Categories > Anime/Manga > Pokemon > The Spirit of Alola

21. The Playroom

by CJWorthington 0 reviews

Chapter 21 of The Spirit of Alola

Category: Pokemon - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2021-04-04 - Updated: 2021-10-29 - 3997 words - Complete

We make our way to the back of the house, the ice type Ninetales, Luxray, Sylveon, and Munchlax following our trek. I reach my hand out to grab the door but turn to my niece first and remind her.
"Your mother is sleeping upstairs, so we have to be really quiet, ok?" I say in a hush.

She nods her head and places a finger over her lips, trying to make a shushing noise, but only succeeding at spitting all over her fingers. I laugh to myself at her attempt. I slide the door open, and our motley crew file inside.

Half-filled bookshelves line three walls. A large desk with a Braille typewriter, a couple of old computers and other machines, printers, a paper cutter with a stack of heavy paper next to it, and a large sheet of leather sit against the opposite wall. The smell of books, old and new, has already settled over the room.

At her home, my neighbor's lab space is filled with whizzing apparatuses, shiny new computers, and mechanical devices I've never imagined—most of it having been built by the brilliantly minded young lady. I feel as if mine pales in comparison with its use of old-fashioned, leather-bound books and hand-drawn pictures.

I feel embarrassment creep through me at the stark differences as we enter the room. My face reddens at the thought of just how out of date our lab is. Of course, we have computers and machines designed specifically for professors. Still, even they are old and outmoded, as neither Kabir nor I have had the time or desire to even look at the newer technology.

The room takes up nearly the size of the entire floor plan above, but for another room with a play area for children tucked away next to the desk at the end of the wall.

"Come on, Himi, the room is over here," I say, keeping my head down as I lead the toddler over to the door and flip the light switch on.

Thankfully the child seems unconcerned by our lack of fancy equipment in the lab when she sees the room, though I avert my eyes from my guests'. However, Himiko's bright blue eyes light up, and she gives a small gasp of glee as she takes in the view of the playroom.

A kaleidoscope of colorful toys of every shape and size sits neatly in the enclosed area. Carefully organized boxes held smaller items, while a sizable indoor playset was sitting against the opposite wall. I drag it out of the corner and pull down the slide and stairs.

There's an old Ponyta rocking horse that I used as a child, building blocks with the Machamp line plastered on the faces, and several soft plush dolls of various sizes and Pokémon. A large shelf holds a sizable amount of children's books with brightly colored pictures and words lining the bindings.

A Snorlax bean bag is pulled from another corner, as well as a Trevant rocking chair so ancient that I had repainted it several times now. I indicate to the two seats, encouraging Burnet to take one, her choosing the chair, and plop myself down on the bean bag. Air hisses and beans crunch underneath me as I flop comfortably onto it.

Himiko runs into the room, tiny bare feet thumping gently on the floor as she scampers from one toy to the next, trying to decide where to start her play.

Thunder lies between the two seats and starts to purr as I reach a hand out to scratch his ears. Tinsel sits on the other side, laying her blue head on her paws, and stares off into the distance while Munchlax, still a young Pokémon, scampers eagerly to a box of toys and starts playing as well.

Sardee takes up the duty of assisting in entertaining the child without being asked. First, she helps push her up the stairs of the Copperajah slide, a large, dark teal elephant Pokémon from the Galar region. Then running to the front to stop Himiko from tumbling onto the softly padded floor with her plush tails as the child slides down, repeating this many times over.

"Your Ninetales is fantastic with children," Burnet says, looking impressed as she watches the scene before her. She holds Lei in her arms, rocking the chair gently beneath her. I hand her a small stuffed Fletchling toy for him to play with, which he promptly shoves into his mouth.

"She used to play with the neighbor kids too in our last home whenever we'd watch them," I say, watching the game my niece and the Pokémon play.

"Oh no, no, Lei, you can't chew on this!" She says, trying to gently pull the toy from her son's mouth without upsetting him.

I laugh at her failed attempts. "Don't worry about it. We made sure all the toys were clean before we moved."

"But this isn't his. I don't want him chewing on someone else's toy. That's rude." She frets.

"Well, how about he keeps that one. Just leave it here, so whenever you come over, he'll have something to play with," I say, watching his hands squeeze tightly onto the small bird toy, trying hard to keep his mother from removing it from his mouth.

"Well, teeth on, at this point." I laugh.

"We couldn't do that-" she starts, but I cut her off with a dismissive wave of my hand.

"It's clear we have too many toys in here anyways. So I think we'll be ok with one less." I indicate the room with a sweeping hand. "Besides, he's a clever little guy. It won't be long before he's walking around and playing too."

