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Steps

by Mica

Steps


Step, step, step, trip—
Rarity kept tripping on the steps.
Usually it resulted in little more than a few teeny scrapes and a nasty shock. Rarity’s doctors kept telling her she was lucky for a mare 80 years of age, to not have had much more serious injuries. “Not serious. Not serious. Normal for your age. Normal for your age.” The doctors would repeat.
But Rarity did not like tripping on the steps.
Sweetie Belle did not trip on the steps. Which was not fair. Sure, she was younger than Rarity by 12 years. That difference mattered when Rarity was 25 and Sweetie Belle was 13. But at the age of 80, a 68-year old younger sister wasn’t much less elderly.
The point was, it wasn’t fair that Rarity was tripping over the steps and that Sweetie Belle wasn’t. It just wasn’t fair.
Two months back, they had added non-slip treads and high visibility threshold strips, to try to alleviate old Rarity’s issues. Sweetie Belle and her grown children discussed moving Rarity to Silver Shoals, but it never actually happened.
When it was first suggested to Rarity, she didn’t even put up a fight. She didn’t go down onto her knees and beg Sweetie Belle not to put her away. None of that. The elderly fashion designer just calmly said, “My darling, do I trip myself silly that often?”
There was only so many times within the span of 5 minutes she could say, “Darling, I’m such a clumsy fool!” and for it to be amusing.
Applejack, being the handy pony she was, stopped by Rarity’s boutique for the second time this week to measure the steps. Rarity sat at her sewing chair that morning, but she turned her head briefly at regular intervals to look at Applejack working at the staircase.
From the little two-second glances she got, it looked like Applejack was solving a puzzle.
Applejack had a book open at one point—a building code manual—but Rarity thought that Twilight was the one who read books. And then four glances later, Applejack was drafting something with a pencil and a carpenter’s triangle. Clutching the pencil in her teeth, tilting her head in awkward directions. With each tilt, she’d whisper, “Ah,” and then scribble down a few numbers. She’d twist her head again and repeat the process.
Like her head was a combination lock, and each little twist was one number to open the lock and solve the puzzle.
Step 1. Research. Read the big book. Hunt for clues.
Step 2. Draw out the puzzle.
Step 3. Twist your head. Guess the correct angles. Trial and error. Twist. Twist.
Step 4. Unlock the mystery. Puzzle solved.
Step. Step. Step.
“At least twenty-four steps to make a Blondel-compliant staircase,” Rarity heard Applejack mumble. (Hearing was the one sense that Rarity still retained perfectly.)
“Six inch threshold over nine inch run…might be a bit too steep fer an’ electric stair lift. But I think we can manage.”
“Can…can I help you, Applejack darling?” Rarity said out loud. “Would like a refreshment? S-some hot coffee, perhaps?”
“Nope, sugarcube. You just keep workin’ on yer dresses. I got it covered here.”
Truth be told, Rarity had no idea what she was sewing. A dress. Of fabric. For an event. She had used her magic to pull her fainting couch to an awkward position across the sewing table. Her old sewing chair was too firm to sit on for long periods of time, and it hurt her back.
She continued to sew. She stared at the flashing reflection caused by the metal needle oscillating. It hurt Rarity’s old eyes.
Up, down. Up, down. Up, down the stairs.
Step 1. Hoof up, kick forward, hoof down, contact, plant.
Step 2. Hoof up, kick forward, hoof down, contact, plant.
Step 3. Hoof up, kick forward, trip—
She blinked and realized she’d sewn the stitch into a fuchsia pink crooked zig-zag line.
Crooked staircase.


