Pallet Town Plotting
Darren was woken up the next morning by the smell of oven-fresh bread and hot chocolate. With a yawn, he sat up, rubbing the last traces of sleep out of his eyes with the back of his right hand. Heather was crouching in front of him, holding a covered wicker basket, which had to be the source of that smell. Tiger and Fluffy sat on either side of her, the Aerodactyl already starting to get too large to be carried around like it had been when newly hatched.
“Mom sent this along for you,” she told him, her voice low. He wasn’t sure if she thought someone might overhear them, or if she was just instinctively conforming to the hush of the woods around them. “Eat up, and we’ll stop by my house on the way to Professor Oak’s and she’ll take measurements.”
“Measurements?” he asked dumbly, pausing with his hand halfway to the basket. “What for?”
Heather rolled her eyes. “New clothes. I told you, if my dad sees you in that…”
Darren had to smile, and reached the rest of the way into the basket, pushing the tea towel covering it out of the way. Nestled in the bottom of the basket were fresh scones, practically bulging with condiments, and a thermos was leaned into one of the corners, a plastic cup tucked in next to it. He took one of the scones and bit into it while Heather put the basket down, sat down next to him, and got the cup out. He hadn’t finished the food in his hand before she held it out to him, filled almost to the rim with steaming hot chocolate. The girl kept him company as he finished the breakfast she’d brought to him, and then started to guide him back towards the main path, her young Aerodactyl awkwardly hopping along on the trail behind her.
The town they entered was smaller than any Darren had ever seen, by a fair margin, and he was stunned to hear from his guide that it had been even smaller when her parents had been young. Ash Ketchum’s return to Pallet Town as Pokémon Master had spurred on some growth, though it would likely never grow to match the large metropolis Darren had grown up in. Not that he’d seen much of it, spending most of his time indoors in the Team Rocket hideout. The town being smaller brought with it two things: they met fewer people, which meant fewer people were staring at Darren, which in turn meant he felt a lot more comfortable than he had passing through the larger cities they’d visited on the way, but there were also fewer people to meet, which meant that more of the ones they did run into to some extent knew Heather already. Knowing Heather made them nosy.
She was quite good at deflecting their questions, however, which was just as well, because he sure couldn’t have pulled it off with any great level of success. It didn’t take long for them to make it to a house with the name “Ketchum” stencilled on the mailbox, and Heather carelessly went up the walkway to the front door. Darren followed her, of course, but he was feeling a lot more apprehensive about it. She’d said her father was out, but what if he’d returned while she was gone?
He needn’t have worried; the only person in the house seemed to be the red-haired woman in her late thirties or early fourties who greeted them and who Heather greeted in turn as “Mom.” The woman then turned her eyes to Darren, who found himself shrinking a little under her gaze.
“Good day, Ma’am,” he forced out, using the too-neutral greeting to try to mask his nervousness.
“Hey there. So you’re Darren?”
He nodded. “Darren Yamada.”
“I’m Misty, Heather’s mom. Let’s see…” She studied him for what seemed to be a very long time, then nodded. “I’m hardly an expert seamstress, but Heather’s right it’s going to be trouble for you if you walk around in that clothing. Ash probably isn’t the only person around who’d recognize you, though he may well be the only one hard-headed enough to not believe Heather.”
He shook his head. “I got thrown out of the Pokécenter back home when I took my Eevee there.”
“Yeow. Didn’t always use to be that way. Well, no matter. Let’s get some measurements and you two can be off to Gary’s. I’ll call up there when I’m done, and we’ll arrange for you to get the clothes up there so you don’t run into Ash before you’re good and ready.”
The expression on her face as she got out a notepad, pen, and measuring tape was only just short of giddy, as though she took great pleasure in going behind her husband’s back like this. But then again, maybe she did. Within the half-hour, Darren and Heather were on their way again, this time going slightly uphill, towards a building that, at least subtly, towered over the rest of the town.