Chapter 8: Broken
It wasn’t the coldest of springs, but then again, it wasn’t warm either. The grass beneath her bum was dew covered and uncomfortable, but not nearly so that’d she voluntarily vacate her seat. Not that anyone would be vying for it anyway. Underneath the foggy moonlight was only the shadow of Mount Moon, the wet vegetation and her lonesome figure. There was little else to take notice of.
Once upon a time, she’d never be caught dead by herself alone in these forested depths, listening to the faint rustling of nocturnal Pokemon and watching the stars above like a devoted stargazer, waiting for some sign from Arceus to guide her way. Then again, once upon a time she’d had everything she’d wanted from life.
The redheaded girl slowly observed her breath curl in wisps from her mouth instead of the heavens above, pondering the little things that kept the actual thoughts plaguing her at bay. It wasn’t the coldest of springs, but it definitely wasn’t warm either. Not warm enough to thaw her shattered and frozen heart, laid in jagged pieces above the space the organ once resided. Even her too warm sweater didn’t have the desired effect.
An hour ago (or maybe five, Misty had long lost track of where she’d wandered off to and how long she’d been at it), the cerulean eyed girl had spoken with her childhood friend Brock who brought news of the worst kind. The news you could live ages without hearing. He bore upon her, with albeit sadness, the sort of information that changes your life if you had a goal to work towards.
Ash Ketchum, raven haired Pokemon champion and her best friend, was in a relationship. And it wasn’t with her.
Now to be fair, Ash was a human being with his own life plans and goals, and certainly preferences, but it was Misty’s long standing assumption that one day, whenever he pulled his dense head from the Altaria fluff and noticed her for the woman she was becoming, they would become the 'it' couple. Everyone thought it would be that way.
Brock thought it. Tracey thought it. Daisy and Lily and Violet thought it. Delia thought (and planned!) it. Professor Oak thought it. Her fellow gym leaders thought it. Rudy, though with much grumbling, thought it. Hell, even Team Rocket, the densest of the densest bad guys, thought it.
The Pokemon Master-to-be never did follow the easy path laid out before him.
And though that left little effect on him, the scars that now graced the ginger haired girl’s heart were irreversible. She’d shed Waterfall sized tears and sobbed into the video phone to her supportive and consoling brother figure as if diagnosed with a terminal illness. Then again, love and heartbreak may qualify as terminal illnesses too.
And then she ran. Ran away from Brock, the Cerulean Gym, and basically life in general. On the far side of Mount Moon, Misty Waterflower now sat, watching nothing and thinking nothing as a means to disable her stressed and fragile state of mind.
She had almost fallen asleep who knows how long after that, when a sudden crackle snapped Misty out of the zone she’d drifted into. Glancing around half heartedly, at least to attempt to protect herself, the young gym leader noted nothing suspicious and wrote off the sound as a Pokemon’s behavior. In all honestly, she could care less if there was a hunting Mightyena ready to attack her this instant. The redhead felt dead inside anyway.
Another crunch came from somewhere within the trees surround the meadow that the youngest Waterflower had made herself a permanent fixture in. And another. Frankly, all the noise was irritating her far worse then possible harm coming to her being. The girl wanted to be left alone from humans and Pokemon alike so the wallowing in pain would be all her own. Yet, like the many things that didn’t go according to plan this day, her desires were ignored by fate.
“Brebre! Umbre, Brebre!” A sudden rush of velveteen fur yipped and attacked Misty, who’d toppled over into the wet foliage as a ringed Pokemon licked her face playfully. Though foul-mooded, the water type trainer turning into a soggy mess couldn’t help the laugh that reverberated from her at the affection being poured out. She definitely knew whose Pokemon this was.
“Red?” a surprised and hushed voice called. The addressed girl being Lick Attacked looked over to her left seeing a slightly taller, spiky haired brunette concealed in a dirty, tattered cloak making his way through some shrubbery.
“Haha, he-hey Gary, Umbreon, haha, stop!” she jokingly scolded, taking a deep heave when the moonlight Pokemon spotted her master and bounded to his side.
