Ah Ain't Got no Ack-cent!
By Conner Cogwork
When Rarity is overwhelmed with making designs for an agriculture exhibition, she turns to Applejack for advice. But when she gives Applejack a hair style treatment in return, the apple farmer lets her accent slip from southern drawl to sophisticated Manehattenite. The result? More fancy parties than you can shake a candy apple at!
Image credit to CYB3RWASTE on DA
Carousel Boutique was currently a seamstress's nightmare.
There was a reason for this. Not three minutes ago, the proprietor of the establishment had a visit from a very influential customer. Said customer had congratulated said proprietor on a commissioned piece that was made for an upcoming agriculture exhibition. They were impressed enough, that they wanted the proprietor to join them at the exhibition, and showcase their wares.
The proprietor had said yes.
Now the proprietor is wondering what in Celestia's great kingdom she's gotten herself into. Let's watch, shall we?
"I CAN'T DO THIS!!"
Rarity had been panicked before. Delusional. Worked to the bone. But outright clueless hysterics were a real rarity for her.
"What was I THINKING?!" she ranted, pacing her shop floor with a haunted look in her eyes. Spread across every spare surface of the boutique, were dozens upon dozens of paper scraps, each one with a differing dress design. Here and there, her mannequins had pieces of cloth pinned to them in haphazard shapes. The only other living being in the shop with the unicorn, was a chubby white persian, who batted a stray piece of paper every now and then, but otherwise, seemed uninterested in whatever it was Rarity was spouting at her.
"The Equestrian Agriculture Conference and Exhibition is one of the biggest gatherings of some of the richest ponies around, outside of the Grand Galloping Gala!" Rarity continued, glasses askew on her muzzle. "I would be a madmare to let this chance to showcase my abilities pass! But, oh Celestia! Opal, what do I MAKE?!"
Her eyes roamed the countless sketches that were littered around her. "Farmers, harvesters, millers, woodcrafters, workponies, and chefs! They're all such no-nonsense types, how can I possibly design anything that would APPEAL to them? The chefs, maybe, but that's SUCH a narrow range! Oh I simply MUST figure out something, the exhibition is only two weeks away!"
With a melodramatic sigh, she sat in front of her desk, forelimbs splayed out atop the surface. Opal sat herself next to one of the white hooves, and looked at Rarity expectantly.
"Oh I KNOW Opal, I have to get a hold of myself. But really! I told Mister Marmalade that I would be prepared with ten of my best dresses, while in reality, I've only got two in stock that would even REMOTELY fit in! And one of them, I'd rather not have see the light of day again." She grumped, crossing her hooves and resting her chin on them.
The cat gifted her with an offended glance, before nonchalantly trotting over to a dark blue bundle of fabric, leaping onto it, and tucking her paws in, taking extra care to shed a few extra white tufts of fur onto it's surface.
"Yes yes, you're right. I've got to move past this... funk." the designer quipped, lifting her head back up. "I've bounced back from worse than this. Surely, I can rise to the challenge! Yes, I'm sure I can!"
The burst of good mood was quickly dampened by a bout of rational thought. "Oh, who am I KIDDING?" she wailed again, telekinetically grabbing Opal from her perch and burying her face into the frustrated feline's fur. "I can't POSSIBLY know what goes though a farmer's mind when they see an outfit like mine! The only one I could ever get an opinion from-"
She was interrupted by a rapid knocking at her door.
She dropped Opal, who scampered off to safety. With a quick wipe of her eyes and an adjustment to her glasses, Rarity trotted toward her entrance, quickly banishing her earlier mood for a later date. "Coooo-miiiiing~"
The handle lit up, and the door swung open. The white unicorn stood, closed eyes and a smile to her face. "Welcome to Carousel Boutique! I'm Rarity, is there anything I can help you with?"
"Y'can start by not doin' that ev’ry time ah come 'round, y'know." said a familiar, light-hearted southern twang.
"Applejack!" the unicorn exclaimed, letting her eyes snap open. Indeed, it was the orange farmer filly, customary hat perched on her head, and a saddlepack strapped to her midsection. "What brings you to my shop today?"
"These do." AJ replied, motioning her head towards the packs. "Ah recall Sweetie Belle askin' fer a right big case o’ these Apple Fritters, last time ah brought 'em ta one o’ Pinkie Pie's parties. Ah couldn't rightly say no ta her li'l ol face, so ah baked up a bunch'a them t'is mornin'! Can ah come in an’ drop 'em off?"
As Applejack had continued to speak, Rarity found herself straining harder and harder to resist speaking out about the applebucker's atrocious grammar. I know she was raised on a farm. she told herself. But she should REALLY have a better handle of the Equestrian language than that! Even Rainbow Dash has better diction!
She kept silent however, and as the question was asked, she put on her best smile and stepped back. "Of course, dear! Just leave them on the counter, I'll be sure Sweetie Belle sees them when she gets home from school today."
"Much ah-bliged!" was the reply she got, as the farmpony trotted inside. As the unicorn closed the door behind them, there was a pause from her friend before the addition of "What ‘n tarnation happened here? You workin' on 'nother dress, Rarity?"
Her mess of papers had been spotted. There was a sigh as the white one turned around to look at her friend, catching the orange equine looking at one of the papers in particular.
There was a moment of blankness. Then a moment of scrutiny. Followed by a moment of enlightenment.
"Applejack..." the dressmaker gasped out breathily.
The farmer turned her head to look at her friend. "Yeah?"
The next portion of the conversation did not involve words so much as it involved a unicorn tackling an earth pony in a rib-shattering hug, all while screaming out "APPLEJACK! YOU REALLY ARE AN ANGEL IN FARMER'S CLOTHING!"
Applejack could only wince as her spine popped, before croaking out "Beg pardon?"
"I don't know WHY I didn't think of it fully earlier but you're EXACTLY what I need! With your eye for the practical and my fashion knowledge surely we'd both be able to get all these dresses done in two weeks time before the exhibition even starts OH APPLEJACK I just can't BELIEVE what good fortune brought us together on this day it must be DESTINY-!"
"Wooooooooah on there, pardner." the farmpony drawled before managing to push Rarity off of her. "Y’all wanna back up there and explain t' me why yer mentionin’ me 'n dresses in th' same sentence?"
"Oh, I do apologize." the unicorn said, straightening her glasses again and calming down. "But I really do need your help. You see, I had a customer earlier today. He was quite overjoyed with one of my creations, you see."
There was a roll of green eyes which was caught. "Now now, let me finish. He was so enthralled by my design, that he asked me to ACCOMPANY him and set up a display at this year's Equestrian Agriculture Conference and Exhibition!"
Now she had the orange pony's attention. "The EACE?! Wooooow-whee, that there's th' cream of th' crop fer all th' farmers all over Equestria! Ah'd love ta set up a Sweet Apple Acres cart there, that's fer certain! Ah bet it'd even do real business this time 'round!" A dark look crossed her face as the memory of the Galloping Gala fiasco resurfaced. "At least those ponies know a good apple when they see one!"
"Indeed!" Rarity chuckled, before she became all business again. "However, the dilemma I'm faced with is simply that, I've never made a whole line of outfits, directed towards the farming and agriculture community! And I need to have at least ten different dresses and suits ready in time for the exhibition, which is going to be held in two weeks!"
There was a low whistle. "Well wallop mah whiskers, y’all sure do have yer work cut out fer yah! Don't 'cha still have th' two outfits that y’all made fer me? Ah think they'd be surefire pop'lar with th' convention folks."
"I was planning on using your Gala dress..." the white pony started, though she pawed at the floor with a hoof. "But the other one... I mean, I know your expertise went into it's design, galoshes and all... but, do you really think it would be popular at the exhibition?"
"Weeeelllll... it could prob'ly do wit’ an overhaul. But yeah, with a li'l fixin', it'd be a right good hit, ah'd reckon."
Now Applejack got on all four hooves, as she clopped over to Rarity, an eager look on her face. "Welp. What d'ya need mah help with? Ah ain't any good wit' a needle 'n thread, y'know, but if you're lookin' fer a what a farmer looks fer inna outfit..." she gave an wink, hinting at an unspoken request.
