• Published 14th Nov 2016
  • 5,506 Views, 1,072 Comments

Looking Glass - Krickis



When Sunset sees herself as an alicorn in a magical mirror, she goes looking for answers, eventually going through the mirror into another world. Some things are better left alone though, as she finds herself trapped in the other world as a child.

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10 – Surprises

Chapter Ten

Surprises

A sharp pounding brought Sunset into consciousness. “Sunset, it’s time for school.”

Sunset groaned in response. She rolled over and covered her face with a pillow. Why was it so bright? It was uncalled for, really. The sun could light the world without being so bright. All she needed was a little more sleep. If they’d just leave her be, she would be perfectly fine. So of course, that was out of the question.

The banging returned, and Rose Petal called louder. “Sunset? Are you awake?”

“I feel sick…” she grumbled.

“What was that?”

“I’m sick!” she called louder, making her head hurt worse.

“Hold on, I’m coming in.” Rose waited a moment before opening the door. She found Sunset still half covering her face with a pillow, and it could not have made for a pretty sight. “What happened? You seemed fine yesterday.”

“I don’t know…” Sunset pulled the pillow over the rest of her face. “Can I just stay home today?”

Although Sunset couldn’t see Rose’s expression, at least her voice seemed neutral. “Hold on, I’ll go get the thermometer.”

Sunset groaned again as Rose left. The thermometer wouldn’t help her case at all; she wasn’t sick, she was hungover. But even if she could think of some way to make herself look ill, she probably couldn’t have brought herself to do anything about it. The best she could manage was to haphazardly look around her for any sign of evidence, and thankfully she found nothing. At least she’d had the foresight to hide the bottle, even if she didn’t remember where exactly she’d hidden it.

Rose returned with the thermometer, so Sunset dutifully stuck it in her mouth and waited for the beep. “Temperature is normal,” Rose reported. “What’s bothering you?”

“My head’s killing me, and I think I’m going to throw up.”

“You stayed in your room all day yesterday, you probably just didn’t get enough to drink.” Rose picked up the soda bottle off the floor. “Or maybe too much of the wrong thing to drink. I’ll bring you some water and we’ll get you feeling better in no time.”

Unaware of exactly how right she was, Rose once again left the room. Sunset ran through her options. If she actually vomited it would probably be enough to convince Rose to let her stay home, and she wouldn’t have to deal with the dilemma from yesterday about how it would be spent – the entire day would be spent in glorious sleep. But Sunset wasn’t terribly good at vomiting on command. It felt likely if she just ate something it would come back up, but if she didn’t throw up, the food was just going to wind up making her feel more sick than she did already.

But aside from that? Sunset already knew she was out of luck. She barely even offered any resistance when Rose came back with a glass of water and ibuprofen. If nothing else, the water helped rinse her mouth of the foul flavor lingering in it.

Rose gave her time to get dressed, and seemed to take it as a given that she was going to school after all. If it hadn’t been for the day before, Sunset would have fought harder, but she could see a losing battle and decided to conserve her strength.

While alone, Sunset took care to find the bottle. It wasn’t hard, since she had tucked it away in her sock drawer. That may be an acceptable hiding place while she was asleep since no one was going to look through her things while she was in the room, but it certainly wouldn’t do while she was at school. As quickly as she could, she removed the half-full bottle and stowed it away in her hiding place.

With that taken care of, she dressed quickly and left the room. She only agreed to a simple breakfast of buttered toast, which did seem to show Rose that she was actually not feeling well. Not enough to actually make a convincing argument, though. And although initially she wasn’t sure she’d manage to eat any of it, she did feel a bit better afterwards.

With breakfast finished, there was nothing to do but wait until it was time to leave. Rather than go back to her room, Sunset opted to wait in the communal lounge room. A lot of her time was spent there, since it was the only room with a computer accessible to the kids. There wasn’t enough time to make it worth using the computer, but that didn’t matter; she had other things on her mind.

The other kids her age were all sitting around the TV, as they usually were. She propped up a book and pretended to read. People always expected that someone with their nose in a book would be far too interested in it to listen in to their conversations. It was one of her most reliable tricks.

Sure enough, it wasn’t too long before Rose Petal showed up. Sunset kept her attention pointed at the book, appearing to be completely unaware of what was happening around her. She couldn’t hear what was said, but she didn’t have to. The hushed tone clearly indicated that they didn’t want her to hear what they were saying. If she had looked up, she knew she would have seen glances cast in her direction, since there was only one thing they would likely be discussing.