Aging gracefully.
The one thing that everypony promised they’d do, but next to none actually achieved. Those hypocrites.
Rarity was the biggest hypocrite.
When she was younger, she thought, aging gracefully would be easy. Gracefulness was her specialty, right? Why should she not be able to fulfill that promise? Her faux fur shawls complemented her grey-streaked mane beautifully. And how graceful she looked as the train of the dress slowly dragged behind her as she walked, polishing the floor along with it!
But “gracefully” only was one of the two words.
Applejack had truly aged gracefully. She still did part-time work on the farm, did odd repairs around the house, and in fact her pie-baking skills had only improved with age.
Rarity recalled when visited Sweet Apple Acres two weeks ago. It was right after a good heavy summer rain, and the muddy ground of the farm was so unstable that Rarity could do little except sit in a wicker chair two inches deep in the mud and watch Applejack buck the fruits off the trees.
Rarity watched the juicy apples fall, and soon the empty wicker basket was full with fruit. She watched Applejack wrap the basket in a jute fabric, to prevent the flies from getting to the apples. Grabbing the handle with her teeth, Applejack lifted the teardrop-shaped object up, like a heavy lead balloon. Sweat poured from her brow, and Applejack’s eyes squinted shut for 15 seconds while she loaded the basket onto the cart.
“Applejack, are you all right?” Rarity called from her wicker chair. “Don’t strain yourself too hard, dear.”
“Nah, ‘s good fer the body. Keeps me young, yew know how it is,” she said, appending a short chuckle.
Rarity shifted an inch back in the wicker chair. It creaked in the silence.
“Oh, right, of course darli—Applejack. Ofcouseofcourseofcourse,” she wanted to say it to Applejack, but she trailed off and ended up muttering it to herself.
Applejack went to harvest the next apple tree, just a bit farther from the wicker chair. And she sweat even more, and squinted her eyes even more. But her legs remained strong. They seemed to get stronger with every successive tree.
That’s when Rarity learned her lesson.
There was nothing graceful about aging gracefully. It was real sweat, and hard labor. And Rarity was no good at that.


The most beautiful flowers always wilt the quickest.
Applejack taught Rarity a lot about gardening. Something to pass the time when she tripped on the stairs too many times and was stuck on the ground floor. The white unicorn planted a variety of flowers in the private back garden of Carousel Boutique. Applejack and Big Mac had helped to renovate the garden. There were no steps to be found in the garden. Just fine gravel pathways and neat raised beds.
“Now, Rarity, every single different plant’s got the same finite amount of energy in ‘em,” Applejack said. “Now, the way I see it, there’s two kinds o’ plants: sprinters, and endurers.”
The two elderly mares were taking a walk round Rarity’s back garden. Applejack pointed to a brilliantly colored fuchsia flower, at least twice as big as Applejack’s hoof. “Okay, so this plant here’s a good example of a sprinter. They use all their energy reserve in a short time. So, they can get real big an’ pretty flowers. But after a year or two, they use up all their energy and jus’ wilt away.”
Applejack drew Rarity’s attention to bunch of tiny, speck-like white flowers. “Then you got ‘em ‘endurers’. They use just a little bit of their energy reserve at a time, but ‘cause of that, they can bloom fer many more years. Them flowers jus’ a’int as pretty.”
“So, am I a sprinter?” Rarity asked. “And you an endurer?”
Applejack chuckled, and pulled Rarity in for a sideways hug. “Aw, sheeucks, don’ be silly, we a’int plants. We’re neither a sprinter nor an endurer. You’re…Rarity. An’ I’m Applejack.”
“So it works differently for ponies than for plants?”
Applejack stopped walking. (Finally Rarity and her slow legs could catch up with her.)
“Sure.” Applejack mumbled. And then she kept walking.


It was a midsummer night, but Rarity was cold so they turned on the fireplace.
Sweetie Belle sat next to Rarity at the fire, fanning herself while sipping an iced coffee. Rarity drank decaf coffee, hot and plain.
Sweetie Belle had come with her grandfoals to visit Rarity at Carousel Boutique. The grandfoals were all fast asleep upstairs—the twins were in Rarity’s old room, which she could no longer reach due to her age. The eventual solution was to simply have Rarity sleep on the ground floor, with an extra bathroom built directly adjacent to the kitchen.
Rarity lowered her mug. “I think I’ll go outside to the garden for a while, Sweetie.”
“What, in the middle of the night?”
“Yes.”
“Are you sure about that, Rarity? You could trip and break something. Let me go out with you.”
“No, I’d…I’d rather be alone.”
“You can’t go out alone at night. It’s not safe.”
“I’m not a child, Sweetie Belle,” she barked. “That’s no way to talk to your big sister!”
Silence. (Big sister felt like a lie. Even though it was technically true.)
“Oh. Well, fine then,” was all Sweetie Belle said. “Just be careful.” She gulped down the last of her iced coffee.
Rarity walked out the back door of the boutique and into the garden.
She tripped on the two-inch-high painted threshold on the way out, but quickly re-steadied herself.
Step 1. Stretch outward.
Step 2. Plant hoof.
Step 3. Anchor to dirt ground. Hard. Regain balance.
Rarity smirked. Facing into the dark night where nopony could see.