• Published 14th Nov 2016
  • 6,007 Views, 1,152 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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15 – Shattered

Chapter Fifteen


The new semester of school brought about mixed feelings for Sunset. It was a welcome relief, because if she had thought that winter break had given her too much to think about before, that was nothing compared to the final week of it. During the events at the lake, Sunset had been forced to relive some of her false memories while under the ice, and it was hard to try and shove them back down. School would provide a much needed distraction, especially since she still resolved to actually put forth some effort into her grades.

On the other hand, there was a lot she wasn’t looking forward to. The stitches in her hand had been removed, which was good. But that was just about the only thing positive about Sunset’s appearance. At least she could wear gloves to cover the blisters on her knuckles. Her face was another story.

Once the initial redness turned to bruising on the day after the fight, Sunset made an emergency trip back to the mall. Although Sunset had never cared for makeup, she needed something to cover the evidence of the fight. She managed to grab a few shades of concealer and some other stuff to experiment with without being seen, but she wasn’t too confident in her efforts. True, none of the bruising was showing up, but she was worried the makeup itself would stand out too much, or that it would fail to hold up for the day.

She counted it as a victory when no one at the orphanage commented on the makeup. They probably just assumed it was normal for a girl her age to care about crap like that, or maybe they just didn’t pay enough attention to her. Either way was fine with Sunset, since she didn’t want to have to explain why she had the sudden interest in looking pretty. Other kids could be far more critical, but there was nothing to do but handle that if it came up. That was a concern, but it wasn’t really the problem.

The problem, of course, was Applejack. In the week after the fight, Sunset had been left with plenty of time to think about what had happened, and about what would happen when they inevitably saw each other again. She’d changed her mind about what she thought would be best at least a dozen times, and was trying her best to find the certainty that she’d had when she pushed Applejack away. A friendship between the two of them would never work out.

But no matter how much she reminded herself of that, it didn’t seem to help. As she walked along the crowded hallway towards her first-period class, she was surrounded by kids catching up with friends and sharing their winter break experiences. Any other year, this would have been a prime time to catch up with some rumors she could exploit. But instead, all the words from the other kids seemed to elude her, becoming nothing but background noise against the much louder words in her head.

“Well then, I’m Applejack. What’s your name?”

“I don’t think you’re pathetic.”

“So what’s the plan, partner?”

“What d’ya say we just put all that behind us and start over?”

“Now, now, there ain’t no reason to be like that. Here, I’ll help.”

“You really haven’t changed a bit since we were little.”

“Just… you don’t have to do it alone, ya know?”

“Well, she’s got me now.”

“I can’t believe you’d do something like that. But I also think you got it in you to be a better person than that.”

“You need people in your life, and I… I want to be one of ‘em, if you let me.”

“– the one who fucked her cousin?”

Sunset stopped walking as the tail end of a question floated into her perception. Her head snapped in the direction that the voice had come from, and she saw two guys talking.

“No, I haven’t seen her,” the second guy said. “Why, something else going on with her now?”

“Yeah, you could say that,” the first one answered. “She must’ve had one hell of a rough winter break, for sure.”

The second guy laughed. “Well, you know how it is with rednecks. Old man probably started hitting the bottle, then started hitting his daughter.”

“What was that?” Before she could even think about what she was doing, Sunset was already walking up to the two assholes.

One of them gave her an incredulous look, but the second one looked scared. Although Sunset couldn’t recall who he was, it seemed he had no problems recalling her. “Oh, uh… Hi there, Sunset…”

Sunset folded her arms and adopted a menacing glare. If he knew who she was, this was going to be a snap. “I asked you a question. What were you talking about?”

Asshole number two swallowed nervously, but asshole number one still hadn’t caught on. “Dude, are you seriously scared of a –”

An elbow to the ribs cut him off, and number two took over for him. “It, uh, it wasn’t anything about you, promise. We were just talking about that new girl… Apple-something?”