Her suspicions were confirmed on the way out the door, as the other kids were casting her worried looks. They were all worried for themselves, of course. Rose Petal didn’t realize what a difficult place she had put them in by asking them to keep watch over Sunset. But the other kids realized, and that was what mattered.

Luckily for them, she wasn’t planning on repeating the day before. She went along with them to the bus stop, and didn’t try to make an escape. Still, if it had come down to it, she knew could have gotten away easily. Through bribery or blackmail, she had all of them under her sway. One wrong word and someone wouldn’t be getting the answers to that next math test, or perhaps one of the caretakers would find a reason to snoop around a certain closet a little better. And while it was hardly her first choice, violence was always a possibility as well.

The relief was visible on all of their faces when she actually boarded the bus. At least she could take comfort that they were still intimidated, although she decided to remind each of them why they were intimidated later. But that would be saved for one-on-one discussions, not something she would think of doing on the crowded bus. Secrets were only valuable so long as they remained secret, after all.

But there were still potentially some secrets she could discuss. She took a seat next to one of the only people she had anything resembling a friendly relationship with. “I miss anything good?”

Summer Rain wasn’t exactly a friend, per se. She and Sunset didn’t share classes and hardly went out of their way to meet up with one another. But they did have the bus ride, where they got together and talked about their mutual interest in keeping tabs on the other kids in school. For Summer, she was only interested in the gossip. Sunset, of course, had better uses for that sort of thing. “No, it was pretty quiet yesterday.”

“Shame. I was hoping that with winter break coming up, there’s be something going on.”

“Yeah.” Summer Rain looked disappointed, then shrugged it off a moment later. “But oh well, something’s sure to come up before the week’s over.”

“Fair enough.”

Both girls turned to their separate interests. They had a good understanding about the nature of their relationship. They shared one mutual interest, and never tried to push for anything more familiar. For Sunset, it was a simple matter of not being able to keep an eye on everyone by herself. For Summer, Sunset suspected she just enjoyed spying on her fellow students and putting that information to use. As well, the few students Sunset had found useful had certain privileges – respect from other students, or at least something that resembled it; occasional favors from Sunset, whose reach extended to enough students that she could usually find some way to keep her lackeys happy; and, of course, the ever important immunity from Sunset using her sway against them. At least, they thought they all had that last one, which is what mattered in the end.

Although she would have prefered to read during the bus trip, Sunset’s head was still killing her, and she felt like reading on a moving bus would cause her to lose her breakfast. So instead, she focused on the world outside of the window. It had snowed again during the night, and the temperature had dropped a little more. All around the bus, kids were discussing plans to play in the snow, but Sunset just found it to be an inconvenience.

It may have been better than reading, but watching the winter wonderland outside certainly did nothing to make Sunset feel better. Nor did the kids around her, with their loud conversations. Everfree Middle School wasn’t normally what she would call a welcome sight, but it couldn’t be worse than the bus.

As soon as the bus pulled into its spot, all the other kids jumped up as if there was nowhere else they’d rather be. Sunset waited behind while the others scrambled to be the firsts out of the door, and calmly left once the rush had died down.

Since it was far too cold to be outside, Sunset went straight into the school. The crowded hallway wasn’t any better than the bus, so she made a beeline to her first class, barely taking the time to notice the kids around her. To most of the school, she was no one important. There wasn’t a lot to be gained by going after every kid personally. But there was a hierarchy, and Sunset was definitely on top. True, not every kid knew enough to fear her, but if there was someone that they did fear, then that person was probably in Sunset’s pocket.

First period was history, taught by Globe Trotter, a middle-aged man who always looked like he was mildly upset about something. Sunset didn’t mind him, as far as teachers went; so long as she wasn’t being actively disruptive, he generally turned a blind eye to whatever she was doing.

The classroom was mostly empty when Sunset arrived, which was fine with her. She ignored everyone in the room as she took her seat in the back. Since there were at least a few minutes before class, Sunset leaned forward on her desk, burying her head in her arms. It was hardly the rest she wanted, but the class was relatively quiet and her arms blocked out most of the light.

Slowly, the seats filled with students over the following minutes, although the seats on either side of Sunset remained empty. The bell rang, and Globe Trotter greeted his class. Sunset ignored him, and he ignored her as well. Only the most stubborn teachers ever held out on getting Sunset to participate for long.

