Misty stood up, her weight supported on the small platform of her bike's pedals. She pumped her legs furiously as she climbed the slope in front of her. There was a moment of stillness as she reached the top of the hill. Then the bike slid forward, wheels rushing down the slant of the hill in effortless forward motion. As she hit level ground she began pedaling. The hard part of her journey was over and the path that lay before her was very familiar… the path to Pallet Town.
A constant clickety-clack sound accompanied the roll of tire on dirt. In the front wheel, between the spokes, she'd slipped a recipe that Mrs. Ketchum had asked to see the next time she came to visit; between the spokes of the back wheel she'd placed an envelope containing photographs of Pokemon from back at the Cerulean City Gym that Tracey had wanted to use for reference. Her mind was bursting with anecdotes to share with Professor Oak about the marine life within her aquarium back at the gym. Her backpack space had already been taken up by an adorable blue blob that was playing passenger for the time being—and hopefully was not getting bike-sick.
"You okay back there, Azurill?" Misty asked as she coasted down the road.
"Rill!" it responded gleefully, enjoying the scenery that flowed around it as it peaked out of the bag on Misty's back.
"Good," Misty said, and turned back to the road in front of her.
The wheels spun beneath her, revolving to meet the ground in that same steady rhythm as her tires ate up the road. She'd been intent on her destination, intent of making good time, but suddenly she slowed. She dragged her feet along the ground, kicking up dirt with her sneakers until her bike came to a halt. She stared at the grassy incline that spilled into the river, smelled the reedy waters as they trickled toward the sea, and heard the flow slip and slide over the current-smoothed rocks.
"It was here," she said softly.
Yes… it was at that very place that she'd stopped to cast her line into the water and caught a boy instead of a fish. And that had been… the start of something. A merry little adventure across the continent and parts beyond to say the least and… the first time that she'd ever felt… then it was something new, something she mistook for anger when it made her feel weak and when it confused her, but something she'd grown to recognize for what it really was. Even amidst all the adventures and all the new experiences she'd had when she walked that path… that feeling was what she remembered most.
She gripped the handlebars of her bike—cleaned up and repaired since its initial frying. She owed that bike quite a lot, now that she came to think of it. It had been her invitation and excuse.
It was at times like that when the road felt like an old friend or the memories crept out from behind photographs that a girl could really start to feel… nostalgic… to pine for that time. She had to wonder if the same bike that started it all could bring her back… if the wheels could spin her back to the start of it all… of that life… of that boy… of her days traveling alongside Ash. There was a warmth and safety to those times, always nestled in the back of her mind. Could they ever be reclaimed?
The river lapping against the shore shook her out of reminiscences and reminded her that she could never cross it twice—the waters were different… and so was she.
No… the rosy tint of nostalgia was comforting and all, but it didn't tell the whole truth. She wasn't the same Misty she was when she was ten—she couldn't be. In fact, the very idea of returning to such a state made her wince.
"I hate to admit it," she said, rubbing her fingers against her temples, "but I could be a real brat back then."
"Azurill?" Azurill asked, wondering why its trainer had stopped so long at this place.
"An adorable, vivacious brat, sure," she added with a smile. "But still a brat." She giggled.
Yes… time had changed and she had followed suit… and she couldn't be the only one. Even Ash who was so afflicted with Peter Pan Syndrome that he had to be an honorary lost boy, if not a frequent fairy-dust flier… even he couldn't jog in place for an eternity. Apart from each other they'd both been a party to that mystical and painful process… that finding out who you really are when you've lost your illusions… that thing that they call growing up.
She couldn't expect to cycle backwards to that memory of him—she'd never get anywhere. The only thing for both of them was to keep moving forward. There could be no reclamation by doubling back, by trying to become the children they'd been together. This wasn't about a wheel that would spin back to its point of origin… no… better to say it was about a road… one that stretched out into the cavernous tomorrow and tomorrow and beyond… a road with many choices… many branches that led to many places. They'd taken different paths and they were too far gone to turn back now.
Of course, that wasn't to say that their paths would never meet again. For all she knew he was running along a path that was parallel to hers and the two would merge somewhere down the line. Who could say? All she could do was walk her path with authenticity—the path that was made up of all the choices that made up the person who she was today… her own path, and see where it would lead her.
She grinned and leaned low over the handlebars of her bike, twisting her hand against the handlebar as though revving an imaginary engine. "Ash Ketchum…" she said, articulating his name with a certain fond familiarity, "…I'll race you to the future."