“Well, don’t.” Sunset narrowed her eyes. “The less you have to say about Applejack, the better. Understand?”

“Yeah, you got it, Sunset!”

“Good. Because I’m not going to have a friendly discussion like this a second time.” Although his friend still seemed confused by the whole situation, Sunset turned and resumed the walk to class. She would have made a more direct threat if she could remember why he was so afraid of her in the first place. As it stood, she just had to hope that a vague one would do.

Her foul mood followed her into first period, where she sunk into her usual seat. Every time the door opened, Sunset had to resist the urge to look at it. Applejack would walk through the door at some point, and Sunset had to see what would happen. If she looked at Applejack as she walked through the door, she might influence her decision on what to do, and Sunset needed to know if Applejack would even want to still make the attempt at being friends on her own accord.

And what if she did? What if she sat down next to Sunset, taking the same seat she had claimed before the break? Sunset knew what she should do. They couldn’t be friends, so Sunset would just have to make Applejack move or else move herself. Being hostile and guarded came naturally to Sunset, and in a lot of ways it was just easier on her to maintain the wall she had built.

After spending so much time alone, it was sort of draining to be around another person. There was the touching, which Sunset wasn’t sure she would ever get used to. The constant internal reminders that she was supposed to at least try and stay well behaved. The fact that if she actually decided to maintain a positive relationship with Applejack, she would have to give up most of what she had worked for to fit into Applejack’s world.

There was no real reason to do anything else. It wasn’t like she got anything significant from Applejack. Just friendship, and she’d never cared about that before. There wasn’t anything substantial to be gained, just that she’d have someone whom she could spend her time with. Someone who could make her laugh. Someone who could make her feel warm with just a smile. Someone who maybe seemed like she could understand her, if she were ever allowed the chance. Someone who made her feel like maybe there was finally something worthwhile in her life.

Sunset set her head down on her desk, hiding her face in her arms. In truth, she had no idea what would happen when Applejack took the seat next to her. But she knew she couldn’t keep being friendly in one meeting only to push Applejack away in the next. Whatever happened was going to be what happened. At the end of the day, she would either commit to giving a friendship with Applejack a real chance, or she would give up on the idea entirely.

It was almost time for the class to start, but the seat next to Sunset was still empty. She was beginning to wonder if Applejack was coming and pulled her head up to look around the room, just in case Applejack had come in without her realizing it. There was still no sign of her. Sunset slumped in her seat and began wondering what she would do if Applejack didn’t show.

Just as the bell rang, the door opened one more time. “Sorry I’m late, Mr. Trotter.”

“It’s… Oh, hello, Applejack.” Globe Trotter’s voice seemed off. Something had caught him off guard, and against her better judgement, Sunset looked to see what it was. Her mouth fell open at the sight. “Let’s not worry about it. First day back and all that.”

“Right. Thank you, sir.” Although Applejack kept her tone business as usual, her face was anything but. Unlike Sunset, Applejack had done nothing to cover up her face. Sunset had suspected that much when she heard the talk in the hallway; besides, Applejack seemed even less like the type to go messing around with makeup than Sunset was. But what Sunset hadn’t expected was exactly how much worse Applejack looked.

During the fight, Applejack had only managed one good punch on Sunset’s face, and had otherwise been concerned with just overpowering and subduing her opponent. But towards the end, after they had fallen onto the ice, Sunset hadn’t held back on her assault at all, and it showed. Applejack’s face was covered with several yellowish-brown bruises. They were clearly old and healing, but that didn’t make them any less ugly, and it was also clear that they weren’t from an accident.

Applejack kept her eyes pointed down as she walked through the room, obviously aware that everyone was staring at her. Including Sunset, despite her earlier decision to wait to see what Applejack did before so much as looking at her. Aside from her own backpack, she was carrying a brown paper bag, which she set on the floor beside Sunset.

