A cold chill ran down the old mare's spine. A soft trace of thunder rumbled within dark, heavy clouds that loomed high over the expansive apple orchard. The air itself seemed to anticipate the oncoming storm and crackled though her fur with rampant anxiousness. That didn't faze her though. Very few things fazed one of her age, and Granny Smith only surveyed the storm as if it were an old adversary. This hadn't been the first storm her brittle bones had weathered, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. Thunder pealed over the darkening sky and silenced even the proud nightingale that had tucked itself away from the bitter winds of winter.
The old mare had also hidden herself away, at least for now. Applejack and Big Macintosh had already begun preparing for the worst the weather could throw at them. They had no need for brittle limbs that had long since worn out their use in the fields. Granny Smith sighed softly, the exhalation causing her chest to rattle. She couldn't help but wonder how such vivid memories still seemed to have happened all those years ago. The mare turned her attention to the mantle of the cozy living space and her eyes rest upon a volume that had predated her by some time. A smile played on her features as she took it down and gently opened it. Scores of pictures from years gone by filled those aged, yellow pages, and as she peered down at them - a young face peered back up at herself.
The photograph bathed in stark, white light as lightning split the sky once more. All the world flickered and dimmed before it, and it was a few moments before electricity resumed. Once the lights had fully recovered, another young face could be seen peering up at her. Granny Smith smiled warmly and patted the space beside her on the hearth rug. "Apple Bloom, child. Don't sit over there in tha dark, c`mere. Sit by Granny a spell."
Apple Bloom wriggled out from beneath the end table she'd sought shelter under and nestled close to her grandmother. The filly smiled and tried to play off her fears, waving a dismissing hoof at the window. "Aw, Ah ain't hidin`. I was just
comin` tah see if you were alright. Applejack and Big Machintosh wouldn' let me help with the trees, so I thought I'd come tah see if you needed anything." Thunder rolled through the dark clouds and cut down her feigned confidence. She cuddled up closer and closed her eyes for a moment, letting it pass before her hoof edged the book her grandmother held. "What the?" she queried, opening her eyes and peeking into the album. This time, a genuine delight filled her features as she pointed at one of the pictures. "Is that you when you were mah age?! You didn' even have yer cutie mark then
It was then that a realization dawned on the filly. Apple Bloom arched a brow and glanced at the distinct apple pie that graced her grandmother's flank. "Yah know, I never asked. How'd ya get yer cutie mark, Granny Smith?" she then looked down at her own bare flank and offered a lopsided grin. "Maybe knowin` how you got your will help me get mine!"
The request took her by surprise for a moment, and Granny Smith simply looked at the photograph for a moment. "Ah never tol` ya that story? Well
let me see if Ah can remember, child. It didn't happen all at once, ya know, but if yer up for a long story than sit with me a while."
Apple Bloom nodded and tucked herself beneath her grandmother's arm. She closed her eyes and leaned into the old mare's petite frame. It still surprised her at just how warm her grandmother was, and how soothing her voice came as she began the story.
Georgia bit down softly on the fruit and closed her eyes. The texture that rolled over her tongue had been she had come to resent. Granny Smith suited it, she thought. The vibrant green hue betrayed the sharp, acidity that stung her delicate pallet. The filly set the apple down and pushed it away in disgust. Then she regretted the emotion and pulled it closer. She cast a glance to the larder she'd pulled it from and furrowed her brow. It was worrisome how bare the shelves had become.
The larder wasn't the only thing barren in the tiny kitchen she sat. A small school bag hung empty on a hook by the door. Anger welled within her tiny chest and she hastily rubbed across her eyes. She knew her parents had done the best they could for her, but it would be difficult coming up with an excuse as to why she would not be attending school again this year. Georgia lowered her head back to the apple and nicked it with the edge of her hoof. There had to be something more than this to life. Not even something as sour as a Granny Smith could be all it appeared to be.
Apple Bloom fidgeted for a moment, unable to help her curiosity. "So ya got yer cutie mark from eatin` bad apples? That doesn't sound like a lot of fun, Granny. Besides, where would you even GET bad apples from? Our orchard's always had the best in Ponyville, heck, in all of Equestria even!" The filly lifted her sights to the window and she cringed as she saw the leaves from their beloved trees scatter just beyond the panes. While she hadn't very much experience yet, even she knew the storm had taken down an unusually large number of the vibrant foliage.
Granny Smith paused and leaned down to nuzzle Apple Bloom's scarlet mane, shushing her fears quietly. "While it's true this orchard's always given us tha best apples, we didn't always have tha orchard, dearie. Ah`m getting tah that, just you listen tah ol` Granny now an` let tha storm pass by. Here now," she murmured and pointed to another photograph in the album. This one was a particularly fond one of hers, and a sad sort of nostalgia crept into her voice.
