Belle waited until after Derek had gone to bed to ask her mother. She passed by the newly-finished living room and the work-in-progress kitchen, heading down the small hallway that led to the master bedroom.
Belle could see a dull light flickering from the crack beneath the door. She hesitated for just a moment, hypnotized by the light, before raising her fist and softly hitting the door with her knuckles. There was only a moment’s pause before a calm, smooth voice spoke.
Belle knew that voice. Before she even pushed open the door, she knew her mother was meditating—and she was right. Terra’s bedroom was large, and so she had made an open space sizeable enough for her to meditate. She knelt in the center of a large, round mat, and candles sat in small trays around the circumference. Terra usually wore a kimono when she meditated, and tonight was no different—made of pure silk and brilliantly patterned with green, blue, and pink, it cascaded around her, making it impossible to make out the shape of her legs. Her long black hair was smooth and shiny, held back from her face with two combs that had delicate pink flower ornaments on them. As Belle walked in, she opened her eyes and smiled serenely.
“My daughter,” she said, raising her arms to greet her. “Come. Sit. You have come to ask me a question.”
Being from Ecruteak City, Terra was highly spiritual. Meditating often took her to what she described as a “higher plane of being”, making her sound like a wise elder of a village. Belle was used to her mother having different modes—Normal Mom and Meditating Mom.
“I have prepared tea,” Terra continued as Belle shut the door behind her. She picked up a teapot that had been sitting beside her and poured steaming tea into a small cup, which she carefully handed to Belle as she knelt on a small, square pillow. “I can see from your eyes that we have much to discuss.”
Belle nodded, taking a sip of the hot tea. “I need to ask you about something you said a few days ago.”
Terra gazed at Belle over the rim of her own cup of tea.
“Something you said…about Dad.”
Her gaze didn’t waver.
“About…a disappearing act.”
Silence. Terra appeared frozen in time; Belle would have thought her a statue if her eyes didn’t glimmer so perceptively above the cup.
“What did you mean? What disappearing act did Dad pull?”
Terra lowered the cup and set it on her tea tray. She lowered her hands to rest daintily on her lap, only her fingertips visible beyond the smooth silk of her kimono’s sleeves. Belle felt a jolt in her stomach. Terra was an amazing storyteller, especially in her meditative state.
Terra didn’t move for a few moments. Her head was bowed, her eyes were closed; she didn’t even appear to be breathing. The candles flickered; light danced across the room, warping Belle’s sense of reality as they caused Terra’s features to shift.
And then Terra’s eyes opened and locked onto Belle’s, and the story began.
We met, as you know, in Violet City, both of us on our way to Ecruteak—for me, it was a triumphant return, a chance to show my glory before moving on. And for him, it was another gym battle.
Of course, there were a few complications…we both discovered that we might not be ready to take on a Ghost-type Gym, and so we changed our minds. Instead of going straight to Ecruteak, we headed to Azalea Town to take on the Gym Leader there. Ultimately, we decided, we would end up in Ecruteak City, would we not? And Ecruteak was not even a final destination; it was simply a stepping-stone. I think that we knew of our attraction for each other, and thus decided to prolong our journey together before we had to introduce him to my family…or perhaps it was coincidence. I have no way of knowing.
So we journeyed…we laughed at our foolishness for wanting to take on the Ecruteak City Gym. After all, both of us had just started out in the Johto Region. We prided ourselves after that for not making foolhardy mistakes that would have crippled other, lesser trainers. We went through Azalea Town, and then Goldenrod City, where we stayed for quite some time. We even participated in a few Bug-Catching Contests in National Park…and then, we could delay no longer. We went to Ecruteak City.
It was nighttime when we arrived…one of my favorite times in the city. There is something so very spiritual about gazing at the form of Bell Tower in the dark. By then, there was no uncertainty about our feelings for each other; though not quite spoken aloud, we knew we were beyond the normal realm of friends. I invited him to stay the night in my home. Like a gentleman, he declined, though my mother and father had no trepidations.
We stayed for a few days…I showed him around the city, the place where I grew up. I showed him all that had been important to me as a child. I introduced him to the Gym Leader even before he battled him. I watched them have quite an engaging conversation…one of ghosts, souls, and death. For me, it was a normal subject—the question of the soul’s passage through birth, life, and death is one often asked in Ecruteak.
The night Daniel defeated the Gym Leader, I went to see him at the PokéCenter. He seemed withdrawn. I apologized to him—I had been unable to attend his battle, as he had picked the day I was to spend meditating with my family. He assured me everything was all right.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” he said, shifting a bit in his seat. “Just another gym battle, y’know?”
