“Applebloom, we’re gonna get in trouble!”
Sweetie Belle looked over her shoulder at the stairs. “I think Scootaloo is right about this. Maybe we shouldn’t be up in your big sister’s room?”
Secretly, Applebloom knew her two friends were probably right. The Apple family shared pretty much everything together, but each had their own bedroom that was generally understood to be off-limits. Even Applebloom had a room pretty much to herself without having to worry about one of her siblings barging in without knocking.
But, it wasn’t like they were going to break anything. She just wanted to poke around a bit, maybe see if she could dig up a little dirt on her big sister. Embarrassing kid photos, maybe some stuffed animals – just harmless fun.
Still. Looking up at the door to Applejack’s room was a bit scary. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle’s reluctance only added to the feeling of wrongness that Applebloom felt as she pushed her sister’s bedroom door open. It creaked on its hinges and even though Applejack was all the way back in Ponyville, all three fillies looked over their shoulders at the stairs.
Applebloom swallowed the frog in her throat. “W-Well, come on. We’re just gonna take a quick look around for some embarassin’ pictures of sis and Rarity when they were fillies. A few minutes and we’ll be gone.”
The promise of some mischief on Rarity got Sweetie Belle’s feet moving, albeit slowly, and Scootaloo gave into peer pressure. Once they were all inside, Applebloom nudged the door closed behind them.
Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle stood still, just nervously looking around at first, but Applebloom felt braver now that the door was shut. She pranced around, taking in all that had changed since the last time she’d been in here. Same old hoof-carved bed, same old curtains, same old furniture. There was a new vase, though.
“It’s so big,” Sweetie Belle gushed. She was looking at the massive vaulted ceiling which, now that Apple Bloom thought about it, was pretty cool.
Scootaloo was gazing longingly at one of Applejack’s lassos. The rodeo star had several of them hanging up and Applebloom knew her friend probably wanted to try it out. “No time for any tricks, Scootaloo.”
“Hey, Applebloom. Are these your parents?” Sweetie Belle was pointing to a picture frame Applejack kept beside her bed. “They look different from the portrait you guys have up in your living room.”
“That’s cuz they’re a lot younger in that one. That’s right after mom moved here.” Applebloom had a picture just like it sitting in her own room, but she had never really bothered to show it to her friends. It sat high up on her bookshelf. Truthfully, she couldn’t remember a thing about the two ponies staring at her from the photograph. It wasn’t that she was angry or sad, she just couldn’t connect like her siblings could. They did seem like nice ponies, though, which Applebloom figured was good enough for her. Sweetie Belle was looking at her with those sad eyes she turned on every once in a while when Scootaloo would talk about her foster parents so that was enough of that. “Come on, we’ve got some dirt to dig up! Daylight is burnin’!”
Applebloom looked around the room. “Now, we’ve just got to think of where mah sister would hide all her embarassin’ pictures.”
“Well, she is your sister. Where would you hide all of your embarrassing pictures?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“Ah don’t have any pictures like that,” Applebloom nervously deflected. “If Ah did – which Ah don’t! – Ah would probably put them in the last place anypony would think Ah cared about.”
Guiltily, all three sets of eyes landed on the bookshelf Applejack kept in her room. Not that her sister was a simple pony, of course! Applebloom would buck the teeth right out of anypony’s head who said that. Applejack just didn’t have as much free time for reading as most. Honest!
Scootaloo was the only one who could get to the higher shelves. She had gotten better at hovering with a few lessons from Rainbow Dash, but it was still all she could do to get up far enough to give the shelf a good search. “Farming book, farming book, rodeo picture book, farming book…oh! Holy Celestia, look at this!”
“Did ya find mah sister’s photo album?!”
Scootaloo reverently pulled out a dust-covered book like it was made of the finest glass. “No! Even more amazing than that! This is a first edition Flying with the Wonderbolts! Do you know how rare these are?! It even still has the fold-out poster in it that’s...I can’t even believe it…signed by all of the original flyers! Applebloom, your sister is way past cool!”
The two ponies on the floor let out matching groans. “Put it back, Scootaloo. We’re looking for a picture book! You can read it later!”
