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Old July 23rd, 2006, 05:03 PM
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Saffire Persian
Feline of Light and Shadow
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Utah
Age: 26
Gender: Female
Nature: Adamant
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Shadeslayer:
Quote:
Is this Pokemon-related? Or does it not have to be?
Umm.. if you read far enough in it, you would notice that it's definitely Pokémon related.

Katiekitten: Ooh, Thanks.

A/n:

And as an off note, only about three more chapters left for the Childhood stage. (Changing Circumstances was one, Perceptions is number two).

+Changing Perceptions Pt. II+

They say, Wishes are false, silly things, best left to the little children.
They say, Let them wish, let them dream while they can.
But it is they who have lost the dream.
Because, sometimes, wishes do come true...
All it takes is one single change of perception…


When six o’clock finally comes around, you can do little to contain your rising excitement. You barely even sit still. Ian is obviously excited too, turning about in tight circles beside you on your bed. Sometimes, he even jumps up and down for no apparent reason. He’s just happy because you’re happy, you suppose.

You grin. The attitude has been rather infectious – it’s been going around all day.

You continue to watch the sidewalk from your bedroom window, glancing at the clock once every ten seconds to check on the time. You can’t wait! There’s going to be cake, there’s going to be ice cream, there’s going to be games, you’re going to be surrounded by family…

AND there’s going to be PRESENTS!

You snap to the clock and back. 6:05… what’s taking them so long?

Then, right on cue, you see them.

You know it’s them, even if they’re little but tiny black figures in the distance. As they come closer up the street, you can easily make out Uncle Todd and Aunt Irene. Stella’s riding on Uncle Todd’s shoulders, talking animatedly with her dad, while Diane is walking just behind her parents, hands in her jean pockets. Both sisters are clad in tye-dye t-shirts. They made them the other day – at least, that was what Stella had told you over the phone.

Hardly able to restrain your excitement, you jump off the bed, startling Ian so much he accidentally dashes straight into your bed’s headboard. He’s used to running into things by now, though, so you know he’s okay. You wave a good-bye, as you know everyone is going to arrive at the front door soon, and you want to be the one to answer the door. Your pace quickens into a run, you’re almost out of your bedroom --

“Capri?”

You stop. Ian’s following you, looking as happy and excited as you do. When you stop, he runs in circles around your feet. He even starts to squeal when the doorbell rings. You’re unable to look him in the eyes, diverting your attention to a picture on the wall. A leaden feeling is creeping into your stomach while the feelings of euphoria is ebbing away. You can’t help but feel immensely guilty. You know it’s not your fault, you’re doing what your mom and dad told you to do, but… it feels wrong, and it hurts, almost – like you’ve fallen out of that oak tree again.

“You can’t come… sorry.”

“… Pri?...”

He’s standing just at your feet now, looking up at you with those big, black eyes. He’s confused, and he takes a few steps backward.

“I said you can’t come to the party... I’m sorry, but you heard what Dad said.”

You walk out of your door, only to stop again as Ian still insists on following you. “I said stay!” Your voice takes on a hard, firm tone. You feel like hitting yourself for using such a tone, but you have to get the message acrossed. “You have to stay! Mom’s scared of you, so she won’t let you come.” Ian’s head lowers, a small, melancholy squeak coming out of his tiny body. You lower your voice, and you try and put on a smile for him. “I said I’m sorry, but I’ll be up tonight and tell you all about it, okay? The TV’s on, so you can watch Poké Rangers all you want.”

Ian still looks said, like a baby Growlithe who’s just been abandoned and left out in the rain. You tell him you’re sorry again, before closing the door to your room. The sound seems to echo. You can’t take the chance for him coming down, or your Mom will have a fit, so you had to close the door.

You can hear familiar voices coming from the kitchen as you slowly go down the stairway.

But even as you go, you can’t help but wonder if Ian is still staring forlornly at the door.

+++++

When you arrive downstairs, you find your Mom and Aunt Irene talking in the kitchen, as they prepare the finishing touches for the birthday dinner. Your Mother’s doing most of the talking, chattering away like she always does. Dad always says that she’s the only person he knows of who could hold a normal conversation even if she was stuck in a room with only herself and a mirror. And with Aunt Irene as quiet as she is, it’s about the same thing. How Aunt Irene turned out to be Stella’s mother, you can’t understand.

You haven’t been around her much, she’s always watching you and Stella play from the kitchen window when you go over. She hardly talks, though from what Stella tells you, she’s pretty strict. She looks nothing like Stella or Diane either, and if you weren’t as familiar with her as you are, you might’ve found her a bit scary, since she’s pretty pale and all, and seems to be tired all the time. Even so, you think she’s pretty nice.

