Applejack hated birthdays.
Well, maybe hate was a strong word. She didn't hate much of anything. Not oranges, not bad harvests, not even those rotten Flim Flam Brothers.
It was safe to say, though, that Applejack harbored a strong contempt for birthdays.
Sure, it was nice to get together with her friends to celebrate her birthday, but she could get together with her friends on any old day. Why, she'd just seen them all a scant two days ago, and there wasn't even anything special about that day. It was just a Tuesday.
Birthdays reminded her that she was getting older. This was all fine and good for a while, when getting older meant growing into an adult and inching closer to her life goals. But now she was an adult, and had been for a while now. Getting older didn't mean getting closer to her goals anymore. In a way, it meant getting further from them. She was still in excellent shape, but that couldn't last forever. With each year that passed–hay, with each month, each week, all the way down to each second–her strength was deteriorating. It may have been slow-paced, but it was happening regardless, and all birthdays did was serve as a reminder that she would soon be leaving the prime of her life. She didn't want to think about that. She was happy being a young adult, in peak physical shape. Able to be active, race with her marefriend, put in her best work on the farm, and all that.
One day, she would be as old as Granny Smith.
Granny Smith was a wonderful pony, there was no doubting that. She was loving, and still managed to be somewhat spry at her age. But her age was the issue. She was old. Not even she could deny that; it was a fact, plain and simple. Being old didn't make her a bad pony, but it did make her, well...old. She couldn't run around much. She couldn't pull apple carts or buck trees. She barely moved all day, outside of when she'd go make dinner for the family. Applejack loved Granny Smith with all her heart, but she couldn't imagine being as old as she was. And yet each birthday brought her one step closer to that. One day, she'd be the one spending the day in a rocking chair, watching others do the work that she used to do. And that terrified her to her very core.
Applejack wished that somepony could come up with an invention to make ponies just stop aging altogether. Even though her sensible mind knew how silly such a thing would be, it didn't stop her from wanting it. Maybe Twilight could make it? She had a freaky knowledge of magic, after all. Hay, it didn't even have to stop aging. Maybe it could just be some sort of doohickey where you press a button and become a year younger! She could press it at the beginning of every birthday and everything would be just fine. But then Apple Bloom would probably find it and press it a whole bunch. AJ wanted foals eventually, but she didn't feel like dealing with her little sister becoming one again. And besides, Twilight would probably be against the whole idea to begin with. She could already anticipate the "upsetting the natural order" speech that bringing up the idea would result in.
Applejack let out a long, irritated sigh as she rolled out of bed. She didn't have much of a choice; she had to face this birthday head-on. That's what the Apple family did with their problems. They faced them head-on, real strong-like, and overcame them. AJ puffed up a bit, her confidence starting to build. There was no way she would let this birthday get her down! She was a strong mare, and she didn't need no silly birthday holding her back! She put on a bold smile and opened her bedroom door, ready to face the day.
"Happy birthday, sis!" Big Macintosh said as he walked by. He gave her a wink. "That a gray hair I see?"
Applejack slammed her bedroom door, locked it, and flopped back onto the bed. She buried her head under her pillow. Maybe if she stayed in bed for the entire day, she'd somehow manage to just skip it. She knew that wasn't logical, but her mind wasn't in a completely logical place right now. She'd stay right here in her room, where nopony could get to her and remind her of what kind of terrible, awful day it was.
A knock at the window made Applejack groan and pull her head out from under the pillow. “So much for being left alone,” she thought. She glanced up and saw Rainbow Dash hovering outside her window. She couldn't help but smile a bit; even when she was in the worst of moods, seeing Rainbow brightened her day. She sat up and opened the window.
"Hay hon," Applejack said. Rainbow fluttered into her room and spit the envelope she was holding in her mouth onto the bed.
"Hey AJ!" Rainbow said cheerfully. "Happy birthday!" AJ rolled her eyes a bit. She hadn't ever plainly stated to Rainbow that she wasn't a fan of birthdays, so she couldn't fault her for not knowing. She supposed it was sweet of her to greet her this early with a card.
"Thanks," Applejack responded, trying to at least look happy for her marefriend. She opened the envelope and pulled the card out. There was a little filly on the front of the card, wearing a birthday hat. Written above her, in big, bold letters, were the words:
YOU'RE A YEAR OLDER!
Applejack's smile faltered as she read it aloud. She looked up at Rainbow, who was smiling eagerly. She offered a weak chuckle, then opened the card and read the rest.
"And so am I! And there's nopony I'd rather get old with than you! Happy birthday!"
Applejack tilted her head. Her smile grew a bit more, and she wiped at her eyes with a hoof. She looked up to Rainbow, now beaming.
"Sorry it's so lame," Rainbow said, settling onto the bed. "It was the least sappy one I could find."
"It's perfect," AJ said, giving Rainbow a kiss on the cheek and making her ears perk up.
"O-of course it is!" Rainbow said, grinning. "That's...totally why I picked that one!" She gave Applejack a smooch of her own. "So! Are you ready for the most awesome birthday ever?"
"Yeah...I think I am now," Applejack responded.