It was another beautiful day at Canterlot High School. The sun was slowly making its way into the clear morning sky as the students began to converge to the main entrance of the school. It was Friday, the last day before their two days of freedom from books, homework, and annoying teachers and many of the students were relieved about that.
As the students began walking about the halls of the school, either to get to class or to go to their lockers to gather their necessary supplies, the Principal's voice came on over the loudspeaker.
"Good morning, students, and happy Friday," Principal Celestia's voice echoed throughout the building, "Just a reminder that the 'drama club' will be meeting in the auditorium at three o'clock today. All students who are interested in auditioning for this year's school play should report there right after school."
As the rest of the morning announcements went on, Sunset Shimmer was making her way through the school with one of her friends, Fluttershy, besides her.
"Thank you so much for helping me at the animal shelter this weekend," said Fluttershy, her voice soft and meek, "We just got a new batch of baby kittens and we're going to need all the help that we can get."
"No problem, Fluttershy," said Sunset Shimmer, "What are friends for, right?"
It was hard to believe that it was only four months since the school was visited by a "princess from another world" who had taught all of them the true meaning of friendship. Since then, the once bitter and vengeful Sunset Shimmer had turned over a new leaf and became more friendly and likeable amongst her peers. Also, she became really close with the friends that Twilight Sparkle had said would help her understand friendship even more.
As the two of them walked down the halls together, they passed by Applejack, who was putting some book into her locker. When she saw the two of them approaching, she smiled and waved to them.
"Hey Fluttershy," she called to them, "Hey Sunset!"
"Hi, Applejack," said Fluttershy as she offered a small wave to her.
"What's up, Applejack?" asked Sunset Shimmer as she offered a high-five to her.
Returning the gesture, Applejack said, "Ah have some great news to tell ya at lunch!"
"Really?" the timid girl asked.
"You betcha! Ya'll are gonna be so surprised!"
"A SURPRISE!?" a voice came out of nowhere, causing Applejack to jump and drop her books. Fluttershy let out a small eep as she ducked behind Sunset Shimmer, who had also jumped in surprise.
They all turned to Applejack's open locker to see Pinkie Pie's head sticking out of it, a huge grin across her face. As the three friends tried to regain their composure, she jumped out of the locker and kicked it closed with the back of her foot.
"Pinkie," said a startled AJ, "Why were you...?"
"I know," said Pinkie as she pointed a thumb at the locker, "You really need to clean that out. There are way too many books in there. Anyway, I can't wait to hear all about the surprise!"
With that, she skipped off down the hall, a huge grin on her face. As they watched, Sunset Shimmer let out a sigh and said, "I don't think I'll ever get used to her antics."
Confused, Applejack shook her head and turned to the others. "Like ah was sayin', I have a big surprise for all of ya. Ah'll tell ya all 'bout it at lunch with the other girls."
Before any of them could say anything, the first bell for the morning rang, signaling that it was almost time for class.
"Okay," said Sunset Shimmer as she began making her way down the hall, "I can't wait."
"Me neither," said Fluttershy, "See you girls then."
As the two girls made their way down the hall, Applejack stood there for a few seconds, waving at them as they left. When the two of them turned the corner and were out of sight, Applejack let out a small sigh and lowered her head.
Ah wish it didn't hafta be this way, she thought as she began picking up the books she had dropped. Ah wanna enjoy today, but ah can't stop thinkin' 'bout tomorrow.
With her books in her hands, she adjusted her Stetson and let out one last sigh before making her way down the hall to her first class.
A few hours later, the bell rang for the students to make their way to their next class. However, for a certain group of friends, it meant that it was time for their lunch period.
Rarity and Sunset Shimmer, who had the same class the previous period, walked into the cafeteria together, going directly to the lunch line to get their food.
"I'm telling you, darling," Rarity said with a smile, "The Boutique a gorgeous place to work. The pay is really good and you don't have to know anything about fashion to apply."
"I don't know," Sunset Shimmer said, scratching the back of her head, "I just don't see me working in a place like that."
"Well, it's just a suggestion, is all. I just thought it would be good for you. Besides, it's a great way to make new friends outside of school."
"I'll think about it."
When they got their sustenance, they turned and began making their way through the crowded room. Some students were reading books and doing homework while they ate while others were looking through magazines or prepping the instruments that they had. Others were practicing for their auditions for the drama club and some were innocently chatting with one another.
