What can I do, to make you mine
Falling so hard so fast this time
What did I say, what did you do?
How did I fall in love with you?
The Backstreet Boys; How Did I Fall in Love with You
It wasn't like I hadn't ever thought about it, because I had. Honestly, it had occupied my mind for a few weeks prior, and there had been a few times I couldn't help but try to picture my 'true love'. It wasn't a strange event to have a dream about someone coming to me and whispering how they'd always love me and hoped I'd always be theirs, and it was even less unusual to spend hours worrying about how I looked, and if I ever actually passed by my true love in the stores, if I would wreck my entire life and stand in the way of Fate by choosing dubbing that single, precious moment a 'Bad Hair Day.' I had meticulously looked through the school year book, crossing out certain boys and circling others in pink heart, noting carefully which ones were jerks and which ones nice.
Looking back, I spent about two thirds of my free time that year thinking about things that shouldn't really matter until a lot later.
Even when I cooled down, I was still constantly on the look out for my true love.
That's maybe why I took up with Jet so soon, but even with a boyfriend, I was still careful to notice every other guy in my life.
I just never expected that he'd been right in front of me all along.
The lack of people in small Wal-Mart store did not sway Katara's determination the least bit as she unfurled the 'Potential Present' list in her hand, pausing only once to gaze longingly at a blue turtle neck sweater before scolding herself and hurrying by – she had a mission. Glancing up as she passed the scented candles, Katara sighed inwardly and crossed 'Lavender Candles' from her list.
"What should I get him?" she muttered to herself, crossing her eyes and sticking a pencil behind her ear. Leaning back against the wall, she unfolded her list once more and ran her eyes over the words written on it: Cook Book, Clothes, Harry Potter, Nickleback CD, New Guitar Book, Concert Tickets, New Skateboard… It seemed to go on and on, even carrying on to the back of the paper. Sighing inwardly and drawing a huge 'X' over the last few options (at that point she'd been getting desperate; the words 'new tie' popped out at Katara and she giggled reluctantly).
Scratching her head and brushing a lock of hair behind her ear, she mused, I'm almost seventeen. Shouldn't I buy the gift sooner than a half an hour before the party? Katara snorted – she knew exactly what he would say – But it's our oldest tradition!
Our. That word still got to her sometimes. She knew Aang meant nothing when he used words like that – we, us, Katara and I…. It made her uneasy listening to him sometimes, like he knew something about their friendship that Katara didn't.
Shrugging off the feeling-that-shouldn't-even-be-there, Katara began walking briskly once more, craning her neck to catch a glimpse of a display featuring a new Carrie Underwood CD she'd been dying to get her hands on. Tearing her gaze away and forcing herself to stare straight ahead (Focus, Katara, focus) she came to a sudden halt.
Running forward and grinning to herself, she picked up the book and grinned. It's prefect for him! Peering down at 'The Beginners Guide to Song Writing', she leafed through a few pages to see a detailed explanation of how to pick out tunes on your guitar and the right chords to choose. Hugging the book to her chest, Katara smiled to herself as she began to head to the check-out line. How many times had Aang complained that he had a song stuck in his head and couldn't pick it out on the guitar? How many times? A thousand, that's how many, she answered herself silently.
Smiling politely and sliding the book onto the check out band, Katara glanced self-consciously at her watch. It was 6:43, so she still had 17 minutes to get back home…. And then there was the party. It would be a small one, to be sure – Toph, Sokka, Aang, of course, Hakoda, Kana, Suki, Meng (Katara scowled deeply just at the mere thought of Aang's girlfriend), herself….and Jet. Biting her lip as she reached for the book and hurried towards the door, Katara wondered, Do I have any right to dislike Meng when I know how much Aang hates Jet?
A warm breeze came through just as she stepped out the automatic doors, smelling of the ocean and fresh rain. Leaning back her head and letting out her hair blow out behind her head as she walked, Katara was unpleasantly jolted back to her thoughts of moments before. She had known for a while that Aang had shared Sokka's dislike and mistrustfulness of Jet, but it had been only recently she'd caught him glaring at her boyfriend like he was the spawn of the devil.
"Ow!" Katara rubbed her head, glaring at the branch that had been her attacker. She had always cut through the back lot, and she had a nasty habit of forgetting to duck one rather annoying tree – the only one on the grassy path, in fact. I should just cut it down one day, Katara thought, shoving the branch out of the way and scowling deeply.
Tromping through the knee high grass with the book wrapped in her sweatshirt, the sunlight filtered through the just-clearing clouds to fall in patches on the moorland. The sun peaked through the clouds like the lighthouse beacon, casting a long shadow to Katara's right and lightening up the mini-prairie. She took in a sharp intake of breath at the sheer beauty of right here, right now. Katara couldn't help wondering what Aang would say yet again, and immediately scolded herself: Jet! You are in love with Jet! Stop thinking about your best friend!
