Illustration by Shigeru1313.
Broken Souls (Part 5)
by Cori Falls
I am lost in the darkness
Between two worlds, and here I'm struggling.
You're the light that I've been seeking
Because my whole life there's been something missing.
Only you can make me whole.
Just one touch, and you complete me.
Rescue me from this black hole
That's sucked me in and left me dying.
You're the truth that I've been seeking
Because my whole life I've been lying.
Only you can make me whole.
Just one touch, and you complete me.
God, I pray you find me worthy
Of the right to stand beside you.
And of your truth, and of your passion,
And of the right to sleep beside you.
Only you can make me whole.
Just one touch, and you complete me.
Just one touch, and you complete me....
-- Stabbing Westward, "You Complete Me"
Chapter 10 -- That Darn Meowth
Hot, bitter tears rolled down Jessie's face as she walked along the street. She had run back to the hospital as fast as she could the moment she realized that she actually had a chance to be happy with James. She wanted nothing more than to tell him that she loved him as much as he loved her. To take him in her arms and never let go.
But she was too late.
When Jessie arrived, she inquired about the man she had brought in a week ago, and the nurse informed her that he had already been discharged. And because of patient confidentiality, they couldn't give her his address, his phone number, or any other kind of personal information. There was no way for her to find him now.
Once again, she had lost the man she loved. And she had nobody to blame but herself.
Why does this always have to happen? she said to herself. Why do I always screw things up?! I let my rotten husbands walk all over me, and when I finally find the man who really does love me, I push him away. I guess I was right after all -- love is impossible....
Jessie continued to cry as she made her way home, so wrapped up in her grief that she didn't even notice the dark figure shadowing her.
The sun was setting when Jessie finally made it back to her apartment complex. As she went up the stairs to the main entrance, she began to dig through her purse, looking for her keys.
But suddenly, she realized that she wasn't alone.
During her years with Team Rocket, she had learned to become attuned to her surroundings and listen with her body. This enabled her to detect another presence, thereby preventing sneak attacks. And at that moment, she did, indeed, sense someone nearby.
Quickly, she turned and scanned the area.
But nobody was there.
Suddenly, she felt something brush against her leg.
Jessie let out a small scream and jumped, but when she looked down, she saw that it was only a stray Meowth.
"Whew!" she sighed.
The cat began to purr and rubbed against her leg again.
"Hey, kitty," she said, leaning down and scratching behind the Meowth's ears.
The purring became even louder.
"Awww! You're a sweet little thing, aren't you?" She smiled in spite of her tears as she petted the cat.
After a few minutes, Jessie stood and took out her keys so that she could go inside. The Meowth looked up at her with pleading blue eyes.
"Go on. Shoo, kitty," she said, waving her hands. "I've gotta go inside now. It's too cold to stay out here."
"Me-owth!" the cat cried in a more insistent voice.
Jessie looked down at him again. "Oh! How inconsiderate of me! You must be cold, too," she said. "Would you like to come inside with me?"
The cat smiled and nodded.
"Poor thing," she said, scooping him into her arms. "You're probably hungry, too. Don't worry. I'll take care of you...."
The Meowth's purring resumed as Jessie opened the door and brought him into the building with her.
Once they were inside, the woman rode the elevator up to the sixth floor. When she got out, she headed down a long, dimly-lit hallway. Meowth watched intently when she arrived at her apartment and made a mental note of the number on the door. 634. Now he knew where she lived.
"Hang on a second, kitty," the woman said, setting him down on the couch. "Let me just put my stuff away, and then I'll find something for you to eat."
Meowth smiled as he watched her disappear into the bedroom. It's Jessie! It's gotta be! he said to himself.
After James had described Jessie to him, Meowth set out to find her. He'd been in Viridian City longer than James had, which meant that he knew his way around better. Besides, it would be easier for a pokemon to roam around and look for people than it would be for a man. It was more discrete, for one thing. Not to mention the fact that people didn't call Officer Jenny and file stalking charges when they saw a stray cat following them.
For three days Meowth wandered the streets of Viridian City in search of Jessie. He had encountered several blue-eyed redheads during this time, but none of them were like the woman he'd found today. All of the other women had yelled at him or shooed him away when he tried to approach them. He knew that if this Jessie were really the angel James had described her as, she wouldn't be cruel to pokemon like that -- she'd love them as much as he did. And this woman certainly had that much in common with him. Besides, this one was more beautiful than any of the other women he had followed. Never before had he seen a human with such long, luxurious hair. It was sprayed into a stiff coil at the moment, but he imagined that it would go all the way past her knees if she let it down. It was the most lovely shade of crimson, too -- the same color as the rose James had shown him! And her eyes...two brilliant sapphires, shining with a light that showed she was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside. But there was also pain in those eyes. When he looked into them, he saw a kindred spirit -- somebody who had suffered...just like he and James!
