She didn’t like the sun. It never did anything for her other than give light to all the bullying she endured with the other ponies. Her parents never understood why she slept in all the time. While the sun loomed high over the sky and watched Ponyville bustle with activity Sassy Sarsaparilla remained in her room, sleeping the day away without a care.
They didn’t need to know about her problems. She wasn’t worth the trouble, concern or worry. It only took a few stray words here and there during small dinner conversations to realize that she should suck up her troubles. Why bother anyone about them, anyways? Her problems were her own, and she believed no one would really care what she said unless they were fed up with her whining.
Still, Sassy’s mind pressured her to open up despite the world she knew. Every fiber of her being demanded and pleaded that she confess her woes especially to her parents, because she knew they were the kind of parents who would care for her no matter what happened. It was also obvious how much her mother cared as she beat down Sassy’s room’s door. The weekends always started with Milly forcibly barging into the pony’s room, ripping the sheets away and then tossing Sassy onto the couch in the living room. Despite Sassy’s rigorous attempts to stay asleep her mother’s bellowing voice flung her into consciousness.
“SASSY SARSAPARILLA!” Milly’s voice pierced through the door and reverberated against the beige walls of Sassy’s room. Decorating her room was impossible because of her mother’s voice. It threatened to tear the house down with every echo that resonated across the short halls, and many fragile objects found their doom from it. Besides the table and chair situated in the corner an aged, oak chest with a keyhole reinforced with gold stood at the foot of the bed. Despite years of attrition the glorified box was as strong as ever, and as far as Sassy cared that was the only thing she adored out of everything in the room, including her bed.
Milly started banging on the door now, resolved to put the sunshine and happy back into her daughter. The door endured so much abuse every weekend that Sassy knew its hinges were ready to break. It only took a final stamp against the door to loosen it from its hinges and soar across the room with dust in its wake. Sassy twisted in her bed as the door impacted against the wooden floor with an ear shattering crash.
“Mornin’ glories ‘n crunchy croquette!” Milly barked as she coughed from the dust spewing across the room. “Forgot my own strength! Are you still in bed, filly? It’s the afternoon!” She heaved her front legs and stamped hard on the ground, sending a gust of wind across the dust baked room that cleared up the air in seconds. Even as the mix of harsh wind and dust shot through Sassy’s hair she remained glued to the comforts of the soft silk, unmoving like a statue. The sun found no welcome in the dimly lit space, but only because the lone window just beside the table remained closed and unused as usual. Milly swept aside the small, purple curtain and tapped the windowpanes open, ushering in warmth and flooding the room with daylight.
Save for a lighter shade of a brown mane Sassy could pass as a reflection of her mother. Rather than deep brown eyes Sassy’s cold and stark gray eyes came from her father, and they rather suited her personality despite seeming out of place. Milly’s long mane curled up at the edges and draped below her neck while Sassy’s cropped hair hanged a few inches below her ears. In the dark the two could pass as twins, yet their opposing personalities would give them away in a heart’s beat.
“Yeesh,” Milly huffed to herself as she looked over Sassy bunched up in her sheets. “Real grade A sleeper y’are!” She tore away the sheets with such lightning speed that Sassy’s body took a moment to register the cool air. Milly’s unnatural reflexes always succeeded in putting Sassy in a state of curious perplexity. How was she able to remove her sheets without disturbing her body? Sassy was adamantly convinced that her mother could pass as a genuine magician if she wanted to, but today the thought only lingered for a small moment as Milly grabbed her and flung her into the living room.
The fluffy maroon couch shuddered slightly at Sassy’s impact, but she made no sound as her body sunk into it, content on sleeping on it rather than giving in to defeat. Milly calmly entered the room and sighed, gazing towards a picture that rested on top of a wooden cabinet. She, Rooty and Sassy smiled vibrantly in front of a grassy hill with a picnic blanket draped underneath a fertile, green tree. How long as it been since she’s seen that smile? She feared of forgetting about it, a sinking feeling of despair struggling to convince her she’d never see it again. She forced herself to press on with the guidance of hope. Every weekend she’d invite friends or other family to come to dinner, to tell Sassy of what she’s missing out on. Nothing worked.
