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February 20, 2016
Jinora sighed, and finally put her pen down. She had just scribbled the final solution down in her notes, and she was completely sick of it by now. What she had basically done, was come home from school, get on her calculus, pause somewhere to shove some dinner into her mouth, and then did more calculus. But now, she was done, prepared for her test tomorrow, and was finally able to blow off some steam.
"I'm off to bed, goodnight everybody," Jinora said, faking a yawn.
Pema seemed somewhat surprised. "Already? It's not even ten o'clock."
"It's been a long day, and I have that calculus test tomorrow, I need to be fresh and fit."
-"Well, in that case, you better get some sleep. Goodnight, sweetheart."
The young girl made her way up the stairs to her room, and carefully locked the door. She knew full well that Meelo and Rohan were already asleep, so she had to be extra quiet. Jinora quietly slipped on her faded orange hoodie, baggie jeans and kicked-down sneakers, and made her way to the window.
This was when she truly came alive: at night.
A few months ago, when she couldn't sleep, Jinora did something she'd never done in the seventeen years she'd been walking this planet: she snuck out. It had been fairly difficult at first, but she had since figured out easier ways to get down from the second floor; crouch down on the windowsill, very gently shuffle over to the stone wall, and land with a roll in the grass to spare her knees. Easy.
From there, she could go into town on foot. Initially, it had been just to clear her head, but then she came across something she'd wouldn't have guessed she'd be into: a skate park. Turns out, it was only eight blocks from their house, easily manageable on foot. Of course, she didn't walk the entire way anymore, as there was a watershed shack with a busted lock about halfway there. Jinora used this to store a board and a helmet, so that she could pick it up on the way, and continue her journey on wheels.
The first time she ended up in the park by accident, and when someone shoved a skateboard under her feet, she ultimately gave in. The way these kids moved around on those things was truly something to behold, the smoothness, the elegance. Of course, there were plenty of moves that didn't work, but Jinora was something of a natural, and a little bit of practice brought that out.
For pretty much as long as she could remember, her father had been training her in baguazhang, and she was getting close to full mastery. This level of control over her own body easily translated, much to her own surprise, very well to skating.
Once there, she heard the familiar strum of the rap music coming from a speaker that someone brought with him, along with the sounds of people in the bowl and on the halfpipe, perfecting their moves and/or showing off. The lay-out of the park was fairly simple: a roughly V-shaped bowl with circles on each end, a halfpipe in either corner, and a few ramps with rails in the open spaces. Lighting was bright to make sure the police could see them in case they caused trouble for neighboring residents, 'cause hey, this wasn't the hottest part of town anyway.
-"Jinny!" Korra's excited voice rang through the air. This made Jinora look up and smile. Korra had basically been the one to talk her into trying the board, which worked out very well. They'd been friends from the start. Also, to cover herself from likely fall-out this would bring if her parents found out, Jinora had sort of rolled into the alter ego of Jin. Not the strongest cover ever, but it did the trick.
In truth, Jin was something of a pressure valve to Jinora, what felt an opportunity to release the breath she was holding all day long. Here, she didn't have to hold her breath, she could be free. Nobody expected anything from her, not the straight-A student she normally was, not to eat her veggies and go to bed on time, Jin could do whatever she damn-well pleased, and what she pleased, was to skate like there was no tomorrow.
-"Gonna show off those moves again?" Korra asked after the girls greeted each other, being genuinely curious.
Jinora smiled. "You insult me, I don't show off. I'm not you," she playfully teased, growing a slanted smirk.
The older girl playfully nudged her in the shoulder. "Yeah right, and I suppose that perfect 540 on the halfpipe last week was just a coincidence?"
A shrug was the dry reply. "Just lucky timing. Thought about going for the full 720 tonight."
-"Christ," Korra swore. "Took me nearly a year to perfect that, and here you are, three months in. What is it you said wanted to do later on?"
"Meh, I'm still in high school. Not sure yet about what's next, so instead, I'm just focusing on what's in front of me, and right now, that's a very tempting halfpipe." She kept her goals deliberately vague, because in reality, if she kept up her current grades, she'd graduate summa cum laude. On top of that, it was well within her reach to do so, and steam on to any university she wants to go.
They climbed to the top of the halfpipe, neatly waiting their turn. "After you, kid," Korra said, elaborately gesturing Jinora to take the plunge.
The younger girl smiled, and dropped into the pipe gracefully, picking up that little bit of extra speed she'd need to do some tricks. Since it was still early, she stuck with a few simple 180's, before hooking the back wheels of her board over the edge she started on, elegantly dismounting the pipe and making a mock-bow to Korra. "Your turn, grandma," Jinora teased with a wink. In truth, Korra was only four years or so older than her, but they still enjoyed teasing each other with it. The older girl hated the fact that she'd already passed 20.
