The fresh scent of floor wax flooded Fluttershy’s nostrils. The bustling conversations within the high school’s sleek walls reverberated throughout the main hall. The constant noise made all of the stress of choosing an outfit earlier that morning all the more mundane. Familiar faces passed Fluttershy’s route to her first class of the morning and, in turn, her high school life. Although familiar, names drew blank and she neglected to interact with any of them. It didn’t matter, as each face seemed to notice her less than the last. Not to say she didn’t grow up with some close friends, but none that lasted past a year. Many moved away, many faded into the crowd, while few turned around and carried on with repugnance towards her introverted personality. Fluttershy became used to the cycle of people flickering into and out of her life to the point where it didn’t even phase her anymore.
She looked down at her schedule and smiled once again at her first class: biology. Her favorite subject. What she lost in sociability she made up for in enthusiasm in her studies. Throughout elementary and middle school she made the best of the classes she didn’t very much enjoy and showed exceptional enthusiasm for the more bearable subjects to her. After finding her classroom, she peeked in through the doorway.
Only one student seemed to be in the classroom. Her deep blue and magenta accented hair swayed back and forth as she was setting up her own side of the two-person desk for the class that would be taking place within the next 30 minutes. Noticing that this girl was here well before the general population of the class, Fluttershy assumed one of two things: either this girl loves biology as much as herself, or she's an avid scholar that was punctual about her attendance in any class. Fluttershy recalled her 8th grade graduation resolutions to attempt to make friends once again. She knew maturity was higher and more common at the high school level and felt a twinge of growing confidence in expanding her horizons. She rallied, and stepped into the classroom, her hands clasped tightly behind her. She approached the other girl’s desk as she zipped up her backpack.
“Um.. excuse me?” Fluttershy muttered louder than she normally would. The seated girl snapped her attention to Fluttershy with raised eyebrows.
“Yes?” The girl responded, almost surprised that another person was in the room half an hour early to the start of class. Fluttershy refrained from drawing in a deep, nervous breath.
“Is that seat taken?” Fluttershy gestured to the empty seat next to the early bird. The girl waved her hand over the empty seat with a friendly smile.
“Not at all!” She quipped cheerily.
Fluttershy smiled lightly as she took the empty seat and placed her backpack down next to it. When she brought her attention back to her new biology neighbor, she met a rosy hand extended to her.
“Twilight Sparkle.” the girl said, pushing her amethyst glasses back up to the bridge of her nose with her opposite hand. Fluttershy took Twilight’s hand in her own and applied a light squeeze which was overpowered by the firmness of Twilight’s grip.
“Fluttershy…” Twilight waved her hand in a forward motion expectantly.
“Oh!” Fluttershy flinched. “Um, Breeze. Sorry, I’m not used to...this.” Her eyes flicked downward at the ongoing handshake. Twilight released her grip, her soft smile persisting.
“What do you mean?” Twilight questioned. Fluttershy cringed lightly behind her pink curtain of hair.
“I mean, um” Fluttershy began, “making... friends.” She flushed with a light pink on her cheeks.
“Oh!” Twilight exclaimed, surprised that someone like her had no real friends. “Well, could I introduce you to my friends? Only if you feel comfortable with that, considering all I know is your name.”
Twilight let out an embarrassed giggle, rubbing the back of her neck nervously. Twilight always seemed to come off awkwardly strong onto potentially new friends. More often than not, they tend to shy away or brandish her as desperate. Fluttershy didn’t feel this way though. On the contrary, Fluttershy was flattered at the fact that Twilight presented the opportunity of an expanded friend circle.
“Well, we’re hardly strangers anymore, are we?” Fluttershy attempted to be as casual as possible with her new friend, the threshold of comfortability unknown to her. Twilight sighed in relief.
“Excellent!” Twilight quipped. “At lunch, go to the softball field bleachers. That’s where we normally eat.”
“Okay…” Fluttershy said, unsure, “But...where is that?”
As Twilight began explaining the directions to the bleachers, students slowly filed into their seats. Conversations filled the room until the teacher stepped in and began her introductory period. Having Twilight as her partner on this first day really set the tone for Fluttershy’s day. She had no reason to frown through the halls or the remainder of her classes. She could feel excitement that she hadn’t felt since she received her first puppy when she was a little girl. A chance at unconditional friendship. A real chance with real people. Using animals as a substitute to social interaction only got her so far. This past summer was her epiphany to change that. Meeting Twilight made her consider whether destiny would lead her down a path of true happiness.
