by Cori Falls
Chapter 4 -- Health, Wealth, and Happiness
I stretched myself out and rubbed the sleep from my eyes. And for the first time in three days, I rejoiced at the feeling of being able to breathe without blowing my nose first. Then, I found my gaze drifting to Jessie, who was sound asleep at my side.
She was wearing my black silk boxer shorts with the red hearts on them and one of my black Stabbing Westward t-shirts, both of which were a little too big for her. Her crimson mane was tangled and spread all about, there were dark circles under her eyes, and a bit of drool was running from the corner of her gaping mouth as she softly snored. She was absolutely beautiful. And the reason she'd "let herself go" like this only made her even more beautiful in my eyes.
It had been an eventful week for me, Jessie, and Meowth. Five days ago, we'd met Gary in Bluefinland and gone with him to the local pokemon gym, where we'd won the Vortex Badge. After that, we took Gary for a ride in our balloon and had a picnic lunch together. While we were enjoying our lunch, we met a Pidgey who dreamed of flying higher than any pokemon ever had before. Meowth had been touched by Orville's story, so he'd offered to help him make his dream come true. The next day, Orville set out to fly as high as he possibly could, and Gary, Meowth, Jessie, and I took his trainer, Wilbur, up in our balloon so that he could monitor Orville's flight. With Jessie's weather expertise, Meowth's communication and piloting skills, and my computer know-how, Orville did, indeed, become the highest-flying pokemon of all time -- he reached an altitude of thirty-one miles! It had been an exhilarating experience, taking our balloon to the upper limit of the stratosphere and watching history being made, but it hadn't been without its risks. On the way up, we were attacked by a flock of migrating Fearow, and after Orville's flight, he passed out and almost fell to his death. If not for Gary's Pidgeot catching him and Jessie using her nursing skills to revive him, that flight may very well have cost Orville his life. Luckily, Orville made a quick recovery, and we all made it back to terra firma, safe and sound.
The next day, Wilbur downloaded all of the flight data from our computer and presented it to the local paper...and a veritable media frenzy ensued! The news of Orville's record-breaking flight even replaced the preparations for the Whirl Cup as the top-ranking story for awhile! But Orville wasn't the only one who'd set a new flight record -- at thirty miles, Jessie, Meowth, and I had become the highest-flying hot-air balloonists of all time! (Even Meowth caused quite a spectacle, since none of the reporters had ever seen a talking pokemon before!) There were interviews and photo sessions all morning long, and when Gary called his grandpa to tell him about what had happened, they ended up talking all afternoon! That evening, Gary, Meowth, Jessie, and I bid a fond farewell to Wilbur, Orville, and the Pidgeys of Pudgy Pidgey Isle, and we continued our journey through the Whirl Islands.
Our next stop was Yellow Rock Isle. There was a Team Rocket safe-house just a couple of miles away from Megi City at the southern end of the island, so we decided to stay there instead of spending money on hotel rooms in town. (Not that we could've gotten a decent room at this point, anyway -- by now, pretty much everything is booked because of the Whirl Cup!)
Unfortunately, we hadn't had much of a chance to enjoy our stay on Yellow Rock Isle so far. When we left Pudgy Pidgey Isle, Gary, Meowth, and I weren't feeling well, and by the time we arrived at the cabin, all three of us were sick.
When we got inside the cabin, all I had the energy to do was toss my backpack down and collapse on the couch.
Jessie came to my side and placed a cool, soft hand to my forehead. "Oh, sweetie. You don't look well...and you're burning up!"
"He ain't the only one," Meowth groaned. He and Gary looked like they were about to pass out, too!
I scooted over and made room for Meowth and Gary as Jessie helped them onto the couch. Her face was now etched with worry. "What happened to you three?" she asked.
"Must've been yesterday's flight," I speculated. "Being at such a high altitude puts a lot of stress on the body, and we were exposed to some really cold temperatures up there."
"No doubt," Gary agreed. He coughed a couple of times. "I've always been sensitive to cold weather -- I'm always getting sick in the winter...."
Now Jessie looked more concerned than ever. "Why didn't you tell us about this, Gary? We wouldn't have made you come along if we knew you were suceptible to the cold!"
"Hey, you didn't make me go on that flight -- I chose to!" he interjected. "I knew what I was getting into, and I'm damned glad I went with you! A little head-cold is a small price to pay for being eyewitness to such a spectacular event!"
Meowth nodded. "Dat's right! Considerin' all the things dat coulda gone wrong, I think comin' down with colds is the least of our worries. Quite frankly, I'd of been more surprised if none of us had gotten sick!"
"I suppose," Jessie acquiesced. She smiled again and rapped her knuckles on the wooden coffee table. "I'm just glad it's colds you have and not something more serious. And I feel fine, so I guess that means I'll be taking care of you."
I smiled at her. "Whoever says women are the weaker sex obviously has no idea what they're talking about," I remarked.
"Dat's for damn sure!" said Meowth. "I don't think anybody who's met Jess could ever be capable of thinkin' women are weak."
"Yeah! You're one of the strongest people I know!" Gary told her.
Jessie blushed. "I wish more men could be as enlightened as you three." She winked at us. "Don't worry about a thing, boys -- nurse Jessie will have you feeling better in no time!"
Jessie made good on her promise. While Meowth, Gary, and I rested, she made chamomile tea for us and gave us some vitamin C tablets to go along with it. After our tea, we felt well enough to get our stuff and get settled in for the night. Gary volunteered to sleep on the couch and let me and Meowth have the two beds in the small bedroom so that Jessie could have the master bedroom all to herself and not be exposed to our germs any more than she had to, but she wouldn't hear any of that. She told Gary that he could share the small bedroom with Meowth, and she was adamant that I stay with her in the master bedroom.
"You're absolutely sure about this, Jess?" I asked as she picked up both my backpack and hers and took them into the big bedroom. "I don't want you getting sick, too."
Jessie returned from the bedroom and cupped my chin in her hand. "Don't worry about me, James," she replied. "I'd rather take my chances catching a cold from you than sleep alone."
As I looked into her sapphire eyes, I could tell that she was thinking about the last time I'd gotten sick.