You survey the brightly decorated kitchen, a smile finally beginning to replace your frown. Everything imaginable has been adorned with some kind of birthday décor, not a single wall has been left untouched. Streamers of assorted colors run down from every corner of the room, and on the counter you can see the chocolate cake. You want to eat that right now, but you know that you have to wait until after dinner.

Uncle Todd, and everybody else are in the other room next to the dining room, and you move quickly to join them, walking through the dining room to the living room where everyone else is. You can already hear Stella and your Uncle – they have such loud voices it’s not hard to notice, and you think you can see Diane talking with your dad.

Uncle Todd notices you at once, slapping your shoulder with his hand, stopping you from proceeding further. “How’s the birthday been, kid? Had a good day?”

You nod, while Stella shifts slightly, looking down at you from her perch. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

“That’s right. Nine years old, can you believe it? You’re getting so big. Why, you’ll be taller than Stella soon. You’d like that now, wouldn’t you?”

That idea of finally being taller than Stella brings a wishful grin to your face; you’ve always been shorter than Stella. Stella’s countenance, however, is just the opposite: hers is inviting storm clouds. Scowling at her father from atop his shoulders, she wriggles, and slides off his back. With a determined face, she marches up to you, staring you straight in the eyes. You have the urge to back up, just in case she decides to give you her usual “birthday bop” on the head.

“You’re not taller than me,” she says shrewdly, measuring your respective heights with her hand. “See, you’re this high” – she makes a gesture with her hand. Apparently, the top of your head doesn’t even meet her chin. “--I’m THIS high –”

“So what?” Diana voices from her corner, deviating from her conversation with your dad. “No matter how tall you are, you’ll always be a brat.”

Stella’s head snaps around, and you back away. She huffs, puffing up like she usually does. “Not listening!”

“Liar.”

Stella then grabs your wrist and proceeds to drag you into the adjoining room. “NOT LISTENING!” She only lets go of you upon entering. You give her an odd look, spotting your presents resting on the chair just a few feet in front of you. You’re quite satisfied with the number you’ve received this year, it looks like you’re getting a few more than last year. As with every child, you want to open them, but unlike most, you don’t run to tear them open. After all, you’ve waited a year for your birthday, so a few more hours won’t hurt. You can wait.

Stella, apparently, cannot.

“Come help me see what your presents are!” Stella’s already standing next to the chair, taking one of the longer presents in her hands, bringing it to her ear, and shaking it.

“You’re not supposed to do that,” you hiss, making a movement to snatch your present away from her. “It’s supposed to be a surprise. You don’t ruin surprises, stu –“

The present Stella was holding is thrown into your awaiting arms, almost hitting your face. Stella seems to have disregarded all that you’ve said and merely announces: “Clothes!”

You have only just enough time to catch another, smaller package as Stella wantonly throws it over her shoulder (after predicting it to be a pack of legos). If you didn’t have your hands full, you would’ve fled to the other room, stopping your ears to keep from being spoiled. You don’t like to try and find out what your birthday presents are – after that time you did it at Christmas, you never wanted to be un-surprised again.

After all, it makes opening presents incredibly boring.

“Stop it!” you tell her again. “I’ll find out what they are later… don’t tell me.”

“I didn’t say I was right or anything,” she answers, shaking another gift-wrapped box. “I just said I was guessing. You can still guess after you’ve guessed. This way, you’ll know what to open first. I’m doing you a favor!”

Her logic completely fails you, and only the idea that there may be something breakable in the boxes keeps you in the same room with her, haphazardly catching them as Stella tosses them aside. You try to tune out her shouts, focusing your attention on the conversation going on in the other room.

“---I’ve heard from my daughter here that you have a new guest in your house.”

Guest? You barely have time to dodge a pair of pokéball print socks.

“You must mean Ian,” you hear your father answer. “He’s a temporary guest… I suppose you could say.”

Temporary… that word alone tastes like ash in your mouth.

“Where is the little hero – I want to shake his hand…er…pat his head… or whatever you do with those things, and congratulate him from getting away from your wife without a scratch. I thought he’d be with your son – heard they’re rather attached…”

“Ian’s upstairs,” your dad tells him. “Claire wouldn’t let [spoil] Shawn [/spoil] bring him to the party.”

“Same old Claire – no heart at all. It’s her son’s birthday, and she can’t even allow him to bring his first Pokémon to the party.”

There’s a pause. Then Diane speaks up. “Aunt Claire probably wouldn’t have a heart if he brought Ian to the table, Dad. She’d probably have a heart attack or something …”

“Which leads me to my next question,” Uncle Todd says, his voice rising in volume. “How did you get away with it?”

