[WAR XI]While You Were Gone [Judged]
Torches. The beach was lit up by tiki torches--lots and lots of them. So many that the beach at nighttime was just as bright as it was during the day, it seemed, and there were just as many people as there were torches. Finally, my staring was interrupted by Aiden, as my older brother walked up behind me and gave me a slap on the back--with the open-backed dress I was wearing, it stung. "Stop standing there gawking, Ri-ri. Get out there and have fun!" I glanced over at him to find my older brother wasn't really looking at me directly, but out at the crowd like I had been, light of the torches reflected in the lenses in his glasses. I didn't need to guess where his eyes had fallen, though, as I spotted his long-time girlfriend among the people, waving at us excitedly.
"Fine," I teased, clapping him on the shoulder. "Tell your girlfriend I said hi."
Aiden chuckled, “She’s not my girlfriend anymore.” It was at this point I openly turned and gaped at him—he and Kelly weren’t together anymore? How in the world had that happened?
“But I thought—“
“She’s my fiancée.” For a moment I wondered if my jaw would fall off in shock. Sure, I’d been used to seeing Aiden and Kelly together for years and we always expected it, but he’d gone and gotten engaged to her while I was away?
“And you did this while I was away?” I concentrated on giving him my most fierce look of disapproval, however Aiden did nothing but laugh and pat my shoulder gently.
“No one but you knows yet, well aside from her father, though I highly doubt he took me seriously. I proposed a few weeks ago, but Kelly wanted to keep it hush-hush until you got home. Everyone else will either find out tonight or tomorrow, but until then, would you mind keeping quiet about it, Riika?” As he spoke, I noted the look of fierce satisfaction on my brother’s face, as though he was proud of the fact he had waited to share the news with me rather than trumpeting it everywhere—he and Kelly had practically been together since we were kids, theirs was one of those fairytale relationships that seemed too perfect to be real, and yet there it was, and now they were getting married…
“Your secret’s safe with me, Aiden, of course I’ll keep quiet,” I told him with a smile as Kelly came running up to us in a blur of pink and gold. She looked like a doll in her long pink dress as well as several years younger than she actually was, which her attitude reflected as she hugged me.
“Riika, it’s so nice to see you again!” my soon-to-be sister-in-law squealed before letting me go to give me a quick once-over. “Orange looks really good on you,” she observed verbally, which made my temper flare once more.
“Don’t remind me about the dress,” I snapped, and when Kelly opened her mouth, I added “I’m serious. Say something else about it and I’ll spill the beans about you getting engaged to my brother.” Kelly reacted to those words like any small child would as her brown eyes filled with hurt.
“You wouldn’t!” she gasped, looking upset while Aiden simply looked amused. He knew I probably wouldn’t, but threatening Kelly as incentive to keep quiet about my dress hadn’t been a horrible idea, either. Especially if it worked.
“I would if you made another remark about this dress.” Kelly pouted, but Aiden already seemed to have spotted something to make her forget about my threats about commenting on my orange dress. That was part of what made them so perfect—they were like Sense and Senselessness, and opposites attract…or at least, that’s what I’ve always heard. With a murmur in her ear and a hand on her shoulder, Aiden led his fiancée off towards where a few people had set out a red and white checkered blanket and some food, like a kind of mini buffet. He only paused once to spare a little wave back to me while Kelly didn’t even bother to look back, still upset about my non-serious threat.
I was on my own once Aiden and Kelly left, as my twin sister had ditched me the moment we got out the house, running across the lawn and down the road with no shoes on while wearing a dress fairly similar to my orange one, but in lilac to better go with her bright blue hair. At least the fact Ericka was a complete nut hadn’t changed. It seemed almost everything else had, though, as I walked on the sand in my own bare feet among people I hadn’t seen in what felt like ages. Faces that were once familiar now bore features I didn’t recognize and left me wondering who I was talking to most of the time, those who had been young when I last saw them had grown taller, grown out or cut their hair. Voices I once recognized had deepened or changed in other ways, there were young children among the mess as well, some I didn’t even recognize… It didn’t take me long to feel as though I were lost, or in a different Pallet Town, maybe like the Snorlax who slept for twenty years in one of the stories mom used to tell Ericka and I when we were little, but no matter how I described the feeling it was that same. That was why at a party full of people from my hometown, I ended up sitting on the shore of the little beach, away from everyone else, where I thought.
I had been gone for years, and everything had changed. In spite of phone calls and emails, everything had changed from the Pallet Town I had known and left some years ago, and I had changed too. I wasn't the same tomboyish little girl I had been when I left home after my last visit at fourteen--now I was eighteen and sure of what I wanted to do, with justice in my mind and anger in my fists, which joined my Pokemon in battle from time to time. I had come home with scars on my arms that hid behind long stretches of soft fabric and no one but my twin knew about because she had been there when I got them. I no longer carried the same senseless, quick anger I had with me when I left those four years ago, now I just had volatile anger towards the group known as Team Rocket and people who mistreated their Pokemon. Now I was in a Pallet Town different than the one I grew up in, surrounded by people different than the ones I grew up with, sitting on a beach lit up like daytime at midnight by dozens of tiki torches while music spilled from someone's radio. People were starting to go home, particularly the parents with kids who hadn't left home yet, and those who stayed were either sitting around on lawn chairs in a group, sharing stories with each other, or dancing to the music on the beach not too far from where I sat in the sand with my Raichu in my lap.