The unicorn's eyes shimmered with gratitude, and the farm pony had to brace herself for another bone-crunching hug. "Oh THANK you Applejack! I'll be sure to tell my client that I'll be bringing another pony with me for personal refreshment, there'll be no way he could possibly refuse! Especially after he tastes one of your famous apple fritters!" She released her hold on the poor applebucker, and gave her a long thankful gaze. "You can't believe how MUCH this means to me."
"Tain't nothin', Rarity. Now, um... if y'all don't mind, ah'd appreciate yah lettin' go a' me and let's be gettin' down ta business." There was a pained smile.
"Hookay, tell me again, why we're doin' this?"
"It's simple." Rarity began, as she levitated a brush over to her subject's mane. "If you and I are going to be working together, the both of us need to be on level ground. And while I may not be afraid to get my hooves dirty, unarguably, the one who needs the most grooming, is you. So before we get started on any kind of dress, we need to make you good and presentable!"
Applejack groaned, but made no move to budge. She had taken a shower that morning, and was grateful that her friend hadn't seen the need to inundate her in a sea of bath salts and exotic perfumes. However, she was unable to get away from a good mane-combing, and so she stared forlornly at a stuffed mannequin that was wearing her pappy's hat and hairband.
Ah can do this. she thought to herself. Rarity's givin' me a chance that ah won't be able ta get otherwise. Ah just need t' hold out, 'n let her do what she feels is best. Even if it IS all rather fru-fru.
The unicorn made a humming sound as she brushed the knots out of the farmer's blonde hair. She tilted her head, and studied the fall of golden strands for a moment. Then, with a smile and a whim, she levitated a spritzer bottle over, and began to douse the applebucker's mane.
"N-now, hang on there." AJ started, alarm creeping into her voice. "Don't you go cuttin' anythin', y'hear? Ah'd like ta keep it whole fer th' show, if yah know what ah-"
"RELAX, Applejack." Rarity soothed, placing a hoof on her shoulder. She was trying quite hard to not turn the reassurance into a critique on grammar. "I'm only having a bit of fun. It’s not every day I get you to hold still for a session, after all. I won't cut anything, I promise. But you'll look so much more high-class after this, I tell you!"
High-class. Sophisticated. She's just havin' fun. the earth pony told herself. Tain't anything permanent. Just relax. She found herself grimacing at the brushing.
After a minute or so, the white one stepped back from her work, and gave Applejack an appreciative smile, before motioning her to turn her head one way, and then another. "Perfect!" she beamed. "Now it just needs one last touch... ah! I know!"
A nearby wardrobe opened up, and a box floated out of it. As it stopped by the unicorn, the top hovered upwards, and the contents floated out. A gold necklace, with a bright purple gemstone embedded in the center. It took the orange pony a second to recognize it as Rarity's Element of Harmony.
"This is just for now." Rarity stated, before the necklace floated to Applejack, and secured itself around her neck. "Perfect! Okay Applejack, come on over here!"
She got to all fours, and followed her friend over to the other side of the room, where a full-length mirror awaited. With a triumphant grin, the unicorn pulled it in front of her subject. "Behold! A diamond in the rough!"
AJ could not believe her eyes. It wasn't so much that her friend's element was hanging around her neck. It was the hair that had her attention. Styled up in a bun, bunched up, leaving only a small amount hanging down her neck and in front of her eyes.
Last time her hair had been like this, it was back when she was a filly.
She saw her younger self in that reflection. Young, sophisticated Manehattenite Applejack. The necklace gave her an air of elegance that suited the adult form that was looking back at her. Dear Celestia. What would Aunt and Uncle Orange think of her now?
She found speaking in Manehatten, to have been one of the hardest parts of being sophisticated. Could she even do it still? She wasn't certain it would look right to have her regular voice tumbling out of the visage in front of her. What was one to do?
She found herself clearing her throat.
"I say! What a wonderfully exquisite look you have there, Madame. Is that necklace what I think it is? Oh my, it looks it, doesn't it? An Element of Harmony! Oh dear, you must SIMPLY tell me the tale of how you obtained that rare prize! It would be an honor to have you as my guest!"
She smiled at herself. That wasn't too hard.
She turned her head to the source of the noise, in time to see Rarity doing an impressive impression of a snake who had unhinged their jaw from their head and had allowed it to drop to the floor. On top of that, she had somehow managed to make all color disappear from her irises, the pupils having shrunk to tiny black dots.
Dots that were locked on her.
Oh crabapples. Applejack cursed to herself. Ah just said all that out-loud, didn't I?
She took a hesitant step towards her friend. "Uhm... Rarity?" she asked, her normal twang now back in place.
There were a couple of blinks, before the jaw ascended and locked itself back in place. "Ah...Applejack?..." she stammered, eyes still riveted on the Earth Pony.
"You alright, sugarcube?"
"I... I don't... Applejack..." The unicorn appeared to be gasping for breath. "You... your voice... how... when did?..."
Applejack looked down, a guilty look now on her face. "Ah don't reckon ah ever told you th' story o' how ah got my Cutie Mark, have I?"
"You've been to MANEHATTEN?!"
"Ah told ya!" the earth pony answered, a frustrated blush on her cheeks. "Ah was just a silly li'l filly at th' time! Ah didn't know any better!"
"Applejack, PLEASE." Rarity rolled her eyes disbelievingly. "DO stop talking about going to one of the most cultured cities in all of Equestria, second only to Canterlot, as if it were some sort of big mistake!"
"But it WAS!" AJ argued. "If ah hadn't seen Rainbow Dash's Sonic Rainboom when ah did, I'd prob'ly still be stuck up there, in some fru-fru dress hob-nobbing with mah Aunt and Uncle, and where would th' farm be then, huh? Applebloom! She would'a grown up without ev'r knowin' her own sister! Ah barely escaped from that thar city wit' mah LIFE!"
"And ponies say I'M the melodramatic one." the dressmaker sighed under her breath. "Listen, AJ. Nopony can disagree that you made the right choice in going back to the farm. I'm certainly not, not in the least. What I AM confused about, is why you've buried all your proper high-class training your Orange family gave you, after you came back!"
"It tweren't me." the farmer replied, her eyes now directed to the shop floor. "All that s’pthis'ticated nonsense didn't do jack squat fer me in th' end. And how exactly would ah go 'bout usin' it on th' farm? Better t’ ferget th' whole thing ever happened."
"Oh no no no!" was the comeback she got. "My dear, you simply do NOT know the TOOLS that you have at your disposal!" This was quickly followed by the unicorn rushing over to her and taking her hooves into their own. "If you could use that cultured grammar in the presence of royalty and the rich, you would have doors open to you that you never would have believed! Oh darling, let me hear it again! You must not have used it in SO long, and yet there was no HINT of your accent-~"
"Ack-cent? What ack-cent?"
Rarity blinked. "Why, I mean your everyday speech, Applejack. Surely you don't-"
There was a honk of noses as the orange equine leaned in and gave her an emerald glare. "What'chu talkin' 'bout, Rarity? Ah ain't don't got no gosh-durned ack-cent!"
She raised a hoof and was about to comment on the impressive stringing of a triple-negative, but it was then that there was a quick rapping at the storefront door.
She gave Applejack a 'shush' motion, before trotting over to the entrance, and opening up. "Greetings, and welcome to Carousel-... Oh! Mister Marmalade, what a pleasant surprise!"
The unicorn backed up, and allowed a tall, burnt-orange stallion to trot inside, a short-trimmed brown mane and tail swishing behind him. Besides the overcoat he was wearing, he had a cutie mark of a jar of jam. "Madame Rarity, I DO apologize for the intrusion, but I just simply could NOT contain myself! I have heard word of your legendary speed in your craft, and so I wondered if you already had any designs sketched out?"
"Oh! Uhmmm..." She pawed at the ground, and glanced over at the pile of papers that the mess from earlier had been hastily arranged in. "I've... got several ideas on paper, yes, but nothing final. I was..." she quickly glanced around her shop, before letting her eyes rest on her blonde companion. "Oh! I was consulting with an expert in the agriculture field before I decided on anything. Let me introduce you!"
Applejack had been watching the entire exchange in silence, trying to make herself unobtrusive. However, her endeavor in stealth was quickly put to pasture as the unicorn brought the dapper male over to the mirror.
