1 - Unexpected Reunion
I stared into space as I tried to write my report on Sozin's Comet. Keyword, tried. I knew every single detail about it. My great grandfather was even Fire lord Sozin, but I couldn't write. My ink brush was frozen on the crinkled parchment, and my thoughts were helplessly trying to organize themselves in my mind. They cycled around and around, but came to no conclusion.
Everyone else was busy writing or flipping through some pages of a thick research book. My teacher was busy looking around the room like a drill sergeant, making sure no one was goofing off. You shouldn't even try to horse around in Miss Kahn's class. She'll send you down to the headmaster's office before you can even say, "I didn't do it".
"Zuko," I heard her snap.
I looked up immediately.
"Work," she commanded.
"Sorry," I mumbled. I heard snickering behind me. I didn't even have to turn around to see who it was, but I did anyway.
Of course, it was Chan and Ron-Jon. I gritted my teeth and tried to ignore them. They were the most popular kids in the school. I had been sent here because I missed out on what my father liked to call "appropriate education", and needed to catch up if I were ever to rule the fire nation.
"Ron-Jon, Chan," Miss Kahn caught their attention. "Work and I mean now." Despite previous warnings they always goof off anyway. It was just in their nature.
"Yes, Miss Kahn," they said in unison.
Chan's hair was the color of mud, which completely fits his personality. Nobody wants to be around him, but he can't be avoided. Chan used to be Azula's boyfriend. I thought they were meant for each other since they were both incredibly conceited, but he broke up with her once he realized how crazy she is. And I'm not just saying that because I'm her brother. You really have to know her to understand what I mean. They met on the beach, and I guess her bright red bikini distracted him from her real self.
"Miss Kahn?" we heard the intercom in the classroom suddenly crackle. Everyone in the classroom looked up from their books at the sudden noise.
"Yes?" she responded, an angry scowl sitting on her face.
"I need Zuko to come down to the office immediately."
Chan and Ron Jon burst out laughing. However, a stern look from Miss Kahn shut them up, barely. They were still muffling snickers into their cupped hands.
"We're in the middle of an important study hall right now. Can we wait until we change classes in ten minutes?" she asked. There was no response.
"Hello?" she called. We heard soft whispering on the other end.
"No, please sir, now," said a feminine voice.
I suddenly had a flashback as I heard two of her words highlight in my mind. No, now. That's what Meredith had said when she needed to talk with me. That's what she said when I was stalling to give her an explanation. That's what she said when Daniel suggested we talk later. No, now. No, now. Her words echoed over and over in my head.
The headmaster's sharp voice brought me back to reality.
"No, Miss Kahn, now," he said. Miss Kahn sighed.
"Zuko," she said. My head whipped up.
"Yeah?" I asked, dazed.
"Office, now," she ordered. I could feel the heat of Chan and Ron-Jon's smiling glares as I got up and headed toward the office.
As I walked down the hall, I wondered what it would be like to see Meredith again. I wondered if she would still be angry with me… I really didn't want a repeat of what happened on the shore line. That was just humiliating.
I stepped into the main office. The old secretary was busy reading a book. She had her thin white hair pulled into a tight bun.
"In there," her fragile voice cracked. She pointed to a door labeled 'Headmaster'. I took a deep breath, pushed the door open and stepped into his office.
There were neat bookcases where all the books seemed to be the same height. The room was painted a dark maroon. Below me was a huge rug with the fire nation emblem on it. I looked up to see the old headmaster sitting at his stone gray desk. His eyes locked onto mine and continued to stare until I blinked twice.
"Sit," he said in a crispy tone. I quickly obeyed. I almost didn't notice a girl my age sitting in the chair seated next to me. She was making an effort not to look at me.
She was wearing a dark red cloak. The hood was down, so I could see her face. Her hair was a velvety black and in rigged waves.
"Is this who you were looking for?" the headmaster asked her icily. The girl turned to look at me. She seemed to be studying my face. I inhaled deeply and prayed the answer was no.
"Yes," she said finally. I exhaled.
"Make sure he doesn't miss too much of his class."
"Will do," she said. "Thanks again for your help." Then she flashed him an overly sweet smile that confirmed my fear. Those pearly whites are hard to confuse with someone else.
The headmaster turned to me as if he were expecting me to say something.
"Mr. Headmaster, sir," I stammered. "I'm really confused."
