I hate text slang. Sigh.

(tb) text back

(xxx) kisses! Duh!

I won't use anything that's hard to decipher. Sorry!

For Kate (and Emma, Hill and Agnes, but since it was Kate's credit, mainly Kate. Kisses girlies! Xxx)

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tb xxx

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Beepbeep Beepbeep.

Five pairs of bleary eyes wrenched away from the TV screen and stared in confusion at the dark shape emanating unwelcome green light into the dim room. Duplica languidly stretched out her arm for the mobile phone and the others returned to the trepidation of whether or not Fiorello would survive the sinking of the Titanic. Duplica's drooping hazel eyes scanned the message before chucking the phone to one side and returning to the movie.

Duh-duh-duuuh-duh-duh-duhduh.

Your everyday standard Nokia ringtone pierced the room and Misty whipped around in annoyance. Duplica grimaced and reached once again for the handset.

"He's pranking me cos I'm not replying" she explained in a murmur, as she deftly put the phone on silent and once again, immersed herself in the movie.

You're so stupid Rose! Why, why'd you do that, huh?

Oh Jack, I couldn't - I couldn't go!

Grunting in annoyance, Misty smacked her hand onto her control, pausing the movie and glared at Duplica, who blinked innocently at her.

"Turn it off, or put it away somewhere, it's distracting" Duplica looked around at where her phone was madly blinking, flashing harsh, artificial light off the walls.

"I can't turn it off" she whispered, horrified, as if Misty had just suggested she stop breathing.

"Yeah, what if someone really urgently needs to contact her" piped up Casey, who was still working on inexpertly braiding her thick hair. Misty rolled her eyes.

"What if that person urgently needs to contact you" she countered, and Duplica looked at her again in her irritating wide-eyed way.

"What, Ash" Her query struck Misty dumb for a minute, until she rolled her eyes again.

"Typical" she said quietly, almost to herself.

"No, he's not trying to annoy you, he doesn't know I'm here" Duplica nimbly pressed a series of keys that opened up the afore-ignored message from Ash.

Message Received

((hey d what's up am sittin home bored how about u? tb))

"Then send him a text that says… Hey, am at Misty's sleepover. Sod off or she'll find a new and interesting way to make your balls touch your tonsils" suggested the ever-subtle Melody, waving her hands around, flinging blobs of face-mask from her fingers. She laughed at Misty's intimidating scowl and returned to finger-painting Marina's T-zone.

Duplica was silent for a few moments, before smiling, and typing out a message at the speed of light. Misty sighed and jabbed the play button, moodily sinking into her beanbag and absorbing herself into the turgid, yet bodice-ripping love affair of the couple on-screen.

Duplica smiled to herself and lazily pressed send.

((hiya i'm at a girly slpover talkin about how sexy u r! tb xxx))

Message Sent

Two uneventful minutes passed. Uneventful if you don't count the gun-wielding spurned lover chasing our heroes around a sinking ship. Duplica pounced on the silent phone as it flashed.

Message Received

((heh o really? whos there then? feel free 2 talk about my amazing trainer skills 2 ladies! Tb))

Duplica giggled, and set about replying. Casey triumphantly threw her final mauve plait over her shoulder and settled down on her front on the bed, next to Duplica, who recounted in a whisper the short conversation so far, and continued typing. Casey grinned and reached for her mobile, in her discarded dungarees pocket.

((yea we decided u r the all round best guy we know luv 3 tb xxx))

Message sent

Misty tried to ignore the giggling and flashing coming from the bed. Typical of him to infiltrate her sleepover. This was only her second ever, and she had specifically not told him about it because of the… unpleasantness… last time…

But you said you were having a sleepover! I got Tracey and Brock and we drove straight down… what? Why? You can't not let me in now, Miiiiiiisty! Aw c'mon, I brought Hungry Hungry Hoppip! Mi- don't close the door on-

Misty?