I'll be damned if dis ain't her! he thought.
The woman returned a few minutes later. She had taken off her long winter coat and was now dressed in a pair of old blue jeans and a purple sweater. "Come on, kitty," she coaxed as she headed for the kitchen. "Let's get some dinner."
Meowth smiled again and followed her.
"I'm afraid I don't have any cat food," she told him. "So you'll just have to settle for some of my leftovers."
"Me-owth," he said, rubbing against her legs.
The woman chuckled and rooted through her refrigerator until she found some take-out Chinese. "This is all I've got," she told him. "I'm not a very good cook...."
But Meowth didn't mind -- never in his life had he eaten so well as he had in recent days. James and this woman were his saviors!
Bringing two plates out of the cupboard, she scooped some fried rice and Mandarin chicken onto them and tossed them into the microwave. While they were heating, she cracked open a fortune cookie.
"Hmmm...That which you seek is further than you wish, but closer than you know. Look sharp, and the answers will come." she said, reading the fortune aloud. She smirked. "Gotta love those cryptic messages. One time I got one that just said I was going to aquire some new clothes. Can't read too much into that...but with the weird ones, well, anything is possible...."
Meowth closed his eyes and thought about what the fortune cookie said. The woman was right -- anything could happen with a cryptic message! Maybe, just maybe, he could help make that message a reality!
Suddenly, the woman snorted. "Oh, who the hell do I think I'm fooling?! Those things never come true! Not for me, anyway. I'm just not that lucky. Shit! Even the one about the new clothes was a bunch of...."
But before she could continue, the microwave started beeping. Dinner was ready.
The woman sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "I hope you don't mind sharing," she said as she pulled the plates out of the microwave. "Because I've got another pokemon."
Meowth shook his head. Then, he started purring again when she set the two plates on the floor.
As he began to eat from one of the plates, the woman brought out a poke ball and released a giant purple cobra. "Arbok, we've got a dinner guest tonight, so I want you to be nice to him. Understand?" she said.
Arbok looked down at him for a moment and nodded her head.
"Good girl," the woman said. With that, she picked up the crumbled fortune cookie and a can of soda and headed for the living room. "Why don't you two get to know each other for awhile? I've got some stuff to do."
Once she was gone, Meowth and Arbok turned to face each other.
"Nice trainer ya got," Meowth commented.
Arbok nodded. "Yep. Jessie's one of the best."
"Jessie? Dat's her name?"
"Well, actually it's Jessica, but everybody just calls her Jessie," Arbok replied.
"Nice name," Meowth said. And to himself he added, Cha-ching!
Arbok smiled at him and began to eat her dinner.
"So, tell me more about dis Jessie," he prompted.
Jessie yawned. She had spent the last two hours going through the phone book, circling the number of every James that she came across, and she still wasn't past the Is. Viridian City was a bigger place than she thought.
And it was going to take even longer to call all of those numbers and find out which one of them was her James.
But a disturbing thought occurred to her as she continued to circle the numbers. What if his name wasn't in the phone book? If it was an unlisted number, then she'd have spent all this time for nothing! Or worse, what if he didn't have a phone?! On the day she found him, he looked like he didn't even have a place to live! It was hopeless.
Still, Jessie was determined. She was going to find him no matter how difficult it was.
I love you, James, Jessie thought as the names on the page of the phone book blurred together and she drifted to sleep. And I'll do whatever it takes for us to be together. I've been searching for someone like you my whole life, and now that I've finally found you, I'm not going to lose you. I swear it!
Meowth smiled to himself as he wandered Jessie's apartment. Everything Arbok had told him earlier that night proved that James's instincts about her were right -- she had suffered. How she managed to live with such pain was beyond him, and it wasn't surprising that she'd be afraid to love, considering all she had lost.
But something told him that she felt differently now. Arbok hadn't mentioned James or their disappointing visit to the hospital earlier that day, but Meowth remembered that she was crying when he found her. He also noticed how abruptly she had left to take care of some "stuff" once she was sure he and Arbok were going to get along with each other.
What kind of "stuff," he wondered.
When he reached the living room, he found Jessie curled up on the couch. She was sound asleep, and the Viridian City phone directory was on her lap. Looking at the page, he found that the number of everybody named James was circled. And it wasn't just on that page, either -- she had circled every single James, Jimmy, and Jim in the first half of the phone book!
Meowth smiled again and snuggled next to Jessie. He began to purr as he dozed off, content that he had found the answers he was seeking.
When Jessie awoke the next morning, she found her new Meowth curled in the crook of her arm, purring softly in his sleep. She reached over and stroked his soft, cream-colored fur, which made him purr louder.
"What a little sweetie," she said.
The cat opened his eyes and looked up at her when she spoke.
