• Published 25th May 2021
  • 1,487 Views, 121 Comments

Through Despair and Hope - Blue Writer

How does one help a grieving child? How does one heal from losing everything?

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Chapter 12

“Hi, Applejack!”

Pinkie had arrived at Sweet Apple Acres just in time for the day’s work to be finished. Applejack had a very good idea of what had brought her to the farm. “Howdy, Pinkie,” she greeted.

“So, I remembered what you said the other day about Ben’s Welcome to Ponyville party and I was feeling tingly on the middle hair in the back of my mane, so I didn’t invite everypony in Ponyville because Ben sounds kinda shy and instead I just invited the Elements of Harmony and Spike and all the schoolfillies and schoolcolts and their parents and Cheerilee and Doctor Warm Light!” She started pulling party items out of the pocket dimension that was her mane and began to set up. “The tingling said the party should be out here. Can we have the party out here? Can we?”

Applejack blinked. “Uh… sure.”

“Okie Dokie Loki!” Pinkie resumed her party preparations with vigor. Applejack, on the other hoof, began preparing herself for the coming talk with Doctor Light. The farm mare could not bear the thought of failing anypony, but she had failed Ben. Anypony could attest that failure felt terrible, but admitting it was even worse. Nevertheless, Applejack would not cower away from what needed to be done. She went into the house, not yet fully prepared to face the mare who entrusted her with a foal.

Granny was quick to notice Applejack’s downcast mood. “Big Mac said you was feelin’ low,” she told her, “Mind tellin’ me what’s got ya so down? Ya ain’t worryin’ about Ben, are ya?”

Applejack sighed. “Ah shouldn’t ha’ used the soap on Ben,” she lamented, “That whole thang with his nose was just some bad habit he’d picked up. Didn’t mean nothin’ by it, and Ah went and punished ‘im for it.”

“You was punishin’ him fer his awful mouth,” Granny reminded, “Ain’t nopony decent enjoys disciplinin’ foals, but they gotta learn.”

“But Ah should’a been more patient with ‘im,” Applejack insisted. “If’n Ah hadn’t started yellin’, he likely wouldn’t ha’ started cussin’. Ah shudder ta think o’ where and how he even heard some o’ them words. Hay, Ah should’a remembered he hadn’t had the best life before Ah found ‘im. What if Ah somehow reminded him o’ the varmints that hurt ‘im?”

Granny took a moment to contemplate Applejack’s words. “Ah don’t rightly know what Ben’s gone through, and Ah know there ain’t no easy cure-all with parentin’. The way Ah figure, ya can’t let one bad day get ya down, no matter the job. If’n ya can’t get all the apples in one buck, ya just keep on buckin’ away ‘till it’s done.”

Applejack’s expression lifted, if only a little. “Ah get what yer sayin’, Granny, and yer makin’ sense, but it ain’t up ta me. Ah still have ta talk ta Warm Light about what happened. She’ll likely take Ben someplace else.”

“Well, you’ll buck that tree when ya get to it,” Granny reassured. “Fer now, ya best be checkin’ on the young’un. He’s been in his room and Ah ain’t heard nary a peep out of ‘im.”

Applejack nodded and started up the stairs. When she reached Ben’s room, she hesitated at the door. Just as Granny had said, she couldn’t hear anything from inside. Was he taking a nap? Had he tried to run away? Slowly, Applejack opened the door, hoping to see him on the other side. To her great relief, Ben was right where she had left him. He was sprawled over the bed with a textbook and several small objects in front of him, sound asleep with his face firmly planted in the book. Applejack was strongly reminded of Twilight. It was very cute, but it also meant Ben had likely exhausted himself studying and practicing his magic. Applejack decided to let Ben sleep, at least until Pinkie was ready to start the party. Hopefully, the festivities and meeting new foals would help cheer him up.

Applejack left the sleeping colt and headed outside. By that point, more of her friends had arrived, including the Elements and Spike. The ponies and dragon exchanged greetings and it was clear that they were all wondering about Ben.

“So, how are you and the little colt getting along?” asked Rarity.

Applejack winced. Twilight and Spike looked uncomfortable.

“Oh, dear,” said Rarity. “Whatever is the problem?”

“Ben’s got a huge potty mouth,” Spike interjected. “It was so bad I wish Twilight could erase those words from my memory.”

