The sun shone down brightly, casting light over the three people standing at the dock in New Bark Town. A ferry glinted in the distance, and all three peoples’ eyes were on it. They were a mother and her two children, a sixteen-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son. The mother grasped her son’s hand firmly, her eyes watching the ferry with growing dread. She had raven-colored hair that tumbled in soft ringlets down her shoulders. Her lips were plump and red, and her skin was fair. She was beautiful, but her age showed in the lines around her eyes and mouth, made as much from worrying as they were from laughing. The son had dark hair as well, and he also watched the ferry with a bit of dread. He would miss his sister.
The sister in question stood as far up as possible on the dock without falling off the edge. Both her hands gripped the straps of her backpack tightly, and her blue cap shaded her eyes from the sun as she eagerly watched for the ferry. She wore dark khaki shorts and a blue T-shirt with a Poké Ball printed across her chest. Her hair was just as dark as her mother’s, but the ends bobbed around her chin as she stood on tiptoe and shifted her weight to see the ferry.
“Belle,” the mother called. “Could you please come back here with us?”
“Aw, Mom!” But Belle turned and dutifully walked back to stand with her mother and little brother.
The boy said nothing. He didn’t even complain that he was being made to hold his mother’s hand, or that she was squeezing too tight. He didn’t trust himself to talk; he was blinking back tears already. His sister was leaving on her Pokémon Journey…what was he to do?
“It’s getting closer!” Belle said excitedly, turning to look at the ferry again. She bounced on the balls of her feet, making her newly-shortened hair wiggle.
“I don’t know why you had to cut your hair,” Belle’s mother said sadly, reaching out to touch the back of her daughter’s bouncing head. Belle jerked away quickly.
“You can’t have long hair on a Pokémon Journey, Mom.” Her tone was dismissive. She glanced down at her little brother, who had finally torn his eyes away from the quickly-approaching ferry and was staring instead at his feet. “Hey, Derek. You okay?”
He looked up at her and met her eyes. Just like always, it startled Belle to look at them—they were the same crisp blue color as their father’s. Belle had gotten her mother’s dark brown eyes. He was like a little piece of her father, who had died in the Sinnoh region not long after Derek was born. Derek had never met him.
“Couldn’t you start your journey in Johto?” Belle’s mother asked, not giving Derek enough time to answer his sister.
“No. I wanted to start in Kanto because…well…Dad started there.” She lowered her eyes to Derek’s again, but he was looking at the ground. A strange silence descended upon the trio, broken a few minutes later by the loud bleat of the ferry’s horn.
“Sweet!” Belle cried, punching the air as she turned to look at the ferry, but her arm slowly lowered as she took it in.
From far away it had looked gleaming white, but up close it seemed dingy, almost gray. The name on the side was illegible. A tired-looking man came out and tied the boat off before standing awkwardly at the back of the ferry, looking in their direction. It bobbed in the water, which now looked more gray than blue—was the boat polluting it? Belle bit her lip and turned back to her family, forcing a smile. She didn’t have to try too hard; even though the boat looked bad, she was about to embark on her Pokémon Journey!
“Well, Mom…this is it. This is good-bye for right now.”
Belle’s mother tore her eyes away from the ferry. “Are you sure you want to ride this…thing? We can pay for a Lapras ride, it’s—”
“The ferry’s already here, Mom. I’ll be fine.”
She sighed heavily and nodded. “As you wish, dear. Just…be careful.” She reached out and hugged Belle tightly, closing her eyes. Belle allowed herself a small snuggle before breaking the hug.
“Derek,” she said, getting down on her knee. “Can I have a hug from you, too?”
Derek plunged his hand into his pocket and pulled something out, which he thrust at her and looked away. Belle took it from him and he put his arm down by his side as she inspected it. It was a small plastic Charizard toy, poised with its wings open and head thrown toward the air as if it were roaring loudly. The paint was chipped in some places from being played with too much. “Your Charizard figurine, Derek?”
“I want you to have it,” he mumbled, the first words he’d spoken all day. “So you won’t forget me.”
Belle almost burst into tears. Charizard was his favorite Pokémon, and this had been his favorite toy. She hadn’t been allowed to touch it until now. “I could never forget you, Derek.”
He fidgeted. “Just in case.”
“I’ll keep it with me always,” Belle assured him, tucking the toy away in a pocket of her backpack. She reached out and pulled him toward her, hugging him. He returned the embrace, and she allowed a few tears to slip onto her little brother’s back. She had tried to be a companion to him. There weren’t a lot of little boys in Cherrygrove, and she had tried so hard to be interested in boyish things with him. She would miss him very much.
Belle finally stood, discreetly brushing away some tears. “Okay…I love you both.” She turned and went to the ferry. The tired man reached out and helped her onto the boat before untying it from the dock and going in the cabin to inform the captain. Belle gripped the rail with one hand and waved with the other. Clouds began to roll in as the boat pulled away, covering the sun as she got further and further away from the dock. Her mother and little brother were reduced to colored specks in the distance before it finally started to rain.
This was not the way she had planned to begin her Pokémon Journey.
I’m writing to you from the ferry that’s taking me to Kanto. My journey didn’t really get off to a good start. I expected to be standing on the deck of a boat, enjoying a gentle breeze and some sunshine while I talked to other budding Pokémon Trainers, not sitting alone in the rain under a smelly poncho that I borrowed from the not-so-boyish cabin boy. I guess I found out why that ticket I bought was so cheap.
Anyway, hope you’re having more luck starting out than I am!