Sassy would simply nod with glazed eyes, she always did. It broke Milly’s heart to see her do that, especially after every effort to pique the young pony’s mind. Only after weeks of effort did the mother realize she was simply taking her efforts in the wrong direction. One night, quietly and carefully, she entered Sassy’s room and dug through her beloved chest. To be frank, Milly admitted most of the things her guests had to say were pretty boring. They already lived past their prime, the taste for adventure and travel long exhausted from their minds. Sassy’s beloved chest contained books of many known adventurers from fact and fiction, even extending beyond the realm of pure adventure to historical figures who braved the dangers of wars and strife. Milly only knew two ponies of all the ponies in the world, and one of them wasn’t even a pony!
Pony or not, such an honorable war hero deserved his right to the history books. The hulking gryphon requested that his name be struck from the records due to persistent enemies hunting him down, but she knew him very well. In times of war she knew it didn’t matter who fought beside you; if a battle brother or sister fought with you in the maw of the enemy, that was that. She relived her glory days in her head before the glimmer of reality called her back. She felt confident about her plans today, and as she returned to reality hope ignited within her heart.
“Sassy!” Milly said with a gentle, chiding tone. It was too motherly sounding for Sassy to bear and she almost twitched when she heard it. Instead of responding like a normal pony she grumbled incoherently. “We’ll be havin’ some guests comin’ around tonight, so don’t you be late, hear?”
“Whatever,” Sassy responded impulsively. It was probably some boring old salesman friend again. Only Celestia knew how many friends her mother had, but Sassy didn’t want to be idle enough to think about it. She gracelessly rolled off the couch and trotted towards the kitchen. Even if her nose tried to fool her she knew her father was currently busy baking various breads. If he forgot to open the backdoor the magical aroma of various breads flooded the house, but if he didn’t then the rest of the house smelled like bread never touched it.
Rooty busied himself as Sassy and Milly entered the kitchen. The tan coated stallion focused his attention on the ovens, not even slightly aware of their presence. His ragged, gray mane dripped with so much sweat that the blue and white checkered marble floor reflected the trails he made from each oven. There were about a dozen of them across the yellow sunflower patterned kitchen and he felt the constant heat of every one of them. The only time he’s felt such heat was when he and Milly got marooned in the middle of Appleoosa. After that mishap he knew a soldier shouldn’t complain about heat after baking in the sun while trudging around in heavy plate armor.
Sassy took a seat at the dinner table, watching in blooming awe as Rooty shuffled around the ovens. Whenever one of them dinged he practically slid across the kitchen and shuffled out the freshly baked bread with his trusty bread paddle. Sassy always wondered how her father even managed to shift about like that despite his hulking physique. He was practically built like a tank, a stallion fit for heavy armor and the front lines of war. Sassy spun many thoughts about her father even though engaging in conversation fitted for the best solution. The irony of how accurate her imagination was would certainly not be lost on her.
Rooty finally caught eye of them as he spun around. “Jeez!” he barked out alongside the ding of another oven. His pace remained undeterred as he skidded across the kitchen and pulled out more bread with his paddle. The sweat dribbling down his face slightly blinded him but he remained undeterred, eyes glazed with such focus that time even seemed like it was slowing down. The truth long crept into his head however, and soon he felt his thick, tree trunk like legs giving out from the exhausting effort.
“Make way, Honey.” Milly trotted into the fray and started unloading the ovens on the right wall, just beside the open back door. Wait, Sassy thought a second later with a blink of surprise. She never saw Milly help with the ovens before. She failed to keep up with how fast the two worked. As one of them unloaded the bread the other shifted the dough into the ovens and set the timer. Milly didn’t even hold a bread paddle of her own; the two seamlessly shared the same paddle when one of them needed it. Sassy thought this couldn’t get any more exciting until Milly slid the bread paddle out too hard and lost her grip on it. This only fooled Sassy, for Rooty twisted his neck around and caught the paddle’s handle without even breaking momentum!