"This is a close friend of mine." Rarity began, her voice filled with pride. "She owns the biggest apple farm this side of Canterlot! She may be a little rough around the edges, but trust me, she's absolutely divine."
Mah ears are burnin' ova' here, sugarcube. AJ thought to herself.
"I say!" Mister Marmalade exclaimed, allowing his eyes to roam up and down Applejack's form, causing the filly to blush slightly. "What a picture of elegance. Hard to believe that you're a farmer! What's your name, Madame?"
There was a motion to the stallion's right. Rarity was shaking her head, a panicked look in her eyes.
AJ raised an eyebrow. What did she want?
Now the unicorn had brought her hooves up together, in prayer form, a pleading look on her face. Beads of sweat were appearing on her brow.
Oh. That's what she wants.
The entire exchange appeared to have gone unnoticed by Mister Marmalade. The farmpony-turned-socialite gave herself a silent sigh, before clearing her throat again and letting the Manehatten out.
"My name is Applejack, good sir. And you must be the client that Rarity has told me SO much about!"
"Oho!" was the response she received, his face lighting up in pleasant surprise. "So cultured for one so young! Yes, I am that same-said client. My name is Mister Mango Marmalade, and I run a preserving facility outside of Fillydelphia. I have a spot reserved for me at the EACE, perhaps you've heard of it?"
It was exactly this kind of high-powered boasting speech that grated on the farmer's nerves in the first place, but she simply nodded. "I have indeed, sir. Every farmer pony in Equestria worth their apples has heard of the Exhibition. I myself, would love to attend and display my own wares."
"Applejack is the proprietor of Sweet Apple Acres." Rarity spoke up, trotting over to one of the saddlepacks that was brought in earlier. A flap opened, and out came a warm apple fritter. "Her skills in the ways of apples and baked goods are simply unparalleled! She arrived here this morning with a pack of these apple fritters. I insist that you try one, Sir Marmalade."
"Y’all-... I mean, you won't regret it!" Applejack grinned, silently berating herself for her slip-up.
"Mmmm... this DOES smell exquisite!" the stallion breathed as the fritter was floated over to him. He took it in his own hooves, and daintily, he took a bite. There was much chewing and humming, before his eyes opened in amazement. The rest of the treat vanished at a speed that would have even amazed certain blue pegusai.
"MARVELOUS!" he boomed, before reaching for the apple farmer's hooves and holding them in his own. "Madame Applejack, that treat was simply AMAZING! Should Miss Rarity wish to bring you along to the exhibition, make no mistake, I would be in full one-hundred percent backing of this decision! Why, I'll even rent out extra space for your own stand! Oh oh, so much to DO!"
The mares could only stare as the business-pony paced the floor in apparent excitement. "I have to call the management! Oh, I must simply inform the caterers too, they'll have to be able to coordinate with your people! I wonder if the people next to us would lend out there spot! If not, I'll simply BUY them out!"
He suddenly turned and galloped towards the door, any earlier intention of seeing dress designs now having fully blown away on the breeze. "I apologize madams, but there is so much to do in order to properly prepare! I shall return, when I have all arrangements secured! Until then, toodle-loo, my dears!"
"Toodle-loo~..." Rarity and Applejack echoed, waving their forehooves with blank expressions on their faces. The boutique doors squeaked slightly from the stallion's hasty departure.
A few seconds of silence passed before the two looked at each other. Slowly, the farmer's face evolved into a look of shock and disbelief, while the dressmaker's turned into joy and pride.
"Did... d-did he just say ah'm..."
There was more cringing and squeezing of the earth pony. "Darling, I'm so PROUD of you! You brought out your cultured side, and you shone like a STAR! And now we're BOTH going to be heading for the Exhibition together!"
There was a groan. "Ah... ah can't believe, he... he act'ally in-VITED me..."
"But of COURSE he did, AJ! You made a glowing, exemplary impression on him, and he couldn't HELP but be swayed into sampling your wares! And now our next stop, is one of the richest and influential conferences in all of Equestria, outside of-"
"Th' Gala, ah know." came the drawl, back in full-force. She managed to peel the white pony off of her long enough to catch her breath and check her person for bruises. "And b'lieve me when ah say, gettin' ta go to th' EACE is gonna be one o’ Sweet Apple Acre's finest moments! But ah think Ah'd prob'ly best leave th' city-talk behind-"
"You can't!" came the exclamation. "Applejack, these are HIGH-CLASS PONIES. They'll be expecting nothing less than the best from you! From both of us!" Self-consciously, a hairbrush was levitated over, before it began combing at the unicorn's purple locks. "If you drop your culture training for even a second at the exhibition, we'll be sure to be chased out!"
"Ya can't be serious!" the earth pony retorted, an eyebrow arched in disbelief. "Nothin' like that ev’r happened at th' Gala."
"Oh we had far worse things to worry about that night." A roll of the eyes. "But that's besides the point. The reality of our situation is rather simple, if you must know."
Applejack reached behind her to unhitch the Element from around her neck, before looking at it. Slowly, it dawned on her exactly what her friend had meant. "Y'mean... since ah... talked t' him like that...?"
Rarity nodded, as she took the necklace back and put it away. "From now on, we are going to PRACTICE that voice, young lady. Mister Marmalade will be certain to spread word far and wide about the impeccably cultured mistress known as Applejack, that he met today at Carousel Boutique." She leveled a gaze at the blonde pony, who found herself sweating slightly at the prospect. "And you don't want to make a bad impression on your potential clientele at the Exhibition, do you?"
It was that moment, and truly then, that the full weight of what the simple country pony had gotten into, sunk into her mind. "Y'mean t' say... ah gotta talk like a full-blooded Manehattenite fer th' whole exhibition?! From th’ rooster’s crow 'till the cows come home?!"
"Darling, the Exhibition runs for three whole days!"
"THREE WHOLE DAYS?!" Her green eyes widened with panic, as her imagination ran away from her. Three days of not getting herself kicked out of the convention. Three days of talking to rich and mighty folks, three days of wearing makeup and dresses, three days away from her rightful spot at the farm. But worst of all. Three Days Of Speaking in a voice that was NOT HER.
"Ah cain't do it! Rarity, y’all got to believe meh, ah JUST CAIN'T DO IT!" She found herself on her rear knees in front of the white unicorn, the expression on her face not unlike one pleading for their life. "Y’all may as well 'ave me killed by suffo'cation! Ah cain't possibly LIVE a whole three days, talkin' like ah nevah left th' city! There's just NO WAY-!"
"Applejack! Applejack, please, calm yourself!" the seamstress soothed, masking her surprise at the earth-pony's rather exuberant breakdown. She took the mare by the shoulders, and held her until her breathing began to level out again. There was a minute or so of silence as the farmer released her panic and gained her senses again. It was only then that the unicorn spoke again.
"That's why, starting from today, you and I will be practicing. We'll work with you, and get you used to using your cultured voice more often. When the time comes, you'll be able to handle yourself at the EACE for all three days with ease!"
Applejack sat herself on the floor, hindlimbs splayed. She stared at her forehooves, before looking back up at her friend. "You really reckon ah can do this?" she asked.
Rarity smiled back at her. "Don't you fret. Just trust in your teacher Rarity, and I promise you, you'll breeze into that exhibition with nary a worry nor care! Just think of this as repayment from me, for the help you'll be giving me."
They held each other's gazes for a long while, before the earth pony finally gathered herself back on all four hooves. She looked back down at the shop floor in thoughtfulness, before fixing the unicorn with a determined gaze.
"If y’all... *ahem* ah mean... If you really think so... then I'll trust in you."
She could only give a pained smile as her friend favored her with a wide grin.
And that's how it went for the following days leading up to the convention. Applejack would arrive and see the designs that Rarity was working on, giving her comments and opinions on whether or not an outfit would appeal to a farmer, workpony, gardener, or not. And then, once they had decided on a good look for a suit or dress, all attention would shift to the orange filly herself as they spent an hour having her speak in her sophisticated voice.
"So!" Rarity exclaimed, seated at a tea table, a cup of Darjeeling levitating in front of her. "How have things been going at the farm?"
