Chapter 24: A Dinner Invitation
Saturday morning brought Katara from her bed long before her brother even began to stir. She was fully dressed and standing outside of her Grandmother's bedroom door when the old woman emerged from inside.
"You scared me," Gran Gran Kanna said, laying her hand over her chest and frowning at Katara.
"Sorry, Gran Gran," Katara said quietly as she followed the woman into the kitchen and waited for her to prepare a cup of tea. "What time are we leaving?" she asked, eagerly as the old woman sipped her drink.
"Leaving?" Kanna raised her eyebrows and thought for a moment before shaking her head. "Oh, I forgot to tell you, we aren't going to the farmers' market today. I don't need to; Pakku brought me plenty of berries to make my pies." The woman walked over to the refrigerator and pulled open the door to reveal a large bowl overflowing with berries of all kinds.
"But you said I could go!" Katara whined, staring at the berries with shocked eyes. "Can't we just go anyways? Don't you need some cabbage or something?"
"I don't really feel like going today, Katara," Kanna answered calmly. "I'm going over to Pakku's for breakfast this morning, you and Sokka eat some cereal or something, will you?" she added as she rinsed out her tea cup and placed it into the sink.
Katara made a distressed face as she followed her Grandmother out of the apartment and towards Pakku's. "But Gr-"
"Don't but Gran me, young lady. I told you that I don't feel like going to the place today. It's cold and now that I have the berries, I don't need to go." The old woman pointed towards the apartment and gave Katara a stern look. "Go home and tell your brother there is some banana bread in the pantry if he wants some. Just don't let him eat it all."
The young girl groaned in defeat and slumped back towards the apartment. She had been counting on the trip to the market to finally get close to some of the Air Temple children and get the full story. She slipped quietly into the house and watched as Sokka got up from the table and got a box of cereal. Realization washed over the girl and she charged towards her brother.
"Don't eat that," Katara hissed as she ran up behind her brother and knocked his hand away from cereal box. "You're supposed to have this for breakfast," she added, her tone panicked as she hurried over to the refrigerator and pulled out the bowl from Pakku. She laid the bowl on the table and started cramming the berries into her mouth before she even found her seat.
Sokka slid into a chair and watched Katara with curiosity. He slowly plucked a single blueberry from the bowl.
"Are you kidding me?" Katara huffed. She couldn't believe the way Sokka was acting. Leave it to her brother to pick the most inconvenient time to be hesitant about food. "Would you just eat these already?" She shoved the bowl towards her brother and gave him a pleading look. "Please? I can't eat them all myself, just eat!"
Sokka's eyes widened in worry as he slowly placed the blueberry back into the bowl. "Are you feeling alright?" he asked as he slid his chair back from the table and stood up. "You're acting kinda weird and...I'm not eating those. I'll just get something from the shoppe." The boy rushed out of the kitchen and back down the hallway.
"Dang it," Katara muttered as she tried to eat more of the berries. Her stomach turned with the intake and she gagged slightly over the idea of eating any more of them. She glanced back behind her at the sink and carried the bowl over. "If he won't eat them, then I'll get rid of them some how," she muttered as she started dumping the berries into the large opening for the garbage disposal.
"What are you doing?" Sokka asked from the doorway, giving his sister a confused look.
"Washing...them?" Katara answered lamely, guilt splashed over her face.
"Whatever," Sokka sighed, waving his hand towards his sister before heading for the door.
Katara bit her lip and flipped on the disposal to get rid of the berries. She left a few handfuls in the bowl and placed it back into the refrigerator, then cleaned up the evidence from the sink. She retreated back to her bedroom and pulled open a book to wait for the inevitable discovery.
An hour passed before Katara heard her Grandmother's voice. "Katara! Get in here."
The girl forced the grin off her face and rushed into the kitchen. "What's wrong?" she asked, her tone worried as she skidded into the kitchen and stopped in front of Kanna. "What happened?" she asked in innocence as she observed the nearly empty bowl clutched in the old woman's hand.
"I was hoping you'd tell me," Kanna said, dropping the bowl down on the counter with a huff.
Katara swallowed hard and shrugged her shoulders. "I guess Sokka ate them or something. You can't blame him, really, you didn't put a label on them or anything." She nodded with her words and stared at the bowl with sad eyes. "I'm sorry you don't get to make your pies anymore."