"Jeez, Riika, you let your hair get so long..." I turned to look at the commenter, as the voice wasn't really familiar--I knew it, but just barely. When my eyes landed on his face, I almost wished I hadn't turned to look at him, because I knew and distinctly disliked the owner of those bright green eyes and spikey blond hair.
"What do you want, Davis?" I sighed, looking back out to the ocean. Next to me, the young man I disliked so much snorted.
"Well hello to you, too. I'm doing great, thanks for asking. How about you?" he replied, sitting down beside me. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught him turn his head to look at me. "Also, I can’t say I ever pegged you for the orange dress kind, but it looks good on you."
"My mom stole my clothes and apparently I wasn't getting them back until I wore this stupid thing. Do not think I'm wearing this because I want to, because I don't," I snapped back, and glance over in time to see him raise his hands defensively.
“Hey, hey, what’s with the hostility? I’m just trying to make conversation here because I happened to hear from your mother that you finally came back after wandering around for four years and here you are, alone.” His motive sounded simple enough, and I wondered what had happened to the cocky kid who was always boasting about how a girl like me could never beat him and cried when I proved him wrong. He grew up, just like you did, a tiny voice in my head said, but I tried to ignore it and Davis, hoping they would both just go away. I didn’t feel like dealing with more changes at this point. “Aw, come on Riika, do you really need to be so stubborn? I’m trying to be nice here,” he sighed, raking a hand through his spikes. I allowed my lips to slip into a smirk.
“That’s a new one.” He blinked several times, like he didn’t recognize my voice at all when I spoke. It took him a moment or two, but when he finally did reply, he stunned me.
“I’m full of a lot of ‘new ones,’ Riika. Four years is a lot of time, don’t you think?” Davis asked me, and it was like he’d read my mind. I reached down and scratched my Raichu’s back slowly, quietly. “What, you aren’t—“ he started as I began to speak.
“It’s enough time. It’s enough time for a lot of things, like for a fourteen year-old girl to grow up. It’s enough time to see the world. It’s even enough time for someone to become completely lost in their hometown. Four years isn’t a lot of time; just enough time.” I left him disoriented again, or whatever I had done the first time, because he sat there with this funny look on his face before he spoke up again.
“What did you do while you were gone?” he asked me slowly, and I just shook my head. I had done a lot of things, mainly change myself and not think about how everything else would change once I’d left it behind. Suddenly he stood up, brushed off his faded jeans, and held out a hand to me. “Come on, let’s at least get one dance in—the torches are burning down and I’m sure that the owner of that radio is going to want it back soon.”
Looking around, the torchlight had faded some, our very own midday fading into dusk itself. I didn’t want to dance with him—at least part of me didn’t, but another part of me did. Finally, I nudged the Raichu in my lap, who scampered around to perch on one of my shoulders, and hauled myself up. Once standing, I brushed some of the sand off my dress; I really didn’t need sand falling everywhere while I was dancing. I didn’t take his hand, but Davis led me out to where the others were dancing, surrounded by slowly dying torchlight. For a moment, he stood there awkwardly before I sighed and muttered at the Raichu on my shoulder to find someplace else to sit and watch for a few minutes before I stepped closer to Davis. The radio station was playing a slow song, and I just smirked as I moved into action. “You ask me to dance and then stand there? Do I have to do everything myself? Your hands go here and here,” I said, stepping even closer and taking one of his hands in my own, then grabbing the other to move it to my side. “Now don’t step on my feet, okay? And watch them—mirror them, do what they do.” He quickly took notice of my feet and held his gaze there as I stepped in a little square pattern that became imprinted in the sand. Eventually he got the hang of it, and we fell into a quiet rhythm; it seemed he either didn’t want to make me mad or was too busy concentrating on not stepping on my toes, because Davis didn’t talk, and neither did I. I was too busy thinking about how change was a funny thing, after four years, it had led me to a party on the beach of my hometown where my brother told me he’d gotten engaged to the girl he had been dating for years and where I found myself dancing in a small square pattern with a boy I had hated for so many years because of his cockiness.
By the time Davis spoke up again, it was to speak two words. “Hey, Riika,” he said, sounding almost perplexed. I stopped dancing and looked around. There was no one else around us in sight, the radio was gone, and sunlight was beginning to show itself. I glanced to the side to find my Raichu curled up and sound asleep—we’d somehow danced through the radio being taken away, through everyone leaving, and even through the torches burning out. I smiled and let out a soft laugh, letting go of Davis to go scoop up my Raichu.
“Walk me home, Davis,” I said as I moved back towards him. Surprise lit his green eyes a little, and I laughed again. “Town’s changed too much,” this time it was his turn to laugh, as the layout really hadn’t changed all that much. We both knew very well I knew exactly how to get home. “I don’t want to get lost.”