The Sequel to Fragile
By Kawaii Cherry Blossom
Anorexia is an eating disorder whereby people starve themselves because they are terrified of becoming fat. They can choose to lose weight in many ways, including through starvation and excessive exercise. Anorexia is most common in females aged 12 – 25 but can occur in males, and is most common amongst groups in which thinness is looked upon as important, such as dancers and models. Anorexia can also be genetic, or be a result of coping with a traumatic event, a way of gaining a sense of control or simply because the victim feels they need to stand out.
If not treated, anorexia can lead to a number of complications, including irregular heartbeat leading to cardiac arrest, kidney and liver damage leading to death, loss of muscle and bone mass, disruption of menstrual cycle, delayed growth, weakened immune system, cold hands and feet, dry and blotchy skin, anaemia, fainting spells and low blood sugar. Psychological effects include a major change in attitude, indecisiveness, low tolerance for change, recurrent negative thinking patterns, stress and lack of confidence.
Ash Ketchum. Twenty years of age. He was tall and strong, with jet-black hair and naturally tanned skin, and eyes the colour of chocolate. He blinked as he stared at his reflection in the mirror and adjusted his tie. The black suit he had bought fit him perfectly, as if it was made for him.
'I hope she thinks I look alright…' he thought. 'She always used to bug me about how I dress'.
"Pika," his best friend Pikachu gave him the thumbs up, and Ash took that as a sign that he looked OK.
With one final hand through his hair and a tuck of his shirt, he signalled for Pikachu to hop atop his shoulders. It did, and a few moments later, they were by the door. Ash stood there for a while, aware that his driver was waiting outside for him, and that his mother was already waiting inside the limousine, but he was unable to focus on what he should be doing. Ash wasn't sure if he was ready for this. People always said this day would go so quickly that he would hardly notice it had started when it ended, but standing here now, his emotions were coursing through his body so rapidly it was almost painful. It felt so real. It was actually happening now, today. Really, actually happening.
"Are you ready Ash?" Brock came down the stairs of Ash's home, dressed in a black suit and tie that was similar to Ash's. Their eyes met for a brief moment. Ash's expression was unreadable, but he nodded and opened the front door, before stepping out.
Silence was all that existed between the four during the short drive to Cerulean City. Though they had been through so much together, nobody really knew what to say, and so they instead used silence as a replacement for words. The trip lasted twenty minutes, before they arrived at their destination. When the limousine pulled up outside the beautiful stone Church, quite a crowd was gathering. People of all ages, sizes, professions, held casual conversations as they waited to be let inside for the ceremony. When Ash, Pikachu, Brock and Deliah pulled up, a hush lulled the crowd into silence.
Inside. And it was suddenly more real than before, more than Ash had thought possible. Immense shock sent cold shivers down his spine. He glanced around, trying to dispel the whirlwind inside of him. It made him feel sick. Flowers decorated the Church. In every corner, every place that wasn't taken up by something else, there were flowers. He knew she'd love it, she loved flowers, said they cheered her up at the worst of times because they were so perfect, and it made her feel that perhaps she could be as perfect as one of them someday. Ash couldn't say he was glad to hear the comment at the time but at least she was hopeful. The silence in the Church made the situation worse; there was nothing to distract him from the endless rush of anxiousness coursing through his veins. Outside, the smooth chatter of the crowd was becoming louder; more people were obviously arriving.
"Hey, Misty?" Ash said quietly as he stared into her eyes, trying not to feel overcome by the fear prevailing inside of him. He was unsure about how this would turn out, but he knew what he wanted to say and knew it was right. So how hard could it be…?
"Yeah?" she asked casually, her eyes growing large with curiousness.
"I…well I wanted to ask you something…"
"Sure." Her reply was so simple and innocent; she couldn't have any idea of what he was about to ask her.
"Okay…" he stumbled slightly, before regaining his composure. "Well…see…I'm so proud of you, Mist. You've come so far this past year. And I know how hard it's been for you but still you never gave up, even when I know you wanted to. I can't tell you how courageous I think you are because I can't find words to describe it. All I know is that you're the bravest, strongest person I know. And I love you so much…"
Misty was staring at him, emotion swirling in her eyes. She didn't reply, so he went on.
"Look, I'm rambling here but I need you to know how proud I am of you."
"I know Ash, you tell me all the time." Her tone was appreciative but he could tell she was sensing something bigger beneath his rant about being proud.
"Good. So…see…I want to ask you something… But I don't want you to freak out."
"I won't freak out."
"How do you know? You don't even know what I'm going to ask," he was semi-playful, but mostly serious.
"How bad could it be?"
"Not bad at all I hope…"
"What is it Ash?"
"I…I want to ask you to marry me!" he blurted out, before slapping himself on the head. "Darn it," he added.
Misty's jaw had dropped; she was paralysed by shock and unable to utter a word.
Ash swallowed his nervousness and stood, before reaching into his pocket. Feeling slightly sheepish, he got down on one knee in front of her, as he watched her wipe a tear from her eye.
"Misty…" he said, looking her straight in the eyes as he held out a jewellery box containing a white gold ring with four diamonds clustered together at its peak. She gazed down at it, and then back up at him.
"Will you marry me? Not right away, but someday, when you're ready, I mean… You can choose any time you…"
"Gosh, Ash…" she cut him off as tears streamed down her cheeks.
"Are you sure…? Because…"
"I've never been so sure of anything."
Misty turned her head downwards and bit her lip, something she always did when she was nervous or unsure of something. This made Ash all the more anxious as well; he was desperate to know her answer. Finally, in a period of time that seemed ten times longer than what it actually was, Misty glanced back up to look up at Ash.
With a slight smile upon her face, she said in a small voice, "Yes. Yes, of course…"
Movement behind him hushed the memory, so vivid in his mind. He turned his head slowly to find that people were filling into the church now, some in groups, some alone. Ash swallowed a lump in his throat and made his way to the front pew, before sitting at the end. As he sat, engrossed in his own world of thoughts, more people spilled in and sat in the pews behind him. Their conversations were reduced to whispers as they anticipated the ceremony ahead.
Deliah appeared beside him – he only noticed her when she knelt in front of him and softly touched his arm. He glanced up, having been disturbed from his thoughts, and was glad to see her there. He needed her support; she had been there to guide him his whole life, and he needed her now more than ever.
"You're gonna be fine, sweetie," she said with a small smile. Ash nodded slightly in reply, and she rubbed his arm gently before taking a seat beside him.
Five painful minutes later, it began.
The group of four singers to his right began a beautiful version of Amazing Grace, the doors to the church opened, and the people turned.
Brock and Tracey were the first pallbearers to be seen as they appeared through the doorway. Their faces were dampened with the horror of reality, and their tears spilled out of their eyes and onto the blue-grey carpet of the Church as they walked slowly, step by step, along the aisle and towards the altar. The black suits they wore were a stark contrast to the snow-white coffin they carried. The coffin that held Misty Waterflower.
Behind Brock and Tracey, walked Professor Oak and Gary, both releasing equally dark gazes as they held their corner of the beautifully carved box. Walking behind them was a group of Pokemon that held a special bond with Misty, including Pikachu, Psyduck, Starmie, Staryu and Politoed. They looked sombre, lacking their usual spirited statures. Each of them held carried a single white rose.