Lunch could not come around quickly enough. Fluttershy was basically bursting at the seams with anticipation. When the electronic bell chimed to signal lunchtime, Fluttershy nearly slammed her history book shut. After stuffing her syllabus and schoolwork into her backpack, she got up and was the first out of the classroom. She walked with haste, recalling the directions Twilight had given her to the softball field. She followed them step by step. She leaned on the push bar leading outdoors.
When her eyes adjusted, she could see a hill in front of her cresting downward. A stone path led from the door she exited down the hill and to the far fence that marked the edge of Canterlot High. The path bisected two practice fields. On the left side of the path was the boys baseball field, and on the right was the girls softball field. By what Fluttershy could see, the varsity softball and baseball teams were in their respective dugouts and bleachers eating their lunches. She could faintly see Twilight amongst a group of four other girls at the top of the softball field bleachers.
As she made her way along the path and in between the fields, she could see the group more clearly: a pink and fluffy haired energy source, a pale but beautiful violet haired goddess, a rainbow haired athlete, and a blonde and freckled rancher, by the looks of her. She noticed that the blonde one was matching in the plain white and jade laced uniform with the varsity softball players who were scattered around and enjoying their lunches.
It was then that Fluttershy felt her heart quicken in pace as she rounded the backstop of the softball field and approached the bleachers. The echo of clarity on what she had done had finally caught up to her. She felt every synapse in her brain fire one by one, instinctively telling her to simply walk past the bleachers and back around the opposite side of the softball field. They hadn’t seen her yet so her mind began to war with itself. She felt conflicted. Jumping head first into the cold waters of the unknown began to frighten her. Second thoughts flooded her mind as Twilight noticed her and smiled widely. It was too late to run now. Running would only make it worse, as she was well experienced with running from interaction.
“Fluttershy!” Twilight called out. “Come on up!” Twilight’s group had turned to see who she was talking to. The amount of pupils on Fluttershy paled her face as her palms perspired behind her back.
“Yeah!” the blonde one spoke up with a southern drawl, beckoning with her hand “Twilight’s been tellin’ us how you two went together like apple pie and ice cream.” Fluttershy was now close enough to read the word on the apparent cowgirl’s jersey in a deep emerald and gold medieval style casing: Canterlot.
Fluttershy stepped onto the bleachers and squeezed past the other softball players who let her pass without a look. Twilight stood and stepped down the bleachers to Fluttershy’s level and stood next to her.
“Girls,” Twilight began with a courteous smile, her hand gesturing to Fluttershy, “this is Fluttershy.” Fluttershy waved lightly from her waist. They all gave her their own version of a jovial “hello” to her at the same time. Fluttershy giggled at their simultaneous but discordant greetings. Twilight continued introductions. “Fluttershy, this is Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack.”
“It’s, um, very nice to meet you all.” Fluttershy almost whispered. She remained silent as her new group of friends sat silently as if waiting for something to happen. Just before Fluttershy officially felt uncomfortable, Applejack broke the silence.
“Well, Fluttershy?” she chuckled, “Are ya gonna take a seat?”
The rest of the group continued their conversations amongst each other. Fluttershy smirked bashfully at Applejack and took a seat on the bleacher next to Applejack and Twilight on the bleacher below them. She unpacked the lunch she had made herself that morning. She could almost feel eyes on the back of her neck as she popped the tops of her tupperware and set them on the bleacher she sat on. Once prepped, she turned to make eye contact with Applejack mid-glance. Applejack seized the moment to ask a question.
“Hey, Fluttershy? Ah know ah’ve seen you before. But Ah can’t put my finger on it. Mind helpin’ me out?”
Fluttershy looked Applejack up and down closely. Now that she mentioned it, she too felt as though she knew Applejack from somewhere as well. A memory buried deep within the far reaches of her psyche brought itself to light as Fluttershy’s eyes lit up with realization.
“Oh! I know!” Fluttershy exclaimed. “You’ve brought in farm animals to the veterinarian before. I remember helping with feeding Mads. Oh, he was so so very sick.”
“Right! Now Ah remember.” Applejack concurred. “That old pig got into the produce sacks and ate somethin’ he shouldn’t have.” She laughed a hearty laugh. “I gotta say, ya’ll took real good care of him. He came out even better than before he got sick. Thanks for lendin’ that hand.”
“You’re welcome!” Fluttershy smiled brightly. “I just love animals. That’s why I volunteer at the shelter and the veterinarian. Since having my own pets is… difficult.” Her smile seemed to melt off her face. Applejack, being no stranger to anxious teens, decided to take the reigns of Fluttershy’s emotional state for the better.
