• Published 25th Aug 2018
  • 875 Views, 52 Comments

Sensation - Appleloosa - Vivid Syntax

It's been an eventful year since the accident took Soarin's career from him, and Braeburn remembers every moment. He may say he's content, but there's something desperate behind those bright, green eyes.

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Chapter 1 - Apples on the Wind

A rooster crows, and as much as I want to rush outside, grab it by its neck, and shove it in a barrel, I tell myself to appreciate the experience of waking up in the middle of nowhere.

I do what Braeburn told me, and it works, mostly: I take it one sensation at a time. There's the crow of that rooster, of course, but as obnoxious as it is, its initial sharpness has faded. It's endearing, in a way, and so much more natural than an alarm clock. I take a deep, deep breath of the dry desert air. The scent of cut wood fills my nostrils, tinged with the subtle hints of thousands of home-cooked meals. The air tastes dusty out here, and it's a little salty. My back is stiff from sleeping in an overly-soft mattress all night, but the pillows are firm and comfortable. As my consciousness returns, one more sound tickles my ears: snoring in the next room. With a smile on my face, I finally sit up and open my eyes.

Braeburn's guestroom. Or Braeburn and Soarin's, I guess. It's cozy, and in the dim light of the pre-dawn, I can see the dozens and dozens of framed pictures that fill the walls. It's tough to make out details, but they're full of smiles. Most are new. Some, I recognize from Soarin's Cloudsdale condo. Has it been almost a year already?

I softly clear my throat and stretch out my neck as the rooster crows again. "Okay, I'm up," I grumble. With a shake of my spiky – well, it's supposed to be spiky – brown-and-gold mane, I stand up and rock in place to get the feeling back into my hooves. The floorboards don't creak at all, and I laugh to myself. "Not in the guestroom. Braeburn wouldn't stand for it." Quietly, I slip on a purple t-shirt and sneak out the bedroom door with the softest of hooffalls.

The door to the master bedroom is cracked open. As I pass by it, I peer inside, and I see a big, sky-blue pegasus stallion, head buried under a pillow and one wing splayed awkwardly on the bed behind him. He snores, but not too egregiously, and I hope for his sake that wings don't get too stiff like that. "Sleep well, Soarin'," I whisper as I work my way down the dark steps.

I follow the soft whoosh of a teapot that's not quite ready. As I round the corner of the staircase and walk towards the kitchen, there he is: a butter-yellow earth pony stallion with a beautiful chestnut mane. His shoulders are tense, but he breathes deeply and smiles in the first hints of the morning light. "Hey there," he says in a raspy voice. "Ol' Barnaby wake you up?"

I chuckle. "Afraid so. You?"

"Heh heh. Not this time." Just as the water boils and the kettle starts to whistle, he deftly turns off the burner with a practiced hoof. There's a bracelet on his fetlock: a simple cord with a series of beads (some of them very large) arranged in a pattern. I can't help but frown – the bracelet hangs loosely on him, and there are fewer beads than I expected. "He's a stinker, but he keeps most of us from sleepin' the whole day away. Now, I got green and black tea – nothin' fancy, mind, just oolong – and a press for coffee." He leans against the counter. "What's your preference?"

I shrug and meet his gaze. "Whatever you're having."

Braeburn smirks. "Careful, Vivid. This ain't Whinnyapolis. Folks have opinions 'round here, so best speak your mind if you want somethin'."

I laugh. "Let's try the oolong."

"Comin' right up." He reaches into the cabinet and pulls out a rustic-but-clean tin, then scoops a spoonful of tea into a couple strainers. "You're just in time for the show, too."

My eyebrow raises. "Show?"

By way of answering, he motions with his head towards the back door. "Grab a seat."

I do as I'm told and make my way outside. There are two outdoor lounge chairs and a small table sitting on the back patio. I seat myself and take in the view. The sun just barely peeks over the hills, shining a brilliant golden ray of light onto the Appleloosa orchard. Out here, at the edge of town, the orchard is about the only thing I can see besides the desert, which stretches into the faraway hills. My fur bristles at the slight chill – so strange considering how hot it'll get during the day. The scent of apples is on the wind.

Braeburn sneaks out of the back door. He deftly carries a tray in his mouth, which he sets down on the table. On it are two mugs, each with a strainer in it, accompanied by small pots of cream and sugar and a plate to put the used tea on. "Give 'em a couple minutes," he whispers. With a sigh, he sits in the other chair, and we look out at the expansive desert.

My brain is comfortably fuzzy. The rich, bold smell of the oolong lingers in the air, and my mouth waters. Ol' Barnaby crows again, but it's much less grating now. In fact, it feels like nothing in the world could bother me. We sit in silence together, enjoying the peace and quiet.

We breathe.

Neither of us move until we take our tea out of our mugs. I shift a bit in my seat and rub my eyes with a groan. Braeburn turns his head to me with furrowed brows. "You sleep okay?"

"As much as I was able," I reply. "Thanks for picking me up so late last night. Sorry the train was so delayed."

"Aw, ain't nothin' to be done about that. Worst case, you could have just caught the one that's comin' this afternoon." I'm very careful not to react to that. Braeburn lifts his tea to his lips, blows on it, and tips it back, but he stops himself. "Hm… One more minute."