They made their way down the aisle slowly. Ash had to try harder than ever to hold himself together, but the thirty seconds that they were walking seemed like thirty hours to him. With each step they took, he had to resist the urge to scream, to sob, to kick something, to run down the aisle, out of the door and out of this nightmare that had become his reality. But instead of doing any of those things, he stood silently, his hands intertwined together in front of him, and watched. Brock met his eyes for a brief moment as he approached the altar, and the two shared a look of anguish and fear. When the four men reached the altar, they set the coffin down upon the stand that was set up in the centre of the pews. The Pokemon surrounded the coffin on both sides and placed the roses they carried atop it. The song ended as the men made their way to their seats, the Pokemon following behind them.
A few moments later, Ash felt a hand on his shoulder. Brock, he knew without checking. Pikachu took its spot on Ash's lap, patting its trainer tenderly on the arm. Ash finally tore his eyes from the coffin to take a moment and assess the situation around him. Misty's devastated sisters sat on the other side of the same pew where he sat. Tracey, Professor Oak and Gary took a seat behind him. He didn't turn fully around but from a side glace he noticed that the Church looked full to capacity. Everything seemed so far away, though. Everything but that coffin just a few metres away from him, which held the woman he loved, adored, treasured, needed… She was inside of that cold, lonely box. And he was at her funeral.
Somehow, inside of him, these facts just didn't seem to fit together.
"Hey Brock, how is Misty today?" Ash asked his friend, who was turned the other way as he strolled into the hospital's foyer. A wide smile graced his face. He was so eager to see her. She wasn't doing as well as he'd hoped lately. She even had to come back to hospital, after being home for four months, and he knew she was down about it, so he really wanted to cheer her up. So he'd brought a bunch of her favourite flowers – white roses – to brighten her day.
When Brock turned, Ash blinked curiously.
"You couldn't pick up that new nurse, could you?"
At Ash's joke, Brock made no reaction but to stare back at Ash with a distinctive look in his eyes. It was filled with sorrow, disbelief, and…pity.
"What's wrong? Seriously, you look like someone's died."
Brock flinched and paused, before speaking slowly. "Ash, it's Misty…"
"What, is she doing better today?" He was serious, and Brock felt his heart ripping as the innocent curiousness flooding Ash's eyes bore into his own.
"No Ash…she's not…"
"Well I brought her her favourite flowers. That should cheer her up!" he said enthusiastically, before stepping past his friend. He stopped, though, when Brock suddenly put his arm out in front of him.
what is up with you?"
"Ash I think you should sit down…" Brock's heart was beating frantically, as if something inside of him was pounding it with a mace. Ash's smile fell gradually…like a building collapsing, set in slow motion…and turned into a perplexed frown.
"I don't want to sit down, Brock, I want to see Misty!" Ash was growing angry from impatience. Such behaviour reminded Brock of how he used to act when they were kids.
"You can't see her!" Brock blurted out, and his eyes widened as he looked regretful. Ash took a step back, no longer trying to walk away. He couldn't understand what Brock's weird behaviour was a result of, but it was scaring him. Something inside of him didn't feel right, and Brock's sad stare wasn't helping.
"What do you mean?" Ash's tone was edgy; he was angry, but more frightened.
"Ash…Misty died this morning…about…two hours ago… I tried to call your mobile phone but it wasn't on and I…"
All time and space between them seemed to freeze then, as their eyes locked. Brock's moist with fresh tears, Ash's wide with confusion. A sense of dread swept over Ash at that moment, like someone had thrown a blanket of distress over his head and started to choke him.
"That's not funny…"
"I wasn't trying to be."
"You're bullshitting! She's not dead, how the hell could she be! I only saw her like six hours ago!" Ash was yelling, but he didn't notice. He felt sick, like his stomach was tied in knots, and light-headed as his emotions spun out of control.
"She had a cardiac arrest, Ash…"
"A heart attack… She was 35 kilo's. Her organs just shut down; her body couldn't cope anymore…"
"Stop lying!" Ash screamed, clutching the roses in his hand so tightly that the stems were snapping…along with his self-control. "There is no way that Misty would give up like that! I know she hasn't been doing so well lately but she wouldn't die on me! She wouldn't do that!"
"You knew that there was a possibility! The doctors told you the effects anorexia can have on the body. Heart failure was a main risk," Brock spoke, his voice breaking as he lost patience slightly.
"No, you're lying! Just stop saying those horrible things!"
"Just calm down, Ash…" Brock regained his patience, but his attempts at calming his friend were useless – just as he had feared.
"I want to see her!" Ash cried angrily. "I'll prove you wrong; just let me see her!" He pushed past Brock, only to run into one of Misty's doctors.
"Doctor," Ash said, his voice breaking.
"I'm so sorry, Mr. Ketchum…" the man's dark eyes, filled with nothing but sorrow, were all that Ash could see.
His heart was beating hard; it thudded inside of him, each beat seeming to scream the word 'dead'.
Dead, dead, dead, DEAD!
He was shaking uncontrollably, breathing rapidly, as if the more air he sucked in, the more he would be able to prove them both wrong.
"I know you were an incredible source of support for her. I'm so sorry she couldn't hold on for you. Misty's case is one of the most severe I have ever seen in my long career. I only wish she could have found the strength to pull through…"
The doctor's calm words were echoing so far back in Ash's mind that he could barely hear them. All he could hear were the distinct pounds of his heart.
Dead, dead, dead, DEAD!
The bunch of roses he was holding, mostly decapitated from his tense grip, fell to the ground.
And he ran.
He ignored the nurse calling out for him to slow down.
He ignored the stares of patients and visitors as he bolted past them.
He just ran.
A minute later, he arrived at his destination - Misty's room. It looked just like it had when he'd been there the day before. There were just two differences. The bed was made neatly, and Misty wasn't in it. His eyes bolted around, desperately searching for his fiancée.
"Misty!" he called out, spinning in all directions, frantic with anxious tension. "Misty! Where are you!"
"Mr. Ketchum…" Ash spun at the voice. Another doctor, same look in his eyes. "I'm so sorry…"
"Where is she!" Ash demanded, reaching out and pulling on the man's collar to bring their faces level. "Where is my fiancée! Take me to her now!" Ash shoved him away roughly; so desperate he couldn't control his own actions.
"This way…" the doctor said simply as he held out his hand to lead him to the left.
Ash followed his lead to a few floors below the floor he was on. It was quiet, no, actually, silent. The echoes of their footsteps were the only sounds that resonated eerily through the corridor...
Deep in his heart, Ash knew where they were headed. He couldn't accept it though, no way in hell.
That was, until he arrived in a room where he shivered from the cold temperature.
The doctor led him to a white hospital bed. Something lay underneath, and a white sheet lay atop it.
The doctor uncovered the sheet to reveal Misty's form, up to her shoulders. She was white. Too white. Turning slightly purplish. Her lips were blue and her gaunt face was devoid of life. She was dead. Dead.
Dead, dead, dead, DEAD! His heart was shattering, smashing.
She was dead.
"Oh my God…" Ash leant over her form slightly, his hands shaking violently.