"Hey, kitty," Jessie said as she scratched behind his ears. "You sleep here all night?"
The Meowth rubbed against her and kneaded her arm with his claws.
Jessie laughed. "I'll take that as a yes."
Stretching herself out, she looked over at the clock on the coffee table. It was 10 A.M. Jessie knew that she should probably get up, but it was Sunday, which meant that she could sleep in as late as she wanted. Besides, she really didn't feel like facing the day ahead of her. All she wanted to do was finish going through the phone book and find out which James in Viridian City was the one she loved.
James. She closed her eyes and sighed as she thought of him. I know you're somewhere in this city, she said to herself. But where? I just wish I had some kind of sign...a clue to point me in the right direction....
"Me-owth!" the cat said, derailing her train of thought.
"Hmmm...." Jessie muttered, opening her eyes again. "What do you want, kitty?"
"Are you hungry?"
He started purring again.
"Alright, alright," she said as she reluctantly got up and headed for the kitchen. "Let's go get some breakfast."
The cat jumped down from the couch and followed her.
"All I've got is toast," she told him as she got out some dishes. "And a little milk."
Meowth licked his lips and smiled as he watched her pour some milk into one of the dishes and set it on the floor.
While he was drinking, Jessie opened the window so that she could go onto the fire escape and get some fresh air.
But as she stepped out, a streak of off-white shot past her. Looking to see what it was, she noticed that Meowth was no longer in the kitchen...and that a cream-colored cat was charging down the rusty steps of the fire escape and disappearing into the alley below.
Jessie sighed. Once again, something I love leaves me, she thought. Maybe it's hopeless after all....
Chapter 11 -- The Love Game
As Meowth charged down the alley, he felt a pang of regret for leaving Jessie so abruptly. But he quickly pushed it away and reminded himself that he had important business to attend to. Namely, getting back to James and telling him the good news.
When he arrived back at the apartment, James was finishing his breakfast and reading the Sunday paper. He scratched at the window to get his attention.
"Meowth? How did it go?" he asked eagerly as he opened the window and let the cat inside.
"I found her!" he exclaimed. "She lives in an apartment complex a few streets up!"
"Really?! That close?!" James said happily.
Meowth nodded. "You was right about her, Jimmy! She's a real looker...and awful nice -- she took good care of Meowth, just like you did!"
"She loves ya, too," Meowth continued. "She's lookin' for ya, James. I saw her goin' through the Viridian City phone book, circlin' everyone with yer name."
"She won't find me that way," James sighed. "I have an unlisted number."
The cat gave him a quizzical look.
"I have my reasons," James said, cutting him off before he could ask why. "Now, where does she live? If she's looking for me, I've gotta go to her!"
"Not so fast," said Meowth. "Ya can't just show up at her door!"
An angry light sparked in James's emerald eyes. "What?! Why not?!" he demanded.
"Well, I got ta talkin' with her Arbok last night," he explained. "And you was right about her bein' in pain, too. For someone so young, dis woman's suffered some heavy-duty losses...."
James raised an eyebrow.
"Her momma died when she was a little girl, her three children died a few days after dey was born, and both her husbands ditched her," Meowth told him.
James closed his eyes as his mind flashed back to the day he met Jessie in the warehouse. What are you running from? he had asked. Five lovers, two husbands, and three children, she had replied.
"Everybody she's ever loved has left her...and everybody who loved her in return died," he muttered as a tear rolled down his cheek. "No wonder she was so upset when I told her how I felt!"
"Now do ya undastand?" Meowth asked. "She loves ya, yes! But if ya just show up outta the blue, ya might scare her away again!"
"Then what am I supposed to do?!" James cried.
"Well, dere ain't no question dat ya love her and wanna be with her, but she's still afraid," said Meowth. "Dat means if she wants ya, she's gotta be the one ta come and find ya. She's the one afraid of gettin' burned, so dis has gotta be on her terms."
"However," the cat continued. "Just cuz she's the one dat's gotta come ta you doesn't mean ya can't help her out a little. Give her some clues, James! Point her in the right direction!"
"You mean play games with her?" he queried.
Again, he recalled the day in the warehouse. As soon as Jessie saw that pinball machine in the corner, her face lit up. The Love Game! she had squealed with delight.
Now James was smiling. Yes, Jessie, he thought. Let's see just how good you are at 'The Love Game.' The last time you won, I almost lost my life. But this time we can both be winners....
Jessie sighed. She had spent all day calling the numbers she circled the night before, but her search thus far had been fruitless. Most of the calls she made were answered by women demanding to know why "a hussy like her" wanted to talk to their husbands. The rest of the time, it was either an old man or an answering machine. When this happened, she just hung up, knowing that the voice on the other end wasn't his.
Damn, he's got a sexy voice, she thought. So smooth and classy...I'd give anything to hear it again....
