Pokémon, the Pocket Monsters, and all related characters are copyrighted to Nintendo, CREATURES, GAME FREAK, TV Tokyo, Shopro, JR KIKAKU, et al. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit is being made from this story.
She was having a hard time picking the clothes up off the floor. Trying to do anything through a haze of tears and runny nose is hard, but this, she felt, was much worse. She managed to grab most of the socks and underwear and stuff them at the bottom of the suitcase. Then, she rummaged through the other drawers in the bureau that they used to share.
She was amazed and even stifled a laugh as she caught a glance of herself in the mirror: hair askew, eyes red and puffy, t-shirt soaked with sweat from her labors. Has it all really come down to this? A good portion of her life was ending; the road she traveled now wound in different directions, and she was deciding what to do next. The only option she refused to entertain was giving up.
“Mom?” A boy’s voice called out. Footsteps on the stairs. “Mom, are you in here?”
“Yes, honey,” she called out in the calmest voice she could muster. Hastily wiping her eyes, she opened the bedroom door to see her son standing there, soda in hand, Pokéball in the other hand.
“Are you going to do some training?” She asked.
He nodded. “My friend Jeff says he’ll let me use his Squirtle today. We’ll be down by the lake.” And with only the energy a nine-year-old can have, her son darted downstairs at top speed, miraculously without spilling a drop of soda or tripping over his own two feet. She nodded and sighed as she closed the door. Nine years old yesterday; only one more year before he left her as well. At least he was reliable enough to return home. The collective feelings of guilt washed over her again and she forced herself to the task at hand. Her fingers went through drawers and more clothes were placed into the suitcase, now sprawled open across her—or was it still considered their—bed.
After another hour, she finally stopped and guzzled bottled water in her kitchen. She checked the calendar to see when the hearing would take place; she’d have to go to the dry cleaners before then to get her best suit cleaned and pressed. She was grateful to whatever Deity there was watching over her that custody had not been a problem.
She glanced casually out the window and noticed a tall brunette girl walking down the street, next to her a younger man with spiky brown hair and a purple shirt. The girl was laughing at something the younger man was saying and he was smiling as well. She parted the curtains and in a second, the girl glanced up and stared her right in the eyes.
The eye contact between the two women lasted only a second or two before she lowered the curtain, seeing the look of uncertainty that passed in the girl’s eyes. That girl was the reason for everything, she thought. She was about to go back upstairs when she heard a knock at the door.
Opening it slightly she saw the girl on her front porch, her face a mask of nervousness. “Hello? What do you want?” she asked. Her voice was polite but strained.
“May I come in, please? I would like to talk to you.” The girl’s voice was soft, throaty.
She frowned. “I can only give you a few moments. I’m very busy today.”
“I know. Thank you.” The girl entered and the two sat in the living room. The clock ticked ominously as silence settled in.
“Well, talk, now that you’re here.” The woman settled back into her sofa and regarded the girl.
“Mrs. Ketchum, first, thank you for letting me in.” The girl shifted uncomfortably. “This is very hard for me, but I wanted to say that I’m sorry.”
“Sorry? Sorry for what?”
“For being born.” Those three simple words sent a jolt through Delia Ketchum.
The girl sighed and folded her hands into her lap. “If only I hadn’t been born, if I’d been aborted or something—“
“Stop right there,” Delia ordered. “I don’t believe in abortion. And you cannot control when or how or where your birth takes place. It is simply a part of life.”
“But I’ve ruined your life! And your son’s!” The girl had tears in her eyes now.
Delia wondered where her companion had gone. “My brother-Gary-thinks that I’m some sort of half-breed or something. That I don’t belong.”
“What is your name?” Delia asked. The simple query caught the girl off-guard.
“My name? My name is May Lin Oak.”
“And there you have it. You belong to the Oak family.”
“But I don’t really. You know who my father is.” May regarded Delia. Delia sighed and ran her fingers through her hair.