"Misty…wake up… Mist…" His voice broke and crumbled as he spoke gently. "Oh my God… No… Oh my God…"
"We are here today to mourn the death of Misty Waterflower, beloved daughter, sister, friend and fiancée…" the Priest, situated in the middle of the altar and behind the coffin, begun the mass. He was tall and slightly chubby, with dark hair set back due to a receding hairline. His voice, though powerful and firm, was gentle and comforting. Ash sat still, listening but not hearing a thing. His eyes were fixed on the coffin in front of him. It wasn't real; it was all a horrible prolonged nightmare that wouldn't end. At least, that's what he'd led himself to believe…until he saw the coffin. That meant it was happening, that Misty was really gone…
Still, though…he didn't understand why but for some reason he couldn't fathom the fact that she wasn't coming back, that he would never see or touch or hold her again. Never see her smile, never look into her eyes. How could that be possible? How could he have held her in his arms one day and be facing life without her the next? Everything was moving too fast and he couldn't catch up, like he was running towards a goal that kept moving farther back, out of his reach.
"Hey," Ash spoke quietly, though it seemed as loud as yelling in the silent hospital room. Misty was sitting up in the bed wearing a hospital gown. Her orange hair was thin and scraggly looking. Her eyes were dull and almost lifeless. Dark circles underlined her eyes, which were red with tiredness. And her cheeks were moulded around the bones beneath them, making her look skeletal and gaunt. A plate of food sat in front of her. It was untouched.
Just another normal day…
"Hey," Misty spoke so softly that Ash questioned whether she had actually said anything. She was unmoving except for an occasional blink; her gaze was kept focused on the plate of food in front of her. It was a simple enough meal – a piece of meat with vegetables surrounding it. Typical hospital food, and a nightmare for an eating disorder patient.
"How are you feeling?" Ash asked the question he already knew the answer to. He could tell as soon as he walked into the room that she was having a bad night.
"Great," she said with about as much confidence as a year 12 student has for an exam they haven't prepared for.
Ash sat on the chair next to her bed and pulled it closer to her. He had to be cautious, tread carefully. He could tell she was feeling insecure.
"Aren't you going to eat?" But he had to ask the question.
Instantly, she shot him a look of disgust.
"Come on, Misty…" the desperation he'd kept hidden suddenly surfaced. "You've been doing really well, lately. Really, really well."
She didn't answer for a while, and when she did, her first response was a sadistic laugh.
"Doing well, huh? You've got it so wrong…" she said sarcastically.
"No, you've been putting on weight – we're all so proud of you!"
"You just don't get it, do you!" her voice raised two octaves suddenly, piercing through the silent air and stunning Ash into silence. "Every kilo I gain takes me further away from being perfect, and it's just another one I have to lose before I can get there!"
"I thought we'd got past all of this, Misty!"
"I'm never going to be skinny! Not at this rate! And you want me to eat that!" she was hysterically angry as she pointed to the plate of food in front of her. Her eyes were filled with terror at the sight of it, as if it were something as repulsive as a bleeding corpse.
"No," Ash moved the table away from her and climbed onto the bed so he could face her. He took both of her hands in his and held them tightly, as if it would make her feel differently.
"Don't touch me!" She pushed his hands away angrily and crossed her arms. It only deterred him for a second.
"I know you know that what you're doing, what you're thinking, is wrongSO wrong. It's making you sick, and it's making us fight – so how could it be right?" he pleaded desperately.
"You don't understand!" she cried through gritted teeth.
"No – I don't, because you're PERFECT, Misty. You're BEAUTIFUL!"
"I'm not! Can't you see what's in front of your eyes!"
"Do you know what I see? I see the strongest person I know. The bravest person I've ever known! Enough is enough, Misty…"
She calmed down slightly, but didn't answer, just shook her head with a look of helplessness painted across her skeletal face.
"It's never enough, Ash. It's never ever enough…"
The mass swept by without Ash noticing. Words blended together and washed over him. It was hard for him to listen to the Priest talk about God's goodness when the love of his life was lying in a coffin right in front of his eyes.
"We don't understand why it is that people are taken from us, especially in such tragic ways. There are so many different feelings and emotions that enslave us during…"
Wash…wash…wash… Ash couldn't process a word of what was being said.
"…times like these. We have to stay true in the belief that…"
Wash…wash…wash… 'She's never coming back; she's gone forever. Forever is a long, long time. You can't even count how long that is. You can't even count.'
"…the Lord has taken them to a better place, and that they will stay with…"
Wash…wash…wash… 'How could this have happened?'
Suddenly, it was time for the eulogy. Ash had wanted to do it, but he knew that there was no way he could hold himself together for long enough. Daisy had tried, but was drowned so deep beneath her despair that she couldn't manage to begin it. So Brock had agreed to write something instead. Brock stepped up to the microphone, pulled out a single piece of white paper from his jacket pocket, unfolded it and began to read. But as much as he wanted to pay attention, Ash's mind just kept drifting away from what was going on around him. All he could see was that coffin. A box of death, a prison. All was worse when he closed his eyes, and Misty's face drifted into his memory, playing in his mind like a movie on a cinema screen. It was vivid, clear and so real…yet he couldn't touch it, couldn't even hope to.
One thing he couldn't forgive himself for was not noticing what was happening to her sooner, before it got so out of hand. It's something he couldn't help but blame himself for – for every sigh that he chose to ignore and every time he picked up the phone and saw her pale face on the screen. He'd ask her if she was alright, of course, but she'd always reply with a yes and he'd never press it. He should have, though. If he had, perhaps this would have been avoided, and she would be alive and happy and they would be together, like they'd always wanted. Well, he had. But there was something else Misty had wanted just a bit more than that…
"Eat it Misty."
"Come on… Gary's outside. He wants to show you a new breed of water Pokemon that he discovered. But first, you have to eat your lunch."
"I said no, stop forcing me!" Misty's voice broke as she wailed, before slamming her top teeth down to bite her bottom lip. Her eyes were focused on the sandwich in front of her. They were full of longing, but masked with distinct refusal.
"If you don't eat it they're going to put the tube back in, and I know how much you hate that."
"You don't know anything! If you did then we wouldn't be having this conversation!"
"I'm trying to help you, why do you always have to push me away!" Ash could feel tears threatening his eyes, but he blinked them back furiously. He wanted to be strong for her, and letting her see him cry would only make her feel like she was hurting him. Ash sighed. He was tired – of arguing with her and from a lack of sleep.
"I'm sorry…" she said a few moments later, her voice now low and sombre.
"It's okay… I just wish I could help more…"
"I don't know why you bother, really." She said detachedly.
"I love you, that's why I bother," Ash pleaded.
"Then maybe you shouldn't," she said, her voice and eyes both emotionless, like she'd taken a cloth and the spray 'n' wipe and washed all the emotions away. Ash let out a worried sigh, and Misty continued in the same impassive way.
"I mean, in the end, you're only going to get hurt by staying here. So why don't you leave, like everyone else does and will? You don't need me, all I do is cause you more and more pain every day. I can't work out why you keep coming back for more. Love, you say? How can you love someone who can't even love themself?"
"When are you going to learn, Ash, that no matter what you say or do, it's not going to change anything. I'll always be a failure…a nothing. Why are you wasting your time here when you could be out making something of yourself?"
"You just have to believe in…"
"Cut the crap. Believing gets you nowhere. It only makes it hurt more when you fall."