“How did you do against the ghosts?” I asked him, leaning forward. I was always eager to hear him talk—he was an amazing storyteller. I suppose he and I had that in common.
He shrugged. “Just another gym battle.”
I frowned. This wasn’t like him; he loved to share all the details of his exploits with me, even if I had been there in the first place. I wasn’t sure how to react. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Why?” He turned away, then, picking up the Poké Ball that I knew held Venosaur—it had a special sticker on it. It was a gold star, and it was smooth and shiny, not crinkled and faded as I am sure you remember it…by the time you were born, it was hardly recognizable. He smoothed it over with his fingers.
“You seem…distant. And you usually fiddle with Venosaur’s Poké Ball when you’re upset.”
At this, he put the Ball down and smiled at me, placing a hand on my shoulder. “I’m just tired, Terra. I need some sleep. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow, when we set off for Olivine.”
I smiled back. “Okay. I’ll come and meet you tomorrow morning.”
We shared a brief hug, and I went home. Before I went to bed, I meditated, and I observed a troubling vision—I saw Daniel’s back, walking down a path with grass and trees on either side of him. Everything else was misty and white. I called out to him, but he paid me no heed. As I watched, he opened a wooden door and entered, shutting the door behind him. I called out to him again. I ran to the door…but it had disappeared.
Uneasy, I spoke of it to my mother. She seemed concerned and advised me to go to the PokéCenter earlier than I had originally planned.
“How early?” I asked.
“Even before the sun rises,” she answered; and so I did. Though it was still dark, I packed up my things and went to the PokéCenter.
Daniel was not there.
Nurse Joy was not at the counter, and only one or two other trainers slumbered nearby. I left the Center and the town, hoping to catch him on his way to Olivine.
Fog rolled in within seconds; I sent out Amaterasu, who then was only a Flaaffy, to provide me with light as I went. As I ran, I noticed trees on either side of the path and knew that this was the path from my vision—Route 38, the way to Olivine City.
Daniel loomed out of the fog soon; I saw his retreating back. “Daniel!” I called, speeding up, but he did not hear; he turned and knocked on a door, which opened. He talked to someone for a moment before entering.
I was unable to catch him before he went through the door. The fog then became too thick for me to continue; even Amaterasu’s light was not strong enough to penetrate it. I made my way to some trees to wait out the fog…when it thinned enough for travel, I realized that I was not alone. A Heracross stood not five feet away, watching me intently. Unnerved, I stood and made my way along the path.
Moomoo Farm had been where Daniel had stopped off. I made my way there and knocked insistently upon the door—a sleepy-looking woman answered, and I inquired about Daniel. She told me that he had left almost as soon as he had arrived, that he had only stopped to buy Moomoo Milk. Irritated that I had woken her, she told me that I needed to either buy some milk myself or go. I apologized and turned to leave.
“Hey—is that your Heracross?” she demanded, stopping me. I looked over to see the Heracross from before sitting on the fence of the Miltank pasture, watching me.
“No, ma’am,” I replied.
“He’s been hanging around here, bothering the Miltank,” she told me. “You’d be doin’ me a huge favor if you caught him.”
The funny look on its face and the way it sat so brazenly on the fence, as though daring the woman to do something about it, reminded me painfully of Daniel. So, to make up for the fact that I had woken this poor woman up, I engaged it in a battle; it had obviously learned a few maneuvers on its own in the wild. It evaded many of Amaterasu’s attacks quite effectively. Throughout our battle, he seemed to be laughing and enjoying himself. In the end, he ceased battling on his own and seemed to ask me to throw a Poké Ball at him…I caught him. I named him Danny.
A month later, I caught up to Daniel in Cianwood City, training with Chuck, the Gym Leader. I was entering the gym to engage Chuck in battle; Daniel had been there for a few weeks. He admitted to getting lost among the Whirl Islands for quite some time. When I entered, he froze and stared at me. I stared back, and all at the same time I was delighted and frightened to see him. I was sure I did not look quite as he remembered…I had been training much more thoroughly, and so I had a bit of muscle now. My skin was tanned, my hair was longer, and I had discovered my love for bandanas, so I was wearing one then. Most of my Pokémon had reached their final evolutions, and I am sure he would have been surprised to see any of them—but it was Danny I had with me that day. I wasn’t going to use him in the battle against Chuck, of course…no, it was Skarmory I had been planning for that. Daniel was surprised to see the new addition to my team.
“This the girl?” Chuck asked, breaking the silence between us. He grunted appreciatively. “She seems like the type to understand, eh, Sam?”
Sam. Daniel’s middle name was Samson, and he hated that name. Why would he go by it now?