"Oh, they have been going quite well." Applejack replied, her eyes studying a biscotti cookie perched between her hooves. There was no trace of her farmhand drawl as she continued. "Applebloom recently saw a number of missing planks from the side of the barn, and before she gained the attention of Big Macintosh or I, she had set about repairing the damage herself!"
"Oooh! Such an industrious little filly!"
"Indeed! She made no mention of it afterwards either, until I came in from
th' field and saw the fresh paint. She was afraid I would be mad, but..."
She stopped, as she noticed her companion was giving her a look. "What? Did I slip up again?"
A hoof was pointed at her. "You used one of your compounded Noun-Adverb shorthands again. 'The field’ is the proper usage."
She sighed and leaned on the table, eyes redirected at her biscuit, before taking a bite out of it and munching with her mouth open. "Tisph a littlph drii." she mumbled.
The unicorn rolled her blue eyes. "It's a Biscotti, dear. It's supposed to be dipped. And usually you only dip it in coffee. Now, do please mind your manners?"
The cowgirl groaned, before sitting back upright, and swallowing her cookie, taking a sip of tea right afterwards. She cleared her throat again, and closed her eyes. "I apologize for my momentary lapse in etiquette."
"No harm done!" Rarity beamed, her mood instantly improved. "We all have our moments! Now then, please, do continue with your story. Applebloom didn't tell you about her repairs?"
"Right." Applejack began again, only a trace of drawl in that first word. "Well, I began inquiring around the farm about the new planks. Big Macintosh had no idea what it was about, and we both knew that Granny Smith was not in good enough health to possibly do them herself. We even hunted down the hired help, Caramel, to see if he knew anything about it, but he didn't."
"And did Applebloom come forward then?"
"Well, she was the last one that we had left to ask, and I remembered the repair work she had done on the old treehouse. It took a little coaxing, but she confessed to it."
"And you showed her that you weren't upset, right?"
"DARN-TOOTIN'!" she burst out, chest swelling with pride. "Ah right out ‘n told her that anythin' else we found broke-down, she 'twere more 'n welcome t' take a shot at fixin' 'er up! She may not be a carpenter, but she shore showed she knew how’ta handle a hammer 'n saw! Ah even told 'er-!... aha. Ah..." the farmpony blushed and looked down as she realized her lapse in speech. "S-sorry about that."
"O-oh no! It's quite alright." the unicorn said through a strained smile. She couldn't really blame her friend for falling back into her accent, she was proud of her sister, after all. Still, with the southern drawl, came back all the grammar complications and mangled words that made her put her teeth on-edge.
"I... I think that's enough for today." she continued, standing up from the table and trotting back towards one of her clothed mannequins. "I need to finish the last few stitches on this outfit, and then we'll have six of them done. Not bad for a week's plus of work, don't you think?"
"If yah say so..." Applejack replied, as she stood herself and trotted to another mannequin to retrieve her hat. Silently, she was relieved to have the session over with, though she still felt bad about letting her friend down. "Ah'm awful sorry 'bout that, Rarity. Ah only fancy-talked fer 'bout two days when ah went t' Manehatten, ya know."
"It's no problem." the white pony assured, though her face was still directed towards the dress. "It just takes time. And we still have a few days left before the Exhibition starts. I'm certain we'll have you used to speaking without an accent well before that time."
The farmpony tossed her hat on, before she directed a glare back to her friend. "Ah told yah, Ah don't have an ack-cent."
"Yes yes, I know." came the reply, a hoof waved dismissively in her direction. "In the meantime, I think you'd best get your wares organized. Mister Marmalade will be bringing a chariot to take our supplies to the Exhibition the day before."
"That r'minds me. Where is th' EACE bein' held this year?"
"Oh, it's some city out in the heartland of Equestria. Yokelahoma City, I think."
"Right in th' middle o' cow country." the blonde mused, a hoof stroking her chin in contemplation. "Lotta farmin' 'n growin' up ‘round those parts. Y’all sure ah'll even need t' use mah city-voice there? "
"Now Applejack, don't you go looking for excuses now." The white pony brought her head up from her work and gave her a stern look. "Just because it's being held in a center of agriculture industry, does NOT mean the ponies there will all speak as... plainly, as you do. Besides, you've already made SO much progress! It would be a shame to let it waste away now!"
There was a sigh as Applejack lowered her head. "Ah know, ah know. Ah... guess Ah'll see yah t'morrow then. Bright 'n early, as usual, right?"
Rarity's look softened as the farmer clopped towards the door. "O-of course, dear. And don't be so glum! Just remember, this is all for your own good!"
There was a barely perceptible nod as the earth pony walked out of the Boutique. Out in the fresh air and sunshine again, she felt her spirits pick up, as she began to make her way back to Sweet Apple Acres.
She's right. she found herself musing. She's tryin' her best t' help me make a good impression on the rich folks. And she already helped me get a spot at th' expo. Ah just need t' stop draggin' mah hooves about it.
She looked up in the sky, as she took a deep breath and sighed. Ah just cain't help but feel that this whole high-class thing... is bein' dishonest with mahself.
The day arrived. Within 24 hours, a pair of wagons would appear, bearing Mister Marmalade's cutie-mark, to on-load precious cargo to Yokelahoma City. The day after, the Equestrian Agriculture Conference and Exhibition would begin.
Rarity's Boutique had been prepped and locked up, the unicorn herself running around all ten outfits awaiting on-loading. She would add a stitch there, prep a piece of fabric here, and would no doubt be fussing over the garments well until the day the convention doors opened. Occasionally, her eyes would glance over to a box she had prepared the past two weeks, in secret. I just know she's going to look fabulous in it! the dressmaker thought to herself.
Applejack in the meantime, had her hooves full. She currently had four pies in the oven, Granny Smith was working on the last of the caramel apples, Big Mac was out back, picking out the best-looking ripe apples that he could find for display, and Applebloom was currently trying her best to convince her big sister that she should come along too.
"But SIS! Ah can help! I know ah can, y’all just haveta give me th' chance!" she shouted, mane bobbing as she practically bounced in place beside her sibling in the Apple Family kitchen.
The farmfilly couldn't talk, on account of her mouth being full of potpad as she hoisted a hot apple pie out of the oven. As soon as it was settled on a cooling rack however, she was quick to give her response.
“Sorry Sugarcube, but ah barely managed t' get mah own self attached t' this here expo, and there's no way ah can ask Mistah Marmalade t' tack on one more pony. Plus, not ta' go rubbin' chicken droppin's in th' laundry, but ah still remember what happened th' last time y’all helped me sell apples..."
"Awww..." the yellow pony whined, her head and eyes dropping low. "Ah was hopin’ y’all wouldn't mention that again..."
Applejack chuckled, before rubbing her sister’s head. "Ah tell you what. Run upstairs 'n git washed up. If nothin' else, ah can have y’all helpin' takin' pies to th' wagon once it gets here."
"Shore thing sis!" the filly exclaimed, eyes all alight once more, before she scampered out of the kitchen.
There was a soft chuckle from a corner of the room as Granny Smith watched her go, a line of caramel apples building on the table. "Land sakes, the young'n knows how t' skeedaddle, don't she?"
"She shore does." the farmpony agreed, a smile on her face. It held there for a second before it collapsed as she turned to her grandmother. "Ahm ah makin' th' right choice here, Granny? This could up 'n put th' farm on stable ground finally, but t' make it happen, ah'm gonna haveta act like a citypony again. And ah remem'er how crossways y’all were when ah first went ta Manehatten..."
There was a wave of a hoof as the old mare pshawed at her. "T'is all in th' past, AJ. Y’all haveta do what ya haveta do. The only thing ah'd draw th' line at is when they make yah put on a bear suit and do th' Whirlin' Dervish. Ah'll have no part o' those Stalliongrad types, y'hear."
"Ah hear, Granny." Applejack agreed, though her face was a picture of amused bewilderment. "An’ don't worry. All we're doin' is headin' out t' Yokelahoma City an' sellin' Apples. We're bound t' make some dough f' sure!"
Granny simply nodded with a smile, as she picked up another apple and dipped it in caramel goodness. As she sat it down to harden, she fixed her granddaughter with another look.
"How've those speech classes your friend's been givin' you, going?"
