Sorry I have been afk for so long guys. But I have a very good excuse!
I have been working on something else…a videogame. That's right, a videogame. And after two years, my team has put out a playable demo that we would like to share with you all.
If you want to check it out, I will put a description and a link to the game at the end of this chapter.
The Long Road
"…tomorrow is the big day." Aang said to Toph as she lay in bed with him, the night before leaving for college. He held her close. Very close.
"Jesus twinkle toes. I know you're scared but I need to breath."
"S-sorry." He loosened his grip. "I didn't think the summer would go by so fast."
"Yeah, well…it did. And tomorrow's going to be a long day." Toph forced herself to be as patient as possible. Aang needed it, even though his whining was that much more annoying at 1 am.
"Do you think the crime is as bad as they say it is?"
"No, New York has a really low crime rate." Toph recited something she read online, her eyes not opening.
"And everyone is rude, right? I hear they're all really rude."
"That's a stereotype that's only true if you go out of your way to annoy total strangers." She quoted another online fact that she hoped was true.
"And-and it's dirty. I hear it's dirty." Aang gulped.
"I'll call them in the morning and tell them to scrub the sewer holes before we get there. Go to sleep." Toph put her head on his chest. Aang's heart was beating like a hummingbird.
Aang shut his eyes and tried to get sleepy. The bristly pinch of Toph's mess hair was usually enough to relax him. The feeling of her breathing on his chest often calmed him down.
She snuggled closer to Aang, trying to get him to calm down. And shut up. And eventually, she fell asleep on her own, even over the sound of Aang's heart.
That cute sigh she made when she made when she started dreaming put Aang at ease. For a little while.
"Ah!" Aang fell out of bed. "What happened?"
"Nothing." Toph was already dressed, and mid tying her shoelace she was nice enough to kick Aang awake. "And nothing will if you don't hurry up and get packed. Gyatso said he needs your help packing up the car."
"What time is it? What…where are you going?"
"I packed last night. I'm taking a quick walk; I'll be back in like an hour. Two at the most."
"Bu-but, um, I might need help too you know?"
"Nah, you're fine." Toph said, knowing Gyatso wanted some alone time with Aang before they left. "Later." She stepped without looking at him.
'This came too fast!' Aang thought, 'This is FAR too early!' He scrambled and tried to think of an excuse, anything that would give him one more day at home.
But after a few moments of panic, he told himself that there was nothing to be done. Not now. He chose this. He had lived out the last summer to its fullest, in the small little town that had sheltered him since he was a baby, among the closest of friends and the most caring of guardians. But his friends and most of his classmates had left already, to start their lives. The town felt like it was getting emptier by the week.
And now…it was time for him to go too.
But it still was not easy.
Gyatso knocked on his door. "Are you awake Aang?" Aang could smell breakfast on the other side.
"Y-yeah. I'm here." Aang sat up. Gyatso opened the door, greeting him with a plate of eggs and a smile.
"We have…a lot to do before you leave."
The mortarboards were gathered up. The confetti, cleaned. The chairs, put back in storage. A few months after it commenced, it looked like the graduation ceremony never happened. The town was no longer abuzz with barbeque celebrations or young people were coming back summer vacations. This high school, where almost all local residences passed through for their teen years, was sleeping. Resting. Waiting for the next batch of young people to enter their doors and continue their education careers.
Top sat in the gymnasium and looked around at all the nothing that was happening. The janitor walked in out from the room, "cleaning the floor", but Toph was sure it was so he could keep an eye on her.
She looked at the gym's corners, where she would to sit freshman year when she didn't want to participate. And remembered when she played Aang in basketball that one time and beat him so badly they never played again. And looked at the exact spot where Sokka was sitting during her graduation ceremony, and how he screamed for her when she got her diploma.
Now the room was empty.
Toph sighed through her nostrils. She looked at her arm, at her snake tattoo. She thought that, if anyone in New York asked her what the tat meant, she could say it symbolic of how she had changed once she turned eighteen and of how much she had grown since she first went to this school. That wasn't the truth, but Toph thought it sounded cool.