“What’s a book like that doing on your sister’s shelf?” Sweetie Belle wondered. Applebloom didn’t have an answer ready, so she just shrugged. Applejack could be weird sometimes.
Reluctantly, Scootaloo slid the Wonderbolts book back into place, but she found plenty more to be excited about as she went on. In addition to Flying with the Wonderbolts, she found an old Where the Windy Things Are, Cloudy with a Chance of Hay Bales, and The Little Eagle that Could. All of them looked very, very old and dusty, but somepony had otherwise taken good care of them. Scootaloo was thrilled with all of them. “They’re all famous pegasus books,” she said when it was clear her friends didn’t get her enthusiasm. “Every pegasus reads them growing up! It’s like, I don’t know, one of your fancy unicorn books, Sweetie Belle.”
Applebloom let out a huff. “Probably one of mah pegasus cousins left them here. We’re never gonna find one of sis’s picture books at this rate!”
“Well, I wouldn’t say that.” Scootaloo dropped down in front of her friends and smiled at their renewed interest. “I might have found something.”
She dropped something down on the floor. Applebloom and Sweetie Belle smiled when they saw it too – an old key! “I found it wedged up between some of the books. Do you know what it might go to?”
Applebloom had an inkling. She ran over to Applejack’s bed and ducked under its skirt. A moment later something heavy began sliding across the wood floor and the end of a rather large trunk popped out. “Ah’m gonna need some help, girls! Come on!”
Together they managed to wrangle the steamer trunk out into the center of the room. It wasn’t a tall trunk, but it was as wide as two of them were tall. Applejack had never told Applebloom what was in it, no matter how many times she’d asked, and Applebloom had never caught her sister looking through it. It was just one of those mysteries growing up.
The key went right in. The three fillies looked at each other with growing excitement as Sweetie Belle slowly pushed the lid open with her magic. And inside-!
Applebloom’s face fell. “It’s just a bunch of junk,” she muttered. It was packed full to the lip, but there were no secret treasures or family heirlooms. What was in there were a bunch of old toys, stuffed animals, coloring books, and hoof-painted pictures. Applebloom and her friends started carefully taking everything out, hoping to find something interesting at the bottom, but it was all old toys and knickknacks all the way down.
“You know, these must be the things your big sister played with when she was our age,” Sweetie Belle guessed.
“I guess, but why is it all pegasus stuff?” Looking around at the toys and pictures, one thing was constant – wings. All of the dolls were pegasus ponies and all of the coloring books were of things like clouds or flying ponies. There were even a few Wonderbolts books that Scootaloo was eagerly flipping through. Neither of her friends really had an answer for the filly, so they went back to pulling things out. They were close to the bottom now.
Something finally caught Applebloom’s eye. It wasn’t a photo album, but her heart raced nonetheless. It was a set of scrolls, one of paper yellowed with age and the other still a pearly white that seemed to gleam as Applebloom fished it out. They were tied together with a very fancy red ribbon that came loose with a tug of her teeth.
“Is this what Ah think it is?” Applebloom wondered as she turned the broken royal seal toward her friends.
“Oh wow! Your sister got a letter from Princess Celestia! It has a seal and everything on it!” This seemed more interesting than the old Wonderbolts coloring book Scootaloo had been looking at. “What’s it say, what’s it say?!”
Sweetie Belle’s magic picked up the other, dirtier letter. “I think they go together. Your sister must have written to Princess Celestia about something and the other one must be her response.” She laid it out on the floor and, sure enough, Applejack’s name was at the top.
“But I want to read the one from the princess,” Scootaloo grumbled.
“We’ll read it after this one. Come on, I want to see what my big sister was like when she was my age!”
Applebloom carefully unrolled the fine parchment out on the ground so they could all see. Scootaloo got over her impatience when her friends gathered around it and Applebloom started reading it out loud:
Dear Princess Celestia,
I talked to a pegasus today! She told me all abou
Dear Princess Celestia,
Can you give me wi
Dear Princess Celestia,
My name is Applejack. I am from a town called Ponyville. My granny told me that we have lived on this farm since she was a little girl. She told me that she even met you once a long, long time ago when you came to town to try our zap apple jam. She said that you are very friendly and pretty and nice, so I have a favor to ask you.