Shaking her head and beginning to hurry to the other side, Katara began to speculate if her thoughts were being purposely difficult. Maybe I've been bad, and I'm punishing myself by thinking about my oldest friend in the wrong way. I really shouldn't do that; why am I doing that, me? Me, I am very cruel to do that to myself.
Cringing at how ridiculous that last sentiment sounded, Katara stopped in her tracks. She had always taken a path that led into the forest then came out just by her house; it was only about half a mile in length and an easy walk – even for someone like her. But in front of her was silver, gleaming fence, sturdy and strong and possibly unbeatable, even for someone who had spent the first half of their childhood climbing trees.
That wasn't what ticked Katara off. What really made her mad was that it hadn't been here before.
"Who the heck puts a metal fence in the middle of a field between two hundred acres of forest and the local Wal-Mart?!?!" Katara burst out, frustrated as she glowered at the unnecessary obstacle before her. "You'd have to be a complete and total idiot!" she yelled, giving the wall of metal a kick with her foot. "I have a party for my best friend to be at! Jeez, talk about annoying! If the person who put this here would have come out right now, I would tell –"
"What, exactly, would you tell me, hm?" the cold and cruel voice seemed to come out of nowhere. Katara spun around, nearly dropping Aang's present, only to see a raven-haired girl that looked to be about fifteen leering at her, golden eyes glittering with cruel anticipation.
"Who are you?" she asked rudely, glaring straight into this newcomer's glowing amber eyes.
"I," she began disdainfully, "am Azula Roku, and my father has bought this ridiculous little….ah….woodland."
Katara squinted her eyes at Azula. "And what does he mean to do with it?"
"Why build a shopping mall, of course," Azula replied, grinning unpleasantly.
"But – but –" Katara sputtered. "There are animals living in there! And that forest is irreplaceable – we have no other place like it! Do you know how far away the nearest national park is from here?!?!"
Azula smiled thinly. "No, but I'm sure you do."
Katara stared at her angrily for a moment before beginning, "Look, I always walk through these woods, and I need to get somewhere. So, if you could –"
"You can walk through," the icy girl interrupted. "This time." Walking up to the gate, Azula removed a key from her pocket and, inserting it into the lock, commented, "You must really love this forest. So….sentimental. Such a tragedy it will be torn down, hm?"
Grinding her teeth, Katara marched past Azula silently, swerving onto the beaten path. It was obvious she could do nothing to stop this; honestly, Katara believed it impossible.
The book in her hand and the party that was starting in less than five minutes seemed very, very far away. Glancing around at the tall, leafy trees (autumn had just come and Katara noticed a few with colors of gold and orange), she couldn't stop the flood of memories that came rushing at her. So many different images that she could barely contain them – apple picking in the forgotten orchard she'd discovered at age six; singing as she walked because she was too scared to do it anywhere else; and then the time she and Aang had discovered a cave together…
Wow, Katara forced the memory to a premature end. That is…that is going too far. She did not want to remember that cave, nor did she ever. Katara did not need to hear the tiny voice inside her once more tell what could have been or what should have.
That chapter in our lives is over, Katara reminded herself just as her house and the houses surrounding it in came into view. Leave it where it belongs – buried.
Ducking under the window and softly slipping down the back steps, Katara shifted around in her pocket for the basement key. Sliding it into the lock, she gently padded into the carpeted room, muttering to herself, "Now where did I put the wrapping paper?" Yanking open the closet door, Katara began digging around, finally stepping out triumphantly with a roll of blue and white paper in her hands.
She ascended the steps and drifted into the kitchen, pausing to peck Jet on the lips. "Hi, Aang," Katara greeted, placing her gift on the table and pulling up a chair next to his place at the table.
"You're late," Sokka accused, one arm around Toph.
"Aren't I always?" Katara sighed in mock sadness.
"Yes, yes you are," her brother replied indignantly.
"Ah, cool it, Snoozles," his girlfriend said airily. "Let her be. It's tradition."
"Yeah, Katara and Aang have been friends for a long time – cut her some slack." Katara had a feeling that Jet's emphasis on 'friends had been for her and her alone, and avoided her boyfriend's cool gaze.
She tried even harder not to look at him when Aang put his arm around her – a friendly gesture, Katara insisted to herself, but she could not ignore that way the, for a fraction of a second, his heart had beat the tiniest bit faster….
Katara tried hardest of all to pretend it was no big deal when she returned the hug, and was only able to hope that she would be able top control her feelings during the party that lay in front of her.
Between Jet's searching gaze, the stares exchanged between Toph and a jealous Suki, the look on Meng's face as she stared at Katara distastefully, and the tightening of Aang's arm around her, the sixteen year old could already tell that it was going to be a very, very long night.
Whoa, that took forever to write...I am very worried that I have put in far too many plot lines, what with the forest, Aang vs. Jet, and the former's song writing career. What did you think? This is not over; there will be a sequel.
Tell me if you think I should continue.