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Thread: Escape Rope [one-shot]

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    Default Escape Rope [one-shot]

    Warning: This one-shot deals with suicide. If you are uncomfortable with this, thank you for clicking this title, but please do not proceed.

    JX Valentine has given me the go-signal to post this.



        Spoiler:- Author's Notes:



    Escape Rope



    “I’m sorry.”

    He remembered the exact manner those two words were said to him: soft, restrained, muffled by the mask on the speaker’s mouth and the hesitation on the speaker’s face; monotone, straightforward, ignoring the stress that was supposed to be applied to the first syllable of the second word; unfeeling, indifferent, as if the enormity and complexity of emotions loaded in those two words can be encapsulated in the sideward nodding of the speaker’s head and in the vacant stare of the addressee’s eyes.

    He also remembered what happened after: strained screaming, fierce sobbing, and an indefinite amount of curses spewing out of his mouth directly proportional to the indefinite amount of tears rolling down his cheeks.

    He chose not to remember anything else. His mind chose otherwise.


    --


    “Table for one, please?”

    He was clearing off a table when she entered the café. As she entered, she removed her blue sunglasses and placed it over her pink felt hat. Her head slowly swayed sideward, taking in each sight of one of the many cafés in Lumiose that she has been hearing about ever since she was young. Dusting off her pink-striped tank top and white jean shorts, she took a few steps forward, her aqua blue Mary Janes softly tapping on the black and white tiles.

    On top of her shoulders was a small hairy object, and it took him five glances to figure out that it was a Scatterbug. He heard the Pokémon cry enthusiastically at the new sight, and he assumed it was because it had been seeing trees and grass for a hefty amount of time and it welcomed the calmness of the café. The Pokémon mimicked its trainer’s actions, widening its eyes left and right and shaking the dust off its hairy body in perfect harmony with its trainer.

    One of his fellow waiters, a Lumiose local named Tristan, welcomed her and led her to a table. She bowed slightly to thank Tristan, took a seat in a manner that could only be described as delicate, and placed her pink ribbon purse on the seat beside her. He watched as she listened to Tristan say the customary greeting. “Welcome to Café Triste. May I offer you our special spicy ice cream? It’s made out of crushed Lava Cookies that come all the way from Hoenn.” He watched her smile slightly in response, saying that she would take a look at the menu first before ordering. He even saw her brown eyes move slightly as she scanned the café menu on the stand in front of her, her lips quivering as a response to the exaggerated descriptions of their average dishes.

    “Hello! Earth to Russell!”

    He turned around and saw Tristan giving him a frustrated look. “Did you hear any word I just said?”

    “Yeah, yeah, of course,” Russell replied in between abrupt and distracted breaks. “Uhm, what were you saying again?”

    “Always the daydreamer,” Tristan said with an annoyed sigh. “I was asking if you could take the new customer out of my hands and get her order for me. Boss just asked me to do inventory, and Raven’s on her break, so—”

    “Sure, no problem!” Russell interrupted. “I’ll handle it.”

    He didn’t even hear Tristan’s “Thanks, dude” as he walked towards her table. He glanced over at the mirrors hanging on the walls of the café, making sure no strands poked out of his combed black hair and no dirt was seen on his uniform. After a breath check and a small adjustment to his tie, he withdrew his notepad and pen and stood in front of her, her head still behind the café menu.

    “Good afternoon, ma’am,” he said in the deepest voice a nineteen-year-old like him could muster up. “My name is Russell, and I’ll be your waiter for today. What will you be having?”

    They got married four years after. At the start of his best man’s speech, Tristan proudly claimed, “I take full credit in being the reason these two lovebirds met.”


    --


    “It’s gonna be okay.”

    She wanted two children, a boy and a girl. She wanted to name the boy James and the girl Mira. She wanted James to be the older brother, so he could protect his younger sister from whoever dared to bully her. She wanted Mira to be a professional Pokémon breeder just like her parents, and she wanted to teach her everything she knew about the underappreciated profession. She wanted to see Russell and James take camping trips in Santalune Forest and fishing trips in Azure Bay, and whatever other father-and-son activities they could think of. She wanted a happy family that lived peacefully in Anistar until James and Mira were grown up enough to meet their own handsome waiters or beautiful customers or whatever there was in between.

    She did not want the miscarriage. Nor did she want the damaged uterus.

    “Thankfully, the surgery took away all the potential risks to your health that the unborn fetus might have given you,” the doctor told her after her first surgery. “Unfortunately, you will be unable to bear any future children because of the complications in your uterus.”

    She received the news wordlessly. She had shouted more than enough pleas when she was taken away from Russell and taken into the surgery room, and she had cried more than enough tears when they took the fetus out of her womb. In her mind, she knew at this point that fighting was hopeless, that there was nothing she could do to change her grim future. To her, the life the doctors had saved was not a life she wanted.

    Sitting beside her was Russell, his face almost as blank as hers. Though they were mere centimeters apart, she knew what stood between them was more than any of them could fathom: the ever-rising costs inversely proportional to her ever-failing health, the amount of hard work Russell had to do for both of them, the adjustments both of them had to do to support her, the vanishing of James and Mira and any other thoughts of having a family from their minds, and the newfound impossibility of most of their dreams and ambitions.

    “It’s gonna be okay, dear,” Russell kept on telling her after the doctor gave her the first of many prescriptions. “It’s gonna be okay.”


    --


    “Will that be all, sir?”

    The clerk looked at her customer with a certain uneasiness. She noticed how his black hair looked like it hadn’t been washed for weeks, and how his face hadn’t been shaved even longer. His clothes also made her feel uncomfortable, what with his wrongly-buttoned polo, his unzipped pants, and his mismatching socks. But what disturbed her most was the pungent odor she could smell from him, not because of the dreadful scent that came from what seemed like an entire bathless month, but because of the specific smells she could identify: dead flowers, stale medicine, and dried blood.

    In between them was a counter that carried only one item—an Escape Rope. She had no idea why he would need it; she didn’t see any Poké Balls on him, and he didn’t look like the type of person who would journey into a deep dungeon. What bothered her even more was the fact that this was the only item that he was buying. She would have understood if it was accompanied by a few Poké Balls and a handful of Potions, but when she asked him if he had anything else to buy, he replied by withdrawing 550 Poké’s worth of coins from his pocket and clumsily placing it beside the Escape Rope.

    “All right, sir,” the clerk shrugged as he took his money. After pressing a few buttons on the cash register, she offered the printed receipt of the purchase to him. To her surprise, he refused to take it and instead clutched the Escape Rope with his hands, as if it was valued a hundred times more than what the receipt stated. She offered to give him a plastic bag for his purchase, but the glare she got as a reply told her that the Escape Rope and the man were inseparable.

    Not knowing what else to do, she gave him the customary farewell. “Please come again!” she said, trying to mask her confusion and worry with as much liveliness as she could muster up.

    Russell left the Poké Mart without another word. She would never understand, he thought.


    --


    “Yes! Yes yes yes!”

    Russell saw the bride-to-be in front of him kiss her groom-to-be, with short screams of joy and disbelief coming out of her mouth. Behind them, the slowly setting sun framed the newly-engaged couple nicely, transforming the otherwise dull scene into a picturesque portrait, no doubt factoring into the groom-to-be’s decision of picking this particular spot for his proposal.

    The familiarity of the sight lost some of its spark for him; in his days as a tourist photographer, he would take the picture of at least five newly-engaged couples each week. He made sure to frame them with either the sunset that spread out from the sea or the sundial that loomed over all of them. Before and after each of those photographs, he would congratulate the couple with the most heartfelt congratulations he could give them, an emotion that diminished as time passed.

    He knew that his reaction to the sunset was doomed even before he started being a tourist photographer, for his familiarity with the sight dated back to two years before he started taking pictures of newly-engaged couples. He was twenty-two, and he was sitting at the exact same bench at around the same time. Beside him, she marveled at the scenic view of the setting sun, a sight she had been familiar with ever since she was born. Growing up in Anistar, she knew the park like the back of her hand, and she had experienced many first times within the fences of this park: the first baby tooth that fell out of her mouth, the first time she ever had a crush, the first time she got a bruise that required her to go to the hospital for treatment, the first Pokémon she ever encountered, the first time she watched the sun be engulfed by the sea. To her, this park was the most beautiful place in the whole world, and every time they visited it, she told him that she couldn’t imagine anything that could surpass its beauty.

    That day, Russell told her that he would challenge that claim. He succeeded with a ring.

    Her ring was made out of a Comet Shard he had picked up from the sands of Azure Bay when he was young. When he found out how valuable it had been, he vowed to himself that he would be saving it for the right moment, for he believed that something that looked so special was meant for something special. He personally asked a jeweler in Lumiose, who was one of Tristan’s friends, to make the Comet Shard the centerpiece of the ring. When he saw the ring for the first time, he knew that it was the most beautiful piece of jewelry that he had ever seen, and he knew that such a fine accessory only belonged to the finest of women.

    After the funeral, he threw away his own ring, which was made of a cheaper material that looked exactly like a Comet Shard, and kept his wife’s. At the suggestion of Tristan, he wore it around his neck, though he knew it didn’t make any difference.

    Forty years after his proposal, the Escape Rope replaced her as his companion on the two-person bench. The couple-to-be in front of him had exchanged their hundredth kiss as they left the park. He heard the bride-to-be mutter repeatedly, “This is the happiest day of my life! Nothing will ever ruin this moment!”

    He wanted to tell her how wrong she was, but he knew that in time, she would find that out for herself.


    --


    “How are you?”

    Those words started Tristan’s unanswered letter that lay on Russell’s desk. He found out in the wake two weeks ago that unlike him, Tristan had settled down rather nicely. After Russell quit his job in Café Triste to live with her, Tristan got promoted to store manager. His efforts were noticed by other companies, and soon enough he was employed as the restaurant manager of the Sushi High Roller. While working there, he piqued the interest of a wealthy Furisode Girl whose three Audino thought that he was a suitable companion for their trainer. They married a year after they met and had three children, and they settled down in a two-storey house in Cyllage, where he spent most of his days fishing in Muraille Coast.

    Seeing the state of his old friend in her wake, Tristan wrote him a letter that offered him to live in Cyllage with Tristan and his wife, since two of their kids had moved out and the third was spending most of his time in the city’s gym as Grant’s apprentice. “You don’t have to worry about living space and being disturbed,” Tristan had wrote in his letter. “I’ve told my wife everything about you, and she would love to have you over for however long you want. I’m really worried about you, Russell, and I hope you’ll do okay after this. If ever you need me for anything, don’t hesitate to contact me, all right?”

    When he had seen the first words of Tristan’s offer to live with him and his wife, Russell refolded the letter and placed it on his desk, leaving the rest of its contents unread.

    A week later, Tristan’s letter remained unmoved in its spot, though it now had a new companion in the Escape Rope he bought the day before. It was three feet long and eleven inches thick, more durable than the rope he had stolen from the park last week. He had tested it with a bucket of water last night, and the Escape Rope had served its purpose.