At first, she fared just fine. Much like Jinora, Korra opted to keep things simple for now, sticking to a couple of 180's, and it wasn't until she got overly ambitious that she wiped out. Because of the way Korra landed, her board shot straight up the side of the pipe, giving Jinora ample opportunity to snatch it out of mid-air. "Are you done for now, or do you want to embarrass yourself a little more?" Jinora smirked, knowing full well that the older girl hated it when she did that.
-"You know Jin, has anyone ever told you that you've got a mouth on you?"
"All the time, I've learned to ignore it." The younger girl dropped in again, only to ride off the side, and gracefully dismounted to hand Korra back her board. Their attention was briefly drawn away to the edge of the park, where someone on a very loud motorcycle arrived, feeling the need to rev the engine a little more.
The girls ignored it, and they instead made their way to the ramps with rails, where, after a few tries, Jinora managed to pull off a perfect grind, earning some deep respect from the onlookers. She was on her way back, when she suddenly heard a familiar voice. "Well I'll be fucked."
That voice could only belong to one person, and it took her so much by surprise that she wiped out. "Kai?!" Not knowing what else to do, Jinora scrambled to her feet, and quickly dragged him by the arm behind the electricity shack on the edge of the park. "What the hell are you doing here?!" she asked on a hushed whisper.
-"I could ask you the same thing," he smirked back. "How did the biggest nerd of Tashi High end up here, pulling off some pretty impressive moves?"
Even though she didn't like to admit it to herself, hearing him say that made her bubble up a little. In school, Jinora and Kai did not get along, not even a little bit. She hated his completely aloof attitude, she hated his utter disrespect to all things authoritarian, she hated how he felt the need to ride around everywhere on that ridiculously loud motorcycle, she hated that she'd given in to his impossibly green puppy-dog eyes and helped him pass history last year, but most of all, she hated that she was just that teeny, tiny, bit attracted to him.
Bad-boy attitude aside, it wasn't very hard to see why. Tall, dark, and handsome for starters, paired with his neatly kept undercut and those massive innocent eyes (though the rest of him wasn't the least bit innocent, Jinora knew that he'd been arrested at least twice) and pretty much every girl in school and even a few guys were fawning over him.
"I'm doing this to blow off steam, you don't have any steam to blow off," Jinora said, still pushing him to the back wall of the shed.
Kai wrenched himself free. "On the contrary, try being locked up in a tiny apartment with five screaming foster siblings."
Jinora let her head hang. "Just... just don't tell anyone, okay? I definitely don't want my parents finding out about this." Her father would be livid if he heard about her sneaking out pretty much every other night.
His typical slanted smirk grew. "Convince me."
"Without me, you would have spectacularly flunked history last year. We can agree a fail like that would have broken records."
-"Probably, but I'm not convinced. I paid you for those sessions, remember?"
"Damn it, I was hoping you wouldn't remember that." She sighed. "Fine... What do you want?"
He thought for a moment, before a diabolical smile started lining his face. "Give me a kiss, and I'll never say a word about this. Always been curious what it's like to kiss the biggest nerd in school."
This completely blind-sided Jinora. "What?! Screw you, I'm not doing that!"
-"Very well. Remind me, your sister Ikki, was she in eighth or ninth grade?" Kai smirked, knowing full well that she didn't have a choice.
Jinora sighed again and weighed her options, realizing there were none. "Alright. One kiss, you don't tell anyone about any of this, and you help me keep up the guise to everyone here." Truth be told, because of that tiny bit of infuriating attraction she felt for him, part of her had wondered about kissing him before. Of course, she'd been quick to shoo those thoughts away, but it was all too real now. He clicked the strap of her helmet loose, gently discarding it and pushing her hoodie off, letting her hair fall over her ears.
"Relax, Gyatso," Kai said, leaning in close.
When their lips actually met, it was nothing like Jinora had expected. Kai was surprisingly thoughtful and gentle, but not in a bad way. Firm but tender, and not the messy wet heap she'd been anticipating. The way he gently put a hand in her neck, the slightly rough skin caressing hers, it was great. On top of that, he tasted earthly, but spicy at the same time, and there was a hint of cigarettes in there, which, oddly enough, Jinora didn't mind one bit. In fact, it was surprisingly nice, and she wasn't in any rush to break away from him. When he did, Jinora was slightly disappointed, though she'd never let him in on that fact.
-"Was that so bad?" he smirked, his breath brushing over her lips.
Jinora smiled back. "I've had worse..." she bluffed.