“Ah heck, any friend of Twilight’s is a friend o’ mine!” Applejack gave Fluttershy a hefty pat on the back. Fluttershy’s falling smile rose to a smirk. “If ya want, you can come to Sweet Apple acres whenever ya feel like and be around all the animals we’ve got.” Fluttershy’s eyes lit up at that.
“Really? I mean, I appreciate it. Really I do!” Fluttershy gave Applejack a reassuring nod. “I’ll have to take you up on that offer.” Fluttershy looked over Applejack’s stained uniform. She noticed the age and grit that the uniform exhibited. Applejack’s ballcap sat on her knee as if her knee wore it; a crescent-up golden horseshoe detailed with wings extended from the curve of the horseshoe and an inverted home plate sat in the center was emblazoned on the front. “So, you’re on the softball team?”
“You bet.” Applejack affirmed with a wink. “Ah play anywhere in outfield.” She flexed her right arm and patted the bicep. “Gotta thank all the years of workin’ on the farm for givin’ me this canon of an arm. Tillin’, movin’ hay bales and harvests, and even wrestlin’ my older brother for fun got me this far.” Fluttershy giggled as Applejack lowered her arm. It was Applejack’s turn to examine Fluttershy’s physique. Although seeming very timid and gentle, Applejack could easily notice Fluttershy’s tone, despite most of it being covered by modest clothing. “What about you? You play any sports?”
“Oh, um.” Fluttershy felt the words stuck in her throat. “Well…”
“No. She doesn’t.” A male voice, one all too familiar to Fluttershy, spoke up from the base of the bleachers. She turned to see it was her older brother, Zephyr. He was in a baseball uniform much like Applejack’s, the main difference being that the emerald was replaced with a navy blue. Fluttershy could hear Applejack huff in frustration behind her. The conversations of Fluttershy’s new friends ceased with all of the attention on Zephyr. Rarity and Rainbow Dash showed obvious annoyance to Zephyr’s company, while Pinkie Pie and Twilight seemed to not know him too well.
“Did ah ask you, ‘Zeph?’” Applejack asked in a sarcastic tone.
“It’s ‘Zephyr’ to you, saltlick.” Zephyr spat back. “And even though you didn’t ask me, I think it’s pretty obvious Flutters here hasn’t partaken in anything redeemable throughout elementary or middle school.” Fluttershy dipped her head a small amount, curling up into a social shell.
“So what?” Rarity interrupted, crossing her arms across her chest. “So she may not have had an upbringing in school sports. That doesn’t give you the right to deem her case so hopeless. And who do you think you are to act as though you know her?” Zephyr laughed at Rarity’s ignorance. Twilight was able to put two and two together since she was the only one at this point who knew Fluttershy’s last name.
“It’s ‘cause I’m her brother, runway.” Zephyr smartly replied, obviously having thought of their nicknames carefully. “Who else would know her better?”
“Hey!” Rainbow joined in with a finger jutted directly at Zephyr’s face. “You don’t have to be such a prick about it! Especially because she's your sister!” She gritted her teeth at the smirking boy. Rainbow Dash, being the shortest of the group, had Zephyr at equal height with Rainbow on one of the bleachers. Still, a height difference didn’t do anything to fault Rainbow’s assault.
“Oh? And what are you gonna do about it, Rainbow Crash?” Zephyr laughed, recalling a nickname she had earned rather than was given by the quick-tongued boy. Rainbow blushed with rage. She stepped down to ground level and was about ready to fly off the handle alongside Rarity when Fluttershy intervened.
“Please stop!” She stood with more volume than even Zephyr had heard before, earning her a raised eyebrow from him. Her kindhearted demeanor almost cracked under the stress her brother was placing on her new friends. Even to her, such an action was so foreign that she felt as though someone else had taken control of her at that moment. She sighed, calming herself down and turning to her brother. “Zephyr, as impolite as you were, I don’t expect you to apologize. But can you please…” She mustered up all of her confidence and momentum gained at this point. “Just leave us alone?” Fluttershy looked to her brother with a determined visage. He stared into his little sister’s eyes and shrugged.
“I don’t know what you girls did to my sister, but whatever it is, it’s putting some fight in her. Which will do her some good, I guess.” He left with a dismissive wave of his hand as a king would to his lowly subjects. “See you at dinner later, Flutters.”
