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17th September, 2014
excessive self-esteem of oneself or those to whom one is close
You dance around the empty halls, filling them with light and laughter. Your son just looks at you, ever-serious and ever-poignant. When he plays with the air, it's almost as though he's bored; you still remember the look of complete shock when he woke himself up with a sneeze, before promptly descending into wails.
He makes little spires of air now, watching the swirls with a disaffected curiosity. While your heart absolutely swells and a delightful shiver runs up your spine, he just seems so... bored with it all.
He doesn't realise yet just how special he is, but you do. You've started training him already, under the disguise of games and fun. You take him to the old wind tunnels, or the mountainside chimes that even the youngest airbender can play with. Tenzin loved playing with the one in the Northern Air Temple; now you're here in your old home, still too empty but slowly filling with life, he can't wait to see what this one has to offer.
You spend the day touring the temple; you enter the rooms once forbidden to you, your son too young to understand such a thing. You trust your wife to entertain herself for the day; Kya has waterbending lessons, and Uncle Sokka has whittled a softwood boomerang for young Bumi, who is determined to master the art.
Tenzin has too much fun. He's exhausted by the evening, the excitement getting to him. You forget how young he is sometimes, having only entered the world six short years prior. He keeps yawning but he's too engrossed in what he's doing—you've recently passed on your set of marbles, and he enjoys coming up with new things to use them for.
You arrive at the main hall, Katara waiting with dinner. Kya and Bumi are running around, playing a game of some kind. They almost knock over Tenzin, still absorbed in what he's doing—you chide them softly, but they just ignore you. Even as you frown, Katara calls your attention, and everyone sits down to eat.
You begin to tell your wife of Tenzin's progress. Even as you remember his achievements, you feel a giddy smile come to your face. Katara tells you that Kya perfected the water whip the other day, and Bumi can get his boomerang to come back now. You offer your other children a smile; Bumi's eyes light up exponentially at the sight, and though you give the same playful grin to your daughter, Kya ignores you completely. You can't imagine why you've been given such a cold reception.
Bumi asks you if he can show you his boomerang skills, and you laugh, ruffling his hair. Tomorrow, buddy, you say, because it's getting late and you won't be able to see it anyway.
It's not long until bedtime, and per usual, you take your time tucking Tenzin in. He still enjoys bedtime stories, and you still enjoy sharing them. It's only a short one tonight—Tenzin is too tired, and you know you haven't told him about the fruit-tarts yet.
Twenty minutes later, you sneak out of his room, shutting the door carefully behind you. You peek into Kya's room, but she has her back to the door; you don't really want to wake her up. Bumi is sitting in his bed, the candle still lit. He's been waiting for you, it seems, but this time as you smile, he doesn't mimic the action. He's got his boomerang in his hand, carefully tracing the patterns Uncle Sokka engraved on one side.
Come on, you tell him. It's time for bed. He looks at you, and you think that his eyes are just like Tenzin's; though brown, there's the same hidden intelligence, same wide-eyed naïvety.
Dad, he says, and you wonder when his voice got deeper—he's not hit puberty yet, you don't think, but he must be getting close. How old was he when Tenzin was born? He calls your name again, quieter.
Don't I make you happy? he wonders, in a voice so tiny it can barely push through the quiet of the night. Me and Kya don't make you happy?
You cock your head, nothing in there but confusion. Why wouldn't he make you happy? For what reason would you be unhappy with them. You ask him what he means, and he suddenly seems so much younger. He's only ten, you remember, but it doesn't feel like it at that moment.
You don't smile at us the way you smile at Tenzin, he continues, and for the first time in so many years, you think you're going to see your first son cry again. Ten gets these smiles that have... more... We just get these smiles.
He struggles to explain exactly what he's thinking—he always has. Despite the age difference, it really is easier talking to Tenzin. He doesn't speak unless he has something to say, and he's already good at getting his point.
But... maybe that's it. You know what Bumi's trying to say because you know that your youngest son would probably be able to say it. You know what he's trying to say because it's really not hard to figure out.
You don't know how to respond to him without hurting him even more.
Note: Before you complain about the formatting, go and read Pelican Song, by Mary-Beth Hughes. I'm trying out slightly new ways of formatting my story based on short stories I've read. This way—the lack of speech marks—will appear again.
For the collective works of the author, go here.