The next minute was filled with an uncomfortable, sickening silence. Misty stared ahead at the white wall lining her room. Ash stared at the ground, any words he was going to speak caught in his throat by a lump of misery. It was killing him to see her like this, to hear her speak such hopeless and tragic words. And at the same time, it was killing her, too…
Ash broke the silence finally, though the uncomfortable air remained. "You know, Misty...when we were travelling together, I learnt so much from you. You taught me how to be strong and believe in my abilities and so many other skills and lessons. But I thought that…maybe you would have learnt something from me, too."
Misty shifted uncomfortably. From her eyes, it looked like she was in pain, fighting a battle, trying desperately to win.
"I couldn't have done it without you. Heck, you saw how much of a mess I was when you met me. I had no idea what I was doing. But you helped me. You made me such a great trainer, and helped me win battles, and helped me understand that it was okay to lose. It was you who did that. That's why I fell in love with you. And that's why I'll never leave you."
Ash finished his speech quite defiantly; his eyes burning with deliberation. He was like a lawyer, pleadingly delivering the final argument for a client. Only in this case, the client was himself.
Misty was biting her lip again, her eyes focused downwards as if she were ashamed of herself.
"I want to… But…it's hard…" she said slowly, not lifting her head to meet Ash's eyes.
"How do you have so much faith?"
"It's not hard to have faith in what you believe in."
"And you believe in me…"
It wasn't a question, but a confirmation. Ash didn't meet it with a reply, but he did move closer to her, before taking a seat on the chair beside her bed. She still hadn't glanced up to look at him.
"I don't know if I have the strength to fight anymore, truthfully…"
"Because it's too hard, I always lose."
"You never gave up when a Pokemon battle seemed to hard."
"I'm not the same person I used to be…"
"You're still just as stubborn."
Misty looked up then, and straight at his eyes. But they were completely coated in seriousness.
"I promise you Misty…you're going to get better. I promise."
Brock was seated again when Ash landed back in the centre of reality. He hadn't heard a word of the eulogy, but from the tears everyone around him were shedding he realised it had had quite an affect. A tear dropped onto his thigh as Pikachu cried on his lap. Next to him, Brock had his head in his hands, and on his other side, his mother was wiping her eyes with her blue handkerchief. A few moments later, she gently placed her right hand on his shoulder, and turned her head to look at him with eyes full of sympathy and concern. Ash barely noticed.
"Now, dearly beloved, we pray…that Misty Waterflower may find peace…"
'That's all she wanted…' Ash thought sadly. 'Peace…'
She looked afraid. Nothing else, just afraid. He was good at reading her emotions by now, even though he knew she still tried to keep them concealed.
"I really don't want to go…" she said quietly as she fiddled with the edge of the blue hospital quilt that covered her legs. Ash, who was sitting on a chair across from her, nodded.
"I know it will be hard, but it will help in the long run. Just think of it that way."
"How will it help? Talking never helps."
"But these people are professionals, Mist. They're gonna help you get better."
She shook her head at that, refusing to accept it.
"Please, Misty, go for me. Just see what it's like. You never know, it might help. Just give it a try…" Ash turned to pleading, which usually didn't work, but this time her eyes softened slightly.
"Alright… I'll go…"
"Thank you," he gave her a grateful smile.
"But… Will you come with me?" Ash glanced up, a hesitant expression upon his face.
"Please Ash. I don't want to be in there with that doctor all by myself. You don't have to say or do anything, just as long as you're there." She was practically begging; Ash could tell how much she needed him there. Inside, he felt overjoyed that she was asking for his help. It didn't happen often. But he kept a cool front, and simply nodded.
"Okay then, I'll come."
Half an hour later, they were inside Doctor Littrell's office. Misty glanced around at the modern décor as the doctor sat down at his desk to face her. Ash sat on a chair behind Misty, silently praying that this would help Misty rather than harm her.
"Miss Waterflower, how are you?" Doctor Littrell said in a voice that was both gentle and authorative. He was a strange man, Doctor Littrell. He looked so friendly, with sandy blonde hair, light blue eyes and a relaxed stature. But when he was working, he seemed so serious and almost threateningly caring about his patients.
Misty flinched at the formality of the conversation already, but wanted to try, for Ash.
"I'm fine," she answered simply. The doctor nodded, and glanced down at a manila folder sitting on his desk. He opened it and took a few moments to sort through its contents.
"You have been with us for exactly three weeks now, Misty," he glanced down at the papers before glancing back up to meet her frightful eyes. "We thought it was about time we started regular sessions, so that we can monitor your progress. Is that alright with you?"
Misty didn't answer right away. She glanced down and fiddled with her hands, twisting her bony fingers around one-another. Finally, she said, "I guess…"
"Alright, great," Doctor Littrell went on. "Tell me, how are you finding everything? Do you feel as if you're on the road to recovery?"
The question was asked fairly lightly but it had obviously caught Misty off guard, because she hesitated for a few moments. She hadn't expected him to ask such direct questions.
"Well, um…things have been alright," was all she could manage. She turned her head quickly to meet Ash's eyes. She looked helpless and vulnerable, but still, he urged her on with a small but encouraging smile.
"I want to ask you a few serious questions, Misty, do you think you can answer them for me?" the doctor asked softly. "I don't want you to get stressed out, so we can stop anytime, ok?"
Misty nodded, fear still present in her eyes.
"Misty, when was the first time you looked in the mirror and felt differently about yourself?"
Misty felt her breath catch in her throat. She didn't want to answer, didn't want to face any of this. But she had to, if she wanted to get better. And she did…
"I…I don't know…I guess I have never felt comfortable with my reflection…" she replied slowly.
"I don't think so…"
"So, there were always things you wanted to change about yourself?"
"Yes, I think…"
"Why do you think that was?"
"I never really considered it to be abnormal. Not everybody is comfortable in their own skin…"
"That's right. But usually, people grow to accept themselves and their appearance. You're saying that you never did?"
"I always hated the way I looked… I was never the pretty one or the skinny one…there was always someone who was better than me… My sisters were always better than me. They were beautiful and they knew where they were going. But not me… I was always lost." Misty finished with a sigh. Behind her, Ash shuffled in his seat. He felt guilty inside for never telling her she was pretty when they were growing up.
The doctor acknowledged her personal admittance with a nod – one that looked like he'd heard that answer from a hundred of his patients before.
"And why did you think not eating was the option?"
"I… I guess things were out of control…so I wanted to control something."
"What was out of control?"
"Can you explain?"
"Well…I was home, away from my friends. I didn't know what to do, where to turn. It seemed like everything I did just failed and I didn't know where in life I was heading. I was afraid that I'd never be someone…" she trailed off, and seemed to fall into her own private world. "I just wanted to be in power, be in control of something…"
"So you took control of your body?" the doctor put the pieces together, again looking like he expected everything she was saying.
"I…I didn't realise…"
"Have you been through any traumatic events in your past, Misty?"
Misty bit down on her lip and a flash of misery crossed her eyes. "My parents died when I was five."
Doctor Littrell nodded. "I'm sorry to hear that. Do you remember much of it?"
The doctor nodded once more, and then took a few moments to write something down.
"Misty…how do you feel inside? I want you to look deep inside. Don't listen to any negative thoughts, and just be completely honest. What are you feeling?"
No one in the room moved for a few tense moments. The air was thick as Doctor Littrell leant forward in his chair, while Misty shrunk further and further into hers. Ash was frozen with anxiousness. Misty never liked to talk about such personal feelings. She kept thoughts like that to herself – she hadn't even trusted Ash with things like that.
