Disclaimer: Pokemon and its respective characters do not belong to me.
Chapter One – A Chasing After the Wind
"And Dragonite has done it! Lass is defeated and the new league master title goes to Lance!" the announcer said. The crowd grew wild.
In front of a twenty-four inch television, a nine and a half year old boy cheered as he danced around his little room.
I cannot not remember what made that little boy so sure he could be the pokemon master one day. Perhaps he felt superior to everyone else because he obtained top marks in school. Perhaps he thought being the grandson of a world famous pokemon researcher guaranteed success. Or perhaps he was just young and stupid. Whatever the reason, becoming the master engulfed the mind and soul of my younger self. Everything in my life boiled down to that one goal, to that one dream.
It was a dream, a very common dream. Which little boy did not want to be "cool" like Lance? Who would not want to stand in the middle of the stadium next to a Dragonite while the crowd cheers for no one but you? Indeed, too many children have the same fragile dream. At any given time there can only be one pokemon master. At any moment the title can be striped from the owner. Your statue remains in the Hall of Fame but you lose the glory of being the master forever.
For some reasons, these odds escaped that little boy all through his childhood. Idealistic, unrealistic, and overly optimistic, I set off on my pokemon journey when I was eleven.
It was all a chasing after the wind.
I looked up. I have finally reached my destination: a white house on top of a small hill.
Unconsciously, my hand reached into my pocket. My finger tips felt the cold wrapping around a small box. I put down my bags in search for my keys but the door swung opened before I found them. Grandpa stood in front in his usual white lab coat, expression unreadable.
He raised me since that accident. Yet, try as I may, I failed to look into his eyes just as I did when I first entered the house on Christmas Eve eighteen years ago. I towered over a foot above him, but his presence remained daunting. For a full minute we stood in biting silence, his gaze never once wavered. Then, his grip tightened around the door knob, "I thought you said you would be here at four, Gary."
His voice rang as he took a step back. Taking that as an invitation I walked into the house. "I am sorry. Traffic was bad." He shook his head. His eyes followed me as I pulled off my scarf, hanged up my coat, and took off my shoes. An image of young school children eyeing jadedly at an unimpressive animal at a local zoo flashed passed my mind. I bit my lips.
This is why I dreaded coming home.
He turned and disappeared into the kitchen. I proceeded to follow him but before I could set foot into the kitchen a pair of delicate arms enclosed me into a gentle hug from behind.
"May," I greeted, my eyes closed.
This is why I kept coming home.
"Oh God Gary, you are back! I haven't seen you since forever," she muttered in my back, her plaintive arms tightened around my shoulders. "Will you stay this time?"
My lips tilted into a guilty smile. "Yeah. For a few days."
She seemed pleased with the answer. Breaking away she hastily turned me around to see my face. "I was so worried!" she exclaimed, "Grandpa said you would be here by four."
I turned away. "Sorry," my hand unthinkingly traveled over my pocket, "buying the present took longer than I thought."
I could feel, without actually see, her gentle gaze. "Don't worry," she answered my thoughts, her frown melted smoothly into a smile, "I am sure he will love it."
"I don't know…" I pulled out the silver box and held it out under the light, "I have a talent for screwing things up."
"Gary – "
"How is nursing school?"
"It's pretty fun," came her mechanical answer. She wanted to go back to the previous topic but restrained herself for me. Instead, she let her over-caring nurse personality take over. Before I could stop her she was fussing over my well being. "Did you hurt yourself during your journey?" I shook my head. She insisted on a quick assessment anyway, "Your face is fine, you are not limping so I assume you legs are okay…" She frowned when she got to my arms, "Where did you get this cut?"
I winced, recollecting the attack made by an overprotective Fearow that took me as a threat to her baby Spearows. I should not have taken the short cut. "I was running from an angry pokémon and tripped," I replied vaguely, May did not need to know about my stupidity.
"How many times did I tell you to take care of yourself better?" Her eye brows furrowed as she pulled me toward the first aid cabinet. "I can't stop worrying about you until you stop hurting yourself!" I snorted privately. Guilt-tripping seemed to be one of my sister's talents. No, it seemed to be my family's special talent.