Can I be a pegasus pony? I really, really want to be one! Ma and Pa told me that it’s not possible, but I just know that you can help me! Granny says that you can do anything!
I’ve saved up my bits from my last two birthdays so I can pay for flying lessons when I get my wings. I’m going to be a Wonderbolt when I grow up, Princess! Do you know about them? They fly all over Equestria fighting dragons and rescuing ponies from all kinds of trouble! I want to be just like them!
You have wings too, right? Is it hard to learn how to fly? Have you ever crashed? Is it scary? I’ve fallen out of the trees in the orchard a few times already trying to get up as high as I can and it really hurt, but pegasus ponies don’t have to worry about that right? They have some kind of magical thing that makes them softer than I am (I read about that in a book at school!). Will I get that too?
The mailpony says that this will take three days to get to you. I don’t know how I’ll wait that long before I finally get my wings, but I’m going to do my best! Thank you very much!
P.S. Granny says ‘hello’! She helped me write the letter!
Applebloom rocked back on her haunches, not really believing what she had just read. Sweetie Belle looked shocked as well. It was Scootaloo who finally voiced, “Your sister wanted to be a pegasus?”
Applejack, the most proud and dependable earth pony in Ponyville, hadn’t wanted to be an earth pony. “Ah…ah guess she did? She ain’t never told me about this before.”
“I really don’t think we should have read this. Girls, we should stop.”
“No way! We didn’t even read the good one!” Scootaloo protested.
“And we shouldn’t! This all looks really important to Applejack! Why would it be in that box otherwise? We should just pack it all up and go back downstairs!”
“Ah agree with Sweetie Belle.” All three girls jumped to their feet at the new voice. Applejack was standing in the doorway, looking at them with a mix of anger and genuine hurt. “Ah know you girls were raised better than to go rumagin’ through another pony’s things!”
Applejack gradually took in in the scattered remains of her childhood, the scared fillies, and, most poignantly, the unrolled letters they had been caught reading with growing anger. Applebloom had seen her sister mad, even angry, but Applejack looked positively furious as she stormed into the center of all her things, fast enough that her hat flew off her head, and began shoving them back into her trunk.
"Of all the ponies Ah would have expected to do this, you three weren't them. Ah thought all of ya’ll had been raised better than this."
Applebloom pushed up in front of her friends. "Ah made them do it, Sis! They didn't want to come in here, but Ah made them! Please don't be mad at them!"
Applejack wheeled on the filly and seemed to catch herself when all three flinched away from them. Her jaw clenched and unclenched as she tried to work past the first response on her tongue. Applejack was clearly still furious, but she took a deep, deep breath before forming her next response. "Ah'm going to tell ur folks about this," she said, looking at each one in turn. "A filly has ta learn about boundaries and how ta act in somepony else's home. Now, scoot on downstairs and get some lunch, but ya’ll better be ready to work afterwards. There are some chores around the farm that three little fillies with too much time on their hooves can help me with."
That was probably the best deal were going to get. Sweetie Belle nodded like there was an earthquake under her feet and took off for the stairs with Scootaloo right on her heels. She stopped at the door for a moment, though.
"I...I really like your Wonderbolts book," she said, bolting away again before Applejack could say anything.
The earth pony snorted and went back to gathering up her old toys and drawings. "Crazy filly," she muttered, punctuated by one of the many huff-stitched pegasus dolls being thrown into the trunk hard enough for the lid to wobble. The drawings were handled with barely any greater care.
Applebloom still hadn't left. She was scared that her sister would decide to up her punishment, but seeing Applejack like this hurt almost as much as any paddling she could get.
"We should have listened to Sweetie Belle," she ventured. "Sweetie Belle said that this was your private things and that we should leave it alone."
"Well, then at least one of you kids showed some sense. This here trunk was locked for a reason. Something's a pony just wants to forget."
