"So Michelle, got a date for the Dance? Cos I was thinking that we could go together, and afterwards…"
A resounding slap filled the school corridor as Brock slumped away from the pretty brunette, holding his stinging red cheek. As Michelle swept past him in a flurry of school bags and perfume, Brock came to a halt in front of his friends, falling to the floor in anguish. "Whhhhhhhhhhhhhhhy?"
Ash Ketchum looked calmly at his friend as he pulled his Chemistry book out of his locker and passed it to Tracey to hold.
"Because you're scary Brock."The bell suddenly chimed three times, and Ash looked at his watch in surprise.
"Aw damn, I'm supposed to be in the Science Block!"He slammed his locker shut, closely avoiding Todd's fingers and grabbed his Chemistry book off Tracey. "Bye!"
Less than two minutes later, Ash skidded in through the doors of S7 just as Mr Huggins was about to close it.
"Just in time Mr Ketchum,"the Science teacher cautioned. "Sit down." Ash slumped into a seat a little way from the front, slapping a high five to his friend Richie, slumped over the desk next to him.
"Have you done the homework?"Ash mumbled.
"Nah…I'm about as crap as you at Chemistry Ash."Ash shrugged his shoulders. Mr Huggins pulled out the register for that particular class, known as G6, and cleared his throat to call the first name. He was interrupted by a knock on the door, and by a Year 7 who entered the Year 10 classroom in a panic, handed Mr Huggins a note and fled. Mr Huggins scratched his beard as he read the note, his brow furrowing as he stood up.
"Class, open page 45 in your textbooks and do the activity. I have to go to Reception for a moment."
The moment the teacher left the class, it erupted in noise. Ash swung back on the chair, and put his feet up on the desk.
"So Ash, have you got a date for the Christmas Dance yet?"Richie's question caught Ash off guard.
"Well Rich, I haven't found a girl in this school who deserves to be seen on my arm,"Ash joked lazily, pulling his red and white baseball cap over his eyes. Richie's eyes narrowed.
"Well rumour has it that you are…"Richie put on an affected air, which Ash immediately recognised as an imitation of Richie's ex-girlfriend. "…so into Giselle!" Ash's cheeks coloured.
"Well, who isn't?"he mumbled. "I mean, she's gorgeous, smart, funny…"
"…and going out with Gary Oak."Richie reminded. The door to S7 swung open again, and Ash hurriedly removed his feet from the desk. Mr Huggins strode in, followed by a young girl with bright orange hair, wearing a pair of sunglasses.
"Hey it's Misty from G2…"Richie murmured.
"Who?"Ash asked under his breath.
"She's in my English Lit class. Brainy as hell."Richie replied.
"Well class I'm glad to see you didn't waste your time,"Mr Huggins sighed, casting his eyes over the blank
pieces of paper in the room. "This is Misty - she's just been transferred from G2 to G6, meaning she'll be in all the Science lessons this group has, and possibly a few of your other lessons." Misty waved slightly, awfully self-conscious. Then came words she dreaded. "Why don't you tell the whole group a little something about yourself?"
"Oh, most of then already know me…" she murmured in reply. Ash listened with surprise - her voice was warm and a little frightened - he thought she would sound cold and aloof…like Giselle…Ash floated away into daydreams about his crush.
"Go on, don't be shy,"Mr Huggins urged. "Mr Ketchum, try not to look so incredibly bored." Ash startled at the mention of his name, and grinned sheepishly at Misty. She grinned back.
"Um okay. My name is Misty Waterflower…I um…am 15 like you…I'm taking Drama as my art…I like France…"She looked at Mr Huggins desperately.
"Okay you can sit down now. Thank you."Ash watched Misty as she gratefully sunk into a chair a little way behind him, next to a girl called Casey who seemed to be friends with her. "Oh, would you remove your sunglasses while we experiment please?"
"Oh sure - sorry."Misty pulled the glasses off, squinting as she folded them up and slid them into her shoulder bag, which was residing under the desk. Suddenly she looked up, and met Ash's dark eyes with deep sea-green ones. Holding the gaze curiously for a moment, Ash turned away and hurriedly leafed through his text book.