As the two of them weaved their way through the crowded room, they saw Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie sitting together at a table in the back, obviously waiting for them. As they got closer, they heard the two of them engaged in some sort of conversation.
"And that's what I plan to do!" Pinkie said, "So, what do you think?"
Rainbow raised an eyebrow at her. "Uh, Pinkie," she said. "You didn't say anything. You just sat down and said, 'that's what you plan to do'."
Pinkie blinked twice in surprise and said, "Oh".
Tapping her finger against her chin, she looked up to the ceiling as if she was thinking really hard about something. Then, she looked at Rainbow and asked, "But it was still a good plan though, right?"
Rainbow Dash responded by slamming her palm against her forehead.
When Rarity and Sunset Shimmer sat down, the four of them began to eat their lunch. It wasn't long until Fluttershy joined them with Applejack not too far behind.
With all of her friends present, Applejack smiled and said, "Girls, ah have a big surprise for all of ya!"
"Ooh! Ooh!" said Pinkie as she began bouncing up and down in her seat, "What is it? What is it? Did you find a way to open that window-thing so we can see Twilight again?"
Applejack blinked in surprise. Then, she looked flatly at her and responded with a simple, "No."
"Aww, bummer!" she said as she rested her head on the table, a saddened look on her face. A split second went by before she livened up again. "Well, what's the surprise then? Tell us, tell us!"
Clearing her throat, Applejack said, "Well, the weekend is here and ah thought, what better way to celebrate than with a girl's night out? So, ah was thinkin' the six of us could go to that new movie theater that opened last week after school. Then, we can go to that restaurant across the street afterwards."
All of them beamed in excitement at the thought of their special outing that night; all of them except Rarity, who had a look of concern on her face.
"Applejack, darling," she said, "I do appreciate the gesture, but those places are very expensive! I don't think I have enough to..."
"Don't you worry yer pretty head about price," she said, offering her a wink, "Ah'll pay for all of us!"
The excitement in all of their faces began to turn into looks of surprise at her statement.
Crossing her arms, Rainbow Dash asked, "And how exactly do you plan on paying for all of us?"
Raising an eyebrow, Applejack asked, "Whaddaya mean? Ah have enough money to pay fer ya'll. Ah wouldn't be offerin' if ah didn't!"
"How is it that you have so much money that you can spend?"
Applejack felt her heart skip a beat as she lowered her eyes in shame. Although this wasn't the first time she was asked this, she always found it hard to answer whenever she was.
"It doesn't matter how", she said, looking back at her. "All that matters is that ah have the money and ah wanna spend it on all of us."
"Um, Applejack," said Fluttershy. "Is it possible that we can make it for tomorrow instead of tonight? I'm a little busy this afternoon and I don't know if I'll be able to make it."
A quick look of guilt came across her face as she looked down at the ground. Then, she turned to her friend and said, "Ah can't. Ah...Ah hafta leave town this weekend."
"Again?" asked Rarity.
"Yeah," said Applejack as she let out a sigh. "Again."
"If you don't mind me asking, where exactly do you go, darling?"
Applejack's heart began to speed up; this was the first time she was asked this from her friends. Therefore, she didn't have an answer ready for them. They knew that she left on certain weekends, but they never seemed to question where she went or why. Why did they all of a sudden wonder where she was going now?
She quickly fished her mind for something to say, taking off her brown hat to scratch the back of her head. Then, an idea came to mind, causing her to flash a quick smile and put her hat back on her head.
"Ah hafta get some supplies for mah family...supplies that they don't sell in town."
Then, she went to take a drink of her juice, only to realize that she had forgotten to get one when she got her lunch. Before any of them could say anything else, she told them she was going to get a drink, got up and walked away. As she did, the five of them noticed that she was walking with her head hanging low, looking like she was upset about something.
When she was out of earshot, which was easy since the cafeteria was loud to begin with, Rarity leaned in and said, "As much as I despise talking about people behind their backs, I must say that Applejack is up to something."
"I agree," said Rainbow as she crossed her arms. "Where is she getting so much money that she can throw around?"
"Was she always like this?" asked Sunset Shimmer. Since she wasn't really Applejack's friend for very long, she was the only one who didn't know about her strange disappearances.
