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.
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."