POV Jessica Holren
I sat at the back of a coffee shop, nursing my latte like the godly ambrosia it was. The place was quiet, usually, and that is why I loved coming here. Today, it was decidedly not quiet.
It was a small, mom-and-pop-style coffee shop that used to be a barbershop 50 years ago. The new owners kept the spinning multicolored sign out front from when it still was a barber, and that was what caught my attention initially. The coffee here was...alright. The fact that they let you add alcohol to anything they made here without hassling you more than made up for the mediocre coffee. Hair of the dog that bit you, and all that.
I was hungover as fuck and the loud commotion that was currently going on towards the front of the store was not helping. I tried, in vain, to avoid glancing at the screen of the giant TV they had set up. 10 or so people crowded around it and cheered at the ongoing battle raging. Still, it was still much better than it had been about 15 minutes ago. At least no one was laughing so hard they were crying or in coughing fits.
'Seriously, Lara... You looked so lame rolling on the floor laughing while battling those Gym Trainers with your dumbass Magikarp...Even if it did win the King of the Hill Battle...' I thought with a smirk of derision...that fell away in an instant with a sigh as a grabbed my face in a silent scream.
'No, It was heart-wrenchingly adorable...Doesn't matter how much I try to lie to myself...Now Finn is showing off Angie. Arceus, she is cute. I wish I had spent more time with her-'
Shaking my head, I take another long drag on my latte and ignore the scalding liquid burning its way down my throat. The pain made me feel something at least, afterall.
The memory of Lara screaming at me on our call two days ago turned my already sour mood down a couple more notches.
'What does she know? What do either of them know? How could they even begin to understand how I feel...why I...' Tears well up in my eyes again and I give in to the urge to take a stroll down memory lane once more. I put my head down on the table and close my eyes as I think back. Back to the first day...
* | * | *
Jessica Age 5
I watched the adults on stage act like children as they called out to their kids. The Pikachu and Persian made their way out into the audience and, to my surprise, the boy I was sitting next to turned out to be this "Finn" character. He had sunken down as low as he could in his seat to avoid attention, and I couldn't help but smirk at his situation.
I let the small expression out and feel a bit happy...
"Why are you so loud! Are you smiling? Wipe that grin off your face this instant, brat! I swear you are just like your father. I should have never- Urg! Just...Just stand in the corner and be silent!"
The words of my mother pour cold water over me in that instant and I stop smiling.
'I need to be quiet and not draw attention to myself. Then mommy will be happy.'
The boy next to me sighs and looks over to someone else. I look over as well and see a pretty blonde girl, about our same age, rolling her eyes as she pets the Pikachu in her lap.
'Lara, huh? They seem like loud people. Let's avoid them.'
Having made my decision on these two, I settle in for another long and boring speech from the adults.
"Pst! Do you like PokeChews?" A voice from the side asks me, not 10 seconds after I made my decision. He holds out his hand where 3 gummies are sitting, each looking like different Pokemon.
I turn and glare at Finn, in an attempt to get him to leave me alone. He just smiles sheepishly at my glare and sighs.
"I am so bad with kids..." He says and his shoulders sag as he pouts.
Despite myself, I feel a giggle slip-free. He looks like a sad little Pokemon from the cartoons I am not supposed to watch and his words were just so weird for a kid to say!
I pick a light red colored gummy in the likeness of a Pokemon I don't know from the 3 remaining ones in Finn's hand. I stare at it for a second before nodding and putting it in my lap to save for later. He perks up when I take one and smiles wide at me. His smile falters when he sees I put it in my lap on my dress.
"Aren't you gonna eat it?" He asks in a whisper.
"I haven't ever had candy before...I was going to save it for later." I said shyly, feeling my cheeks burn with shame. Mom never lets me near sugar. She says it makes me too loud.
"Whoa...You must have a real witch of a mom, huh? S-sorry that was rude... Oh, I know. Here!" He says, scratching the back of his head awkwardly and then he reaches into his pocket to pull out another full pack of PokeChews. He hands it to me with a smile.
I give him a weak smile of my own and offer him my quiet thanks.
The speech from Ash and then Jessie and James goes on for at least another hour before we are finally released to find our classes. I follow the boy out of the auditorium and am not surprised when the blonde girl catches up to us and quickly moves next to him. I let her pass and keep my head down as we move.
