Serena was already stressed out of her mind, and the day was only just beginning.
She was running around the house, trying to do million things at the same time. When the oven started beeping, Serena was balancing on her tiptoes on a chair, putting up a banner on the wall. She yelped, tried to hurry up and almost fell over in her panic. With the banner hanging half off the wall, Serena jumped down and ran into the kitchen.
Then the doorbell rang.
Serena hardly noticed the sharp pain on her arm when she pulled the baking tray out of the oven. She set it precariously on the counter and hurried to the door.
Serena slammed the door open a bit harder than necessary. She was greeted with the startled faces of Bonnie and Clemont, who were both standing there with their arms full of pumpkins. Seeing their shocked expressions, Serena took a deep breath and tried to calm herself down. After the stunned silence had stretched for a while, she uttered: "Hi."
Clemont stared at her. "Hi", he said. "We- we got the pumpkins. I hope they are all right?"
Serena looked at the mountains of different sized pumpkins and nodded. "They are great. Thanks." She wished she could get more excitement in her voice, but she felt quite weary all of a sudden. Serena reached out and took some of the pumpkins Bonnie was carrying to help her out.
Bonnie was studying her face. "Are you all right?" the small girl asked suddenly, her eyes intense.
Hugging the pumpkins in her arms, Serena turned her back to Clemont and Bonnie. "Yes", she answered tightly. "I'm just really busy." She left the siblings at the doorway, quickly walking back to the kitchen and to the rapidly-cooling muffins she had just finished baking. After looking around the busy kitchen for a second, Serena ended up placing the pumpkins on the corner of the dinner table that was already brimming with all kinds of delicious-looking foods. Her focus already moving on to the next task, she began preparing a frosting for the newest, still warm delicacies.
Bonnie and Clemont appeared at the kitchen doorway, their eyes going dreamy at the sight of all the food Serena had prepared. "Wow, Serena", Bonnie gasped. "Everything looks so good!"
Smiling slightly, Serena turned to look at them and said: "Thanks! But there's still a lot to do."
"Can we help with anything?" asked Clemont, looking around the downstairs of Serena's home. Serena's mom was visiting a friend out of town, so Serena had invited her friends to stay at their house for the Halloween period.
Serena waved her hand. "Yeah, you can decorate the house. I also wanted to have some of the pumpkins carved and set outside on the steps, if you have time. But I might need some help in the kitchen too." The stress was starting to get to her again, and Serena took a breath, fighting the urge to pull her hair. Suddenly she also realized something was missing.
Someone was missing.
Whipping around to stare at the siblings, she blurted out: "Where's Ash?"
Clemont shrugged apologetically. "He wanted to explore the area a bit more. This really is such a nice village!" Seeing Serena's frown, he added quickly: "But I'm sure he will be back soon!"
Serena hid her disappointment by turning back around to the muffins. "All right. Well, I'll continue in the kitchen for now, you can help with anything you want. There are some decorations already on the living room table, but since you are good at drawing Bonnie, maybe you could make some more?"
Bonnie nodded enthusiastically. "Sure thing!" she cheered and spurted into the living room area.
"I'll put up the one's you have already made", said Clemont, and Serena agreed. They all got to work, and Serena was almost starting to relax, when she remembered something and almost dropped her tray of yet uncooked macarons she was just about to put into the oven.
She ran into the hall where Bonnie was taping her pictures of ghosts and witches on the walls, whipped past her and went straight for the stairs. Bonnie yelled after her: "Serena! Where are you going?"
"I forgot I haven't finished one of your costumes yet!" Serena shouted over her shoulder, disappearing into the upper floor.
Bonnie threw down everything she had and ran after the older girl. "Costumes?" she cried excitedly. "You made us costumes? I want to see!"
Serena's muffled voice came from above: "No, Bonnie! It's a surprise!" Bonnie stopped on her tracks, disappointed but also very happy about the news of getting a costume for the evening's party. She turned on her heels, collected the pictures she had scattered everywhere in her excitement and continued decorating.
An hour later Bonnie and Clemont, afraid to disturb Serena, had moved on to carve some pumpkins for the front steps. That's when the girl in question came running down the steps into the kitchen, looking quite horrified.
Before the siblings even had a chance to ask, Serena wailed: "I forgot my macarons in the oven!" And proceeded to pull out a baking tray full of brown dry circles.
Bonnie was horrified too. "Oh no!" she gasped, staring at the ruined macarons. "That's not good."
Serena slammed the tray down, eyes brimming with tears. "I ruined it", she mumbled with a broken voice. Then she whipped around in one furious move, snapping: "Where even is ASH?" And without sparing another glance for the burned treats, she stormed out of the room, unaware or uncaring of the strange looks she was getting from the blond siblings.
Outside, Serena slumped down on the steps and pressed her head in her hands.
Halloween was the most important holiday for her, but being the one responsible, she felt like she was getting crushed under the weight of it all. Usually it was just her mom and Serena, mountains of great food, pumpkin lanterns, themed decorations and curling up on the sofa for a silly horror movie.
She wanted to give that experience to her friends, especially Ash, since they didn't celebrate Halloween in Kanto.
But she was starting to feel like it would be too big of a challenge for her.
There was a shout from a distance, and Serena raised her head. "Hi Serena!" Ash repeated, appearing on the yard with Pikachu.
“Hey, Ash!” Serena jumped up to her feet, instantly cheering up. That was, until she noticed the dirt and scratches on his arms and grew concerned. He was smiling cheerfully though, so she assumed nothing was terribly wrong.
She still had to ask. "Are you okay?" After a second, she added: "What took you so long? And why are you two all dirty?"
"Oh, um", said Ash, rubbing his arm unconsciously. "We are fine. Team Rocket just interrupted our walk." On his shoulder, Pikachu agreed with an angry nod.
Serena was stunned. "Team Rocket attacked you? No way!" Serena rubbed her temples with both palms. "Not that too!"
Ash looked a bit worried about her reaction. "What's wrong Serena?" he asked, stepping closer.
Serena lowered her hands, mustering up a smile. "Nothing, really." She stood up. "Come on, there's still a lot left to do for the party!" She headed for the door.
Confused, Ash stared at her for a moment longer, before following her inside. "All right!" he grinned. "So, what can I do?