It had happened the previous December. When we'd taken a couple weeks off from work for the holidays, I'd come down with a bad cold, and Jessie had ended up taking care of me for a few days since I'd been too sick to even get out of bed. We'd slept in separate rooms during that time because I hadn't wanted her to get sick, too. I'd been lonely, and I'd sorely missed having Jessie by my side while I slept, but it had been even worse for her, since her loneliness had been compounded by concern for my health. After three days of caring for me and three nights of sleeping alone, she'd had a nightmare that I died. Once I'd finally been feeling well enough to get out of bed, I'd awakened to find poor Jessie crying her eyes out. The nightmare had been extremely vivid, and it had absolutely devastated her -- it had taken me a long time to calm her down and make her realize that it had only been a bad dream and that I was going to be okay. Granted, Jess had still been grappling with her abandonment issues at that point, and our relationship and her faith in her loved ones have grown much stronger since then, but I knew that she didn't want to take any chances of having another nightmare like that ever again...and I wasn't about to let her have any nightmares!
"Alright honey, you win -- I'll stay in the big bedroom with you," I told her. "I apologize in advance if you catch my cold...."
Jessie placed a finger to my lips and silenced me. "You don't have to apologize for anything, sweetie. All you have to do is get better."
I winked at her. "Oh, I think I can manage that."
"You'd better!" she said, giving my nose a gentle tweak.
Once the sleeping arrangements had been determined, Gary got back to his feet and picked up his own backpack. "Well, I'd love to stay up later, but I just don't have the energy -- I'm gonna get a bath and get to bed," he announced.
"Me-owth, too," the cat chimed in.
Jessie nodded. "Sounds like a good idea."
As the two of them headed for the little bedroom, Jessie reached up and tousled my hair. "You wait here," she instructed me. "I've got a few things to do right now, but when I'm finished, I'll give you an extra-special treatment!"
A smile spread across my lips as she leaned me back on the couch cushions and covered my face and neck with kisses. "Sounds wonderful," I muttered.
The two of us remained in our embrace and cuddled for a few more minutes, but when we heard Gary drawing his bath, Jessie reluctantly pulled away from me. "Be right back," she promised.
I put my hands behind my head and smiled again as I watched Jessie get up from the couch and dig some winter blankets from the linen closet. Through the doorway of the bedroom, I could see her tucking a red blanket around Meowth and giving him a kiss on his golden charm. Then, she spread a blue blanket on Gary's bed and took the big, purple blanket into our own room. After that, she found a couple boxes of kleenex in one of the cupboards and put those in the bedrooms, too. And finally, she took an inventory of everything in the kitchen and made a grocery list. Once Gary was finished with his bath and dressed in his pajamas, Jessie tucked him into bed as well and said good night to him and Meowth.
"And remember, if you need anything...anything at all, don't hesitate to call me," she told them as she left the room.
"Don't worry about me -- it's not like I've never had a cold before," Gary assured her.
"Yeah. I'm sure we'll be fine," said Meowth.
Jessie smiled at them and closed the door behind her. Then, she turned her attention back to me. "Come on, sweetie -- I've got a real treat for you!" she whispered seductively.
My heart fluttered when I heard her say those words. What did Jessie have planned?
There was only one way to find out, so I got to my feet and followed her into our bedroom.
Once I was inside, Jessie took me by the hand and led me into the bathroom. "I found some herbal bath salts in here while I was putting our stuff away," she said as she wrapped her arms around me. "How does a nice, hot bath and a full-body massage before bed sound?"
"Like heaven!" came my reply.
Jessie gave me a kiss on the cheek and began drawing a bath for me. As the tub filled with water, she grabbed a jar of green crystals and poured some of them in. Through my congestion, I could smell their wonderful floral scent permeating the room, and it even seemed to be clearing my sinuses a little!
While the tub was filling, Jessie returned to my side and undressed me. Her fingertips gently caressed my bare skin as she pulled off my shirt, undid my belt buckle, and unzipped my jeans, and I felt my heart racing faster than ever. Once all of my clothes were off, she helped me into the tub. Then, she took off her own clothes and joined me!
"Feel nice?" she ventured as she gently rubbed my back with a washcloth.
"Oh, yeah," I sighed, savoring the fresh, clean fragrance of the water and the feeling of her gentle touch. "You're the best nurse ever, sweetheart!"
I felt Jessie brush my hair aside and plant a kiss on the back of my neck. "I love you, James," she whispered.
I looked over my shoulder and smiled at her again. "I love you too, Jess."
For the next hour, the two of us soaked together and took turns scrubbing each other with the washcloth. Once the water started getting cold, Jessie drained the tub, and we got out and dried off. After I put on a clean pair of boxers and my pajama pants, and Jessie put on a pair of panties and her pink nightgown, she laid me down on the bed and gave me the massage that she'd promised. I closed my eyes and relaxed. And as her gentle hands kneaded my neck, back, shoulders, arms, and legs, I felt the tension flowing out of my muscles and forgot all about my plugged nose, my scratchy throat, and my pounding headache. Jess really did have magic hands -- I never wanted her to stop!
When the massage finally did end, I put on my pajama top, and Jessie climbed into bed with me.
"How're you feeling?" she asked as she cuddled into me and pulled the blankets up around us.
"A lot better than I was," I replied in all honesty. "Thanks, Jess."
Jessie smiled. "Don't mention it." She leaned closer and planted a kiss on my cheek. "Now get some rest, honey."
I returned her kiss and wrapped my arms around her as she turned off the lamp. "I'll try," I told her. "Good night, Jessie."
"Good night James."
A feeling of peace came over me as I held Jessie closer and rested my head on her breasts. The softness and warmth of her body, the sound of her heartbeat, the sensation of her long delicate fingers running through my hair -- they were all so soothing. And as I closed my eyes and fell asleep, I found myself thinking once again about how lucky I was to have her.