They start teasing and bickering with each other and I focus on being quiet and staying out of the way.
Surprisingly, I seem to be in the same class as Finn and Lara. We meet our teacher and give polite introductions. I keep mine simple and quick to avoid attention. Our teacher leaves us to talk with each other as she goes to get the timeline for when we are going to get our first Pokemon. My seat, by some cursed luck, is right next to Lara's and she is quick to engage me in conversation.
"Hiya! I'm Lara, what's your name?" Lara asks me.
"H-Hello...I am...My name is Jessica." I say, stammering and blushing at my mistake.
"Hmm, Finn's Mom is named that too...What if I just call you Jess?" Lara asks, tilting her head to the side in consideration before jumping in her seat in excitement over her solution.
"U-Um...My name is Jessica though..." I say weakly.
"I know, but friends give each other Nicknames! You can give me one too if you want?" Lara asks with a beaming smile.
"I-I don't know any Nicknames..." I answer lamely, "C-can I just call you Lara?"
Lara laughs and hugs me close, one of the first hugs I can remember ever getting, and nods. "Sure, Jess. Call me whatever you want. I hope we can be best friends!"
The hug feels warm and my chest suddenly feels light as I stare at her with wide eyes.
'She...She wants to be friends?...With me?' I think as an unbidden smile comes to my face and I nod shyly.
"Aw! Your smile is so pretty! You should do that more. Ha! We should creep Finn out. Here, smile really wide: lawk dish" She says while forcing a huge goofy smile.
I am lost in her words, however, and the small smile I had bloomed into a huge one as she says it is pretty.
'That's the first time someone has told me I look pretty...'
"Pewrfickt" She says through the smile and makes her eyes all wide. She then turns to Finn, who sits 2 desks away from us and makes that same face at him. She looks back at me and nods her head to the side, instructing me to look at Finn as well. I have no idea why we are doing this, but I follow her lead. She is my first friend and I can't blow this! I make an equally silly face and turn to look at Finn.
"EY, FIHN" Lara says through her teeth.
He looks over and then does a double-take as he raises an eyebrow at her. Then his gaze lands on me and he rolls his eyes.
"She roped you in on this too, huh? Well, you both look crazy...Besides...This is how you do a silly face!" He says and looks away before spinning quickly with his eyes bugged out looking crossways, his mouth in a half-smile, and his tongue reaching for his nose.
"Hahahaha! Ew!" Lara roars with laughter and I can't help but join in.
We all laugh for a good minute and then Finn comes over to sit on the edge of one of the desks.
"You are pretty cute when you smile, you know that? And your laugh was nice too, even if it was at my expense...You should do that more! Oh! I am Finn, by the way, Finn Cambridge."
What. Is. Happening!?! Two people say I look pretty? Why do I feel so warm?
I look up at him with wide eyes in complete shock.
"Lara, she told me she has never had candy before." Finn spills my secret right away and I am crushed by the sudden feeling of betrayal.
'Now they are gonna make fun of me, aren't they? I should have just stayed quiet-'
"WHAT!!??!!" Lara screams and slams her hands down on the desk. She spins to me with wide, concerned eyes. "But...But us girls need candy to live? How are you alive? Are you okay?"
I stare at her for a long moment before busting out laughing.
"What? Why would we need candy to live? My mom just doesn't let me have any." I say when my laughter finally calms.
"Is your mom a witch?" Lara asks
"That's what I asked..." Finn says with a sad smile and a shake of his head.
"Don't worry! We will get you some candy, right away! Can't have my new best friend dying on me, after all." Lara says and pulls out some sort of rolled fruit snack. With great hesitance, she hands it over to me. "Here...This is my last one...I...I can wait until I get home."
I take the wrapped candy in my hands and stare down at it. My eyes feel itchy for some reason.
"This is why you had a cavity last time." Finn quips.
"Nah uh! I brush real good!" Lara defends.
"And I thought I was your best friend?" Finn asks in mock hurt.
"We can all be best friends!" Lara says with a smile.
"Sounds good to me," Finn says with a chuckle.