    “Today’s the day,” he said out loud to no one, though it was heard by everyone who needed to hear it.

    He grabbed the Escape Rope from the desk and tied it around one of the blades of the ceiling fan, forming a small noose. He made sure that the knots were tight, tugging the rope lightly and retying the knot several times until he was satisfied with its tightness. The chair he had used to tie the Escape Rope was placed directly below it, being moved a few centimeters left and right until he was sure that it was in the perfect position. Afterwards, he changed his clothes, wearing the same ensemble he wore during his wedding: the slightly creased undershirt, the light blue polo shirt, the matching suit and slacks, the midnight blue necktie, and the polished leather shoes. Apart from the sagginess of the clothes, the only difference was the ring; instead of being placed on his finger, it hung around his neck, and instead of being his, it was hers.

    After making sure the entire setup was in place, he stepped on top of the chair. He took one last look of his home, put his head through the noose, and closed his eyes.


    --


    “This is perfect!”

    She took in the sight of their new home with the same vigor she had in Café Triste six years ago. This time, though, she was looking at her own space, a space she and her husband had been working hard to obtain in the past two years. They both chose Anistar because of its fine balance between urban and rural, its playful shifts between cool and warm weather, and its unique representation of her past and their future.

    She had gotten a job almost immediately after they had settled the papers for the loan of their new house. She took on the position of associate head nurse of the city’s Pokémon Center, a job she had obtained easily because of her extensive experience as the daughter of two professional Pokémon breeders. He, on the other hand, balanced several part-time jobs, which ranged from being a hotel concierge to a hotel janitor, from a waiter to a bartender, from a tour guide to a tourist photographer, depending on the time of the day and the day of the week. He had worked out an ideal-enough schedule to have Sundays free, and so that his hour-long breaks every afternoon coincided with hers in the Center.

    It was a tedious setup for both of them, but they both knew that it was worth it. While their heads were filled with the several demanding duties of their jobs, their minds were filled with thoughts of raising a family, of supporting their children through school, of opening their own café, and of traveling to Hoenn and riding the Mt. Chimney Cable Car. While their hands were filled with dirt and fatigue, their hearts were filled with the feeling of excitement from living a life they only saw in afternoon TV dramas, of fulfillment in living a life that bore out of their own blood, sweat, and tears, and of contentment from living a life with their true love.

    They managed to complete the payment of their house loan thirty-seven years after they had moved in. By then, she would have had seven surgeries.

    After the seventh surgery, Russell went into her hospital room wearing the brightest smile he had ever worn since he found out about her pregnancy. “Honey,” he said in an unusually optimistic tone, “I’ve paid the entire loan. The house is officially ours!”

    Her reply consisted of rhythmic beeps, growing slower by milliseconds as each minute passed by. Russell got a more concrete reply three days later, though it came from a doctor.

    “I’m sorry,” the doctor told him.


    --


    “Hello, is anybody home?”

    He was interrupted by a suddenly-opened door. Before a pink Mary Jane made contact with the wooden floor, the Escape Rope was already in his hands, a few inches lower than where it should have been. Before the door revealed the intruder’s frame, he had thrown the Escape Rope under his desk and he had sat down on the chair where he stood seconds ago. Before he could curse the intruder out of the house, he saw her.

    He saw her white sunglasses perched in front of her aqua blue felt hat that topped her medium-length brown hair. He saw her frame being enveloped by a blue-striped tank top, which was tucked in her pink jean shorts, and he saw an aqua blue ribbon bag hanging from her left shoulder. But what his eyes were almost unconsciously drawn to was her face. Her lips, quivering in both wonder and confusion, were coated by a pale pink lip balm. Her cheeks had a light coating of foundation and blush, bringing out their rosiness. Her dark brown eyes slowly scanned his home and rested at the sight of him, a motion he was all too familiar with.

    “Hello? Did I interrupt something?”

    Yes, you did, he started to say, but the words never left his mouth.

    “I’m sorry if I bothered you,” she said shyly, sensing his mood. “My name is Serena and I come from Vaniville Town. I was just wondering where the entrance to the Anistar Sundial Park was. This city is much bigger than I expected it to be, very much unlike my hometown, and I tend to get lost easily whenever I visit big cities like this.”

    Russell tried to mouth out directions, but he was too baffled to speak. Hurriedly, he stood up and got a pencil and Tristan’s letter from the shelf of his desk. He scribbled a map of the northeastern part of Anistar City, his house on the bottom and the sundial at the top. Between the two was a circle with arrows connecting it to his house, signifying the nearest entrance to the park. He drew whatever other landmarks he could remember—the gym, the café, the Pokémon center—and put them in the map as labeled rectangles. After completing the map, he gave the sheet of paper to Serena without a word, shoving it into her hands.

    “Uhh, thank you, sir,” Serena said softly. As she studied the map, he studied her with the same fascination his nineteen-year-old self had many years ago in Café Triste. With each blink, the map between him and the intruder transformed into other objects. A blink transformed the map into two cups of coffee resting on a table that overheard their owners’ exchanges of personal details. Another blink transformed the cups of coffee into a bouquet of roses that he was offering to her while she stood in the divide between her apartment and the street. A third blink transformed the bouquet into a ring with a Comet Shard at the center which his shaking hand was struggling to put on hers.

    “Oh my gosh. I’m very sorry, sir, very very sorry.”

    Her sad tone broke him out of his trance, and he was met by two watery eyes. He looked down and saw that the sheet of paper that he gave the intruder had been turned around, and a few tear drops stained the lower half of Tristan’s letter.

    “I’m so sorry for your loss, sir,” Serena said in a somber tone. “It may mean nothing to you at this point, but I offer my deepest condolences.”

    Thank you, he started to say, but the two words stuck to his throat and pushed out a low grunt instead.

    “Here, you should have this back,” she extended her hand and offered him Tristan’s letter, “I think that you need its contents more than I do.”

    He got Tristan’s letter hesitantly and stuffed it in his pockets, the crumpling noise making Serena wince. Knowing that she had overstayed her welcome, she bowed and said her thanks. “It was nice meeting you, sir,” she said out of habit as she turned around to leave the house.

    At that very moment, his mind went back to forty-four years ago, to that afternoon in Café Triste. She had finished her snack, a spicy ice cream with an extra Lava Cookie, and when he showed her the bill she had given him a generous tip. By then, their conversation largely consisted of stolen glances and shy smiles, with the only words spoken between them being his prepared introduction and her prepared order. As she stood up from her chair and turned around to leave, he knew that it couldn’t end this way. He knew that she was more than a customer, more than a thirty-minute glance from across the café, more than a cute girl he would be daydreaming about for the next few days.

    It had taken all of his self-confidence to call out, “Wait! Uhh, you wanna have coffee sometime?”

    She turned around, and he saw what looked like the end of a relieved sigh. “Sure,” she said casually, “I’ll see you tonight.”


    --


    “Wait!”

    He called out to her as half of her body was already out of the door. Serena turned around, and the face he saw wasn’t that of the intruder’s anymore, but of the customer’s forty-four years ago.

    “Yes, sir?”

    He didn’t know what to do. For the first time in a long while, he was talking to a young girl that wasn’t his customer, his superior, or his wife. After getting used to putting others before himself, he didn’t know how to talk to anyone as his equal anymore.

    “With my wife gone,” he stuttered out, “my life has become very lonely.”

    He saw her wipe away a tear from her eyes and step forward to come closer to him. His brain told him to step back, but his feet remained planted firmly on the floor.

    What do I do now? he asked himself. Rummaging through all of his memories with his wife, he then remembered a particular day when he felt the same way as he did this very moment.

    Less than a year after their first coffee date, she had taken him to visit her parents in Camphrier Town. It was a trip they had planned months before, and he promised her that he would file his vacation leaves to coincide with the time they would spend there. Unfortunately, at the last minute, his boss required him to be in the café in the same days as his vacation, for his boss had also planned to use his vacation leaves on those days. Trying every excuse he knew, he was eventually defeated by his boss, and he made a truce by asking if he could have at least the first of the three days off, to which his boss reluctantly agreed.

    He was received exceedingly well by her parents, due in part to how warmly the baby Pokémon in the breeding center received him when he introduced himself to the family. “He’s a natural with children,” her mother had commented over the dinner table. “I’m sure that will come in handy in the future.” He did everything to suppress a laugh as he saw her cheeks blush a deep red. The rest of the dinner went by in the same manner, but the positive energy came to an abrupt stop the following morning, when she saw him in his waiter uniform leaving their bedroom.

    “Hey, where are you going?” she asked, rubbing her eyes to confirm what she saw. He knew that lying would get him nowhere, so he had explained to her his situation with his boss and the abrupt change in his schedule. The argument transformed into a series of unrestrained shouts and concluded with a slammed door, waking up her parents and some of the baby Pokémon that slept in her family’s house.

    He could hardly concentrate in the café, for his mind was filled with thoughts of regret and self-loathing. He wanted to make all the customers leave so he could break all the furniture and utensils he saw. He wanted to go wherever his boss was, look him in the eye, and beat him up until he couldn’t stand on his own two feet. He wanted to climb to the topmost floor of Prism Tower, curse his entire situation to the sky, and jump—

    “Table for three, please?”

    The familiar voice snapped him out of his daydreaming, and he saw her in the door of the café, as beautiful as she had been that morning. His walking almost turned into running as he went to her and hugged her tighter than he had ever hugged her before. His mouth spewed out all of the apologies he could muster up, and her replies were full of acceptances and assurances. Their little display was interrupted by her parents, her mother getting teary-eyed and her father nodding at him with a smile, as if giving him his approval of what he was doing.

    “If you don’t mind, Russell,” her mother said as they were seated on the table nearest the counter, “we brought along a few visitors who wanted to see you.”

    In that instant, beams of light broke out of their pockets, and he was mauled by a dozen of bright-eyed baby Pokémon. Their playful nibbles and eager licks melted all his anger away, and her soft giggle solidified his decision of marrying her as soon as humanly possible.


    --


    “Uhh, excuse me sir?”

    His vision of Café Triste slowly faded as it was superimposed by two confused eyes and a raised eyebrow. He hadn’t noticed that Serena was standing uncomfortably close to him now. Without thinking, he blurted out the first words that came to his mouth.

    “Would you be so kind as to lend me one of your Pokémon? You know—to keep me company.”

    He saw the shock take over Serena’s face. The request was, in more ways than one, nonsensical, even to him. But as he saw the translucent image of the baby Pokémon licking him and their owners’ daughter smiling at him, every word he uttered suddenly made all the sense in the world.

    “I hate to be picky,” he said almost automatically, “but I’d love to take care of a Pokémon that’s Lv. 5 or under.”

    He could see Serena’s eyes shift slightly, unsure of how she would act in the situation she was in. He couldn’t blame her, for such a request was almost impossible to fulfill, especially since it came from a stranger. He had been hearing reports of Pokémon being forcefully taken from trainers by gang members of other regions, and he knew that a trainer like her wouldn’t risk such a thing. But the uncertainty left her eyes as quickly as it arrived, and the shock on her face melted into a grin.