Sunset had almost managed to get to sleep when the class collectively started clapping for some reason. Peeking out from between her arms revealed there was someone besides Globe Trotter standing at the front of the room. Sunset just hoped that whatever they were doing, they’d do it quietly.

“Just choose a seat anywhere,” Globe Trotter said.

‘A new student? Who the fuck transfers classes right before winter break?’ Although Sunset was somewhat curious about the student, it was definitely not enough for her to pick her head up. She’d have the chance to find out more about them later, when she didn’t feel like her head was going to explode.

The sound of footsteps drew closer to her, followed by the sound of the chair to her left being pulled out. Sunset lifted her head to tell the new student to sit somewhere else, but the words stayed frozen in her throat.

“Howdy, partner,” the new girl said, extending her hand. “I’m Applejack.”

Sunset ignored her hand, as well as the stares from the other kids. She knew they were all expecting her reaction, but she couldn’t find herself able to do anything. There was no doubt in Sunset’s mind it was the same Applejack. She had known it before she so much as heard the girl’s voice. Although they had only met once before, Sunset had faced nightmares of that day for years.

Apparently unconcerned with Sunset’s behavior, Applejack withdrew her hand but maintained her friendly smile. “Come on now, I don’t bite.”

Sunset turned away and scanned the room. Every other seat would also leave her sitting next to someone, so Applejack had to be the one to move. “Look, I don’t want to be your friend. You should just sit somewhere else.”

“There ain’t no reason to be like that. It won’t hurt ya to at least tell me your name.”

For some reason, that only made Sunset feel worse. “Not friends.”

Applejack frowned and turned away, but didn’t move. “Alright, that’s fine.”

A few minutes passed and Globe Trotter began talking about their project. Kids were working in pairs to complete a research project on early industrial age revolutions. Sunset probably wouldn’t have been interested in doing the project one way or another, but since they were expected to do it outside of school, she had never even entertained the thought.

Ignoring the teacher, Sunset turned back to Applejack. “So… why are you still sitting here?”

Applejack shrugged. “This seat was open.”

Sunset pointed at another empty seat. “So is that one.”

“So? Mr. Trotter said I could take any seat. I chose this one.”

“Fine. Whatever.” Sunset stood up and grabbed her backpack. She could at least sit next to someone who wasn’t so obnoxiously stubborn.

“Sunset Shimmer,” Globe Trotter said loudly, causing all eyes to turn to her and her head to throb in pain. “Please return to your seat. Class has started and there are some students here interested in learning.”

Wincing at the tone of his voice, Sunset sat back down. She was in no condition to argue. All she could manage to do was glare at Applejack, who had the nerve to look apologetic.

Globe Trotter droned on about their stupid project for a few more minutes, then switched to the day’s lesson. Between the hangover and the girl sitting next to her, Sunset didn’t even try to keep up. At least it kept Applejack preoccupied.

All she had to do was make it through one class. If they shared any others, Sunset would make sure Applejack knew to leave her alone. With nothing to keep her preoccupied, the class passed slowly, but it passed all the same.

And then, with just five minutes until freedom, Globe Trotter had to ruin everything. “I think we’ll stop here for the day,” he announced. “For the next few minutes, you can get together with your partners to make plans. Remember, the paper is due on Friday. That’s still three days to get going for anyone who hasn’t started, but time’s running short.”

The students shuffled around the class, although most of them just used it as a chance to socialize. No one approached Sunset, naturally. Which would have been just what she wanted, if only Applejack hadn’t taken note of it.

“So, uh, you got a partner for this project?” Applejack asked.

“Don’t want one,” Sunset insisted.

Applejack moved closer. Despite everything Sunset had done to indicate that she should be left alone, Applejack still moved closer. “Come on, it jus’ makes sense! Neither of us has a partner, so we should work on it together.”

Sunset shook her head in disbelief. “How many times do I have to tell you that I –”

“Mr. Trotter?” Applejack raised her hand to get his attention.

She wouldn’t.

“Yes, Applejack?”

“Would it be alright if me and Sunset worked together, seeing as neither of us has partners yet?”

She would. Globe Trotter looked at Sunset skeptically. Sunset herself had her eyes fixed on Applejack, staring at her incredulously.

After a moment’s pause, Globe Trotter answered in an uncharacteristically bright tone. “I don’t see why not.”

Sunset turned her glare on him and found he was actually smiling. More than a few students were also watching, with a mix of emotions. They all clearly expected a response from her, but even Sunset had her limits, and outright arguing with a teacher was one of them.