MISTY?

The characters moved around in front of her eyes and eventually merged together as her mind drifted further and further away from the familiar film. She wasn't thinking about anything in particular, it was easier to let her mind wander than to heed Duplica, Casey and now Marina, who were squeezed onto her single bed, all giggling with their various mobiles in hand.

Melody sighed as the now both dead heroes shared a reuniting kiss in front of yet more dead people, and Celine Dion began to sing. Since Misty seemed to be staring in a comatose fashion, she stretched for the control, and set the tape to rewind.

"That film really sucks" Misty sighed.

"Yet we always watch it" Melody agreed, turning the power of the TV off and chucking the control randomly away. The three on the bed looked up, startled at the sudden darkness and silence, their faces eerily illuminated from below with the various green hues from their phones. Marina tipped herself gracefully off the edge of the bed, and clicked on Misty's lamp. Duplica opened her mouth to say something.

Beepbeep Beepbeep.

The three girls pounced on Casey's phone, breathlessly read the short message in silence, and then erupted into giggles. Melody and Misty shared equally superior, exasperated looks. Marina absentmindedly scratched at her cheek, sending green flakes of the now crusted-over facemask twirling down to the sky-blue carpet.

"You haven't told him where you are have you" asked Misty, reproachfully. Duplica looked at her innocently, but a wicked smile twitched her lips.

"No… but he has been asking questions about you…" Again Misty was struck dumb.

"What sort of questions" she asked. Although she really didn't care.

"What are you wearing" Duplica squealed with laughter, and rolled onto her back, almost knocking Marina to the floor. Misty's mouth opened and closed. Melody blinked in disbelief before cracking up laughing along with the others.

"See I was right when I said you'd get married" she smirked, as Misty's mouth opened and closed again and her face rapidly flushed with an unhealthy colour.

"Okay everyone text-flirts, but Ashy-boy isn't that bad yet, so you can breathe" giggled Duplica and for a split second Misty seriously considered striding up and ripping those pretty turquoise pigtails straight out of her pretty pink scalp. Instead, she opted to go with subtly repeating:

"What sort of questions?" she demanded. Duplica wiggled an eyebrow at her and opened her mouth to respond.

Beepbeep Beepbeep.

This time it was Melody's little silver Motorola phone that burst into life. The brunette stared at it leisurely for a moment, as if she wasn't fighting off the urge to leap towards her bag, before deftly picking it up.

"Speak of the devil," she muttered, as she saw the latest message in her inbox was from Ash. She flickered a look to Misty; she had told Ash that the two of them were going to see a chick flick in the cinema that evening. Misty immediately frowned at the giggling Duplica and Marina, assuming they must have given her away.

Message Received

((hey mel do u and m know the girls r having a slpover without u 2? U fall out? tb))

Misty sighed with relief that her lie had not been caught out and relaxed a little against her beanbag. Melody had barely opened the screen for sending a reply when Duplica snatched the phone out of her hand.

"Oh ho ho, now we can have fun with this!" she cried, jubilantly, jabbing at the buttons impossibly fast with her long nails. Melody stared up at her indolently through heavily mascaraed lashes.

"Isn't this the equivalent to mail fraud?" she asked, as Duplica text away under her name.

((actually I blew m off as well. am with d etc. M is total cow! Tb xxx))

Message Sent

"Oh, charming!"Misty scowled as she leant over to read the screen. Duplica pursed her lips and blew a placating kiss.

"Oh, it's just so we can get him to speak his mind about you! Don't you want to know?"

"I think you're deranged," Misty snapped, folding her arms across her chest. Duplica tutted.

"No listen. Don't you realise what you've got here? Complete – and – total – anonymity!" She stressed each word with a tap of an acrylic nail on the side of Melody's mobile. Once again, Misty found herself a little speechless, but a response wasn't necessary after Melody's phone once again made itself known.