    “Of course, sir,” she replied.

    A wave of energy came over him, something he had not experienced for a very long time. He was familiar with how brevity left the strongest impacts in him—“I’ll see you tonight,” “I do,” “I'm pregnant”—but the most recent impacts have all been ones he could do without—“I’m sorry,” “Condolences,” “How are you?”. Those three words, though, he would do anything to replay over and over again so that its characteristics would be ingrained in his mind: optimistic, joyful, each word rising in intonation as they were said one after the other; genuine, sincere, no footnotes or subtexts hidden behind any of its letters; seamless, natural, the sentence itself not knowing the strength of the impact it carried.

    “You’ve made an old man smile!” He blurted out with glee. “Which Pokémon will you lend me?”

    “Wait right here, I know exactly which Pokémon to lend you,” Serena said in an assuring tone as she ran out of the house. He did not even have the time to gather his thoughts and realize that she might have purposely left him when she came back holding a Poké Ball in her right hand.

    “Here,” she said with a smile as she handed him the Poké Ball. He stared at it with an intensity that surprised even him, and his hands fidgeted as he accepted the intruder’s gift.

    “Truly?” He said in between breaths. “Will you lend me this Pokémon?”

    “It knows a thing or two about making people smile,” Serena replied with a wink. “I hope it gives you the same happiness it did to me when I caught it.”

    As she said those words, Russell’s finger subconsciously grazed over the Poké Ball’s center, causing the capsule to break open and release a beam of light. It materialized into a small wriggly creature in the middle of the room, the clumps of hair around its body coming out of the light surrounding it. Once its eyes were formed, it scanned the room with as much curiosity as its owner. When it saw its trainer, it let out a loud cry.

    “Hello, Scatterbug,” Serena said to the little Pokémon. “I’ll be leaving you at the care of this old man for a while, okay? Right now, he needs you more than I do.”

    “Wow!” Russell exclaimed, prompting both the trainer and her Pokémon to look at him. The Scatterbug was startled at first, but when it saw the wide grin of the old man, it gave its own smile in reply.

    “So you’re a Scatterbug, huh?” he said to the Pokémon. “I hope you don’t get too bored keeping company with an old man like me!”

    “I’m sure it won’t,” Serena replied, though she saw that her words were unheard, for the man was already holding Scatterbug and gently petting its head. Her heart was moved at the display, reminding her of how she had caught the Scatterbug a few months ago. It was her first successful catch, and while she did not use it in her main team anymore, the Scatterbug held a special place in her heart.

    And now it will hold a special place in his, she said to herself as she quietly left the house.


    --


    “And here we are live from the grand parade in Lumiose City honoring the heroes of Kalos—”

    For the first time since his wife was last admitted into the hospital, Russell was sitting on the couch, eating takeout food, and watching TV with a companion. It might not have been her soft hair that he was caressing or her gentle hands that he was holding, but the wriggly frame of the Scatterbug was more than enough to make him smile.

    In the month that had passed, the Scatterbug had energized him to start cleaning up the house again. Mornings were spent sweeping the floor, wiping the furniture, and washing his clothes. Afternoons were spent storing items into three types of boxes: things he will donate, things he still found some use for, and things she will never use again.

    The arrival of dusk signaled him to bathe and change into a fresh set of clothes. With the Scatterbug on his shoulder, they went out of the house and took a walk around the park. As if it was routine, he told the Scatterbug of every memory he had of specific spots in the park. He told the Scatterbug about the time they had a picnic under the Leppa Tree during the first dusk they spent as citizens of Anistar, and the time they were staring up at the sundial when she showed him the positive pregnancy test, and the time she had released her Vivillon into the sky with tears on both the trainer’s and the Pokémon’s eyes. When they came to the bench with the best view of the sunset, he told the Scatterbug that few weeks ago, he finally accepted what his wife kept on telling him about this view. “No living thing on this planet could surpass its beauty,” he told the Scatterbug. “Nothing at all.”

    They would stare at the sunset until it ended, and only then would they leave the park. Before heading home, he made a quick stop by the marketplace to buy fresh fruits and a couple of berries, serving as his and the Scatterbug’s dinner respectively. They ate their dinners in silence, and their days concluded in front of the TV. As news programs and romance movies flickered in front of him, he pondered at the unmistakable similarity of their days’ routine with his days with her before her seventh surgery.

    She, on a wheelchair instead of on his shoulders, energized him to do the same chores every morning, though this energizing came in the form of soft requests instead of shrill cries. Before dusk came, he would help her bathe and change her clothes, answering her every day reminder of “You don’t have to do this” with “I don’t have to, but I want to.” Their sunset walks in the park stopped at the same spots, the areas that struck vivid memories in both of their minds. Tears rolled down her face when they came to the spot where she released her Vivillon, and a disappointed sigh came out of her mouth when they arrived at the spot where she showed him the pregnancy test. He made sure that their walks always ended on the bench with the best view of the sunset, so that the last memory that the park spurred in their minds was a positive one. Their days ended without the visit to the marketplace, and on their bed they both hoped that tomorrow would be kinder.

    That day, his pondering was interrupted by the shrill crying of the Scatterbug beside him. When he looked at the TV, he saw the reason why.

    Serena stared at him from the screen, donning the same smile that impacted him a month ago. Her hair flowed into helix-like spirals that reached her shoulders, with an aqua blue flower pin topping it. Her tank top and jean shorts were replaced by a pink frilly dress that hugged her frame nicely, with the whole outfit being underlined by white Mary Janes. In addition to its gentleness, her expression exuded a strong wave of confidence he had also felt before, though it seemed to have grown even more from when she was a mere intruder to him.

    Beside him, the Scatterbug let out cry after excited cry at the sight of its trainer. It almost fell over from its attempts to get near her, but its hind legs clung onto the edge of the desk just in time. Its cries increased in volume as the camera focused on its trainer’s face, the words coming out of her moving mouth, though unintelligible to it, being music to the Pokémon’s ears. Without knowing it, each screech it made sent a clear message not to the trainer it adored, but to the man who was watching it.

    Russell had gotten nothing from the news report, as all of his attention was focused on the display that the Scatterbug was putting on. What started as a series of high-pitched cries increased in volume as each minute passed, which to him translated as its joy and longing for its original trainer. The more he listened to the Scatterbug, the more he could make out a cheer in between its shrill cries: “Serena, Serena, Serena—”

    He knew what all of it meant. He knew what he had to do.


    --


    Dear Serena,

    The morning after the coverage of the parade, he rummaged through all of things to find a clean piece of stationery. The items that took him a whole week to store properly were littered around the house in seconds. He found an unopened pack of letter paper in the box of his wife’s items, and he remembered that it was bought so that she could send letters to all the people her poor health prevented her from visiting. The writing never happened, and the letters were never sent.

    He tore the pack open and laid a sheet of paper on his desk. I’m sorry, his hand started to write, but the minute he saw those two words, he tore the sheet into shreds.

    Dear Serena, he wrote again on a second sheet.

    Thanks to the kindness you and your Scatterbug showed me,

    He had watched a rerun of the parade interview in the middle of the night as he was searching for the stationery. He found out that she was the subject of the parade, and it honored not only her achievement as being one of the youngest inductees to the Hall of Fame in the history of the Kalos Pokémon League, but also her acts of heroism in saving the whole world from the misdeeds of Team Flare.

    I was able to keep smiling until the very end.

    The footage also included a feature on a man who turned from an uninvited visitor into a heartwarming inspiration. The man was absurdly tall, perhaps even taller than a house, but the footage saw him kneeling on the ground and clutching what looked like a small object in his enormous hands. An interview with Professor Sycamore later in the news report revealed that the object that the man was clutching was a dead Pokémon that the man had successfully resurrected many years ago, but had left its trainer after finding out what the cost of its resurrection was. The professor refused to say anything else about the topic, but Russell heard everything that he had to hear, and he turned the TV off with a smile.

    I apologize I can’t look after Scatterbug anymore,

    In the morning, he went to the café and bought the most expensive PokéPuff that it was selling. When he got home, the Scatterbug immediately cried screams of joy at the scent. He watched the Scatterbug as it slowly nibbled the PokéPuff on his hand, its tiny feet tickling his palm. As it finished the pastry, he gave it a soft pat on its head and recalled it into its Poké Ball. “Thanks for everything,” he said to the ball, “but I know I have to return you to who you truly belong to.”

    but I know you’ll take care of it.

    After he had written his letter to Serena, he got a third sheet of letter paper and addressed it to Tristan. This letter did not take him more than five minutes to write, and as soon as the sun cracked the dark sky, he wasted no time in giving the letter to the city post office. When Tristan received the letter a few weeks later, his face hardened at the two sentences that its body contained: “I’m sorry, buddy. I know where I have to go, and it’s not to you.”

    Finally, please take this Comet Shard as a token of my thanks.

    The Poké Ball containing Serena’s Scatterbug lay motionless on the floor, acting as a paperweight for the envelope that contained the letter addressed to Serena and his wife’s ring. Above the Poké Ball, Russell stood on top of a chair, his wedding ensemble hugging his frame, the Escape Rope around his neck, and a smile on his lips. He closed his eyes and uttered three words he had not uttered to the proper addressee for a month, knowing that would not be the case very soon.

    “I love you.”
    Last edited by Dramatic Melody; 16th September 2014 at 2:35 AM.


    Berries -- Escape Rope -- A Friday



    images were taken from three specific pages of Serebii.net

  2. #2
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    This brings a tear to my eye, such a great story.

    Your writing style and proof-reading is exceptional, and the plot is brilliant.

    Keep up the work!
    Eevee
    Your a very sweet and caring person. You often put others before yourself. You love when everyone around you is happy and that also makes you happy. Family and friends are most important to you. Sometimes you can be a bit clingy but people find that cute. Your caring attitude draws people to you.
    About the last part... Yeaaahhhh...

  3. #3
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    I'm going to review this by giving notes on the text first, and then giving overall notes and impressions. Ok? Ok! Let's go!

    “I’m sorry.”

    He remembered the exact manner those two words were said to him: soft, restrained, muffled by the mask on the speaker’s mouth and the hesitation on the speaker’s face; monotone, straightforward, ignoring the stress that was supposed to be applied to the first syllable of the second word; unfeeling, indifferent, as if the enormity and complexity of emotions loaded in those two words can be encapsulated in the sideward nodding of the speaker’s head and in the vacant stare of the addressee’s eyes.

    He also remembered what happened after: strained screaming, fierce sobbing, and an indefinite amount of curses spewing out of his mouth directly proportional to the indefinite amount of tears rolling down his cheeks.