"Sort of," chimed in Fluttershy, her voice barely audible in the noisy room. "She was like this for a little while in the beginning of the year, but not as much. She used to leave once or twice a month, but now it seems likes she's leaving every week."
"If you ask me, I think she's hiding something!" said Pinkie, pointing in the direction that Applejack went.
Rainbow rolled her eyes and said in a flat, sarcastic tone, "You don't say, Pinkie."
"I do say," she replied. Then, she pulled out a pair of binoculars from her puffy pink hair and looked at Applejack, who was standing in the lunch line with a drink in her hands. "Just look at her, standing in line with that juice container in her hands! She looks so suspicious!"
"Pinkie, she's just buying a drink," said Sunset Shimmer. "Besides, we can see her too, you know. You don't really need binocu-"
"Yeah, but it's the suspicious way she's buying a drink," interrupted Pinkie, lowering the binoculars. "I think we should keep an eye on her."
"I don't know about that, Pinkie," said Fluttershy. "I don't think she'd appreciate us snooping into her personal business like that."
"I agree with Fluttershy," said Rarity. "Besides, I wouldn't stoop down to a low like that."
"Maybe you won't, but I will," said Rainbow Dash. "I'm with Pinkie Pie on this one. I think we should keep an eye on her, just to see what she's up to."
"Well, I'm with Fluttershy. I think we should stay out of her business."
"Yeah, well, I bet Sunset Shimmer is with me on this, right Sunset?"
She just sat there, staring blankly at the four friends before her. Sunset Shimmer shifted her eyes back and forth, trying desperately to come up with an answer. Sure, she wanted to find out what Applejack was up to, but she didn't want to stick her nose where it didn't belong either.
"Well...I...uh..." she stuttered. Then, much to her relief, Applejack returned with her drink in her hand. As she sat down, she stuck the straw into the container and took a swig of her drink, licking her lips when she was done.
"I'll get back to you girls on that," Sunset said, trying to keep her answer as vague as possible. Luckily, Applejack didn't catch on.
"Well, whaddaya say, girls?" she asked, "You up for a little girls' night out tonight?"
"Sure, why not?" Rainbow Dash said.
"Okie-dokie-lokie!" said Pinkie.
"Very well," said Rarity as she flicked her hair.
"I'll see if I'm not too busy," said Fluttershy, "I'll have to get back to you later."
Sunset Shimmer only nodded to her.
Applejack flashed a smile to them as she began to eat her lunch.
"Have a nice day, students," said the teacher as the class got up and began to head out. It was time for the students to make their way to the last period of the day and many of them were excited about that.
Sunset Shimmer walked down the hall, her mind racing with the conversation from earlier. Although she wanted to find out what Applejack was hiding from all of them, she knew that it was wrong to stick her nose into other people's business. As that thought ran through her mind, she let out a tiny scoff; if this was before Twilight's visit, she wouldn't have any problem getting into another person's personal life. However, she knew that if this was back then, she would only do it to destroy him or her, not to help.
As she turned the corner, she caught a glimpse of Big Macintosh putting some books into his locker. She stopped walking when she saw him, a thought coming across her mind.
Maybe Applejack is telling the truth, she thought to herself. It won't hurt to confirm her story with her brother.
Nodding to herself, she walked over to him and said, "Excuse me, Big Macintosh. Can I ask you something?"
"Eeyup," he said as he closed the locker door.
"Well, you see, it's about your sister," she said, an unsure look on her face.
As if on cue, a girl on a scooter rolled by with her two friends following close behind, one of them being Apple Bloom. When Big Macintosh saw his younger sister, he called out to her, stopping her in her tracks.
"Yeah?" she asked with a smile.
"It seems Sunset Shimmer has something to say about you," said Big Mac as he crossed his arms, a look of disappointment on his face. "What did ya do now?
Apple Bloom gave the two of them a worried look. "Ah didn't do anythin', honest!"
Sunset Shimmer face-palmed herself; how could she forget that Big Mac had two sisters and that both of them were in the same school?
A weary smile came across her face. "Actually, I was talking about Applejack."
"Oh," he said, unfolding his arms. He directed his attention back to Apple Bloom. "Sorry 'bout that, sis."
"It's okay," she said. "What's wrong with Applejack?"
"Well, the thing is," Sunset Shimmer said sheepishly. "Applejack told us that she was going away this weekend and I was wondering if you two knew anything about it."