Misty spoke a few seconds later, her eyes closed and her bottom lip trembling in fear, "It feels like I'm trapped…in a small room… There are no doors or windows…no way out… I'm just there by myself with…only this voice haunting me, telling me he can help…"
Misty trailed off quietly, and then fell apart. She broke into a sweat, started breathing rapidly and trembling frantically.
Doctor Littrell became alarmed right away, and Ash was at her side a second later.
"Misty, are you alright? Do you want to stop?" the doctor asked her.
"I… I never wanted it to end up…like this…" She brought her arms close to her body as if she was cold.
"Come on, Misty, that's enough for now…" Ash said soothingly, and glanced at the doctor to gain his approval to stop. The doctor nodded and stood.
"You've done very well, Miss Waterflower," he gave her an encouraging smile, one which Misty didn't even notice. She could barely feel anything but the cold, harsh reality that had suddenly encompassed her. Unable to protest, she let Ash lead her out into the white hallway. He held onto her gently, facing her with a compassionate expression on his face.
"Are you okay?" he asked softly.
Her only reply was a choked sob, and she let herself fall slowly apart as Ash put his arms around her securely.
"I want to get better…" she cried into his shirt.
"And you will," he rubbed her back gently.
"I hate being hungry all the time… I hate hating myself all the time…"
"I know… I know…"
"I'm sorry for getting you involved in all of this… You're always here for me and I treat you so badly and…"
"Hey, hey…" Ash took hold of her arms gently, before pulling back to face her. Her face was crumpled in anguish, and helpless tears flowed freely from her blue-green eyes.
"I don't want you to be sorry. I just want you to get better."
Misty nodded, though Ash always had to question whether it was getting through to her.
"I'm here for you, and your sisters and Brock and so many others are here for you too. You're going to be fine," he spoke with such bold confidence and compassion that it was hard for Misty not to be compelled by it, even though he'd said it hundreds of times before.
For a moment, Ash saw a spark of determination light up her otherwise dull, lifeless eyes. Just for a moment, but it was there, and he swore that he had seen it. It was as though she could see the light at the end of the tunnel, like she knew that there was a way out.
Ash leant forward and put his arms around her once again; holding her tiny frame close to his, and feeling more compelled than ever to protect her.
They were right. It had gone quick. And now they were at the cemetery, standing around a hole in the ground, as the white coffin was lowered into it. Westlife's 'Angel' echoed hauntingly from the speakers around them. A cool breeze whipped through the air. And the cloudy, grey sky loomed above.
Ash stood at the forefront of the crowd. Around him, people cried, sniffed, whimpered. Ash himself was numb. He could feel nothing but emptiness in his heart, soul, head, body… It was a feeling so overpowering that he wasn't sure if he would ever be able to feel anything else, ever again.
It wasn't fair. But that didn't change anything. How he wished he could turn back the clock, make it so this could never happen. Ash had always believed in fate, in fact he'd always thought it was fate which had brought he and Misty together in the first place. But if fate were real, then why had Misty died? Surely his life wasn't meant to be lived without her beside him. Ash just couldn't understand it…
"What are you scared of?"
"Misty, you're not gonna…"
"You don't know that. What if I do? You don't know that I can beat this."
"Yes I do."
"Because I believe in you."
"What if that's not enough…?"
"Well…what would be enough?"
"I don't know… I'm just scared… I'm not strong enough…"
"Misty, you're the strongest person I know!"
"Don't say that. If I was strong, I never would have done this to myself in the first place."
Misty's sisters. Daisy, Lily and Violet. Ash had never seen them so utterly devastated as right now. He watched them as they kneeled beside the hole in which the coffin had been lowered. Though they had their backs to him, their hunched frames indicated the level of despair they were feeling. They had forever lost a quarter of their family, their baby sister. Daisy wailed sobs that didn't seem to have a beginning and an end as she let a bunch of daisy's fall upon the coffin. The other two girls, whose sobs were not as loud but equally coated in despair, let go of a bunch of lilies and violets, respectively. The bunches fell in a circle of three. And that was goodbye.
Ash had been standing a few metres behind them, struggling through the maze of thoughts in his head. There didn't seem to be an end to it yet, though, and he doubted whether there ever would be.
"Ash…" he heard his mother's soft voice call him, and glanced to his left to see her signalling towards the coffin. Turning his head that way, he discovered that the site was empty. All were waiting for him – he was the only one left to say goodbye.
How could he say goodbye to her, knowing that it meant forever? Was there a way to do that? Was there a formula that he could use or a prayer he could say? Never in a million years had he thought that he would be burying his fiancée at the age of twenty. But somehow it had happened. And all of a sudden, it was time.
Ash stepped forward. Once, twice, three and four times. He took eight steps before he reached the plot, and stood looking down at the coffin. It was covered in flowers of all different types and hues, and other various items people had thrown down there for her to be with for eternity. Ash wished that he could throw himself down there, so that he would never have to leave her.
At that moment, a series of flashbacks played before his eyes. The day they had first met, the time he realised he was in love with her, the moment he'd proposed to her. A rush of feelings came gushing down upon him suddenly - the agony of splitting up as they went back to their homes, the pain of being away from her, and the fear of losing her. But strongest of all was the love he felt for her. He'd never felt a feeling so powerful. It flooded every cell in his body until he felt as if he would burst.
But instead, he fell to his knees, put his hand over his mouth, and stifled a few sobs, before breaking into a steady onslaught of heart-rending cries. Each breath he took was more difficult than the last. It became harder and harder to stop as each second ticked by. Nobody stopped or interrupted him; instead they kept their distance and watched with helpless stares.
Ash had dropped his load now, and he knew it was going to be severely hard to pick up the pieces. In fact, pulling his life back together seemed like such a faraway goal that he couldn't even contemplate it. Even the simple step of leaving this spot seemed impossible to attempt.
Eventually, a few tragic minutes later, Brock made his way towards his broken friend. He knelt beside him, but Ash didn't acknowledge his presence at all. His bottom lip was trembling, as were his hands, which were clenched tightly. Tear tracks stained his face, which was twisted in distress. Brock put an arm on his back, knowing that he had to tread carefully.
"Come on Ash, it's time now," he said quietly.
Ash didn't move.
"I know it's hard to say goodbye to her…"
Still, he didn't move.
"You're not alone though this, we're all here to support you."
"You're all here, except…her…" Ash felt physically sick. This was really the end…
After that, Ash didn't remember much. Life came to a standstill once again as the coffin was lowered into the ground. Ash had no feeling in his body, mind or his heart. He was frozen by shock and paralysed by disbelief. He was boiling and freezing, livid and composed, awake and asleep, together and apart. Hundreds of people surrounded him, yet he'd never felt more alone in his entire life. A part of him was missing, as if had been stolen right from his grasp. Now all that was left were memories, good and bad, happy and sad. Just memories.
There wasn't much to do with those, though. He could relive every moment he'd spent with her but it would never bring her back. He could cover his walls in photos but he would never again get to touch her or have a conversation with her. The past was a great memory, but that's all it was. None of that could ever be real again.
There was nothing else to do now, but to find a way to move on. Ash had no idea how to do that or if he would ever be able to. Brock said that when his mother died, he felt like he wanted to die himself. But in time, it became easier to let go of those feelings, and easier to take a few steps forward. One step at a time, he'd said, but each one was closer to the next. From where he was now, though, Ash couldn't see one metre through the black fog that lay ahead of him.