    He chose not to remember anything else. His mind chose otherwise.
    Ok, first a criticism: this part feels a little stilted. The academic feel you've got going on in the description just isn't working for me. I can kind of see what you're going for: the way you feel hyper-alert when something terrible happens, and take in a lot of sensory details. That part's fine. But when you use terms like "indefinite" and "directly proportional..." That gives it a cold feeling that just removes me from the emotion of the scene. I get the sense that maybe you're going for a sense of depersonalization and detachment on the part of the main character? But that conflicts with the obvious emotion he's experiencing there. Overall, writing about it that way cheapens it, because it sounds like you're less concerned with the emotion than with writing impressively. Trying to be artful about a tragedy makes it seem like you're more concerned with impressing yourself than with what's happened. That can work, if that's what your character is like... but I don't think that's what you were going for here. Don't worry, though, I see a lot of writers do this; the first time I noticed it was in Chang-Rae Lee's novel The Surrendered.

    I do like the last line here... Although I feel like "mind" might not be the right word. I think "brain" would work better, because "mind" is what you usually use to talk about yourself. "Brain," to me, feels more detached, just an organ that can malfunction. Also... perhaps "chose" isn't the best word, either, because that kind of implies success, or... Or it could imply the appearance of success. Like, he doesn't have trouble with not thinking about it during the day, but then he dreams about it, or something? If that's what you're going for, I think it'd work better if you made it explicit.

    I do like how you start in res media, though (although you might want to mention that the mask here is a surgeon's mask; the lack of context coming in made the scene a little confusing for me)... and speaking of how his mind chose to remember is a great segue into the past segments.


    “Table for one, please?”

    He was clearing off a table when she entered the café. As she entered, she removed her blue sunglasses and placed it over her pink felt hat. Her head slowly swayed sideward, taking in each sight of one of the many cafés in Lumiose that she has been hearing about ever since she was young. Dusting off her pink-striped tank top and white jean shorts, she took a few steps forward, her aqua blue Mary Janes softly tapping on the black and white tiles.

    On top of her shoulders was a small hairy object, and it took him five glances to figure out that it was a Scatterbug. He heard the Pokémon cry enthusiastically at the new sight, and he assumed it was because it had been seeing trees and grass for a hefty amount of time and it welcomed the calmness of the café. The Pokémon mimicked its trainer’s actions, widening its eyes left and right and shaking the dust off its hairy body in perfect harmony with its trainer.

    One of his fellow waiters, a Lumiose local named Tristan, welcomed her and led her to a table. She bowed slightly to thank Tristan, took a seat in a manner that could only be described as delicate, and placed her pink ribbon purse on the seat beside her. He watched as she listened to Tristan say the customary greeting. “Welcome to Café Triste. May I offer you our special spicy ice cream? It’s made out of crushed Lava Cookies that come all the way from Hoenn.” He watched her smile slightly in response, saying that she would take a look at the menu first before ordering. He even saw her brown eyes move slightly as she scanned the café menu on the stand in front of her, her lips quivering as a response to the exaggerated descriptions of their average dishes.
    Great visual detail here; I very much get the sense that Russel is noticing everything about this girl because he thinks she's hot.

    “Hello! Earth to Russell!”

    He turned around and saw Tristan giving him a frustrated look. “Did you hear any word I just said?”

    “Yeah, yeah, of course,” Russell replied in between abrupt and distracted breaks. “Uhm, what were you saying again?”

    “Always the daydreamer,” Tristan said with an annoyed sigh. “I was asking if you could take the new customer out of my hands and get her order for me. Boss just asked me to do inventory, and Raven’s on her break, so—”

    “Sure, no problem!” Russell interrupted. “I’ll handle it.”

    He didn’t even hear Tristan’s “Thanks, dude” as he walked towards her table. He glanced over at the mirrors hanging on the walls of the café, making sure no strands poked out of his combed black hair and no dirt was seen on his uniform. After a breath check and a small adjustment to his tie, he withdrew his notepad and pen and stood in front of her, her head still behind the café menu.

    “Good afternoon, ma’am,” he said in the deepest voice a nineteen-year-old like him could muster up. “My name is Russell, and I’ll be your waiter for today. What will you be having?”

    They got married four years after. At the start of his best man’s speech, Tristan proudly claimed, “I take full credit in being the reason these two lovebirds met.”
    The way Russel checks his appearance and lowers his voice is adorable; that gave me a sense that he's self-conscious and wants so much to impress this girl.

    Love the jump from the restaurant scene to the wedding scene... but I'd leave out "The got married four years later." It's obvious they got married when we see Tristan giving the speech, and it's not necessary to know exactly how much time has passed. I'd say something like Stating it kind of spoils the surprise you have set up with the jump. I'd say something like "When Tristan gave his best man's speech at their wedding, he said..." or something like that.

    “It’s gonna be okay.”

    She wanted two children, a boy and a girl. She wanted to name the boy James and the girl Mira. She wanted James to be the older brother, so he could protect his younger sister from whoever dared to bully her. She wanted Mira to be a professional Pokémon breeder just like her parents, and she wanted to teach her everything she knew about the underappreciated profession. She wanted to see Russell and James take camping trips in Santalune Forest and fishing trips in Azure Bay, and whatever other father-and-son activities they could think of. She wanted a happy family that lived peacefully in Anistar until James and Mira were grown up enough to meet their own handsome waiters or beautiful customers or whatever there was in between.

    She did not want the miscarriage. Nor did she want the damaged uterus.

    “Thankfully, the surgery took away all the potential risks to your health that the unborn fetus might have given you,” the doctor told her after her first surgery. “Unfortunately, you will be unable to bear any future children because of the complications in your uterus.”

    She received the news wordlessly. She had shouted more than enough pleas when she was taken away from Russell and taken into the surgery room, and she had cried more than enough tears when they took the fetus out of her womb. In her mind, she knew at this point that fighting was hopeless, that there was nothing she could do to change her grim future. To her, the life the doctors had saved was not a life she wanted.

    Sitting beside her was Russell, his face almost as blank as hers. Though they were mere centimeters apart, she knew what stood between them was more than any of them could fathom: the ever-rising costs inversely proportional to her ever-failing health, the amount of hard work Russell had to do for both of them, the adjustments both of them had to do to support her, the vanishing of James and Mira and any other thoughts of having a family from their minds, and the newfound impossibility of most of their dreams and ambitions.

    “It’s gonna be okay, dear,” Russell kept on telling her after the doctor gave her the first of many prescriptions. “It’s gonna be okay.”
    Good complication in the love story; the fact that you detail her dreams gives Mira some good characterization, and also gives a sense of what's been lost. But I'd be more specific with what's wrong with her, especially since it's so important to the plot later. When health issues in fiction are vague, it kind of gives a sense of romanticism that I don't think you want. Oh, also, it might be good if you had Mira refer to the lost child as a baby instead of a fetus... Because she's already thinking of it as her child. That would also contrast the doctor's rather clinical reference to it. Eheh, he doesn't have the best bed-side manner, does he? I think it'd add a touch of realism if he at least tried to sound sympathetic, because... well, even if he's not directly affected, the doctor's still a person. Even if he doesn't feel bad, he'd at least be aware of social pressure to sound like he did. So... I think it'd work if he said something kind, but sounded like he didn't mean it. Or, he did mean it, but it didn't help. Cold doctors in tragic situations errs on the side of melodrama for me...

    “Will that be all, sir?”

    The clerk looked at her customer with a certain uneasiness. She noticed how his black hair looked like it hadn’t been washed for weeks, and how his face hadn’t been shaved even longer. His clothes also made her feel uncomfortable, what with his wrongly-buttoned polo, his unzipped pants, and his mismatching socks. But what disturbed her most was the pungent odor she could smell from him, not because of the dreadful scent that came from what seemed like an entire bathless month, but because of the specific smells she could identify: dead flowers, stale medicine, and dried blood.

    In between them was a counter that carried only one item—an Escape Rope. She had no idea why he would need it; she didn’t see any Poké Balls on him, and he didn’t look like the type of person who would journey into a deep dungeon. What bothered her even more was the fact that this was the only item that he was buying. She would have understood if it was accompanied by a few Poké Balls and a handful of Potions, but when she asked him if he had anything else to buy, he replied by withdrawing 550 Poké’s worth of coins from his pocket and clumsily placing it beside the Escape Rope.

    “All right, sir,” the clerk shrugged as he took his money. After pressing a few buttons on the cash register, she offered the printed receipt of the purchase to him. To her surprise, he refused to take it and instead clutched the Escape Rope with his hands, as if it was valued a hundred times more than what the receipt stated. She offered to give him a plastic bag for his purchase, but the glare she got as a reply told her that the Escape Rope and the man were inseparable.

    Not knowing what else to do, she gave him the customary farewell. “Please come again!” she said, trying to mask her confusion and worry with as much liveliness as she could muster up.

    Russell left the Poké Mart without another word. She would never understand, he thought.
    Ok, so I like it that he hasn't been bathing or shaving, and that he looks disheveled. That having been said, I think you overdid it a little. When you've got a wrongly buttoned shirt AND mismatched socks AND unzipped pants... rather than sounding like he doesn't care what he looks like, it sounds like he dressed that way on purpose. I'd stick with the wrongly buttoned shirt and drop the other two. Also, having him clutch the rope that way seems a bit too literary. Like, it feels like an explicitly symbolic action. People certainly do perform symbolic actions in real life, as we tend to think of ourselves as the protagonists in our own stories. However, you kind of have to call it out when you write a character that way, or it seems like you're playing it straight. And I don't think that kind of thing fits this character or situation, anyway; I don't think Russel would be romanticizing himself in this situation. The thing is, the rope's replaceable; what he wants to do isn't dependent upon that particular one. I'd also leave out "She'd never understand," because... that sounds more like a petulant teenager than someone who'd just lost his wife. I very much understand the feeling that you're living in a completely different world than other people when you're grieving or depressed... but in my experience, you don't blame them for not understanding. Why would they? It feels strange than something that's insignificant to most people is the end of the world for you. It helps to remember that there are other people going through the same thing, but... what you usually want is to be one of the happy ones again.

    “Yes! Yes yes yes!”

    Russell saw the bride-to-be in front of him kiss her groom-to-be, with short screams of joy and disbelief coming out of her mouth. Behind them, the slowly setting sun framed the newly-engaged couple nicely, transforming the otherwise dull scene into a picturesque portrait, no doubt factoring into the groom-to-be’s decision of picking this particular spot for his proposal.

    The familiarity of the sight lost some of its spark for him; in his days as a tourist photographer, he would take the picture of at least five newly-engaged couples each week. He made sure to frame them with either the sunset that spread out from the sea or the sundial that loomed over all of them. Before and after each of those photographs, he would congratulate the couple with the most heartfelt congratulations he could give them, an emotion that diminished as time passed.

    He knew that his reaction to the sunset was doomed even before he started being a tourist photographer, for his familiarity with the sight dated back to two years before he started taking pictures of newly-engaged couples. He was twenty-two, and he was sitting at the exact same bench at around the same time. Beside him, she marveled at the scenic view of the setting sun, a sight she had been familiar with ever since she was born. Growing up in Anistar, she knew the park like the back of her hand, and she had experienced many first times within the fences of this park: the first baby tooth that fell out of her mouth, the first time she ever had a crush, the first time she got a bruise that required her to go to the hospital for treatment, the first Pokémon she ever encountered, the first time she watched the sun be engulfed by the sea. To her, this park was the most beautiful place in the whole world, and every time they visited it, she told him that she couldn’t imagine anything that could surpass its beauty.