Rainbow Dash sat back down grumbling about pounding Zephyr into the next week with Rarity who is using more refined words to describe her own threats against him. Fluttershy also sat back down with a decompressing huff. He was wrong about one thing though, it was not her friends who motivated her outburst. That came from within her, all on her own. Something so outlandish of her was pulled out from her, by her. It was definitely new to Fluttershy. Escaping the limiting shell of seclusion has brought new parts of her to light. She couldn’t decide if she liked it or not.
“The nerve of that Zephyr.” Applejack said, mostly to herself. She felt it was unfair to speak any worse about Zephyr in front of Fluttershy, so she left it at that and tended to the obviously distressed Fluttershy. “Hey there, sugarcube. Are you okay?”
"Yes. Thank you, Applejack." Fluttershy responded, still obviously upset with her brother's uninvited appearance. "That's just how he is. I'm sorry you had to see that." Applejack chuckled at that. Fluttershy looked up at her with a confused expression as she tried to figure out what she said that made Applejack react that way. Rainbow Dash answered her question.
"It's no problem, uh, Fluttershy." Rainbow said, leaning back in her bleacher seat. “AJ, Rares and I know about your brother well. As much of a jerk he is, you do know he’s pretty important to the baseball team.” Fluttershy knew well. He’d come home boasting about how well he did during that day’s game to their dad, both with ice creams in hand. Their father had taken a particular pride in Zephyr’s constant baseball achievements as Canterlot’s ace pitcher. Despite Fluttershy’s preference to remain in the backseat, it sowed the seeds of desire to be as strong as her brother. She never openly expressed these feelings. In fact, she suppressed them and preferred to love her brother despite the way he treated her. Fluttershy gave a dismissive smirk.
“I’m well aware.” Fluttershy affirmed. “But I’m pretty used to how he is.” She continued her lunch but seemed quite irked.
Applejack and Rainbow Dash looked at each other unsure of what to do about Fluttershy’s reserved feelings against her brother. It left a heavy awkwardness in the air of the group. The conversations slowly built back up. Pinkie Pie and Twilight were caught up on Zephyr’s history courtesy of the rest of the group for the remainder of lunch. Since neither of them really frequented the areas where the sports teams would gather, they never really knew Zephyr or what kind of person he is. Fluttershy occasionally added on or clarified what Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack had to say as they seemed to know him almost as well as Fluttershy did.
His importance to the Canterlot baseball team was a paramount point. A starting pitcher with the highest win-loss ratio in the province. Held at a high standard, a lot was expected of him. Not just from the team, school, or coach, but from their own father. Fluttershy voiced the sole defense of her brother to her newfound friends, explaining the pressure was immense. Her friends, skeptical about the causation of stress leading to Zephyr's sour attitude, gave Fluttershy what she wanted and agreed to go easy on her brother.
As they drew their conversations to a close, the distant electronic bell for the school rang. The six girls, besides Applejack, gathered their school supplies. Applejack, like other athletes, have their respective sport as an extracurricular activity right after lunch. As Fluttershy placed her now empty lunch containers into her backpack, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She quickly turned her head to see the owner of the calloused hand belonged to Applejack.
"Hey," Applejack began, "if ya got nowhere to go after school, come here to the softball field. Ah know you mentioned you don't really have a ride home. Ah can take you." She smiled warmly as she said the last part.
"Oh!" Fluttershy exclaimed, never being offered a ride home. Zephyr was always picked up by their dad, only because Zephyr stayed late enough to where their dad got off work and was able to get him on the way home. Fluttershy, on the other hand, had to walk home due to how early she left school. "Thank you, Applejack. I'll take you up on that offer." She smirked back awkwardly, trying her hardest to be casual.
"One more thing before ya go." Applejack released her touch on Fluttershy's shoulder. "Just 'AJ' from here on out. Only my Granny calls me Applejack." She let out a southern chuckle at that. Fluttershy giggled at the drawl, even in her friend's laugh.
"Okay. Then I'll take up your offer, AJ." She said, trying the nickname Applejack asked her to address her by. It felt odd. She had never been close enough to somebody to call them by their nickname.
One week later
Fluttershy walked through the now thinning hallways of the high school as many students either began going home or making way to their afterschool activities. She went down the flight of stairs closest to the same door she used to meet her friends at lunch. Pushing on the push bar, she was greeted by a still high but setting sun. Light clouds casted shadows over the two practice fields before her. She strolled down the same path from earlier that day at lunch.
On the softball field's right field, closest to the path Fluttershy currently walked, the softball team was performing their cardio exercises. They were close to the fence adjacent to the path. Close enough that one girl in particular was able to make out Fluttershy’s approaching figure. With a sinister smile, the girl jogged to the fence to talk with the old classmate.
