• Published 5th Dec 2012
  • 9,274 Views, 1,302 Comments

Tangled Roots - Bad_Seed_72



The CMC know that Babs Seed was bullied in Manehatten, but how bad could things really have been?

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Living After Midnight

Living After Midnight

Babs Seed tossed and turned in her grand canopy bed. Her sheets were made from the finest cotton and imported from Saddle Arabia. Her blankets were stitched thread-by-thread bt a grand Canterlot designer. Her pillow was stuffed with down feathers from the best pegasus fliers of Cloudsdale. Luxury and comfort surrounded her—yet, she could not find slumber.

~

In her restlessness, Babs Seed recalled yet another day of teasing and trembling. Today, one of the biggest bullies in her class, a callous colt named Card Slinger, had decided that her head was lacking a necessary hat. “Ta hide dat hideous pink mane o' youze!”

To be fair, Babs thought her mane was more of a go-between of red and pink—surely there was a fancy word for this particular color?—but it did not matter. Card Slinger threw a small trash can over her head as she tried to walk home from school, to the laughter of the four other fillies and colts who surrounded him.

Humiliated, fighting tears, Babs took off as fast as she could, ignoring the literal garbage seeping onto her mane and face.

“Yea, youze run off, worthless blankflank!” another colt, Boone, called out as she ran, her hooves hitting the ground as fast as she could pump them. Their laughter echoed in her mind even as she took the back way home, away from the marketplace and the prying eyes of high-class society. That society, while it did not throw trash cans on her head, was little better than Card Slinger and his gang. It judged with a silent tongue that felt like a razor across her bare flank.

No, Babs Seed had had enough of that for today.

Once she had arrived to her home on Manehatten Hill, where her parents—the wealthy Orange entrepreneurs—had built the most envied mansion of all, she threw off the disgusting trash can outside the front door and burst inside, fighting back tears.

To anypony else, the Orange Family home would be a sanctuary and paradise. Two stories of high-quality lumber, brick, carpet, and steel constructed in harmony created a beautiful dwelling adorned with imported art and fragrant houseplants. Five hired helping hooves—a butler, a maid, a cook, and two servants—took proper and loving care of all nine rooms in the house each and every day.

The hired help lived in a small building off the main property, a miniscule shack that barely rivaled the size of Babs's classroom at school. This building had no bathroom or kitchen of its own, so the employees were welcome in the Orange’s home for those needs. However, once night fell, the division between master and servant became apparent, as those five ponies would retire to their miserly shack and Master Orange, Madame Orange, and their two fillies would retire in luxury in their mansion.

However, to Babs, all of this space, these rooms—this work of master carpenters, plumbers, masons, and architects—was nothing more than a hollow shell where love should have been.

Predictably, as Babs shook the filth from her long mane and flowing tail and slowly entered through the front door, she heard no sound coming from inside. If her parents were home, they would be at the dinner table by now, laughing and talking about stocks, bonds, and other things that had to do with money.

It’s all 'bout money, Babs thought. An'… cutiemarks.

“Miss Babs!” A gray Earth pony stallion trotted up to the filly as she shut the door behind her. He wore a suit and tie—the dapper cloth barely covering his cutiemark, which was a serving dish and bell—as well as a tired look on his long face. “I was beginning to get worried, my dear. Hasn’t school been out for about an hour already? It does not usually take this long…”

“Oh, yeah… dat,” Babs said, her long tail instinctively flipping itself and covering her flank at thoughts of the bullying. “I was... um… talkin’ ta the teacha. 'Bout the test tomorra.”

The stallion nodded thoughtfully. “Very good, Madame. It is always good to be prepared. Is there anything I can get for you, Miss Babs? A snack, perhaps? The cook will be preparing dinner in about two hours also.”

“Oh, well, um… dat's alright, Greyhoof.” Babs smiled weakly at her butler. He was always so polite—sometimes too polite. Always complimentary, always willing to fetch Babs anything she would like. And yet, he never asked her the deep questions, the questions that Babs ached for somepony to ask of her.

Greyhoof nodded. “Well, Miss Babs Seed, if there is anything you require, please do not hesitate to call or ring for me.” The stallion bowed low, then turned and began to walk away from his young boss.

As he began to head into the library—to do some straightening up, most likely—Babs Seed called out to him, “Wait! Greyhoof!”

Turning, the tired eyes meeting hers, Greyhoof smiled and said, “Yes, Miss Babs?”

“Where are ma parents?”

Greyhoof frowned. “They did not tell you, Miss Babs?”

She felt her tail sliding off her blank flank and resting between her legs. “Tell me… what?” Babs asked quietly. Did dey… do it again?

The butler's countenance fell. His own heart ached at times for Madame Babs Seed, a filly who seemed to be poor and deprived in ways that scratched at his conscience.

“Madame Babs… your parents are at an important business conference. They will not be returning until this weekend.”

Yup, dey did it again.

“Oh,” Babs said, her gaze falling to the floor. “I see. Thank youze, Greyhoof.” Without looking up to see his reaction, she turned and began climbing the stairs to her room, trotting in a haze.