    That day, Russell told her that he would challenge that claim. He succeeded with a ring.

    Her ring was made out of a Comet Shard he had picked up from the sands of Azure Bay when he was young. When he found out how valuable it had been, he vowed to himself that he would be saving it for the right moment, for he believed that something that looked so special was meant for something special. He personally asked a jeweler in Lumiose, who was one of Tristan’s friends, to make the Comet Shard the centerpiece of the ring. When he saw the ring for the first time, he knew that it was the most beautiful piece of jewelry that he had ever seen, and he knew that such a fine accessory only belonged to the finest of women.

    After the funeral, he threw away his own ring, which was made of a cheaper material that looked exactly like a Comet Shard, and kept his wife’s. At the suggestion of Tristan, he wore it around his neck, though he knew it didn’t make any difference.

    Forty years after his proposal, the Escape Rope replaced her as his companion on the two-person bench. The couple-to-be in front of him had exchanged their hundredth kiss as they left the park. He heard the bride-to-be mutter repeatedly, “This is the happiest day of my life! Nothing will ever ruin this moment!”

    He wanted to tell her how wrong she was, but he knew that in time, she would find that out for herself.
    Wow, that's about the worst possible profession for Russel to be in. Interesting how, a scene that's so life-defining for the couples involved has become mundane for him. It's sort of the opposite of his grief, because there, it's him that's having the life-changing experience, but it's just another case of heart-break to everyone around him. Good touch having this be a very personal spot for them; otherwise I'd be left asking the question, why is this particular proposal being focused on, and not another?

    I'd like a little more detail on how Russel is feeling here, though. Does he envy the new couple? Does it bother him to see other people happy when his own happiness failed? Does he kind of want bad things to happen to the couples he sees? Or does he wish that life would turn out better for them, but thinks that's impossible? I find the last one kind of hard to believe. Because obviously, not every marriage ends as badly as his did. Sure, everyone goes through struggles, but that's just life. It's entirely possible that this couple will have a long, happy life together... and I don't think what Russel's been through would prevent him from realizing that. If anything, he'd be more aware of people with happy lives, and it'd seem terribly unfair to him that he and his wife didn't get to be among them.

    “How are you?”

    Those words started Tristan’s unanswered letter that lay on Russell’s desk. He found out in the wake two weeks ago that unlike him, Tristan had settled down rather nicely. After Russell quit his job in Café Triste to live with her, Tristan got promoted to store manager. His efforts were noticed by other companies, and soon enough he was employed as the restaurant manager of the Sushi High Roller. While working there, he piqued the interest of a wealthy Furisode Girl whose three Audino thought that he was a suitable companion for their trainer. They married a year after they met and had three children, and they settled down in a two-storey house in Cyllage, where he spent most of his days fishing in Muraille Coast.

    Seeing the state of his old friend in her wake, Tristan wrote him a letter that offered him to live in Cyllage with Tristan and his wife, since two of their kids had moved out and the third was spending most of his time in the city’s gym as Grant’s apprentice. “You don’t have to worry about living space and being disturbed,” Tristan had wrote in his letter. “I’ve told my wife everything about you, and she would love to have you over for however long you want. I’m really worried about you, Russell, and I hope you’ll do okay after this. If ever you need me for anything, don’t hesitate to contact me, all right?”

    When he had seen the first words of Tristan’s offer to live with him and his wife, Russell refolded the letter and placed it on his desk, leaving the rest of its contents unread.

    A week later, Tristan’s letter remained unmoved in its spot, though it now had a new companion in the Escape Rope he bought the day before. It was three feet long and eleven inches thick, more durable than the rope he had stolen from the park last week. He had tested it with a toy doll he had gotten as a gift from a party his wife had thrown when she found out that she was pregnant, and the Escape Rope had served its purpose.

    “Today’s the day,” he said out loud to no one, though it was heard by everyone who needed to hear it.

    He grabbed the Escape Rope from the desk and tied it around one of the blades of the ceiling fan, forming a small noose. He made sure that the knots were tight, tugging the rope lightly and retying the knot several times until he was satisfied with its tightness. The chair he had used to tie the Escape Rope was placed directly below it, being moved a few centimeters left and right until he was sure that it was in the perfect position. Afterwards, he changed his clothes, wearing the same ensemble he wore during his wedding: the slightly creased undershirt, the light blue polo shirt, the matching suit and slacks, the midnight blue necktie, and the polished leather shoes. Apart from the sagginess of the clothes, the only difference was the ring; instead of being placed on his finger, it hung around his neck, and instead of being his, it was hers.

    After making sure the entire setup was in place, he stepped on top of the chair. He took one last look of his home, put his head through the noose, and closed his eyes.
    Going off what I was just talking about, he has Tristan as an example of a marriage that worked out. It does sound, though, like he and his wife aren't in love the way Russel and Mira were, going by words like "suitable" and "companion." Or at least, it seems that way from Russel's point of view. I like the idea of testing out the escape rope... it gives a sort of business-like feel to the act of suicide which, frankly, I think is there in real life. It's something you have to plan, just like anything else. However, I'd use something other than a doll, because a doll is nowhere near the size or weight of a grown man. Oh, but I love this line:

    “Today’s the day,” he said out loud to no one, though it was heard by everyone who needed to hear it.
    Clever, but not too clever. It gives a strong sense of how bitterly alone Russel feels, almost like he's mocking himself.
    “This is perfect!”

    She took in the sight of their new home with the same vigor she had in Café Triste six years ago. This time, though, she was looking at her own space, a space she and her husband had been working hard to obtain in the past two years. They both chose Anistar because of its fine balance between urban and rural, its playful shifts between cool and warm weather, and its unique representation of her past and their future.

    She had gotten a job almost immediately after they had settled the papers for the loan of their new house. She took on the position of associate head nurse of the city’s Pokémon Center, a job she had obtained easily because of her extensive experience as the daughter of two professional Pokémon breeders. He, on the other hand, balanced several part-time jobs, which ranged from being a hotel concierge to a hotel janitor, from a waiter to a bartender, from a tour guide to a tourist photographer, depending on the time of the day and the day of the week. He had worked out an ideal-enough schedule to have Sundays free, and so that his hour-long breaks every afternoon coincided with hers in the Center.

    It was a tedious setup for both of them, but they both knew that it was worth it. While their heads were filled with the several demanding duties of their jobs, their minds were filled with thoughts of raising a family, of supporting their children through school, of opening their own café, and of traveling to Hoenn and riding the Mt. Chimney Cable Car. While their hands were filled with dirt and fatigue, their hearts were filled with the feeling of excitement from living a life they only saw in afternoon TV dramas, of fulfillment in living a life that bore out of their own blood, sweat, and tears, and of contentment from living a life with their true love.

    They managed to complete the payment of their house loan thirty-seven years after they had moved in. By then, she would have had seven surgeries.

    After the seventh surgery, Russell went into her hospital room wearing the brightest smile he had ever worn since he found out about her pregnancy. “Honey,” he said in an unusually optimistic tone, “I’ve paid the entire loan. The house is officially ours!”

    Her reply consisted of rhythmic beeps, growing slower by milliseconds as each minute passed by. Russell got a more concrete reply three days later, though it came from a doctor.

    “I’m sorry,” the doctor told him.
    I like how you're jumping back and forth here, but I'd have put the part about their early life together before where they lost the baby. We know starting out that things don't end well... but there still needs to be a progression. We need to see their happiness before the tragedy to make both more strongly felt. Once you've laid out all that went wrong, it just doesn't have the same impact. What I really want to see is how they dealt with Mira losing the baby, and her health issues in the years before her death (because there's a lot of time in between, isn't there?). I feel like these two characters would do their best to keep going for each other's sake, even if that was hard... maybe they'd still be unable to be happy... but it seems like there'd be at least some happy times in between. Or maybe the tragedy drove them farther apart, because they felt like they couldn't understand each other anymore? Well, they're your characters, so how they dealt with it is up to you-- I just want to see it. I like the detail about the TV shows representing their dreams. I wonder if you could do more with that? Like, before, it's something they enjoy, and they hope to have a life similar to the one on TV. But after, it becomes painful to watch, because it's a representation of everything they can't have?

    I think it'd work better if Mira gave an actual reply here... I dunno, it seems like the whole situation is pretty hopeless as it is, which makes it seem kind of strange that Russel is so excited to tell her that he finally paid off on the house.

    “Hello, is anybody home?”

    He was interrupted by a suddenly-opened door. Before a pink Mary Jane made contact with the wooden floor, the Escape Rope was already in his hands, a few inches lower than where it should have been. Before the door revealed the intruder’s frame, he had thrown the Escape Rope under his desk and he had sat down on the chair where he stood seconds ago. Before he could curse the intruder out of the house, he saw her.

    He saw her white sunglasses perched in front of her aqua blue felt hat that topped her medium-length brown hair. He saw her frame being enveloped by a blue-striped tank top, which was tucked in her pink jean shorts, and he saw an aqua blue ribbon bag hanging from her left shoulder. But what his eyes were almost unconsciously drawn to was her face. Her lips, quivering in both wonder and confusion, were coated by a pale pink lip balm. Her cheeks had a light coating of foundation and blush, bringing out their rosiness. Her dark brown eyes slowly scanned his home and rested at the sight of him, a motion he was all too familiar with.

    “Hello? Did I interrupt something?”

    Yes, you did, he started to say, but the words never left his mouth.

    “I’m sorry if I bothered you,” she said shyly, sensing his mood. “My name is Serena and I come from Vaniville Town. I was just wondering where the entrance to the Anistar Sundial Park was. This city is much bigger than I expected it to be, very much unlike my hometown, and I tend to get lost easily whenever I visit big cities like this.”
    Interesting choice to make Serena look just like Mira; makes it seem like her coming in is divine intervention, or something.

    “Uhh, thank you, sir,” Serena said softly. As she studied the map, he studied her with the same fascination his nineteen-year-old self had many years ago in Café Triste. With each blink, the map between him and the intruder transformed into other objects. A blink transformed the map into two cups of coffee resting on a table that overheard their owners’ exchanges of personal details. Another blink transformed the cups of coffee into a bouquet of roses that he was offering to her while she stood in the divide between her apartment and the street. A third blink transformed the bouquet into a ring with a Comet Shard at the center which his shaking hand was struggling to put on hers.

    “Oh my gosh. I’m very sorry, sir, very very sorry.”

    Her sad tone broke him out of his trance, and he was met by two watery eyes. He looked down and saw that the sheet of paper that he gave the intruder had been turned around, and a few tear drops stained the lower half of Tristan’s letter.

    “I’m so sorry for your loss, sir,” Serena said in a somber tone. “It may mean nothing to you at this point, but I offer my deepest condolences.”
    Like the flashbacks while Serena is looking over the map/letter... though I'm kind of surprised she'd read someone's personal letter so openly.

    “Wait!”