"Well then, thank you very much. He does seem rather attached to it." She jokes. Lei had not given up the Fletchling toy, holding it fiercely in his little mouth.

"You know, if he's teething, he may want something cold to chew on. I'll throw a teething ring into the freezer."

"Goodness, no," Burnet responds. "What if you wake Anya? She really needs her sleep."

"I have a small freezer down here. There's nothing in it yet, but once Kabir and I get back into the swing of researching, it'll hold quick snacks for us on busy days. And Pokemon treats, of course." I stand before my neighbor can protest anymore and snatch up a rubbery, softly spiked toy with a Vanilluxe face from a drawer beside my chair.

"It should be ready for him in about 20 minutes if he needs it," I say, returning empty-handed. During my brief absence, Burnet had stood and was bouncing Lei in her arms, exploring the room and checking out the toys and books.

"Thank you again." She says, glancing and smiling at me from her browsing.

"Do all these books have Braille on them?" my guest questions. She had set down one of the many books on the shelf and was running her fingers over the surface. Pictures and words fill the pages, but the bumpy configuration of dots for Braille shows out in spiked formation along the bottom, mapping out the words for the sightless.

"Yes," I say, walking over and pulling another off the shelf and showing her the similarly marked pages. "Kabir liked reading to the children in our last neighborhood, so of course, we had to make sure he had plenty of books to show off. Himiko would make a great audience, too, even if it were only over the videophone." I say with a fond glance at my niece.

"This one looks handmade." After sliding the original back into place, she pulls another book out and flips it open to view the pages inside.

"That's because it is. Kabir also likes making up stories too, so I write them down and illustrate the pages for him."

Carefully created pictures of Pokemon and people playing or going on adventures fill the book's pages she refers to, all set with bright colors and easy-to-read words. Again, Braille pokes out along the bottom, so my husband can read the stories as well. The shelf is lined with a mixture of both handmade and store-bought books.

"The pictures are so well drawn. I didn't know you were such a talented artist!" She says in surprise. Then my neighbor gives me a mischievous glance and says, "You're also a fantastic singer to boot."

"Thank you," I say, surprised by the kind remark. "Though the words are what make up an adventure, and Kabir is fantastic at coming up with children's stories. He hopes to write books someday, along with his research." I say, carefully edging over her last statement.

"Well, you two would certainly make a fantastic team for it." She comments, laughing at the awkward expression her praise has caused.

I turn around and watch my niece play, Sardee now sitting close to her as Himiko rocks back and forth on the Ponyta toy, laughing joyously.

I leave my guest to look at the books and return to my Snorlax bean bag. Thunder, my Luxray, kneads the soft surface of the seat with large sheathed paws, purring excitedly at my approach. I flop back onto the seat with a whoosh of air from the bag and start giving him the scratches he desired.

After some time, Burnet's attention moves over to a large, broken-down item sitting in a corner, next to the bookshelf. She had already carefully set all the books back into their proper places and was now giving the new curiosity a slight tug to examine it more closely, shifting loose boards and chunks of painted wood.

"Hey," She calls, looking over her shoulder at me. "What is this?"

"That's a growing crib. It takes up quite a bit of space, so we took it apart and decided to keep it down here until it's required." I answer. "Though, it's not needed right now, seeing as Himiko sleeps in the bed with Anya. Once we get our shed built, we'll be moving a lot of the spare items into it to make room for the more useful furniture we'll be purchasing later."

Burnet stands for a moment, thinking. I see her eyes light up in excitement as a thought crosses her mind. "Sashi, are you pregnant?"

"What?" I ask, taken aback by the unexpected question.

"Are you pregnant? It would explain your seemingly frail condition since you've arrived. I know you were poisoned, but it took you so long to recover, despite the medicine Ōpūnui gave you, and you still don't seem to be one hundred percent yet. Even the most recent event from the other day could be a sign," she says, referring to the incident on the night that the movers came.

She nods her head encouragingly at me. The young woman walks over from the corner, eyes glowing in happy anticipation at my supposed announcement.

"Um, no. I-I'm not. I'm sorry." I stumble, uneasy at letting her down and shifting awkwardly in my seat as I realize even she has noticed my uncommon behavior.

Despite my assured response, she persists, "Are you certain, though?"

"Yes, I am quite sure." I pause, looking down at my wedding ring once more and giving it a few uncomfortable twists as I prepare for my following words. "Unfortunately, I can't have children."