The orange horse almost dropped the next pie she had been hauling out of the oven. As soon as her mouth was free, she stammered. "A-ah, they've been goin'... er, p-pretty okay! Ah think A-ah can handle them big-city folk wit'out makin' mahself look like t-too much o' a foal now."
There was a smile. "Can ya show me?"
Beads of sweat collected on her brow. Her granny was asking her to talk sophisticated for her. Well... it's Granny Smith askin'... can't rightly say no ta her...
She brought a hoof to her chest as she cleared her throat. "I... if you want, Granny Smith. I... I have to say, I'm still not comfortable talking like this. I've been rehearsing strictly for the exhibition, but well, since you asked..."
There was a gallop of small hooves, before Applebloom reappeared at the kitchen door, her mane hastily combed and still slightly damp. "Hey Sis! Where d'ya want me ta' put th' pies when th' wagons get here?!"
Applejack turned to her sister with a smile. "Oh, you need not worry about that yet Applebloom. They probably won't arrive until later this evening."
The smaller filly stared blankly at her big sister, before she spoke. "Applejack? What in th' hay happened to yer voice?"
There was a second of confusion, followed by a widening of the eyes and blushing of the cheeks. "Oh! Sorry 'bout that sugarcube. Ah-ah was just practi'cin', y'see. Y-y'know, l-like..."
"She has t' talk like ah city pony at th' expo." Granny Smith spoke up, saving her granddaughter. "She's done it b'fore, if y’all remember."
"Ooooh yeeeaaah..." Applebloom drawled, her eyes widening. "When yah told us yer Cutie-Mark story! Is that how'ya sounded when yah visited Aunt 'n Uncle Orange?"
"Sorta." The orange equine looked to the side, before standing on all four hooves. "Ah tweren't any good at it at th' time, but if ah'm ta fit in at th' exhibition, wit'out dem throwing me out like a barrel o' scrumpy apples, ah gotta sound just like th' rest of th' cityfolk."
"Oh, oh! If ah sound like a city-pony, could ah come then? *ah-he-hem* Ah DooOOOOOOOooo dee-clareah! Aye bee-leeve ah can come ay-long if ah sound all HYGH-class, yes?"
There was a round of laughter at Applebloom's poor imitation, leaving the filly with an embarrassed blush and a set of downturned ears. She squeaked however, as she was suddenly embraced by her sister. "Awww, dun be too quick ‘n try tah pick up somethin' ah dun rightly like mahself. Lemme tell yas, it tain't no fun at all."
"I-if yah say so sis..." she sighed. She was released, and she headed out the front door to watch for their transportation.
Granny Smith couldn't help but laugh for a few minutes more. The blonde couldn't tell if she was laughing about her sister's eagerness, or her own reluctance. Deciding to not raise the issue, she sighed as she grabbed the pot pad again to extract the last apple pie. She didn't hear the larger set of hoofsteps working their way into the kitchen.
"Oh THERE you are!" came an exclamation. Applejack flinched and dropped her pad as she recognized the voice of the white mare she had spent the past two weeks with.
"Hey Rarity." she greeted as she turned around. "T'wasn't expectin' y’all around so early. The carts haven't arrived yet, have they?"
"No they haven’t." the unicorn conceded. "But that wasn't the point of why I came. You see... well..." there was a pawing at the floor.
It was only now that the farmer realized that there was a saddlebag strapped to her friend's back. Sticking out of the left bag, was a large pink box.
"Rarity..." she began, her eyes widening. "Yah didn't...!"
Those blue eyes looked back up with a sheepish expression. "I... I wanted to repay you for everything that you've done... so I went and..."
Instead of continuing, Rarity's horn lit up as the package floated out of her bag. It levitated towards the earth pony, before the top lifted up, displaying it's contents.
She could tell this much. It was white, and frilly.
"To match your exquisite voice, dear." came the explanation. "Made especially for the EACE."
Applejack was floored... and sweating. She had originally been intending on wearing her Gala outfit, but as she thought about it, it made sense that her friend would pull something like this. She began to look around in a panicked manner for an exit- ANY exit- out of the room. Busting out the window and getting glass embedded in her flank seemed like the better option when compared to wearing Rarity's newest fru-fru concoction. She faced Granny Smith for help, but all she got from that direction was a look of amusement. The old tart was enjoying her discomfort.
Finally she sighed, defeated, before looking back at the unicorn. "T-thank'yah kindly, Rarity. Ah... ah'm guessin' y’all want me t' try it on a’fore we go?"
She got a grin. "Applejack, you read my mind. Let's go upstairs, dear." Rarity said, as she turned around. There was a look back, along with a proud smile. "We'll make a high-class diva out of you yet, darling!"
The applebucker's ears drooped as she followed her friend out. The elderly green pony simply watched them go, before she let out that snicker she had building up.
"Phew... we finally made it."
"Took us long enough."
"Oh yes, but it was ALL worth it!"
"Ah shore- I mean, I sure hope it is!"
Rarity simply beamed as she took in the scene before her. The trip to Yokelahoma City itself had been uneventful enough, to eveypony's relief. Their wares had been checked in, and their stalls, found. Applejack had told Mister Marmalade that she didn't require much space, her stand not being wider than two pony's lengths. As a result, Rarity's display took up the majority of the space. Not that it didn't need it, she had put each and every outfit she had prepared, up on a pedestal with lights, and with ten outfits, that took up a fair amount of room.
Now both unicorn and earth pony stood outside their respective vendors, taking in the multitude of ponies that trotted around the exhibition area. As of yet the doors had not opened, and so the ones that were milling around were either organizers, or were in the process of setting up their own stalls.
Rarity herself was adorned in a gown that was cut short enough to show a bit of tail and hindleg. Made in an autumn gold tone, there were points of amber lined around her neck, as a shinier fabric traced the hems.
Applejack pawed the ground restlessly as she looked herself over. Before they had even entered the building, her friend had insisted she be 'in-character'. Her blonde locks were once again done up in a mountain fashion, and the dress... it fit well and loosely, and the farmpony STILL felt it was squeezing the life out of her. It was a Southern Belle's dress, with enough of a bouffant in the back to make her feel like a whale, dainty ruffled sleeves, and to top it all off, a pearl necklace that weighed like a ball-and-chain. She desperately wished for her hat.
"I don't know about you!" the white mare gushed. "But I am so stoked for this, to use a word from Rainbow Dash's vocabulary." She brought another brush to her, nervously grooming her mane once more. "Our names are going to be on the top of every rich-pony's list!"
"I... I hear you!" the farmer replied, trying her level best to not let her speech slip this time. Slip, and she may ruin any chance of profit for the farm. "So many ponies here... I would think at least one of them would appreciate a good apple-"
"-AND dress, or two." She gave a look at her friend for the interjection. "I would still like to get out and about before the day is done though. I spy a plow display over in that corner, and I do believe I see one that would be right for Big Macintosh's size."
"Oh you'll have plenty of time for that, dear." Rarity assured. "Maybe we can get some time to ourselves on the third day! Hopefully they won't have sold out of any-"
"LADIES!" came a grandiose voice. They both looked up in time to see Mister Marmalade approaching the two. "SO glad you were able to make it! Oh Madame Rarity, Madame Applejack, you both are simply looking FABOULOUS!" He took a look at the two mares, and the stalls behind them, before turning to look at the scenery around them. "Isn't this all just so GRAND? All the wares to be seen, all the innovations, all the wonderful PONIES! This is sure to be the Best Exhibition Yet!"
Applejack gagged on the inside at the words, and a quick glance at Rarity told her her friend was thinking much the same thing. However, they quickly put aside their feelings of doom as the white mare spoke up. "Oh, you're absolutely right, darling! And my friend and I owe it all to you for our chance to attend this prestigious affair!"
"I-I concur!" The orange filly quipped. Ah shoulda asked Rarity t' have taught me some o' them fancy words too.
The stallion favored the both of them with a wide smile, before turning all-business. "The doors will be opening in less than three minutes. Have you fillies got everything? Yes? Good to hear! Now, get ready at your stations, those ponies will be coming in like a tidal wave, I swear!" He took this moment to clutch at each pony's hoof with his own, leaving each with a slight blush on their faces. "I wish the both of you, tremendous luck today. Let's hope that we all do well! Now I must rush to the opening ceremony. Until later my fillies, Toodle-loo~!"