The next morning, Jessie made cinnamon toast and orange juice for breakfast. Once Gary, Meowth, and I had eaten, she sent us back to bed and went to town to do some grocery shopping. While she was away, the three of us took a nap, and after she returned and put the groceries away, she made us some tomato soup for lunch. She even jazzed it up with some parmesan cheese and herb seasoned croutons that she'd gotten at the store. After lunch, Meowth and Gary watched TV and took another nap on the couch, and I read a few chapters of Return of the King. Meanwhile, Jessie fed and groomed all of our pokemon and let them outside to get some fresh air and excersise. Then, she did a couple loads of laundry and made ramen noodle soup with fresh chicken and vegetables for dinner. After dinner, Jessie served echinacea tea with more vitamin supplements, and we all watched TV together for a couple of hours. And once she'd tucked Meowth and Gary in for the night, she treated me to another hot bath and massage before bed.
The day after that passed in a similar manner. Jessie made peaches and cream oatmeal for breakfast, spent the morning taking care of the pokemon, made grilled ham and Swiss sandwiches for lunch, spent the afternoon doing chores and tidying up the cabin, and borrowed my cook book so that she could make open-faced turkey burgers for dinner. And all the while, she did everything she could to keep us comfortable. Meanwhile, Gary, Meowth, and I continued to take it easy -- we watched a few DVDs together, I finished reading Return of the King, and I even had a chance to work on a few drawings of things we'd been doing recently. I drew pictures of Jessie with her grandparents and riding her dad's Rapidashes. I drew pictures of my gym battle with Chuck and Gary's gym battle with Salina. I drew pictures of our pokemon hanging out together. I drew pictures of Meowth piloting the balloon and roasting marshmallows over a campfire, and I even drew a couple pictures of Orville's flight! All in all, it had been a productive couple of days.
And now, this morning, I felt like I was back to my old self -- all of my congestion had cleared up, and the thought of getting out of bed no longer made my head spin. Poor Jessie, however, looked like she was exhausted. Two days and three nights of taking care of me, Meowth, and Gary and doing all of the errands and chores had worn her out.
It was time to pay her back for everything she'd done for us.
Slowly, I climbed out of bed and opened the window. The cool morning breeze smelled more fresh and clean than usual now that I could breathe clearly again, and the golden sunlight felt warm on my face -- the weather couldn't have been more perfect.
Maybe we'd have a chance to enjoy our visit on Yellow Rock Isle, after all.
Suddenly, I heard Jessie stirring. I looked over my shoulder and saw that she was waking up.
"Good morning, angel," I said as she opened her sapphire eyes and smiled up at me.
"Mmm...you're up early," she remarked in a sleepy voice. As she looked over at the clock, however, her eyes went wide. "Oh, shit! It's after eight thirty -- I should've had breakfast ready by now! I'm sorry, sweetie -- I...."
I seated myself on the bed again and took her hands in mine. "Calm down, Jess -- you can hardly be blamed for wanting to sleep in after all the work you've been doing. Nobody's going to be upset if breakfast is a little late this morning," I told her.
"I know," Jessie sighed. "But...."
"Besides, I'm feeling a lot better today," I continued. "Why don't you take it easy this morning and let me make breakfast?"
"Are you sure you're up to it?" she asked.
"Of course!" I replied as I brought her hand to my lips. "It'd be my pleasure!"
This made her smile again. "Well...alright. We could do with something edible after two whole days of my cooking...."
"Stop saying that!" I interjected. "Jessie, you're a much better cook than you give yourself credit for. I thought everything you made was delicious, and so did Meowth and Gary!"
Now she was blushing. "Really?"
I nodded. "You've been wonderful to us, honey. I feel better now because of you, and I'm sure Meowth and Gary feel a lot better, too. We couldn't ask for a better nurse than you," I assured her.
Jessie blushed more brightly than ever when I said this.
Unable to resist how adorable she looked, I ran a hand through her tangled hair and placed my other hand on her cheek. Then, I leaned closer and lowered my lips to hers.
As Jessie responded to me, I suddenly found myself consumed by desire for more than just a kiss. Freeing my hand from her hair, I slowly slid it under her shirt and caressed her stomach, moving steadily upwards until I brought it to rest on one of her breasts. After a moment, I pulled away slightly from our kiss to gauge her reaction and saw that she was still smiling.
"You feeling up to this, too?" she ventured.
"Definitely!" I said as I brought my mouth to hers once more.
After a moment, I felt Jessie parting her lips. As her tongue invaded my mouth and began to caress mine, I laid her down and felt her unbuttoning my pajama top and sliding it off. Once she was on her back, she lifted her hips and let me pull off the boxer shorts she was wearing, and then, her black string-bikini panties. When our kiss finally ended, Jessie sat up again so that I could take off her shirt.
Jessie moaned with pleasure as I laid her back down and closed my mouth over one of her breasts, and then the other, worshipping them with my lips and tongue. When my kisses slowly trailed up her neck to the line of her jaw, and finally her mouth again, I felt her hands moving down my back. Then, she started pulling off my pajama bottoms and boxers.
Once I was naked too, I felt a surge of excitement as one of Jessie's hands caressed my buttocks and thighs while her other one stroked between my legs. In response, I ran my fingers down her side and brushed them along her thighs until I found her soft nether regions and began to touch and rub them the way she was rubbing mine. Beneath me, Jessie shivered and exhaled in a fluttery breath. I was now fully aroused and aching with need for her.
"James...." she muttered.
"I love you, Jessie," I whispered as I withdrew my fingers and put myself inside of her.
Jessie let out an ecstatic cry. She lifted her knees a little and allowed me to thrust deeper. Then, she wrapped her legs around me and started caressing my back and shoulders and the nape of my neck again.
For several minutes, I made slow pulsing movements with my hips, creating a gentle friction between the two of us. Jessie's breath came in shallow, rapid gasps as she climaxed and cried my name over and over again. And as her body began pulsing in time with mine, I felt another surge of excitement coursing through me.
After going almost a week without making love to Jessie, it felt especially good to be with her this morning. The feeling of her silky skin and the warmth of her flesh against my own, of being sheathed in her velvety softness, of her fingers running through my hair and caressing me in all the places I liked to be touched -- it was like food to a starving man or water to one who's just crossed the desert. I'd been hungering for this closeness and affection, and now that I finally had it again, it was all the more pleasing!
