As I left the laboratory, still reeling from the fact that I had my own Pokemon–a Cyndaquil of all things!–I didn’t even notice that Lyra was standing outside.
“Whoa!” she said, startling me and Tiko. Tiko’s flames flared up for a moment, then calmed down. Lyra giggled, and the sound of it calmed me down.
“Sorry, Gold. I guess that’s the second time I’ve caught you off guard today.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” I felt too nervous to look at her, and I’m pretty sure I was blushing. I looked instead to Tiko, who was tentatively approaching Lyra’s Marill.
“What a cute Pokemon,” Lyra said, in awe. She crouched down, distracting Tiko from Milly. Not wanting to be the one tall being in the immediate vicinity, I squatted as well.
“It’s a Cyndaquil,” I said. “Professor Elm said it’s pretty rare. I’m supposed to walk with it to Mr. Pokemon’s house and take notes.”
“She’s so cute,” Lyra squeaked.
“Tiko, this is Lyra,” I gestured. “Lyra, this is Tiko.”
Lyra reached out with a gentle hand, and Tiko sniffed at it. A second later, Tiko’s flames had died down and they were getting along. I was jealous.
“Milly,” Lyra said, “This is Tiko. Want to say hi?”
The two Pokemon inspected one another while we watched. It didn’t take long before my shy little thing was playing with Lyra’s friendly one–
Pokemon, I mean. My Pokemon was playing with hers. No euphemisms intended.
After watching the two play around, by which I mean after I awkwardly stared at Lyra trying to think of something to say, Lyra suddenly said:
“Well, I’m really glad you have your own Pokemon now. If you aren’t busy after running errands for the Professor, maybe we can have a playdate for them sometime.”
“Uh yeah,” I stammered. “That–that would be great.”
“Well you better be off on your errand. Come by my place when you get back.”
That invitation broke my brain. Lyra, girl of my dreams, had invited me over to her house. What a day, and it had barely even begun. It was the best day ever.
Floating, I set off toward Cherrygrove City, to the west, while Lyra challenged Milly to a race on the way home.
Of course, because of my mood and all of the excitement that had gone on in the past thirty minutes, thoughts of the creepy red-headed guy were scarce.
The grass was tall; it went up to my waist. Why no one had simply cut a path to Cherrygrove I will never know. I waited in front of the field for a few minutes, at least. It wasn’t until I heard Tiko yawn that I thought I should either suck up the courage to go or find an excuse to stay put.
No one was around, and I needed to talk. I didn’t realize it at the time, but just sort of… started rambling to Tiko about what I was thinking.
“I wandered off and started playing in this field once, when I was little.”
Tiko sat back on her haunches and looked up at me, then gazed out at the wall of grass ahead.
“I think I came out here to get away from Mom and her boyfriend. They must have been fighting or something, or maybe I just didn’t like seeing them together. Doesn’t matter. Actually, I might have wanted to get my own Pokemon to take home and battle with Mom’s boyfriend. He was such a jerk, always bragging about his team and how famous he was. I think he was just an alcoholic asshole, and my nine-year-old brain thought it was my job to put him in his place. Whatever the reason, I came out here and went looking for a Pokemon.”
I paused, trying to remember what exactly happened next. Tiko chirped, urging me to go on.
“A Rattata jumped out at me, probably protecting its nest or territory or whatever. Stupid me just grabbed it in an Ursa-hug, and I tried to carry it home. I guess that’s what I thought. The Rattata bit my arm and I let go, then ran home crying.”
“Mom was upset, telling me to never go in the grass. She bandaged my arm, all the while her boyfriend was telling her to stop babying me. He kept saying, ‘I was trapped in my little town because everyone said the grass was dangerous. I don’t want that to happen to Gold.’ and my Mom said I wasn’t ready, but he said, ‘I’m going to take him back out there and show him how to handle the vermin.’
“So I followed him out, a bandage on my arm and tears drying on my cheeks. He releases his Pikachu at the edge of the grass and we go in. Next thing I know, there’s a Rattata. I don’t even know if it was the same one that bit me, but it jumped out and hissed.
“‘Gold, you tell Pikachu what to do,’ he said, and I… I guess he thought that I knew what I was doing, or maybe it was some cruel trick, but I just said what I thought was the best move.
“‘Pikachu, use Thunder!’ I said, and sparks danced on his cheeks. Mom’s boyfriend took a step back and I didn’t realize that I should have as well. The sky started to flicker as electricity formed in the air above us, and then a huge bolt struck the Rattata. I was zapped as well. It wasn’t severe, but my whole body shook and I wet myself. I fell over. I started crying.”
Tiko whined, looking up at me.
“That jerk knew what would happen and he let it. What was he trying to prove? What lesson was he teaching me that he couldn’t have just said out loud? Why did he have to make fun of me for getting a residual shock from his Pikachu? Why did he keep taunting me over the years?”
I didn’t know what else to say. I was embarrassed for letting all of that out in front of a little animal that probably didn’t understand much of what I just said. She probably didn’t even care, I thought. I should just grow up and move on.
But my legs wouldn’t budge. I was rooted to the spot, unable to get the images of wild Rattata and psycho Pikachu out of my head.
Tiko bumped the back of my leg. I looked down. She was pushing me. I took a step forward and she looked up, barked out a little cheer and hopped ahead. She turned her head back, barked again, and her back burst into red flames.
I followed her into the grass.