The funeral was over now, Ash realised as people started moving away, back to their cars. Twenty minutes later, he and Daisy were the only ones left at the site. They stood at the foot of where the coffin had been. There was no sign of it now; it had been completely covered with sand. Ash stared down at the spot. He couldn't help but feel sick at the thought that Misty was now buried down there…
"I can't believe she's gone…" Daisy said, her voice dry and small. She gave a trembling sigh and let a few tears roll down her cheeks.
"I know…" he uttered slowly, using a lot of self control to keep from giving way to his tears.
"She really wanted to get better for you, you know," she said after a few moments of silence.
"She should have wanted to get better for herself…"
More silence followed then, until Daisy spoke once more.
"I wish I'd been a better sister to her when we were kids. She needed me and I was hardly ever there for her… I wish she knew how much I loved her…" Daisy's voice trembled as she spoke the last few words, and she had to take a few deep breaths to steady herself as she dabbed her eyes with a tissue.
"She knew," Ash said. "She knows." Daisy nodded, hoping he was right about that.
"Misty couldn't have fallen in love with a better person than you, you know," her voice shook and tears poured out of her blue eyes, which looked grey beneath the animosity and despair that lay on the surface.
For a while, Ash said nothing. The slight whistle of the wind and hum of cars on nearby roads was all that was audible through the eerie silence that engulfed the two. Yet another tear Ash didn't know he had inside of him crept down his left cheek. He didn't bother to wipe it away. He was sick of wiping tears away.
"I broke my promise," he said quietly.
"I promised I'd get her better. And…I couldn't…"
"It's not your fault, Ash."
"I…I thought I knew her so well…" he muttered. "How did it all change so quickly? It's like she became a different person overnight. I come to see her and two years later she's…"
"It's so stupid. It's just STUPID!" Ash's sudden burst of volume tore through the previous silence with a great shock. Daisy realised she should have expected it, but she hadn't.
"She could have been ANYTHING! But instead she had to deal with that crap! All because of looks and self-worth! She DIED because she wanted to look a certain way. I mean I just…"
"I know, Ash. But you know there was more to it than that…"
"That doesn't mean I can understand why it had to happen…" he paused to wipe away a few more tears and take a few deep breaths. "I loved her so much… She was everything to me. And now she's gone and…I just don't know what to do…"
"Ash… Ash go home, I'll sit with her for a while," Violet said tiredly as she walked into the hospital room. It was 2 AM, and Ash hadn't moved from Misty's side since he'd arrived at 10 the morning before. She'd had a bad day, refusing to eat and growing angrier and angrier at attempts to force her to put food in her mouth. In the end, they'd threatened that if she didn't eat something they'd have to resort to using the nasogastric tube. Misty hated the tube, and so she gave in, though she still hadn't eaten much.
"No… I want to stay," he insisted, sitting up and rubbing his eyes sleepily.
"Come on, you've been here all day. You need to get some sleep…"
"I'm fine, let me stay," he insisted. "Please…"
Violet paused and looked into his intense eyes. She'd always thought him to be quite immature, but Ash had almost become an adult through the past months.
"You really love her, don't you?" she asked. He glanced at Misty's sleeping form, her pale face bony and tense from inner turmoil.
"Yes…" he replied genuinely. "And I just want to see her get better…"
Ash held in his hands a blue book, as he sat alone in his small bedroom. It was slightly tattered but still in relatively good condition. It was small, perhaps just a bit larger than A5 size, and had a hard cover. Its front and back were sky blue and a picture of a Horsea sat in the centre of the front cover. Next to the Horsea's head and written in silver was the word 'Diary'.
Ash had given it to her, six years ago. He was just fourteen and had no idea what to get a girl for her birthday. He'd been shopping for two hours when he saw a set of diaries with water Pokemon on the front covers, and thought it was perfect. He could still remember the surprised look in her eyes when he'd given them to her. One diary for each year of her life, for ten years. She loved them and would write in them constantly. But she would NEVER let him see them, and she threatened him every time he hinted it that if he dared read her diary he would pay for it. (So he never did.)
But four days before she died, Misty gave Ash the diary she had been using throughout the past year.
She wouldn't say why. She just said that she wanted him to understand. Ash could guess the real reason now, though…
Though he'd wanted to, Ash hadn't opened the diary once. He believed that it was an invasion of her privacy, but if she were worried about that, why would she have given it to him? Ash had tried, many times, to open the small book, but something always held him back. Fear always held him back. The fear that the words contained inside wouldn't fulfil him with the answers he so desperately seeked. The answers that would help him understand what she was going through, because although she had opened up to him many times, he still couldn't grasp it.
That had to be forgotten now, however, as Ash opened the front cover of the diary. It was time, he knew. His desperation to know what was concealed inside its blue cover was reaching the point where he could no longer take it.
His glazed eyes glanced over the words on the first page. It was dated about four months before he'd arrived at the Gym to visit her, and subsequently found out all that she had been going through. Ash took a deep breath to calm his bubbling emotions, and read through the pages of the diary.
"And then a thought occurred to me. My weight, it's the one thing I can control. The one thing that's special to me. If I'm slim, that can be my thing, the thing that sets me apart from the rest. God knows I need something to help me stand out…"
"I love turning out the light at night. In my room, there is a mirror across from my bed. I can see my reflection in it when I sit there, ready to go to sleep. Sometimes I just stare at myself, moment after moment. As each moment passes, I grow angrier, more upset, over what I see. So it's a peaceful thing when I can turn off the light, and extinguish the sight of myself in that mirror. In the darkness I can be whoever I want to be. I don't have to be ruled by reality. It's funny, I used to be afraid of the dark. Now it's almost my favourite thing in the world…"
"It will all be worth it in the end. I tell myself that every time I feel like the world is swirling around me."
"I'm finding myself feeling more and more angry after each and every night that I stand on the scales. With my running and eating well I'm losing weight, according to the numbers. But what if they're wrong? What if they're deceiving me, and I've been riding on some false sense of hope all this time? When I looked in the mirror tonight, I scrutinised myself, pinching my flesh in places where it bulged. I was horrified, and now I'm convinced that the scales are lying, that they're completely wrong. I'm fat, still so fat, I realised as I stared harder and harder at my reflection. I've been too soft on myself. I need to work harder, to eat less."
"Right now I felt like I'm losing control of my life. I feel like it's slipping away from me rapidly and disappearing. I'm afraid and I feel more alone than I ever have in my life. I'm revolted by my failure."
"Tonight I ran to my bedroom, got under the covers, and let my tears free. I cried for ages, all the while hoping, praying, that I would get thinner, that I would regain control and move forward."
"That's when I heard it. A voice inside my head, soft, though powerful, assuring me that I was going to be okay. It was so loud that I had no choice but to listen, and I fed off every word this voice told me. It was hopeful, it believed in me and in my goal. It told me that I could achieve all I wanted, and regain control, if I just worked a little bit harder. And it told me that it would help me to do this. As I made a promise to myself to trust this voice of hope, I felt excited by the prospect of finding my goal again. I feel like everything's going to be okay now."
"I was never good enough. Not that I didn't try, I tried harder than anyone to succeed. But I always ended up a failure. I used to think that everyone deserved to be happy. Guess I was wrong."
