• Published 29th Nov 2011
  • 5,977 Views, 147 Comments

An Apple Alone - Blue Thrush



With her siblings out of town, Apple Bloom has to run Sweet Apple Acres all by herself. Is she up to the task of managing the farm?

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Growing Pains

The scents of every kind of apple found in Equestria filled Applejack’s nostrils as she trotted through the vast orchards of Sweet Apple Acres. All varieties from Red Delicious to Gravenstein stretched throughout the fertile land, hanging upon hundreds of apple trees. The orange mare was out and about on the farm, enjoying a pre-breakfast stroll. What a swell mornin’ this is, she admired. Not a peep outta Ponyville an’ a clear sky overhead. She ambled through the orchard, figuring out which parts of the field each of the Apple siblings would be working on for the day.

Inside, the Apple household was bustling with activity. While most of Ponyville still slept, the farmer ponies were already hard at work getting an early start on the day. Granny Smith busied herself in the kitchen, preparing breakfast for the four occupants. Aromas of the morning meal emanated lazily from the kitchen throughout the home. Big Macintosh set the table and fetched whatever the old earth pony needed for cooking, assuring she moved as little as possible. Granny Smith continued stirring up the pot’s contents and said to her grandson, “Mind goin’ upstairs ta wake yer sister? ‘Bout time she got up.”

“Yes’m,” the red stallion replied, heading out of the kitchen and up the stairs. While everypony else was up, alert, and productive, one young mare continued dozing comfortably in the soft morning light. Apple Bloom was still attending school, and as such she wasn’t required to get up as early as the others every day. With a new school year just starting, the yellow pony’s morning schedule was lax. Big Macintosh poked into the dozing mare’s room, spotting his resting sister’s figure sleeping contently on her bed. “Apple Bloom,” he spoke softly, “rise an’ shine. Breakfast’s about ready.”

A wave of a foreleg told her brother that the slumbering mare was up. The stallion retreated back downstairs. Apple Bloom opened her eyes and squinted, trying to shield them from the morning rays before raising her foreleg against the light. She stretched, yawned, and pulled herself out of bed. As her thoughts gathered, excitement flooded her, waking her up instantly. Friday! She thought. Jus’ one more day a’ classes an’ then tha weekend’s here! She took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. The jovial thoughts of the young mare brought a smile to her face: Her day was already starting off right.

Downstairs, Big Macintosh trotted back into the kitchen. “She’s up,” he reported. “Only had ta say somethin’ once. Seems she’s already adjusted to her school sleep schedule proper.” His stomach growled as the scent of oatmeal reached him, glancing at four steaming bowls rapidly cooling on the table. “Breakfast ready?”

“Wait fer yer sisters, dear,” Granny reminded him. “Ain’t polite ta start on yer own.”

Big Macintosh frowned but took a seat at the table, waiting patiently for the other two siblings to arrive. A couple minutes passed before Applejack made her way back inside. “Mmm, that smells mouthwaterin’, Granny,” she commented, sitting herself down by her older brother. “Ah’m starvin’.”

“Yer always hungry, Applejack,” Apple Bloom remarked, padding into the kitchen. “Mornin’ y’all,” she greeted the room, taking her own seat along with Granny Smith.

The other Apples said their good mornings to the young mare and began enjoying their breakfast.

“Did ya feed Winona when ya were out, dear?” Granny asked the middle sibling.

“Sure did,” she replied. “Diggin’ inta it fierce as always. Apples are lookin’ mighty fine too. Still got plenty hangin’ around, ripe fer tha buckin’.” She winked at her brother. “Ready fer tha mornin’ rounds, big brother?”

“Ah sure am,” Big Macintosh replied between modest bites of oatmeal. “Ah’ll get through my load by tha time ya git through half a yours.”

“Yer on,” she accepted the challenge. “An’ don’t worry yerself, Apple Bloom, there’ll be some fer you ta buck after school.”