Pallet Town is a small seaside hamlet, a resort town if you will, in the Kanto Region. Secrets are whispered between those in the know and often carried along in the sea breezes. And on that bright sunny morning seventeen years ago when the birth of Karen Oak’s child was announced, everyone assumed that she and her husband Robert had their family off to a good start. Until everyone saw May Oak, and noticed that she had jet-black hair and dark eyes, both of which were similar traits found in a local Pokémon trainer named Jayson Ketchum.
Two and two make four. Or in this case, one plus one made one.
“May, I am telling you that it is not your fault. How could you possibly control what Jay and your mother did?”
“I don’t know.” May wiped her eyes. Delia offered her a Kleenex, which she gratefully accepted. “I just feel so bad about everything.”
“Don’t. With Jay and myself, well—“ Delia hesitated. “It’s hard for me to discuss my marriage, May, but let’s just say this was a long time coming. And you really didn’t have anything to do with it, okay?”
“But you and Jay seemed so happy—“ May stopped as Delia grimaced.
Happiness is the smile that hides the pain inside. Happiness is talking to someone on the telephone because your husband just punched you in the face and you don’t want to walk outside with a black eye. Happiness is telling yourself that you are worth something in this life, despite comments telling you that you are useless.
“We were happy once, May. I won’t deny that. And I have Ash; I can’t say that my marriage has been a total waste.” May and Delia both smiled at that. Ash adored May; she was the only baby-sitter who could get him to sleep on time.
“Does he know?”
Delia swallowed. “I don’t think so. I try—but I don’t know what to say.” May nodded.
“Maybe when he’s older. He’s so young now. All he thinks about is Pokémon.”
“Is he getting his Pokémon license next year?”
“Of course. Has Gary already gotten his?” Gary was roughly six months older than Ash. They played together well for a while, until Gary’s sudden physical and emotional growth spurt. Now all Gary wanted to do was hang around with older kids, especially girls. He called Patty Sheridan his ‘girlfriend’ but Delia surmised that he really had no idea what a girlfriend was.
“Not yet. Not that he doesn’t ask Grandpa every day if he can have one.”
Many books have been written about time travel, and time paradoxes. How one could go back in history and affect his own future, possibly making it so that he or she is never born. Delia read these type of science fiction stories with interest and a measure of wistfulness. Imagine the changes she could make. But would any of it matter? What if she didn’t have Ash? What if she never met Jay?
Then she would be someone else beside herself. And she knew that she didn’t want that.
She couldn’t control the world. But she did have a sphere of influence, however small, and this she could make into whatever she wanted. And she intended to do just that.
“May, I hate to say this, but I have to get back to cleaning up around here.” May looked around as she stood up. Delia’s house was always neat as a pin; fastidiousness was an inbred trait in the Ketchums.
“Okay, I’m sorry to have kept you.” May held out her hand awkwardly. Delia shook it and discovered May had a stronger grip than she’d expected. “I just wanted to talk to you, I guess. I’ve had some trouble thinking clearly lately.”
“Yeah, me too.”
Delia had initially succumbed to the ‘if I don’t say anything, it didn’t really happen’ line of reasoning. But that didn’t make seeing Karen, Robert, Jay, or May any easier. Especially Karen; the two had been friends since high school. Funny how things change between friends, Delia thought.
In any situation where a problem arises, many solutions may be offered. However, there is always a moment of clarity: that spark, that second, when everything falls into place and the person charged with solving the problem knows exactly what they have to do. Delia experienced this several weeks after learning of Jay’s betrayal.
“Are you going to be okay, Mrs. Ketchum? I know you don’t work or anything—“ May trailed off. Delia, the dutiful little wife. Delia, the quiet one. Delia, the mouse that roared.
“Two words, May: alimony and child support. Okay, three words.” Delia winked. “I may have to find some sort of work eventually, but for now, I’m fine.”