"Mr Ketchum would you please pay more attention to my lesson plan and ignore the chemicals in your body?"The class sniggered and Ash and Misty turned red.
"I'm reading the paragraphs!"Ash said defensively. Mr Huggins arched an eyebrow.
"On the wrong page, in an upside down book, when I told you to look at the pictures?"Ash had no answer.
Misty, Casey, Marina and Melody charged through the school corridors, as the insignificant Year 7 and 8s parted like the sea to let them through. Marina fiddled with a lock of her blue hair as she chatted on her mobile, Melody was scribbling an English essay on Macbeth was due in next period and that she'd had two weeks to complete, and Misty and Casey chatted about Casey's chances of being asked to the Dance by Richie.
"The thing is, he's still totally in love with his ex…"Casey said sadly.
"Jeanette from G4? Friends with that scary naked guy with the drum?"Misty asked.
"Yup…I think he's still in the mourning period."At the bottom of the Science Block, the four girls parted ways into their various lessons, Misty having to pull Melody out of the toilets where she was determined to hide from her witch of an English teacher. Now on her own, Misty consulted her new timetable. She still had the same lessons a day, just in different rooms with different teachers and pupils.
"French with Madame Royle in T2…"she read off her sheet, while hurriedly making her way over to Languages.
For once, Ash was in his lesson on time. But his Maths teacher wasn't. Bored, Ash leant far over the desk and shoved little bits of paper down the back of Katrina's blouse. Mondays were sooooo boring. Lunch next - same old limp, greasy chips that were always on the menu. Well, it was either that or a rather interesting concoction with the label macaroni and cheese, but Ash was pretty sure edible macaroni and cheese wasn't furry. And then after lunch…it was Spanish…one of his only classes with Giselle… Ash's face reddened, and he sighed involuntarily.
Mrs Elliott bustled into her class, her presence calling for attention at once. For such a small person, she demanded a lot of respect, and more often than not, she got it. Glancing around her class, she smiled.
"Sit."There was the sound of chairs scraping as the class sat down. Mrs Elliot glanced around again. "Wake up you lot, I know it's Monday and it's before lunch, but try and be a bit more lively will you? Joe, collect in the homework please." The short boy bustled around T1, dodging the blue textbooks as they came flying at him. "Right," Mrs Elliot rapped, thumping her folder on the desk to let everybody know she was ready to start.
Melody leant heavily against her locker and sighed dramatically. When Marina didn't even pause in the seemingly deeply engrossing conversation on her phone, and Misty didn't even bring her head out of her locker, she banged her fist on her locker door, startling Misty.
"Another detention Mel?"Misty asked sympathetically. Melody nodded wearily. From the other side of the hallway, Ash and Tracey wandered over from Tracey's locker, Tracey babbling on about what he was doing in Art that term.
"Hey guys!"Ash saw Casey running down the corridor, waving at her friends. He elbowed Tracey.
"See that girl? The red-head? She's transferred into all my Science class. Do ya know her?"he asked.
"Misty?"Tracey answered. "Course. Everyone knows Misty. She was the star of the Christmas Panto last year. She's really nice. A bit shy though."
"The Panto? I missed that - I was on holiday."Ash murmured. It was weird. He didn't know her at all, and everyone seemed to like her so much…but he felt hostile around her for some reason. He watched as she quickly reapplied her lip-gloss, and yanked her blue school skirt down. She was really quite pret-
"YEOWCH!"And now Ash could feel the hard floor against his back and a painful throbbing on the front of his thigh.
"Woah man are you okay?"came Tracey's voice from above. Ash sat up, rubbing his bruised thighs.
"What just happened?"he murmured.
"You walked into the drinking fountain,"came a different voice. Ash squinted upwards; it was Misty, folding her folder to her chest with crossed arms and a slightly concerned expression on her face. "You okay?" Ash leapt up, blushing.