When it was over, Jessie cuddled into me and rested her head on my shoulder. "My, my! You really are feeling better!" she remarked.
I wrapped my arms around her waist and planted a kiss on her forehead. "Indeed."
"I'm glad you're okay now, James," Jessie continued as she traced patterns on my chest with the tip of her finger. "I hate it when you don't feel well."
"I know. But you make me feel better every single time," I told her. "You're the best, honey!"
"So are you, sweetie," she replied.
The two of us gazed into each other's eyes and smiled. Then, I cupped Jessie's face in my hands and lowered my mouth to hers again.
As our kiss deepened, however, our stomachs began to growl. Jessie blushed and drew her lips away from mine.
I smiled sheepishly at her and felt my cheeks turning pink, too. "I guess I should get up and make breakfast now...."
"I guess," she echoed.
Reluctantly, we broke from our embrace and got out of bed. And when we went into the bathroom to get cleaned up, the color suddenly drained from Jessie's face. "Oh, my god!" she gasped as she looked at her reflection in the mirror.
"What's the matter, Jess?" I asked.
She quickly grabbed her hairbrush and began running it through her tangled mane. "I look like shit, that's what's the matter!" she snapped. "My hair is all matted up, I've got crust in my eyes and dark circles under them, there's drool all over my face, I need to wax my legs and bikini line -- I could go on forever!"
I shrugged. "So what? You've been really busy these past couple of days -- nobody's going to hold it against you that you didn't have time to maintain your entire grooming regimen, least of all me," I told her. "Besides, it's not like you stopped bathing, or anything...."
"You still should've said something," she grumbled. "If you had, I could've made myself a little more presentable before we...."
"It's okay, sweetheart," I assured her. "I think you're beautiful, no matter what. I didn't say anything because it really didn't matter to me...."
When Jessie finished brushing her hair, she splashed some water on her face and began scrubbing it with our herbal cleansing gel. "Well, it matters to me," she retorted.
"Tell me something, Jess. And be brutally honest," I said. "Do I look my best right now?"
Jessie studied me for a minute. After a long, hesitant pause, she slowly shook her head. "Well...no."
I smiled at her and turned to look at my own reflection. She was right -- I looked every bit as awful as she thought she did! My hair was as tangled as Jessie's, and it was a little greasy because it had been a few days since I'd last shampooed it. There was three days worth of stubble growing on my chin and upper lip, and my eyes had a bit of crust in them, too. And I could tell from the cottony feeling in my mouth that my breath probably didn't smell too good. Suddenly, I found myself wondering how Jessie had even been able to kiss me!
"Yes, I look like shit, too," I chuckled. I turned my attention back to Jessie and raised an eyebrow. "So, why didn't you tell me?"
Jessie finished rinsing her face and blushed again. "Because...I didn't really notice until you asked." The smile returned to her lips. "I think you're gorgeous, no matter what!"
I winked at her and started brushing my own hair. "Precisely! That's part of what true love is about, Jess -- being able to see your partner when they're a mess and still think they look good."
"I know that," Jessie replied as she dug some wax strips from her backpack and began pressing them onto her legs, bikini line, and underarms. "Inner-beauty is more important than outer-beauty...and you've got both in abundance, James!"
"So do you, honey," I told her.
She smiled at me again. "Thanks, sweetie."
As Jessie started yanking off the wax strips, I finished brushing my hair and pulled it back in a ponytail. Then, I got out my shaving cream and razor and shaved off all of my beard and mustache stubble, washed my face, and gargled with a bit of mouthwash. After splashing some aftershave on my face and putting on a little deodorant, I put my boxers back on and got dressed in a pair of jeans and a blue shirt.
"You go ahead and start getting breakfast ready," Jessie said when she saw that I was dressed. She pulled another wax strip from her leg. "I'm going to be awhile yet...."
"Good idea," I replied through clenched teeth. I knew that Jess had a high pain threshold and that the waxing didn't even faze her, but it still made me cringe.
"The things women do for beauty, huh?" Jessie laughed, taking note of my expression.
I returned her smile. And now that my breath was fresh, I gave her a kiss before taking my leave.
When I got to the kitchen, I saw that Meowth and Gary were already awake. Meowth was at the counter, steeping bags of mixed berry tea in two mugs of hot water, and Gary was sitting at the table, writing something in an old spiral notebook.
"Good morning, guys," I said.
The two of them looked up from what they were doing and smiled when they saw me.
"Mornin', Jim!" Meowth replied.
"Hey, James!" said Gary.
I smiled back at them. "Well, I don't know about you, but I feel like a million bucks today!"
Gary nodded. "Yeah. I'm feeling a lot better, too."
"Me-owth, too! And it's all thanks ta good ol' Jessie," Meowth chimed in. He handed one of the mugs of tea to Gary and began stirring milk and sugar into his own. "She's the best!"
"She sure is," Gary agreed.
"That's why I'm making breakfast this morning," I told them. "I think she's earned a day off, don't you?"
"Yeah!" Gary replied.
"Sounds good ta Me-owth!" said the cat. "So, what's on the menu, Jimmy-boy?"
I looked through the pantry and the refrigerator to see what we had. My smile grew even wider than it already was. "Oh, I don't know...how about stuffed French toast?"
"Stuffed French toast?" Meowth and Gary asked in unison.
"I saw a recipie for it on Food Network while we were staying with Jessie's grandparents," I explained. "It's like a French toast sandwich with whipped cream and fresh fruit in the middle. I've been dying to try it out, and since I have all the ingredients, I figure now is the perfect time!"
The two of them began to drool when I said this.
"I take it that sounds good?" I ventured as I brought a carton of strawberries from the refrigerator and began washing them and pulling off the leaves.
"Sounds great!" they cheered.
Once I'd chopped the strawberries, I whipped some eggs, milk, and sugar together and got out some golden potato bread. "So, what have you guys been up to this morning?" I asked as I heated up the skillet and started dipping the bread into the egg mixture.