Message Received

((mayb not a total cow heehee joking! U'll make up girls always do! what happened neway? Tb))

As Duplica and Casey started drafting out a suitable reply, Misty turned crossly from the group on the bed. What a complete and total waste of time. She could care less what that idiot had to say about her behind her back. However, Duplica was not about to accept her abstinence in the plot and waved the final draft of the reply in front of her face.

((shes 2 secretive about her new boyf. d is the only 1 who has met him she fancies him rotten so its causin fights. Hes well hot tho! Tbxxx))

Message Sent

A few seconds went by as Misty translated the text slang. Then she read it again. And a third time.

"You total cows!" she shrieked. "You don't consider how I'm meant to untangle myself from your intrigues! Can't we just turn the phones off now and watch another film? Or – you know what? – I need exfoliating. Somebody exfoliate me!"

"Misty, shush, shush," Duplica soothed. "Do you trust me?"

"Of course not!" Misty shrieked again. "You're lying right in front of me!"

"Oh he's not physically here so it doesn't count," Duplica pishposhed, before squealing with excitement as the phone lit up again.

Message Received

((ha ha ha r u sure shes not lying? m has no boyf, let alone a hot 1! Tb))

"Oooh, he's worried, he's worried!" Melody giggled, and immediately sobered as Misty shot her a look that clearly pinned her as Judas.

"What do you mean, worried?" she snapped.

"Jealous!" Marina supplied without breaking her gaze on Duplica's typing fingers.

"No, he just knows I don't have a boyfriend!" Misty countered.

"But does he know why?" Casey asked softly.

Misty frowned immediately. She could never remember ever telling anybody just how fond she was of her best friend – which was, of course, so fond that no other boy ever measured up. However, one day she found out they all just knew, and as long as they kept the mentioning of it to a minimum, she didn't much care. But bringing it up in such a context as this was highly worrying. Duplica chortled to herself as she dashed off a response.

((believe me she has a boyf. what else would u call someone with his tongue down her throat hands all over her 24/7! Tbxxx))

Message Sent

"Please, you guys," Misty said, in a tone far softer than usual. "Don't play around with this, okay?"

"Oh, come on!" scoffed Marina. "You wouldn't love it if Ash turned up at the door tonight, breathless, soaked with rain! And he gives you one hard look before taking you in his arms and- what?" Marina faltered as she noticed the looks she was getting. "I like Mills and Boons, okay?"

"No," Misty protested feebly. "If I were going to say something to Ash, which I DO NOT WANT TO DO, I'd want to do it myself. Not through any of your games."

"Exactly, Misty, it's just a game. Relax," Melody slung an arm around her shoulder and showed her the latest instalment from Ash.

Message 1 of 2 Received

((if this is true y hasnt she said nething 2 me honestly do u think hes 2 touchy? does it have to be sorted out?))

Message 2 of 2 Received

((is m ok with him touching her? where does he live? he a trainer? Tb))

"So many questions!"Duplica said with obvious glee.

"What?" Misty asked defensively. "Is it so strange that my best friend be confused and worried upon learning I have a secret – and apparently nymphomaniac – boyfriend?"

Seeing Misty was approaching hysterical, Melody deftly turned her away from the bed and switched the TV back on.

"Okay, Misty, just leave them. You can always call it a prank tomorrow. Let's watch something else."

"Yeah, Grease or something!" Duplica put in, as, unbeknownst to Misty, she pressed down on the Send button.

((well shes not 2 happy but she says she knows him well so its okay. no trainer a watcher I think. from ur town which is y she hasnt told u. tbxxx))

Message 1 of 2 Sent

Message 2 of 2 Sent

-

Twenty minutes later

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Beepbeep Beepbeep.

Four girls leapt for their phones as Misty growled in annoyance and paused the video. Duplica, Melody, Marina and Casey stared down in puzzlement at four equally silent phones. Slowly, gaze shifted en masse to where Misty's nondescript red Nokia was plugged into its charger, flashing madly. Misty swallowed, and reached for the mobile, making audible relief as she read that the message was not from Ash, but from Tracey.