“Get away with what?”

“You know what I’m talking about, stop trying to play stupid. It may have worked when we were kids, but not now. Oh, come on. Fine, we’ll start small. How about how you managed to convince your wife to let the Mewforsaken thing stay? I find that to be a miracle in itself.”

“I told her it’d be a good learning experience.”

“‘A good learning experience?’” A loud, barking laugh. “For whom? Your kid or your wife?”

“Both,” your dad says, and you can hear sounds of movement. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll help Claire bring the food in. I trust you can entertain yourself.”

You think you can hear Uncle Todd mumbling something under his breath as your dad’s footsteps fade away. You quickly turn around just in case somebody decides to come your way. You don’t want it to look like you were eavesdropping or anything like that. You happen to turn around just in time to spot an object flying through the air, directly at your face.

You don’t, however, have time to block it.

“You’re supposed to catch it!” Stella’s shouts as you sink to the floor, rubbing your face where the… --You look -- … book hit you. You let the presents you were holding fall onto the tan carpet. Your eyes are watering from the stinging pain, though you’re determined not to cry. Getting hit by a book – your birthday present no less – was not what you had in mind. Stella, meanwhile, continues to go rifle your presents as though nothing had happened.

You pick up the book (labled The Pessimistic Poochyena), as the pain began to fade a little. You, eye it almost vindictively, before an idea pops into your head. Normally, you’re not supposed to hit girls… but you can do pretty much whatever you want on your birthday, right? With her back turned, she’ll never see you coming. It’ll teach her not to rifle through your stuff.

You throw the book at the exact moment Uncle Todd decides to enter into the room. It takes you a moment to realize Uncle Todd is standing there, and when you do, you can’t help but look up at him sheepishly, a fake grin on your face.

The book continues its course through the air, and you wait for the impact, but it never comes. The book misses Stella by a hairs-width, hitting a chair instead. You don’t understand how she managed to dodge it with her back turned, and you refuse to admit that maybe it was because you can’t aim right. You scowl. You can tell she’s mocking you even if she doesn’t say anything verbally.

Uncle Todd is shaking his head, while Diane, no doubt drawn by the commotion, also comes into the room. “Hitting on my daughter already, are you?”

You blink. “Stella hits me all the time.”

“Dad…” Diane’s tone is rather annoyed, and you have the distinct feeling she gets something you don’t. But by instinct, you know not to ask. It’s probably some ‘teenager’ thing, as your Dad puts it. “They’re cousins.

“It happened all over the place in Medieval times, you know.”

Diane’s rolls her eyes, before running a hand through her blonde hair. “You’re are so going to corrupt their innocent little minds.”

“They’re eight and nine years old,” your uncle retorts with a shrug. “I’m corrupting no one. They don’t understand a thing.”

You continue to rub your nose, quite oblivious to what’s going on, until your uncle calls your name, and you look up.

“So, kid, how’s your Dad been?”

“Good,” you say, eying Stella, whose pace has slowed a bit. She seems stuck on a package with red wrapping paper. Your eyes narrow, and you can’t help but wonder why Uncle Todd has stopped her from opening your presents yet. But then again, he never has.

Uncle Todd’s frowning. You don’t think you gave him the answer he wanted.

“Okay... I’ll try to make things simple. Has your Dad been sleeping well lately?”

You give him a rather odd look.

“So…” Diane’s leaning against the wall now. “…because you can’t get what you want out of Uncle Will, you’re going to interrogate his kid?”

He turns to face Diane for only a brief moment. ““I’m not interrogating the kid, Diane. I’m merely extracting useful information for later use.” He sinks to knees. You’re now eye-to-eye. So… how about it? Where has he been sleeping lately? The couch, I suspect...”

You bristle. “Dad’s not in trouble!” you say hotly, knowing very well what the ‘c’ word means. Todd’s already trying to rectify his words, but you don’t let him get a word in. “Mom didn’t make him do that or anything! She just made him sleep outside the door beca –“

“AHA! I knew it!”

Uncle Todd stands up rather abruptly, an odd gleam entering his sharp eyes. You scowl, because he cut you off, and you’re not supposed to do that. Dad’s not in trouble! Sure, your mom has yelled at him, but he hasn’t been in big, big trouble like you’ve seen him get into before. “He was guarding the door for mom!” you tell Uncle Todd, face flushing with irritation. “He was protecting her!”

Uncle Todd’s laughing. It makes you rather angry. “Protecting her? From what?”

“Bed bugs,” you say firmly, making sure not to break eye contact.