"Heyyy, Flutters." The softball player said in an overly enthusiastic voice. Fluttershy turned her head and saw the approaching girl. Fluttershy couldn't recognize who was talking to her, but the girl obviously knew Fluttershy since she used a familiar nickname to her. Of course, it was only a name her childhood bullies used for her. Her dad used it once and she remembered hating it. So much so that she even asked her dad not to use it anymore. Her dad, unconcerned but obliging, agreed to not use it anymore. Still, the nickname seemed to have followed her all the way to high school.
"Oh.. hello." Fluttershy responded, still unsure of who she was talking to. "I'm sorry if this is rude, but… do I know you?" The girl frowned, obviously annoyed at Fluttershy's response. She slipped her cap off her head, allowing the hole in the back of the cap to be guided down the dark brown ponytail she sported. With the girl's face now clear to Fluttershy, she examined her features. A relatively short but taut girl, she had snowy blue eyes and a natural silver streak in her hair. These unique features not only rang every bell in Fluttershy's mind, but raised every red flag as well.
"Now do you recognize me, Flutters?" She asked with venom lacing the nickname. All of Fluttershy's built-up confidence began to crumble at the realization of who was in front of her.
"O-oh. Hi, Wynter.." Fluttershy choked out, her eyes averting Wynter's. "I d-didn't recognize you." Fluttershy wanted to turn and run at that moment. The fence would have her back and stop Wynter from stalking her to the ends of the earth. Escape was only a turn of the heel away. It was always that easy.
"Hmph." Wynter grunted in annoyance. "Well isn't it rude that you don't remember someone you grew up with?" Fluttershy had a knot caught in her throat. She tried to quickly think of a way to escape the situation as Wynter stood there, her hands on her cocked hips, waiting impatiently for an answer. Fluttershy was visibly sweating, earning an obvious roll of Wynter’s eyes. “Typical, Flutters. Cat got your tongue? Well, I need to get back to practice. Hope we can talk again sometime!” Wynter flashed a fake smile alongside her mock enthusiasm as she slipped the cap back onto her head. She hastily turned and jogged back to the large group of softball players who seemed to gossip about their conversation.
Fluttershy could see Applejack among them. Applejack seemed to scoff at her teammates as her eyes trailed to the still anxious Fluttershy. Applejack’s disgust morphed into a look of worry as her new friend quickly turned and continued down the same path, obviously downcast.
Fluttershy moved more slowly, a heavy feeling in her heart she hadn’t felt in years. Her seclusion sheltered her for too long as the scars of her past began to slowly rip open. She moved at a sluggish pace, making little progress to her desired destination. She felt the urge to run once more. The once-suppressed sadness she locked away deep in her heart began to surface. She felt-
“Hey!! Heads up!”
A male voice called out from her left. She picked her head up slightly, tears welling and obstructing her sight. She looked to the sky and saw nothing at first. Before she knew it, she saw a white blur zip downward in front of her. It emitted a hearty thump as it struck the dampened dirt, making Fluttershy jump and yelp in surprise. The object bounced two more times before rolling to Fluttershy’s right. She wiped the tears from her eyes and focused on the now clear object.
She picked it up gingerly in her right hand. A layer of moisture encompassed the solid game ball. She vaguely remembered the feeling of holding the ball from her past. Echoes of inferiority made way to the forefront of her mind. At this moment, she heard another familiar but more distant voice come from deeper in the baseball field near the pitcher’s mound.
“Hey, Flutters!” Zephyr called, a devious smirk spread across his face. Fluttershy picked her head up half-heartedly and saw her brother with an outstretched glove. “We need our ball back. Mind giving it a toss?”
Fluttershy felt tears push at her ducts, begging to roll down her cheeks. Her heart began to quicken, crack and chip so relentlessly that she could almost hear it. She felt sandwiched. With that statement, her brother crossed the last line. He knew exactly what buttons to press. Not just with others, but with her specifically. The memories broke the dam of her subconscious, flooding back in torrents.
Zephyr and Dad…
Father and Son..
“Atta boy, son!”
“Stick to animals.”
He is better…than me..
“Here! Try again!”
“I believe in you!”
“See? I knew you could!”
I love you!
Her grip tightened around the ball. Tears began to forcefully recede as her vision cleared. The eyes on the back of her neck from the softball field bored into her spine, but she gave them no more mind. As she reared her arm, she felt it heat up and burn in a way she hadn’t felt since that time so long ago. Her fingers took a grip using her index, middle, and thumb that her mom taught her. She took in air, further heating up her arm. Taking a muscle memory step towards the baseball field, she felt her weight shift back then forward. A tightness in her forearm shot from her elbow to her wrist. Her torso violently exploded in rotation as her arm shot forward, just like she was shown all those years ago.
