Things I Can Never Say
0 - Foreword
A friendship blossoms, and the world is treated to a beautiful and precious sight. Yet every flower has a part that must remain hidden, the roots of regret and fear that cannot be unearthed without great pain. Erika invites Jasmine to a summer vacation in Celadon to deepen their friendship, even as the Grass Gym Leader struggles with hidden turmoil.
This is a side-story and prequel to the greater Olivine Romance story, and ideally should be read alongside Ch. 57. I hope you enjoy, and ask for any and all comments, criticisms, or questions, here in the reviews or by PM, whichever you please.
1 - I've Been Waiting To See You Again
I found her much as I had first found her: lost, forlorn, a little dazed, and with a Magnemite in her arms.
It was easy to spot her. In a sea of cacophonous cosmopolitan colors, her pure white sundress stood out, radiant as the lighthouse she so often calls home. And also as a lighthouse, she stood stock still despite the tempestuous churn of the airport terminal crowds washing around her. As the minutes wore on and the young lady refused to explore, it became apparent that I would have to leave my perch and go to greet her. With a heavy sigh, I departed my overwatch and descended the escalator into the mob.
"Jasmine!" I called, waving my arm high.
Her demeanor roused immediately upon hearing my voice.
"Erika?" she said aloud, perking up. "Erika!" she repeated excitedly once she spotted me.
We hugged, an act made difficult with Magnemite between our chests, at least until Jasmine set the Pokémon aside and renewed our greeting. I then stood her back to appraise her.
She has a milder tan than expected for a young woman living by the beach. Darkened folds under her eyes speak to too many late nights. Her figure is made up of bones and angles and pointy parts, from her lithe feet to her sharp facial features to those curious hair stylings she keeps.
"Oh? Are you still wearing these things?" I said, thumbing one of her twin spike-tails.
"Yes. Of course. What's wrong with them?"
"I thought they were a passing phase, something you would get tired of."
"I've worn my hair this way ever since you met me. Ever since I was a kid. How could you think it was a fad of mine?"
"I don't really know where I got the idea. They just seem like something a middle-schooler would wear."
"How do they stay up? And how are they so spiky? I've always marveled at that. It doesn't feel like you use spray or gel."
"It's natural. Hey stop playing with them!" she huffed. I would not withdraw my playful hands, however, and so she forcefully extricated herself from my reach. "Erika, please! It's been thirty seconds and you're already making fun of me!"
"My apologies. I can't help it. I always wanted a little sister to fuss over," I confessed.
"I can't say I really wanted a big sister growing up. I'd prefer a little sister, so I could boss her around, and not vice versa."
It wasn't so much what she said, but the matter-of-fact way in which she said it, that made it so funny. She was being completely serious. I myself could not take her seriously, and so burst out laughing as a result. Immediately mindful of the public space I was in and the image of respectability I must keep up, I struggled successfully to put my humorous outburst under control. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.
"Ah, ha… You're so sweet. How are you doing? How was your flight?" I asked.
"It was okay." She then slipped into a conversation full of mundane details about her trip, explaining and complaining about her Magnemite's malfunctioning Pokeball and security and check-in and rude co-passengers. It was interesting to see how easily she slipped into the familiarity of long acquaintance, talking as if we had last seen each other this morning, and as if we had shared a decade of close company. Neither were true, though. Others might think it rude, that she should be more excited, attentive, and affectionate in greeting her friend after so many months of separation. I, however, counted it a blessing. I felt it heartwarming that she would feel so comfortable around me, even though we had only met a year ago and the distance between our cities kept visits to a minimum.
"The luggage claim is this way," I told her.
I took a misstep, stumbled, and nearly fell.
She shook her head.
I eyed her lone carry-on piece, a duffel bag one might mistake for an oversized purse. Further observation would reveal that an undersized purse was contained within the bag- meaning there was even less space for apparel and other travel necessities.
"You do realize you will be staying here for a month, don't you?" I asked, fearing the worst.
"Yes," she said with a simple nod.
"And yet you brought so little."
"And you expect that miniscule wardrobe will last you the entire trip?"
Truly. The ideas this young woman entertains. I don't think she could fit more than two dresses in that space. She'll be doing laundry every other day just to keep clean, to say nothing of the affront to fashion.
"Let me see what you have in here," I demanded, and took the bag from off her shoulder. It was much heavier than expected.
The zipper came open.
It's a Pokémon.
Rather, a second Pokémon, identical to the one she was carrying in her arms. Jasmine helpfully pulled it out for me.
