Chapter 11 : The one with chores, the history room, and guests arriving
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Al probably wouldn’t care how messy my room was; his was messy when I went to his house. Al organised his space like me, everything was everywhere but he knew where all his things were. At least Nikita and Emma were sharing the chores as we prepared for the party of the year; otherwise I’d probably die from my mum yelling in my ear all the time.
I looked uneasily at the dress hung on the back of my door, in front of a fancy suit; it looked too nice for me to wear. I knew the suit was for Al; my mum had contacted Mrs Potter and asked for her son’s measurements, and had the suits fitted. I’d never seen Al in a suit, but I bet he probably looked just as good as in jeans, and trust me he looked good in jeans.
I’d heard of a theory that a man who wore suits a lot looked so much more attractive in jeans and a t-shirt, and a man who wore jeans and t-shirts a lot (basically, Al), looked so much more attractive in a suit. Apparently this is science; I’m not gonna argue. This theory was very useful and about to be put to the test, and I really hoped it was right.
“Vida, if I do the dishes, can you sort the history room? I don’t know where anything is meant to go” Nikita bargained, sticking her head around my bedroom door with her best pouty face. I nodded and vaulted over the banister, landing gracefully and throwing open the pretty wooden double doors, revealing a long, hall-like room full of glass cases, small platforms and lots and lots of priceless relics. The room was like a museum; full of beautiful ancient artefacts, kept in perfect condition by generations of people who didn’t want to forget the good times when all this stuff was in shrines across the world. Vases were polished, metals were shined, and Avatar Korra’s arm bracelets were never removed from the glass case they were in, as they were delicate with age.
I tutted at the mess it was in; over the year we often came in and picked something up, putting it back on the first shelf we reached like the lazy people we are. Most of this stuff only left the room to show a visitor, or someone who was studying history. We got a lot of students from Republic city coming here to look at the history room. Many asked why this stuff was here, and not in the city. Now we had an answer; it should be with the current Avatar. Half of this stuff had belonged to Em in a past life, so why should republic city own what was hers?
I picked up Avatar Kyoshi’s huge boots and placed them with the rest of her outfit, turning her famous fans the right way carefully. I don’t know why she had such big feet, but I was pretty sure that I could put both my feet in one of her shoes. I tried once, and mum almost killed me. We’re not meant to handle the artefacts so roughly. Her clothes sat on a stand, and I could see that she was a very tall woman. I wouldn’t want to cross her.
I liked this room, because it was full of stories that had been told a thousand times but were still the best thing you ever heard. It was full of memories of people long gone.
I began organising the artefacts into the avatar life cycles; Avatar Kyoshi, Avatar Roku, Avatar Aang, Avatar Korra, Avatar Johan, Avatar June… There were so many things belonging to these people. I just couldn’t fathom that all these people are the same person, and that person is now in the living room, hanging decorations. Emma was a unique being, who’d had thousands of bodies, done incredible things, and she couldn’t even remember doing them. A portrait of Avatar Aang and his friends had been rolled up and fell under a cabinet and I fished it out, carefully unravelling it and placing it on the wall, over several strange wooden pieces of a game call picho, which sounded like pie chow, which didn’t sound like a game at all. I never really got all those old bending traditions.
It took a whole two hours to sort the history room, and I had only just left it, hands smelling strongly of polish and carrying cleaning equipment when my mother ushered me upstairs to try my dress. She had covered the mirror in my room with a bed sheet because I wasn’t allowed to see myself wear it until the night. It was floaty, long and orange with a deep red sash; the colour of air bender robes. When I spun it would fan out and when it walked it trailed behind me slightly and hugged my slim figure. It was also backless, which worried me a little, but my mum had picked this dress- she wouldn’t have picked it if it wasn’t appropriate. I would have gold bands around my arms and the air bender tattoos would be painted onto me; blue block arrows like grandpa’s down my arms, legs and my head, although my hair would mean that it would go up to the back of my neck and then be drawn on my forehead, skipping the rest of my head. I was not going bald for just one night and a bucket of paint. It took me years to grow my hair this long.
