Chapter One - The Boy in the Prius
On my first day of high school, after staying up half the night worrying, I was woken up at the break of dawn by my dog.
"Appa!" I said, trying to push away his big slimy face. He jumped up on the bed and wagged his tail so hard his butt shook. "I'm trying to get some sleep!"
My cat, Momo, jumped up after him. He was nicer than most cats, and he purred and snuggled around my face before coming to rest beside me. Appa, however, was not having it. His face clearly said, 'I must pee now or I will literally explode."
I groaned. "Okay, fine." I dragged myself out of bed in my boxers and t-shirt and headed out to the backyard. Even though it was barely five in the morning, my grandfather, Gyatso, was already sitting outside, meditating.
"Good morning, Aang," he said without opening his eyes.
"Good morning, Grandpa," I said, watching Appa run off to do his business.
"Are you excited for your first day of school?"
I sighed. "I'm nervous. What if kids don't like me?"
"There will be some who tease or bully you because of who you are. But you must stay true to your heritage."
I sighed. My grandfather was a practicing Buddhist, and sometimes his manner of speech was too much to handle. But this time, he did have a point.
Today was my first day of sophomore year at the prestigious Four Nations High. The goal of this high school was to represent each of the four districts in our small country and foster a sense of multiculturalism. But ever since the genocide of my people, the men and women of the Air District, Grandfather and I were the only ones to escape. He's been homeschooling me in secret ever since, but due to an incident involving a stolen tsungi horn, the government found out about our existence. To protect us, they put us under government protection, and moved us here, to the capitol. They managed to persuade Grandfather to let me enroll in Four Nations High, so they could truly represent each of the four districts. Grandfather said it would be good for me to meet other students and socialize. The truth was I was about as excited to start school as I would be to wrestle a mountain lion naked.
Getting dressed was way more stressful than it should have been that morning. Because of my grandfather's Buddhism, I usually dress in very humble, simple clothes. But did real high school kids wear that? Wasn't I supposed to wear high top sneakers with my boxers showing? Was that how I was going to get girls?
"Oh, man, Appa, what will I do if I see pretty girls?" I asked my dog, rifling through my shirts. "What do I say? Oh, my God, I'll be the only one there who wasn't kissed a girl!"
Appa said nothing. Momo on the bed just meowed.
"I mean, even you've kissed a girl, haven't you, Momo?"
He said nothing, just slyly licked his paw. I groaned. My freaking cat had gotten more action than I had.
I finally settled on overdressing, and wore my favorite button-down with a nice pair of jeans and my cleanest shoes. Grandfather was sitting in the kitchen, enjoying some oatmeal.
"Extra cinnamon, just the way you like it," he said with a smile, pushing my plate towards me.
I just stared down at my oatmeal, my stomach in knots.
"What's wrong, Aang?"
"What if girls don't like me?" I burst out.
He laughed. "You're worried about girls? Oh, Aang, you have much to learn. There will be many girls who make fun of you. But they're not the ones worth knowing. The ones worth knowing will take the time to understand you."
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. This was not the time for his old-people crap. I managed to struggle down a bite of oatmeal as Grandfather beamed at me.
"When you're done with that, I'll take you to school!"
I swear I almost puked.
After strugglebusing through my oatmeal, I said goodbye to Appa and Momo and got in my Grandfather's ice-blue Prius. The high school was right around the corner from my house, and before I knew it we were at the entrance. There was plenty of time before the bell, so a ton of kids were standing and milling about, a lot of them wearing the traditional colors of their district – red for Fire District, green for Earth District, and a pair of siblings who were wearing Water District blue. I gulped and wanted to sink down in my seat.
"This is a terrible idea, Grandpa," I moaned.
"Nonsense," he said, "you are a wonderful young man who anyone would be lucky to have as your friend."
"But what if they make fun of me for being bald?" I said, rubbing my head. Grandfather and I had shaved our heads our whole lives – it was an Air District tradition.
"Well then, they do not understand your culture, and they are not people with whom you should concern yourself. Now it is time to go. You can do this."
I took a deep breath and said, "I'll call you after school?"
"Please do. You'll be great!"
I picked up my backpack and stepped out of the blue car. With a wave, my grandfather drove off, and I was left standing in front of the school. Everyone else had gone inside, except for the two Water Tribe siblings, a boy and a girl. As they prepared to go inside, the girl turned to look at me –
And I was struck with the first real boner of my young life.
She was gorgeous.
Literally the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen in my life – and I'd watched a fair amount of porn for a Buddhist kid. She had long, chocolate-brown hair that she wore in a soft braid down her back. I could tell if she let it out, it would reach down to her hips. She had the tanned skin that was traditional of the Water District people. Her face was so delicate, so gentle…and her eyes, locked on me, were the color of sapphires – big, blue, dazzling.
I swear to God, I just stared at her for like half a minute.
She giggled and said something to her brother, who rolled his eyes. Then she started to walk toward me, which made me seize up.
"We're gonna be late, we can't go helping every charity case in school…" her brother was saying.
"Oh, shut up," she said, coming up to me and smiling. "Hi! Is this your first day at school?"
I could only nod. A girl this pretty was talking to me?
She giggled again. The sound was like bells. "Well, my name is Katara, and this is my brother Sokka. We'd be happy to show you around if you'd like."
I just nodded again. She smiled, and then her face roved up to my head. Her eyes widened.
"You're from the Air District, aren't you?" She said. Her brother suddenly seemed more interested as he leaned in to look at me.
"Yeah, how did you know?" I asked.
"I've read all about the Air District's ritual head shaving," she said, her eyes once again locked on mine. "I am so sorry about what happened to your people."
Her voice was so genuine. And she actually knew about my culture! Suddenly my grandfather's words came back to me –
The girls worth knowing will be the ones who take time to understand you.
Maybe there was some truth in his old-school-Buddhist nonsense.
"What's your name, new kid?" Sokka asked.
"Aang," I replied.
"Well, Aang," Katara said, "let's get started."
I smiled and we stepped through the doors together.
Hey guys! Thanks for reading, and welcome to my story! I'm really excited - I've got some fun things planned for this story :) Most of the major characters from ATLA will be in here, in roughly the order that they appear. Now although I ship pretty strongly Kataang (sorry, I know it's Zutara month), I'm still very undecided about Sokka in this story. I can go for either Toph, Suki or Yue. If you've got a particular favorite shipping, please let me know, and I'll see what the most people want and write it in later! Next chapter: Aang's first day of school, where he meets a couple of Mean Girls, and our favorite White Lotus members as his teachers! Tell me what you think :) Much love - PVB