“Ahuh.” You can tell he doesn’t believe you, but it’s true. “More like he was trying to salvage what remained of his manly pride after Claire kicked him out. Ha! I knew there was more to it. There was now way he could get away with siding with you over that Caterpie, no matter what excuse. What will he say to me now, eh? Learning experience… just wait ‘till Claire hears that.”

Immediately, Todd disappears out of the room, looking like a Persian who has just found a nest of baby Rattata. Diane, who was shaking her head the entire time, is quick on her father’s heels. Already, you can hear Uncle Todd yelling something from the kitchen, which are followed by some very loud exclamations from your mother. She sounds mad.

You hope that wasn’t the sound of breaking dishes.

If it is, you won’t be eating any time soon.

“What’s ‘manly pride?’” you ask, as Stella crawls across the gift-strewn carpet, finished with her investigations.

She shrugs. “I dunno.” Her head peeks around the corner. You don’t want to look. “But it must be important, ‘cause I think they’re fighting over it right now.”

+++++

The birthday cake is lit – all nine candles are burning brightly just in front of you while the familiar happy birthday tune echoes around your ears. You’re happy, yet embarrassed the same time. You can’t help but flush a light shade of red as the song continues (with Stella singing her own, orthodox tune.) Dinner was wonderful, and though your mom and uncle seemed a little flustered, everything went along fine.

You wait until the song reaches its second (and last) verse, before taking a deep breath – you intend to blow out every single candle in one shot, before Stella can even have the idea of stealing your wish away from you. You have a very special wish in mind this time, and you don’t want Stella to have it.

The song ends, you close your eyes, and blow.

All nine candles flicker dimly in the darkened room before snuffing out.

Everyone applauds. Even Stella.

“What did you wish for?” she whispers from where she’s sitting beside you, a pink party hat on top of her head.

“Not telling.” She begins to protest. “I can’t tell you or the wish won’t come true.”

Stella seems to accept this, nodding sagely.

It’s your wish after all.

It’ll be a secret. Your secret.

Already, you can hear your dad beginning the usual birthday tradition of wishes. Whenever it’s someone’s birthday, everyone else has to make a wish for that person. You don’t think these wishes come true all the time, but you’re quite sure some of them do.

“I – I mean your mother and I,” your dad begins, after being elbowed by your mother. “Wish you many more happy birthday and we wish you all the happiness in the world, and we hope your life will be a very satisfying one, and you’ll become the person you want to be. And even when you’re a teenager, I hope you never forget that we care about you very much.”

It’s fast getting mushy and sentimental, but luckily, Diane’s up next, as the circle goes clockwise. Her eyes are half-closed in thought, and Aunt Irene looks a bit nervous. Diane rests her chin on her hands, looking deeply contemplative, before saying in her usual, monotone voice: “I wish you… infinite social wisdom.”

“Your wish sucks!” Stella yells, her small face looking very much indignant. “You can’t do anything with that! It’s a stupid wish.”

“I don’t suppose you can do any better.”

“Yeah I can!” Stella retorted, her face scrunching up in thought. She then turns to you, her face bright with sudden enlightenment, while her smile is wide. You cringe. That look of hers is never good. “I wish many more happy birthdays and a new baby sister!”

Your mother begins to choke on her drink, breaking into a fit of loud coughs, while Todd erupts into his usual barking laughter. You blink, wrinkling your nose as you contemplate the wish – do you really want a baby sister? Aunt Irene looks mortified as your father, meanwhile, continues to pat your mother on the back as she continues to cough.

“You know,” he says, “I’ve always wanted a daughter.”

That only makes your Mother cough harder, and she’s turning a very bright red. Is she all right?

“You do?!” Stella’s grin multiplies a hundred-fold. “Then I wish you twin sisters, or even triplets, or quadruplets or quintu – ta –“

“Quintuplets,” Uncle Todd says through a laugh.

“Quintuplets, yeah!”

“Some wish.” Diane snorts. “I wished for the same thing eight years ago, and look at what happened.” Not bothering to stop, Diane continues on, her expression not having changed an inch. “Besides, I don’t think that’s very realistic, Stel. Quintuplets don’t just come around every day.”

Stella cocks her head, looking confused. She then glances over to her father. “But Daddy says babies are easy to ma –“

Immediately, Stella’s comment is cut off as Diane’s hand closes over Stella’s mouth, muffling whatever Stella said into an inaudible rumble.. “Whoa, slow down, Sis. You’re going wayyyy too far down the in the deep, dark tunnels of adulthood.” Stella’s fast turning red in the face, looking extremely furious. “Besides, they can’t actually choose whether they get a bunch of little girls, what happens if they’re all boys, eh, Stel?”

Though the question was aimed at Stella, your father answers anyway. “Well, then we’d have our own little baseball team, wouldn’t we, Claire?”

