"You're it! You're the one!"
I took a step back, in some nervousness.
"Aurora, how old are you?"
She looked at me. "14? You don't look it, really."
"Uh, that's just 'cos I haven't cleaned myself up."
What made me say I was fourteen? When she said I was the one, I was suddenly terrified that this girl had been looking for a 12-year-old named Aurora, from Pallet, who had run away... mental images of wanted posters danced in my mind.
"Why am I the one? The one of what?"
"You're the one! I will pursue my Pokemon adventures with you! It's our destiny!"
I was really scared by now, but no longer for fear that she was looking for the runaway Aurora. Because I was dealing with a nutcase.
"Destiny? What is this, Pokemon Island or Sailormoon? And you're right though, I'm only 12."
She laughed. "Good, good. That's the same age as me. My mother will approve. Come on!"
She walked off as if she expected me to follow her. I just stood still and blinked.
"Um, where to?"
"My house, of course! You've got to meet my mother!"
"She's got to know who I'm going on a Pokemon journey with!"
I buried my head in my hands. "Clefairy," I muttered, "ever get the impression you're talking to a brick wall?"
I had this definite feeling it was replying something like "this wall talks back, unfortunately".
"Terri," I said seriously, "talk like a normal human being. What is going on?"
She smoothed back her blonde hair and grinned sheepishly.
"Well, thing is. I've wanted to go on a Pokemon journey for, like, ages, but since my older sisters ran away from home to go on a Pokemon journey and we've never heard from them since, my mother refused to let me go, unless it was with someone nice and responsible."
"You don't know me, how on earth would you think I was nice and responsible?"
I was fishing for compliments.
"Well, I knew it when you said Vulpy was cute. Most people look at it and go "eww, what is wrong with that Vulpix's nose?" but you said it was cute."
So that's what had looked unusual about the Vulpix. Come to think of it, its nose was fairly large.
"So now you have to come home, meet my mother and get her permission. Oh, I've been waiting so long for a Pokemon trainer my age - and a girl, of course, Mom'd NEVER let me travel with a guy - to come by who was nice."
"Okay," I said, ready to go with her now. I didn't mind playing along for a few hours. Her eyes were sincere, so I felt I could trust her, even if she was really weird.
She grabbed my arm and started dragging me off. Before we were very far, I remembered something.
"Oh, just out of curiousity..."
"Where are we?"
"What do you mean?"
She facefaulted. "Geh... you sound like me now. I have a hopeless sense of direction."
"Oh fantastic. That makes two of us."
She laughed. "We are, darling, in Cerulean City, the most beautiful and splendificous city on Pokemon Island!"
"Ah," I replied, bemusedly, as she continued leading me along the street.
I cringed as I nibbled one of the biscuits I was offered. Terri's mother was scrutinising me, I could tell, and I felt very self conscious, especially since I was still dirty from my trek through the forest. I tried to sit properly and look like a responsible young lady, even if I was just a delinquent.
Clefairy had no such inhibitions. It was making a pig of itself, at the table, scoffing down cakes, scones and biscuits.
Finally, I decided that I really should do something, and lunged at the fairy Pokemon. It agilely danced out of the way, leaving me to crash inelegantly onto the coffee table. Food scattered everywhere, some even landing on the carpet. My face smushed into a jam-and-cream covered scone.
A real 'Candid Camera' moment.
Terri cringed. I guess she was annoyed because I'd stuffed up her chances of getting out the city. But to my surprise, her mother laughed suddenly.
"That Pokemon is quite a handful, isn't it?"
"You don't know the half of it," I sighed, making a half-hearted grabbing motion at Clefairy, who easily dodged and whistled.
My rotten Pokemon jumped from the table up onto my head, and started licking the cream off my face. I glared at it as it stared down at me, and tried to grab at it again. It jumped up, grabbed the light hanging from the ceiling, before running off into the kitchen.
"That thing's appetite is really getting me into trouble," I groaned, before jumping up and following it. I felt sorry for this poor family whose house my Pokemon was undoubtedly destroying.
When I made it into the kitchen, Clefairy was sitting happily in the fridge, stuffing strawberries into its little mouth.
"Cleffers!" I shouted, before beginning a tug-o-war with me grabbing Clefairy's legs, and the pink Pokemon holding the edge of the fridge for dear life.
Finally, I managed to emerge the victor, as it let go suddenly, sending both of us flying back into the wall behind. I hit it with a painful thump, and decided not to try getting up for a few minutes.
"Fairy!" giggled the little creep.
"Oh, company schmumpany," I snapped, "you're a menace!"
I pulled it back inside its Pokeball and hung my head tiredly. I'd never been so embarassed before, until I heard something up near the doorway of the kitchen, and realised that Terri and her mother had witnessed the whole thing.
Terri's mother applauded, and I realised she was laughing again.
"Very entertaining," she encouraged, "you'll be a nice friend for Terri."
Terri's eyes lit up.
"I can go? I can go I can go I can go I can go?"
She bounced up and down on the balls of her feet.