It felt like hours yet only one passed by during that escapade. High time for the bakery finally ended and the remaining dough would be no problem for Rooty to handle. The stallion fell onto his haunches as he panted his sweat off. Milly chuckled as she bought a glass of water for him.
“Holy himbasha bread!” Rooty let out a ragged sigh of relief once he guzzled the remaining water. “How long were you two there?”
“Whole time, Sugar,” Milly said with a smirk. “You forgot ta pace yerself again, didn’t ya?” She shook her head as Rooty’s deep and course laugh resonated through the kitchen. Even though he could be thoughtless sometimes she loved the lunkhead.
“How in the world did you two manage that?” Sassy piped up with unbridled awe in her voice. “I’ve never seen you help pops out before, ma. It was like watching a blur!”
Milly and Rooty looked to each other for a moment before smiling. “Well,” Milly started as she picked out a piece of zopf bread and placed it on a plate. For a moment Milly savored the sweet taste of the golden braided bread before continuing. “Yer father ‘n I have a long history together.”
“Say,” Rooty added as he picked out a loaf of wheat bread for himself. He savored the crisp, crunchy texture of it while speaking with a mouthful. “We never told lil’ Sass much about us, have we?”
Surprisingly the thought never occurred to Milly until now. Sassy’s eyes widened with interest as she hunched forward a bit, ready to be regaled with adventurous tales from past ages. At the same time she felt somewhat embarrassed that she barely knew much about her parents, but the rising interest about their military careers wasn’t the only thing on her mind. Rooty opened his mouth but Milly slapped it shut with a hoof.
“I see that glint in yer eyes.” Milly grinned and shook her head at a dejected Sassy. “We’ll save our tales fer later. You,” she waved a hoof at Sassy. “Scoot on out ‘n get some sun! Be home by sundown and you’ll get yer fare share of adventure tales. Savvy?”
“Fine,” Sassy said with an impatient groan. Milly slid the plate of zopf bread to Sassy and she practically gobbled up the whole piece within a few seconds. After some chiding from her mother the young pony bid her parents farewell and hesitatingly went outside.
Rooty approached Milly and nuzzled her neck with a grin. He knew she didn’t mind the sweat after all they went through together. “Seems like ya finally got Sass’s attention.”
Milly felt confident today would be the day. She never thought she could invite the two so easily, yet fate probably intervened in some way to answer her prayers. Rooty and her would have a good time catching up with stories and reminiscence, and the best part was that Sassy would be there to witness it all. As she nodded a thought surfaced in her mind. “Say, remember the day we got our Cutie Marks?”
“Feels like yesterday!” Rooty barked nostalgically with a grin. “The irony still isn’t lost on me either.” He never thought such old and simple past times would find their way back to them. He made many memories at his grandfather’s mill even though the work was tiresome. Although his parents hoped Rooty would attend the family root beer business it didn’t happen, but Milly proved to be more than an excellent businesswoman. Her love for all kinds of root beer wasn’t lost on his parents, and they were more than willing to bestow upon her the family business.
Milly gently shook her head. “That’s enough nostalgia trippin’.” She shared one last little nuzzle with Rooty before heading out the door. “Root beer store’s a’waitin’. I’ll see you at dinner, Sweety.” As she left the house Sassy aimlessly walked around Ponyville with nothing but excitement wandering around her mind. What could they have in store for the dinner table today? She was convinced that military service was beyond her parents. Now that she knew the idea grew roots and gave way to branches of ideas. She barely knew her parents, and admittedly she was ashamed she didn’t ask them anything sooner. This was the chance, though; what else could they have done in their lifetimes?
Her thoughts blinded her from where she walked. She smacked into another pony’s rear and fell onto her flank. As she rubbed her nose the other pony turned and looked down at Sassy with a scoff.
“If it ain’t Sassy the Blank Flank.” Barbell’s arrogant expression graced Sassy’s eyes like acid to flesh. Of all the days to bump into the dumb as doorknobs pony this was the most inopportune time. Sassy scoffed back and then prepared to walk past Barbell, but he shifted to the side and leaned down even more to give her the ugliest glare.