“Umbre, Brebre On, Breon!” the fox-like creature chattered, excitedly bouncing up and down as the redheaded girl lifted herself onto her elbows to watch the two. Gary Oak knelt beside his exuberant companion and stroked her head gently.
“Yes, I can see that it’s Misty. So you furry traitor, this is what you were tracking?” He playfully flicked the dark type’s ear in reprimand before standing his full height and making his way over to said girl, his faithful Pokemon at his heels. Reaching out his hand, Misty gratefully accepted as he helped her up and brushed the clinging grass blades from her shoulders. The cerulean eyed girl shrugged nonchalantly, signaling she was already messy as is.
“So what in Mew’s name has you out here this late Red? And without supplies,” he added with a scowl, seeing no camping gear or anything preparatory set up. “A game of hide and seek gone wrong?” he quipped, amused by his own wit. Misty huffed in annoyance, not up for much bantering as her previous, dark thoughts swarmed her mind again.
“No Gary, unlike you, I don’t play games anymore.” Because they hurt so much, she couldn’t help adding to herself. They game she just lost in love was proof of that.
“Aw, what’s that supposed to mean?” he questioned innocently, understanding the reference clearly. His fellow gym leader never had been fond of his flirtatious nature. He tried to place his hand comfortingly on her shoulder, but she shrugged him off angrily as she walked away. Tears peaked at the corners of the Water type trainer’s eyes as Umbreon let out a small whine at her parting. Gary soothed his upset Pokemon momentarily before signaling her off for a bit. “Hey, listen, I’m just trying to be a good citizen here. The League committee and anyone who knows you would murder me if they found out I left you alone in the middle of the forest, resourceless, to catch pneumonia and die. Especially Ash.” Though he was all about humor, Gary had no idea that that one name was the worst possible thing he could have said to the cerulean eyed girl.
“Who fucking cares?” she yelled unexpectedly, turning her face spotted with freshly fallen tears toward his dumbfounded expression. “Let them get mad and let me die! I don’t give a damn!” Her voice trembled just as much as her body as she spoke those words, passed the verge of breaking down. Needless to say, the cinnamon haired gym leader was speechless and, in effect, useless. He had never once heard the Misty Waterflower so broken and weak. He slowly raised a hand towards her, but the girl shook her head as a sob escaped her lips and she stared at the ground angrily before her.
“Re---Misty. What happened?” Gary coaxed, snapping out of his confusion. Now was not the time for teasing and banter. He recalled the few times his sister May was in a mood similar to Misty’s, and how he had to walk on eggshells around his elder sibling to settle her down. Deciding the same approach was necessary, the youngest Oak took silent steps towards the ailing girl furiously shaking with cries. He eased his larger hand onto the small of her back as he pulled her closer to him so he could wrap his arm around her shoulders and hold her steady.
Whether Misty was comforted by his presence or simple too tired to fight him, the viridian eyed boy had no idea, but she followed his actions easily and hid her face within the confines of her hands. It was painful to listen to her wails, and the boy literally had no idea what could have caused his fiery fellow gym leader such heartache. All he knew was she needed to vent it if he ever wanted her to stop sobbing. Moving his hand up and down her back consolingly, he asked again,
“Misty. Why are you crying like this? What happened?” Momentarily, an unsavory thought occurred to him. “Did somebody hurt you? Are you. . . okay?”
Peeking through her bangs and tears at him, she saw his darkened gaze and let a sad smile cross her features. She was hurt, but not like that.
“No Gary, I’m not okay. But it’s all emotional,” she honestly told him. Staring at his forest colored eyes, Misty almost lost herself within their depths. Something about Gary she’d noticed in their recently acquaintance and truce was that he was a master of emotional disguise in everything but his eyes. She could see, like never before, the genuine concern bubbling within and the desire to help. The Oak prodigy really wasn’t as horrid as she’d once thought him to be.
“Then let me help.” It wasn’t a statement with ulterior motives. “After all, that’s what friends are for right?” he added as an afterthought. True, they’d only resolved their conflicts recently and became friends, but on Gary’s end, a boy with more fans than actual people that cared for him, this was his first attempt at closeness since childhood.
