Azula regales me, out in the garden on a clear spring day, with the story of how your father burned half your head off

— she smirks as she describes charred flesh staining the arena floor.

I slap her and mar porcelain skin with my dagger-sharp nails

— she still smirks because I mean nothing, and I walk through the gate with my head up, like I'm going to my execution.

Then I sit down on the dusty street and sob until I am empty.


You try not to meet my gaze.

"It isn't so bad," I lie, and kiss your thin lips.


On the boat ride home I touch your face, almost by accident

— it feels waxy and cold as I skate my fingers around.

You stiffen.

I pull away.


We have a portrait done in faded ink

— the painter tells you to look straight ahead three times.


Every time I see Firelord Ozai, all I can notice are his unblemished features

— when he did it, I wonder, was it without hesitation?

I bite my tongue until copper floods my mouth.


You play with fire even though it burned you

— "it's part of me," you explain, as you meditate before dripping, wounded candles.

I examine my stilettos and shudder.


"Such a shame about Prince Zuko," my mother says, regret saturating her tone, "he used to be so handsome."


"I'm ugly," you warn, your body perched above me.

I think about the calluses on my hands, my boyish peasant figure, the pale slashes I've cut into my thighs

— "I don't care."


The day of your coronation, I fix your topknot

and press my lips to your shriveled ear once I'm done.

You do not flinch, but move to kiss me back



Your scar is a topographical map, lines and whorls carved into ordinary flesh

— showing how far you've come.

"Besides," I tell you, "normal faces are so boring."