She wondered if anyone there would even care what she had to say.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out the small stone chip of her wall, the last piece remaining since it was demolished by the township. She fiddled with it for a minute, then put it away. It hadn't left her pocket since the day she found it.
Toph wasn't sad to be leaving, or happy. She was indifferent. She never fit in this school, or anywhere in town. Except with Aang.
And though this school seemed like the whole world when she was attending, oddly enough it didn't seem that important anymore. It was just a school. Who cares what happened before? The people she didn't like, they were just kids. Like she was.
"…haha." Like she still IS, she thought.
Toph sighed and stood up, ready to go. The lack of overwhelming emotions was a good thing; she was worried she'd start doing something dumb like get nostalgic or cry or whatever.
But as she left the gymnasium and closed its door behind her, one memory caught up with her.
She remembered how, as she was going home every day, she would close the door to the school's front entrance…and Aang would be waiting for her. Sometimes upset. Sometimes late. Sometimes ready to make her feel better.
But he was there. Even when she didn't want to be, he was there.
Toph shook her head, and the vision of younger Aang disappeared.
"Have a good life, ma'am." The janitor said to her as she opened the front door. Toph froze.
She turned and took one last look at the lobby. The school, her old school...it looked…safe, somehow. It looked warm. Like it had always been that way, but she somehow never noticed it until that very moment.
Speechless, she then hurried outside. She gulped, and ran back to Aang's house. And forced herself not to get emotional over the stupid old building.
Aang locked the latch on his luggage, and sighed. His room was empty. The walls, bare. The posters and messy piles of clothes and his computer…all packed away.
Aang had never seen his room look like this. He had been here his whole life. It was always 'his' room. His sanctuary. His memories were practically built into the woodwork now.
He lifted up his bag and walked through his doorway, only to be stopped by the lines drawn in the side, lines Gyatso would draw every year to see how much he had grown.
He laughed, and rubbed his hands on the '16 yrs' line. It was almost a foot shorter than what he was now.
"Almost ready?" Gyatso asked, walking up to Aang as he examined the measuring lines.
"Uh…almost." Aang sighed. "…do you have a pencil?"
Gyatso smiled, and one appeared in his hands. Aang stood by the doorframe, and Gytaso measured him one last time. He wrote '18 yrs' next to the new mark.
"Eighteen years…" Gyatso put his hand over his mouth. "I don't…I can't…" Gyatso started, but stopped as a few tears started gathering under his wrinkly eyes. Aang hugged him before he could talk more. He seemed so small now, when it seemed like only yesterday Gyatso was taller than him.
"It's okay Gyatso. It's okay. I'll be back." Aang patted his guardian's back. "It's only about a…five, maybe six hour car ride. That's as long as those trips down to the Jersey Shore, remember those?"
"Oh my…" Gytaso got even more emotional as he remembered those vacations. "…I could handle those long rides…because you were with me to keep me company."
"You-you're gonna make me cry Gyatso." Aang gulped. And smiled as he got misty too.
"This is hard." Gyatso tried not to break down. "I can't believe I am loosing you-"
"You're not losing me. You're never-"
The front door slammed open. "I'm back!" Toph yelled.
"Alright, alright…", Gyatso wiped his eyes and calmed down as fast as he could. "…it's time."
Toph walked up the stairs, slamming her feet as she usually did, on the creaky wooden stairs.
"Well?" She asked bluntly.
"We're just about ready." Aang picked up his last bag and waved it at her.
"Good. My stuff is packed. So…I'll be in the car." She yawned and went back downstairs, without an emotion on her face.
"She's gonna miss you too." Aang reminded Gytaso that that was just 'Toph's way'.
"I know." He hugged his boy again. "Please don't forget to call when you are there."
"I won't. I promise, every week." Aang picked up his bag and walked. "Twice a week!"
"And be careful. You know that New York is dangerous and confusing and crowded place."
"I'll be as careful as I can be." Aang took another step.