But as she went to call the next number, she suddenly heard a scratching sound at the window. When she looked, she saw the stray Meowth sitting on the fire escape and peering in at her.
"Oh, you came back!" Jessie cried happily. With that, she jumped up from the couch and opened the window.
The cat darted inside and began rubbing against her legs, purring loudly all the while.
Jessie smiled and stroked his fur. "So, you decided you don't hate it here after all?" She chuckled. "For awhile there, I thought you'd left me...just like all the other men in my life...."
When she said this, she felt something land on her foot and prick her through the fleecy slipper-socks she was wearing. Looking down, she saw a red rose on the floor.
"Huh? Where did this come from?"
Jessie picked up the flower. Its petals were the same crimson color as her hair, and its leaves and stem were a deep emerald green. There was a ribbon tied around the stem just beneath the blossom. A blue-violet ribbon.
Jessie's eyes widened. "Did you bring this?!" she asked the cat.
"Where did you get this rose?! Where?!"
Jessie sighed as she went to kitchen to find a vase for the flower. "Oh, what am I asking you for? It's not like you can talk or anything...."
Once she had turned away, Meowth smiled. Dat's where yer wrong, Jess.
The cat's smile became a grin as he thought about what had just happened. Seeing that rose sparked something inside of Jessie. There was no doubt about it!
James had given him the rose, of course. "She'll know what this means," he said as he tied a blue-violet ribbon around the stem. A ribbon that was the exact same color as his hair.
Meowth's gaze then drifted to the red rose in the sapphire vase that was still sitting on his table. "Just like the one she gave you?"
"Dat's one helluva hint, Jimmy! Ya make me proud!"
James smiled and handed him the rose. "Now go...and don't let me down."
"You got it, James! Just leave it ta Meowth!"
And it had worked! The hint wasn't lost on Jessie. When Meowth followed her into the kitchen, he found her sitting at the table, admiring the rose.
"This is your doing, isn't it, James?" she whispered as she ran her long, delicate fingers across the velvety petals. "Where are you?"
"Further den ya wish, closer den ya know."
Jessie's head snapped up. "Wha-?! Who said that?!"
But there was nobody there except for the Meowth, sitting at her feet.
Jessie sweatdropped. "No...no, that's impossible...."
The cat jumped into her lap and purred.
"Impossible...." she repeated as she petted him.
Meowth reached up and batted at the ribbon tied around the rose. He noticed Jessie raise an eyebrow and pull her ruby-red lips into a smile as she watched him play.
No, the hint definitely wasn't lost on her.
The next morning, Jessie was up early because she had to leave for work. She didn't want to waste her day at the office...especially not when it'd be much better spent finding James (who she now knew was close at hand), but she still had bills and rent to pay, so she forced herself to go.
As she was on her way out the door, however, something stopped her.
"Meow! Me-owth, meowth!"
Jessie looked over at the cat, who was scratching at her window.
"Me-owth! Meee-ooowth!" he yowled.
"What? You want me to let you out?"
Jessie sighed. "Guess you're still an alley-cat at heart, huh?"
The cat rubbed against her legs and gave her a pleading look.
Then, something occurred to Jessie -- if she let Meowth out now, he'd return later...with another sign from James! Somehow, she knew that this mysterious cat was the key to finding him.
But if James was giving her a sign, then she needed to give him one in return.
"Hang on, kitty," she said. "I'll let you out. Just let me do something first."
Meowth gave her a quizzical look and followed as she went back into her bedroom. He then watched Jessie dig through her closet and emerge a few minutes later, holding a large box filled with Christmas decorations.
What's she doin'? he wondered. Christmas was almost a month ago.
Then, Jessie pulled a length of red ribbon and a sprig of mistletoe from the bottom of the box. "Let's see if he remembers this...." she muttered as she tied the mistletoe to Meowth's neck with the ribbon.
Aha! he said to himself. She's onto our little game...and now she's playin', too!
Jessie picked Meowth up and carried him to the window. "Bye-bye, kitty," she said as she opened the window and placed him outside. "Come back tonight, and I'll have a big bowl of milk waiting for you!"
Meowth smiled at her as he bounded down the rusty steps of the fire escape. Oh, don't worry about dat, Jess! I'll definitely be back! He didn't need milk as an incentive to return -- he was enjoying himself enough as it was!
Jessie stepped quickly and silently as she followed the cat down the street. It didn't look like he was aware of her presence -- the former thief had been trained well during her Team Rocket days, and stealth was just one of her many skills.
Where did that little cat go during the day, she wondered. She had the feeling that he was going to wherever James was, and she needed to see for herself...to find out. She knew that the detour was going to make her late for work, but at this point, she really didn't care. In the big scheme of things, data entry just couldn't compare to true love.
A few minutes later, Meowth stopped at a crumbling apartment building in a seedy neighborhood three streets down from hers. She ducked behind a dumpster as she watched him ascend the fire escape and disappear through a window five floors up.
