• Published 25th Aug 2013
  • 12,157 Views, 244 Comments

An Apple A Day - Esle Ynopemos

A collection of thirthy-minute short stories about the rootinest, tootinest farm-filly this side of the Everfree. There'll be a chapter a day for thirty days. I ain't no fancy arithmeticker, but that adds up to a whole month of good, health

  • ...

10: 1,095 Days [Dark]

((Prompt: One of the mane six moved away from Ponyville. But that was years ago. Today she moved back.))

She was missing for one thousand, ninety five days. Exactly three years, discounting the extra day from the leap-year. There had been no note, no hoofprints, no clue of any kind to indicate where she had disappeared to or why. The only things gone from her room had been her hat and her hair-ties.

They found Applejack in the south field of Sweet Apple Acres, lying on her back and shivering. She was admitted to Ponyville General Hospital with minor bruises, dehydration, and, strangely, considering the warm weather that day, hypothermia. All of these conditions were mild and easy to treat, so she was released the very same day.

Slowly, Applejack picked her life back up. She unpacked the things in her room that her family had packed up after the search had been called off. She resumed her duties on the farm one by one, until before long she was once again the de-facto boss of Sweet Apple Acres. She got together and enjoyed the company of her friends whenever she had the time to spare, and spent time with her sister even when she didn't have the time. Very little had changed about her, other than that she was a little quieter and prone to stare up at the night sky when she thought nopony was looking.

Of course, everypony asked her what had happened during those three years, but her answer was always the same. “I don't want to talk about it,” she would tell them, and would repeat it until they left it alone. After a while, most ponies stopped asking.

Rainbow Dash was not most ponies.

She dropped out of the tree, swooping to the ground as Applejack lined up her kick.

“Land's sakes, Dash” Applejack said, lowering her rear leg back to the ground. “That's a good way to lose all your teeth, gettin' in the way of a buck like that!”

“It got your attention, didn't it?” There was a challenging glint in Rainbow's eyes.

“That it did,” conceded Applejack. “Along with nearly gettin' ya bucked into next week, it got my attention. Now that you have it, what do ya want, sugarcube?”

Rainbow thrust her hoof at Applejack. “I want you to stop pretending like the last three years didn't happen.”

Applejack's expression darkened. “I already told you, I don't wanna talk about that.”

She tried to shove past Rainbow to get back to work, but Rainbow sidestepped to keep herself between Applejack and the tree. “And I'm telling you that's a load of horseapples. Does your family really buy that line?”

“My family understands that when I say I don't wanna talk about it, it means I don't wanna talk about it.” There was a pointed accusation in the words themselves, but there was no harshness in Applejack's tone. She just sounded tired.

Rainbow Dash kept pressing. “Nuh-uh. Maybe Rarity's willing to smile and call it your 'little vacation,'” she made air-quotes with her wingtips, “but I'm not. You were gone for three years, Applejack. Your sister got her cutie mark. The Cakes retired and Pinkie took over Sugarcube Corner. You missed out on three years of everypony's lives, and all you can say is that you don't want to talk about it?”

“I don't wanna talk about it,” Applejack repeated.

“I—” Rainbow's voice broke, and she glared down angrily at her hooves, scuffing them in the dirt. “Applejack, I did some stupid, stupid things without you there to hold me back.” She flicked her ears, waiting for Applejack's response. She expected some kind of witty snipe, like 'I ain't surprised to hear that,' or a reprimand about how 'It ain't my job to keep you out of trouble, Rainbow,' or just another sullen 'I don't wanna talk about it.'

Instead, Applejack lowered her own eyes. “I'm sorry,” she said.

Rainbow looked at her. “C'mon, AJ. You gotta tell me something,” she pleaded. “I don't understand what could have kept you away from us. Hay, I thought death itself wasn't gonna keep you from missing Apple Bloom's cutie mark.”

Applejack took a deep breath, casting her eyes skyward for a fraction of a second. “You really want to know where I was?”

Rainbow nodded.

Applejack fixed her with a penetrating stare. For a moment, Rainbow was filled with an inexplicable urge to break and run, as though it was not her friend before her but some terrifying predator. But she stood her ground, and the moment passed. She wanted, no, she needed answers, and she would not be intimidated away from them.

Applejack's shoulders sagged in defeat. “Okay,” she said. “Fine. So be it. Meet me by the old tire-swing tonight. Alone.” She emphasized the last word in a way that seemed to imply terrible consequences if anypony happened to follow Rainbow there. “Got it?”

Rainbow nodded, slowly at first, then a bit more confidently.

Applejack's face brightened again. “Good. Now then, sugarcube, if you don't mind, I've got a few trees to buck.”

Rainbow Dash stepped out of the way. “Okay,” she said. “I'll see you tonight.”

“See ya then, hon!” Applejack kicked the tree and was rewarded with a shower of apples.

The next morning, Rainbow Dash was gone. It would be precisely one thousand, ninety five days before anypony saw her again.