The ball left her hand at a speed that could be rightfully described as incredible. It made a slicing right curve, its path intended for a waiting Zephyr. He watched in awe as the ball struck the shortstop’s position and skipped on the dirt of the infield. It hit the chain link fence of the home dugout, causing it to rattle. All eyes of the baseball field and softball players in their respective outfield were now focused on her.
Fluttershy gave no mind to the athletic feat she had just performed due to newfound blinding anger and resentment taking the place of fear and embarrassment. She speed walked down the path, head hung low once again, except she no longer felt embarrassment. Rather, she felt annoyance, bitterness, and resentment. She made her way to the softball bleachers where a few other students sat, idly chatting and watching the girls practice.
At this point, Fluttershy didn’t care who looked at her. She had finally had enough. She climbed up to the top of the bleachers, set her book bag down onto the bleachers next to her with an audible clang. She sat down heavily in frustration with crossed arms, slouching against the chain link fence wrapping around the very top of the bleachers. Her face showed no sign of changing for the better. It spoke of many emotions, none of them good. The few students who shared the same bleachers as her took note of her burning feelings and rightfully steered clear of her eyesight.
For the remainder of softball practice, Fluttershy had begun to calm herself. She settled enough to watch Applejack during her practice. Watching her run around in the outfield and working drills for different scenarios and provided the distraction Fluttershy needed from the events that transpired only an hour before. For once in a long time, watching someone relatively close to her play this sport brought her a small sense of pride. Pride that her friend is someone so skilled and dedicated.
Softball practice ended usually around two hours earlier than baseball practice, especially in these two early months of school since no games were to be played until October. After Applejack gathered her things, she joined her team in a huddle. Fluttershy could only assume they were talking future practice schedules and overviews of the day’s practice. Things to be worked on, upcoming important dates, and some words of encouragement were definitely passed around in the small conglomeration. After they broke their huddle, Fluttershy descended the bleachers until she was on the ground floor. As softball girls poured from around the cinder block corner, a few passed by her giving her ominous looks to which Fluttershy was finding it became easier to ignore. Still, they gave her a great deal of anxiety.
Applejack rounded the corner bidding farewell to a couple of her teammates. Once she saw Fluttershy, she gave a genuine smile. She seemed really happy that Fluttershy decided to stay, despite Wynter and Zephyr’s hassling. Fluttershy turned to walk alongside Applejack, the two of them greeting each other.
“Hey, Fluttershy.” Applejack said, jovial as ever.
“Hi, AJ.” Fluttershy responded with a semi-forced smile. “How was practice?” They turned and walked between the baseball and softball bleachers, heading to an opened gate and the adjacent street. A red truck with a beige trim sat parked right next to the two fields. Fluttershy had thought Applejack’s truck fit her so well since the first day she gave her a ride home a week ago. Every time Fluttershy sees it, she giggles inside hearing the words “country bumpkin.”
“It went well.” She answered. “Thanks for askin.” To Fluttershy, Applejack seemed a bit on edge, like she wanted to say something else. Her body language was too honest to Fluttershy. Every little movement spoke in volumes to her. To Fluttershy, it felt like Applejack wanted to talk about what happened earlier. “So, ah saw you throw that baseball earlier.” Fluttershy winced a little at that, despite expecting it. She was kind of hoping Applejack’s reluctance would’ve kept her from bringing it up.
“Oh… that. Um..” Fluttershy fiddled with the hem of her skirt. “Sorry about the scene I caused.” She immediately felt a friendly punch to her shoulder.
“Aww, don’t apologize.” Applejack beamed. “Ah thought it was downright amazin’ what ya did! Never seen anythin’ like it.” Fluttershy blushed lightly at the compliment. “Ya ever play ball before?”
“Oh.. umm..” Fluttershy trailed off, trying to find a way off the topic. Before she could start to formulate an excuse or lie, a gruff voice interrupted the two girls’ conversation.
“Hey! Excuse me!” The voice sounded older than that of a high schooler. Both Applejack and Fluttershy turned and saw what looked to be a middle aged man jogging towards them and waving his hand to get their attention. He wore cargo shorts and a Canterlot High coach’s polo shirt. Fluttershy smiled internally at how much of a stereotypical dad he looked like. “Sorry if I’m interrupting anything.” He came to a stop directly in front of Fluttershy. He stuck his rather large hand out to her. She daintily shook his hand. She could feel him restraining a firmer handshake. “Coach Hothoof. I coach the baseball team. I’m also your history teacher. Didn’t know if you remembered me.” He gave her a friendly smile.