"And if you need money, let me know. It is expensive there. I went there a long time ago and everything is pricey."
"You'll be the first to know Gyatso." Aang finally made it to the stairs.
Appa was waiting by the front door, his tail wagging on the floor, ready to go with Aang whenever he was headed.
Toph sat in the passenger's seat, flicking the stone piece of her wall like it was a coin, her feet angled out the window.
She sighed, getting impatient. She told herself it was because Aang was taking so long. It was actually because things were getting too emotional even for her. She knew Gyatso and Aang were crying; they weren't as slick as they thought they were.
She watched another car drive by, and growled. She honked the horn twice and yelled out the open window. "Hurry up! We're burning daylight!"
Finally, Gytaso came outside, holding the door for Aang and spitting out another naggy piece of advice. Appa barked, moving close to Aang's legs.
"Remember to work before you party. And don't talk to stranger…unless they are not strange, because you should be making new friends too."
"I will, I will, I will promise all of those things." Aang pushed the bag in the backseat and closed the door. Appa snarled. "Good boy! I am going to miss you SO much!" He rubbed Appa's face and kissed his furry head. Appa winced, knowing something was happening.
"Bout time. Are we leaving this place or not?" Toph rolled her eyes and waited for Gyatso to finish hugging Aang again.
"I'm coming. I'm…coming." Aang said half-heartedly. "This is it, Gyatso. We have to leave now if we want to be there before evening."
"A-alright." Gyatso nervously guided his boy to the car door.
"It'll be okay. This is…this is great. We'll be back for Thanksgiving and Christmas and…then winter break. You won't even know I'm gone; it'll just be a vacation for you!" Aang's smiled as wide as he could.
"…I'm very proud of you." Gyatso said. Aang's smile disappeared.
They said nothing for a minute. Then Gytaso pulled an envelope out of his pocket and gave it to Aang.
"That's some extra spending money." He patted the top of Aang's hand as he handed it to him. "Get there safe."
"…we will. Thank you. For everything. Everything."
Gyatso nodded. Aang got in the car. Their eyes locked as Aang pulled out of his driveway.
And then he drove off.
Appa ran into the street and watched Aang's car. And waited for him to come back. His tail stopped wagging after a few minutes, but he still waited. He looked at Gyatso, then at the street, then barked. But Aang did not come home
Gyatso watched his son leave. Even long after he was gone.
Gyatso looked back at his home. His once alive, noisy home that was filled with young people passing through daily.
Now, Gyatso heard the wind blow though his empty temple.
Aang drove through town, pulling over just before getting on the highway. They were uphill, and could see the town in its entirety below them. The high school, the open field, the rich part of town, the modest parts…
Aang sighed, pulled out his phone, and took a quick picture.
"We going, or what?" Toph cleaned out her teeth with her fingernail, still dangling the little rock between her fingers.
"Do you want to see your parents? Before it's too late?" He asked Toph calmly.
Toph looked at him, then looked at the piece of rock in her hands.
She said nothing for a second as she slowly clenched her fist around the piece of her wall as tightly as she could.
With her feet still sticking out the open window, she threw the small stone out of the car.
"No. Everything stays here." Then she rolled up the window and pouted, slamming her feet down and stubbornly staying quiet. Aang nodded.
"Well…we're off." He said weakly, and starting driving again, leaving the small town behind him.
Toph stayed silent until they were miles away from that strange, quiet place, and well on their way to some place new.
It had been a long journey up to that point. And a new one was right in front of them. But, like the last road they traveled down, this one would be traveled together. And through bickering, small talk and joking around, they both were sure that that would not change
I will be publishing the final chapter this week.
As for my videogame, it is about a young man who goes off to a gift college and learns, through hard experiences, that first impressions mean very little and that there is more to everyone than meets the eye. Including himself.
(www).(shotglass-studios).com - go to downloads You might need to download the ren'py player in order to play the game. But that is easy to do, just google 'Ren'py' and the first link will let you download that too.
Thanks for being so loyal and so patient guys. You are all the best!