Chapter One: Dinner
It was a wonderful day when Korra came to live with Tenzin and his family-at least for the most part. Jinora wasn't against the idea at all; she was actually given a little more free time since Korra didn't mind playing with Ikki and Meelo. She didn't mind having to help her very pregnant mother Pema with the household chores and cooking; she knew she would have to do it someday on her own. She didn't mind having to mentor Korra with simple airbending exercises when her father was away 'saving Republic City with paperwork', as Korra says it. She didn't mind having to wake at dawn to meditate on the top of the hill. She didn't mind being alone. She didn't mind the idea of staying on the island for the rest of her life except for special occasions. Like school. Life was as simple and humdrum as she liked it. She was ten. She had a family, clothes, a house, and a bright future. What more could she ask for?
It wasn't until Korra invited Mako and Bolin over for dinner one night did she mind. Jinora sat cross-legged in front of the mirror in her room, twirling one curl inward toward her face and staring long and hard at her reflection. Her book was still open in front of her but that didn't keep her attention. She blinked once. Twice. Thrice. Looking at the setting sun, her mother would call her and ask her help with the food soon. She inhaled deeply, letting her hands rest on her knees. A little meditation wouldn't hur-
Jinora flinched, opening one eye in annoyance. Ikki stood at her door hopping up and down excitedly. "We have guests."
"I'll be there soon. I just-"
"They're boys," Ikki said with a sly smile. Jinora turned bright red, muscles tense. So much for meditating. Everyone knew that she was rather awkward when it came to people of the opposite sex. Especially Ikki. But although Jinora inherited the solemnity of her father, she obtained the stubbornness and innate feminine pride from her mother. She stood up with the grace of the airbender that she was and picked up her book. "Mom needs help with dinner."
"You're not going to greet them?" Ikki scrambled after her, a pout forming on her face. Jinora didn't even bother looking away from her book. She was currently brushing up on some old folk tales from the Earth Kingdom her father bought at the marketplace a few days ago. She shrugged her shoulders. "Mom needs help with dinner."
"Jinora? Can you take these dishes and set them on the table? I'll put these leftovers away," Pema took some leftover potatoes and onions and headed to the pantry. Jinora set her worn book down unwillingly and balanced two dishes on each of her spindly arms, making her way to the dining room. She could hear Korra's boisterous laughter, fist slamming on the table, and Meelo and Ikki joining in. Probably not because of what Korra was laughing about, but because Korra was laughing. Jinora herself chuckled, walking into the room with a light bounce to her step. "What are you all-"
She yelped, burning a bright red at the sight of the two strangers seated at the dining table with her family. Well, one was seated. The other was demonstrating an attempt of a handstand, laughing heartily as he toppled over. Korra rushed over and took the dishes and set it out, smiling eagerly at the young airbender. "Jinora, these are my friends, Mako and Bolin. Mako is the one with the face of a-"
The one seated properly quirked an eyebrow, lips pursed. He had black hair and pale skin, a red scarf standing in stark contrast to his dark attire. She automatically sensed an odd vibe from him, and she didn't like it very much. Jinora had a feeling he was Mako. The other one, Bolin, was sprawled on the floor still laughing. His hair was the same shade as his brother, but curly and he had a curved nose unlike Mako's straight one. Wide green eyes looked up at her like a puppy eager to play. He looked as though he fit perfectly in her home. Jinora was sure she didn't like that feeling either. "If you will excuse me, I must get the rest of the dishes."
With that excuse she could miss dinner, or at least miss the majority of it and eat after the guests were gone. Before she could even test her plan, her father arrived. Tenzin smiled down at his eldest daughter, placing one large hand on her head, avoiding her bun, and handed her her book. "I'm sure you don't want to lose this."
"Of course," she whispered back, her opportunity to hide gone. He placed his hand on the small of her back and guided her to the table before seating himself. Pema arrived shortly after with the remaining dishes and kissed her husband lightly on the cheek. Her face was pink, signifying the difficulty she had while in the pantry. Only Jinora and her father were aware of the pains she was hiding. "Sorry to have kept you all waiting. Let's eat!"
Much to Jinora's minor disgust, Bolin didn't hesitate. He ate just like Korra. Or was it that Korra truly just acted manly? It was her habit to let everyone eat a little before she did, so she picked up her book and continued reading. Mako glanced at her. He hadn't started eating as well. "Whatcha reading, Jin...ora?"
"Jinora," she nodded stiffly. "Earth Kingdom folktales."
"I'd love to hear some," Bolin piped inbetween mouthfuls. Ikki clapped her hands together. "Jinora tells the best stories!'llallcuddlewithOogiand-"
"Slow down, Ikki," Pema reprimanded before popping a slice of potato into her mouth. Her daughter smiled bashfully and simply continued eating. Jinora raised an eyebrow at Mako, not tearing he eyes away from her book. "You're not going to eat?"