The younger sister rolled up a few pictures and tipped them into the trunk. Applejack just gave her a sideways look that wasn't angry or grateful, so Applebloom started putting more things in and took the time to make sure they weren't being creased or folded. Despite renewed sighing, Applejack began to take it easier on her old things as well. Wordlessly, they straightened out the things in the trunk so that it looked better than when Applebloom and her friends had opened it.
Only two things were left: Applejack's letter to Celestia and the Princess's response.
Applejack stared at the letters for a long moment. "Ah suppose you kids read them."
"Just yours. You walked in before we could look at the one from Princess Celestia," Applebloom answered truthfully. "Sis? Is the reason you were so mad at us really because we went into your room without askin'?"
Slowly, grudgingly, Applejack shook her head. "Ah suppose you should just finish readin' it. Go on, Ah won't be mad."
Applebloom unrolled the pretty white scroll. Applejack sat down on her haunches next to her and began to read.
My Faithful Subject,
It is always my greatest pleasure to receive letters like this from my little ponies. I am very pleased to hear that your grandmother is still settled in Ponyville and I hope that you will give her my best. In fact, please go and tell her that my letter is here and that I have well-wishes to give her. I am positive that she will be delighted to read this along with you.
Do you have her with you yet? Hello, Ann. I hope that everything is going well for you and your family. Last year’s zap apple jam was just as delicious as I remember. The castle is looking forward to this year’s harvest and I am personally grateful that you always remember to send me a case.
But, with happy tidings come unhappy trials.
Applejack. My wonderful, special little pony. The beautiful, pure trust of a young filly in my abilities is a heartwarming thing. It is as precious to me as it is painful when I must ruin that youthful trust. Applejack, I cannot change a pony. Of the many things I am able to do, that is not one of them. No force still exists in this world that can do what you, and many, many other fillies and colts have asked of me throughout the years.
I cannot give you wings any more than I could remove my own. For that, I am profoundly sorry. Every pony has their own special, unique abilities that are no lesser than that of others. It is up to each pony to learn that special something for themselves. Your family is one of the most magical of all the earth ponies I have met in my life and I am positive that their line continues on through you. I expect a great destiny for you, regardless of whether you walk or fly toward it.
P.S. Captain Shattershield of the Wonderbolts has somehow found out that he has a very special fan in Ponyville. He has decided to send you something extra with this letter and he hopes to see you at his next airshow.
Princess Celestia al’Sol
Applejack frowned at the little bit of parchment when she finished. “Ah musta cried for days after Ah got that letter. Our granny was the only thing keeping me goin’.”
“How did you get over it, Sis?” She followed Applejack’s gaze to the little framed picture sitting on her nightstand. “Oh.”
“Ah just let it go after that,” Applejack sighed. “Ah had my little adventure in the big city and got all of it out of mah system. Yer brother and granny needed help on the farm and with you. Farm life doesn’t leave much time to feel sorry for yerself.”
Applebloom nodded. Her chores were taking up more and more time each day now that she was getting bigger. Soon, she would be out there bucking apples with her siblings and taking the cart into town and how much could she pal around with Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo after that?
The little earth pony squirmed. She didn’t want to think about this anymore, but one question was burning on her tongue. She had to ask. “Sis, do you ever wish…?”
Applejack turned away from her and stooped to pick up the last little memory. It fit into the trunk just as neatly as everything else and soon everything was out of sight by a closed lid and locked lock. The happiness that had seemed to drain out of the pony seemed to gain ground now that the trunk was closed once again.
She leaned down and ruffled her sister’s hair. “What Ah wish for is that you can grow up and get your wishes, Applebloom. If you want to fly, Ah’ll hold you up until mah legs fall off. Ah’ll carry you all the way to Cloudsdale if Ah have to, and that’s no fooling.” Applejack hooked her hat on her hoof and tossed it up onto her head with a little bit of the rodeo flair that Applebloom loved. With a little more force than she needed, the trunk was kicked right back under her bed. “Right now, Ah wish I was downstairs getting some good grub yer granny fixed for us! Come on, ‘Bloom!”
Applejack was a horrible liar, but Applebloom was a good sister. She put on a smile of her own and raced her down the stairs, wishing that some ponies didn’t have to spend their lives wishing.