"All night I dreamt of food. Of steaks coated in marinate, donuts with thick, sticky icing, rich mud cakes, bags upon bags of candy, bar upon bar of chocolate that looked as if it would taste like Heaven… I woke up this morning feeling as if I'd been dragged through hell and back. My stomach was rumbling angrily and I just felt like bawling my eyes out again."
"More than anything, I want to dig a hole and bury myself. I'm useless, a complete failure. I've proven myself once again to be a worthless waste of time."
"Nightly now, I feel as though I'm slipping away. Further and further. In the end it only makes me feel stronger, because controlling my eating habits helps me to regain control over my life. But still, I dread each night, knowing that the falling will come."
"I'm beginning to feel afraid of the voice. It's becoming manipulative and controlling. But I told myself it's all for the best, that it's only trying to help, and that I shouldn't read into things so much."
"I feel guilty for eating anything, because I know it's making me fat. I feel guilty if I can't run for exactly half an hour each morning, and when I do my full half hour I feel bad because I couldn't go for longer. Nothing is ever good enough, and that reminds me of when I was little, and I used to fail to please my sisters, no matter how hard I tried."
"I'm starting to become afraid of things I've never considered before. Like bad luck. These days, I'm so afraid of being plagued with bad luck that I do everything I can to avoid it. In the mornings, I have to wait until a specific time before I can get out of bed. It can never be a time with an odd number in it, or I will get bad luck and awful things might happen to my family and friends. I have 2 digital clocks in my room, and they have to be at the same time, on all even numbers, before I can get up. Also, I hate things looking out of place. After I get up I have to make my bed immediately. Then I can leave my room on even numbers. Everything has to be stacked neatly, and I stand inspecting cupboards and drawers, making sure everything is tidy. It's a hard job but I feel fulfilled and more in control when everything is neat. I can never walk away without tidying everything up – some invisible force pulls me back with the fear that bad things will happen if everything isn't neat."
"And the funny thing is that they're doing this because I'm 'too skinny'. Hah! I knew for sure that they were stupid when they said that."
"I've been a fool. Such a fool. I'm almost disgusted at myself. No wait, I AM disgusted at myself. I've been blinded, like someone stuck a paper bag over my head and didn't bother to cut holes for the eyes. It's sort of stupid actually. I'm such an idiot."
"Ash is always there for me and I treat him like he's nothing but a burden. How selfish am I? I don't deserve his compassion. One day he's going to realise that and leave me. It's only a matter of time."
"I hate this… I hate myself… I hate my life… I hate feeling hungry… I hate food… I hate fat… I hate hospitals… I hate doctors…I hate feeling alone… I hate that I know I deserve this… I hate EVERYTHING…
"It's hard to breathe… It's so hard to breathe…"
"I don't know what I'd do without Ash. He's so strong and compassionate. He's the only one who gets me through this."
"I realised that the voice is never going to leave. It's always going to be there, at the back of my mind, teasing and taunting me until I go CRAZY! No matter what the doctors do or how much I am counselled or how much Ash tells me I'm beautiful, it will still be there. It will be lurking around the corner, and every time I think positive it will throw doubts into my thoughts. It won't ever leave me alone, no matter how much I will it away. No one understands that. No one understands how much it hurts to have your thoughts invaded, like you can't even think on your own terms. I can't just switch it off, that's not how it works. It's never going to leave. I can't make it and it won't, it just won't. It won't leave…"
"I don't want to be that person anymore… I can't be that person anymore… I'd rather die…"
Ash stopped. He looked up, but could only stare straight ahead. He could see out of his window. It was dark; night time. He had been reading for ages…
Tear tracks stained his face and his head was spinning. Ash literally felt as if he had been dragged through hell. But not hell with its searing flames and burning heat. Hell with its icy terror, its merciless caverns of hopelessness and fear. Until now, Ash hadn't known the depth of Misty's feelings, of the fear that gripped her or the chains that bound her. It wasn't just the words. It was the feeling behind them, the utter despair that echoed loudly through the pages, as if it had been worn into them and could never be erased.
But it wasn't over yet, there was still a bit more to go. Finally, Ash came across the last used page of the diary. It was written a bit differently from the others. While the other pages contained slabs of messy handwriting, the writing on this page was neat, and only three lines long. Three lines and that was it. It was over. Could these three lines fulfil the endless questions of why? Of how? Could they end the bitterness and misery? Could they dry the tears? End the pain? Dull the desperation? There was only one way to find out...
"When I was a child, all I wanted was my own dolls.
When I was a teenager, all I wanted was you.
Now, all I want is to be free."
Ash remembered it like it was yesterday. The moment he got hooked onto a fishing line and pulled up out of the river by a girl whose temper was as red as her hair. At first he'd been afraid of her. Really afraid. He was completely alone for the first time in his life, with no company but a Pikachu that hated him and a girl who despised him. But in time, he'd grown to respect her. He'd grown used to having her there beside him. He'd grown to rely on their friendship. And not so long after, he'd grown to love her.
Before he left for his Pokemon journey, his mother had had a conversation with him that, at the time, he didn't understand. She explained to him that falling in love is a blessing, but one which can be flawed by lies and disagreements and so much more. She told him not to give his heart away, until he knew that the person he was giving it to was his soul mate, someone who completely understood and loved him. That was strange advice to a ten year old, and at the time he dismissed it as his mother being upset that he was leaving, but still, he always remembered it, in the back of his mind. And on the day he'd asked Misty to marry him, he'd called his mother and told her that he'd found his soul mate, someone who completely understood and loved him. And that he was ready to give his heart away. His mother knew immediately why he was telling her such things. She'd smiled warmly with tears in her eyes and said, "Good luck honey. I'm so proud of you."
For two long years Misty battled with the eating disorder that plagued her. For two long years she travelled between hospitals and clinics and home, for varying periods of time. Sometimes she would be at home for months on end, when the doctors saw an improvement. Sometimes she would improve so much that she would almost seem like her normal self. But she would always revert back to the person she had become. The person who just couldn't break free of the controlling monster that enslaved her. Because she craved it, the control. Although it hurt her, and eventually killed her, she needed it like a drug addict needs drugs. To Misty, anorexia was exactly that – a drug. And she was uncontrollably an obsessed addict.
Those years were filled with every kind of emotion possible, for everyone involved, but especially for Ash and Misty. Misty had some good days, and a lot of bad ones. She was happy sometimes, but most of the time she was chained beneath a cloud of depression, so deep that not even Ash held the key to free her from it. She hated herself deeply, and this hatred was the cause of such deep disturbances in her life, and the drive for her anorexia. She would refuse to eat, cry all the time, scream and curse at her friends and family for trying to help her, and all the while have this desperate look in her eyes, begging and pleading for someone to help her, someone to free her.
Misty's problems became out of hand very quickly, so quickly that her friends and family found it hard to keep up, to understand what was happening to her. Though they'd read pamphlets and talked to doctors, they simply couldn't understand why Misty, who was so bright and positive and just plain carefree, had been reduced to this mess of depression and angst and hopelessness. It was hard on them all, a heavy weight that each of them carried on their shoulders throughout the days of those two years. And all the while, this made Misty feel even worse about herself, because she knew that she was causing them pain.
