|A Lifetime of Memories
Author: satomobile PM
Set in the future- Lin reflects on her memories of Tenzin with another important woman in his life. For Linzin Week on Tumblr. Prompt: Memories.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance - Chief Lin Beifong & Jinora - Words: 2,511 - Reviews: 25 - Favs: 25 - Follows: 4 - Published: 08-09-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8412708
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The kettle whistled, its scream tearing through the silence in her home. It was a welcome change. Silence echoed off her walls most everyday, filled the empty space where voices might have rung out once upon a time. Now it was quiet, truly quiet. The walls were adorned with accolades, awards, and recognition of her service to Republic City. But slips of paper, no matter how fancy they appeared to be, didn't make very good companions.
Lin had been alone here for over forty years and figured that someday, her humming voice wouldn't be the only sound she heard. Other voices never materialized however, and she remained in this house alone with her silence. The eighty year old woman, still quite strong considering her age, lifted the kettle from the stove and poured the steaming water across jasmine tea leaves. Her mother's favorite.
It had been a long week. She'd retired from the force long ago now and filled her days reading and occasionally passing on bits of her metal bending knowledge to young upstarts. This week she hadn't done much but think. It was becoming exhausting. It was a tuesday afternoon when the phone call came and she'd been languishing indoors ever since. She assumed the voice on the other end might be the new Chief of Police- only the second male chief in Republic City's history- asking for advice, or even possibly the Avatar calling to check up on her as she occasionally did. But to her surprise, the voice on the other end was Pema.
"Hello, Lin," she began sounding quite hollow, "Its Pema..." there was a pregnant pause, "Tenzin passed away this morning...I just thought you should know."
"I'm so sorry, Pema," Lin offered as the shock of the news began to wear off. It felt strange offering condolences when Lin felt as if she were suffering the greatest. Pema thanked her and began rattling off plans for the funeral that Lin dutifully wrote down, knowing she would remember nothing of this conversation once it ended.
She set the phone back upon its pedestal and sat back in her chair. She took a breath and chastised herself for thinking of her own suffering. Tenzin had a wife and four children and something on the order of seven grandchildren at this point. Lin was only a distant memory. She wiped her eyes.
Every night that week she dreamt of him. They stood side by side on the beach of Ember Island, carefree and young. He would look at her shyly, gray eyes full of love. When he took her hand and leaned in, she would wake, feeling cold and empty.
The funeral came in two days time. There was a procession to the apex of the majestic mountain that framed the right side of Republic City. The same mountain that had been the location of Aang's funeral years ago. When Avatar Korra leaned in to softly ask if Lin was up to the trek, she received a glare in return. Several Acolytes led the procession bearing the weight of his body, followed closely by Tenzin's family and then by dignitaries and guests. Though she'd been admonished by her elder, Korra's elbow remained firmly linked around Lin's as they made their way up the mountainside.
Prayers were said and jhator was observed. A proper sky burial. His body was placed in a patch of vibrant blue wild gentian, it was a beautiful spot, but Lin almost laughed at the idea of Tenzin being laid to rest among flowers that were used for making aperitif wines. The onlookers gave "alms to the birds" as it were, leaving the empty vessel of Tenzin's body exposed to the elements. Giving back the material that nature had breathed life into eighty one years before. Lin observed his passive face, so familiar and yet so foreign. Death had taken the real Tenzin with it. She watched as his empty body was sprinkled with lotus petals and couldn't help but think about how she had never planned on living this long. Maybe that had always been her problem.
There was no shortage of tears, Tenzin had been a well-liked, respectable person that had touched the lives of many. The greatest sobs seemed to be coming from Meelo, who gave Lin a weak smile as he passed her on their descent. Tenzin's grandchildren passed her quietly, unaware of who she was. Only Jinora had paused and thanked her for coming. She also provided the most unexpected moment of the day when she wrapped her arms around Lin and whispered, "I am so sorry" in her ear. Lin was momentarily taken aback by this gesture, feeling that it was extremely selfless on his daughter's part to concern herself with the feeling of someone who had no right to her sympathy.