Without a word, Applejack turned and walked to another seat. She chose one several rows away from Sunset, and didn’t do anything else to acknowledge her. Sunset finally tore her eyes from Applejack and realized for the first time exactly how much she had been expecting her to persist in spite of what had happened.

Mostly just to give herself something to focus on that wasn’t the empty feeling in her chest, Sunset pulled the bag closer to her. She looked inside to find her own clothes, the ones she had dressed Applejack in to get her warmed up. They were folded neatly, and looked to be freshly washed.

Sunset scooted the bag to be next to her backpack. She cast another glance towards Applejack, but all she could see was the back of her head as she prepared for the day’s lesson.

Everywhere Sunset went she heard the rumors. It seemed to be collectively agreed amongst the students that Applejack was abused by her parents, but few kids seemed sympathetic. They probably would be, but whenever Applejack came up in conversation, so did the other rumor. It seemed that most kids were content to view her as a caricature, and the abusive homelife only added to the situation.

Probably as a result of the two rumors, it seemed that Applejack had taken to keeping to herself for the day. Sunset kept her eyes and ears open whenever she was in between classes, and occasionally noticed Applejack walking through the hall with her eyes fixated on the floor. A few kids mentioned that although she had seemed fairly open before the break, she was keeping to herself now. It was hard to blame her, but at the same time it made it easier for kids to forget that she was a person, not just a walking joke.

A couple of times since they had met, Applejack had mentioned that she had locked up in the past, shutting out the people around her. Sunset worried she might do the same again, and resolved to fix things. Both rumors were her fault, anyway. How hard could it be to use her power to stop a rumor rather than start one?

Very, it turned out. For every person she was able to stop, five more were still spreading rumors. And she couldn’t stop all of them; Sunset had carefully maintained a position in the shadows, which meant most of the student body didn’t know her well enough to be threatened into silence.

By the end of the day, Sunset still hadn’t made any progress. Once the last class was over with, she stopped by her locker to collect the paper bag with her clothes. Not wanting to carry around the reminder of how horrible she was, Sunset had taken the first chance she could to drop it off in her locker. It didn’t matter, anyway; she was able to remember exactly how much of a worthless person she was without the reminder.

Sunset was making her way towards the buses when she saw Applejack again. She was in the path in front of her, but she hadn’t seen Sunset at all. Instead, she was walking alongside Golden Harvest, who was giving angry looks to anyone who seemed to be thinking about making any uncouth jokes.

“Can you imagine actually being friends with someone like her?” Summer Rain said as she approached Sunset.

“Not really,” Sunset answered. It was the truth – Sunset couldn’t possibly imagine being friends with someone as amazing as Applejack.

Summer Rain smirked. “I’m sure you heard everything by now? The whole school’s talking about it.”

“Yeah, I have.” Sunset shrugged as if she were indifferent, but she realized Summer Rain had just provided her with the perfect opportunity. Sunset couldn’t stop the rumors herself, but she didn’t have to. She had people to do that sort of thing for her. “So it turns out I was wrong about the whole incest thing. Someone just made it all up as a joke after all.”

“Huh. Well whatever. Too late to worry about that now.” Summer Rain just watched Applejack hungrily. “Besides, it’s all too fun to bother thinking about too much.”

Summer really was a perfect partner for Sunset. They were both self-serving and uncaring, and they lacked anything vaguely resembling positive character traits. The best thing for both of them would be to just move on and get back to business as usual. “So I heard one of the football players making plans to meet up with someone at the park by the school, if you want to try and catch something good before the buses get here.”

“Really?” That seemed like enough to get Summer’s attention away from Applejack. Sunset and Summer Rain had a good understanding of their relationship, and it did not include working together to spy on their fellow students. Summer seemed positively excited by the development. “Is he meeting up with someone interesting?”

Sunset grinned. Look at that, making friends was easier than she had thought. “Well, I didn’t recognize the name, but I’d say the star quarterback meeting up with his secret boyfriend could be pretty interesting.”