The photograph was of a mare in her middle years standing next to a filly about Apple Bloom's age. The mare stood tall and proud, her sharper features sporting a manner of playfulness as a wide grin graced them. The filly was perched on a stool beside her, a large wooden spoon clutched in her hooves and flour dusting her tiny nose. It seemed a subject of great amusement to them both, and even now caused Granny Smith to chuckle as she pointed to the mare. "This was mah momma, Savannah. Her an` Pappy ran tha old farm that Apple Acres was built offa. Ya see, she taught me everythin` ah knew about apples - and how tah turn bad ones inta something better."
The bowl was bigger than she was. Georgia peered over its rim with wide, curious eyes and watched as her mother tipped lemon juice into the broad basin. The filly wrinkled her nose in distaste as the sour substance was mixed with vinegar, ruining what had otherwise been a perfectly good cup of sugar and cinnamon. "Are ya sure this is gonna be pie, mama? It don` look like anything I'd ever put inta a pie
"Georgia felt her ears fall back in vexation as her mother only chuckled in response and added flour to thicken the grainy sludge that had begun to form.
"Here," the mare offered, passing her daughter a wooden spoon. "I promise ya it'll be an apple pie once we're done. You jus` stir that up while I cut the apples and I'll show ya how my momma taught me when I was your age." She watched as Georgia fumbled with the utensil before finally sinking it into the mixture.
Georgia struggled for a moment or two before finding her niche, allowing her mother to tend to the apples. Once she found a deep groove with stirring, she chanced a look at what would be going into the promised pastry. The hope she'd had of enjoying the confection fell at what she saw. Granny Smith apples lined the countertop. The fruit ranged from large and delicately hued to smaller balls of greater intensity in color. All of them were the remains of a meager harvest that had been largely to blame for her home schooling. A sour taste rose in her mouth as she glared at the fruit and left off her work. It seemed like nothing went into her life without those bitter apples close behind.
Granny Smith sighed softly and shook her head. "Ah never thought ah'd like apples, but momma always did know best. Still, ah know how ya feel, dear. Yer waitin fer mah cutie mark to come up, just like yer waitin fer your own. Ya see, ah was also the last in mah class tah get my cutie mark. Just be patient and stay with me a little longer, an` I promise it'll happen. Now let me see
After a few moments pf scanning over the pages, she seemed to find what she had stopped for and pointed to another one of the black and white photos. This time, there stood a trio of school fillies. Two of the fillies sported cutie marks, but despite all appearing to be the same age - one stood bare.
As sour as an apple could be, the smell was sweeter than she could have imagined. The autumn air was fragrant with the rich aroma of the pie she carried. Georgia walked slowly to the crest of the hill, with the pie in tow, and paused to look down on a familiar scene. In the distance a small school house had been nestled in a small clearing beyond the pecan trees. Several ponies wandered the lawns and her eyes wandered longingly over the grounds.
It had been a year since she was old enough to attend. The two fillies from the farm had brought the subject to her attention and asked whether or not she would be attending. Georgia remembered how excited she had been at the prospect of learning so much more about the world they lived in. On that day, she had learned a lesson no school could have taught. She had learned the harsh reality that she lived in a very different world than those two fillies whom, while not having intended it, had drawn the poverty line right before her.
That afternoon they had stopped by again and asked why she hadn't come to class. It had been so long now, that tale she'd told them about her reasons. Even she had she'd said. The twins had believed her and even suggested her parents had been priming her to take over the business. She didn't bother correcting them. She didn't want to. They had said their names were Mint and Julep, two names she would not soon forget.
"Georgia!" a voice woke her from her reverie.
The filly looked down the hill and smiled as the twins waved up at her before starting their ascent. She carefully set down the warm apple pie she'd brought for their lunch and made herself comfortable amongst the coltsfoot. She carefully bowed her head to nip at the stem of the plant and allowed the delicate white blossom to hang from her mouth as she looked up to greet her guests. "Bout time ya two delicate debutantes hustled yer way up here. I thought tha pie was gonna get cold before ya made it to the top!"
Georgia carefully cut three slices from the pie and passed one to each of her friends. She couldn't help but smile at the appreciative look on her friends faces as they delicately nibbled on the rich pastry.
Mint looked up from her delicacy and daintily dabbed at the corner of her muzzle. The prestigious act only lasted for a second before she couldn't keep up the composure and simply scattered the crumbs with her hooves. "Ah declare, Georgia. If'n ah'd known you baked pies that delicious, ah'd have voted you tah make lunch every afternoon! How much is yer momma sellin` the recipe for?"
Julep nodded in agreement, eagerly snapping up the last morsel of her own piece. She savored the warm filling on her tongue before allowing it slip down her throat before offering her opinion. "Our momma's never baked pie this good, ah bet she'd give a gold bit just tah taste this -let alone know yer secret."
Before Georgia had time to dismiss their praise, she found herself silent. A stallion had been wandering nearby and had noticed them. Now he was nearly right upon them and eagerly licked his lips. Georgia felt her mane prickling anxiously in apprehension of his presence. The filly found her voice as the stallion took another step closer. "An who da ya think you are, lickin yer lips like that at a buncha fillies? Ah got half a mind tah send ya back down tha hill, hooves over head!"