Daniel simply nodded meekly. He stared at me as though he couldn’t believe his eyes. It seemed to me as though the rest of the world melted away…I could see only him.
“Why did you leave me?” The words were out before I knew what I was saying. I felt myself trembling and I knew tears would come soon. I tried to prolong these tears’ arrival; I wished to speak coherently.
“I…discovered some things. Some things I couldn’t share with you, some things you wouldn’t understand.”
His voice…it sounded the same. I remember being shocked at the discovery. “What things would I not understand?”
“I talked to the Gym Leader for a long time after the battle,” he said. “I found out many things about life and death…Pokémon…I didn’t want to share that burden with you. I didn’t want to tell you the story I had heard, the story of the Gym Leader’s first Pokémon…dying…to think of Pokémon dying is horrible enough without forcing the knowledge on others…”
“That is ridiculous.” My voice was sharp now. “I grew up in Ecruteak City. We are deeply connected to Pokémon, to their lives, their souls. The city is full of spiritual understanding. Did you think I had not heard the story of the Gym Leader’s first Pokémon dying? He tells that story almost every year at the festival. Of course I know that Pokémon die, Daniel, did you think I was that naïve? You’ve just told me that you left me for nothing. And why didn’t you come to me? Why didn’t you tell me about your pain?”
“I didn’t want to burden you!”
“It’s not a burden, you idiot, not when you love someone! God, are you so dumb that—”
“What?” he interrupted, taking a step forward. “What did you say?”
“I said—” I froze as what I said dawned on me. Inadvertently, I had just admitted my love to him. “Nothing.”
“You said you loved me.”
“Terra.” He took a step forward, extending his hand toward me. “I didn’t realize…I didn’t know that…you felt…that way.”
“I—I just—” I felt stupid for having told him that I loved him. I didn’t want him to know that, all this time, I had been pining away for him, thinking of him every waking second and dreaming of him when I slept.
“Terra…I love you, too.” He smiled a bit sheepishly. “That’s why I…I didn’t want to burden you. I…I’m sorry for leaving. I thought I had to.”
“Well…from now on,” I blustered angrily, “share your burden, okay?” I softened a bit. “My mother always says that a large pot of water is too much for one person to carry, but when two lift together, it becomes lighter for both.”
He smiled as he took a step toward me, reaching out. “I’m so sorry. I’ll remember that.”
“And so we kissed,” Terra said calmly, a smile spreading across her face. “It was our first. And as his lips touched mine, I felt whole again…”
Belle didn’t say anything. Her cup was empty and cold in her hands. She stared at the bottom, the candlelight flickering around her. “But he didn’t really disappear,” she said finally. “You knew he was leaving.”
“But it was still quite a shock,” Terra replied. “And he did disappear…he slipped into the fog, leaving me behind.” She heaved a sigh that seemed full of a deep sorrow. “There is a reason you asked me this.”
It wasn’t a question. Belle looked up and met Terra’s penetrating gaze. “I…am my father’s daughter.”
Terra nodded in understanding. “You have pulled your own disappearing act…on Derrick.”
“No.” Belle sighed, dropping her eyes. “Actually, it’s…the same. The reason, anyway. The situation, maybe not.”
“You do not wish to disclose the story now.” Again, it wasn’t a question. Terra had a way of knowing things in this state.
“Soon,” Belle said. “But…not now. Maybe when you’re not in a meditative state. I’d rather talk to Normal Mom about this…not Infinitely Wise Mom.”
Terra let out a small, quiet laugh. “You feel more on equal ground when I do not speak as I am speaking now.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Belle smiled. “Well…good night, Mom. I’m going to bed.”
“Good night, my daughter. Think on your actions, and dream of solutions.”
Belle bent and planted a kiss on her mother’s forehead before she left the room. I truly am my father’s daughter, she thought. I couldn’t ever be as wise as Mom.
To: thompson_alyssa, dancing_through_life
Well guys, I’m not sure how long I’m staying.
I know I’m not trained up enough to beat my mom yet…her first Pokémon is a force of nature…plus I like being around Derek again…he’s really fun…it’s like being home…wonder how many of these dot-dot-dot things I can make before you guys get annoyed…
Anyway, I know the big 17 is coming up for you, Alyssa, and I’m thinking of sending you a biiiiiiig present!! Actually, I’m just going to say happy birthday, because I have no idea what to get you. xp Any ideas, Cassandra? XD
My mom just told me a big story about how Dad left her in the middle of the journey…it’s weird how familiar that story is, and how like my dad I really am. Huh.
Well, I’m super tired, so I’m gonna go to bed. I really need to get training tomorrow!