Dey abandoned me again.

~

After reaching the top of the stairs, Babs Seed knocked on her sister’s door, offering a silent prayer to Celestia that she was still home. Citrus Blossom was about six years older than Babs, a full-grown pony and a beautiful mare. The little seed adored the blossom, comforted by her presence when she was there, missing her dearly when she was not. Citrus usually seemed to find a way to make Babs feel better, even when Babs was lying to her (or at least withholding the truth).

Knock, knock.

“Citrus? Are youze there?”

Knock, knock.

Babs Seed placed her ear against the door, the warm oak wood, listening for signs of her sister.

There was nothing. No noise at all.

Babs tried the knob. It was locked.

Of course.

Sighing, Babs turned and entered her bedroom, greeted by a burst of happy colors. The walls and ceiling were painted shades of yellow, orange, and red. Like the sunset. Like she had wanted.

A bookshelf held her favorite books in one corner. A toybox held her favorite playthings in the other. In the middle was her glorious, luxurious, comfortable bed.

Directly below her room was the kitchen. When the cook, Allspice, was brewing something tasty for supper, the smell would waft through the thickness of her floor and tease her nostrils with its scent.

Two windows on either side of the bed offered amazing views of Manehatten. One to the east would expose her to Celestia’s welcoming rays at the dawn of every new day. She liked feeling the sun on her face as it rose.

The other window to the west allowed her to watch with wonder as the sun would disappear into a place unknown to everypony but Celestia and be replaced with the steady rising of Luna’s illuminating lantern. She liked counting the stars, naming them, and looking at the moon.

In both windows, she could see the streets and shops of Manehatten, observe them all, watch them bustle and fade with the hands of the clock.

As she sat down on the bed, Babs Seed thought, as she usually thought each time she entered this room, that she was one of the luckiest fillies in Manehatten, if not Equestria itself.

“Why…” She whispered to nopony in particular, “Why am I so unhappy, then?”

Babs Seed laid down and cried.

~

Greyhoof knocked sometime during the evening, announcing that dinner was hot on the kitchen table downstairs. Babs respectfully declined with silence, sniffing her tears and quieting her sobs until she heard the slow trotting of the butler’s hooves away from her door. At some point, she fell asleep, only to wake up a seeming minute later, when the moonbeams were casting light into her bedroom and the demons of Manehatten began to play and tumble in the streets.

She rose from her bed and looked out her west window. The stars were twinkling brightly, the moon a gentle parish lantern against the darkness of the streets below. Babs Seed always thought that the streets looked far more beautiful at night.

No mo’ money, no mo’ chaos, nopony fightin' anotha over a bargain o' summat. Jus' peace. Black as night. Like a blanket. A blanket o' stars.

Babs was not the innocent filly her servants (and perhaps her parents, but she didn’t know for sure) believed her to be. Although she was on the second story, Babs was a nimble pony, quicker and stronger than many others her age. She could easily trot across the shingles of the strong roof and leap down to the bushes or garden below without harming herself. She could slip past the servant’s quarters without waking them, quiet as a mouse.

She had done this several times before. Lost in thoughts of bullying and aching for her parents—their divided attention, as it always was, was better than them not being home at all—Babs Seed had wandered the streets of Manehatten a hoof-full of times before, looking upon the darkened homes, shops, and streets in wonder. In the night, she felt free, happy.

In the night, the emptiness matched her heart, and made it feel less lonely.

Tonight, Babs Seed could not sleep, and did not want to think. She wanted emptiness. She wanted escape, however brief, from this cruel joke of a day.

With strong forehooves, a window to the second floor was opened. With a jump and a small WOOSH! of air, the window was closed, Earth pony foal on the roof.

Carefully, she trotted across the shingles, grateful that her parents had chosen to build a mansion with a flat-top roof rather than a traditional, arched one. She remembered that her father had waxed haughty about it one evening, explaining that it was “innovative” and “unique,” sure to start a trend among architect ponies everywhere. This was one of the earliest conversations Babs could remember—she must have been a very, very little filly then, because, as long as she remembered, many of the homes on the Hill shared this sort of roof. Her father must have been as influential as he bragged.

Hopping down into the bushes, Babs Seed landed on all four hooves, grateful that she had not chosen a rose or blackberry bush this time. Thorns and burs were a pain to clean out, and often left small scratches that were hard to explain. Luckily, other than Greyhoof, most of the hired help did not pay too much attention to the Oranges’ youngest daughter, and hence asked no explanation of the scratches. If Greyhoof asked, Babs Seed would just tell him she had played with a puppy she found on the street… or something like that.

I can be a good liar.

The grass rustled in the wind as she began her trek out of the bush, pausing every couple steps to shoot a glance at the servants' quarters. From the shack came sounds of ponies snoring, exhausted from a long day of flank-kissing and domestic work. Babs detected no movement in the squalid building. She trotted on, pausing and checking, pausing and checking, until she was at the edge of the property line. Once her hooves met the road, she burst into a gallop.