“A perfect fit. You’ll look gorgeous Vida, like a royal air bender. I’m getting all emotional” Mum said as she looked at me, and I went red. Mum was so embarrassing. This must be emotional for her; her only daughter was now sixteen and about to have her coming of age party. Still, I didn’t want her to cry. No one wants to see their mum cry even if it is because they’re all grown up.
“Don’t cry until the night when I’m all done up mum, or you’ll look silly” I advised her, and she nodded.
“Of course. Now get the dress off, you don’t want to ruin it” She told me and I changed back into my air bending clothes; the same colours, but instead of a dress it was loose pants that went down to mid-calf, a long sleeved orange t-shirt with a red shirt over the top and flexible brown boots. I loved these clothes, it was so easy to move in them. Mum hung my dress on the door and I hurled myself over the banister, landing on the couch easily.
“Don’t relax Vida, we’ve got to get the tent set up!”
I groaned; today would be a long day.
When our guests arrived two days later, everyone was on edge. Mum was going ballistic, dad was furious because I would indeed be sharing my room with Al, and grandpa was the only one keeping me calm and sane.
I was trying to get Jinjin off one of the ceiling fans when there was a knock on the door. Mum pulled it open and welcomed Al, James and Hugo inside, nicer than she had been to us in the past few days. But that is how mums are; they’re always nicer to your friends than to you. I was flying around the ceiling fan on my glider still, since Jinjin was sat on one of the moving blades and I couldn’t turn it off. Come to think of it, had these ceiling fans ever been turned off? I’d lived here sixteen years and they’d always been turning. Jeez, we need to find the switch or something, the electric bill would be through the roof!
“Jump Jinjin, don’t be a wuss!” I called. He squeaked. How he got up there in the first place I’ll never know, since he can’t fly higher than my knee. I looked down and saw Al, staring up at me curiously and almost fell out of the air. How embarrassing!
“Jinjin I swear to June” I grumbled, and sent a strong gust of wind at him. He squeaked as it pushed him off the fan and I angled my glider down, swooping and catching him and depositing him on the couch.
“How did you even get up there?” I asked. He squeaked and hopped away. What an odd little thing he was.
“Vida?” Al asked. I turned and smiled, hurrying over and hugging him, glider left forgotten on the couch. I hugged James and Hugo in turn too, almost being suffocated by their deliberate bear hugging.
“Hey guys! Did you find us okay?” I asked breathily. They looked around, impressed.
“We couldn’t miss this place. No wonder you throw the parties here” James said with a whistle. I shrugged.
“Yeah well. Do you guys wanna put your bags away? You’ll be sharing rooms with us, just so you know” I told them, gesturing to the staircase. They followed me up and I took James and Hugo to their guest bedrooms, where Nikita and Emma always stayed when they came over. They were clean, cosy rooms each with a small balcony decorated with plants, and two beds. Whenever I went into these rooms they always smelt of lavender, and I had no idea why.
“Make yourselves at home and go downstairs when you’re ready” I told them, before leading Al to my room.
“You and me are in my room Al, is that alright?” I asked.
“Yeah sure, in a non-weird way I’ve always wanted to see your room” He told me, and I grinned and opened the door. I loved my room. It was quite large and colourful. There was one orange wall covered in paint splats and pictures, and the wardrobe was covered in posters. The balcony had some rare plants that air benders used to grow in their temples sat in pots, and overall my room was just me. Bright, bold, and crazy. The wooden floor had a spotty orange rug on it, and there was a row of my shoes lined up against the chest at the foot of my bed. My room had never been this tidy, but now I was glad it was; it was nicer to show off a tidy room than a messy one. I’ll have to thank mum later. Al smiled, taking it in, from the orange wall to the patchwork quilt on my bed, and the fairy lights attached to the headboard.
Yeah, I am fairy light cool. That’s even cooler than an ice cold pumpkin juice.