Big Macintosh and Apple Bloom gave each other a surprised glance. Then, they both looked at Sunset Shimmer and asked in unison, "Again?"
Sunset blinked in surprise. "You mean you two didn't know?"
"We know she goes away on certain weekends," said Big Mac, "But we didn't know she was leavin' this weekend. Ah'm pretty she woulda told us later, though."
"Do you know where she goes?"
"A little," said Apple Bloom, "She says she leaves to meet up with some outta-town friends or somethin'. That's 'bout it, though. Sorry."
"It's okay. It came up at lunch and I was just curious."
"Well, ah better get goin' before ah'm late," said Big Mac, "See ya 'round."
"Me too," said Apple Bloom as she turned and began running down the hall, "See ya later!"
Sunset Shimmer bid the two farewell and began making her way to her own class.
'Out-of-town friends'? Sunset Shimmer thought. I thought she was leaving for 'supplies'. Looks like she's telling us one thing and telling her family another, but the question is why.
She entered her classroom and sat down just as the bell rang. One thing's absolutely sure, she thought. Applejack is hiding something, something she doesn't even want her family to know.
It wasn't long before the last bell rang and the students of Canterlot High were free from school for the next two days. Although most of the students were walking home, there were those who drove, so they made their way to the school's parking lot.
Sunset Shimmer walked over to her car, pulling out her keys from her pocket as she did. However, her attention was quickly sidetracked when she saw Applejack heading towards her truck, Big Macintosh and Apple Bloom not too far behind. However, what caught her attention was the look of worry on her face. Quickly, she checked her surroundings to make sure none of the other girls were around. Then, she made her way to her, calling out to her when she did.
"Applejack!" she shouted, catching her attention. When she caught up to her, she put her keys in her jacket pocket and asked, "Can I talk to you for a moment?"
Applejack could feel an uncomfortable chill run up her spine as she asked the question. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Apple Bloom and Big Mac standing there, both with a confused look on her face.
She turned to face them and said, "It's fine, ya'll. Ah'll be right there."
The two of them exchanged confused glances before getting inside the truck. Then, Applejack turned to face Sunset Shimmer and asked, "What's up?"
"Well, I wanted to talk to you in private to ask you something," she said, crossing her arms. "Where exactly do you go when you leave town?"
Putting her hand on her hips, Applejack said, "Ah already told ya, ah leave ta get some supplies they don't have in town."
"Uh-huh," said Sunset, narrowing her eyes at her, "What kind of supplies?"
Once again, Applejack was taken off guard. She began looking at the ground, her eyes shifting back and forth as she bit her lower lip. Seeing this reaction, Sunset Shimmer simply raised an eyebrow.
Then, Applejack blurted out, "What difference does it make? All ya need ta know is that ah hafta leave town for 'em! That's it, end of story."
Letting out a small laugh, she said, "You know, you're very secretive for something as trivial as getting 'supplies'. I'm pretty sure your family would be willing to tell me all about where you go. Maybe we should go talk to them about it."
In a flash, AJ turned to her with an angry expression on her face. She pointed a finger at her and shouted, "Don't you DARE!"
Sunset Shimmer took a few steps back, her eyes wide and her hands up in surrender; she had never seen Applejack get this angry before, not to her or anybody. "Geez. Sorry, okay. I didn't know it was that big a deal."
Applejack inhaled and exhaled slowly, trying to calm herself down. Then, she said, "No, ah'm the one who should be sorry. Ah shouldn't have snapped at ya like that. It's just that...well..."
Lowering her hands, Sunset Shimmer could see that, whatever it was that Applejack was hiding, it was bothering her deeply. If she didn't know any better, she looked like she was on the verge of crying. However, Applejack took another deep breath to regain her composure.
"It's nothing, honest," she quickly replied. "Just don't worry yerself about it."
With that, Applejack turned to get into the truck. Before she did, she turned to Sunset Shimmer once more and asked, "See you tonight?"
She smiled at her and said, "Sure."
Then, she got into the truck. A few seconds went by before the truck began to back out of the parking spot. Sunset quickly waved goodbye to Applejack as it began to pull away. She turned and began making her way to her own car, taking the keys out of her pocket again.
Whatever it is that Applejack's hiding, it seems to be affecting her badly, she thought as she unlocked her car and opened the door. I hate to say it, but there's only one way we're going to get to the bottom of this, and that's by seeing where she goes.