If Summer had seemed excited before, it was nothing compared to how she looked after hearing that. “Oh yeah, I’m definitely up for that!”

“Thought you might be.”

They walked out towards the park beside the school. It wasn’t really much of a park, just a small field with an old playground that hardly got used anymore. A larger one was put up nearby, further away from the middle school and thus away from the older kids. Because the playground was less used, the city had made it a low priority for maintenance, which meant it was left to disrepair and rust, which in turn meant even fewer people bothered to use it. They were tearing it down eventually, but for the moment it was occasionally used by Everfree Middle School kids as a close place to hide away or meet in secret when they were trying to avoid the rest of the school.

No one seemed to be using it when they got there, though. “Did you hear when they were supposed to be coming?” Summer Rain asked.

“Hmm, I kinda thought they’d beat us here actually.” Sunset set her bag down and took a good look around, making sure there were no secret lovers anywhere in sight. Or anyone else, for that matter. “But maybe they’re just running late on account of the fact that I made the whole thing up.”

Summer Rain turned to face Sunset and looked perplexed, as if she wasn’t sure she heard correctly. “What? What do you mean you –”

Sunset wrapped her hand around Summer’s throat and pushed her up against a metal ladder. She pressed down tight enough that Summer would have difficulty breathing, but was careful not to press so hard that she’d leave marks. “Listen up, Summer, because I’m not really big on repeating myself.”

Summer grabbed at Sunset’s arm and tried to squirm away, but clearly had no idea what she was doing. She was used to being part of Sunset’s cherished circle, after all, and nobody ever fucked with Sunset’s lackeys.

Sunset used her free hand to grab one of Summer’s and twisted it backwards. Summer made a painful grimace and stopped struggling. Sunset just smiled. “All that shit about Applejack? It’s not true, and to be honest with you, I’m just a little sick of hearing about it. So I don’t give a fuck what you do, but you’re going to make it stop. Understand?”

Sunset moved her hand away from Summer’s throat so she could answer, instead holding her in place by her shoulder.

“I… I can’t…” Summer said in desperate gasps.

Sunset frowned and let go of Summer’s shoulder, instead grabbing a handful of her hair. Summer made a pathetic whining noise. “Well then, that’s unfortunate. Because see, you’ve had the wrong idea in your head for too long. You think that because I use you regularly it means I give a damn about you, but I don’t. For the past year and a half we’ve had a pretty great thing going, but you know what? That means I’ve got a year and a half’s worth of dirt on you. And let me tell you, I can bury you deeper than any other kid in this school. So what do you say? Think you might want to try to set the rumors straight?”

At first Summer didn’t answer, so Sunset tightened her grip on her hair. “Ow! Yes! Yes, I’ll do it!”

“Good!” Sunset let go of Summer and held her arms open wide. She showed her friendliest smile and spoke in the brightest tone she could. “And hey, don’t worry so much! You’re the slimiest gossip queen in the school. If anyone can do it, I know you can.” Sunset accentuated her comment with a friendly wink.

Summer Rain didn’t seem to appreciate her hospitality. She had collapsed to her knees and was rubbing her throat while trying to catch her breath. There was a certain appeal to having someone kneel before her, even if she did so with tears in her eyes.

“So before I leave and you get to work, we should lay out the conditions of the next year and a half. Because this? This is just to keep me quiet for now. There’s no wiping the slate clean from here. So here’s what’s going to happen: If I tell you to do something, you’ll do it. If I need a favor, you’ll come through. And if you double cross me? Then you’ll wish you hadn’t. Remember that at my word, this whole school will turn on you. So keep your head down and do as I say, and above all I want you to remember one thing.”

Sunset picked up the bag of her clothes and held it close. “I only care about one person at this damn school, and it sure as hell isn’t you.”