He cocked his head to the side and shrugged, leaning forward and taking some stringed beans. "Eat."
"Well, Bo, let's get going." Mako stood up and stretched. "Thanks for the food."
Pema rested one hand on her stomach, gazing with a sinking feeling as rain pounded against the roof of their home. "Are you sure you should?"
Bolin puffed his chest out with pride, flashing her his signature smile. "We've gone through worse."
"Now now," Tenzin stood gravely beside the window with Jinora by his side. "This storm is going to be a big one. I advise you to not go."
The rest of his children stared at the aboding thunderclouds. Tenzin was right; Jinora could feel the friction in the air. She swallowed, praying to the spirits that the boys would be safe. "How about they spend the night?" Korra leaned against the wall, arms crossed.
"But my girls!" Tenzin's face flared red, clutching Jinora and Ikki closer to his side. Pema rolled her eyes, placing a hand on a shoulder of each boy. "That's a wonderful-" she glared at Tenzin,"-idea, Korra."
She led them down the hall toward the washing chambers, Korra and Meelo following close behind. The Avatar paused long enough to stare at Tenzin. "Your eldest daughter is TEN. What harm could they do?"
A lot, it seems. Jinora sat alone in her dining room pouring over a book her father carelessly bought on a whim. She recalled he was 'having some adventure' by breaking his usual routine by purchasing two books instead of one. She gazed out over the stormy sea, tempestuous waves licking hungrily at the shore. The trees shivered and rustled as a cold wind blew into the house. It didn't bother her though, and continued reading. Jinora scoffed at a certain part, flipping the page to the next one. The book was titled, "The Art of Men". Maybe her father was planning to learn on how to be like the men nowadays. Based on the crisp pages, she guessed he didn't bother reading it after skimming through the first few pages. But his daughter was fascinated. This book taught how and why males acted as they did. Hearing the sound of footsteps, she quickly hid the book in the safety of her baggy clothing and pulled out her Earth Kingdom folk lore. "Jinora?"
Males become predatorial at the sight of an uneasy woman. It is difficult to tell if it is to attack her or to protect her, so it is wise never to look timid. Never back down. They are not kind. Jinora thanked the spirits for her photographic memory, straightening her back and glancing slyly at the Earthbender. "Oh, Bolin. Nice weather we're having."
Thunder cracked, lightning filling up the room for a few forlorn seconds. The silence was unbearable. And embarrassing. Bolin rubbed the back of his neck with a calloused hand, staring at the ground. "...Yeah. Okay."
Jinora inwardly facepalmed herself. Idiot! She looked down at her book, trying to focus on the words and not on Bolin. She had to be brave. He scuffed his feet along the floor. "I didn't mean to bother you. I was just looking for some food."
She stood up, wobbling a bit. "Want me to make you some?"
He gave her a lopsided grin, following her into the kitchen. She turned to smack him in the face, but lo and behold, she was too short. Her book stopped a mere inch within his nose. Flinching at the realization that Bolin could actually hurt her, she inhaled a long breath. "Just...wait in the dining room." He pouted, utterly confused by her actions, but complied. Jinora relaxed, pulling out a bowl and a spoon. A few minutes later, she returned with a steaming bowl of potato soup. She avoided eye contact, her cheeks tinged with pink. This was like that one scenario she read in the romance novel she stole from her mother. In her defense, her father had failed to purchase the daily book Jinora thrived on. "I'm sorry this isn't much, but it's the best I could do."
She set the bowl down before him, seating herself the farthest she could. He bowed his head in thanks and gingerly took a spoonful. Jinora found pride when she saw his eyes pop open in pleasant surprise and the way he ate more eagerly.
"Jinora's a pretty name."
"Thanks." He smiled cheekily. "I like to say it. The way it just rolls off a person's tongue. Ji. Nor. Rah. Look at that!"
She simply stared, forcing Bolin to continue eating. His attempt at starting a conversation failed. She continued reading. "Jinora."
"Do you have to always say my name?"
"But I have something to say."
"Um...then say it."
"You don't need to be so formal all the time. It can get suffocating, y'know?"
She remained silent, staring in shock a the young man seated across from her. Thunder boomed once more, emphasizing her stoic features. He continued slurping away at his soup as though he hadn't said anything at all. She frowned, pressing her fingers against her side where the book rested. The book was right. Men are not nice. Bolin had finally finished his soup, rubbing his belly and taking the bowl. He passed by her and left it in the kitchen by the wash basin. Before leaving, he patted Jinora on the head, leaving his hand there for a few moments. "Look, growing up is tough. But it happens. Just...remember, you need to enjoy your age right now or else you'll regret it."
Jinora froze, staring at the floor and watching his shadow edging closer and closer to the door. "Oh, and Jinora? Smiling suits you."
Jinora didn't sleep well that night.