Kanna narrowed her eyes at Katara and shook her head slowly. "I need to make those pies. I promised the ladies I would bring them. I guess I'm going to the market after all." She sighed and placed the remaining berries back into the refrigerator. "And I suppose you'd like to go along."
The girl nodded eagerly and dashed off to gather her coat. Half an hour later, Katara and Kanna were stepping inside of the Si Wong Farmers' Market. The young girl waved to her Grandmother and dashed off before the woman could get a word in. Katara's eyes readily scanned each booth and stall, hoping for any sign of the Air Temple children or their elders. Frustrated with her lack of success, the girl finally approached another stall owner for directions.
"E-excuse me, Sir, I was hoping you could tell me where the Air Temple people are. I don't...I don't even know what they sell, actually." She gave a hopeful smile and tilted her head innocently.
The older man narrowed his eyes and nodded his head in the general direction to the right of Katara. "Over there," he grumbled. "Damn fruit pies are running out of business." He picked up a tray with an assortment of fried doughs atop it and held it out towards the girl.
Katara reluctantly purchased three of the man's pastries and started towards the familiar robes she could see in the distance. The girl mindlessly nibbled the end of one fried dough and shuddered with disgust before promptly tossing them into the garbage bin. She stood at the edge of the fruit pie stand and watched for a moment as several younger children, all dressed in the same pale brown pants and chocolatey orange shirt that she had seen on Aang the first day she came to the market. More so, all of the children bore the same tattooing.
"What can I get you?" one of the girls asked as she headed over to Katara.
"Oh, I'm not really...I mean I didn't come for a...just give me one of those," she answered, pointing to the nearest flavor of pie. The younger girl gathered Katara's request and handed over the bag. "I was actually wondering if...Aang was here," Katara offered tentatively as she paid the girl.
"Aang isn't allowed to come anymore," the girl answered with a frown. "That cabbage guy said if he comes again, he'll get us thrown out. Monk Gyatso made him stay home. Do you know Aang?"
"I met him once," Katara answered. "I was just hoping to see him again. Maybe ask him a few questions. I really wanna know more about -" she waved her hand towards everyone "- all of this."
"You do?" the girl asked, raising her eyebrows. "Most of the kids around here don't want anything to do with us. They think we're..." she trailed off, dropping her large brown eyes to the ground and sighing.
"I'm not from around here," Katara pointed out.
"Is there a problem over here?" called an older male voice. The commune leader, Monk Gyatso, stepped up beside the young girl and stared down at Katara. "Is everything alright, On Ji?" he asked, passing his gaze to the commune girl.
On Ji looked up and shook her head. "No, nothing's wrong," she answered quickly. "This girl was just asking about Aang."
"You know our Aang?" the old man asked.
"Not exactly. I -"
"Katara!" Gran Gran Kanna's voice cut into the girl's words as she rushed to her side and glared down at her. "I've been ready to go for half an hour. I looked everywhere for you. Had to buy some dreadful pastry to get that man back there to tell me where you were." She straightened herself at the realization of Gyatso and On Ji's closeness. "Sorry about that."
"Perfectly alright," Gyatso said with a smile. "If you and your Granddaughter would like, you are welcome to join us for dinner up at the Air Temple. You can see Aang there as well," the man said, directing the last of his words towards Katara.
When the young girl turned her pale blue eyes up to her Grandmother in plea, the old woman sighed heavily. "We can't tonight. I have that meeting with the girls. Well, I can't. I can get Pakku to take you up there and stay if you really want."
"I really want," Katara answered, a smile spreading wide across her face. "I'm Katara, by the way," she told On Ji quickly. "It was really nice meeting you."
"See you tonight!" both Gyatso and On Ji called out as Katara and Gran Gran walked away.
Back at the house, Gran Gran was beginning to get the sneaking suspicion that she had been played. She laid out the new berries for her pies and started washing them, occasionally glancing back at her granddaughter. "I think I should have a word with Sokka about eating things he finds without asking about them first," she said casually.
Katara started at her Grandmother's words and let out a nervous laugh. "That...that isn't a good idea. I mean, it isn't like he meant to eat something you needed." She swallowed hard and leapt up from her seat at the sight of the postman outside on the walkway. "I'll see if we got mail!" she cried out much louder than needed.