"I'M FINE!!"he shouted in her face. She frowned. They glared at each other; Ash breathing heavily and her mumbling insults under her breath. Suddenly, Ash became aware of a chorus of Year 10 girls giggling in high-pitched tones. Katrina - Duplica - Kay - Melissa - and right in the middle of the group, turning her dainty nose up was Giselle. Ash breathed out raggedly.
"Nice one Ash,"she jeered. "Why don't you look where you're going?" Still laughing manically, the girls moved on towards the canteen. Ash stood gaping after them. One of the only times Giselle had ever taken any notice of him, and he'd looked like the biggest idiot on the face of the planet. His testosterone driven mind whirred around and around.
Misty - it's her fault. If she hadn't been there then I wouldn't have been looking at her and wouldn't have walked into that drinking fountain… he thought irrationally. He turned back to face the red-head, but only saw her back as she walked briskly into the canteen with Melody.
"Tough breaks man,"Tracey began, trying to console his friend. But Ash wasn't listening.
"I don't like that girl…"he growled.
"Cassy? It is Cassy isn't it? How would you like to go to the Christmas Dance with none other than-"
Brock's rambling was cut short as Casey walloped him with a rather thick textbook, entitled "Extensions of Further Maths, Level 9". Brock slunk away from the girls table, slumping into a seat next to the disheartened Ash in the bustling canteen. Ash was busy making evils at Misty's back as she queued up for the delights known as soggy chips and watery tuna, to make his usual snide comment about Brock's unique way of flirting. Brock noticed this.
"Hey Ash, what's with you - making eyes at the pretty red-head! Thought you fancied Gary's girlfriend?"Everyone's mouth at the table fell open, as did Casey's, overhearing as she sat quietly at the table behind. Ash turned red - the only way to describe it would be an interesting shade of beetroot.
"YOU WHAT?"he spluttered, spraying an unfortunate Todd with little pieces of chips from his mouth. "I am not making eyes at her! I cannot stand Misty Waterflower!"
"Oh so you can remember her name since Period 3, eh Ash?"Richie goaded. "Sounds like love to meeeeeeee!" All the boys on the table save Ash, began to laugh.
"Oh Misty, Misty my sweet - hold me!"Tracey called, in a very good imitation of Ash's voice.
"Oh Ashton my dearest, I want to be your wife!"called back Brock, in a high-pitched, slightly accented voice. In the lunch queue, the tips of Misty's ears turned pink. Casey could barely contain her laughter. Ash threw his remaining chips at Brock, and the whole table erupted into laughter. The boys scraped their plates into the bin and shoved them haphazardly into the washing up pile, and left the Canteen. Marina came and sat next to Casey, still talking away on her mobile - presumably to the same person.
Ash and…Misty… Casey thought carefully. Yes…she could see it…they would be the cutest couple! Casey giggled gleefully to herself. Her only problem was Melody - who may have a crush on Ash's mate Richie, but had always thought "that guy from G6 with the spiky black hair and the cap was rather fine".
Casey looked up and tucked her violet hair behind her ears as Misty thumped her plate of chips and…grey cat sick?…on the table and threw herself into the chair, stabbing at the limp chips with her fork.
"Okay, two questions,"began Casey. "Number one, what is that on your chips??"
"Tuna, I think. I mean I hope…"answered Misty, prodding the grey mess with her fork gingerly.
"Anyway, number two, what do you think of Ash from G6?"Misty's ears went pink again.
"A-ash? That arrogant pig who can't even be nice to someone who's trying to help?"Casey sighed. This was not promising…
The cold air hit Ash's flushed face immediately as he swung through the main school doors. Spanish had been…well the only word for it was crap. He knew he'd failed the end of topic test, and when he'd grinned at Giselle, she'd looked at him…a look that plainly said, "Can I help you with something you loser? No? Then get outta my face!" Also, he'd had Brock sitting beside him all lesson, who hadn't given up and was adamant of the fact Ash had a crush on that scrawny ginger brat.
