The reeds blew back in the breeze. There was a group of Lotad on the banks, sleeping. I watched them for a while. A few would accidentally slip into the lake and I always laughed when it didn’t affect them in the least. Absentmindedly, I began tapping my pencil against my sketchbook. After a minute or so of rhythmic nothing, I started trying to imitate the beat of a song my mother used to sing a lot. It was a little fuzzy, but I thought I got it pretty well. It made me smile, remembering something like that from such a long time ago.
I jumped a little in my seat, hitting my head against the tree behind me. There was a boy, standing there a few feet to my left.
“Oh, gosh, I’m sorry! I—I didn’t mean to startle you. I just… Ah...” He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly.
I scrunched my eyebrows. “No, I—it’s fine. Really,” I said. Why was he apologizing? He hadn’t done anything.
“I mean, I didn’t—I didn’t think anyone else would out here. By the way you jumped, though, I guess you didn’t, either,” he said, laughing uneasily. He swallowed and kept on. “I should’ve been more polite. I mean, it was obvious that you were really focused doing, ah… Whatever it is you were doing.”
I cocked my head to the side, a little confused at his nervousness. “No, really. It’s fine. I wasn’t doing anything. I’d just… Drifted off.”
“Yeah. That… That happens to me all the time. It’s so peaceful out here, right?” he replied, turning out to the water. I didn’t respond, though, and it may have made things awkward: he coughed a little, looked at his shoes. The breeze blew some of dark hair into his face and he pushed it out of his eyes. I frowned.
“Do you want to sit down?” I asked, tapping the grass next to me.
He looked up at me, a little wide-eyed. “Really? I, uh... I don’t want to intrude."
I rolled my eyes. “You aren’t. Trust me.”
He relaxed his shoulders. “Yeah, sure. That’s really nice of you. Thank you.” He sat down near me. He didn’t take up much room, though, and I didn’t feel the need to move over. He looked at the ground for a second and turned back with his hand held out. “I’m Darren. It’s nice to meet you.”
I looked at him quizzically, but shook the outstretched hand anyway. “Keith. Likewise.”
He nodded with an awkward, uncomfortable-looking grin. He turned out towards the lake for a second before turning back. “Do you come here often?” It seemed like he was trying to be very conversational. I wasn’t really much of a conversationalist, but I thought I’d play along. He seemed pleasant enough. I could suffer through a conversation.
“All the time,” I shrugged.
Immediately, his eyes narrowed and he pursed his lips, deep in thought. I started sketching a cluster of Poliwag going by, so that he could think about whatever it was he was thinking so hard about, with his eyes narrow and his lips pursed. After a few minutes of that, he spoke up. “I’ve never seen you here before. I come almost every day, and I can’t remember a single time.”
I laughed a little to myself. “I usually get here very early in the morning. I like to sketch the sunrise.”
“Oh, so you’re an artist. That explains the pencil… And the pad. Right. Duh.” I laughed again, and it made him smile. But, you know, a real smile this time. ”So, what is it that you draw?”
I wanted to groan at hearing the same question I get asked at the slightest mention of my art, but I answered still. “Whatever makes an impression. Generally, it’s nature, but nature doesn’t always hold still,” I said, and he chuckled. “Sometimes it’s people. Street scenes. Things like that.” He hummed in understanding. “This pond is really great, though. Undisturbed by people. Always moving, changing. There’s always something new to take note of." I turned out to the lake. "Do you remember that huge storm a few years ago? It went on for two days, maybe, and knocked out all the electricity?” I looked back at him. He'd bitten the inside of his cheek, thinking, and nodded. “A family of Floatzel came here after that, out of the blue. It was really interesting to see how easily they were accepted. It seemed like the ecology of the place didn’t change at all. And I’d never seen a Floatzel or a Buizel before, so that was really interesting.”
He got that look of deep thinking on his face again, but spoke up after a moment with this oddly nostalgic smile. “That’s really funny. My older sister met a Buizel right after that storm. It was her first Pokémon. The big lump never leaves her side. It has this weird love-hate relationship with my dad, because he so cute, but whenever she comes home, it steals our food off the table,” he reminisced, laughing a little. He looked at my sketchpad and asked, “Do you mind if I…” I smiled and handed it off to him. He flipped back to the first page, something quick I did maybe a year ago, and started to flip through slowly. “Heh. I like this one.” The page he was on showed a brightly-colored Chatot, wings skewed and beak open, seemingly about to crash right through the page.