"Toodle-loo~" they both echoed once more, as the brown horse galloped away. They stood there for a second before facing each other. They could hear the background hubbub beginning to increase in volume.
"Applejack," Rarity began. "Good luck to you. Your apples will be sure to sell here, I know they will!"
"Thanks." she replied, city voice still in place. "I wish you good luck as well! And again, thank you for getting me this chance."
"It's no trouble at all, darling." the unicorn said, as she turned to enter her stall. "We'll talk again soon. Until then, remember. No accent!"
The applebucker nodded to her friend as she took position behind her own stand. As she trotted however, she let a mumble escape her lips.
"Ah don't GOT no hay-tossin' ack-cent."
Business was indeed, far better than it had ever been at the Gala. Flow kept up from a steady direction, which worked to Applejack's advantage. Ponies would run into Rarity's boutique stand first, mill around or buy something in there, and then come out starving, spotting and making a beeline for the Sweet Apple Acres stand. Apparently, being a clothes-horse made you hungry.
She noticed that a fair number of her customers were farm ponies, like herself. She was tempted to let her guard down when around these friendly faces. However, she kept up her guise of sophistication as she greeted them, sold them apples, and chatted.
Half the day was already gone as she hauled out her third bushel of Red Delicious onto the stand. As she turned back around, she noticed there was already a small two-pony line waiting for her.
"Oh!" she exclaimed. "I beg your pardon, I was just getting some more stock out." The farmer quickly trotted back behind her stand as the two fillies stepped up. "Sweet Apple Acre's farm-fresh Apples! Would you care to try some?"
"Hmmm..." said the left pony. She was a light-grey Earth-Pony, with a straight-haired charcoal mane, purple eyes gazing over the wares. "What do you think, sissy-pie? Those fritters sure look good!"
"I dunno." replied the other filly. She was a slate-blue, with a dusty-grey mane that was cut short over her own golden eyes. "The caramel apples look the best to me. How much for one of those?"
"Five bits." Applejack replied in an even voice. "And the Fritters are seven a piece. However, if you want, I could let you have both for ten bits..." she gave them a half-lidded smile, which they both lit up at.
Money was deposited, and apples were given. They proceeded to dig into them right there in front of the stand. She didn't mind. She loved seeing ponies enjoy her apples.
"Mmph! Thiph isf good!" the grey mare mumbled around her fritter. She swallowed before continuing. "We should bring some back for Big Sissy-pie!"
"We should!" the blue one agreed. "Do you have any Pink Ladies? She would love that."
The farmer smirked. "Wit' all th’ talk o' pies you two been goin' on ‘bout, ah'm a mite surprised y’all haven't asked fer one o' those!"
They both looked back at her. She brought her hooves to her mouth as she realized what she'd done.
"I-I-I-I'm, I'm so sorry!" she gushed, now panicked like never before. "Please don't tell anyone I slipped! It was an accident, I swear! I-I'll even give you free apples, y-you can even-!"
"Woah woah woah!" the dusty-grey pony soothed. "Calm down. We won't tell anypony, will we, sissy-pie?"
"That's right." the darker mare agreed. "If it means THAT much to you, we'll keep quiet."
"Besides." the grey pony continued. "There's nothing wrong with bein' honest with yourself!"
That hit a chord inside Applejack. She hadn't given thought to it in that manner since that day a week ago. The more she thought about it, the more it ate at her. Here she was, at the biggest farmer's convention in all of Equestria, and what was she doing? Wearing a ballroom gown and speaking in a hobnob voice, in an attempt to fit in.
"A-are you alright?"
She shook her head as she brought her mind back to the here and now. "Oh... oh yes, I am. Thank you. I'm awfully sorry about all this. This is just, my one big chance to help my farm, and I don't want to mess it up."
"We can understand that." the darker of the two equines replied. "We come from a Rock Farm, and unless the rocks are pretty, or valuable, we don't make a lot of money either." Her sister nodded in agreement.
"Ouch." the orange one responded. She looked over her own wares, before ducking under the stand to retrieve a bag, filling it with rose-tinted apples. "You know what? Here, have a bag of Pink Ladies, just as ordered. And an Apple pie too. On the house."
Their eyes widened. "O-oh, we can't possibly-!"
"Don't go stammerin' on me now." she spoke to the two, her twang briefly resurfacing. She gave them a thankful look. "Just think of these as gifts for your 'Sissy-pie'. I bet she'll love them."
They looked at each other, before nodding and giving smiles to their vendor. The slate one carefully placed a pie on her back as she gushed. "Oh BOY Maggie Pie! This Expo really IS turning out to be the best!"
"You said it, Inkie Pie!" her sister cheered, placing the bag of apples into her saddlebag. "I just know Pinkie is gonna LOVE these! Thank you, ma'am!"
Applejack waved the both of them farewell as they blended back into the stream of ponies clopping through the isles. Her mind was still awhirl with the thoughts the two had unwittingly imparted onto her, but she shook her head, deciding that thinking on that track wasn't going to help sell apples now. And she would need to upsell now, after having given the pie-
"Pink Ladies?" she mumbled to herself. "Rock Farm? Inkie? Maggie?? Pinkie?! PIES??!!"
"Are you certain?"
"As certain as I can be. When we get back to Ponyville, she'll be telling us all about the pie her sisters gave her."
"How uncanny!" Rarity exclaimed. "To think we'd run into some of Pinkie Pie's family here at the Exhibition!"
Applejack rolled her eyes as she rested her head on her stand's counter. The stock that she had set aside for today had run empty, only a half-full bushel of Galas left on display. It was getting close to the evening, and she was quite thankful for it, the day had worn hard on her. Though she couldn't complain, her money-bucket was filled to the brim with bits.
"Well, they are farmers after all." she replied, looking around at all the ponies still milling about. "They might show up again, so keep your eyes peeled. They may want to try a dress next time. Speaking of which, how has your business done today?"
"Oh simply AMAZING! I was quite surprised that the redesigned ‘galoshes’ outfit we did for you was the most popular on the list! Got no less than fifteen orders for it!" For a second, the unicorn looked faint, before she recovered and continued. "And your Gala dress was such a hit as well! And of course, I took plenty of custom orders too. I say Applejack, if this keeps up, I'm going to have to actually start HIRING help for the Boutique!"
"That's a good sign." the farmer assured, lifting her head slightly. "If I have any leftover bits after getting the farm fixed up, I might hire on some more help myself. The Acres could really use it."
There was a nod, before the white mare found herself stretching, joints popping as she worked her limbs. "My STARS it's been a long day. I think I'm ready to close up and walk around and sightsee, how about you?"
"Sounds good to me!" Applejack replied, as she stood up and took a hanging rope in her mouth, bringing the stall's sign to collapse inward on top of the counter. "If we're lucky, they may still have those plows in stock!"
She got a nod as the unicorn's horn lit up, drawing the curtains closed on her own stall. After a couple of seconds of securing booths and packing their gains, the two fillies began walking side-by-side, slipping into the stream of equines that were still wandering about at this late hour.
"Applejack." Rarity began, causing the orange one to glance at her friend. "I just want to tell you how proud I am, that you've kept up your classical training for the whole of today." She turned those sapphire blue eyes on her, a giddy grin plastered on her face. "And just think, we still have TWO more days! Keep this up, and I promise you, your future will be SO much brighter!"
The farmfilly's ears turned downwards. Once again, the words of that grey mare echoed in her head. Ah hate this. she thought to herself. But Rarity's still right. And Ah cain't let her down now.
"Just two more days." She murmured. "Then I can put this voice behind me."
A white ear flicked back. "Oh dear, of course you can go back to speaking plainly again, but not until we're out of these hollowed halls. Besides, I don't think you want to throw it away entirely. There are various other conventions all over Equestria, and a pony of our class, could very well be entitled to be invited to every one!" Her eyes sparkled at the prospect.
In contrast, the color drained from AJ's face. "M-m... more parties? M-more speakin' like ah-?"
"MADEMOISELLES!" came the familiar booming bass. The two of them jumped and whirled to find Mister Marmalade trotting up to them rapidly. "How was today for you both? I hope your enterprises saw adequate fortune!"