Ash paused at the bottom of the steps to let the freezing December air wash over him again, watching the rest of the school being bundled into cars wrapped up in scarves and humungous puffer jackets. Ash pursed his lips and breathed out steadily, watching it stick to the air for a moment, before curling up like a wisp of smoke into nothingness. He liked the cold weather. Suddenly, something whammed into him from behind.
"Oh sorry!"they both began in unison. Ash automatically put an arm out to steady the girl, before realising who it was and yanking it away. "You!" they both yelled angrily.
"Now look at who's not looking where they're going!"sneered Ash, as Misty glowered at him.
"Well look at the spiky haired freak who stands in the middle of a busy walkway looking at nothing in minus zero temperature!"Misty shot back. Ash just glared at her as she gathered up a huge armful of folders and files and started staggering away. She couldn't even see where she was going because the pile was so big. Ash watched the back of her legs as she walked away and saw that they were wobbling under the weight. He sighed.
"Have you got far to walk?"The retreating girl ignored him. "Misty?" She stopped at her name and turned around.
"I live on Pallet Avenue. I'll carry some of them for a while."Misty stared at him wordlessly. "Yes? No?" Misty continued to gawp. Why was he being so nice to her all of a sudden? Ash made an exasperated sound, and strode over to her. He grabbed about two-thirds of the pile, and flashed her a grin. "Better?" She nodded, and the two began walking in silence. "So…" Ash began, desperately searching for a conversation topic. "Why do you have so many folders and…stuff?"
"I'm the Year 10 Editor of the Highlights,"she answered, meaning the school newspaper. "And I'm one of the main organisers of the Dance this Friday."
"Yes!"thought Ash. "A decent conversation topic!" "So, who are you going with?" Misty shook her head vigorously.
"No one, I'll only be there to supervise and stuff."Ash couldn't help notice her voice was rather strained.
"Anyway, Dances are stupid commercial things that make people think they're not normal if they can't get a date!"she continued, sounding a little too sure of herself. "Who are you going with?"
"No one yet."The two fell silent again.
"You like Giselle Butterly from my Drama class don't you?"Misty queried with a flat sounding voice.
"Umm yeah kinda. She's got a boyfriend though so…what ya gonna do?"Ash said cheerfully, feeling anything but.
"My friends all think I'm weird for not having a boyfriend yet,"Misty murmured.
"I haven't had a proper girlfriend yet…"Ash reassured her. "Just one off dates that never amount to anything."
"I haven't even had that!"Misty laughed. "But it's okay, cos I know my time will come. So will yours Ash. Maybe with Giselle, maybe not, but we'll all get what we deserve." Ash grinned at her through the stack of files.
"Ya know what Misty Waterflower? You're not all that bad after all!"
"Just thinking the same about you Ash Ketchum. Not too bad at all."
The school was alive with activity. Banners with crudely drawn snowflakes hung over the halls, and Tracey almost had a heart attack every time he saw one. Brock was still desperately running around asking each and every girl he saw, and adding various bumps and bruises to his collection. Ash hadn't spoken to Misty since that afternoon. In lessons she sat far away from him, and whenever he saw her in the halls, she seemed to be swamped in yet more paperwork, so he stayed away.
"No date yet Ketchum?"asked Coach Arber, seeing that her Midfielder was more depressed than usual.
"Nope,"he murmured dejectedly. "And I don't have the energy to get one either." He knew he still had a crush on Giselle, but he hadn't been thinking about her as much recently. Besides, he was finally beginning to see she was taken, and Gary Oak would probably kill him if he so much as breathed on her too hard.
"I don't see why I have to go to this stupid Dance anyway,"Misty moaned, as her three elder sisters rushed around her bedroom, applying makeup and choosing shoes for their baby sister. "The Dance doesn't even start for three whole hours!" Misty delicately sidestepped her sister Violet, who dashed past to consult with Lily on what size of eye sequins should be used. Daisy helped Misty into the petticoat, and proceeded to laden Misty's eyelids with white powder.
Over an hour later, Lily stepped away from the full length mirror, and Misty was confronted with her reflection. She was dressed in a puffy white dress, and had various sequins and glitter stuck all over every bare part of her body - which was quite a lot in this particular dress. Misty stared in horror.