“Even if I could modify somepony’s memories, there is no way I would do something so incredibly dangerous!” Twilight declared. “I might completely destroy somepony’s identity or turn their brain into a vegetable or-”

“Calm yourself, darling,” said Rarity, “We all know you wouldn’t do that.”

“Sounds like you’ve got your work cut out for you,” Rainbow commented.

“Ah was way too hard on ‘im,” said Applejack, hanging her head. “Ah messed up big time and now the poor colt’s likely scared to death of me.”

“I’m sure that’s not true,” said Twilight, trying to reassure her friend. “He doesn’t act scared around you, does he?”

“Well, no…”

“Then there’s nothing to worry about,” said Rarity. “Besides, you have us to help with anything you might need.”

“Yeah!” Rainbow chimed in, “I’ll bet he’ll be right as rain when Pinkie’s done cheering him up with this party. I’ll be more than happy to do some flying to liven things up a little. Foals love that kinda stuff.”

“Thanks, y’all,” Applejack said with a slight smile, “But Ah still need ta make up fer what Ah done. Best way ta do that is talk ta Warm Light. Ah’d best go find her.”

“Do you want us to come with you?” asked Twilight.

“Thanks, but Ah oughta do this mahself.”

“If you’re sure…”

“It’s mah mistake, so Ah gotta own up to it.”

Applejack did not have to wait long for Doctor Light to show up. Steeling herself, she made her way over to the counselor.

“Hello, Applejack,” greeted Doctor Light. Her bright smile diminished once she saw the farmer’s guilt-ridden expression. “Did something happen?” she asked.

Applejack related every detail of the incident and the events surrounding it, leaving no tree unbucked. “He’s up in his room sleepin’ right now,” she finished. “You can take ‘im away as soon as the party’s over.”

Doctor Light’s expression looked complicated to say the least, as if she were attempting to appear friendly and gentle while simultaneously struggling to contain righteous anger. She briefly closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I don’t think I need to tell you how badly this might affect him,” she said calmly. “He may very well have cried himself to sleep as soon as you left the room. I’m sure you’ve learned from your colossal mistake, but I can’t stress this enough: there cannot, I repeat, cannot, be any physical punishments. We still don’t know exactly how he was treated in the past and this will very likely extend how long it will take for him to eventually break out of his alter ego. In other circumstances, I would probably take him out of your hooves this instant. However, there’s a problem.”

“What’s that?” Applejack asked, feeling completely miserable.

“I’ve talked to several other registered foster parents in Ponyville. So far, none of them have been willing to take Ben in on account of his condition. They’re too scared of slipping up or getting mad at his ‘weird’ delusions. One of them, and I won’t say who, said that Ben should be in a mental institution.”

Applejack gasped. “But that— that’d break ‘im!” she protested.

“I know,” Light replied. “At Ben’s age, he needs to be loved. That’s why I asked you to take care of him in the first place. I knew you cared. It’s because I know you still care, so much that you’ve clearly been hard on yourself over this, that I’m going to continue letting Ben stay here.”

Applejack was shocked. “But Ah really messed up! Ya said so yerself! Ah couldn’t live with mahself if Ah were to mess up like that again!”

“Then you have plenty of incentive to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Nopony’s perfect and that includes parents. Mistakes can and will be made. What matters is that you learn from that mistake, apologize for it, and keep moving forward. You’ve already apologized to Ben, which may mean more to him than you might think. Now you need to move forward. For Ben’s sake.”

Applejack slowly nodded. “Alright. Ah swear Ah’ll do my best. That’s a promise.”

“That’s all I ask,” said Doctor Light. “Now, if I’m not mistaken, there’s a party about to start and the guest of honor isn’t here yet.”

Applejack gave a slight smile. “Ah’ll go fetch ‘im.”

Author's Note:

Well, my graduate school quarter starts soon. Needless to say, that’s going to affect when I can work on the story. Classes take priority, you understand.

Fun fact, I originally had Pinkie say “a few chapters ago” instead of “the other day,” but I decided that it felt too forced.

Anyways, next chapter is Ben’s Welcome to Ponyville party. Who will he meet? Will he get along with anyone? Is Pinkie’s mere existence going to blow his mind? I don’t know, I haven’t written it yet.