“Oh! Yes of course I remember you, Mr. Hothoof.” Fluttershy reciprocated the smile he gave her as they released each other’s grip on their handshake. “This is just not the clothes I’m used to seeing you in.”
“Yeah.” He chuckled, knowing his shorts, polo, and running shoes are a drastic change from slacks, dress shirt, and loafers. “I get that a lot.”
“Hey,” Applejack nudged Futtershy, “Ah’ll be waitin in the truck. Gotta call Big Mac about me gettin’ home a little later than usual.” She turned and stuck her fist out to the baseball coach. “See you tomorrow, Coach.” He gave her a nod along with a strong fist bump. Applejack then began a brisk walk to her truck.
“Looks like you have a good taste in friends there, Fluttershy.” Hothoof commended. “Of all the girls on that team, AJ is definitely my favorite. The only one to have not caused drama between the boys and the girls.” Fluttershy smiled bashfully, not used to being complimented on anything, especially in making friends. “Anywho, that’s not what I came to talk to you about.”
“Oh?” Fluttershy responded with confusion weaved in her tone. “Then what did you need, Mr. Hothoof?”
“Look,” he said, following up with a sigh. Fluttershy knew that he was gonna ask something difficult of her. She took in a nervous gulp as he continued. “I know you and your brother aren’t exactly the perfect sibling pair. Knowing this makes what I’m going to ask you a bit more difficult. Before I ask, however, I want to ask a preliminary question: who taught you to throw like you did earlier?” He crossed his arms, patiently waiting for an answer.
“Umm, my… m-mom.” She stuttered. She shook her head at that. Stuttering was something she hated doing. She took a deep breath and pressed forward after rallying. “My mom taught me. My dad was too busy teaching Zephyr and my mom thought I felt left out. So she decided to teach me in place of my dad.” Hothoof nodded slowly, not sure whether he believed it or not.
“Well, your mom must’ve been quite the ball player hunh?” He meant that as genuinely as he could, but Fluttershy did flinch at the statement anyways. She knew he meant well, so she ignored any possible underlying sarcasm. “But anyways, the big question.” He huffed, preparing to ask her his awaited question. “Bluntly, I want to invite you to a spot on the late tryouts for the baseball team. It’s mainly for students that may have changed their minds after signing up for another extracurricular that they don’t want anymore. Would you like to give it a whirl?” She recoiled and her eyes widened a bit at the question. “Look, I know your type. I’ve seen it a million times. But this is the first time I’ve seen such raw talent in someone, let alone of that type.”
“Umm, I’m not sure, Mr. Hothoof.” Fluttershy responded, her eyes veering elsewhere. She never once thought about being on a team of any sort. A sports team even further shyed her away as she felt like she was never really strong enough for any sport. Plus, too many eyes on her. Even if she wasn’t the center of attention, it’s way too many.
“You don’t gotta decide now!” He jumped in, hoping to salvage if he came on too strong. “Just…let me know by next Friday. I won’t breathe a word to your brother or anyone for that matter, even if you say no. I want this to be your uninfluenced choice. Okay?”
Wow, Fluttershy thought, he really wants me to feel comfortable with this…if I’m a “type,” then he wasn’t lying when he said he knows it well… maybe I…
“Okay, Mr. Hothoof. I’ll consider it.” Fluttershy responded with a smile to help ease her teacher’s anxiety of potentially scaring her off. Despite his very manly exterior, he seemed to have a real heart. When she heard him speak she couldn’t detect any deception. He was genuinely offering something to her, no strings attached. He sighed a nearly invisible sigh in relief.
“Sounds like a plan, Fluttershy.” He had visibly calmed seeing he didn’t scare her off. “Just let me know yes or no by next Friday and we can get you on the list so you can be temporarily excused for your last classes. Which are your last two classes by the way?”
“Umm, algebra and orchestra.”
“They had nothing else I would’ve even thought about being in.”
Hothoof laughed in response. “You’re telling me! Well, orchestra will be no problem, but I’m gonna have to wrestle with your math teacher just to get you 10 minutes early.” He shook his head and waved his hands to her. “But I’m getting ahead of myself. Just consider the offer and let me know as soon as you decide.”
“Okay, Mr. Hothoof.” She said with a reassuring smile. “Thank you for the offer. I’ll…definitely think it over.” She started to back up and turn her way towards the waiting Applejack.
