I sit at a low table in the middle of a park just outside of Ba Sing Se. Animals cry at the enclosure nearby, and a ladyfly buzzes around my head.
I hum Four Seasons under my breath as I strum the notes on my pipa.
My house is just inside the city. There, my mother will be teaching her little class of new earthbenders. My brother will most likely be playing earthbending ball in the back streets with his friends. I don’t know where my father might be…he moves around often. He could be at his job of designing houses, or maybe getting food at the market for tonight’s dinner…
I look down at the paper I have spread under four rocks. My music for this school year’s Winter Solstice festival. Maybe I should be practicing that instead of random folk songs.
I squint at the notes and slowly pluck along. Oh this should be fun to play with a full orchestra.
Tricky part there.
The fly buzzes in my ear. I swat at it.
I retry the hard part. A quick succession of notes, but sadly not in a scale.
The fly comes back and I feel a sharp sting on my ear. “Ow!”
I swat the bug with one hand, and to my surprise it goes soaring in a gust of wind.
I look around. What was that?
The trees and plants are only gently swaying in the breeze.
I squint and slowly return to my music.
About fifteen minutes later, a group of kids from my school appear walking up the path through the park. I duck down. I don’t know them very well, but they’re pretty popular.
Maybe I’m a little unsocial.
To my horror a girl called Matsu spots me and waves. “Oh hello Aiko!”
Her, two other girls, and three boys walk toward me. “Hi Matsu…” I grin awkwardly.
I avoid one particular boys’ gaze. My face is probably bright red.
The all come and sit at the low table. I shift in my seat and tug on the music.
“We were just at the enclosure, whatcha doing?” Matsu asks.
“Practicing the new music?” Wing asks.
Wing plays the sungi horn at school. “I haven’t tried to play it yet.”
I don’t know what to say. I nod.
One girl called Chun flips her braid and says, “I leveled up in earthbending yesterday. Sifu Kim said I’ve improved enough to be with the advanced group.”
“Really?” A boy (who I forgot the name of) says, with a small smile. “Well then, my sister needs to tell me how you do.”
She reddens and grins. “Well he said he’ll let me try it out.”
They laugh, I smirk awkwardly.
“It’s not that much of a difference.” A boy named Jing says. “You know, I heard somewhere that Toph Beifong was in the city.”
“Really?” Matsu asks. “Doesn’t Toph Beifong know the Avatar?”
“Yeah!” De pipes in. “She’s one of his closest friends!”
Jing nods. “Well anyway, she’s a real earthbending master. Maybe we can get her to give us some lessons.”
Matsu looks towards me, “Wait, are you an earthbender Aiko?”
I shake my head. My face goes red again.
“Neither am I.” The boy I forgot the name of says, shrugging.
“Same.” says De.
I shift my pipa to my lap, and tuck my music away into my bag.