Your mother finally stops choking on her drink enough to hiss out a quick reply between her teeth. She’s absolutely glaring at your father, while her fist makes impact with the wood table. The glasses shudder. “We. Do. Not. Discuss. Family. Planning. At. The. Dinner. Table.”

Your mother's comment is followed by a yelp of pain from Diane, as Stella finally frees herself of her sister’s grip, looking triumphant. Diane’s rubbing her hand, a murderous glint making its way into her eyes. “You little brat, bite me will you –“

“Stella, you don’t bite your sister.”

“SHE started it –“

“AND I’LL FINISH IT, TOO!”

“Both of you, quite acting like –“

“Eight-year-olds?” Diana mutters under her breath while Stella sticks out her tongue.

“You taste bad ‘N-e-way.”

“Both of you,” Aunt Irene hisses. “Stop it this instant.”

“Let them fight, it builds the sisterly relationship. Will and I fought all the time, and it did us good in the long run.”

Just then as luck (or misfortune) would have it, you birthday party is interrupted by a startling crack. A figure appears in a bright flash of bright light – so bright in blinds you for a few moments. As you blink away the white haze in front of your eyelids, you realize that a very odd, humanoid creature is standing – no floating – before you. It’s a Kirlia, with a definite, gaunt look upon its features. All talk has quieted, and both Diane and Stella are wearing identical scowls.

Lavender’s come to take Daddy away again,” Stella says to you under her breath, as she glares daggers at the Kirlia. “It’s not fair at all.”

You think you’ve seen this Kirlia around once or twice, but never this close. And, judging by its extremely cold gaze, you’re kind of glad you don’t. You immediately try to clear all thought as its stony gaze drifts towards yours – as you are quite sure that it can read your mind, but it soon turns away as Uncle Todd captures its attention.

“What do you want, Lavie?” he says, an apparent strain in his voice. “And at this time of night. I told you I had other engagements tonight. Didn’t you pass that on?”

Forgive me for disturbing this…. Family event. The telepathic communication seems to resonate through the air. Lavie sounds anything but sorry – it has a mean voice. Blank and mechanical almost. But it is of great importance. We need you now… there is… some trouble.

“Trouble? Bah – Matt’s gone a dug a big pit for himself, hasn’t he?”

The Kirlia doesn’t answer, or even if it does, you can’t hear it.

“I knew it! If I told him once, I’ve told him a thousand times…. He just doesn’t listen to a single word of what I tell him. He got into some sort of fight did he?”

I will give you the details as we Teleport to Cinnabar Island. What needs to be said cannot be discussed here… amongst your mate and family. It is urgent, and we need you now. You’re the only one who can solve this.

“It has to be now?”

Now, the Kirlia replies, with a tone of finality.

You continue to watch as your Uncle sighs and stands up, not looking happy at all. He looks rather angry, in fact, and you’ve never seen your Uncle Todd angry; he usually laughs things off with his booming voice. Aunt Irene mutters something that you can’t hear to your Uncle, looking surprisingly stern and angry, too. You can’t help but notice Stella’s crestfallen expression.

“Stupid Lavender gets to spend more time with Daddy than I do.”

“Stel –” you begin, unsure of what to say, but she starts to speak again.

“Daddy –“

“I’m sorry, Princess, but I have to go.”

“But you promised! You said you’d come to [spoil]Shawn’s [/spoil] birthday party with us. You can’t let mean old Lavender –“ At this, the Kirlia’s eyes flash. “--take you away.”

“Politics wait for no one, I’ve told you that. It’s a mean old dragon with fangs and claws.” The darkening frown turns into a smirk. “And Daddy’s got to teach a certain stupid knight not to pick a fight with the dragon if he can’t handle it.”

You’re coming, then?

“Of course I am.”

Good.

“Just give me a few moments, all right,” Uncle Todd says, waving a hand as Lavie began to glow a light violet. You guess that was the beginning of a teleport. “Okay, Stella?”

“I guess,” Stella says glumly.

“Diane?”

“Do whatever. ‘S not any of my business what you do.”

“Irene?”

A sigh.

Uncle Todd turns to you, looking sincerely apologetic. “Listen, bud, I’ll make it up to you – both you and Stella. I’ll tell you what, I’ll take you both out for ice cream tomorrow. My treat. We’ll go to the park afterwards or something.” You nod. You don’t really feel mad or angry, at Uncle Todd for not being able to stay for all of your birthday. You know work’s important; Dad’s stressed that to you over and over again, though he’s still around all the time.