There was no need to wait for confirmation, so Sunset walked away. If Summer Rain had even the smallest amount of backbone, she could report the assault. Even the report without any real evidence would probably be enough to get Sunset sent away to the military academy, but it didn’t really matter. Summer was a coward, and she would never tell a soul about what happened.

Sunset got to the bus shortly before it pulled out, while Summer didn’t get on at all. That was for the best; maybe she could get the rumors to die down a bit before the morning. Since the seat next to her wasn’t taken, Sunset set the paper bag down in it.

At school, Sunset hadn’t bothered to look through the bag at all. It only held her own clothes, and it wasn’t like she suspected Applejack had kept anything for herself. But out of boredom on the bus trip, she decided to take a look.

Turns out there was something unexpected after all. Tucked in between a shirt and a jacket, there was a CD. Sunset pulled it out and stared down at the new Thistle and Weeds album, the same one she’d stolen. It was no longer sealed, so she opened it and found a piece of paper inside. Once unfolded, it revealed a handwritten note.

I know it’s late, but Merry Christmas! You said you don’t really like the holiday much but I figured it can’t hurt to get a present anyway.

To tell you the truth I wasn’t sure what to do with this. I don’t really feel good about having a stolen CD so I was just gonna bring it back, but then I thought maybe you might want it after all. I know you said you didn’t but I think deep down you just felt guilty about taking it. Well no need to worry about that because I went back and paid for it! I can already hear you saying that it was a really stupid thing to do, but I think I’m also beginning to be able to tell when you’re actually happy and just don’t want to say anything.

Of course I was also not really sure if I wanted to give you this on account of whatever happened with Golden Harvest. But then I was thinking and I guess I decided that whatever it was happened before we even knew each other. I’m not saying that it doesn’t matter but if you want to try to be a better person going forward then I’m ready to stand beside you.

So cheer up! Yeah it’s winter and it’s cold and all that, but that just means there’s still time for a rematch if you think you can take on the snowball queen!

PS, hope you don’t mind that I listened to it. You’re right, they’re pretty good. But don’t think I’ve forgotten our deal. Now I’m just gonna make you listen to twice as much country music!

Sunset frowned as she read the note. Underneath, there was a blank space followed by a second part to the note. Immediately suspecting what it was, Sunset took a moment to brace herself before reading.

I really don’t know what to write here, but I feel like I have to write something. When I got home my family was all kinds of worried about me, and I didn’t even know what to tell them about everything that happened. I guess you can rest easy because I didn’t tell them anything about you specifically. Not sure why I didn’t, but I didn’t.

So now I’ve got this CD and I was planning on giving it to you. I guess I still am. I wanted to just throw it away, but it just didn’t feel right. Maybe I am just as stupid as you always say I am after all.

So… now what? What am I supposed to do? After everything that happened I keep telling myself that you must of been telling the truth because nothing else makes any sense. No one would just act the way you do so I guess you really do hate me like you said. I know that but it still feels wrong. I guess I just also know that you’re hurting and I still hate to see that.

I may be an idiot but I have my limits. So I guess what I’m saying is this. If you ever change your mind then come talk to me. Until then I’ll keep out of your way. Maybe that really is all you wanted. If so then I guess congrats. Hope this makes you happy somehow.

Sunset placed the note back in the CD. This didn’t change anything. It couldn’t. As much as Sunset wanted to use this as an excuse to give this whole friendship thing another shot, she refused. Applejack already had enough to worry about without having someone like Sunset around. They would both be better off this way.

Sunset would fix the rumors, whether Summer Rain came through or not. No matter what she had to do, the remainder of middle school would be positive for Applejack. She hadn’t been lying when she said that there was only one person at the school she cared about, but it sure as hell wasn’t herself. As long as things could be made better for Applejack, that would be good enough.

~ End Act II ~

Author's Note:

And so ends Sunset's time in middle school, which is probably gonna be my favorite part of this whole story. Ah well, all good things and all that.

And if you're interested in this sort of thing, here's some thematically appropriate music to close the act.

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