"Aww! She is crying! Don't worry! I will bring more tomorrow!" Lara says and hugs me close again. I can't help but feel safe in her arms. It is a warmth I never got from my mom...
'Is my mom a witch?' I think as Lara introduces herself to the other two girls around us.
Before I even knew what happened, I had 4 new best friends and the start of the best years of my life had begun.
* | * | *
Jessica - Present
I lift my head off the table and wipe the tears from my eyes. Now was not the time to get sentimental. I was doing this for them. To protect them.
As if to answer my last statement, the bell at the door of the shop chimes as 3 men in black suits walk in. The head man, an older gentleman in his late 60s, with slicked-back grey hair and harsh, cruel, light blue eyes swept the coffee shop and his eyes stop when they land on me.
Giving me his best con-man smile, he walks over to the table and takes a seat opposite of me. His bodyguards turn away from our table but block it from anyone else that would try to interfere. I stare, wide-eyed at him in shock.
'How the hell did he find me so quickly?'
"Jessica, it is good to see you again." The old man says with a fake-ass warm smile.
"What do you want?" I demand curtly.
"Now, Now, Daughter. Is that any way to speak to your loving father?" He says with a jovial chuckle, but his eyes shine dangerously.
I cross my arms and glare at him.
"Fine. I wished to do this courteously, but if you want to go this route, I am more than comfortable doing it this way." He says, the smile falling from his face.
"Isn't this what you do best? Being the worst?" I snap at him with a smirk.
"Hardly. I wouldn't have gotten my position if I was 'The Worst.'" He says with a casual wave of his hand. "Now, enough small talk. Why are you here and not with them? I thought I made your mother's position quite clear 2 months ago."
I grind my teeth and growl out, "Yes. You have captured my druggie mother and are going to kill her unless I cooperate. Well, news flash, I don't owe that witch shit."
"Hmm...So your fine with me killing her? Very well. That takes care of a loose end. I suppose my next target will have to be Ash and his family, then."
My blood runs cold, but I don't show it on my face. "Why, because he beat you when he was only 16?"
That may have been too far, I realize, as a visible vein bulges on the man's forehead.
"You have made it quite clear that you are no daughter of mine...I supposed I can give you to my men, though. As a gift for good service? Pass you around like a cheap whore? Maybe they can teach you how to behave."
"Oh, so raping mom for me wasn't enough? Now you want forced grandchildren too?" I ask, no longer caring about the consequences in my rage.
Instead of anger, the man...no...the monster in front of me smiles at me. "If that is what it takes to reach my goals, then yes. Yes, I do. I spent 10 years in prison and had much to consider. Morality is a tool our minds use to get in the way of progress. I used to have a moral compass in my dealings, and that got me in the end. Now, I am freed from the grip of morality and can do whatever I want, whenever I want."
He takes a deep breath and leans back in the booth seat. He takes on the smiling, fatherly tone again as he speaks.
"We don't have to be enemies, daughter, but if you make yourself my enemy, prepare to be used and thrown away like the trash you are. Like mother, like daughter. Humanity First will succeed and you will bring Lara and Finn to me...or I will destroy everything you know and love - slowly. And force you to watch as I do it. Do you understand me, daughter dearest?"
For the first time in a while, true and primal fear grips my heart. Not for myself...but for what he could do to Lara and Finn and their families. He was completely insane and he had way too much power for one as unhinged should.
"Yes. I understand." I say weakly.
"Good. As long as you reconnect with them and stay with them, I will leave everyone else alone. Despite what you may think, I will keep this promise because it will ensure you keep yours. Stay with them, and when I call on you to do so, lead them to me. Simple, no?"
Another suited man rushes in from the entrance and bows low to the man.
"Giovanni, sir, Rangers have spotted our car and are on their way."
"Too bad. I was having so much fun." Giovanni says in a sarcastic monotone. "Goodbye, Jessica. This will be my last warning. Next, I will start sending you body parts." He reaches out and grips my shoulder, hard enough to bruise, to get his point across.
Giovanni leaves the coffee shop and the owner and customers are too blinded by the TV to notice. The most wanted man in the world walked in and out and no one was the wiser.
I feel sick and put my head back on the table. No longer fighting the tears.
'Lara...Finn...I need you...'