Gary shrugged. "Not too much. Just doing a bit of writing in my journal." He smiled again as he picked up the spiral notebook and thumbed through it. "I've actually been doing a lot of writing over the past couple days -- it always helps me relax and get my thoughts in order...."
I smiled too as I listened to him. Gary sounded like he enjoyed writing as much as I enjoyed drawing!
"I'd kinda like to write books someday," he continued.
"I'm sure you will," I told him. "And I know they'll be good."
"Yeah! With all you've seen and done on your pokemon journey and all the work you'll be doing as a researcher, there certainly won't be a shortage of things for you to write about!" I looked and saw that Jessie had finally joined us. She was wearing her black midriff top and a baggy pair of jeans.
"And Jess, Jim, and I will be waitin' ta read every single one of yer books!" Meowth chimed in.
Gary's smile widened. "Thanks, guys." He looked at the notebook a moment longer before returning it to his backpack. "I used to keep a journal when I was in school, but I kinda let it fall by the wayside when I started my pokemon journey. I've taken up writing in it again, though...especially since some really big things have been happening recently."
Jessie poured some hot water from the kettle and made a mug of mixed berry tea for herself. "That's wonderful. My daddy was about your age when he started keeping his journal...." Her voice trailed off.
I set down my spatula and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay, Jess?"
Her eyes were misted over with tears as she looked at me, but she quickly smiled and brushed them away. "I'm fine."
When I saw that her smile was genuine, I gave her a kiss on the cheek and went back to browning the French toast.
"I see you're making my favorite!" she commented, snaking her arms around my waist and resting her chin on my shoulder.
Meowth began bouncing up and down in his seat. "He's makin' it extra special today, Jess -- it's gonna be stuffed with whipped cream and strawberries, like a French toast sammich!"
Jessie's sapphire eyes sparkled. "James, that sounds divine!" she exclaimed.
I gave her another kiss. "Nothing but the best for my Jess!" I told her.
Once all the pieces of French toast had been cooked to a light golden-brown, I divided them equally between four plates. Then, I brought the whipped cream from the refrigerator, spooned some onto half of the pieces, and topped them with a generous helping of strawberries. After assembling them into sandwiches, I sprinkled the rest of the strawberry slices on top and drizzled each one with strawberry-flavored syrup.
"Voila!" I said as I presented a plate of two sandwiches to each of my friends.
"Whoa!" Gary gasped.
"Dat almost looks too good ta eat!" Meowth said. He was starting to drool again.
Jessie was now grinning from ear to ear. "Looks edible enough to me!" With that, she grabbed her fork and shoved a bite into her mouth.
"Well? What's the verdict?" I ventured.
When Jessie finished chewing and swallowed, she was still grinning. "I do believe I now have a new favorite breakfast food, my dear James!" came her reply.
I made a cup of mixed berry tea for myself, grabbed my own plate, and joined them at the table. "I guess that means it turned out pretty good," I remarked.
"Better than good!" Gary told me after taking his first bite.
Meowth chomped off half of his first sandwich and licked the whipped cream from his lips. "It's great! Like dere's a party in my mouth, and everybody's invited!"
I couldn't help but laugh as I listened to their glowing reviews of my new dish. It reminded me of the tasting and judgement portion of Iron Chef!
"Thanks again for making breakfast, James," Jessie said as she polished off her first sandwich and started on her second.
"It was my pleasure," I told her. "This is your day, honey -- I want everything about it to be absolutely perfect!"
Jessie stopped eating for a moment and looked back at me.
"Since you've spent the last couple of days catering to our every need and doing whatever we want, we'd like to return the favor," I explained. "Today, the three of us will do whatever you want."
She blushed. "That's okay, guys -- knowing that you're feeling better is all the thanks I need."
"Well, we want to do this for you anyway," I insisted. "You deserve to be treated like royalty."
"Queen for a day!" Meowth chimed in.
Jessie closed her eyes and smiled again. "That does sound nice," she admitted. "I really do need a bit of a spa-day...."
"Then, that's precisely what you'll get!" Gary told her.
"After breakfast, Gary, Meowth, and I will go out for awhile and let you have the place to yourself," I went on. "That way, you can take a nap, or a bubble bath, or...."
Jessie's brow furrowed. "You're not going to be gone all day, are you? I'd hardly call it a perfect day if you're not even here."
"I won't be gone for very long -- a few hours tops," I assured her. "I can be back in time for lunch."
The smile returned to her lips. "That's more like it!"
"Gary and I can stay out longer, though," Meowth offered. "Dat way, youse guys can have some privacy dis afternoon!"
Gary nodded. "I heard the fishing is really good up in Ogi City, at the northern end of the island -- they even have a big pier. I'd wanted to check it out."
"Sounds like fun ta Me-owth!" the cat remarked. "I've always loved fishin' -- we can make a day of it!"
"Just don't take too long," I told them. "I was thinking that this evening, we could all go out to dinner in Megi City, and maybe catch a movie afterwards. We should make the most of our last day here."
"Oh, yeah, dat's right -- we're headin' over ta Red Rock Isle in the mornin', ain't we?" Meowth asked.
"Yeah. The Whirl Cup preliminaries are starting tomorrow," said Gary.
"Then, we definitely need to do something fun together before we leave!" Jessie agreed. "And our plans for today sound positively perfect!"
After breakfast, Gary, Meowth, and I cleaned up the kitchen and said good-bye to Jessie. I promised to be back by lunch, Meowth and Gary promised to be back in time for dinner, and Jessie promised to take it easy while we were gone. Once Meowth and Gary had fired up the balloon and set out for Ogi City, I brought out my pokemon, and I went for a walk with Growly and Victreebel at my heels and Articuno and Weezing flying at my side.
And now, I was in Megi City. It was a little after noon, and I was walking up and down the various streets, trying to find a place to get some lunch. Megi City wasn't one of the big metropolises of Johto like Olivine City, and it wasn't even a small city like Bluefinland -- it was more of a little seaside town...which meant that there weren't quite as many places to go or things to do as I'd hoped. When I consulted my field-guide again, however, I learned that Megi City did have quite an impressive artistic community. Since Yellow Rock Isle was a major Corsola habitat, local artisans were always making sculptures and jewelry from the horns that the Corsola shed...which meant that there were plenty of art galleries and shops in the downtown area!