-"Ahem," Korra announced herself from around the corner. "I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"
-"Nope," Kai cheerfully replied, handing Jinora back her helmet. "We're quite finished here. I only dropped by to say hi." He gave Jinora a wink, and walked off to hang out with his own friends.
Korra raised a smug eyebrow to the younger girl. "Only saying hi, huh?"
Jinora playfully nudged her in the shoulder. "Shut up." The rest of the evening was an endless string of teases and semi-innuendos, all aimed at Jinora. Of course, it had taken all of three minutes before the entire damn park knew what had transpired between her and Kai, and joined Korra in the teasing. Defending herself in such a predicament was an exercise in futility, so she resigned to doing the one thing she knew would shut everyone up: completing that full 720.
She opted to try this in the bowl, where the raised walls and concrete ramps gave her the best chances of success. After a couple of 360's and even a sloppy 540, she found herself perched on the edge, about to drop in down a nearly vertical wall, forcing herself to focus, but was distracted when she heard Kai's bike rev up. He was standing at the edge of the park, watching her, the look he was throwing was definitely taunting.
Her mind drifted off to their kiss again, the feeling of Kai's lips on hers, gentle but affirmative, that damn hint of cigarettes, pulling her in with that tiny element of taboo... Jinora shook her head, forcing herself to focus on the job at hand. "Come on, just drop in, extra step in the middle, and nail it," she muttered to herself. It turns out to be easier said than done.
The drop in was the easy part, letting gravity do the work, but she mistimed the step in the middle, causing a massive wipeout. Red-faced with embarrassment, she climbed out of the bowl, where Korra was waiting for her with a massive smug smirk on her face. "Are you done, or were you planning on embarrassing yourself a little bit more?" she reiterated Jinora's earlier statement.
The younger girl sighed. "Yeah, yeah, I deserved that."
-"Looks like the boy saying hi had an impact on you. I wonder if every greeting has that effect on you..." Korra teased, thoughtfully rubbing her chin.
"For fuck's sake," Jinora muttered under her breath. (Jin was allowed to say that, Jinora wasn't.) "I'm never going to hear the end of this, am I?"
-"Not until someone goes through something more embarrassing. Why didn't you ever tell me that you and Fong were an item?"
"Because we're not, he's an insufferable asshole."
-"You were getting awfully friendly with him."
"Well, he is handsome." She sighed. "Look, Korra, I don't have to justify myself to anyone, least of all you. I'm not the closet lesbian here who kisses the hot girl from my mechanics class at practically every opportunity."
-"Hey," Korra protested. "I'm not entirely in the closet, and she is very hot."
Jinora smiled, knowing full well that she hit the sweet spot. Korra wasn't exactly shy with her sexuality (at least, Jinora had caught her kissing a girl at more than one occasion) but had yet to come out to certain key people in her life, such as her parents and a few close friends, so she had begged the younger girl to keep it quiet. "One leg out maybe, but you have a long way to go. I'll help you if you really want me to, but you should get to it."
Jinora glanced at the clock on her phone. "Alright, I should get going. Gotta start fresh in the morning." Jinora pulled the older girl in for a quick hug, before taking a few steps back. "I'll make sure I have my mind straight again the next time I'll come by. Make sure I don't leave another face-shaped dent on the floor of the bowl."
The older girl chuckled. "Good idea. See you later, Jin."
With a few quick steps, Jinora was on her way back to the watershed shack, and safely stored away her skateboard and helmet like she did every night she went out. At her house, the lights were out, which was a good thing.
Getting back into her room was somewhat precarious, and did require the utmost of her skills. Balancing on the wall was difficult, but it wasn't until she jumped onto her windowsill that things actually started getting tricky. The ledge was narrow, and to make matters worse, that damn kiss was still lingering through her mind. On top of everything else, Ikki's room was right next to Jinora's, and her younger sister was a light sleeper. The slightest sound would wake her, so Jinora had taken precautions by putting a few drops of oil into her window.
Tonight though, everything went smoothly, and soon, the skater found herself back in her room, this time actually readying herself for bed.
This part was always nerve-racking, despite her caution and light-footed nature. Every sound she heard made her look up in fear, worried that either one of her parents would come knocking, heard her come home or something. Still, it was never enough to make her stop going out.
Having brushed her teeth (long live having a sink in her own room) and put herself in bed, her head was finally cleared. Well, that is except for that kiss of course. How come it was still on her mind? Sure, it was a good kiss, but nothing that spectacular, right?
AN: Before you ask, I don't know the first thing about skating, so all terms and stuff come from the one source that resulted in more degrees than any other: Google. If I got any of them wrong, I do apologize. Also, I loosely based the skate park Jinora goes to on the park in Los Santos, from GTA San Andreas. You can go to the GTA Wiki for a picture.
For the collective works of the author, go here.