“Lookin’ forward to it!” The yellow pony said happily. The past summer had been her initiation into apple bucking full time. It had taken some work, but she persevered. With Granny’s instruction and her siblings’ lessons, Apple Bloom learned quickly. Just like most of her kin, she was a natural-born bucker. By the end of the summer, the yellow pony was producing just as many apples as each of her siblings were. With the three of them working together, the most recent Applebuck Season produced one of the farm’s largest crops in many years. They had even managed to harvest their entire orchard more quickly than the smaller Apple family farms, despite being one of the largest around.

The summer of success, however, also brought disappointment. Despite Apple Bloom finding herself great at bucking, she hadn’t gotten her cutie mark. She was saddened by the outcome, sure that she had at last discovered her special talent. After having some long discussions with family, the maturing pony realized that all the effort she was putting into the farm made her feel good about herself. She felt both accomplished and proud of what she contributed. Apple Bloom couldn’t do as much while going to school, but she looked forward to doing whatever she could do with the limited time she had.

“And what were you goin’ on about me always bein’ hungry, Apple Bloom,” the orange earth pony said with a raised eyebrow. “You’re tha one eatin’ us outta house an’ home.”

“Mmmf,” the younger sister protested through a mouth full of food. She swallowed and glared at her sister, “Since when?”

“Yesterday ya musta had a coupla’ dozen carrots ta go with yer soup,” Big Macintosh chimed in.

“An’ then there was that apple pie,” Applejack supplied. “An apple pie that was made fer tha four of us.”

“Don’t ferget tha bushel of apples ya managed ta polish off in a coupla’ hours,” Granny reminded. “Surprised ya didn’t eat through tha basket too...”

“Alright, y’all made yer point,” Apple Bloom grinned, shrugging off the friendly taunts and taking her empty bowl over to the stove for a refill.

“Heheheh, no shame in it, sis,” Big Macintosh laughed. “You are a growin’ pony after all. Heck, ya may even git bigger an’ stronger than Applejack someday.”

“Keep on dreamin’, big bro,” Applejack retorted after gulping down some oatmeal. “Ain’t no way she’s gonna be bigger or stronger than me.”

“Anythin’s possible,” the stallion responded.

“Yep, Ah’ll be bigger than both y’all ‘fore next year rolls ‘round,” Apple Bloom said with a smirk, reseating herself with a fresh bowl.

“Sure will,” Big Macintosh ganged up on the orange mare, lightly tapping the brow of her hat.

“Will not.”

“Will too!”

“Will not!”

“No shoutin’ at tha table!” Granny interjected. The other three ponies quieted, resorting to silent warfare by making faces at one-another. The elder mare caught on quickly. “An’ cut that out. Try ta be civil while eatin’.” She glared at the red pony. “I expect more outta you, Macintosh.” The guilty stallion averted his eyes. “Applejack, you oughta know better,” she said to the older sister, who fidgeted with her glass of milk. “And you gotta start actin’ yer age,” she scolded Apple Bloom. “Now no more o’ this fussin’, ya here?”

“Yes’m,” the three siblings answered in unison. They looked at one-another, then, unable to contain themselves, burst into laughter. That was all the apology they needed to hear. Tiffs usually ended up resolving this way. Arguments between the three often dissolved into shouting matches and, at times, hooficuffs. In the end, the conflicts resolved how most sibling rivalries tended to do: With temperaments diminished and tensions resolved. The argument was forgotten as quickly as it began, and calm conversation followed through the rest of breakfast.

Finished with the most important meal of the day, the Apple family left the house to get their morning chores done. Granny began feeding the chickens, scattering feed about. Applejack and Big Macintosh headed out into the orchard with a couple dozen baskets resting on their backs. They had a lot of bucking to do, but first they had to distribute their baskets to catch the falling apples.