When my travels brought me to the roundabout at the center of town, I did, indeed, find what I was looking for. There was a small park-like area that had palm trees, sea grape and hibiscus bushes, and even a fountain made of pink coral. And all around the park was a circle of restaurants, galleries, stores, and even a little old-fashioned one-screen theater that was showing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone!
"Looks like we'll be able to have a fun night out on the town, after all!" I remarked.
After buying four tickets for the eight thirty show of Harry Potter and making dinner reservations for seven o' clock at a little Italian bistro called Palazzo's, I decided to browse some of the stores. I wanted to buy a gift for Jessie to thank her for taking such good care of me while I had a cold. And Gary's birthday was in another month -- we needed to start thinking of something to get for him!
My first stop was the book store. I looked through the sc-fi/fantasy section and the new age section for awhile, but nothing really caught my eye. As I was getting ready to leave, however, I did spot something of interest. Next to the periodical section at the front of the store was a shelf of blank books that could be used for diaries and journals, creative writing, and such.
And one book in particular was especially stunning.
It was a thick volume with a cover of indigo suede, and it had gold edging on its pages and a golden tassell bookmark. It even came with a pair of ballpoint pens that had indigo-colored marble patterns on them!
As I stood there and admired the book, I thought of my grand-mama's journal with its cover of embroidered purple silk and how dearly she'd loved writing in it. I thought of Dorian Rochester's journal with its cover of rich red suede and how happy Jessie had been to finally read it. And then, I found myself thinking about what Gary had said earlier, about how much he enjoyed writing in his own journal...and the beat up spiral notebook that he was using.
I knew that I'd just found the perfect birthday present for him!
The journal and pen set cost about twenty-five dollars, and I ended up spending a little over thirty dollars when I also picked up a box of chocolate truffles for Jessie, but it was worth every penny. Besides, I wasn't all that worried about money anymore -- Jessie, Meowth, and I had been scrimping and saving for over a year now, and we were well on the way to financial security! I could afford to splurge and do something nice for my friends on an occasion such as this.
After leaving the book store with my purchases, I went back to browsing the restaurants and deciding what to pick up for lunch. I didn't want to get anything too heavy since we were having Italian for dinner, so I finally chose a sushi bar that had take-out and ordered two orange roll specials, which came with miso soup and house salads with ginger dressing.
Now that I had presents for my friends, plans for the evening, and lunch, I decided to start heading back to the cabin. But just as I was leaving the roundabout, I passed by a little store that had a display of Corsola horn jewelry in the window. There were rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and various other items, all made of the most exquisite coral I'd ever seen. And once again, one item in particular stopped me in my tracks -- a tiara made of the same polished pink coral and set with pearls that shimmered with blue-green iridescense. Looking at that tiara made an image of Jessie appear in my mind's eye -- I could picture her crowning her crimson mane with it and looking every bit the princess that she was.
Jessie is so sweet, and gentle, and smart, and beautiful, and I'm the luckiest guy in the world to have her, I said to myself. She deserves everything her heart desires and more. A box of chocolate truffles isn't enough to show her how much I love her -- I need to get something else for her, too...something like that tiara! It's perfect for her!
So, I made one more stop at the jewelry store.
"Excuse me. How much is the Corsola horn tiara?" I asked the proprietor.
He smiled. "Ah, the Mermaid's Crown! My finest piece, if I do say so myself."
"It's very lovely," I told him. "I'd like to buy it for my girlfriend."
"It's not cheap," he warned me. "I used the finest coral I could find, and the pearls are top-quality, too. Took me months to make it...."
"How much?" I asked again.
"Three hundred dollars," came his reply. "I can't let it go for any less than that."
Now I was smiling, too. I knew that was a lot of money to spend on a luxury item, but I wasn't worried. In a couple of years, I was going to be getting a multi-million dollar inheritance from my grand-mama and grand-papa -- three hundred dollars was barely a drop in the bucket compared to that! And in the meantime, if the twerps weren't interfering with us anymore, then we could make more money at our jobs and make up the difference within a couple of weeks. Besides, Jessie had spent her entire life doing without, and the last couple of years had been especially difficult -- she deserved this!
My smile became a grin as I brought out my wallet. "You take credit cards?"
When I returned to the cabin, I found Jessie sound asleep on the couch. Not wanting to wake her just yet, I put the sushi and salads in the refrigerator to keep them fresh and the cups of soup in the microwave to be reheated once she was ready. Then, I took the presents into the bedroom. While I was getting out a long-stemmed red rose to give Jessie with her box of truffles, I heard footsteps behind me. Looking over my shoulder, I saw that she was now awake and standing in the doorway.
"Hey, Jess!" I said.
She came to my side and planted a kiss on my cheek. "Hey, sweetie. Have fun this morning?"
I nodded. "What about you?"
She smiled. "I just took it easy. Finished reading Sea of Swords, gave myself a manicure and pedicure, and took a nap for a couple of hours."
"Well, I had a very productive morning," I told her.
She raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"I made dinner reservations for seven at an Italian restaurant, and we're going to go and see the new Harry Potter movie at eight thirty," I began.
"Sounds great!" she said.
"And that's not all -- I picked up a birthday present for Gary while I was in town, too!" I continued.
"Really? What did you get?"
I reached into one of the shopping bags and produced the journal and pen set.
Jessie's sapphire eyes lit up when she saw it. "Oh, James, that's gorgeous! And it's perfect for him -- he'll love having a nice journal to write in!"
"My thoughts exactly," I replied. "Oh, and I also got a couple things for you."
I smiled again and handed her the box of truffles and the red rose.
Jessie blushed as she took them from me. "This is so sweet of you, James! Thank you," she said. "I just adore chocolate truffles!"
"I know. That's why I got them for you!"
Jessie gave me another kiss, this time on the lips. I responded by wrapping an arm around her waist and running my fingers through her silky crimson hair.
"And I have one more present for you, honey," I went on when our kiss ended.
Now Jessie looked intrigued again.
"But it can wait until after lunch," I quickly added.