"This young lady needs to speak with you in private," he glanced at Meredith. "She wouldn't give me a reason. Please take her down to Hallway C so you can talk."
"Hallway C, sir?"
"Right outside of the room you were just in!" he snapped. I flinched to avoid flying spit.
"Right, okay," I said quickly, and then I darted out of the office with Meredith following close behind. I led her down to Hallway C, and then stopped. She swallowed, and then slowly began to speak.
"So," she began. "How have you been since the last time I saw you?" I winced. Great way to start this out.
"How did you get here?"
"I'm here thanks to Song Lee knowing people."
"Dan's foster mom. She brought Amy, Dan, and me a ride along with her daughter, Jin." I just nodded.
"If you want to yell at me, go ahead and do it. I'll brace myself," I said. She rolled her eyes.
"You think I traveled halfway around the world to tell you what I've told you already? No, stupid, I came here to discuss something with you."
"Discuss something, yell at each other, same thing," I said coolly. Meredith frowned.
"No, not the same thing," she said just as calm. "Discussing something is calmly talking about a matter. Calmly." she emphasized by almost screaming it. "Yelling's what we did on the shoreline."
"So what do you want to discuss, calmly?" I asked getting annoyed and impatiently rude.
"Look," she snapped in response to my smart comment. "The fire nation was just a side stop on the way to the Earth Kingdom. So if you want, I will leave, and you can get back to your school work, convict." I winced at the harsh sound of her voice.
"I'm not a convict," I said a little too defensively. Meredith laughed loudly.
"Look at this place," she said still laughing. "It's a prison only a bunch of old people work here." I allowed myself to smile.
The bell rang.
"We'll have to talk later," she said looking at all the students emptying out of classrooms.
Suddenly, I tripped over something and fell to the ground. I looked behind me. It was Ron-Jon's foot. I should've known. Chan strolled over to Meredith.
"Hey. I'm Chan," he said smiling.
Meredith smiled sweetly then turned and reached her hand out to help me get up. I took her hand. Right at the moment, James scurried out of Miss Kahn's classroom clutching his beloved research books. He accidentally bumped into Meredith, causing her to stumble backwards and lose grip of my hand. I was back on the floor, again.
"Hi, Chan," she smiled with her lips closed. I scowled. Chan was being such a weasel.
"Yeah, hi Chan," I interrupted angrily. "And if you don't mind, she was just leaving." Meredith winced, but I don't know why. Chan glared at me then turned too smiled at Meredith.
"I don't mean to pry into your business," Chan said addressing Meredith. "But what are you doing here? It's an all-boy school after all."
"I came to..." Meredith paused, and then I saw her look at me from the corner of her beautiful eye. "See Zuko!" she finally said smiling big. Chan frowned an ugly frown and turned to me.
"Yeah, and I guess I was just leaving," she smiled confirming my false comment, and then quickly made an escape. She darted past Chan and Ron-Jon.
"We'll talk later," she whispered as she darted past me.
I hated Meredith. I envied how she could just say "We'll talk later," then dash away as if nothing had happened. She would always do that. She left me nothing but riddles that I didn't have the time or patience to solve.
I couldn't find anyone else to blame, so I blamed Chan and Ron-Jon. They always ruined everything. I glared angrily at them, but they were too busy arguing with each other to notice.
"Dude, she totally likes me," Chan said smiling a disgustingly perfect grin.
"No, dude. The whole time she was talking to you, she was looking at me," Ron-Jon said pointing to himself.
"Dude!" they argued back and forth.
I casually walked to my locker. No need to spend more time with the idiots than necessary. They were probably just overhyped because they hadn't seen a girl in weeks. Meredith wasn't even all that pretty.
But why was she here and what did she want from me?
Sure, I like Meredith. I mean, who doesn't? Well, Azula for one, but she doesn't count. She doesn't like anybody. Meredith likes lots of people. Well, except Azula, but nobody likes her. She doesn't count.
Suddenly those months I had spent in the other side of the world came rolling back into memory. One after another.
Amy and Dan… how they were always together, making people happy.
Uncle… I shouldn't have left him in the United States. He should have joined me.
Azula… she came and took away everything, so that the memories were the only things I had.
Meredith… I hated her. And everything I had said at the shoreline was why I did.
But I was sorry for what I said. I felt like a new person, and this unexpected reunion had made me recognize how much I had changed. How much I had changed since I left the United States.
Meredith, I am really sorry about what I said before. I just hope you see that.