The sight of art work decorated envelopes sent the girl's hear soaring. She clutched the envelopes to her chest and dashed back into the house. "We got mail from dad," she squealed, handing the old woman the letter addressed to her. "I'll take Sokka's to him at work and, you know what, I'll go ahead and mention the berry thing to him. Save you the hassle," she added.
The young girl slid back into a chair at the kitchen table and read through her father's letter as Gran Gran read her own. Every so often, one would look up with a grin and say something along the lines of "did he tell you about the dog?" and "yeah, I can't believe they let him keep it". After reading through her own letter three times, Katara pulled on her coat and stuffed her brother's letter into the pocket. She hugged her Gran Gran bye and headed for the Jasmine Dragon.
The girl half ran to the tea shoppe, shivering with cold and regretting every step. She burst into the shoppe and let out a relieved sigh, earning her a laugh from several of the near-by customers. "Hey, Iroh," she greeted the old man as she leaned forward on the counter. "Can I get a cup of L-"
"White Dragon," Iroh interrupted. When Katara raised her eyebrows, the old man smirked and continued. "I just got some White Dragon leaves. Tell me that you'll try a cup. It's really good."
"Alright," Katara laughed, "give me a cup of the White Dragon and one large brother please."
"Your brother isn't here," Iroh answered as he turned and began preparing the tea. "He and Zuko left to go to that skating park about five minutes ago." A loud scoff erupted out of Katara and Iroh glanced back over his shoulder. "You...don't like my nephew much, do you?" he asked bluntly.
"Is it that obvious?" Katara rolled her eyes and dropped herself heavily into a chair at the nearest table as Iroh carried over two cups of tea and sat them upon the table.
Iroh merely stared down into his cup and took the seat opposite the young girl. "What has Zuko done to earn your distaste, exactly?" he asked, his tone casual and light. He sipped at his tea and closed his eyes as the flavor washed over him.
He...well he hasn't done anything per se; he's just...well he shouldn't be so around." Katara frowned at the table and mindlessly ran her fingers over the handle of her tea cup. "I don't expect you to understand how I feel."
"That's a good thing, then," Iroh said in his calm tone, "because I don't understand."
The girl's eyes stayed locked on her untouched drink as the silence dragged on. Long after Iroh had finished his tea and Katara's had run stark cold, she stood up and gave the man a sad smile. "I have to find my brother," she said weakly as she dug into her pocket.
"You don't owe anything," Iroh offered. "You didn't even drink it. Such a shame too, the White Dragon is a rare delicacy."
Katara merely nodded before turning and heading back into the cold. She kept her head ducked as she pushed through the streets until reaching the Serpent's Pass Skate Park. Her eyes darted around the busy masses and finally settled on the sight of Jet and Zuko sitting on a bench. She reluctantly hurried up behind the boy's and started to open her mouth, but interest in their words sealed her lips.
"Not everything needs a label, you know?" Zuko was grumbling.
"Nice," Jet muttered sarcastically. "That sounds like a dodgy way of saying that you aren't together. So, that means he's free to see anyone else he wants."
Katara frowned at hearing the two boys talk. She folded her arms over her chest and shook her head, amazed at how they could sit there and talk about her brother as though he were property.
"He doesn't want to see you, if that's what you think." Zuko gave the other boy a smug grin.
"No, you won't see," Zuko growled, turning fully towards Jet and sticking his finger in the boy's face. "Just stay the hell away from him. All you want from him is...sex anyways, so go find someone else for it."
At this, Katara's face tightened and her heart raced. She wanted to reach out and smack both boy's in the back of the head, but she fought the urge and cleared her throat loudly to let the two know they weren't alone. "Where's my brother?" she asked coldly when they turned to face her. She would definitely be discussing this with the boy later.
A Note From the Author: Thanks for reading. I hope this clears up a little of Katara's day. This chapter takes place in the same time frame as the last, just from her point of view, clearly. Leave some thoughts. I'm not really sure how everyone feels about reading Katara. I mean Sokka is the main character, but I'm really aiming for an all inclusive here. Just let me know, enough Katara, too much, not enough? Thanks. :D –Jenna