"O-oh! They most definitely did, good sir!" Rarity cooed, slipping into her most relaxed and noble tone. "The ponies of Yokelahoma City have such exquisite tastes. I wasn't certain if the dresses that Applejack and I designed would be such a hit, but they were!"
"Splendid!" the stallion grinned, before turning his attention towards the earth pony. "And you, my dear? How well did your apple goods fare?"
"Th-they did well!" Applejack stuttered, trying to recover from her earlier surprise. "Far better than they ever did when I went to the Grand Galloping Gala. I'll be able to make some much-needed improvements to the farm once the Exhibition is over."
This brought a bigger smile to Marmalade's face than she thought was healthy. "That's JUST what I wanted to hear, Madame Applejack. You're the perfect pony, a respectable citizen with a deep tie to her farm! You're just what I'm looking for. Hurry, come with me!"
He did an about-face and began galloping, ponies scattering to the left and right as he plowed a path through them. The two females were left gaping for a second, before they hurried to catch up with him.
"Mister Marmalade! What's all this about!" Rarity called out, trying her best to run elegantly without causing too much bounce in her outfit.
"An opening speech, that's what!" came the answer. "In about twenty minutes, the last panel of the night will begin, on the relations of the Agriculture Industry with that of its consumer base! Originally, we had another speaker to open it, but unfortunately, he was unable to make it in time. Instantly, my thoughts turned to you Madame Applejack, for you appear to be closely connected with the workings of the farmland for one so cultured!"
Applejack was already having enough trouble not tripping over her dress as she kept up. This bit of information did nothing to help matters. "Y-y-you want me to SPEAK?!" she managed to squeak out, voice faltering between Manehatten and Appleoosa.
"Indeed! Nothing incredibly long, mind you. All you need to do is tell us a little bit about yourself, about your farm, and about the time you've had here so far! You know, give us your honest opinions!"
Rarity turned to gaze at her friend as they ran, with a supportive look. It went unnoticed, as the farmer had her eyes unfocused, staring into nothing as they made their way to the hall.
"Okay, one minute! Good luck, darling!"
"B-b-but-!" Applejack barely managed to stammer as she was shoved onto the darkened stage. Even with the lights down, the blonde filly could see that the hall was practically packed with ponies. She was shaking in her hooves, and the murmur of the room was practically a roar in her ears. She looked off to the side once more, not certain if it had been Marmalade or Rarity that had shoved her out there. They were giving her hopeful, and supporting, gazes.
"Remember!" the unicorn whispered. "Your speech!"
She could only gulp, as she turned back towards the stage. There was a podium right in the center, and she dutifully, though reluctantly, trotted up to it. As soon as she had put her forehooves on its desk, a spotlight flared to life, bathing the orange earth-pony in a brilliant glare, causing her pearls and dress to glisten. Out in the audience, there was a bout of cheering, as well as a few whistles of appreciation. Off to her side, she thought she heard Rarity sighing in contentment.
"G-greetings!" she managed to squeeze out. There was another wave of cheers, accompanied by hoof-stomps and claps.
"I... I'm here in placement of Mister Juniper Jamms, who was unable to attend this year's Equestrian Agriculture Conference and Exhibition." Her heart eased it's pounding in her head as she tuned the crowd out, letting her own words fill her ears. "Mister Marmalade has asked that I open up our talk today instead. So, let me tell you a bit about myself."
"My name is Applejack. I run a farm, not unlike many of you in here today." She got a few cheers of support at that, and at least three 'right on!'s. "Many of you may have heard of Sweet Apple Acres. Why, I believe some of you have even been to my stall today, haven’t you?"
A good portion of the crowd erupted in yet another cheer, louder than the last. This brought a smile to her face, as her nerves finally managed to calm down.
With the calm however, came the loosening of discipline. She felt her tongue wanting to move in traitorous ways, her lips, to make sounds not fit for noble halls. She smacked to herself dryly as she waited for the cheer to subside. A glass o' water would be heavenly right 'bout now.
"I-I'm glad you all enjoyed them." she continued, once she could hear herself think again, trained voice still in-place. "It really warms my heart to see that. The Apple Family has been in the Apple business for generations, and you can find apples grown by us, in almost every corner of Equestria. Sweet Apple Acres in particular, is based right out of Ponyville, where we keep some of our most cherished family traditions alive."
She closed her eyes as she thought back to the farm. "For years, we've put the same thing into all our apples that our forefathers did before us. Tender loving care. Good and responsible practices. And lots of down-to-earth, hard... honest... work."
She opened her eyes. She looked out at the crowd. She then looked back down at her dress.
A farmer pony, dressed up as a fru-fru pony, talking like a fru-fru pony, to a bunch of other fru-fru ponies, at a farmer's convention.
Her eye twitched.
This was stupid.
This was more than just stupid.
This. Just. Wasn't. RIGHT.
Down in the audience, a dusty-grey filly eeped as she felt a tingle go over her body. This was quickly followed by an all-body jitter, as she began to vibrate in place.
"S-i-i-i-is-sy-p-i-i-i-ie-!" she stuttered, voice vibrating as she did. "S-o-o-o-o-me-th-i-i-i-i-ing's a-bo-o-o-out to h-a-a-a-a-ap-pen!"
Inkie Pie watched her sister's antics, as her eyes widened. "Are you sure, Maggie? I haven’t felt anything yet!"
Back in Ponyville, inside Sugarcube Corner, the bakery's number-one employee was in the process of handing a tray of meringue cookies over to an eager purple dragon, when the treats suddenly vibrated off their platter. Green eyes widened in panic as the earth-pony began to shudder in-place.
"Pinkie!" Spike yelped. "What's going on?! Is something going to happen?! Is it Twilight?!"
"I-i-i-i-i-i-i do-o-o-o-o-n't kno-o-o-o-o-ow!" the pink filly stammered. "B-bu-u-u-u-t I-i-i-i-i ca-a-a-a-n te-e-e-e-ll it's n-o-o-o-o-ot Twi-i-i-i-i-light!"
"Who then?!" the dragon panicked. "Rarity? Rainbow Dash? O-or Fluttershy?! DID FLUTTERSHY EXPL-?!"
At a rock farm somewhere between Ponyville and Cloudsdale, an elderly earth pony couple leaned back in their rocking chairs, sighing in relief at the peace and quiet they now had all to themselves.
The tall, brown stallion closed his eyes, hat drooping over his face. "You know... I may not be an up-to-date pony... but I have to thank today's world for giving the kids a distraction."
"I'll say.” the grey mare replied, her hooves busy in darning a sock. "Inkie and Maggie are probably having themselves a blast."
There was a chuckle. "They've always had a blast, ever since Pinkie got her cutie mark. Sometimes I wonder if they'll really stay, or if they'll follow their sister and move to Ponyville."
"We should visit Pinkie." Mother Pie stated, looking evenly over her spectacles. "Ponyville's not a bad place, you know. I've been there. We could always drop in on the Apple farm, see if Old Tart Smith's still hanging-"
She paused her rocking, and her eyes widened. Poppa Pie kept his eyes evenly on her, even when her tail began twitching, followed by her backside, proceeding up her spine towards her forehooves, ending at her head as she shimmied in an impromptu seizure.
"Who's it this time?" he asked, only mildly curious.
"Ca-a-a-an't te-e-e-e-ll." she stated, her own voice remaining calm even as she shook. "Bu-u-u-u-ut the-e-e-ey're in Yo-o-o-o-okelah-o-o-o-o-ma Ci-i-i-i-i-ty."
"Oh wait." Inkie stated. She felt the tingling herself, and then before she knew it, she was imitating her sister in her vibrating pose. "The-e-e-e-re it go-o-o-o-o-es."
"Why-y-y-y-y-y are-e-e yo-u a-a-a-al-wa-a-a-ays so la-a-a-ate?" Maggie questioned her sister, managing to raise an eyebrow through her shaking.
Applejack looked down, her mind apparently made up. She looked over to the side, and caught Rarity's eyes. She gave the unicorn a sad look as she said in perfect Manehattenite.
"I'm sorry sugarcube."
And then she turned back to the crowd.
"BUT AH CAIN'T KEEP THIS HAY-STACKIN' ACT UP ANYMORE!!"