Uncle Todd walks out of the dining room, Lavie hovering above him. He begins to glow violet and a nonexistent wind picks up. You watch the whole ordeal in amazement. You’ve never seen a real teleportation before – it’s kind of cool. “Claire, Will, my apologies. I had no idea –“

Your father shakes his head, only once. “You never do, Todd. Good luck, and do give my regards to Matt.”

“Oh, I intend to –“ your Uncle replies with a foxish grin. “I’m going to wring his little neck once I get all this sorted out.” He’s almost totally gone, now only a figure of pure white. “Oh, and Irene, make our wish good.”

And with that, he’s gone.

“Stupid Lavender,” Stella says again out of the now, newfound silence.

“You know…” Diane smirks. “Lavie probably wouldn’t hate you so much if you didn’t stop calling him a girl with that nickname of yours. Look what he did to your chair –“

Curious, you look to where Diane’s pointing, noticing a very apparent crack laced across the chair’s legs. You blink. That definitely wasn’t there before.

Stella scowls. “You call him that, too.”

“Yes, but not when he can hear me. That’s the difference, Sis.” Diane then ruffles Stella’s hair, much to her chagrin. “It’s called tact. You do not have it. ”

“I do, too!”

“Who’s Matt?” you hear your mom ask over Stella’s exclamation. You’re curious as to who Matt was too, so you listen. Even Stella and Diane go quiet.

“An acquaintance. He was in many of my classes during school – he was the same age as I was. I hung out with him once or twice – Todd was always with me. I wouldn’t call him a friend of ours by any means. He was… an odd boy all through school.”

“Odd?” Your mother cocks her head. “A class clown?”

“No…” Your father says carefully, taking a very long sip of his fruit punch. “More like the school’s idiot.”

“Oh.”

“Lets just say he’s the kind of person who, after kidnapping a baby Kangaskhan, would expect to have a nice, civil conversation with its mother.”

“See, he’s stupid,” Stella says with a ‘humph.’ “Dunno why Daddy has to help stupid people.”

“That’s just your father,” Aunt Irene says, finally breaking her silence with a sigh. “Always your father.”

All goes quiet again, and Stella’s frown is more pronounced than ever. You feel tense, and you know this is not the atmosphere you had in mind. Birthday parties are supposed to be happy and loud. You gaze in Aunt Irene’s direction. You suppose that maybe you don’t need Aunt Irene’s wish – she probably needs it more than you do. So, you’ll skip it this year.

“Can I open presents now?!” you say, making sure to do it loudly. The tension immediately shatters as Stella perks up. She’s looking almost like her old self now.

“Me first, me first!” she exclaims, getting out of her chair and running with sudden gusto over to where your present stash is situated, grabbing a small, but long box wrapped in apparently tie-dye wrapping paper. She’s absolutely beaming as she drops the present onto the table in front of you.
Diane leans back in her chair. “It’s from the both of us.”

“Yeah,” Stella admits. “But from ME especially.”

You tear open the wrapping paper quickly. Stella’s presents always tend to be on the odd side, but you’re looking forward to opening it all the same. Discarding the pink wrapping paper, you pull of the top of the box, peeking at what’s inside.

Your eyes widen.

It’s a shirt.

It’s a TYE-DYE shirt.

And it’s PINK. Hot Pink. Only a little bit of yellow mixed in with it.

“I’m not a girl!” you exclaim hotly, noticing another object amongst the shirt. It’s a necklace – granted, this one doesn’t look too girly, being a dark green, with a little bit of blue and all. A butterfly symbol is on it.

“I know you’re not a girl, silly,” Stella says, grinning fit to burst. “You like it?”

“It’s PINK!” you hiss. “PINK is a girl’s color.”

“Tough guys wear pink, you know that, don’t you?” Diane says, grinning.

“Well…” you say, never having heard that particular expression before. You fumble, trying to find some apt retort, but end up failing miserably, repeating yourself once more. “It’s pink.”

Once school starts, you’re quite sure that if you wore it, there’d be nothing to stop the boys from making fun of you, and calling you a sissy, or something like that. The girls with their little packs would probably never stop giggling at you in that oh-so-annoying way that you just despise.

“You don’t like it?” Stella says, with a sad look that makes you feel extremely guilty.

“Well – ummm…” you mumble quickly, t-shirt, and holding it out in front of you, scrutinizing it in all its pink and yellow splendor. Your eyes move carefully over to where your Mother and Father are sitting. Your dad is merely watching the whole ordeal, while your mom, you discover, is glaring at you from across the table. It’s the ‘You better had better like it or else’ look.

You sigh. You guess the shirt isn’t that bad.

You quickly put on the shirt over your other one, not even noticing that you put it on backwards. Stella didn’t even seem to notice either, too busy digging through your present box, picking up the long, silver chain that has the butterfly pendant attached to it. She throws it over your head before you can protest.

