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April 6th, 2016
-"Alright, let's do this. Full name?"
"Jinora Katara Gyatso."
"Don't know my age, Fong?"
-"I'm being thorough, like you told me to."
"Parents, oldest with one sister and two brothers, one grandmother left, three aunts, two uncles, and a handful of cousins." Jinora stole a glance of Kai's paper, where he simply write down 'A lot.' "You've gotta be kidding me," she said, rolling her eyes.
Kai simply smiled. "Hey, I agreed to do it your way, but I'm still the one who has to write it. Favorite food?" he stoically continued.
"I think we're going to need something more than 'favorite food, favorite color, favorite animal' if we want to impress Tarrlok."
-"Fair enough." He thought for a moment. "Culinary preferences?"
Jinora sighed. "Oh come on."
-"Hey, I'm trying to do this your way, but if you won't play ball, that's going to be difficult."
"What I mean by doing it my way is that you take it seriously. We need to ask real questions, not the ones second graders would ask when told to write a piece about classmates."
He leaned back in his chair, throwing his pen down on his desk. "Alright, you show me how it's done then, because I honestly don't know where else to start."
"Start at the beginning: we don't get along. We've been in the same class since fifth grade, and we've always been at odds with each other. I think you're a lazy good-for-nothing and you think I'm a pompous stick-in-the-mud."
Kai made a 'fair enough'-face, a small smirk appearing on his face. "Sounds about right. I actually ended up in that class because I failed fifth grade and had to redo the year. And if I recall correctly, we made it into our collective least favorite year." Jinora couldn't help but snicker when remembering that. It was one of very few times she'd gotten in trouble at school, because she'd punched Kai. And in an incredible display of gender equality, he punched back, which blew the starting whistle for a full-blown fight between them. "You hit pretty hard for a girl, I have to admit that," Kai said with a smirk, also thinking back to that fateful day.
"Likewise," she deadpanned. (Watching him internally berate himself for leaving an opening for a counter like that was heavenly.) "Have something to go on now?"
-"You go first, since you're so adamant you can do it."
"I can deliver a better product in less time than you, so you're going to need the advantage of having more time, and don't waste the time we manage to carve out."
Kai very slowly began nodding. "Okay. If that's the way you want to play it." He sat up straight, rubbing his chin. "If I recall correctly, they offered to let you skip fifth grade, and you turned it down. Why?"
Jinora smiled. "That's more like it. I didn't want the extra pressure. Skipping a grade means you have to catch up on the stuff you missed, which means a double workload the next year. I probably could have done it, but it would mean that I'd graduate at seventeen if I'd follow a normal route, sixteen if I'd graduate as a junior, and I wouldn't have any free time on top that. Not worth it."
He wrote most of it down, and it made her smile grow. "Here's my question though: why do you remember such a small detail? Hell the offer was on the table when we weren't even in the same class."
His smirk grew. "Rumor flew around that you considered yourself above that, and I always thought that rather fit. Also, it would have gotten you out of my hair, which would be nice. Give me the peace I've been missing for the past seven years."
"Alright, my turn. Why'd you fail fifth grade?"
-"'Cause I didn't do a damn thing all year long." He briefly fell silent, clearly mulling over if he should give an elaboration. "Trouble at home, so school took a back seat that year."
Jinora considered pressing him on it, but it would be risky. It was something of a public secret that Kai was in foster care, but it was not something he liked to discuss. But given that they'd have to get to know each other better, it was sort of inevitable that the subject would rise at some point. "You were moved from one family to another, weren't you?"
Kai hesitated again. "Yeah," he softly said. "Didn't do anyone any good."
After writing it down, it fell silent. "You know we're going to have to talk about it some point, right? I can't fill 2000 words with your school exploits."
He stayed silent for a while. "My foster parents are fucking assholes, but they are the only ones who are willing to take in the troublemakers like myself. Same goes for my five siblings. Throwing six kids like that together in one small apartment, it's a recipe for disaster. That's all I'm gonna say for now."
Jinora let it sink in, knowing full well she just got to see a side of him that he normally kept from everyone, even his friends. She also realized that suddenly, it seemed much harder to hate him. His aloof an indifferent exterior was just that: an exterior. Inside, there was far more going on than he was letting onto, which naturally had her curious. Unfortunately, he'd shut her out again, so it would have to wait for another time.
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