"And what did you get for lunch?" she queried.
"How does sushi sound?"
"Delicious!" With that, she draped her arm across my shoulders, and the two of us headed for the kitchen.
Once the two of us had eaten lunch, I took Jessie back to the bedroom.
"So, what's this other present you have for me?" she asked eagerly.
I grinned again. "Close your eyes! And no peeking!"
When she did as she was instructed, I put my hands on her shoulders and walked her across the room so that she was standing before the dresser mirror. Then, I got out the tiara and placed it atop her head.
"Now you can look," I whispered into her ear.
Jessie opened her eyes again. And when she saw the pearl-studded tiara, she gasped. "Oh, my god!"
"Do you like it?"
She slowly turned to look at me. "Oh, my god! James, how did you know?!"
I raised an eyebrow. "Know what?"
She blushed again. "When I was in town the other day, I passed by that shop with all of the Corsola horn jewelry on my way to the grocery store. I saw this tiara in the window display, and I couldn't get over how beautiful it was! I had a little daydream about buying it, but I didn't because I knew I couldn't afford anything like that...."
I put my arms around her once more. "That is quite a coincidence -- the moment I saw it, I got a feeling that you'd love it. I just couldn't resist buying it for you!"
Suddenly, Jessie's expression became serious again. "Speaking of which...I know this is a rude question, but how much did it cost?"
I bit my lip and turned away from her. I hadn't told Jessie or anybody else about my inheritance yet -- I'd been waiting for the right time to broach the subject. And it looked like that time had finally come. Otherwise, Jessie would be mad at me for spending so much money!
"Well?" she prompted.
I met her gaze again and braced myself for her reaction. "Three hundred dollars. Plus tax," I said matter-of-factly.
The color drained from Jessie's face, and her hands trembled as she removed the tiara and set it on the dresser. "Th-thr-three hundred dollars?!" she sputtered.
I folded my arms across my chest and smirked. "Plus tax," I repeated.
"James, that's an entire paycheck!"
"Indeed, it is."
Jessie buried her face in her hands. "Honey, I love you to pieces, but your money management skills leave a lot to be desired," she sighed. "It was very sweet of you to get this for me, but you really shouldn't have -- we can't afford it!"
My smirk became a smile. "That's where you're wrong, my dear Jessie."
Her brow furrowed. "Oh? Then where, exactly, did you come up with an extra three hundred dollars, I'd like to know?"
"You may want to sit down for this," I told her.
The quizzical look didn't leave her face as she seated herself on the bed. "Alright, James, I'm sitting. Now, tell me where you got all this extra money to throw around."
I sat next to her and took her hands in mine. "Do you remember the night I saved you from Ayesha?"
"How could I forget?"
"And do you remember, before we went to bed, you wanted to know why I was crying?"
"Yes, I do," she replied. "You said you were thinking about your grandparents and how remarkable they are."
I nodded. "Yes. They've given me so much to be thankful for." I gave her hands a gentle squeeze. "Including a multi-million dollar inheritance...."
Jessie's eyes went wide. "Wh-what did you just say?!"
I reached into my backpack and pulled out the envelope that contained the letter and bank statement. "I found this tucked inside grand-papa's copy of Lord of the Rings on the day I retrieved their safe-deposit box," I explained as I handed it to her. "He and grand-mama opened a bank account in my name two days after I was born, and they deposited a million dollars in it. It's been earning interest over the years, and by the time it matures on my twenty-first birthday, it'll have more than doubled!"
Jessie's hands continued to tremble as she studied the bank statement and read the letter from my grandparents. "So...you're getting an inheritance, after all," she said quietly.
"They didn't want my parents getting their hands on that money or using it against me, so they kept it secret...even from me," I continued. "I didn't know anything about this until last month."
Jessie said nothing, just continued to stare at the bank statement with a look of utter shock on her face.
I placed a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you about this sooner -- it took me awhile to absorb it all...."
"I'll bet," she muttered. "I'm still trying to absorb it, myself!"
I tucked a loose strand of crimson hair behind her ear and brushed my fingers across her cheek. "Everything's going to be okay, Jess -- we're not poor anymore...and in a couple of years, we're going to be rich!"
Jessie's lip quivered. "We...." she echoed.
"That's another big reason I wanted so much for us to make this change," I went on as I folded Jessie into an embrace. "Why should we waste our time on an assignment that we hate when the money isn't going to be an issue anymore?"
When Jessie finally ventured to look at me again, her eyes were filled with tears. She shook her head and smiled as the tears spilled down her cheeks. "Your grandparents really are amazing, James!" she whispered. "And so are you!"
I gently brushed her tears away and covered her face with soft kisses. After a moment, Jessie started kissing back.
"I love you so much, sweetie," Jessie muttered between kisses. "And it has nothing to do with the money...."
I placed a finger to her lips and silenced her. "Why do you even have to say that, honey? I know the money has nothing to do with it! You loved me, even when I was penniless...and you think I'm sexy, even when I look like hell!" I took her hands in mine again and ran my thumb across the amberite stone in the promise ring that she was wearing. The promise ring I'd made for her the previous October. "I could never spend my life with somebody who only loved me for my looks or my money. I know you're not that kind of woman, Jess -- not by a long-shot! I've always known that you love me for who I am -- I wouldn't have promised to marry you, otherwise!"
Jessie's cheeks turned pink as she rested her forehead against mine and gazed lovingly into my eyes.
"So, are you okay with my extravagance now?" I ventured.
"Yes...but try not to do stuff like this on a regular basis -- you don't have your inheritance yet, James!" she told me.
"Alright -- only on special occasions," I promised. I pulled away from our embrace for a moment and retrieved the tiara. "I do love spoiling you, though," I said as I placed it back on her head. "I want you to have nice things, Jess."
Jessie reached up and touched the tip of my nose with her finger. "I already have the nicest thing in the world!"
I took her hand in my own and kissed it. Slowly, my kisses began trailing up her arm to her shoulder, the hollow of her throat, and finally her lips. Jessie responded by kissing back.