“See? I got the butterfly necklace thing, because you have Ian now, and Ian evolves into a Butterfree. See!”

You see, but you don’t see. But Stella’s obvious enthusiasm is beginning to leak in, and you smile anyway. It’s your birthday, you should be happy, no matter what you get.

“I think it looks good on you,” your Dad says, his face completely serious. If he thought your new look was funny, he was hiding it well.

(If you knew a shred about fashion, other than what colors are ‘boy’ colors, and what other colors are ‘girl’ ones, you would’ve noticed that the pendant and shirt clashed horribly.)

“Yeah, it’s pretty!”

“Tough,” Diane corrects, before laughing, she’s clearly enjoying herself. “I can totally feel the vibes from here. Now, who’s up for some cake? I am.”

A few more birthday presents are passed your way, and you begin to tear them open with gusto.

You sure don’t feel tough, but even so, you feel special. And, you guess, that’s enough.

+++++

Eight becomes nine, and nine becomes ten, and ten becomes eleven before the party even starts to look close to being over with. The presents have all been opened, the cake eaten, with only a few more pieces left, and everyone is just now cleaning up and preparing to leave. You feel quite satisfied with your stash this year – a few toys, and even twenty dollars worth of pocket money… (Not to mention a t-shirt, socks, a book, and some legos) You’re even still wearing the tie-dye shirt and butterfly pendant.

Both you and Stella are sitting on the stair way that goes up to your room, and Stella’s pretty much having a one-way conversation with herself, as you’re not exactly listening (It’s late, and she’s not making a shred of sense). Despite all the candy you’ve had to day, you can already feel your eyelids begin to droop, and more than once you’ve had to jerk yourself into wakefulness.

In the background, the three adults and Diane are involved in a rather lively banter as the dishes get washed and dried. The sounds are getting fuzzy again, and the voices are fast becoming garbled, just like Stella’s already are. Your eyes droop, and your head begins to bob ever so slightly –

“HEYYYYYY!”

And thus, you are jolted back into awareness by Stella’s loud voice. Both of your eyes are still half shut, and you can barely concentrate enough to make eye-contact with Stella. She’s glaring at you, and you suppose you better try and listen to what she’s trying to say.

“Aren’t you listening?”

“Wha –“

“I said, ‘aren’t you listening?’”

You blink, and rub your eyes, trying to rid yourself of the drowsy feeling. You can barely concentrate. “No…”

Stella groans, her little fists clenching, and she assumes a very pouty face. “I asked if you wanna to go with me and Diane to the water park tomorrow.”

Water park?

Eh.. Huh?... Oh, wait.. Stella’s dad.. didn’t Uncle Todd say… something about ice cream.


You collect enough of your thoughts to make an at least half-intelligent, audible reply. “I thought your dad was gonna take us to get ice cream and do other stuff tomorrow.”

“Well..Umm…” Stella begins, biting her lip. You perk up a bit more, watching her stumble. She looks rather embarrassed, and rather sad, too. “Well… y’see, when Daddy says tomorrow, he usually means the day after the day after the day after tomorrow. Or even the day after that… Daddy’s funny like that. Mom says she doesn’t get it, but I do.”

“Oh,” you say softly, suddenly wishing you hadn’t pried. “Well, that sounds fun. I’ll go if Mom lets me.”

“Yeah.” Stella nods. “Oh! You can bring Ian, too. It’s a Pokémon place. I think he’s small enough that he’d float on the water, or something.”

The imagery alone makes you laugh. All you can imagine him doing is screaming. You blink, and suddenly wonder what exactly Ian is up to. You’ve kinda forgotten about him, and he looked so sad when you left your room when the party started, and, even though you don’t want to think about it, you know that today just might be your last day with him. Your smile fades into a frown.

“What’s wrong, huh?”

“Nothin’.” You shrug. “Just thinking ‘bout Ian.”

“Oh! Well you should bring him some cake, then. He’d like that… I think. You can’t just eat veg-i-ables all the time. Yucky. ” Stella’s head snaps to the left, as Diane and Aunt Irene call her. You didn’t notice, but the dishes are done and Stella’s family are waiting for her at the door. They’re leaving. You blink sleepily as Stella stands up and waves goodbye.

In another moment, they’re gone.

+++++

You decide to take Stella’s advice and sneak Ian piece of chocolate cake. You dunno if he’ll like it, as all you’ve seen him eat are green things, like Stella said. He seems content with that, but as far as you know, everyone likes chocolate, and Ian deserves a little chocolate after being left alone in your room for so long. You sigh as you stumble sleepily up the stares. You hope he’s not mad or anything.

