is called a Dame,” Rarity corrected me sternly. “So you’re ‘Dame Applejack’!”
I shrugged. It was all the same to me. Then I took her hand and we went off into the fair. I’d been there the past two years, and I’d been wandering around it all the last couple. Weren’t nobody who didn’t know the Apples anyhow, so it was mostly just going about and seeing friends and family.
That was how I found Rarity’s parents who were properly in a tizzy trying to find their little girl: I talked to my Uncle Applewood, who talked to his daughter Winesap, who saw the couple talking to cousin Jonared, and we kept following those branches on until we caught up to them, and by that point Rarity was looking at me like I must know every single person in the whole wide world.
I didn’t meet Rarity’s parents, Cookie Crumbles and Hondo Flanks, properly til Ma and Pa invited them by for dinner, but the woman practically fell over herself scooping her little girl up.
Rarity was a little messy and a lot dusty, but none the worse for the wear. If anything, all the hugs and kisses just made her more of mess than before, and soon enough Rarity was kicking and flailing to get free of her mother’s grasp.
As for me, I was just about to turn heel and head back to my parents stall when Hondo, who was a large, mustachioed fellow caught me by me shoulder.
“Beg your pardon miss,” Hondo asked gently. “Ya brought my little girl back, and I’d like to ask your name, if that’s alright?”
I turned to him and grinned toothily. “Applejack!”
Rarity managed to kick her way free of her mother by that point and had returned to my side and grabbed my hand.
“Dame Applejack!” she said in that ridiculously over the top accent. “She found me and she took me all over the fair, and she called me a Princess!”
“Oh did she now?” Hondo’s smile was broad, and he knelt down to hold out his hand to me. “Guess that makes me King Hondo them, so thank you Dame Applejack, is there anything I can do for you?”
“Uh, well, it weren’t all that big’a deal,” I told him. “But I guess if y’all wanna come visit mah family’s stall, that’d be nice.”
I had no idea at that time that not only had I just met the girl who would be my best friend for years on, but the girl I’d eventually come to call the love of my life. What I did know, though, was the moment she grabbed my hand like that, felt something sink into me.
“I wonder if that’s why I was so obsessed with knights in shining armour growing up,” Rarity says with a light giggle. “Little did I know, I’d found mine a long time ago.”
I could argue that I weren’t exactly ‘knight’ material til I was blue in the face and I know I’d still lose. Rarity ain’t the type of gal you win arguments against anyways. She’s the sort who’ll vent for an hour, and then cry and apologise for another two.
So instead, all I say is: “Ayup, y’all ready to get some breakfast?”
“I think so,” Rarity stands up and does a little spin, sending the lace hem of the skirt twirling a few inches up. “How do I look?”
I reach out and lay a hand over her cheek, and she leans into my palm like its an instinct before brushing her lips over the inside of my wrist.
“Like a princess, I reckon,” I say with a broad grin.
And that’s the honest truth.