Instead, she leaned back in her seat and waited for the classroom chatter to resume at its normal volume.

“So what’s the plan, partner?” Applejack asked. “Got any ideas for what to –”

“What’s your fucking problem?” Sunset asked, turning suddenly to face Applejack. She kept her voice low enough that Globe Trotter wouldn’t hear, but compensated by filling it with as much hostility as she could manage.

By all appearances, Applejack took it as a friendly joke. She grinned as she leaned in even closer, hovering over the gap between their desks. “Well,” she said, her voice even quieter than Sunset’s had been, “at least ya remembered how to swear right.”

Sunset jumped to her feet. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, all she could focus on was Applejack’s smug expression and one thought: ‘She does remember.’

Before Sunset could do anything, the bell rang. She stood with her eyes fixed on Applejack as Globe Trotter made vain attempts to remind his class to do their project while they quickly filed out the door. Applejack remained in her seat, wearing a knowing grin and waiting for Sunset to make a move.

Deciding to put as much distance in between herself and Applejack as possible, Sunset grabbed her backpack and walked to the door. She didn’t look back to see Applejack’s reaction.

It had been seven years since Sunset and Applejack had met. That day had marked a major turning point in her life. In her childhood delusions, she had expected something wonderful. Instead, she had come face to face with something that would haunt her.

But there had also been Applejack. One memory from the worst time in her life that had never been tainted. A little girl who had managed to make a bigger impact in a single meeting than most of the adults in her life could manage in years. Someone who had come in at just the right time and said just the right things to break through Sunset’s barriers without ever trying.

In her dreams, Applejack had always been the one to try and guide her along the right path. In every single one, Sunset had turned from her. It had been years since she dreamt about the farm girl, but even as Sunset had grown, Applejack had remained the same little girl. Even while conscious, Sunset would occasionally think about her. But it was always the young girl who had been there to hold her hand; she had never spared a single thought to the fact that Applejack had to be growing up as well. In time, she had become more of an idea than a person.

Applejack belonged in her past, so Sunset did what she could to put everything behind her. It was made a little easier by the fact that Applejack didn’t show up to her second period, nor to her third or any others. They shared one class together, and Sunset would just have to figure out a way to minimize their interaction there.

The final bell couldn’t come soon enough. Sunset went straight to the buses, eager to put everything that had happened behind her. She was the first one on the bus, and others were slow to follow. While she waited, she watched the kids mingling out in the courtyard.

She should have just stuck to reading. Applejack was talking to a girl with frizzy orange hair, who was laughing at something she said. Sunset turned away.

“Checking out the new girl?” Summer Rain asked as she sat next to Sunset.

“Yeah, I have first period with her,” Sunset said irritably.

“She seems alright. Wouldn’t say why she transferred so late in the year, though. Just that it had something to do with ‘family stuff’.”

Sunset took another look at Applejack, who looked over just in time to see she was being watched. She waved as if nothing was wrong, and Sunset’s mind flashed back to that day; she was sitting in the back seat of Violet Dusk’s car, watching a hopelessly optimistic girl wave at her as they drove away.

There was nothing Sunset hated as much as seeing her memories come into the real world. “I heard she got caught fucking her cousin behind the bleachers at her old school, so they transferred the two of them to separate schools.”

Summer Rain looked surprised. “You don’t think that’s true, do you?”

Sunset shrugged. “Honestly? I have no idea. She’s not just gonna admit to something like that, you know?”

“I guess that’s true, but still…”

“Maybe someone just made it up,” Sunset said. “But you know, she’s got that whole country hick thing going for her, and it would explain why she doesn’t want to say more than ‘family stuff’.”

“I guess you can never tell with those types.”

Sunset shrugged, but inside she was pleased. It was the way Summer had said ‘those types’ that had confirmed it. Whether it was likely or not didn’t matter, it fit perfectly and made for excellent gossip. Before winter break, everyone at Everfree Middle School would be talking about it.

“Yeah, that’s for sure.” Sunset looked back out the window in time to see Applejack board her own bus. “You can never tell what’s going on with someone like that.”

Author's Note:

Not particularly relevant to this story, but Legend of Everfree isn't canon to this series (I liked the movie, it's just that I've been writing this series well before it came out and it contradicts things I've already written). For the purpose of this story, Everfree is a national park located near Sweet Apple Acres (mirroring Ponyville's placement of the two). The middle school is named after the park.

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