“You, you wouldn’t understand.” Her voice retained some of the bite it used to, however sad.
It was the typical ‘Leave me alone’ response he’d often heard from his sister. To him it actually meant ‘Keep bugging me so I eventually spill because I want to know you care enough to actually listen’. The Viridian Gym leader would be the first to admit he wasn’t the slightest bit concerned with girls and their problems, but this was no ordinary girl and this certainly didn’t appear to be a superficial problem.
“Try me,” was his quick, and slightly haughty, response. He briefly called Umbreon’s name out as he ushered the water type trainer to follow him out of the meadow they’d been in. Unbeknownst to Misty, it was peaking three in the morning and normal people were long asleep in their beds at this hour. Gary was more than excited by the idea of returning to civilization and getting some rest. After he’d fixed up Misty, of course.
“You’ll laugh at me.” She said, not resisting his walking attempts. Though the ginger haired girl had originally wanted to be alone, she couldn’t say this unusual turn of events wasn’t for the better. It was nice being cuddling into a warm body instead of soaking up chilly water through her jeans. Plus, a friendly ear to physically chat with was always more comforting than a fuzzy video screen. That, and Umbreon’s glowing rings trotting before them now like a beacon was comforting after hours of darkness.
“I swear on the life of my Gramps that I won’t.” Oh, serious business he was, bringing his beloved grandfather into the mix. The cerulean eyed girl conceded.
“I’m holding you to that Oak.” The brunette chuckled at her, crossing his heart in a dorky fashion and saluting her. The faint smile teasing her lips left Misty tingling with a ray of hope. It wasn’t the coldest of springs with Gary trying his hardest to rouse her depression. “I-I, well, I found out today from Brock,” she looked momentarily to see if he knew who she was referring to and he nodded his understanding. “I found out that . . . that well . . . that . . .” Would she even be able to say it out loud? This was the very deepest of her secrets, the very core of her soul that was already shredded and destroyed. Could she afford to let someone as new and unknown as Gary Oak into such a vulnerable part of herself?
Could she admit to him the one thing she didn’t want to even admit to herself? It wasn’t warm either.
Somehow, he read her hesitation and decided to do what May always opened up to. Misty’s hand hung limply as her gaze blinked through her orange fringe up at the faintly outlined stars above so he snuck his own into her space and laced their fingers, hers numbingly chilled and his refreshingly warm, together quickly. As expected, the redhead started and looked down to their entwined hands before staring into his eyes again. It wasn’t really a coaxing, but she knew what he implied. I’m here to listen.
“A-Ash has a g-girl-girlfriend,” she stumbled finally, feeling the wave of anxiety and pain course through her again. This time she managed to keep from making a sound, but her eyes watered terrible as she watched Gary’s filtering expressions. It looked like he was going to say something congratulatory but she had to make him understand. “And it’s not m-me.”
Shock. Confusion. Disbelief. Jealousy. Acceptance. Understanding. Pity. Compassion. It was all in his eyes as he took in her visibly crumbling self. See, even Gary Oak had thought it. Everyone was sure it was going to be Ash and Misty happily ever after. The end.
“I-it’s okay,” she sniffled at him with her sad smile again. “Not your f-fault so no need to say sorry. I just wish it didn’t b-bother me this much.” ‘I wish I wasn’t so stupid and hopeful’ her mind silently corrected. The girl huddled closer into the side that was protecting her from more than the chill. If Gary’s comforting arm dropped from her hand, Misty was almost certain she’d tumble to the floor and never stand again. Gary was literally the force keeping her moving at the moment. She gripped his fingers even tighter.
Her now silent companion, watching the top of her head since the aqua eyed girl had hidden her face into the confines of his linen cloak, felt his throat close up. Boy problems. Gary always had this terrible association with boy problems. Whenever May had her heart broken, which now Gary realized was Misty’s painful ache, the youngest Oak almost always went out to find the jerk who’d dared to hurt her. He’d gotten into numerous fights with older boys and men on May’s account. He had tons of scars to prove it. And now he wanted nothing more than to cave in Ash’s Ketchum’s perfect button nose into his skull. He hated when girls cried, especially over boy problems. But doubly when said boys causing boy problems were utter idiots.