Now Burnet looks embarrassed. "Oh my goodness," She shoots a hand over her mouth with a small gasp of surprise. "That was so insensitive of me. I am so sorry. I shouldn't have even asked." She spills the words out, her face awash with shame.

"It's not your fault. I just drew the short end of the straw. It's not a big deal, though." I say, then quickly add at her unchanged expression. "Really. It's not. Kabir and I have talked about adopting. We are actually waiting for the paperwork to be sent over so we can start filling it out to get the process started."

"Adoption?" Burnet says, her tone changing faster than the still sheepish look in her yellow eyes. "That's wonderful!"

"It will be a bit of work. It takes a while for the paperwork to be processed. They'll do several home inspections, and we'll have many meetings with the workers. But with that information, we'll be matched with a child. Then there will be a bit of time to make sure we are the right fit, and after all that, hopefully, we'll be allowed to adopt." I respond with my own excitement at the idea, easing the mood of the room swiftly.

"You will be. I just know it. You could take on a child even now! Look at how prepared you are." She indicates the room, having sat back down in her rocking chair. "Besides, you seem to know a lot about child care as is. You two must have been preparing for this for quite some time." She guesses.

"We have," I say, pleased by her kind words. "We found out about my unfortunate issue a few years after we got married. Kabir brought up the idea of adoption, and when he gets an idea in his head, it's rather hard to stop him. But, of course, his excitement is very infectious, as you have probably learned." I pause to hear Burnet's laugh as she agrees with his contagious attitude.

"So we started researching and preparing shortly after that," I say, still grateful that my health issues didn't make my husband want to leave.

"If you could pick, would you want a boy or a girl?" My neighbor asks, gently rocking her chair once more.

"I don't care too much, but I know Kabir really wants a little girl, though he would never say it out loud," I answer, giggling at my make-believe secret.

"You could probably tell when you met my parents the other day, but I'm adopted. I was six at the time, but my parents are just that, my parents! I'm so grateful for them taking me in. I even took on a new name." She says with a happy smile.

I nod my head in agreement. Her mother was very dark-skinned, as well as her father, so the question had presented itself to me at the time, but with how busy we were moving things into my home, I hadn't found the time to ask. "Do you remember what your last name was before?" I ask, my curiosity outweighing my thoughts.

"Oh, of course, my name was Ren Sasaki, but because of the circumstances of my adoption, I chose to take on the family's name of Burnet. They even helped me pick out a new first name too. I picked Miku."

"Miku Burnet? I like the sound of that! You picked a beautiful name." I say. I find myself curious about the circumstances surrounding her adoption but choose not to ask because of the slightest dark look that flashes in her eye when she mentions it. So instead, I follow up with, "Do you have siblings?"

"Do I?" She laughs gleefully. "I have ten! And nearly all of them are adopted as well. Plus, my parents are taking care of a few fosters right now too. What about your family?"

"Well, none of my siblings are adopted, but I am the second youngest of six children, including Anya. She's seven minutes older, and I do love to tease her for the "advanced age" she has on me." I giggle. "And, of course, all my siblings have children of their own by now, so, as you can imagine, family reunions are a little wild."

"That's wonderful! I do love big families." Burnet answers with a happy gleam. "Kukui only has one little sister. She's so young she still goes to the Pokemon School even! He loves it when he teaches her class, though she gets a bit embarrassed by it sometimes." She snickers.

"That is quite an age difference! Kabir has a sister who is eight years his senior who lives in a different region, also as a Professor, of course."

"Guess that must run in the family."

"You know, it just may!" I joke. "He also has one little sister who is three years younger, but sadly, we've never met her. We've never stopped looking for her, though." So I say but then wince at myself for oversharing.

That was not my story to tell. I scold myself in frustration. Burnet seems to catch on to my sudden discomfort, and she switches the conversation back.

We chat for a while longer, discussing childcare and adoption. Burnet has a surprisingly fair amount of information about the agency in Hau'oli city, which I take a great deal of interest in. You can study up on a place all you want, but the best information always comes from personal experience or the locals' knowledge. As it turns out, she and Kukui had talked about adoption too, but they weren't as set on it as Kabir and I, seeing as they already had a child.

Himiko comes over and sits in my lap as we talk after a while and plays with a puzzle she found. It's past her learning level, but it's colorful and has images of various Pokémon lines on it. The child is supposed to match the evolutionary lines up, but Himiko is satisfied babbling to Thunder about the pictures on it, his large head resting against my leg, eyes fixed affectionately on the young child, and a soft purr still rumbling in his throat.

"Sashi," Burnet says after a stance of silence as she and I watch the two children occupied with the toys, Lei gnawing happily on the cold teething ring, "Can we go check out your lab?"