I followed May into the dining room where dishes filled the long mahogany table. By their appearance I instantly knew that tonight's food was prepared by May. Only she would spend so much time decorating plates.
"Hello, Gary, haven't seen you for a while," Mrs. Ketchum greeted in her natural cheery voice. She jumped out of her chair and pulled me into an unexpected tight hug. Mrs. Ketchum is an amazing lady, though at times she does seem a little odd.
"Hello, Mrs. Ketchum," I replied when I finally managed to escape from her arms. My usual sarcasm gave way to her good humour and I proceeded with a playful joke, "You are as beautiful as I remember."
She laughed as she sat back down on her chair, "No sweet talks from you dear, I know I am growing old. This morning I saw another white hair."
I chuckled and took a more careful look around the room. The table was full except for one seat, the one between my grandfather and Misty Waterflower of the Cerulean Gym. I understood why Ash and Mrs. Ketchum should be invited to my grandfather's birthday dinner, but Ash's friends? I gave May a questioning look. She simply smiled.
I dismissed their presence and sat down.
I could not complain. In contrast to Ash's other friends, Miss Waterflower has a friendlier demeanour. Brock, a tall dark man with eyes so small they are mere lines, spoke to me only in cold civility. He probably picked up that habit from traveling with Ash, whom still considered me a dangerous rival. I do not understand why. As far as I am concern, Ash won a long time ago.
When I sat out of place in the buzzing commotion during the dinner party after my first gym leader convention, desperately wishing I was anywhere but there, she talked to me. The conversation consisted only of polite inquiries of grandfather's health, she cared for me like one would for a stranger, but still the conversation was much appreciated.
Something about her fascinates me, something I cannot pin point.
Two springs ago I saw all four Waterflower sisters standing side by side in one of those shows Cerulean Gym is famous for putting on. Yet, despite the fact Miss Waterflower was not breath taking gorgeous like her famous sisters, she was the one I remember most explicitly. In my mind's eyes I can clearly see Miss Waterflower swimming gracefully as the princess of some underwater country, her long orange hair flowing behind her. Filtered by water the spot lights made her look mystical, almost divine.
I first met Miss Waterflower during my initial pokémon journey. She was traveling with Ash back then. I did not think much of her. She was my rival's companion, oceans away from me. Yet even then, something about her made me take a second look after another successful attempt at taunting the easily flustered Ash. I remember the brilliant smile on her face she used to calm Ash. It was a smile saved for friends; it was a smile saved for Ash; it was a smile that would never be mine.
I think beautiful things one can never possess transfix all human beings.
The dinner passed enjoyably, every thanks to May's splendid cooking. I offered to help May with the dishes, but Mrs. Ketchum insisted she would take my place. Defeated, I resigned and found myself sitting next to my grandfather in the sitting room with Ash and his friends. For a while they talked excitedly about Ash's newest journey while I listened with half interest - because his life does make a very colourful tale - and half dread - because the inevitable metal comparisons between my life and his would unavoidably induce envy.
When they finally exhausted the topic, Miss Waterflower presented my grandfather his birthday gift, a home made tie-dyed lab coat. I grinned at the image of my grandfather researching in a the colourful coat. "I don't know what to give you," she said shyly, "I hope you like it."
From the sparkle in my grandfather's eyes I knew he did.
Following her example, Brock gave my grandfather a box full of his self formulated pokémon feed. "I saw how picky some pokémon here are, so I made some special food for every one of them."
His gift was very practical and much appreciated.
At last, Ash sheepishly dug in his pocket and pulled out a beautifully wrapped small box. "Here," he handed the box to grandpa with a toothy grin, "happy birthday, professor."
Everyone gasped when they saw the content. My grandfather failed to speak in full sentence in his awe, "Oh my… is this... this must have cost you a fortune." It was a master ball, an item with market price over fifty thousands. I fingered the box in my pocket.
Ash Ketchum outdid me again, the same way he always did in anything that matters.
Another half an hour passed, Ash and his friends went to the backyard to play with their pokémon. With their departure, the room lost momentum and fell into a pregnant silence. Eventually, I mustered enough courage to present my gift. "Grandpa –"
"Gary…" grandpa cut in. He looked strangely anxious, so I let him continue. "I have something I need to tell you." His fidgeting fingers, his strained voice, his unsure eyes, all made me nervous. Grandpa never spoke to me this way. I let him speak.