Back in her home, she sipped her tea considering the weeks' events. When she would think herself into a depressing hole, she would still her quivering lip and remind herself of what she ought to be thankful for. They had been friends to the end. Thanks to the Avatar, they'd found their way back into each others lives and that was something to celebrate, not mourn. She was told as a child that their first kiss had been on the day she was born. Their last had been a chaste 'thank you' that Tenzin bestowed on her cheek after tea just a month ago. Those thoughts made her smile. It was the kisses in between that caused the tears to fall, the ones that had been full of passion and promise.
There was a soft knock at her door and Lin sighed. If it was some kind of salesman she might bend the metal knob around his neck for making her get up. She made her way to the door, opening it to reveal Jinora on her front step. The woman, now in her forties held a small wooden box in her hands and gave Lin a friendly smile. Her hair was a deep auburn like her mothers, the tip of a blue arrow emerging from her hairline to point downward to a small nose and a full mouth. She was her mother's daughter mostly, but that mouth was all Tenzin.
"I'm sorry to bother you," she began, "I was wondering if I might come in for a moment."
"Of course," Lin replied, opening the door wider to allow her entry. Jinora gingerly stepped inside, taking in the surroundings. It was a quite a foreign experience being here and awkwardness settled over them quickly.
"Would you like some tea?" Lin asked her.
"That would be lovely," Jinora smiled kindly.
Lin moved forward toward the kitchen, pouring a cup for her guest. Jinora stood in the middle of Lin's living room, unsure of her next move. Re-entering the room, Lin saw her apprehension, "You can sit."
Jinora blushed and sat along the edge of her couch. She placed the wooden box on the table before her in order to accept the tea.
"Thank you," she began, cupping the china in her hands, "I'm sorry to drop in on you like this."
"I wasn't doing anything," Lin replied honestly, reclaiming her chair. Jinora watched her carefully and looked away embarrassed when Lin caught her staring.
"I just wanted to bring some things by that I thought you might want," she told the old woman. "And I wanted to talk."
Lin met her eyes again, suspicious. "About what?"
"My Dad," Jinora replied before sipping her tea. "I knew him as a Dad...and he was a really great Dad," she explained, voice hitching, "But you knew him as a person. Maybe better than anyone."
Lin tore her eyes away from Jinora, "I don't know about that."
Jinora slid the box across the table within inches of Lin's chair. Lin reached down and opened it. Inside were several old photos, letters, an old dragonfly hair pin she once owned, and a watertribe betrothal necklace that wasn't completely carved.
"I do," Jinora whispered, confident in her assumption.
Lin pulled the hairpin out first, turning it over in her hands. The silver was worn and the gems didn't sparkle like they once did.
He pulled the dragonfly pin from her hair and long dark tendrils spilled over her bare back. Tenzin swallowed. "You look beautiful," he told her, mesmerized. She blushed. "Are you sure you are ready to do this?" he asked. "I want it to be you," she told him with a nod. "I want it to be you, too" he whispered, leaning in for a kiss. It was their first time together.
Lin's eyes clouded with moisture as she set the pin in her lap. She lifted a photograph next. Her arms were strewn across the shoulders of Tenzin and Bumi, with Kya on the far right, they were are the Harmony Music Festival.
The music blared from the main stage, Bumi was in the midst of some kind of dancing reminiscent of a seizure and Kya was swaying to the sounds with a young man she'd just met. Tenzin leaned down and shouted over the music, "Do you know this song?" Lin nodded. "It reminds me of you," he shouted again. She rolled her eyes, the song was a declaration of unyielding love. Tenzin began shouting the words aloud and she laughed at him. Too much cactus juice. "Sing it with me!" He instructed, taking her hands. She did. "Come what may, I'll love you to my dying day!" they sang out in unison.