Jessie smiled. Cha-ching!
"Well, what happened?" James asked when he saw Meowth come through the window.
"Ya shoulda' seen the look on her face when I dropped dat rose at her feet!" came the cat's reply. "She knows it's from you!"
James grinned. Then, he saw what Meowth was wearing.
"Hey, what's this?" he said, untying the red ribbon and picking up the mistletoe that dropped from his neck.
"She tied some Christmas decorations to me before lettin' me go," Meowth explained. "Said somethin' about seein' if ya remember...."
"So she remembers the day we first met, too!" James interjected. He then turned to Koffing, who was still eating his breakfast. "See! It was Jessie! And you thought I was insane!"
The pokemon smiled, gladly admitting that he had been wrong. "Koffing! Koff-koff! (Wow! Imagine that!)"
"Plus," Meowth continued, "she followed me here. Look and see for yaself!"
James's eyes widened, and he ran to the window. Sure enough, there was a red-haired woman standing on the street below, looking up towards him. He wanted to call out to her...invite her inside, but he was too far up for her to see.
"So, what's yer plan?" Meowth asked.
James folded his arms across his chest and smiled. "I think it's time to make my move."
"So soon?!" the cat gasped.
"Why not?" he said. "She already knows, and she seems as interested in me as I am in her, so I really don't see the point of playing games like this anymore."
"Hmmm...I guess yer right," Meowth conceded. "Jerkin' her around for too long would probably scare her away, too."
James's smile became a grin. "Yes...yes, this game is over. Tonight, I play my trump card...."
Chapter 12 -- The Cat, the Clue, and Everything Coming Together
As soon as Jessie saw what time it was, she turned off her computer, turned in her time sheet, and raced out of the office as fast as she could. Her job was boring to begin with, but today, concentrating was more difficult than usual. She had done only half the work that she normally would have because she spent most of the day just staring blankly at her computer screen, thinking about James.
But now she could go home and get another clue from the mysterious Meowth. She could be one step closer to finding him.
It occurred to Jessie that she could just show up at his door, but she reconsidered when she remembered that she only knew what building he lived in. And doing a systematic apartment check in a neighborhood like that didn't strike her as the safest way to go about finding him. (She had come from a bad neighborhood herself, so she of all people knew how dangerous such a thing could be.) Never know what kind of whackos you'd run into that way...not to mention the fact that people usually don't like it when a stranger knocks at their door.
So, she resigned herself to going to her own apartment and awaiting the next sign from Meowth.
And sure enough, Meowth was waiting on the front steps when she arrived at her building.
"Me-owth!" he exclaimed when he saw her.
Jessie winked at Meowth. "Hey, kitty!" she said as she opened the door and let him follow her inside. "How was your day?"
Meowth smiled at Jessie as they boarded the elevator. It had, indeed, been an eventful day for the little cat....
The first thing he had done was help James clean his apartment so that it would be presentable enough for a lady. Not a very daunting task, considering the fact that it was a small apartment and that James was a clean person to begin with. Besides, the landlord had been pretty thourough when he'd cleaned it earlier that week -- he even made sure that the towels on the towel rack were aligned perfectly!
"Jeez! I haven't known anybody that anal since...." James began. But when he said this, his voice trailed off, and his face grew pale. So unsettling was the thought that had passed through his mind that he began to tremble, and he was forced to sit down.
"Hey, James. You okay?" Meowth had asked.
"I...I'll be fine...." he replied.
But Meowth had the feeling that he was lying. James was obviously thinking about something from his past, and it looked like he was starting to remember why he had wanted to kill himself!
"Come on!" he said. "We gotta finish gettin' ready for Jessie!"
The mention of Jessie's name was all it took for James to make a complete recovery. As soon as Meowth had said this, he smiled and jumped to his feet. "You're right!" he exclaimed. "Jessie will be here tonight! I can feel it! Everything has to be perfect for her...."
With spirit renewed, James made sure that his apartment was immaculate. After that, he and Meowth headed for the grocery store.
"Whatcha' gonna buy?" Meowth asked as he jumped into the child's seat of the shopping-cart James had grabbed.
"I want to make a candlelight dinner for Jessie," came his reply.
"Can't ya just take her out to a restaurant?"
James rolled his eyes. "Oh, please! That's been done to death!" he said. "I want this night to be special!"
"Translation -- ya ain't got the money for it!" Meowth laughed.
James frowned and flicked Meowth on the forehead.
"Ouch! Dat hurt!"
"Shut up," he snapped. "I happen to be a very good cook!"
"I wouldn't know...seein' as how ya ain't got no food at yer place except for leftover take-out Chinese and cold pizza."