Apple Bloom had school to attend, but was still expected to do some chores before heading out. The young mare led the sheep and cattle out of their pens to feed and exercise them. After running around with the animals and getting them to the feeding grounds, she jogged back to the barn to get some baskets, leaving Winona to keep them from wandering astray. The young mare didn’t have time to buck apples herself, but the extra preparation would help out her siblings’. She trotted deep into the orchard where they were busy bucking away and setup the baskets, waving goodbye to her brother and sister. “See y’all later. Ah’m off.” The two ceased working momentarily to come over and say farewell.

“Be good now,” Big Macintosh offered, giving her the usual bear hug.

“Have a nice day, Apple Bloom,” Applejack said, squeezing her tightly.

The school-bound pony waved as the other two went back to work. She headed out of the orchard and back into the house, slapping on her backpack. Now ready for school, she walked out looking for her grandmother. The yellow pony found her dropping the chicken feed off by the barn. “That sure gets the blood flowin’,” the green pony commented. “Off ya go, Apple Bloom,” she smiled, offering her a hug. “Don’t ferget yer teacher’s gift.”

“Already got it, Granny,” the yellow pony said, brandishing a Fuji apple from her backpack. “Bye!” With minutes to spare before school began, she took off towards Ponyville in a hurry, quickly disappearing over the hill that separated the small village from the Apple farm.

Apple Bloom raced down the dirt road, kicking up dust in her wake. As usual, she made it to the school just as the final bell rang, breathing heavily. She enjoyed the morning sprint to class, taking an opportunity to run whenever she could. Rushing in at the last second most days didn’t make her the ideal role model for the younger ponies in the class, but many looked up to her. The farmpony placed her gift apple on the front desk and took a seat near the back of the class. A couple tardy ponies raced in just behind Cheerilee, who greeted the class in her usual manner. She started the day off reviewing the previous day’s homework and lessons.

The school day passed like any other Friday at school: Cheerilee had to try harder than usual to hold her students’ attention, while they anxiously awaited the start of the weekend. Three young mares in particular were already making plans, whispering excitedly to one-another whenever they got the chance. Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle’s crusading ideas took shape as the day progressed. Planning continued until, after several reprimands, Cheerilee separated the trio to get them to focus. The three distracted ponies reluctantly turned their attention to the teacher for the rest of the day. When the bell finally signaled class dismissal, the students stampeded out of the schoolhouse en masse. Apple Bloom waved eagerly to her fellow crusaders as she made her way home, having told them she had to get her homework and chores done before their weekend could begin.

The young mare quickly trotted home with a hot early-autumn wind blowing across her face. She rushed home with her schoolbag bouncing along on her back and the afternoon sun’s rays washing over her. Merry thoughts regarding the coming weekend flew through her head as she made the journey home.

Ah can’t wait! She thought excitedly. Just gotta get through some schoolwork an’ chores then Ah’ll be free all weekend long! Ah wonder if the ideas we came up with fer crusadin’ will earn us a coupla’ cutie marks?

Apple Bloom appreciated Sweetie Belle still coming along with her and Scootaloo on their adventures to find their cutie marks. It helped to stave off some of the taunts other school-age fillies flung their way. Their unicorn friend had found hers a little over a year ago. Despite her own personal crusade ending, she stuck with her friends as they continued their journey in hopes that they would find their own cutie marks one day. For Apple Bloom and her two closest friends, the time they spent crusading meant more than just searching for their cutie marks. They grew to simply enjoy their time being together.

Scootaloo wants ta try sky divin’, but that sounds mighty dangerous for ponies without wings. I think we should try bowlin’ again, but only if we can get Mr. King Pin ta let us in again... Maybe my special talent is negotiatin’! If that’s my special talent we’d be able ta get all kinds a’ stuff fer free!

The eager mare grew enthused with each passing thought. With a smile growing ever-wider on her face, she picked up her pace as she neared her home of Sweet Apple Acres. The sight and scent of the crops washed over her when her home appeared over the hill. As the young mare approached she quickly noticed the family carriage sitting out. Usually it was tucked away inside the barn. What’s that doin’ out? Apple Bloom wondered. She saw her sister coming out of the house with a suitcase in tow. The orange mare noticed her sister approaching and stopped to greet her. "Afternoon, Apple Bloom! How was school?"