She took a deep breath, to steady herself as she lifted a stack of yellowed papers from the box. She unfolded them delicately, recognizing her own writing. The words were written on official Beifong Metalbending Academy stationary. She scanned them quickly, memories of a lovesick girl flooding back to her.
"I'm glad you came to visit, I like your new look"
"I miss you terribly. How is Oogi?"
"I love you"
"Only one week before I'm home again. I hope you're ready because when I get home the first thing I'm going to do is you-"
Her head snapped up. She remembered writing this letter in her dormitory, bags packed. She remembered how graphic it was.
"Did you read these?" She asked Jinora. The girl looked at the ceiling quickly.
"Only parts," she blushed, clearly knowing which ones Lin was concerned with. Lin sighed and pulled out the betrothal necklace.
"I don't think this was ever meant for me," she told Jinora, holding it out to her. Jinora shook her head, unwilling to reclaim the necklace.
"I think it was," she replied, "there is an inscription on the back."
Lin flipped the stone, running her thumb across the smooth surface as the ribbons hung off either side of her hand.
Come what may, I'll love you to my dying day.
She flipped it up right and observed the unfinished carving, it appeared he was trying to make some sort of original design that was a marriage of earth and air. He never completed it. A shaky hand went to her mouth in an attempt to catch any sob that might escape.
"I think he meant that," Jinora interrupted her thoughts. Lin looked up at her, ready to deliver a full denial. Jinora raised one hand to stop her. "I need to tell you something."
Lin paused, studying her brown eyes that were now glistening with tears.
"For a long time, I hated you," Jinora confessed as a tear slipped out and ran down her cheek. "When we were at war with the equalists and you jumped off Oogi's back to protect us, I was so full of admiration and gratitude. But when my Dad turned back for you, I was angry. I didn't understand. My mother screamed at him for it, for putting us in danger. They fought about it a lot," Jinora told her with a sniffle.
"I didn't know..." Lin began cautiously.
"I know you didn't. I know that now. But then, I was angry and it took me a long time to forgive him. I just didn't understand how he could love you, when he was supposed to love my mother only."
"He didn't-" Lin countered her quickly, but Jinora spoke over her.
"He did, and that's ok. I didn't fully realize what you meant to each other before I found this box," she explained. She caught a look of confusion in Lin's eye, "I didn't put this together. I found this box, as is, in the back of my father's wardrobe."
"I see," Lin replied distantly, considering all that meant. They were silent for several minutes, the ticking of an old wooden clock filled the room.
"Why did you break up?" Jinora finally asked. Lin looked at her, trying to think of a reason to end the conversation.
"I was stupid," Lin told her, looking down at the necklace. Jinora waiting patiently for some elaboration. Lin closed her fingers around the necklace and looked back up at her, "I wanted a career, not a family."
"And he had to continue the airbending race," Jinora deduced. Lin shook her head quickly.
"He didn't have to. He wanted to," she stressed. "It wasn't obligation. He wanted children, he wanted you desperately."
Jinora wiped the corners of her eyes with the back of her hand as she listened. Lin settled the necklace back into the box and closed the lid.
"And he loved your mother," she finished, keeping her eyes trained on the wood work that decorated the top of the box.
"But he loved you too," Jinora supplied. She took a breath, "And you loved him."
"Very much," Lin admitted. After a beat, she felt Jinora's hand close over her own. She looked up at the woman, seeing a ten year old girl in her place.
"If you don't mind, I'd like to visit more often and talk with you. This really...helps," Jinora sighed with a sad smile.
"I don't mind at all," Lin replied, returning her smile.
In the months that followed the two women met for tea and told each other tales of a man each knew one side of. They laughed at their memories of him and more often that not, they cried as well. Sometimes, Jinora would bring her children and within a year, she had a grandchild of her own in tow. Lin's house was filled on a weekly basis with lively voices and gusts of wind that knocked her things about haphazardly. It reminded her of her childhood days spent on Air Temple Island. It reminded her of him. And suddenly, she didn't feel so alone anymore.