"Well, I am!" James said defensively as he picked up a bag of rice and tossed it into the cart. "I've just been too depressed to cook these past few weeks. Now I'm ready."
Meowth didn't doubt him. Indeed, his mouth began to water as he watched James fill the shopping cart. Chicken, fresh vegetables, spices -- whatever he had planned, it looked like it was going to be delicious.
And then, after the groceries had been bought and put away...the finishing touch.
"I want you to take this to Jessie tonight," James said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small golden object.
Meowth's eyes widened when he saw what it was. "Holy crap! Is dat thing real?!"
"It must be worth a fortune!" he cried. "Where the hell'd ya get it?!"
"It's one of the few things my parents gave me that I still have," James replied. "A fortune to some, maybe, but to me, it's nothing more than the empty gesture of a father trying to buy the love of his son."
"Yer parents musta been loaded!" Meowth remarked.
"They are," James sighed. "They're rich beyond comprehension, and I was their only heir, but I left that all behind...."
"Why?" the cat demanded. "James, ya can't possibly be happier livin' like dis! Why would ya choose a life of poverty when you could be the richest man in the world?!"
James hung his head. "I know I probably sound like a spoiled brat, but believe me, it takes more than money to make a person happy. My parents never loved me...and the woman they engaged me to doesn't love me either -- she expected me to be perfect all the time, and when I didn't meet her expectations, she tortured me...I'm serious about that -- the madwoman would actually lock me in a torture chamber in the basement and whip me senseless! I may not have the greatest life right now, but if I hadn't left, it would be infinitely worse...." So painful were the memories of his past that before he could say another word, his voice trailed off, and he began to cry.
Meowth put a paw on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, James. I didn't know."
"And I can't escape from them...no matter what I do," he continued once he found his voice again. "Jessiebelle won't leave me alone! She always followed me around when I was a kid, and she's still following me."
"Ya mean she's stalkin' ya?!"
He nodded. "Jessiebelle will do anything to get her hands on my parents' money...which means marrying me, turning me into a "perfect" gentleman, and giving them grandchildren who'll carry on the family name. That harpy won't rest until she has me in her clutches once again."
"That's part of the reason I live the way I do," he continued. "I could afford a nicer apartment uptown, or a house in the suburbs if I wanted, but I always seem to be on the run. Whenever Jessiebelle finds me, I have to pull up stakes and go somewhere else. Besides, it's a little harder for her to track me when I keep a low profile like this. A little. She still manages to find me eventually anyway...."
"Is dat why you was so upset earlier?"
"Yes," he replied. "Seeing those perfectly-aligned towels...it brought back some terrifying memories. Jessiebelle always wanted everything to be perfectly arranged...everything...and I just got the feeling that...."
"Okay enough of dis!" Meowth interjected. "Happy thoughts now, James! Happy thoughts! Jessiebelle ain't here...and ya ain't alone no more! Ya got Meowth...and later tonight, yer gonna have Jessie, too!"
James wiped his tears away and smiled. "You're right, Meowth. You're right."
"Hey, let's finish gettin' ready, huh?" the cat suggested.
James nodded. After making a few adjustments to his "clue," he handed it to Meowth.
"It's funny. I always hated that damn thing," he said as he watched the cat fasten it around his neck. "But now, it's finally going to bring me happiness."
Meowth smiled at him before taking his leave. "Don't worry, James. I'll make sure she gets it."
And now, as he sat in Jessie's kitchen, watching her pour him a dish of milk, he wondered how long it would take for her to find it.
"Here you go," she said, placing the dish in front of Meowth. She began to pet him as he lapped up the milk. "Yes, you're a good kitty. Such a good little kitty...."
Suddenly, her hand caught on something.
Parting the fur on the cat's neck, she saw that it was a delicate gold chain.
Jessie raised an eyebrow. "Hm? What's this?"
When she undid the clasp on the chain, a small golden pocket-watch encrusted with jewels dropped into her hand.
"Where did you get this, Meowth?" she asked slyly.
But Jessie already knew where the cat had gotten the watch, and the answer to her question was confirmed when she inspected it more closely. Opening the watch case, she saw the name, James Eric Woodson engraved on it in a soft, curving script.
"James," she whispered. A tear spilled down her cheek as she held the watch to her heart.
The cat rubbed against her. "Me-owth!"
"What is it, kitty?"
He nudged the watch in her hands, making her look at it again.
It was then that she noticed something else -- the watch wasn't running. It still said 5:46, and according to her own watch, it was quarter of seven.
"A watch that doesn't run? What are you trying to tell me, James?"
Jessie looked at the cat and smiled. "I know. You're his pokemon, and he sent you, didn't he?"
Meowth returned the smile.
"Will you take me to him? Please?"
Meowth's smile grew even wider, and he nodded. I thought ya'd never ask, Jess! he said to himself.