May seemed relieved. “I’m glad to hear that.” Delia was tempted to ask how Karen was doing but common sense prevailed. Delia decided that Karen’s friendship was a connection she could afford to break.
After May left, Delia sat in silence in the living room. All the pictures were down; the furniture re-arranged. The nesting instinct in reverse, Delia thought. When women become pregnant they often fall under the influence of their hormones and begin ‘nesting’, that is, putting their household in order for the new arrival. Cribs, bassinets, clothes, blankets arrive and are sorted and put away.
This was different. A member of the household was leaving, and Delia was removing any and all evidence that this particular member had ever lived there. She kept a few photos simply because she liked them, or because Ash was in them. She’d decided that however she felt, Ash deserved to have a heritage. And he was getting an older sister to boot, she thought.
They tried. They really did. Delia was just as stubborn as Jay on occasion, and marriage counseling had been suggested. The suggestion was taken first by Delia and then reluctantly by Jay. Three times in eleven years of marriage. Three strikes and you’re out.
Maybe someday she’d let it go. Maybe. Or not. This was one debt that Jay would have a difficult time paying off. She returned to her duties upstairs, and finished packing the suitcase. She set it downstairs in the foyer next to the other two. She’d hauled four bags of garbage and assorted junk outside today. She looked out the window to see Ash and Jeff returning from the lake. They seemed happy, and were laughing. Ash was carrying Jeff’s Weedle on his arm and the little Pokémon took delight in crawling up Ash’s arm and around the back of his shoulders and down Ash’s other arm. Delia smiled.
She showered and changed in record time. She opened the door as soon as she heard their footsteps on the wooden porch steps.
”Mom! I’m home!” Ash called out. He smiled when he saw Delia carrying a tray of cookies and placing in on the dining room table.
“Would you two like some—“ Delia stopped as her son and Jeff charged past her and into the dining room.
“Cookies! Cool! Mom’s the greatest!” She heard Ash exclaim. He inhaled three cookies before Jeff even reached the plate. Delia smiled and shook her head. Ash had completely turned her life upside-down, changing the way she looked at nearly everything. And she liked this new view.
Delia was surprised to hear a soft knocking on the door. She opened it, half expecting to see May again. Instead she came face-to-face with Jay. Delia’s breath caught in her throat. It was odd, she thought. Once the sight of Jay brought Butterfree to her stomach; now all she felt was a wave of nausea. Delia composed herself.
“Hi,” He said, his dark eyes shining. “Is dinner almost ready?”
“And I have some things for you.” Delia pointed to her feet and Jay saw the suitcases.
“What is this, Delia? What’s going on?” Jay’s eyes narrowed. He took a step forward but Delia blocked his entry.
“Get out.” Delia hissed.
“What?” was Jay’s stunned reply.
“Take your things and get out of my house. And don’t come back.”
“Me? Are you throwing me out, Delia?” Jay mocked.
“Once again your intelligence amazes me,” Delia replied. “I filed for divorce a week ago. You should have gotten the papers already.”
“I did. I was hoping we could talk it out.”
“No, Jay, we can’t.” Delia sighed. She sincerely hoped that Ash and Jeff couldn’t hear them.
“You don’t even want to try, do you?” Jay accused.
“Just tell me it isn’t true. About you and Karen, Jay. Just tell me it isn’t true.” Delia folded her arms across her chest. Jay sighed but said nothing.
“You unbelievable bastard.” Delia said, bending over to hand Jay a
suitcase. “Start loading up your car, and go. I don’t care where. Just go.”
Delia was surprised at how meekly Jay complied with her orders. She was also surprised at how easily she gave orders. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
“Delia—“ Jay started as he walked up to the porch.
“Goodbye.” Delia shut the door and locked it. She ran her fingers through her hair and only then did she notice that her hands were shaking.
“Mom? Who was that?” Ash asked.
“Never mind, Ash, I’ll tell you later.” Delia walked into the dining room. “Are there any cookies left? I need to get my strength back.”