"Eh, long an’ borin’," the yellow pony answered. She inclined her head towards the stack of bags on the carriage. "What's with the carriage? We goin' on a vacation?"

Applejack's expression became dour. "Not exactly," she replied. "Ya see, Ma and Pa need some assistance down on one a’ their southern farmsteads. We got this here message from ‘em today. A mail mare caught me at market and gave it ta me. Hang on a sec.” She ran into the house and reappeared a moment later with a letter, a blank sheet of paper, and a pencil. She gave Apple Bloom the letter describing their parents’ current plight, which she began reading while Applejack took her suitcase and hoisted it onto the back of the carriage.

“Parasprites?!” The yellow pony exclaimed. “Those multicolored bugs that ate their way through half our farm?”

“Yeah, parasprites,” Applejack shuddered, recalling all the damage the insects had levied on Ponyville. “It’s a disaster down there! They sent messages out ta all their kin ‘round Equestria askin’ fer help. Crops need resowin’, trees need repairin’, and barns need rebuildin’. A lotta strong ponies gotta head down there ta help out, and boy howdy does the farm need it."

"That's awful," Apple Bloom empathized, but quickly perked up. "Ah’m sure we can help ‘em out! Just lemme pack some stuff real quick an’ Ah’ll be ready to go lickity split! Oh, we'll have to stop by Scootaloo's place on our way cuz I said Ah'd go meet with her and Sweetie Belle tonight an’--"

"Hold yer horses there, sis," the older sister said quickly, halting Apple Bloom’s attempt to get inside the house. "Ya ain't comin' with us. Me an' Big Mac are goin, but we need you ta run things ‘round here while we're gone."

"What!?" Apple Bloom yelled. "Tha whole farm?! That's gonna mean tons a’ work! Can’t just one of y’all go while the other stays put?"

“Ah’d like to, Apple Bloom, but don’tcha see just how much of a pickle Ma an’ Pa are in?” Applejack explained. “They need every hoof they can scrounge up. Otherwise they’ll have nothin’ ta show for a year’s worth a’ farmin’.”

“But... but...” Apple Bloom tried to come up with a good reason to keep one of her siblings around. Taking on the entirety of the farm’s responsibilities was no easy feat, and the young mare had only just begun getting into the more involved work. Her expression grew pensive and worrisome. How can I do this on mah own? Can I even do it? She stabbed at the ground with a hoof and vocalized her concerns. “But Ah can’t do this, Applejack! Shoot, Ah don’t even know what Ah have ta do!”

"Oh c’mon, Apple Bloom, don’t sell yerself short like that," Applejack rustled the younger mare’s mane. “Ya made such great progress this past summer, goin’ from barely bein’ able ta drop a single apple ta clearin’ trees in tha blink of an eye.” She looked her sister straight in the eye with a comforting glance. “Now don’t you fret. We're only gunna be outta town fer a coupla’ weeks. ‘Sides, it's high time ya started takin' on more responsibilities anyway, an’ there's no time like tha present."

The words of encouragement helped, causing Apple Bloom to crack a smile and feel a bit of pride. “Well, Ah s’pose that’s true,” she spoke abashedly. The moment didn’t last long, though, as her thoughts were quickly overrun with other concerns. "But Ah still have all mah schoolwork. With all the extra farmin’ Ah won't have any time to go crusadin'... or eat... or sleep!" She bemoaned. An’ Ah jus’ got used ta sleepin’ in again too. The young mare sulked, putting on a pouty face.