When our kiss ended, she reached up to touch the crown atop her head, and her eyes sparkled again. "James, you're so wonderful -- I feel like I'm in a fairy tale!" she whispered.
"Which one?" I asked.
"The one where the handsome prince sweeps the beautiful princess off her feet, and they live happily ever after, of course!" came her reply.
I raised an eyebrow. "Isn't that how most fairy tales end?"
Jessie smirked. "Yes, but I'm talking about the one where the beautiful princess gives the handsome prince more loving than he knows what to do with after he sweeps her off her feet!" With that, she laid me down on the bed and started to undress me.
I closed my eyes and sighed contentedly as I savored the feeling of Jessie covering the flesh she exposed with her tender kisses. "Oh, I know which one you're talking about now! That's my favorite...."
After making love for the second time that day, the two of us laid together in bed for awhile, cuddling and talking about our plans for the future. Then, we fed chocolate truffles to each other, and I gave Jessie a full-body massage, just like the one she'd given me on the night I came down with my cold...and then, she gave another massage to me!
Now, I was lying in bed, with my head resting in Jessie's warm, soft lap. We both had green avocado and oatmeal deep-cleaning masks smeared on our faces, and Jessie was holding my left hand in hers as she finished trimming my fingernails and started filing them. She'd already given me a foot-rub and a pedicure, and now she was giving me a manicure, too.
"You know, this is another thing I love about you, James," she remarked.
I looked up at her.
"Not many guys would let their girlfriends give them manicures, pedicures, and facials like this," she explained. "I love how you're secure enough in your manhood to do girl stuff like this with me and not complain."
A chill of excitement raced up my spine as Jessie's fingertips brushed the palm of my hand. She'd finished filing my nails and was now starting to buff them. "Why should I complain? I'm in heaven!" I told her. "I love spending time with you, Jess. And if we're doing something that makes you happy and makes me look good, then so much the better!"
Jessie smiled at me. "Like I said, not that many guys have such an enlightened attitude. I'm so lucky to have you, James."
"I'm lucky to have you too," I replied.
When Jessie finished buffing the nails on my left hand, she moved on to trimming, filing, and buffing the nails on my right. Then, she continued to massage my hands and twine my fingers with hers.
"Mmm...that feels so good, honey," I muttered.
She leaned down and kissed my lips. "I can make you feel even better, if you want!" she offered.
I returned her smile. "You know I do!"
As our lips met again, however, we heard the front door opening and closing. Then, we heard Meowth shouting, "We're back! Are youse guys decent?"
Jessie quickly pulled away from our kiss. "Damn," she mumbled.
I winked at her. "Don't worry, Jess -- we can always do this later!"
This made her smile again.
After sharing another quick kiss, Jessie and I put on our bathrobes and washed off our facial masks. Then, we hid Gary's birthday present in my backpack and joined him and Meowth in the living room.
"Hey, guys!" Gary said when he saw us. "We weren't interrupting anything, were we?"
"It's okay," I assured him. "We were just relaxing."
"How was your day?" Jessie inquired.
"It was great!" Meowth exclaimed. "Gary and I had fish and chips from a real old-fashioned fish and chips stand for lunch! Den, we went fishin' at the pier in Ogi City! I musta caught at least thirty Chinchou, Corsola, and Remoraid! I gave a couple of 'em ta Gary ta send to his grandpa, and I sent the rest of 'em to the boss. We should be gettin' a nice bonus in our paychecks dis Friday!"
Jessie and I exchanged smiles -- we were doing better at our job already!
"As you can see, we had a productive day," Gary chuckled. "How about you?"
"Oh, we've been keeping ourselves busy!" I replied, giving Jessie a sly wink.
"And James has some great news for us!" Jessie piped up. "You'll never guess what it is!"
I felt myself blushing.
Jessie bounced up and down and clapped her hands. "Can I tell them, sweetie? Please?" she squealed excitedly.
I couldn't help but smile. She looked just like a little kid with a big stack of presents to open on Christmas morning -- how could I resist? "Of course you can, Jess!"
"Well, what is this great news?" said Gary.
"Yeah! Quit holdin' out on us -- the suspense is killin' Me-owth!" the cat cheered.
Jessie grinned. "Well...earlier today...James told me...."
Meowth and Gary leaned closer. "Uh, huh? Uh, huh?"
She paused for a moment to draw out the dramatic tension before continuing. "....That he's getting an inheritance...a big one! His grandparents left him a ton of money that he'll be able to collect on his twenty-first birthday! He's going to be rich again!"
Meowth and Gary's jaws dropped.
"Yer shittin' me!" Meowth gasped once he was able to find his voice.
"She's not," I assured him. "When I got grand-mama and grand-papa's safe-deposit box last month, I found a letter from them and a bank statememt for an account they'd opened for me."
Now Gary was smiling, too. "That's wonderful, James! Congratulations!"
Jessie smirked. "I don't know when he was going to get around to telling us -- I had to force it out of him because he bought a tiara for me, and I demanded to know how he was able to afford it!"
My face turned redder than ever.
"Oh, well," Jessie continued as she snaked her arms around my waist and gave me a kiss on the cheek. "It doesn't matter to me whether he's rich or poor -- I'm just happy that his grandparents were looking out for him!"
Gary reached out and shook my hand. "My sentiments exactly!"
Meowth jumped up and wrapped his arms around my neck. "Yeah! Jim and Rose Morgan love ya so much, James...and so do we!"
The four of us probably could've stayed that way for the rest of the evening, but when I saw that it was getting close to five thirty, I told Meowth and Gary about our plans, and we all decided to start getting ready.
After showering and putting on some nice clothes, we all went back to Megi City and enjoyed our dinner and movie. And all the while, I couldn't help but think about how fortunate I was. Thanks to Jessie, I had my health, thanks to my grandparents, I was going to have wealth, and thanks to my friends, I had more happiness than I knew what to do with!
Now more than ever, I was sure that we were on the right path and that our lives would only continue to get better.
To be Continued....
A special thanks goes to my friend, Shigeru1313, for her feedback, support, and technical assistance with this chapter. She came up with the idea of Jessie, James & Meowth getting a journal for Gary's birthday. ^_^
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