“Your room is really cool Vida. Is that us?” He asked. I nodded. He was gesturing to the magical photographs on the wall, us through the years. I could see an eleven year old me high fiving an eleven year old Al, giggling madly. It made me smile. Now I know why mum hadn’t come in here earlier in the year and wrote to me telling me to clean up; she’d always been freaked out by the pictures.
“There’s lots of us Al, we’ve been inseparable for six years. The best six years ever, don’t you think?” I asked.
“Oh definitely” He agreed immediately. He looked around a little more, and gently picked up the small elephant that lived at the end of my bed. He was quite old; I’d been given him as a gift for my second birthday by an old non-bender that used to babysit me. He wore a scarf and his button eyes were almost falling off, but I loved him and even now he reminded me of that old woman and the finger paintings that we did together. I didn’t remember her name, and for some weird reason, I could only imagine her as the elephant. My brain had forgotten her face so it replaced it with her gift, the one that she made herself with her old sewing machine. I could still remember the rattling sound it made when she turned it on. I swear I could hear it when it was quiet.
“He’s cute” Al commented, and I smiled, approaching him and making the elephant wave his tiny arm.
“His name is Winston. He was made by an old woman who used to babysit me; she made him herself about fourteen years ago” I told him, and Winston waved with his floppy stuffed arm again, his droopy button eyes threatening to fall off any moment.
“Fourteen huh? Almost as old as Tickle bear”
I chuckled. Tickle bear was the stuffed bear that Al had had since birth. It had a small bell in its tummy, but with a softer sound, and he had blue paws and black button eyes and his nose had disappeared. Tickle bear lived on top of Al’s wardrobe and guarded Al’s room.
...Well, that was Al’s story. I liked to believe that Tickle bear was a brave knight that fought away Al’s bad dreams- but apparently my story wasn’t manly enough for Al. He never threw it out, and I knew he probably never would; he loved that bear, and endured his brother’s teasing because of it. I didn’t tease him because I had Winston, but looking at Al, you wouldn’t think he had a bear tucked away on top of his wardrobe that guarded his room. I liked that I was one of the only people who knew this.
“Okay. We’ll set your bed up later, I didn’t have time to do it before you got here, but for now we’ll go downstairs and see if mum is ready to start my practice” I told him with a grimace, and he raised an eyebrow.
“Practice?” He asked.
“I have to learn the dances of each element. I know air perfectly, Emma and Nikita taught me water and fire, but earth; I have a feeling this will be tough” I explained. I dreaded the earth bending dance; it was way out of the range of my limited dance moves. Al chuckled.
“Don’t worry Vida, you could always dance with me, I had to learn a special dance for Teddy’s wedding; I’m quite good at it if I do say so myself” He said, and I went red. Dancing with Al; that was something I would love to do. And not just around a pumpkin, all informal, but at my party, instead of a water tribe boy who didn’t like me. Al liked me; couldn’t I dance with him instead? I’ll have to ask mum and dad. Or maybe just mum, dad didn’t really want me dancing with the any boys if he could help it; he hates the bending boys purely for the fact they'd be within a foot of me. He would get rid of that dancing tradition if he could, let me tell you.
“I hope I will dance with you. Come on, I’ve just seen grandpa go downstairs; chores have stopped”
Ah, my Grandpa. Disappears to meditate when Mum is piling on chores, but re-appears when they have stopped. That’s how I time my entrances and exits in my house. You see Grandpa leave a room in a hurry, you run to your room and pretend you’re busy with really difficult homework, and when he appears you know its okay to return and socialise. It’s a fail-safe way of avoiding having random chores forced upon you.
I pulled Al by the hand this time, which was a first- it was always by the arm or by the ear when I was mad. I quite liked holding his hand. It was warm and much bigger than mine, my fingers getting lost in his. I realised that maybe I wanted to hold his hand more in the future.
I really hope I get to.
And hello there! This is chapter 11, woohoo! There's a little box below that's waiting for your feedback, so give it some love, please!
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