“Okay!” Hothoof called. “Have a good weekend!”
Fluttershy approached Applejack’s truck, already beginning to ponder over Hothoof’s invitation. If she joined, she would be around Zephyr more. It could be problematic to their already troubled relationship. On the other hand, it could heal and maybe even strengthen their bond as brother and sister. But a team sport? In front of her peers and parents? The thought rattled her spine, sending shockwaves of anticipation and downright fear to each bone. But her thoughts came back to what he initially asked her. She really wondered if he saw something in her. Some hidden talent. She wondered if he saw whatever her mom saw in her too.
“Hey, ‘Shy.” Applejack’s words shook her from her trance. Her hand remained on the arm rest on the passenger door, but she had yet to board the truck. “You gettin’ in or ya gonna keep lookin’ like a deer in some headlights?” Fluttershy stepped aboard and closed the door shut behind her. She placed her backpack between Applejack and herself on the bench seat. “So, what’d Coach wanna talk to us about?” She asked as she started the engine and placed it in its first gear. The truck pulled forward and then made their way onto the road.
“Umm..” Fluttershy hummed, wondering if she should share with Applejack the big news. She knows how honest Applejack is at heart, so with that comes a natural layer of trust. She turned to her friend, currently focused on traffic. “Well, I’ll tell you. But promise you won’t tell anyone else!”
“Alright, alright.” Applejack put a hand up and waved playfully. “Ah won’t tell a soul. Swear.” Fluttershy nodded and returned her gaze to the road ahead. She took in a breath and let it out inaudibly.
“Mr. Hothoof offered me a chance to try out for the baseball team.” They came to a red light as she finished. At the same time, Applejack’s eyes became wide with surprise. She snapped her head to Fluttershy.
“Whaaaat?!” She exclaimed, a smile spread across her face, something Fluttershy didn’t expect. “Was it ‘cause of that throw you made earlier during warmups?!” Fluttershy responded with a light nod. The light turned green as Applejack returned to driving Fluttershy home. “Well I’d be lyin’ if I said I wasn’t impressed by it too. Shoot, Fluttershy. You got an arm like a rifle. Not only you threw it to the dugout from deep left, but you did it on the baseball field.”
“What difference does it make?” Fluttershy asked, then tried to answer her own question. “Is the softball field smaller?”
“I don’t know why, but I guess I just assumed they were the same size.”
“Oh no, there’s a difference. By about a hundred feet, give or take.”
“Oh wow. That is quite a big difference.” Fluttershy hummed lightly in thought. “What do you think, AJ?”
“Hm? About what?”
“About me joining, of course. I wanted to see what you think.”
“What’s it matter what ah think?”
“Well, you’re my friend. Plus you’re on the softball team so it makes sense I ask someone close to the teams. Other than my brother, of course.”
“Hmmm.” It was Applejack’s turn to hum in thought. Although she was partially distracted by the road, she did set aside resources to think about the offer. “If it were up to me, ah’d go for it. Especially ‘cause you’ve never been a part of a team sport right?” Fluttershy nodded in response. “There you have it. Why not? Try. If it don’t work out, just go back to how you were goin’ about your business before. Ain’t got much to lose.”
Fluttershy pursed her lips in thought for the rest of the ride. She thought about everything she did have to lose. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much just like Applejack said. Girls had tried before but none had made a meaningful impact in the school’s history. However, none of it was meaningless as well. It gave girls like Fluttershy hope. She saw the pictures in the school’s trophy case. Some of their champions had anywhere between one and three girls on the team. This thought alone boosted Fluttershy’s confidence in success.
It’s been done before… what’s stopping me..?
She didn’t give it much more thought as Applejack turned the corner onto Fluttershy’s street. They neared a tall apartment building of about seven floors. Applejack stopped in front in a drop-off lane designated for the apartment complex. Fluttershy opened the truck door and took her backpack into her hands. She stepped out and faced the open truck.
“Thank you, AJ, again.” Fluttershy smiled warmly.
“Aw shucks.” Applejack rubbed the back of her neck. “No need for that fuss. But you’re always welcome to ask for a ride, Shy. Stay safe. And think about that offer, alright?”
Fluttershy responded with a quick but fairly confident nod as she closed the truck door and watched Applejack drive away. Once she made her way into the apartment complex, she knew that this baseball thing was something she was going to be thinking about all weekend. And she was oddly okay with it. She’d been looking for a change of pace in herself, so she saw this as potentially a good opening to do something with her life which had been nothing but ostracization up until she met Twilight.
Maybe for once… I can