The sharpness in her voice caused the stallion to break out of whatever mind he'd been in, and a heated blush crept over his muzzle. "W-who, me? I didn't
no!" he stuttered, lowering his head and flattening his ears. "I wasn't licking my lips, not at you anyway. I was just passing by when I caught a whiff of that amazing pie and just had to have a bite! Even a scrap!" As he spoke, he reached into the saddlebag he carried and rummaged around before finding his bits. He pulled out several of the glistening coins.
Georgia's eyes widened as the stallion tossed them in front of her and gave a pleading look. "If that isn't enough, I have more - but I've just GOT to try that pie
" The voice of the stallion almost seemed distant as she stared down at the bits. That was more money than she had ever seen come across her family table. Granted, it was no fortune, but it was something more than the meager apples it had taken to make the pie in the first place; she barely managed to murmur, "Yeah, sure
ah hope ya enjoy tha pie, Mister."
No sooner had she given the word than had the Stallion gathered up the remainder of the pie and taken off. A gleeful whinny could be heard as he sped away, leaving the fillies quiet in his wake.
The lunch hour ended soon, and Minty and Julep bid Georgia farewell. Both of them took their leave back to the school house, and Georgia found herself alone. The filly gathered up the golden bits and slowly headed home, her tiny heart still racing with shock. The afternoon sun had begun its descent and bathed the world a rich golden hue. As her heart continued to beat faster still as she neared her homestead, the filly took off at a run, unable to contain her exhilaration anymore. "Momma!"
"Momma!" the word filled the house with a volume that took the mare by surprise. Savannah set down the papers she had been looking over and offered her daughter a welcoming smile. "Well it's bout time ya made it back. Did yer friends take tah ramblin` bout the school house again? Or were ya just enjoyin tha day? Not that I blame ya
" The smile wavered slightly as she noticed how disheveled her daughter looked. It wasn't often she ever hurried back from the school house, and it was evident something had happened. "Georgia?" she ventured, "Is everythin` alright?"
Georgia hastily made her way to the table and dropped the bits before her mother. She had barely caught her breath from the run but found herself giddy. All the while she hadn't noticed just how quiet her mother had become.
Savannah stared down at the bits before her. Despite her daughter's excitement, her voice was eerily calm. "Geogia, where'd ya get this money
don't try telling me no tales. Tell me ya didn't take it
" a sort of fear edged her tone as she turned to face her daughter. "Tell me ya didn't steal this fer schoolin', please
The words stung. It was as if she'd been slapped, but Georgia knew her mother would never raise a hoof to her. That did little to cushion the blow of the proposed incident, and she backed away a pace. "N-no
Momma, ah could never
It came from tha pie, I swear! Ah didn't know ah couldn't sell it, but it was just so much money an ah thought
" hot tears began to brim in her wide eyes, "Ah thought ya'd be happy
Savannah found herself looking back at the paper beneath the bits. It had been something she hadn't shared with her only foal, just how badly in need they had been. The glaring red ink stood out against the brilliantly polished bits, but somehow seemed to lose its intensity. Tears welled in her eyes as she placed a hoof to her mouth and turned to look at her little filly. Guilt sat heavily in her chest as she suppressed a sob of both relief and anguish. She swiftly closed the distance between them and held her daughter tight, burying her face in the mane of the shocked filly. "Oh Georgia, ah'm so sorry. Ah never could give ya the schoolin yer friends had, or tha fancy livin of the folks next door - but here ya are, givin yer momma something she can't ever thank ya enough fer. Oh Georgia, we're gonna make it. You, me, an Pappy are gonna make it yet, something from nothing at all."
Georgia allowed herself to be held close. Dread slowly turned to elation, and she knew then that their lives were going to change for the better. "Somethin from nothing at all
I like that, Momma. I like that a lot
" As she scrubbed at her eyes, a flash burst in her peripheral vision. She blinked a few times to regain her normal sight, and found herself speechless with a new kind of joy. After all the sour apples that life had thrown her, a sweet apple pie now shone for all the world to see on her flank.
A soft sniffle broke the narration, and Granny Smith looked down at her granddaughter with a gentle smile. "Now now, don't ya go cryin over mah little story, dear. The storm's gonna give us plenty of that, so dry yer eyes."
Apple Bloom sniffled once more, wiping away a few tears before nodding resolutely. "If`n you could find yer talent through all that hardship - ah'm sure ah can find mine to, Granny. Thank ya fer telling me
I know it musta been hard."
Granny Smith pulled Apple Bloom close and nodded, but her sweet expression never wavered. "Bad time are just bad times, dear. It's tha bad time that make tha good ones even sweeter though
a lot like apple pie, and memories. Ah still got time tah make more, provided this storm doesn't rattle these ol` bones too much."
A loud crack split the air as the old mare finished. The room went dark, and the air crackled in the aftermath. A foreboding quiet filled the room and the pair sat still. The silence was broken by the dull sounds of footsteps as they filled the house, and Granny Smith could only watch as a silhouette materialized from the shadows of the storm.