"I…" he began slowly, uncertainly. Then, his eyes narrowed with determination. "IamgoingtotakeMrsKetchumasmywife."
He said the sentence so fast I could hardly make out the words. It took a while for my brain to sort out the contents, and it took even longer for my brain to fully process the words. "You what?"
"I am going to take Mrs. Ketchum as my wife," he repeated, this time at a slower rate.
I could not believe my ears. Mrs. Ketchum? When did this happen? Grandpa was always friendly around her but I have never suspected anything. Millions of thoughts flew though my mind, too fast for me to comprehend. In my confused state I somehow managed to utter, "When is this going to happen?"
Tomorrow… tomorrow someone a year younger, my life long rival, a man whom achievements constantly reminds me of my failures, will be my uncle. Tomorrow that woman, whom I have always considered as a wonderful mother, a neighbour and nothing else, will be my grandmother. Suddenly the idea stuck me as sickly grotesque. "Why didn't you tell me earlier?" Shouldn't I have a say?
Grandpa looked away. "I would have… but there wasn't time."
"Oh but there was time to plan your wedding?" I snapped before I could check myself.
"I wanted to tell you in person," he defended lamely.
It was then when I noticed the audiences. Ash and Brock were peaking from behind the back door in curiosity. May and Mrs. Ketchum were peaking from behind the kitchen door in anxiety. Miss Waterflower was no where to be seen.
My stomach twisted when a sick realization dawned on me. Like a traveller finding himself in the middle of a wasteland at dawn, I comprehend the truth and I was horrified. Everything suddenly made sense – the reason why Ash's friends were invited, the reason behind May's smile, the reason for my grandfather insistence on my presence… everything suddenly fell in place. "Everyone knew about this except for me! You kept me in the dark!"
"I did not do that on purpose!"
"How about when I spent three days here last month -- no --This did not happen in a month --How about when I stayed here the week after May's birthday last May? You had plenty of time to drop me hints!"
"It wasn't the right time," frustration was rising in his voice along with its volume.
I knew I should stop. I knew words that exit my mouth at the moment would cause more harm than good but I was to deep in anger to care. Hotly, I raged on, "When is the right time? If I did not come today, were you planning to tell me after the wedding? Were you planning to tell me at all?"
"I am telling you now!"
"It's too late! This is already a decided matter -- It's useless!"
"Now be reasonable, Gary. Marriage is my personal matter!" grandpa retorted in a warning voice.
"You are right," I admitted coldly, my eyes narrowed, "It is none of my business who you are going to marry. But you should still give me time to voice my opinion."
"Say it then," grandpa challenged. His eyes daring me to cross the clear line lay in front of me.
Angry people are often unwise. My conscience told me to hold back; that Mrs. Ketchum was a nice lady; that it could be far worst. But I was angry and my temper took over. I took the challenge. "I think this marriage is totally wrong! I don't want a lucky snob as an uncle and I don't want a nosy ---"
The slap echoed.
I held my cheek with my hand, shocked. I looked into his eyes of anguish, disappointment, frustration. Grandpa never hits anyone. Ever.
I went overboard, but I was too proud to apologize and too angry to let go. I refused to show him I was sorry. It was not completely my fault, even if I did cross the line. Instead, I looked at him indignantly and placed his birthday present on the coffee table next to me.
"Happy birthday," I muttered darkly, bitterness rang clear in my voice before I raise.
"Gary!" May rushed to my side and frantically seized my arm. "You promised to stay a few days this time! You promised!"
"I lied." I dislodged her fingers from my arm, my eyes focused at some faraway nothingness.
I walked away, away from the wearily Mrs. Ketchum, away from my sobbing sister, and away from my glaring grandfather. I chased after the wind and I walked away.
Chapter One Ends
I wrote this many years ago. Then recently, I let Maia's Pen read a draft version of this, and she asked me to post this story. Thank you Maia's Pen!
If you spot any mistakes or just want to tell me how you like this story, please review.