There was a ripple of amazement that coursed through the crowd. The white filly's eyes shrunk in panic. Mister Marmalade kept his silence as he watched the applebucker proceed to rant.
"Ah got invit'd out here t' this exhibition, a'cause ah had a fancy voice! Ah'm gonna tell y’all right now, that voice TAIN'T ME! THIS, is me! Y’all wanna know how th' Apple Family gits our Apples so good? Lemme tell yah! Me 'n mah big brother Macintosh go out there, an' WE BUCK THOSE TREES OURSELVES! Ah tain't no fancy Apple baron, ah LIKE t' get mah hooves dirty! Ah'm a farmer! And this Con's s'posed t' be FOR farmers! So HOW COME ah gotta break out mah Manehattenite fru-fru talk? Ah tried t' be s'phisti’cated once, a looooong time ago. It wasn't me then, annit SHORE tain't me now!"
"So g' on! Y’all know now ah tain't fancy 'r fru-fru 'r high-class 'r what-have-you! An' ah don't wanna be one no more! Throw me out, toss me in th' mud fer all ah care! Just as long as ah can stop lyin', be true, an' SOUND LIKE MAHSELF!!"
She panted, her frustrations now fully vented, the hall still echoing with her words. The farmer allowed her green eyes to travel over the hushed occupants of the room. She then allowed herself another glance over to Rarity, who appeared to be in the midst of a heart attack. The expression on Marmalade's face remained unreadable.
Welp, it twere a good run. she thought to herself. Ah won't be stickin' around fer th' other two days, but that's alright. Ah made enough t'day t' do SOME fixin' up at th' farm. If ah never get invited anywhere ever again... ah think ah'll be able t' live. Sorry about that Rarity. But ah'm done livin' a lie.
The orange mare stood there, in the silence, the lone spotlight still beating down on her. She awaited the audience's reaction.
She didn't have to wait very long.
As one, each and every pony in the room let out a single word.
Followed by someone in the back yelling out '' 'Bout darned time somepony said it!"
And then, the murmur came rolling back. But this time, with a different flavor to it's melody. Rarity's expression shifted from panic to outright shock, as she noticed that each and every single equine in the room, had suddenly lost any traces of cultured upbringing in their voices.
The conversation of the hall was dominated with the thick, syrupy drawl of a southern accent. Ponies were sighing with relief, hugging each other, laughing and bucking with joy, as the earlier tension completely dissolved away, leaving behind an air of gratitude as they all relaxed, letting their natural speech and voices shine through.
Applejack, quite obviously, had not expected this outcome either. She remained rooted to her spot behind the pedestal, eyes wide and unbelieving, jaw slack and hanging open. She barely registered the approach of two ponies up to her right side.
She slowly turned her head. Her friend stood there beside her, the unicorn's face a mixture of emotions warring for domination. Shock, pride, joy, and... sorrow? Her heart weighed heavy in her own chest as she took it in.
"That... that was beautiful, Applejack." Rarity began, stretching a hoof out and placing it on the farmer's shoulder. "I... I'm sorry. I had no idea..." she turned to look back at the crowd, yee-haws and whoops rising from its surface every now and then. "I... really had... no idea..."
She looked back. "How... can I ever make it up to you?"
Unbidden, tears began to spring from the corners of the orange one's eyes. She raised her hooves up, and unclasped the pearl necklace that had felt so much like a burden. As she handed them back to Rarity, she brought her hooves back to her mane, and tugged at the bouffant. It gave way, blonde strands cascading down her back as she gave a shake of her head, the weight of the world off her shoulders. She looked back at the white mare, head turned downwards, tears still flowing.
"Ah... ah want mah hat back..."
The unicorn found herself tearing up as well, as she walked forward and nuzzled her friend.
"Okay dear. Let's go and get your hat."
The restaurant was abuzz with laughter, and the twang of cow-talk. The waiters had been taken aback when the conventioneers came in sounding like southern folks, compared to the cultured tone their customers had the years previous. Business was still business however, and they would be mad to turn it away for any reason.
Especially if one of their customers was Mister Mango Marmalade and his party of four, who were currently occupying a private booth secluded from the rest of the restaurant. A steady stream of hay-fries and bean-burgers flowed into the booth, as its occupants relaxed from the harrowing day beforehand.
"Whoosh!" Applejack breathed, coming up for air from her chocolate oat malt. "It shore feels good t' eat like a real pony ‘gain!" She gave her mane another shake, her customary hat and hairband back in place, with nary a sign of dress to be seen. "Ah'd forgotten how hungry bein' a s'phisti’cated pony made yah!"
"I can see that." Rarity stated evenly, though her eyes were still wide as she noted that the farmer was now on her fourth shake. "I've never had such a reaction myself, I must admit... I suppose it differs from pony to pony."
"It really does." came a voice from the unicorn's left. She turned to face Maggie Pie and her sister, the both of them slowly but steadily sharing and working through a stack of fries. "Back on the farm, before she got her cutie mark, Pinkie barely ate four muffins a day. Afterwards however, she couldn't seem to get enough food in her! It's one of the reasons she moved away."
"One of the MANY reasons." Inkie spoke, rolling her eyes. "But that's all beside the point, isn't it?"
Mister Marmalade nodded, sitting at the far end next to Applejack.
"Th' Exhibition folks were all like me." the orange filly stated, her mind still reeling from the thought. "They all thought that if they went 'n spoke plain-like, they'd all git kicked out too. So they never said nothin' otherwise! And this's been goin' on fer so long... welp, it got kinda outta-hand, didn't it?" She turned to the brown stallion again, who only dipped his head once more with a sheepish expression.
"It rather caught me off-guard." Rarity confessed, as she daintily sipped her lemon tea. "I mean, I had no idea that all the sophisticated and cultured airs that everypony was putting on were so... forced. I had taken the entire thing for granted, being the kind of... pony I am..." she found herself blushing, realizing that she was now a minority, a city pony in a town full of cowfolk.
"We saw it coming." Inkie quipped, her mouth still full of fries. "Before we even came to miss Applejack's stand, the last two stands we visited also slipped in their speech."
The applebucker gaped at the two rock farmers. "Ah was yer third one?! And y’all didn't tell me?!"
"How could we?" the lighter of the two mares responded. "They asked us to keep quiet too, same as you did."
She blushed as she looked down. "Aah.. makes sense, considerin'. We were all kinda' scared. At least, ah know ah was..."
She looked up as she felt a shuffling. The white unicorn edged herself closer to the earth-pony's side, as she locked eyes. "Applejack, I am so, SO sorry. I had no idea that you felt so... oppressed, by all the culture that I was trying to help you with. I had no intention of instilling that kind of fear in you. I should have really known better, than to force something onto you that you're not. I was just..." she turned her sapphire eyes downward. "I was really... excited, to have somepony to be 'high-class' with... can you ever forgive me?"
Applejack let a smile come to her face as she nudged Rarity's cheek. "Ah fergive yah, sugarcube. Ah know y’all were just tryin' t’ help. Just got carried away, like th' rest of us." She smiled as she spotted the relief on her friend's face.
"And hey. Maybe sometime, if y’all are really needin' it... ah can be fru-fru, just fer a day. That sound good?" she asked, before holding her hoof out. It was met with a white one in a clop, and they both shook on it.
"And I promise." the seamstress replied. "I won't bother you anymore about your accent. Um, that is..."
There was a chuckle as the blonde tilted her hat back. "Y’all can call it an ack-cent if yah want. T' me, ‘n all the folks 'round here? Ti's just talkin' normal-like."
There was a round of clapping that made both farmer and dressmaker blush lightly, before they turned back to their food. "So..." the lighter of the two grey fillies started. "This means that the EACE is still going for the rest of the weekend, right?"
Marmalade nodded with a smile.
"An' we get t' keep both our stands?" Applejack asked, her face a picture of hopefulness.
He nodded once more with a grin.
"Even though we may... or may not sound... cultured?" Rarity quipped, a look of curiosity on her features.
Mister Marmalade closed his eyes, before opening them and his mouth, to speak for the first time that evening.
"EEeeeeee-YUP." he replied, in a drawl that would have even made Big Macintosh proud.