“That,” he started, unsure how to word his thoughts. There was a dichotomy going on between anger and compassion and the brunette didn’t know which side was winning. “That is a really jerkface move.”
She didn’t know why, but just hearing the words that were floating around in her head being said by the expert trainer and former researcher Gary Oak brought laughter to her lips. Although unexpected, Gary gave a smirk and chortled along with her, keeping the atmosphere light.
“Yeah, but the worst part is, I can’t even hate the girl.” Truth be told, Misty really liked the girl that was now together with her best friend. Her name was Mari and she was, by far, the most gentle caring human being the Cerulean Gym leader had ever met.
“Mari? That girl who talks to Pokemon? The one with the Pikachu?” At the redhead’s subtle nod, Gary let out a low whistle. “Well, in that case Red, I can say I’m not surprised. That’s a real catch, that one.” A smirk that was displaced by a heavy blow to the male’s stomach a moment later left Misty was genuinely amused instead of emotionless. Her pain, however omnipresent, was pushed slightly away.
“Yeah, I know,” her words tapered off, muffled into the fabric of his dirty cape. Mari was definitely a special girl. The aqua eyed girl could see her charm: she was kind and sweet--- not the superficial sort, but actually well meaning. She was dedicated and strong spirited, just like Ash. Plus, she wasn’t afraid to stick with an impossible goal, no matter the consequences. And then there was her cute blonde ponytail and those large gray eyes that gave you feeling that anything was achievable. . .
Gary, without visual confirmation from the ginger haired girl, could hear the defeated tone that laced his companion’s voice. She was upset, not only about losing Ash, Arceus knows why, but to a girl who wasn’t hate worthy.
“For the record, Red,” he said masking his voice in a resigned manner, “I think you’re better than that Mari chick. All your skills are earned through hard work, not innate ability. If I were Ketchum, you’d be my first pick.” And for once, Gary didn’t feel like he was saying a compliment just for the sake of giving out a compliment. Misty was a competent, strong and very skilled girl; she had one of the best records for holding off trainers from receiving their gym badges, right behind himself and Sabrina.
And even though he’d never taken the time to look at his fellow gym leader in a romantic manner, he couldn’t deny her cuteness. Her bright hair color and vivid eyes, paired with her athletic build and slight height boost compared to other girls left her a picture of perfection. Ash really was an idiot to pass up Misty Waterflower. And one day, he would certainly regret it.
“Thanks Gary.” The redhead didn’t know why he was being so gracious, but she definitely was happy that at least one person took her into account. Maybe it was a show of trust between two people who hadn’t had much in common, but Misty was happy that he ran into her nonetheless. “Really.” It wasn’t the coldest of springs, after all.
“Don’t worry about it.” There was no use in crying about Ash, he clearly didn’t deserve the tears being wasted on him. Gary was going to make a vow never to let the cerulean eyed girl face such terrible pain again on the account of that loser. Yet, he had to stop and consider the gym leader squeezed against him. Did she need his protection? And was it his place, unfamiliar and freshly acquainted, to be her protector?
“So do you . . . do you still love him?” He could see the lights in the distance that signaled a town, his town, but he slowed his pace because he didn’t want to end this conversation unanswered. Before Gary Oak went to sleep this night, he wanted to make sure she wasn’t going to secretly break down in the wee hours of the morning.
“Yeah, I think I always will. There will never be another Ash for me.” But it wasn’t warm either. As she said this though, the frozen bits of her heart began to thaw. She may not have her best friend as the love of her life, but she still had friends to lean on and support her heartbreak. That was all she could hope for as the pair passed the last threshold of trees into Viridian’s quiet suburbs.
“Never say never, Red.” The tall brunette squeezed her shoulders softly, reminding her of a phrase his grandfather often said to all his new trainers. “You might just be surprised.”