Babs Seed wanted to scream, but decided to scream only within the confines of her mind. I’m free! Free! Woohoo! She laughed as she ran, chasing the road down the grand hill, down the street, finding the moon and then pursuing it, too. The filly ran and ran, sweat pouring down her coat, down her face, through her mane. She ran harder. Her heart raced like a foal in her chest and her hooves began to burn. She didn’t care.

Babs Seed thought about the bullies, about Card Slinger and the other filthy foals he ran with. Celestia, how she hated them. It seemed like for the past year and half, ever since that ugly pair of cards had appeared on his rear, Card Slinger had tormented Babs. First, it was just him, and it was just every now and then. Then, his four followers slowly began to join him in their maturity, and the teasing increased, so much that Babs contemplated running away, or at least dropping out of school.

But I can’t do dat… Ma an' Da’ would never give thought ta summat like dat.

Babs had not observed it for herself in a while time, but she knew from the servant’s whispers that her father still drank. She wasn’t sure about her mother. From these whisperings, Babs Seed deduced that her father drank when things were rough—when business deals went bad, or profits from orange sales were down, or when he and her mother argued. Following that pattern of behavior, Babs Seed knew that cider—any type of alcohol, probably—must be a means of escape, a key to disassociating oneself with the harshness of the cruel world.

Instead of stealing her father’s cider, Babs chose to run the streets of Manehatten at night, or dream. In her dreams, she ran too. Running, physically and mentally, emptied her of her thoughts and made the next day possible to bear.

Reaching an alleyway, oxygen running out, Babs Seed ground her hooves to a halt, breathing deeply and rapidly. A new record! she thought with glee. She had ran all the way from home, down the hills, down the street, and to the corner of downtown without stopping. She smiled as she caught her breath, proud of her strength.

In the dark, she looked up, barely making out the letters on the sign above her. “The Watering Hole”? Dat’s a new one. It must be a bar…

Trotting now, Babs Seed rounded the corner, eager to explore this new corner of downtown. Previously, this had just been a vacant lot, and she had raced her shadow back and forth across it here for some time. Now that it was a business, Babs wanted to see what she could find, what she could learn about the ponies that frequented this place.

Turning the corner, Babs gasped. Next to a vendor's carriage lay three of her bullies, bottles of hard cider in their hooves as they laid prone with wide eyes.

Horseapples!

She darted her head back, pulling into the dark, leaning into the alleyway. Now she could not see Card Slinger, Lucky Toss, and Fencer. Maybe they couldn’t see her, either.

Babs Seed’s breath caught in her throat. She pricked her ears as high as they could go, realizing that the three of her tormentors were whispering amongst themselves. She softened her breathing to listen.

Hic! Slinga… man… youze the damn stallion.” Lucky Toss gurgled, his voice slow and thick. "Dis cider… I mean… dis cider is the best thing I’ve eva tasted in ma life…”

Fencer giggled. “So much betta when it’s FRESH from the cart… not some leftover swill in the dumpster…”

Card Slinger roared with a hearty laugh. “Ha, now who’s the baddest colt in all o' Manehatten? Dis colt!” Babs Seed heard the three of them knock hooves and gulp down another swig of hard cider.

Lucky Toss burped. “Damn. Horseapples, I’m drunk.” Babs Seed heard the intoxicated colt attempt to stand, then knock himself back into the vendor’s cart.

“Damn it, Toss!” Fencer hissed. “Youze gonna get us caught back heeya!”

“Aww, Fenca, youze is such a pussy sometimes."

“You can’t call me dat! I’m a filly!” The night was pierced with the sound of a hoof striking across a pony’s face.

“HEY!” Babs retreated further into the darkness, hearing the clang of bottles falling over and hooves hitting the cobbled street. “Youze wanna start somethin’ wit me, Fenca, huh? Youze wanna act like a colt? Then fight like one!”

Babs began to shake. Things were getting bad, and she knew she should run, or at the very least, slowly back out of the alley. Yet, her hooves were glued to the pavement, held by an adhesive stronger than fear. She didn’t really care what went on between the three bullies—they could go to Tartarus for all she cared—but she could not bring herself to move.

I should… I should leave…

She moved a forehoof up, and then moved it back down, but did not move out of position, even as she heard the three foals begin to argue, hard cider slurring their words and injecting rage and weight into their voices.

Slinger, Toss, and Fencer began to tussle, hooves barely missing faces, bottles strewn everywhere. All of this activity began to toss up a thick cloud of dust. The wind began to pick it up and play with it.

Babs shut her eyes as the dust in the wind blew towards her, finding home in her long mane and tail… and her nostrils.

“AHHH-CHOOOOOOOOO!”

The three juvenile delinquents froze. Slinger grabbed a broken bottle from the ground and took a bold step towards the darkness around the corner. “What was dat? Who’s there?!”

Oh Celestia, no, please…

Before she could turn tail and run, Babs Seed felt a strong hoof yank at her mane, pulling her out of the dark alley and into the moonlight behind the loading dock of The Watering Hole. There, she found herself snout-to-snout with Card Slinger, Fencer and Lucky Toss staring at her in shock against the vendor’s cart.

“Well, well, well… look at what we have heeya.”