Message Received

((Misty, maybe u can explain y Ash just turned up at my bedroom door and gave me a black eye?))

After a moment's bewilderment, Misty whirled on Duplica, waving her phone around madly, making the charger cable whip around like a skipping rope.

"And see what has become of your stupid game!" she hollered, self-righteously. "Now Ash and Tracey aren't talking to each other, and neither of them will talk to me! And for WHAT?"

Marina and Casey made eye contact, nervously. Duplica inspected her nails while Melody decided she was brave enough to pluck the Nokia from Misty's flailing fist. Misty glowered at her and snatched it back.

"No!" she snapped, "it's time I got in on this texting thing." The four girls winced as the redhead slowly, but purposefully, typed out a message.

((Ash Ketchum you are in some kind of trouble! How dare you believe I was going out with Tracey? And even if I did have a secret super-hot new boyf, it's none of your business and in future please keep those fists of misplaced vengeance to yourself!))

Message 1 of 3 Sent

Message 2 of 3 Sent

Message 3 of 3 Sent

Silence settled upon the room as the display light faded from the screen of the red Nokia. A minute passed. Then three.

"Is he not going to reply?" blurted Casey, then was visibly startled as the Nokia sprung into life once again. Trying to look nonchalant, Misty moved to her inbox and opened the message from Ash.

Message Received

((hey i was just looking after my girl is all))

Misty tossed the phone towards the wall, before physically turning from it and jabbing Play on Grease, before moving even faster to fastforwards through Hopelessly Devoted with a scowl.

Duplica edged unheeded towards the wall, tilting her face slowly until she was aligned to read the words still left on the screen. A smile played on the corner of her mouth.

"Just going to the loo," she announced, standing up and stretching. Misty didn't even turn around as Duplica deftly snatched her own phone from the bed and quickly made her way out of the room.

Leaning against the peach porcelain sink, Duplica typed out what she sincerely hoped would be her last text message to Ash that night.

((did i scare u ashy boy? sorry but a point needed 2 b made. 1 day m will get a hot boyf, and if u spend all ur time knocking them out u won't get a hot girlf – how do u think u think this could b resolved? m has a good idea. u think about it anyway. i'm sure u can't be all that dense. nite luv d xxx don't tb, at least not 2 me!))

Message 1 of 4 Sent

Message 2 of 4 Sent

Message 3 of 4 Sent

Message 4 of 4 Sent

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Thirty minutes later

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"Okay, so, you've been invited to this totally fabulous party and need to make an impression. Do you, A, ensure that your partner's outfit is colour-coded and flattering to your own. B, go searching for a vintage design that you can further customise. C-"

Misty wasn't particularly interested in the quiz that Marina was reading aloud from Glamour magazine – she had already done it anyway. Apparently she was High Maintenance.

She really couldn't believe Ash – she was still fuming. He was such a child, where did he get off acting so erratically? And THEN he sends a text message that could be construed as quite, quite – Misty blushed – intimate, and THEN he doesn't even bother with The Tradition!

Misty felt her eyes sting at this. She hadn't realised it had meant so much to her.

Every single night, from the day they had got their mobile phones three years ago, Ash had sent Misty a text message at 11pm, to say goodnight. Once or twice he had even set his alarm clock to wake up to send it, in the name of The Tradition - a gesture which touched her greatly.

But here she was, and the radio clock was flashing 11.13pm, and her phone was as silent as the dark garden outside the window. He had never been late before. Early, sometimes, but never late.

Marina's voice faltered as the Beepbeep. Beepbeep pervaded the room, but after a quick look from Duplica, she continued to read as if nothing had occurred. Misty stared at the green light from her phone cast on the wall as she lay horizontally with her cheek against the carpet. Slowly she reached for it.