You reach your room, and start to turn open the door handle. The lights are off, and all you can hear is the gentle rumble of the television, as well as some cartoony voices.

Balancing the paper plate precariously in one hand and opening the door with the other, you step drowsily into your room, like some sort of zombie. But all that goes away in one, single moment.

Your suddenly find that your legs are suddenly caught in something sticky. You yell, and stumble, trying to pull yourself away from the sticky substance (which you have no idea what it is). You feel frightened, and you squirm, and begin to run, but only end up tangling yourself more in the sticky threads.

It’s EVERYWHERE!

You feel yourself being thrown off balance as the stringy stuff adheres to your legs when you try to jerk yourself free. The cake falls out of your hands, smashing into the floor with you quickly following suite. You end up smashing the cake further into the floor, but you don’t notice that until a few moments later, when the pain of the fall goes away, and you’re no longer blinded by the TV’s light.

You groan, now looking at the cake squished into the carpet. Your eyes are slowly adjusting, and you notice that your room’s absolutely covered by the sticky string that made you fall. Every corner is covered by the white, thick substance; it’s sticking to the walls, the TV – even onto the fan.

It’s then you realize exactly what it is. Anger surges through you, white-hot and burning.

It’s String Shot.

Ian knows String Shot.

You grit your teeth, to try and keep yourself from crying angry, frustrated tears as you pull yourself to your feet. You know you left him alone for a while, and you felt bad about that, you really do, but that was no reason for him to get angry and String Shot your room just because of that. You don’t even care if he was jealous, he didn’t have to make your room a mess. There’s no way you can clean this up by yourself – you don’t even know if you can untangle yourself from the floor. Mom’s going to kill you when she sees this. She’s definitely not going to let you keep the Caterpie who destroyed your room, no way, no how.

Slowly, the tears begin to disappear, and your eyes glint with cold, unwavering fury.

How could he? You thought he was your friend!

And what is he doing now? He’s sleeping on his back, on YOUR bed, looking all peaceful like nothing’s wrong.

How could he! How could he!

(How dare he!)

A growl of anger erupts from your throat, and you manage to stand up, avoiding the String Shot dangling from the ceiling. You open your mouth to yell –

(You don’t care if he’s asleep. You’re going to wake him up. He’s going to feel bad for what he did.)

-- before something catches your eyes in the moonlight.

You pause your impending tirade. Just for a moment. You look up to where a big cocoon of String Shot is located. It’s strung right up across the ceiling, above your bed. They look like… letters. Droopy ones.

H

A

P

Y

B

R

T

H

A

Y

Hapy Brthay?

(Happy Birthday)

The realization hits you like a plume of Ho-oh’s Sacred Fire.

He was just trying to do something for your birthday, too.

He was just trying to make you feel special, since he couldn’t be down there with you.

The String Shot? They’re streamers. He didn’t have any to use, so he made his own.

Even though he can’t spell, he tried to anyway – but you don’t really care that he spelled it wrong. When it comes down to it, it’s the same meaning, no matter how you choose to spell it.

Every ounce of anger is gone, replaced by a strange, warm feeling deep inside your chest. It’s like happiness, but not quite. You don’t know what to call it, but you decide it doesn’t need a name.

Slowly, you manage to get yourself untangled from the String Shot, and start to carefully weave your way through the streamers to where your bed is; Ian’s still sleeping, tiny, growling sounds emerging out of his throat. His feet are wiggling.

“Sorry,” you whisper. “I smashed your cake, too. Sorry.”

Perhaps he heard you somewhere deep within his dream, maybe he didn’t. But you think he did, even as you scramble atop you’re bed, not bothering to disturb Ian just to snuggle under your covers. You have the distinct feeling that everything’s going to be okay. Your eyes close, and your breathing slows.

You’ll worry about everything tomorrow.

And with that, you drift deep into the realm of quiet sleep.

++++++

Both you and Ian had stayed up so late, that when the next morning came, you both slept. So tired were the both of you, that you and he never heard the sounds of your mother’s footsteps as she crept up the stairs. You never heard her open the door to your room, barely stifling a screech of surprise as when her foot made contact with a glob of String Shot. You didn’t see her surprised face turn red with anger as she looked about the room in horror.

(And that was probably a good thing.)

But it was a shame you didn’t get to see your Mother’s face when she noticed the banner hanging across your ceiling. You didn’t get to see her face light up with a sudden understanding, and you never got to see her smile as she softly closed the door to let you and Ian sleep the rest of the afternoon away.

No, you were too busy dreaming of cake, pink shirts, baseballs, and birthday candles. Still, you did smile a little knowing smile.

…Sometimes wishes do come true…
__________________

Battle ye not with a monster, lest ye become one.

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