    He called out to her as half of her body was already out of the door. Serena turned around, and the face he saw wasn’t that of the intruder’s anymore, but of the customer’s forty-four years ago.

    “Yes, sir?”

    He didn’t know what to do. For the first time in a long while, he was talking to a young girl that wasn’t his customer, his superior, or his wife. After getting used to putting others before himself, he didn’t know how to talk to anyone as his equal anymore.

    “With my wife gone,” he stuttered out, “my life has become very lonely.”

    He saw her wipe away a tear from her eyes and step forward to come closer to him. His brain told him to step back, but his feet remained planted firmly on the floor.
    Like how this scene reflects the one in the previous flashback.


    What do I do now? he asked himself. Rummaging through all of his memories with his wife, he then remembered a particular day when he felt the same way as he did this very moment.

    Less than a year after their first coffee date, she had taken him to visit her parents in Camphrier Town. It was a trip they had planned months before, and he promised her that he would file his vacation leaves to coincide with the time they would spend there. Unfortunately, at the last minute, his boss required him to be in the café in the same days as his vacation, for his boss had also planned to use his vacation leaves on those days. Trying every excuse he knew, he was eventually defeated by his boss, and he made a truce by asking if he could have at least the first of the three days off, to which his boss reluctantly agreed.

    He was received exceedingly well by her parents, due in part to how warmly the baby Pokémon in the breeding center received him when he introduced himself to the family. “He’s a natural with children,” her mother had commented over the dinner table. “I’m sure that will come in handy in the future.” He did everything to suppress a laugh as he saw her cheeks blush a deep red. The rest of the dinner went by in the same manner, but the positive energy came to an abrupt stop the following morning, when she saw him in his waiter uniform leaving their bedroom.

    “Hey, where are you going?” she asked, rubbing her eyes to confirm what she saw. He knew that lying would get him nowhere, so he had explained to her his situation with his boss and the abrupt change in his schedule. The argument transformed into a series of unrestrained shouts and concluded with a slammed door, waking up her parents and some of the baby Pokémon that slept in her family’s house.

    He could hardly concentrate in the café, for his mind was filled with thoughts of regret and self-loathing. He wanted to make all the customers leave so he could break all the furniture and utensils he saw. He wanted to go wherever his boss was, look him in the eye, and beat him up until he couldn’t stand on his own two feet. He wanted to climb to the topmost floor of Prism Tower, curse his entire situation to the sky, and jump—

    “Table for three, please?”

    The familiar voice snapped him out of his daydreaming, and he saw her in the door of the café, as beautiful as she had been that morning. His walking almost turned into running as he went to her and hugged her tighter than he had ever hugged her before. His mouth spewed out all of the apologies he could muster up, and her replies were full of acceptances and assurances. Their little display was interrupted by her parents, her mother getting teary-eyed and her father nodding at him with a smile, as if giving him his approval of what he was doing.

    “If you don’t mind, Russell,” her mother said as they were seated on the table nearest the counter, “we brought along a few visitors who wanted to see you.”

    In that instant, beams of light broke out of their pockets, and he was mauled by a dozen of bright-eyed baby Pokémon. Their playful nibbles and eager licks melted all his anger away, and her soft giggle solidified his decision of marrying her as soon as humanly possible.
    But, though I like it, this scene feels superfluous. It might've worked had it come earlier... The earlier flashbacks are fine when they relate to what's going on with Serena, but this one doesn't feel relevant. I see that you tried to relate it by making it a time where Russel didn't know what to say... but there's so much before and after that, and the relationship is tenuous. Oh, if you do decide to still use this scene, though, I was wondering, why didn't Russel tell Mira that he couldn't get off work?

    “Uhh, excuse me sir?”

    His vision of Café Triste slowly faded as it was superimposed by two confused eyes and a raised eyebrow. He hadn’t noticed that Serena was standing uncomfortably close to him now. Without thinking, he blurted out the first words that came to his mouth.

    “Would you be so kind as to lend me one of your Pokémon? You know—to keep me company.”

    He saw the shock take over Serena’s face. The request was, in more ways than one, nonsensical, even to him. But as he saw the translucent image of the baby Pokémon licking him and their owners’ daughter smiling at him, every word he uttered suddenly made all the sense in the world.

    “I hate to be picky,” he said almost automatically, “but I’d love to take care of a Pokémon that’s Lv. 5 or under.”

    He could see Serena’s eyes shift slightly, unsure of how she would act in the situation she was in. He couldn’t blame her, for such a request was almost impossible to fulfill, especially since it came from a stranger. He had been hearing reports of Pokémon being forcefully taken from trainers by gang members of other regions, and he knew that a trainer like her wouldn’t risk such a thing. But the uncertainty left her eyes as quickly as it arrived, and the shock on her face melted into a grin.

    “Of course, sir,” she replied.

    A wave of energy came over him, something he had not experienced for a very long time. He was familiar with how brevity left the strongest impacts in him—“I’ll see you tonight,” “I do,” “I'm pregnant”—but the most recent impacts have all been ones he could do without—“I’m sorry,” “Condolences,” “How are you?”. Those three words, though, he would do anything to replay over and over again so that its characteristics would be ingrained in his mind: optimistic, joyful, each word rising in intonation as they were said one after the other; genuine, sincere, no footnotes or subtexts hidden behind any of its letters; seamless, natural, the sentence itself not knowing the strength of the impact it carried.

    “You’ve made an old man smile!” He blurted out with glee. “Which Pokémon will you lend me?”

    “Wait right here, I know exactly which Pokémon to lend you,” Serena said in an assuring tone as she ran out of the house. He did not even have the time to gather his thoughts and realize that she might have purposely left him when she came back holding a Poké Ball in her right hand.

    “Here,” she said with a smile as she handed him the Poké Ball. He stared at it with an intensity that surprised even him, and his hands fidgeted as he accepted the intruder’s gift.

    “Truly?” He said in between breaths. “Will you lend me this Pokémon?”

    “It knows a thing or two about making people smile,” Serena replied with a wink. “I hope it gives you the same happiness it did to me when I caught it.”

    As she said those words, Russell’s finger subconsciously grazed over the Poké Ball’s center, causing the capsule to break open and release a beam of light. It materialized into a small wriggly creature in the middle of the room, the clumps of hair around its body coming out of the light surrounding it. Once its eyes were formed, it scanned the room with as much curiosity as its owner. When it saw its trainer, it let out a loud cry.

    “Hello, Scatterbug,” Serena said to the little Pokémon. “I’ll be leaving you at the care of this old man for a while, okay? Right now, he needs you more than I do.”

    “Wow!” Russell exclaimed, prompting both the trainer and her Pokémon to look at him. The Scatterbug was startled at first, but when it saw the wide grin of the old man, it gave its own smile in reply.

    “So you’re a Scatterbug, huh?” he said to the Pokémon. “I hope you don’t get too bored keeping company with an old man like me!”

    “I’m sure it won’t,” Serena replied, though she saw that her words were unheard, for the man was already holding Scatterbug and gently petting its head. Her heart was moved at the display, reminding her of how she had caught the Scatterbug a few months ago. It was her first successful catch, and while she did not use it in her main team anymore, the Scatterbug held a special place in her heart.

    And now it will hold a special place in his, she said to herself as she quietly left the house.
    Hm, an interesting request... I like Serena's explanation of why she chose Scatterbug. It shows that she's a thoughtful and caring person.

    “And here we are live from the grand parade in Lumiose City honoring the heroes of Kalos—”

    For the first time since his wife was last admitted into the hospital, Russell was sitting on the couch, eating takeout food, and watching TV with a companion. It might not have been her soft hair that he was caressing or her gentle hands that he was holding, but the wriggly frame of the Scatterbug was more than enough to make him smile.

    In the month that had passed, the Scatterbug had energized him to start cleaning up the house again. Mornings were spent sweeping the floor, wiping the furniture, and washing his clothes. Afternoons were spent storing items into three types of boxes: things he will donate, things he still found some use for, and things she will never use again.

    The arrival of dusk signaled him to bathe and change into a fresh set of clothes. With the Scatterbug on his shoulder, they went out of the house and took a walk around the park. As if it was routine, he told the Scatterbug of every memory he had of specific spots in the park. He told the Scatterbug about the time they had a picnic under the Leppa Tree during the first dusk they spent as citizens of Anistar, and the time they were staring up at the sundial when she showed him the positive pregnancy test, and the time she had released her Vivillon into the sky with tears on both the trainer’s and the Pokémon’s eyes. When they came to the bench with the best view of the sunset, he told the Scatterbug that few weeks ago, he finally accepted what his wife kept on telling him about this view. “No living thing on this planet could surpass its beauty,” he told the Scatterbug. “Nothing at all.”

    They would stare at the sunset until it ended, and only then would they leave the park. Before heading home, he made a quick stop by the marketplace to buy fresh fruits and a couple of berries, serving as his and the Scatterbug’s dinner respectively. They ate their dinners in silence, and their days concluded in front of the TV. As news programs and romance movies flickered in front of him, he pondered at the unmistakable similarity of their days’ routine with his days with her before her seventh surgery.

    She, on a wheelchair instead of on his shoulders, energized him to do the same chores every morning, though this energizing came in the form of soft requests instead of shrill cries. Before dusk came, he would help her bathe and change her clothes, answering her every day reminder of “You don’t have to do this” with “I don’t have to, but I want to.” Their sunset walks in the park stopped at the same spots, the areas that struck vivid memories in both of their minds. Tears rolled down her face when they came to the spot where she released her Vivillon, and a disappointed sigh came out of her mouth when they arrived at the spot where she showed him the pregnancy test. He made sure that their walks always ended on the bench with the best view of the sunset, so that the last memory that the park spurred in their minds was a positive one. Their days ended without the visit to the marketplace, and on their bed they both hoped that tomorrow would be kinder.

    That day, his pondering was interrupted by the shrill crying of the Scatterbug beside him. When he looked at the TV, he saw the reason why.

    Serena stared at him from the screen, donning the same smile that impacted him a month ago. Her hair flowed into helix-like spirals that reached her shoulders, with an aqua blue flower pin topping it. Her tank top and jean shorts were replaced by a pink frilly dress that hugged her frame nicely, with the whole outfit being underlined by white Mary Janes. In addition to its gentleness, her expression exuded a strong wave of confidence he had also felt before, though it seemed to have grown even more from when she was a mere intruder to him.

    Beside him, the Scatterbug let out cry after excited cry at the sight of its trainer. It almost fell over from its attempts to get near her, but its hind legs clung onto the edge of the desk just in time. Its cries increased in volume as the camera focused on its trainer’s face, the words coming out of her moving mouth, though unintelligible to it, being music to the Pokémon’s ears. Without knowing it, each screech it made sent a clear message not to the trainer it adored, but to the man who was watching it.

    Russell had gotten nothing from the news report, as all of his attention was focused on the display that the Scatterbug was putting on. What started as a series of high-pitched cries increased in volume as each minute passed, which to him translated as its joy and longing for its original trainer. The more he listened to the Scatterbug, the more he could make out a cheer in between its shrill cries: “Serena, Serena, Serena—”

    He knew what all of it meant. He knew what he had to do.