I glance at my own cup. The steam continues to rise. "In any case, it's a shame to miss even a moment of this place. It's absolutely beautiful."

"You're speakin' my language, Viv." He rotates his shoulders and cracks his neck. "Honestly, I'm just happy you made the trip. Heh heh. Think you're a few weeks late, though. Soarin' was tryin' to get you out here back in August, right?"

I smile. "What, and miss this?" I jerk my head towards the orchard. As if on cue, the wind shifts slightly, and the sweet scent of apples mixes with the tea. "I just hope I'm not in your way."

Braeburn waves a hoof. "Perish the thought. And hell, September's even better. More activity, more apples, little cooler… I just hope you don't mind if we spend some time preparin' for the harvest to hit in earnest."

"I hope I can make myself useful. And maybe I can get an apple-bucking lesson while I'm here."

"Heh heh. You're in good hooves. If I can teach Soarin', I can teach anypony." We share a laugh, and Braeburn finally tastes his tea. "Mm… Not bad."

I taste mine as well. Like everything Braeburn has ever made, it's much better than he gives it credit for. I'd let him know, but I'd hate to break the stillness. For a few moments, we sit together and watch the scenery fade from dark blue to gold.

I jump a bit when Braeburn speaks up. "Pride and joy right there," he says with a much heavier voice than I was ready for. "Lot of work in 'em, and I was happy to have a whole summer with 'em again."

"They're beautiful," I reply. I turn to Braeburn. "I heard Big Mac is in town to help out, too, right?"

Braeburn's eyes are furrowed just slightly. He smiles, but he seems stiffer, and there's no magic Apple family aura of calm radiating from him anymore. "Mm-hm." He blinks a few times and smiles politely. "Stayin' at the Tumbleweed. I offered him the couch, but he insisted on giving us space."

I wince. "Oh dear. I hope I didn't displace him with my visit."

Braeburn wrinkles his nose and shakes his head. "Naw, you didn't put him out none. It's just his way." He looks back outward. "It'll be nice havin' the help. There's a bunch to do, and havin' Mac around'll save us all a couple days." He speaks quickly, yet he seems more relaxed now. "A few bushels, too. I've got some of the colts workin' the fields already to get the early ripeners, but any day now, the peak will hit, and I still need to make sure all our equipment's in order. The apples will go bad if you don't get 'em fast enough, but they make good sauce if you're quick. It's…" He looks back at the orchard, and the color drains from his voice. "It's an excitin' time."

Something needles me, and I say calmly, "You've got it down to a science."

Softly, he says, "Trees ain't complicated."

I pause. My ear flicks as I feel a familiar warmth at the back of my skull. "Unlike… ponies?"

"Heh." Braeburn shakes his head. He fiddles with the mug in his hooves, never looking away from the orchard. "Trees are the same. Year in, year out." He goes silent. His jaw tightens up, like he's about to speak, over and over again. I'm about to say something when he finally continues. "They're… reliable, and as long as you take care of 'em and watch out for blight and pests and such, you know what you get. You don't have to worry about whether they'll be back next season. There's day-to-day concerns, of course, but overall, it's comfortable. The cycle continues, and your roots grow strong. But…" He stares down into his tea. "But you're right. Ponies ain't trees." He drains the rest in a big gulp.

Gently, I reach a hoof over and rest it on his wither. "I've got a pretty good ear if you want to talk about it."

"Heh heh." Braeburn casts me a sidelong glance. "And write another book?"

"Up to you," I say casually, taking back my hoof. "I know some ponies would be interested, but it doesn't matter unless you want to talk."

Braeburn nods and sets his mug down. "Yeah." He takes a deep breath of the morning air. "Yeah, maybe. It'd be nice to talk to somepony that's not so involved in everything." He smirks and narrows his eyes at me. "Did Big Blue put you up to this?"

I feel a lump in my throat, and my nose scrunches up. "He… may have mentioned that you have a few things on your chest." I look back at Braeburn. "I hope you're not mad at him."

Braeburn smiles warmly. "Why would I be mad? Because he saw that I was in pain and asked for some help makin' me feel better?" He playfully taps the foreleg rest of the chair. "Naw. He's a treasure, that one." His eyes glaze over. "I love him so much, Viv. He makes me happy. Lights up my world and keeps every day interesting." He frowns suddenly.

I lean closer. "Yes?"

Braeburn shakes out his mane. "Aw, nothin'." He waves a hoof again. "Yeah, okay, I'll take you up on those ears of yours. It'll give me somethin' to do besides fret."

My heart feels heavier. "You must have a lot on your mind."

"Well, yeah, with the town and all. But…" He shakes his head and smiles at me. "Let's give it a rest. Sunrise in Appleloosa's a treat, and I'd hate to spoil it for you."

Is his hiding from it? Maybe, but I have faith he'll open up in time. I nod. "Here's to that."

We relax back into our chairs as the first hint of hot air brushes against my chin. Ol' Barnaby crows one more time, and I go through all my senses again.

It's peaceful out here. Soothing. It makes me happy, and my body unwinds one sinew at a time.

Braeburn clearly needs to process a few things, but he's a wise pony. I'll heed his words and enjoy the morning. Breathe in, breathe out. I can just close my eyes and–

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