"I think it's some kind of interaction between the Earth's magnetosphere and the solar flare we got a few days ago. Disrupted their internal charges or something and made them sick. Anyways, they can't get into their Pokeballs, so I had to carry them by hand."
My limp hands reached the bottom of her duffel bag, my face aghast at what I found.
One pair of underwear. A plastic bag with toothbrush and comb. Her purse.
That was all.
"Jasmine, you've nothing."
I'm going to cry.
"Where are your change of clothes? Where are your socks? Your bras? Your pajamas?"
"I don't have any," she said, confused.
"Why didn't you bring them?" I asked.
"No, I mean I don't have any."
"You don't mean… Oh dear. Oh dear…"
"What is it?"
"This is all you own?" I held out the underwear.
"No," she answered.
Oh thank the ancestors-
"My other pair got caught in Mother's laundry, and I didn't have time to wait for them to dry. Our dryer broke down last month."
Ancestors, you fail me!
"Jasmine, may I ask a question?"
I halted mid-breath and blinked.
I've been rebuffed. The sting of rejection, it hurts.
Then I remembered my position in this friendship and asked anyways.
"There are four fundamental necessities every parent is universally obligated to provide their child: food, water, shelter, and clothing. Do your parents not clothe you?"
Jasmine appraised her own figure. She placed a hand over her stomach, and the gesture reminded me how incredibly thin and wiry she was.
"You mean my parents are supposed to feed me?"
I covered my mouth in shock.
"That was a joke," she said.
"Your jokes aren't funny dear."
She frowned, and then answered seriously.
"I'm supposed to buy my own clothes with my allowance, but I just spend it all on Pokémon items instead. It doesn't bother me if my closet isn't as stuffed as other girls'. Most days it doesn't matter, I just wear my school uniform. I could've brought that, but it didn't seem right."
How to respond to that? There is so much wrong here!
"Firstly, to be ascetic is one thing, but if this is the entirety of your wardrobe then you own virtually nothing and that is not acceptable! Especially for a woman with whom I share company! Secondly, while a school uniform is out of place on a summer vacation, it is still better than nothing at all. Thirdly, my dear girl, clothing is a human right. Your mother should be ashamed for forcing you to spend your allowance on something so basic and vital."
Jasmine suddenly turned away.
Is she shaking? What's the matter? Did I offend her?
"Are you all right?"
"I don't want to talk about that woman," she muttered.
In all of our previous conversations, Jasmine assiduously avoided the topic of her parents, especially her mother. There is definitely a tension in her household, but I had no idea the mere mention of it could send the poor girl into such a nervous state. Not knowing how to handle the delicate topic, I decided it would be best to keep quiet and approach it another time, in private, when I was better prepared.
While she settled down I repacked her bag and slung it over my shoulder. We were past the secure section of the terminal and so Magnemite was allowed to hover freely.
"I'm sorry," I repeated. "I'll not mention her again. However, we must address your lack of apparel."
"We were going to go to my gym first, but this requires a change in plans. Yes. Definitely. Celadon Mall. Come, we're going to get you a proper set of summer attire."
She assented with a mumble and then took my offered hand. Hers was very cold, I noted. I gripped it all the harder. In this way we exited the airport and hailed a cab. As we pulled away, my cellphone rang.
"Erika, I've got a problem, and you know what that means," said a voice on the other end of the line.
My grip on the phone tightened.
"If you have a problem, then that means I have a problem," I whispered.
"Got that right miss. I want to see that pretty bob-head of yours over here quick."
"I have a guest."
"But… I can't."
"You playing me? Think your girly friend is more important than us? Hmmm? Ehh?"
"No! It's not that…"
"Be a good girl and don't make a fuss."
"I'm sorry, but, it's not possible. It's too risky right now, and I cannot leave my friend."
"Wah? Why do you women have to be so difficult? You're not under-nosing us are ya?"
"No! I promise I'm not. I'll… I will see you tonight. The situation can wait at least that long, right?" I pleaded, already guessing what the issue was.
The voice cut away for a moment, although I could make out some underhanded mutterings that sounded like curses.
"Fine. Tonight, midnight, no later. The boys will be expecting you, usual protocol."
The line went dead.
My hands shook as I clicked the cellphone shut and put it away.
"Who was that?" Jasmine asked innocently.
"My parents," I said with a false smile. "We'll be eating with them tomorrow."
She leaned her head against the window, apparently tired from the flight.
"The mall, please," I told our driver. I leaned back and observed my friend.
It's been so very long. Of course we must find her a cute dress. She's much too sad-looking as-is.