    Good to see how taking care of Scatterbug gives Russel new purpose in life. It's like, he's found out that, even though he still misses Mira, there are things to enjoy in life. Life goes on. And he's also discovering that he can remember Mira happily. This flashback of them is the kind of detail I was looking for earlier, by the way. Here, it's almost like he's remembering that it wasn't all bad, whereas before, he could only focus on the negative.

    Dear Serena,

    The morning after the coverage of the parade, he rummaged through all of things to find a clean piece of stationery. The items that took him a whole week to store properly were littered around the house in seconds. He found an unopened pack of letter paper in the box of his wife’s items, and he remembered that it was bought so that she could send letters to all the people her poor health prevented her from visiting. The writing never happened, and the letters were never sent.

    He tore the pack open and laid a sheet of paper on his desk. I’m sorry, his hand started to write, but the minute he saw those two words, he tore the sheet into shreds.

    Dear Serena, he wrote again on a second sheet.

    Thanks to the kindness you and your Scatterbug showed me,

    He had watched a rerun of the parade interview in the middle of the night as he was searching for the stationery. He found out that she was the subject of the parade, and it honored not only her achievement as being one of the youngest inductees to the Hall of Fame in the history of the Kalos Pokémon League, but also her acts of heroism in saving the whole world from the misdeeds of Team Flare.

    I was able to keep smiling until the very end.

    The footage also included a feature on a man who turned from an uninvited visitor into a heartwarming inspiration. The man was absurdly tall, perhaps even taller than a house, but the footage saw him kneeling on the ground and clutching what looked like a small object in his enormous hands. An interview with Professor Sycamore later in the news report revealed that the object that the man was clutching was a dead Pokémon that the man had successfully resurrected many years ago, but had left its trainer after finding out what the cost of its resurrection was. The professor refused to say anything else about the topic, but Russell heard everything that he had to hear, and he turned the TV off with a smile.

    I apologize I can’t look after Scatterbug anymore,

    In the morning, he went to the café and bought the most expensive PokéPuff that it was selling. When he got home, the Scatterbug immediately cried screams of joy at the scent. He watched the Scatterbug as it slowly nibbled the PokéPuff on his hand, its tiny feet tickling his palm. As it finished the pastry, he gave it a soft pat on its head and recalled it into its Poké Ball. “Thanks for everything,” he said to the ball, “but I know I have to return you to who you truly belong to.”

    but I know you’ll take care of it.

    After he had written his letter to Serena, he got a third sheet of letter paper and addressed it to Tristan. This letter did not take him more than five minutes to write, and as soon as the sun cracked the dark sky, he wasted no time in giving the letter to the city post office. When Tristan received the letter a few weeks later, his face hardened at the two sentences that its body contained: “I’m sorry, buddy. I know where I have to go, and it’s not to you.”

    Finally, please take this Comet Shard as a token of my thanks.

    The Poké Ball containing Serena’s Scatterbug lay motionless on the floor, acting as a paperweight for the envelope that contained the letter addressed to Serena and his wife’s ring. Above the Poké Ball, Russell stood on top of a chair, his wedding ensemble hugging his frame, the Escape Rope around his neck, and a smile on his lips. He closed his eyes and uttered three words he had not uttered to the proper addressee for a month, knowing that would not be the case very soon.

    “I love you.”
    Buuuut the ending doesn't feel right. It's like, Russel finally learned to appreciate life again, he's found that he can find happiness in new places. Scatterbug might be leaving... but the point wasn't that looking after Scatterbug made him happy, it was that looking after Scatterbug taught him that he could be happy again. Even if letting the Pokemon go is hard, after learning something like that, I'd expect him to go live with Tristan, or something. I realize that life doesn't work like that. Sometimes people feel like, I was just getting back on my feet, and now this... and they just don't want to go through it again. But that doesn't really seem like what happened here. I didn't get a sense that Russel grieves when he lets Scatterbug go. I also didn't get the sense that he thinks that happiness never lasts. What it felt like was, oh, well, that didn't work out, guess I'll kill myself, after all. It felt like he just kind of gave up... after he just learned not to give up. That could work if this story were a parody of the "second-chance" trope, if your point was that life-affirming second chances only exist in stories, and that in real life, people never learn anything. But you're playing the trope pretty straight here, so it doesn't fit. You don't have to give it a happy ending (I realize you're constrained by the game's storyline here), but I feel like there needs to be a sense of loss and despair to make the suicide really work with the rest of the story.

    Overall, I enjoyed this. You do a good job of showing who the characters are through scenes of their lives; I cared about them, so the story was touching (if not a little melodramatic in places). There's lots of good visual detail, and it's relevant to the characters and plot. I didn't mention it before, but I like your use of objects, especially the ring... The use of that particular object throughout links past and present in a concrete way. The ending doesn't gel with the rest of the story... but otherwise, good stuff!
    Last edited by Hakajin; 11th September 2014 at 10:51 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PokeNet View Post
    This brings a tear to my eye, such a great story.

    Your writing style and proof-reading is exceptional, and the plot is brilliant.

    Keep up the work!
    Thank you very much! I'm glad that you enjoyed reading it. Are there any elements in the story that you'd want me to improve on, though?


    Quote Originally Posted by Hakajin View Post
    I'm going to review this by giving notes on the text first, and then giving overall notes and impressions. Ok? Ok! Let's go!
    All right! No problem. And let me get this out of the way first: thank you very much for this comprehensive review. I really appreciate you taking the time for doing this.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hakajin View Post
    Ok, first a criticism: this part feels a little stilted. The academic feel you've got going on in the description just isn't working for me. I can kind of see what you're going for: the way you feel hyper-alert when something terrible happens, and take in a lot of sensory details. That part's fine. But when you use terms like "indefinite" and "directly proportional..." That gives it a cold feeling that just removes me from the emotion of the scene. I get the sense that maybe you're going for a sense of depersonalization and detachment on the part of the main character? But that conflicts with the obvious emotion he's experiencing there. Overall, writing about it that way cheapens it, because it sounds like you're less concerned with the emotion than with writing impressively. Trying to be artful about a tragedy makes it seem like you're more concerned with impressing yourself than with what's happened. That can work, if that's what your character is like... but I don't think that's what you were going for here. Don't worry, though, I see a lot of writers do this; the first time I noticed it was in Chang-Rae Lee's novel The Surrendered.
    I see what you're saying. I was going for a cold look at the situation, since I don't really break away from the coldness in the entire thing. I don't see it as conflicting the emotions per se, but I've always believed that understating an emotion is better than overstating it. Of course, you can argue that I've understated it a bit too much seeing the gravity of the situation, but I personally find it a better way of presenting such a scene.

    That being sad, your comment about me being artful about tragedy is very valid, and I'm sorry if it feels like I care more about how the tragedy is presented instead of what the tragedy is saying. I'm sad that this is how it came off to you, seeing as the core of this fic is expanding a very understated tragedy in the games [which borders on fictional, of course, seeing as one-half of the tragedy I depict here isn't really stated in the games]. I'll take this comment to heart in my future projects, seeing as I find myself dealing with these kinds of stories a lot nowadays, so thank you very much for this.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hakajin View Post
    I do like the last line here... Although I feel like "mind" might not be the right word. I think "brain" would work better, because "mind" is what you usually use to talk about yourself. "Brain," to me, feels more detached, just an organ that can malfunction. Also... perhaps "chose" isn't the best word, either, because that kind of implies success, or... Or it could imply the appearance of success. Like, he doesn't have trouble with not thinking about it during the day, but then he dreams about it, or something? If that's what you're going for, I think it'd work better if you made it explicit.

    I do like how you start in res media, though (although you might want to mention that the mask here is a surgeon's mask; the lack of context coming in made the scene a little confusing for me)... and speaking of how his mind chose to remember is a great segue into the past segments.
    Funnily enough, I originally had "brain" as the word there, and I only changed it to "mind" when I was proofreading it before posting it. XD I'll take note of that. I was thinking more of how he tries to get over it and move on, but he always lingers on it and, as the story shows, his memories always come up whenever something triggers it. I'll take note of the word choice, though.

    I thought being specific about the mask would make it too obvious, actually =)) Especially since it isn't revealed that it's a doctor until a few scenes later.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hakajin View Post
    Great visual detail here; I very much get the sense that Russel is noticing everything about this girl because he thinks she's hot.

    The way Russel checks his appearance and lowers his voice is adorable; that gave me a sense that he's self-conscious and wants so much to impress this girl.

    Love the jump from the restaurant scene to the wedding scene... but I'd leave out "The got married four years later." It's obvious they got married when we see Tristan giving the speech, and it's not necessary to know exactly how much time has passed. I'd say something like Stating it kind of spoils the surprise you have set up with the jump. I'd say something like "When Tristan gave his best man's speech at their wedding, he said..." or something like that.
    I'm glad that you like the cafe scene. I'm not actually familiar with writing romantic scenes, so this was somewhat new to me, but I'm happy that it worked. XD Noted about the wedding line, though. If anything, that time marker was more for me, since I had to keep track of the years that passed between this first meeting and the story's present [Serena's visit].


    Quote Originally Posted by Hakajin View Post
    Good complication in the love story; the fact that you detail her dreams gives Mira some good characterization, and also gives a sense of what's been lost. But I'd be more specific with what's wrong with her, especially since it's so important to the plot later. When health issues in fiction are vague, it kind of gives a sense of romanticism that I don't think you want. Oh, also, it might be good if you had Mira refer to the lost child as a baby instead of a fetus... Because she's already thinking of it as her child. That would also contrast the doctor's rather clinical reference to it. Eheh, he doesn't have the best bed-side manner, does he? I think it'd add a touch of realism if he at least tried to sound sympathetic, because... well, even if he's not directly affected, the doctor's still a person. Even if he doesn't feel bad, he'd at least be aware of social pressure to sound like he did. So... I think it'd work if he said something kind, but sounded like he didn't mean it. Or, he did mean it, but it didn't help. Cold doctors in tragic situations errs on the side of melodrama for me...
    I was trying to look for a suitable medical condition for her, and most of what I found seemed too severe for her to live for many more decades after this scene. I went with a broken uterus because it fits with her inability to bear a child as well as her need for several surgeries. I understand the need to make it more specific, though, and I'll see what I can do about that.

    As for the doctor, I agree that he should be more sympathetic, but his sympathy doesn't extend to the couple, which I feel like would have been a better way to link it to the next scene with Russell and the cashier. Thanks for that.

    [As a side-note: Mira is the supposed name of their future daughter, not hers. I left her unnamed because I felt that saying her name would be one of the most difficult things Russell could do, so I applied that into the entire story.]