“Aren’t you gonna apologize?” Barbell asked threateningly. His face looked like some pig wallowing in the mud; even most of the school thought so too. “Figures for some loser blank flank, no manners at all!”
“Gee Barbell,” Sassy started with a sarcastically apologetic tone. “If getting bumped into hurts your feelings that bad I don’t wanna know how many tears you’d gush out if someone tackled you out of hoofball practice.”
“The hell did you say to me?” Barbell growled menacingly. His acrid breath smelled like broccoli and cheese. Sassy waved a hoof in front of her face and let out a breath.
“Ugh! Yer breath smells as cruddy as usual.” Sassy laughed in her mind. Barbell caught her on the wrong day to be a jerk. She felt too excited to give a flying hoot about any bullies, let alone whatever the heck they could threaten her with. She surveyed her surroundings and realized she must have wandered into the marketplace. Merchants everywhere advertised their wares while potential buyers scouted various stalls for good bargains. If Barbell did anything stupid – and she knew he would – it’d be really easy to lose him in this commotion.
The dumb jock was about to make his move. The hulking, coal colored colt practically resembled Sassy’s father in sheer size and physique. However, many students made fun of Barbell’s awkwardly small head, and Sassy was no exception. The jerk deserved all of it anyways since he gave everyone a hard time, blank flank or not. Barbell attempted to flatten Sassy with his humongous, fat body. He was too slow and clumsy to catch her however and the young pony simply zipped away before the colt landed on his belly.
“Yo!” Barbell shouted through the ever shifting sea of ponies. “Sassy the Blank Flank’s makin’ a run for it!”
Crap! As much as Sassy hated to admit it even the jerkiest of jerks had friends. She didn’t think her plan this far through as several other colts started chasing her away from the marketplace. They hooted and jeered as they struggled to keep up with her. She knew her enemies as well as she knew her own strengths and weaknesses. She could outrun them if she wanted to, and eventually they’d get too tired to follow her. In a sense it was sort of embarrassing considering she never cared for sports at all, though that didn’t blind her to the fact that if she didn’t tread carefully they would surely form a plan.
They started splitting up. Double crap! She knew better; they were going to cut her off and surround her. What rotten luck to end up in a place with small alleyways and corridors. The tall houses blocked the sun from entering the alleyway as the chase ensued. Barbell’s hulking body led the charge as he panted and growled, eyes full of murderous intent. She kept her focus on the small alleyways to her sides rather than the fear boiling throughout her chest. A plan stuck to her mind like glue but the problem was execution. All she needed was the right alleyway to show up, one narrow enough for a single pony like her.
She jerked to the left with all of her might, leaving a puff of dust in her wake. Even though Sassy easily slipped through the very narrow corridor Barbell struggled ferociously to cram his huge body through it to no avail. The alleyway wasn’t even big enough to fit the other colts, and as the mare scurried down the path there was only one last obstacle between her and freedom.
Barbell’s goons prepared to grab her. She was running right into them but they were too stupid to realize what her plan was. One of them attempted to trip her by reaching a hoof into the alleyway but quickly found his head being used as a springboard. Sassy soared across the other colts with the biggest smile on her face, and they could only watch as she made her daring escape.
That is, until an unassuming pony bought his cart around the corner of the street. Sassy yelped as she bounced against the cart’s overhead canvass and flew across the sky into nothingness. The colts stopped giving chase, but they neither laughed nor jeered at the circumstances. She flew straight into the Everfree Forest, and not one of them would wish a soul into such a mysterious and dangerous place.
Except Barbell. The rest of the colts decided to make a quiet escape as the hulking colt spat out insults against the wind. Sassy’s landing wasn’t so bad, but even she knew that it mattered where she landed. If she wasn’t so preoccupied with gaining her bearings in the dark forest she would’ve felt Barbell’s mocks.
She treaded carefully through thick grass and bush, and as she lost herself deeper into the forest a rather bitter irony contracted around her mind. She would definitely love to see the sun now.