"If you really want," I say, slightly embarrassed once more at the thought of its outdatedness.

"Of course I do!" I want to view your research notes. Plus, I saw a large number of sketch pads on a bookshelf. I want to see what you've drawn too." She comments excitedly, seeming not to notice, or simply ignoring my uneasiness. I agree and stand to leave with my guest.

"Tinsel, can you help Sardee and Thunder watch Himiko and Lei?" I ask the still sulking Sylveon. She huffs but rises to her feet, never one to refuse a request. I sigh at her slow movements.

"This is nowhere near the first time Kabir has been hospitalized, and it certainly won't be the last," I say to Burnet as she looks on in concern at the mammalian creature. "But, she has always been allowed to stay by his side while he's there."

Turning to the despondent Pokemon, I console, "I'm sorry, sweetie, but Kabir will be back soon. It's not much different than his other stays." I run my hand over her head, my fingers catching one of her ribbons, and I hold it up. She gazes at me but wraps her ribbon around my wrist. I give her an affectionate squeeze on it and watch as she wanders over to Himiko.

The child had moved into a corner, bored by her puzzle, and was now looking through another box for some other source of entertainment. My neighbor walks over to my ever dutiful Ninetales and sets her child down next to her.

I feel a pit in my stomach swell at my own words as I watch Burnet say something briefly to Sardee.

This time isn't anything like the other times. I tell myself anxiously. I've never seen Kabir look so ill.

He's not coming back, dear one. The cold voice in my head says smoothly. That man looked like he was ready to be taken away by the Dusknoir.

Even if he could, why would he want to return to someone like you?

You have the emotional range of a toddler. Just look at your neighbor. She's three years your junior, and even she was able to stay calm when your sister went into that colossal rage earlier.

You can barely remember anything to help with those crazy dreams. So what other important things have you been forgetting?

You can't even provide your dear husband with a child of his own. What use is a wife like you to a man like Kabir?

The entity hisses my imperfections into my ear, and I feel my world begin to swirl in emotions at the words the voice was dredging up. I feel a pit in my stomach rise. My heart starts pounding, and a pain in my throat swells as I feel myself becoming swallowed by self-loathing.

A firm grasp pulls my mind out of the swirling mess of thoughts. Burnet was holding onto my shoulders with both her hands and was saying my name. I look up into the eyes of my neighbor, staring at me, a mixture of worry, concern, and even fear swimming in their yellow depths.

"Are you ok? Do you need to sit down for a bit?" She questions, seeing my eyes finally focus on her.

I stand and stare at her, unsure of how to answer. I think of the encounter with Anya earlier and the word my kind neighbor threw out so effortlessly when referring to my husband and me.

"We're friends," She had said then.

I find myself, for the first time since my childhood, wanting to test the word. To see if her calling me in such a way was true.

If I told her about these voices, would she react as a supposed friend would? Maybe try to comfort me or help me figure out the meaning of the troublesome words? Or would she simply chalk it up to my lack of sanity?

"I'm going to get Anya. Please sit down, Sashi." Burnet says when I don't respond. She looks frightened, and even her voice has begun to show a hint of the worry that flashes in her eyes.

"No," I say, pulling myself fully back into reality. "No. There's no need." I look at her and see she's unconvinced and hasn't taken her hands off my shoulders yet.

"I think she needs to look you over, Sashi." She says seriously.

"I'm fine-"

"No, you're not," She interrupts in frustration at my refusals, and I hear the fear creep further into her voice. "You weren't responding and have gone pale. I thought you were going to pass out again."

"I'm fine," I repeat once more, shaking my head and stepping back, away from her grasp. "I just have a lot on my mind. A lot has happened lately."

I think for a moment about what to say to the worried woman in front of me but can't come up with any words that would ease her mind. Instead, I simply settle with, "I'm sorry to have worried you, but really, I'm alright."

She looks at me for a moment but doesn't say anything. I can see her wheels turning as she thinks, though I have no clue what thoughts would be flashing in her head in a situation like this.

This girl is crazy. This girl is weak. This girl is stupid. The voice calls softly. It doesn't take a psychic to know what she's thinking right now, dear one.

I shake my head again, squeezing my eyes shut, clearing my mind from the words once more, then turn around to the door.

"Let's get onto a better subject," I say, trying to distract both her and myself now. "Did you still want to see the lab? I can show you what I've was researching before we moved here."

She sighs at me but doesn't say anything to return the conversation to her worries. "That might be fun." She says though she doesn't sound very curious about my studies anymore. Either way, I open the door to the playroom, and we exit into the lab.
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