    Quote Originally Posted by Hakajin View Post
    Ok, so I like it that he hasn't been bathing or shaving, and that he looks disheveled. That having been said, I think you overdid it a little. When you've got a wrongly buttoned shirt AND mismatched socks AND unzipped pants... rather than sounding like he doesn't care what he looks like, it sounds like he dressed that way on purpose. I'd stick with the wrongly buttoned shirt and drop the other two. Also, having him clutch the rope that way seems a bit too literary. Like, it feels like an explicitly symbolic action. People certainly do perform symbolic actions in real life, as we tend to think of ourselves as the protagonists in our own stories. However, you kind of have to call it out when you write a character that way, or it seems like you're playing it straight. And I don't think that kind of thing fits this character or situation, anyway; I don't think Russel would be romanticizing himself in this situation. The thing is, the rope's replaceable; what he wants to do isn't dependent upon that particular one.
    Noted about overdoing his appearance and the "literariness" of it all. It seems like that's one of the biggest problems of this piece that I have to address. I feel like I focused too much on how I presented the story that I forgot about the story itself, which is bad, especially since this runs the risk of romanticizing the entire situation, something I obviously don't want when dealing with a situation like this. Thanks for bringing this up to me. I'm working on two other one-shots that also deal with heavy themes, so this is really going to help me in writing those.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hakajin View Post
    I'd also leave out "She'd never understand," because... that sounds more like a petulant teenager than someone who'd just lost his wife. I very much understand the feeling that you're living in a completely different world than other people when you're grieving or depressed... but in my experience, you don't blame them for not understanding. Why would they? It feels strange than something that's insignificant to most people is the end of the world for you. It helps to remember that there are other people going through the same thing, but... what you usually want is to be one of the happy ones again.
    That's a fault in my part, seeing as I've only dealt with adolescent characters in most of my stories. Thanks for catching that. Russell wouldn't be more positive about it, but he'd be more accepting.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hakajin View Post
    Wow, that's about the worst possible profession for Russel to be in. Interesting how, a scene that's so life-defining for the couples involved has become mundane for him. It's sort of the opposite of his grief, because there, it's him that's having the life-changing experience, but it's just another case of heart-break to everyone around him. Good touch having this be a very personal spot for them; otherwise I'd be left asking the question, why is this particular proposal being focused on, and not another?

    I'd like a little more detail on how Russel is feeling here, though. Does he envy the new couple? Does it bother him to see other people happy when his own happiness failed? Does he kind of want bad things to happen to the couples he sees? Or does he wish that life would turn out better for them, but thinks that's impossible? I find the last one kind of hard to believe. Because obviously, not every marriage ends as badly as his did. Sure, everyone goes through struggles, but that's just life. It's entirely possible that this couple will have a long, happy life together... and I don't think what Russel's been through would prevent him from realizing that. If anything, he'd be more aware of people with happy lives, and it'd seem terribly unfair to him that he and his wife didn't get to be among them.
    I think Russell would react in many ways to the couple, since not only do they remind him of his happy past that's been lost forever, but it also shows him that life goes on, other people are still happy, couples are still forming, and life still has its beautiful moments that, at this moment, he's unable to fully comprehend. I don't think this scene reflects this too well, and I'm sorry for that. I'd also integrate what you said about him finding it unfair, but I feel like that's another dimension of his character that I've yet to explore.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hakajin View Post
    Going off what I was just talking about, he has Tristan as an example of a marriage that worked out. It does sound, though, like he and his wife aren't in love the way Russel and Mira were, going by words like "suitable" and "companion." Or at least, it seems that way from Russel's point of view. I like the idea of testing out the escape rope... it gives a sort of business-like feel to the act of suicide which, frankly, I think is there in real life. It's something you have to plan, just like anything else. However, I'd use something other than a doll, because a doll is nowhere near the size or weight of a grown man.
    I did want Tristan to be this sort of ideal marriage that Russell would compare his own too, but I don't think he'd realize the comparison of how in love both couples are. I'm positive that Russell and his wife loved each other more than Tristan and his wife, but I don't think it's something Russell would realize in this situation.

    And wow, I didn't notice that I hadn't replaced the "doll" yet. I was going to use a bucket of water, and I remember having that in my notes. Dunno what happened. Thanks for catching that.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hakajin View Post
    I like how you're jumping back and forth here, but I'd have put the part about their early life together before where they lost the baby. We know starting out that things don't end well... but there still needs to be a progression. We need to see their happiness before the tragedy to make both more strongly felt. Once you've laid out all that went wrong, it just doesn't have the same impact. What I really want to see is how they dealt with Mira losing the baby, and her health issues in the years before her death (because there's a lot of time in between, isn't there?). I feel like these two characters would do their best to keep going for each other's sake, even if that was hard... maybe they'd still be unable to be happy... but it seems like there'd be at least some happy times in between. Or maybe the tragedy drove them farther apart, because they felt like they couldn't understand each other anymore? Well, they're your characters, so how they dealt with it is up to you-- I just want to see it. I like the detail about the TV shows representing their dreams. I wonder if you could do more with that? Like, before, it's something they enjoy, and they hope to have a life similar to the one on TV. But after, it becomes painful to watch, because it's a representation of everything they can't have?
    Noted about the lack of a sense of progression. I wanted to present many of the scenes as flashbacks to tie it with how Russell is remembering these scenes every day. I chose not to delve too much in their lives between the doctor's first diagnosis and her death because I felt like Russell would want to focus on the memories that gave him happiness, which is why I chose too add that scene about how their days were before the death later on, when his days with Scatterbug reminded him of those scenes. By then, he was much more comfortable remembering them, since he knew that those were his last concrete scenes with his wife spent outside of the hospital.

    I will note that there's still a lack of characterization in Russell and his wife's part in terms of how they dealt with the sickness before the death. I like what you said about how they compare themselves to the lives they see on TV. It gives the viewing of the TV shows much more significance since that appears a few times in the story. So thank you for that.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hakajin View Post
    I think it'd work better if Mira gave an actual reply here... I dunno, it seems like the whole situation is pretty hopeless as it is, which makes it seem kind of strange that Russel is so excited to tell her that he finally paid off on the house.
    I wanted to present it this way since it ties the whole scene together with why I put it immediately after Russell's first attempt. It also ties the first scene together since this is where the readers find out the context of that first scene. I guess this ties with how I overdid the presentation and didn't think much about the actual story.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hakajin View Post
    But, though I like it, this scene feels superfluous. It might've worked had it come earlier... The earlier flashbacks are fine when they relate to what's going on with Serena, but this one doesn't feel relevant. I see that you tried to relate it by making it a time where Russel didn't know what to say... but there's so much before and after that, and the relationship is tenuous. Oh, if you do decide to still use this scene, though, I was wondering, why didn't Russel tell Mira that he couldn't get off work?
    I wanted it to prelude how Russell reacts in times of conflict with his thoughts while he was in the cafe. It seemed like a good way to bookend it, seeing as there's a sense of maturation in him when he accompanied his wife during her doctor appointments and surgeries, but when that's taken away from him, he goes back into this destructive mood. Noted about how it feels forced, though, and it seems like it'll be okay to take it out.

    And I hinged his inability to tell her about his work duties to the fact that they've been planning this trip for a long while, and blowing it off at the last minute would make him a really big douchebag, only to find out that blowing it off in the middle of the thing made him a bigger one. XD


    Quote Originally Posted by Hakajin View Post
    Good to see how taking care of Scatterbug gives Russel new purpose in life. It's like, he's found out that, even though he still misses Mira, there are things to enjoy in life. Life goes on. And he's also discovering that he can remember Mira happily. This flashback of them is the kind of detail I was looking for earlier, by the way. Here, it's almost like he's remembering that it wasn't all bad, whereas before, he could only focus on the negative.
    That's what I wanted to go for, yes. I'm glad you saw it that way.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hakajin View Post
    Buuuut the ending doesn't feel right. It's like, Russel finally learned to appreciate life again, he's found that he can find happiness in new places. Scatterbug might be leaving... but the point wasn't that looking after Scatterbug made him happy, it was that looking after Scatterbug taught him that he could be happy again. Even if letting the Pokemon go is hard, after learning something like that, I'd expect him to go live with Tristan, or something. I realize that life doesn't work like that. Sometimes people feel like, I was just getting back on my feet, and now this... and they just don't want to go through it again. But that doesn't really seem like what happened here. I didn't get a sense that Russel grieves when he lets Scatterbug go. I also didn't get the sense that he thinks that happiness never lasts. What it felt like was, oh, well, that didn't work out, guess I'll kill myself, after all. It felt like he just kind of gave up... after he just learned not to give up. That could work if this story were a parody of the "second-chance" trope, if your point was that life-affirming second chances only exist in stories, and that in real life, people never learn anything. But you're playing the trope pretty straight here, so it doesn't fit. You don't have to give it a happy ending (I realize you're constrained by the game's storyline here), but I feel like there needs to be a sense of loss and despair to make the suicide really work with the rest of the story.
    I have a lot of qualms about the ending myself, since I had to present it in such a way that his suicide seemed, to him at least, the best course of action. This obviously has a lot of ethical issues attached to it, but those don't come in to play when a person already has a one-track mind in completing his/her suicide. That being said, I wanted to present it as if he was returning both Scatterbug and himself to where they belonged, and for him, he belonged to his wife as much as Scatterbug belonged to Serena. I'm not too happy with this myself, but it felt like it was a good tie-up to integrating this whole story with what happened in the games, seeing as his letter to the player focuses a lot on how the player cares for his/her Pokemon.

    That may sound ridiculous to you, and in truth, it's the same feeling for me, which I guess is why you have a lot of questions in terms of what would lead him to do such a thing, especially when it's right after a "positive" scene. I feel like I can expound on Scatterbug's importance here, which was one of the scenes I planned to put before the scene with Serena on TV. I was going to expand on how Russell initially reacts to him accepting Scatterbug and put him in disarray [ie. what have I done?], but I scrapped it seeing as it might've been unnecessary. Now, though, I realize that something like that would make the ending have more sense.

    I actually really like what you said about him saying that second chances only happen in stories, and I actually want to slap myself for not thinking about it, since it would mesh in so well with Russell's personality and how his wife is only mere stories to him now. If I ever do get to do a massive revision of this, I'll certainly put that into play, so thanks for that.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hakajin View Post
    Overall, I enjoyed this. You do a good job of showing who the characters are through scenes of their lives; I cared about them, so the story was touching (if not a little melodramatic in places). There's lots of good visual detail, and it's relevant to the characters and plot. I didn't mention it before, but I like your use of objects, especially the ring... The use of that particular object throughout links past and present in a concrete way. The ending doesn't gel with the rest of the story... but otherwise, good stuff!
    Melodrama has always been a problem of mine, which is why I've always went for understating emotions instead of overstating them. It seems like I still have a lot of work with it, though. I'm glad that you liked the use of objects, since it's something I had a lot of fun incorporating in the story [in that, while I was writing it, I asked myself, why the hell would he give the player a Comet Shard out of all things? And then the idea of it being the ring happened and everything fell into place XD]. I'll work on expanding the story much more and taking care of how I present it, and I'll definitely revise the ending when I get the chance.

    Again, thank you so much for all of these comments, Hakajin. It was a delight to see and respond to such a comprehensive and helpful review.


    Berries -- Escape Rope -- A Friday



    images were taken from three specific pages of Serebii.net

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