Frankly, Meowth couldn't figure out why Jessie had asked him to lead her to James -- she already knew where he lived...and she was running down the street towards his building at a speed he thought impossible for humans to reach. It was all he could do to keep up...even with his cat-like agility!
But he finally did catch up to Jessie once she reached the lobby of the building. He found her waiting (quite impatiently) for the elevator. If not for that, she'd still be way ahead of him.
"Fifth floor, right?" she said. She recalled that the cat had entered the building from a window on the fifth floor that morning.
After what seemed like an eternity, the elevator doors finally opened, and Jessie charged in. Quickly, she pushed the button to the fifth floor and resumed her impatient waiting as it began its slow ascent.
"But which apartment?" she muttered.
Meowth frowned. She still hadn't figured out all of the clue.
"Me-owth!" he said, indicating the pocket-watch.
"Huh?" Jessie looked at the watch again, and her face lit up. Now she had the answer.
As soon as the elevator arrived at the fifth floor, Jessie made a mad dash for apartment 546. When she reached the door, she smoothed back her long, red hair and took a deep breath. Then, she knocked.
Slowly, the door creaked open.
And she found herself staring into a pair of beautiful emerald-green eyes.
James smiled at her.
Jessie returned the smile. "James," she whispered.
He took her hand in his. "Jessie," he whispered back.
Meowth grinned as he watched Jessie follow James into his apartment. The door closed, and he felt his heart welling up with pride. He had done well in bringing the two of them together, and now it was time to give them their privacy.
He could always ask what happened later.
Chapter 13 -- Glorious Whole
Once he had closed the door, James bowed to Jessie and handed her a rose.
"So...ummm...have a seat," he said lamely.
Knowing that she'd probably sound just as lame if she tried to say anything, she simply nodded and sat at the table.
James sat in the chair next to hers and smiled shyly.
Jessie remembered how cute James had looked when he was a child, and marvelled at what a handsome man he had become. But even though he was older now, he had never lost his air of child-like innocence. If anything, he was more adorable than ever!
James felt his heart racing as he gazed at Jessie. He remembered being nervous when he first met her, and he was nervous now. After all these years, after waiting so long for this moment, what was he going to say to her? She looked more beautiful than ever, and the thought of saying or doing something wrong and driving her away again scared the living hell out of him.
Tentatively, he reached over and took her by the hand. "Jessie...." he began.
As Jessie gazed into his eyes, she suddenly began to cry.
James felt his chest tightening. Shit! I already screwed it up -- she wouldn't be crying otherwise! How did I manage that?! But aloud he said, "Jessie, what's the matter?!"
Jessie began to cry even harder. James was just so perfect -- handsome, gentle, and loving. The thought that she had almost lost him was more than she could stand. "James?" she whimpered.
"Yes, Jessie?" he said softly, tightening his hold on her hand, as if he were afraid to let go.
She looked at him again. He was worried about her, and she knew that he would do anything she asked of him. "W-will you hold me?"
He looked into pleading sapphire-blue eyes.
And he leaned forward and put his arms around her.
They remained like that for several minutes. Finally, James broke the silence.
"Shhhhh. Please don't cry, Jessie," he whispered as he stroked her hair. "It's okay...."
"No, it's not," she muttered, burying her face in his shoulder.
"Why? What's the matter?" he asked.
Jessie gave no reply.
"Please tell me," he said. "I don't want you to be sad anymore."
Jessie gazed into his eyes and saw that he was beginning to cry, too. "It's because I love you," she said softly. "I've never felt this way about any man until now, and the thought that I almost threw this chance away...."
"But you didn't," James said, brushing her tears away. "You knew as well as I that we were meant to be, and you came back."
"But I was afraid, James!" she cried. "I was so afraid...and I still am!"
James held her closer. "I know, Jess. I know," he told her. "You've been hurt in the past. I can see it in your eyes. But I promise you, I would never do anything like that! I love you, and I'll do whatever it takes to make sure you never know abuse or betrayal again! I want you to be happy, Jess! I always want you to be happy...."
Jessie smiled. There was something about the way he kept calling her "Jess." It was so friendly and familiar...and comforting. Nobody had ever called her that except for her mother. But as she began to think about the love of her mother, the memories of Miyamoto's death made her uneasy once again.
"I don't doubt that, James," she said. "When I look into your eyes, I can see what a wonderful person you are. But that's not the reason I was afraid...."
James knew where Jessie was heading with this -- she was thinking about her mother and her children. "Jessie," he said, cutting her off. "I know this sounds crazy, but I believe that we're somehow bound by destiny. All of the strange coincidences...the feelings of being guided by some mystical force. There has to be a reason for it!"
Jessie gasped. He's been having those same feelings?!
"I believe that we were destined to meet and fall in love," he continued. "And I believe that it's our destiny to be together forever. Why else would we have met as children? Why else would you have shown up when I was trying to kill myself?"