Applejack braced the other paper she brought out against the wall of the house and began scribbling out a note. “Don’tcha worry about school none,” she spoke through the pencil clenched between her teeth. Applejack finished writing and passed the note to Apple Bloom. "Here, this oughta explain everything to yer teacher. It’ll excuse ya from school till we get back," she explained, sticking her head into the house to retrieve a final suitcase. "And Ah'm sure you'll have enough time ta catch plenty a’ shuteye and a bite ta eat. Granny’ll see ta that.” She tried to give the young mare an understanding look. “Sorry ‘bout yer plans, but Ma an' Pa need me and Big Mac ta help out." As if on cue, Big Mac emerged from the house carrying a suitcase of his own. After he placed the item on the carriage, he began tying the belongings down firmly for the long road ahead.

Apple Bloom gave a nearby rock a vicious kick, sending it skittering across the ground. "It just ain't fair! You coulda’ just told ‘em no. We've got plenty a’ family 'round Equestria ta help out. Why leave me alone ta handle things?"

"Granny'll be here with you, Apple Bloom." Big Macintosh chimed in, finished with his carriage preparations. "She’ll take care of the less-demandin’ stuff and some a’ yer other chores for ya. That way you’ll have time fer tha hard work.” He looked over to the hill where Ponyville rested and sighed. “Ah was hopin’ she’d get back in time ta see us off, but looks like she’ll miss us."

“And jus’ where has Granny gone off to?” The youngest sibling inquired, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “Off in Appleoosa stavin’ off the buffalo tribe?”

Applejack chuckled. “Nah, she’s just in town runnin’ the apple cart since I had ta come back and get ready fer the trip.”

Big Mac gave Apple Bloom an encouraging smile. "Don't worry Apple Bloom, yer ready for this."

Apple Bloom returned the smile with a frown of her own. Ready or not, between herdin' an buckin' and runnin' the cart at market an all this other farmwork Ah won't have time ta do anything! Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo were dependin' on me to do some serious crusadin' this week too! They’re gonna be real sore ‘bout me having ta ditch at tha last minute. "Ah s'pose," she muttered to herself.

Applejack attempted one last time to console her sulking sibling. "Aww, cheer up, sugarcube. Y'know we wouldn't've agreed ta go if we didn't think ya could handle things.” The blonde pony gave her sister another pat. “We're in the off-season anyway, so things could be a lot worse for ya." She smiled. "We gotta git goin'. Be good an’ take care a’ yerself an’ Granny. See ya in two weeks!" The orange mare gave her sister a tight hug.

Big Macintosh followed suit with another beastly embrace and words of farewell of his own. “We’ll be thinkin’ ‘bout ya.”

Apple Bloom couldn't help but smile a bit at her siblings' affection. "Have a safe trip, an’ give Ma an’ Pa my best," she said with only a little bit more enthusiasm, head drooping sadly. Ah’ll be thinkin’ ‘bout y’all too...

Applejack hopped into the carriage with a smirk on her face as she addressed Big Macintosh. “Git along, little pony.”

“Y’know I’m bigger than you, right?”

“All the same, ya get ta haul us all the way down, just like we agreed,” the orange pony reminded smugly. “I got the trip back. Now hurry it on up, we’re burnin’ daylight!” She grabbed the reigns and gave them a swift crack against the empty harness.

The red pony’s stoic demeanor was easily broken by her sister’s taunts. “Ah’m goin, yer highness,” he muttered as he fit himself into the carriage harness, “and if ya take a crack at me with those yer in fer a world a hurt.” He sighed and turned to face his younger sister. “Take care, Apple Bloom.”

With those parting words, the elder Apple siblings set out on the road, leaving the youngest sitting alone in front of the Apple household. Apple Bloom moped as she sat on the porch, contemplating the news her siblings disseminated. In a few minutes’ time, her chipper thoughts and weekend plans were dashed. As she watched the carriage drift away, Applejack stuck her head out the back. She waved at Apple Bloom with a large smile plastered across her face. The yellow pony waved back less enthusiastically than her older sister, but returned the smile. After the carriage disappeared over the hill, Apple Bloom’s meager smile turned into a look of despair. With the future workload weighing heavily on her mind, Apple Bloom hung her head low and slowly trotted into the house, quietly shutting the door behind her. It just ain’t fair...

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