Laughing, I replied, “I remember that one. My brother and I, we’d gone to Sinnoh for some cooking thing he was doing. I wasn’t really interested in it, so I went out for a walk with my camera. Out of nowhere, this Chatot—the Pokémon—comes flying at me, nose-diving through the air. I freak out with my camera in my hands and take, like, 15 pictures accidentally.” He nodded, laughing. “When I got back to the hotel, I was looking through them, grimacing at all the bad shots, until I saw this one. I don’t do many colored sketches, but I liked this one so much that I drew it out on paper just like it was.”
“Wow. You’re so lucky. Your parents actually let you go to a completely different continent. I’d never be allowed to do that,” he said, smiling.
The smirk on my face dropped. “I guess you could say that. My… My parents died a few years ago, so I don’t suppose that they could say ‘No.’”
In retrospect, I wasn’t in very good taste with that joke. He immediately covered his mouth with his hand, eyes wide. “Oh, God. I’m… I—I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to… Shit, I’m such an idiot,” he said, breaking eye contact with me.
“It’s not—No, it’s fine. Really. It was a long time ago. I’m… I’m over it. It’s okay.”
After a few more minutes of profuse apologies and calming down, things had gotten tense again. He turned his head to the left and I turned to the right, both of us not say anything so that nothing could go wrong. Feeling... Awkward, I took a walk down to the water’s edge, being careful not to fall in. I felt like he was looking at me as it happened, but I didn’t want to make things weird again by turning around.
The Poliwag from before were lounging on the surface of the lake belly-up, some half-asleep and some looking around. One, noticing me, flipped around to its stomach and glided over. I smiled at the curious thing as it waded close. As it got within an arm’s distance, I reached out to touch it. “Hey, little guy,” I said, smiling. Not my best idea.
The second I touched it, it sprayed a massive Water Gun at my face, drenched me in pond water, and swam back to its friends. I was spluttering, my clothes were soaked, and I’d have to clean my glasses off. However, as I turned around, I noticed Darren. He'd seen what had happened. At first, he looked even a little concerned, but then he started trying to hold back laughter, and that deteriorated from there. Soon, he was on the grass, hysterically laughing. I wanted to frown, but I started laughing, too.
Eventually, we were both laughing like crazy, boosted off each other’s laughter. We calmed down, though, after a few minutes, when I realized how late it was. My brother had probably expected me home an hour ago and, knowing how Evan is, was probably worried out of his mind. I rushed to pack up, trying to stop laughing long enough to ramble out some incoherent apology/goodbye, and ran off as I waved back at him.
Within ten minutes, I came in the door, out of breath, my glasses askew and my blond hair awry. Evan was in the kitchen, feeding his Numel some sort of Berry concoction, but he looked up at me as the door slammed. Numel, lazy as ever, slowly and deliberately began to chew at the food. “Well. Look who’s home,” he said, curt and uncaring. I could see that he wanted to say something about my clothes, but didn't. The silent treatment was his favorite.
“I’m sorry, Evan. I lost track of time. There was this guy there and we started talking and he’s actually rather nice, but I didn’t mean to—“ I started, but he cut me off.
“Wait. Back up just a tad. A guy. You made a friend at the lake?” he asked, an eyebrow raised.
“Well, I wouldn’t really call him a friend yet,” I replied, shrugging. “I only just met him.”
Evan nodded, giving this weird smile. “Oh, okay. That’s fine, then. Dinner’ll be ready in half an hour, if you’d like to go up to your room and change out of your clothes.” Out of all the confusing things that day, that was probably the most. No punishment? No scolding? Who was that, being agreeable, standing there in my brother’s apron? I didn’t really think too much about it, though. I walked up to my room to change, put my pad away, and maybe take a nap. I was unusually tired for only 6:00.
After Keith walked back into his room, Evan walked back into the kitchen, humming a tune he remembered his mother singing when he was little. He stirred the stew for a minute and then kneeled down to talk to his Numel. “Hey, Numel. Guess what? Keith made a friend today,” he said, smiling wide. Numel, not really a talkative Pokémon, made a low moan of basic understanding, and went back to eating. Evan snorted. As if I’m ever getting more than a grunt out of this guy, he thought.
“That’s right, Numel. That’s a very good thing. Now I don’t have to worry so much about him.” Numel didn’t respond, but made some sort of nod. Evan laughed again, stood up, and went back to stirring and humming that familiar tune. Yeah. Maybe he’ll be all right, he thought. An actual friend is a good step.