"You're right!" she exclaimed. "James, I don't know what it was, but something made me go into the warehouse on that day...something was drawing me to you!"
James smiled and took her hands in his own again. "Yes, Jessie! You understand -- I'm alive because of you, and you know it!"
Jessie returned the smile and entwined the fingers of their joined hands. "That means...."
"It means that nothing can stand in our way, Jess!" he interjected. "Nothing will ever tear us apart, and nothing will ever make me leave you!"
She nodded and leaned forward, resting her forehead on his own. "It's funny," she said. "Seems like all we've ever known is pain. But now...now it looks like we finally found what we've spent our entire lives searching for. What do we do now, James?"
He put his arms around her. "We leave the past behind...leave all of our troubles behind and embrace this new beginning."
She held him as close as she possibly could and ran her fingers through his shoulder-length purple hair. "Sounds like a plan to me!"
Slowly, James leaned down and pressed his lips against hers. As they sat together in each other's arms, their lips locked in a passionate kiss, all the pain and all the troubles of their damaged pasts seemed to fade away.
When they finally broke free from their kiss, they gazed into each other's eyes and smiled.
"It's been a long time, Jessie."
"Too long, James."
"Come on," he said, getting to his feet and taking her by the hand. "Come help me make dinner."
"But I don't know how to cook," she protested as he led her into the kitchen.
"It doesn't matter," he told her. "I just want you with me. Besides, we've got a lot of catching up to do!"
And that's how they spent the next two hours. As they cooked and ate their dinner together, they discussed their pasts, releasing all of the pain they held inside and exorcising all of their demons. They both had their flaws, as all humans do, but none of it seemed to matter to them. Jessie didn't care that James had sacrificed his wealth for his freedom, and James didn't mind that Jessie had once been a member of Team Rocket or that her family's legacy was bound with the criminal organization. If anything, the knowledge that neither one of them was perfect only endeared them to each other even more!
And after they discussed their pasts, they got to talking about their hopes and dreams for the future and discovered that they both wanted more out of life than what they had. Jessie learned that food was something James was passionate about -- he enjoyed cooking and creating new dishes, and he enjoyed eating even more! He was only a short-order cook at a small downtown restaurant now, but he wanted one day to be a master chef. (She didn't doubt that it would happen -- the succulent roasted chicken with fresh vegetables and fragrant jasmine rice he had made for her was delicious!) And James learned that Jessie was every bit as creative as he was...even if it was in a different capacity. She was only a data entry clerk at a downtown office, but she dreamed of one day becoming a fashion designer. She loved to sew and create new looks, and she even made most of her own clothes. (He could definitely picture her as a famous designer -- her clothes were incredibly stylish, and she was so gorgeous that she could even model them herself at fashion shows!)
But more importantly, they learned that when they thought about their futures, they also thought about each other. As they sat together and talked, they realized that they needed each other. Neither one of them could picture life without the other now.
"I love you, Jessie," James said as he held her in his arms.
"I love you, too, James," Jessie replied, returning his embrace.
"I used to feel so empty," he said. "But now that we're together, I feel complete."
"I feel the same way," she told him. "It's like...it's like we're two halves of the same soul...and we've spent our entire lives waiting for this moment -- the moment we could finally join together."
James raised an eyebrow. "Join together?" he asked slyly. "Jessie, does that mean what I think it means?"
Jessie silenced him by pressing her lips against his. "Yes," she whispered. "I want you, James. I've wanted you for a long time. I hope you don't think I'm being too forward, but...."
"Not at all," he replied, sweeping her into his arms and heading for his bedroom. "I've wanted this for a long time, too...."
And what happened between them was every bit as satisfying as they imagined it would be. Even though it was the first time for James, he made Jessie feel like no man ever had before. Of all the lovers she had taken, James was the first who truly cared about her, so in a way, it was the first time for her, too.
Jessie closed her eyes and sighed as James became one with her. At that moment, it was like something magical had happened -- it wasn't just their bodies joining...it was their souls. Woman and Man. Yin and Yang. The perfect union.
Suddenly, she realized that all the pain of her past really was gone. As James held her in his arms and she gazed into his beautiful green eyes, she felt safe. She knew that she would never be alone again...that her broken soul had finally found its other half.
And James felt the same. He and Jessie were as close as two humans could possibly be, and he could feel her strength and her love radiating through his body. He knew that he would never have to be afraid again...that his broken soul had finally been healed.
Body, heart, mind, and soul. What once was broken now was whole.
As Jessie and James made love, their broken souls mended, and like their bodies, became one glorious whole. Knowing that they would be safe forever in each other's arms, they turned away from their damaged pasts and looked forward to their wonderful future together.
To be Continued....
Special thanks to Shigeru1313 for the cute illustration of Jessie and Meowth! ^_^
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