Her mother nodded simply, and I thought she looked a little sad as she turned away. Terri didn't notice, as she ran up to me and squeezed my arm happily.
"Okay," I said to her, as we walked down the street, "you can go now, I guess."
She stared at me. "What are you talking about?"
"Weren't you just getting me to play along so you could run away from home?"
"Well, yeah..." she confessed, "but I still want someone to travel with. You're going for the eight badges, I assume?"
"Oh, I guess so."
"Well, we're in Cerulean, you can challenge the gym leader here. Please please please let me come with you!"
I looked at her in surprise. She *wanted* to go with me?
"Um, sure. I don't mind, I just thought you didn't want to."
"No no, nothing like that."
"So you want to get the eight badges too?"
"My dream is nothing to do with that... you know what my goal is?"
"To be a Vulpix trainer?"
She grinned, and patted hers on the head. "Actually, I wouldn't have considered training a Vulpix, but this poor little guy didn't have anyone who wanted him, so I had to look after him. No, my real dream is..."
She actually stopped her hyperactive tone of voice, and spoke seriously, with a gleam of ambition in her eyes.
"Aurora, I wanna be - no, I'm GONNA be - the best dragon master. The best one! The true master of dragon Pokemon! Oh, do you know what that means?"
"Means you train dragon types?"
"So much more than that! Oh, you still have lots to learn about Pokemon training, I can tell. But that's cool."
She seemed tired of being serious for so long, and changed the subject. "Can we find a place to stop soon? I gotta get changed."
I looked at her. "What's wrong with your outfit?"
She was wearing a long skirt and conservative blouse. She stared at me as if I had two heads.
"Need you ask?"
I waited outside the public restrooms, impatiently. I felt stupid. Nice place to stand and wait.
Finally, she came out, Vulpix trotting at her heels. I just gaped.
Her spiked hair was more spiked. She wore an impossibly short, tight skirt - how could she even walk?!, ankle boots and a midriff. A midriff, wasn't she cold? Her revealed bellybutton was pierced, as was her nose, and her poor Vulpix's nose was pierced too.
I think I must've looked like I was about to faint. What had I let myself in for?
"You look like you've seen a ghost. But, you just saw me and Vulpy! Don't we look soooo gorgeous?"
She sort of did, albeit very intimidating.
"Well, let's go to Cerulean Gym. Lead the way!"
I stared at her. "You're the one who lives in this city. How would I know where the gym is?"
She sweatdropped. "Well, I've been there several times before picking up training tips. But before, when I said I had, like, a hopeless sense of direction - I totally was not kidding!"
After wandering in circles for about two hours - I'm SURE I'd seen the street we were on at least five times - we stopped in frustration.
"Why don't we just ask for directions?" I groaned finally.
"That's too easy," replied Terri, but she didn't stop me as I went up to a man.
"Excuse me sir, could you tell me the way to Cerulean Gym?"
He stared at me as if I'd grown another head. "Don't make a fool out of me!" He briskly walked off. I stared.
"Boy, the people of Cerulean are all nutcases," I muttered. Terri heard me and laughed, seeming to take no offense.
"I think I know why that man got mad at you though. Look."
I looked in the direction she was pointing, and sure enough, across the street was Cerulean Gym, large, gaudy looking and - yup - blindingly obvious.
I facefaulted. "TERRI! You said you'd been here before!"
"I'm sorry, I got confused about what street we were on."
I buried my face in my hands, before shaking out of it and walking across the street. Terri tagged along, talking excitedly.
"So, you've never fought in a real match before. This'll be real exciting! If you win, you get lots of cash. I can't wait to see your Pokemon! I'm sure you can win! I know! I'll be your cheerleader!" She struck a pose and laughed. "Wouldn't I make just a fabulous cheerleader?"
I wore a dry expression. "Well, your skirt is certainly short enough, though I wouldn't try doing the splits in them. You'll tear it clean in half."
She laughed as if I'd said something incredibly witty, and grabbed my arm enthusiastically.
"Come on Aurora, think positive! Do it, do it, 'Rora, 'Rora, beat 'em beat 'em, 'Rora, 'Rora! Rah rah!"
I stopped in my tracks. "Don't call me 'Rora'."
"Why? It's cute. It's a nickname. The world needs more nicknames! It would be a friendlier place! Love makes the world go round, but so does -"
"Just don't, okay?"
She rolled her eyes. I did the same, her melodrama was beginning to give me a headache and this was just day one of our journey.
"What's the problem with that, anyway? You can call me Terr, if you like."
"Terr sounds stupid. But just... don't call me Rora."
That's what my mother called me. Nobody else ever has, and I don't want them to. That name, the memory of her calling me that when I was little, is the only thing I have of her, apart from the star-shaped earrings I wear.
I guess I had a weird look on my face, because Terri didn't bother me further, just changed the subject.
"Let's go get your first badge then, Aurora!"
I nodded, letting myself forget my past again, remembering that I was a Pokemon trainer now.
Together, we walked up to the front door of Cerulean Gym.
Without any hesitation, I pushed it open.