"I treat you like shit and you just keep coming back for more, because you love me? And what do I do to deserve that love? Treat you like shit even more," she used to say. And she would hate herself every day for it.
Ash was naturally a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. He was kind, compassionate and had a natural need to help others. But something changed within him throughout those two years. He never really noticed it, but he felt it now. He had quite simply grown up. He was no longer a naïve child who saw his next Pokemon battle as the only challenge that lay ahead. Quite suddenly, two years ago, he had been forced to be Misty's support beam. Of course, she had a lot of other people around her - her sisters, Brock, Tracey, Ash's mother, Gary, Professor Oak, and many others, but Ash was the one that she relied on. She always said that she didn't need him and that he shouldn't waste his time on her, but the truth was that without him, she just couldn't find the strength to face each day, quite a switch from the independent, 'I can do it' Misty of the past. Ash loved Misty so deeply and wholly that he never saw this as a burden, and would go to extraordinary lengths to try and help her. He would constantly do things to cheer her up, hold her as she cried, take her verbal abuse, force her to eat, and sit on the uncomfortable plastic chair beside her bed through the long, endless nights just so she would know he wasn't going to abandon her. They were acts that were so selfless and kind, that everyone questioned just how he did it, how he dealt with it.
But they all knew that he did those things automatically, because he loved her so much. All he wanted was for her to be well again, to be able to smile and be her old self, and just be happy. Somehow, Ash just couldn't process the possibility that it would not end up this way, that Misty may not come out of this at all. It simply wasn't an option for him, he never even considered that it could happen. Ash was admired by all for his bravery and his commitment to Misty. They knew that he was making such a huge sacrifice to be there for her so completely, since he had put his career and his dreams on hold. It must have been hard for him but he never let it show, never let it seem like he couldn't do it anymore. Until now. Until the seemingly impossible occurred.
But, no matter how many people surrounded Misty, and loved her and supported her, in the end it wasn't enough. Not even all of their compassion put together could dispel the power that the monster inside of her held over its victim. And although they all knew of the disorder's risks, Misty's death came as a shock to them all. Over the past four months before her death, she had shown rapid improvement and they all thought she was well on the way to recovery. But suddenly, a few months later, she took a sudden turn for the worse. No one knew why, not even Ash, but it seemed like she just didn't want to get better anymore. The damage that Misty had already done to her body added to the pain that she was further inflicting upon it. Already, her heartbeat was irregular and her organs were working too hard to keep her alive. Against her will, she was re-admitted to hospital, but this time, not even the doctors and specialists could help. She had just…given up.
But even when that was happening, they had all naturally assumed that she would pull through. That the road would be bumpy, but that she would pull through. Because she was Misty. And there was no way that she could die of a heart attack at the age of twenty. Although Ash knew that Misty was committed to him and loved him as much as he loved her, he also knew that he never had her heart completely. There was a part of it that he couldn't reach, no matter how hard he'd tried. There was something that she wanted, more than she wanted him.
Her diary proved that. Her diary, which was clasped in Ash's hands as he sat on the edge of the riverbank, the same place where Misty had stood ten years ago with nothing but her Pokemon, a backpack of possessions and a fishing rod. Had he taken a glance at his watch, he would have known that the time was 11 pm, but Ash had no concept of time. Day and night had become the same to him; the only difference was the colour of the sky. A cool breeze caused the water to ripple and curl in small, flowing waves. The moon was almost full; its reflection shone onto the water and illuminated its endless entirety. And the place was silent, nothing but Ash, the water and the breeze. But that was okay. Ash didn't feel like talking. Though everyone said it was good for him, he really couldn't think of anything to say. It wasn't going to bring her back, so what was the point? No, Ash was here for another reason.
Glancing down at the object in his hands, he though it looked so innocent. No one would think that it held the living nightmares of a person so plagued with angst and dissatisfaction that they couldn't see past it. No one would know how many tears had been shed or how much pain had been endured between the words contained inside of it.
Ash opened the diary to the first page. He moved his hand to the top right hand corner of the page and pulled it downwards. The ripping sound of the paper coming away from the spine tore through the air, seeming louder than it actually was in the dense silence. Holding the now loose piece of paper up, Ash put the book down and took hold of it with both of his hands, before ripping it in half. He repeated this action until all that remained were small rectangular fragments of the paper, and then held out his hand. When he let go of the pieces, the handful of pain and fear, they floated with the breeze into the water luminescent water below. Ash was still as he watched them land atop the water, softly and gently, before they were submerged by the liquid and disappeared beneath it. After it was gone, he took hold of the next piece and tore it out. Exactly as he had done before, he ripped it into pieces and let it fly out into the river. Once again, he waited until it had disappeared beneath the surface, before reaching for the next page.
Ash continued this process, over and over. He locked his tears in an unbreakable cage as he tore the pain contained in each grain of paper to shreds and submerged it beneath the waves. As each page was destroyed, Ash grew angrier and angrier. Angry at the world for being so vain as to see looks as such an important feature of a person. Angry at himself for being so naive. Angry at Misty for giving up. Angry at life, for taking away the one thing he treasured and cared about most in the world.
After he'd thrown the last of the diary into the river, he collapsed onto his knees on the soft grass lining the bank. He clenched his fists and punched the earth, as if it was to blame for his pain. Tears erupted from his eyes, again tears he didn't know he had. And his sobs replaced the silence of the scene. Ash felt as if his heart was nowhere to be found, and instead all that remained in its spot was an endless black hole. There wasn't much else he could feel inside of him, except for a deep sense of despair and loneliness that seemed to float around like a storm cloud on a winter's day.
It took Ash a while to recover. It was twenty minutes before he realised his surroundings once again. He didn't bother to wipe his tears away, just stood over the bank, glancing down into the water. Though it now contained a lifetime of despair and hopelessness, it seemed more still than before.
"Misty…" he spoke into the silence. "I…I set you free… I erased it all. All the pain is gone now… I hope you feel free…and I hope you feel beautiful because you are. I hope you know that you are…
"I…love you so much. And I miss you every day. And I want you back but..." he paused, closing his eyes for just a moment, "…I know that can't happen…
"Before, I was remembering back to when we were kids. Back then, my only goal was…to become the greatest Pokemon Master. Well…I want to do that still. But…this time, it's for a different reason. See…I don't want to do it for me… This time I want to do it for you…
"So…I will, Mist. I'm gonna go out and become the greatest Pokemon Master ever. And when they ask me how I did it, I'll just say your name. You taught me more than I could have learned from anyone else and I want those lessons to live on, I want to teach them to other people.
"And…I know that you're here with me all the time," Ash felt slightly warm, suddenly, "So knowing that…how can I fail?"
As Ash walked away from the riverbank that night, he felt like a tiny part of that hole where his heart had been was back where he could feel it, and he felt a sense of faith and confidence. It was faint, but it was there. There was a long way to go before he could smile or laugh or let go of his despair, but something inside of him, somewhere, told him that he was going to be okay. Was it Misty? He couldn't identify it yet, but he hoped so.
Most of all, though, he hoped that she was happy. Happy with him and his plans and dreams. But mostly, happy with herself.
Because in the end, that's all that matters. Being happy with yourself.
fantasia io vedo un mondo chiaro,
Li anche la notte è meno oscura.
Io sogno d'anime che sono sempre libere,
Come le nuvole che volano.
('Nella Fantasia' – Il Divo)