"I look like something off a wedding cake! A very bad, very TACKY wedding cake!"she moaned, glaring at her offending sisters. "No way, NO WAY!"
Scowling, Misty allowed her ticket to be hole punched and she entered the Drama Hall, all decorated up with white balloons and streamers, and sprigs of mistletoe all around for good measure. Despite everything, she felt little butterflies of excitement and apprehension about the night ahead dancing in her stomach. No one was there yet, apart from the other organisers and the band, who were setting up. Her friend, Jenny the hall monitor, ran up and swung at Misty's dress, giggling as it swished.
"Aw man I LOVE your dress!"she said, pointing at her off the shoulder navy dress. "Much better than mine! So, where are you stationing yourself tonight?"
"Oh I wanna stay outta view as much as possible. I'll be hiding out in the lighting box if you need me!"
Ash and his friends walked into the Drama Hall, clasping their newly hole punched tickets. Brock had a twittery Year 9 girl with pink hair called Joy hanging all over him; Richie had asked Casey, Todd had some blonde nobody knew (and secretly suspected was his cousin), Tracey was with his long term girlfriend as usual, and Ash…Ash was alone. Involuntarily, his dark eyes swept the large room in search of…
Suddenly, the band started up with a roar, and the space immediately became a dance floor. As couples started dancing close to him, Ash ran to the chairs with a comical horrified look on his face. Up in the lighting box, surveying this, Misty smiled. He'd told her he hated dancing. Suddenly, down below, Ash felt like someone was watching him, and he jerked his head upwards, to see what looked like a blob of white sitting alone in the lighting box. A smudge of orange at the top of the blob confirmed it was Misty, and he waved cheerfully. Misty sank back from the windows of the box, wrapping her arms around her for warmth.
Down in the seating area, Ash frowned. Why didn't she wave back? He didn't like her being alone up there. Sighing to himself, he put on foot on the stairs to the box, but was stopped by a tap on his shoulder. It was Giselle.
"Gary hasn't turned up yet and I will NOT miss the first dance of the Dance!"she yelled in her bossy voice.
"And since you are the only guy who's not dancing and doesn't have something contagious, you'll have to do."Giselle held one gloved hand out, and Ash stared at it, stupefied.
"Ugh, dance with me you stupid idiot!"Ash backed away, waving his hands.
"Not right now Giselle."With that, he firmly turned his back on her and mounted the steps. When he got to the lighting box, the door flew open, and Misty grabbed him, her eyes popping out of her head.
"Why did you do that you idiot!?"she shrieked. "The girl you like just asked you to dance and you came up to see me?!" Ash looked at Misty.
"I don't like Giselle anymore,"he murmured. "Anyway, can we get off the very high flight of stairs?"
Misty backed away, and Ash curiously entered the rather spacious lighting room. As he didn't take Drama GCSE, he'd never been inside it. He turned around as Misty shut the door behind her, and sniggered at the dress. "You look like-"
"I know I know, something off a very tacky wedding cake.."
"Um no." Ash's cheeks coloured a bit, and he fiddled with the cuff of his shirt. "I was gonna say you look like a snowflake." Misty blushed and looked down at her feet.
"Er, thanks,"she said softly, hearing the first few chords of one of her favourite songs begin to play. "Why don't you like dancing Ash?"
"I can't do it very well, and I just feel like everyone's watching and laughing…"he said flatly. Misty grinned and looked all around the lighting box.
"No one's watching in here Ash - come on. Let's dance. I love this song."Ash began to protest, but Misty walked straight up and grabbed one of his hands.
"I-I dunno what to do…"he mumbled in defeat. Misty silently placed his other hand on her hip, and motioned for him to begin. The first words of the song began as Ash self-consciously started swaying, holding Misty's body close to him.
"Hey Misty?"Ash murmured as the last few lilting chords died out into throbbing rock music.
"Uhuh?"Misty said in a shakier voice than was intended.
"Do you think that maybe it might be time for you to have your first real boyfriend?"