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|The North Point Mall|
March 3rd, 2016
The list of names was growing shorter and shorter, and Jinora was growing more and more nervous with every name that was mentioned. (Or rather, those that weren't mentioned.)
-"And Jinora will work with Kai," Tarrlok finished.
"You have got to be kidding me!" Jinora protested out loud, turning every head in class her way, but for once, she didn't care. This was going to be a big assignment, and if she got a bad grade on this, it would definitely drag her average down. The chances of it being bad were increasing exponentially now that she was paired with Kai.
-"Miss Gyatso, I shouldn't need to remind you that no one is paired with a partner he or she would normally work with, and I'm not about to make an exception for you."
The bell rung for lunch, and everyone started packing their stuff, but she wasn't about to let it go just like that. Jinora walked up to Tarrlok's desk, and he had seen her coming, so he was already leaning back in his chair. "Sir, with all due respect, but this is ridiculous. It'll either end up with my grade being dragged down unreasonably much, me doing all the work, or both!"
-"Then you better keep Mr. Fong on a short leash to make sure neither of those things happen. The whole point of this exercise is to make people get to know their class better, including the people they wouldn't normally socialize with. I've based the list on previous project pairings, and made it as fair as possible."
"But Sir..." Jinora started to protest, but it wasn't working.
-"That's final," Tarrlok decisively said. "One more word of protest, and you'll be explaining my being unreasonable to the dean."
He was being completely unfair, and Jinora just couldn't figure out why. She knew being sent to dean probably wasn't going to end well, but she had to try, though.
However, right before she could open her mouth, her attention was drawn away. "Gyatso," Kai said from the door. He nudged his head, gesturing her to follow him. Once they were outside and out of Tarrlok's earshot, she wanted to get mad at him, but he once again beat her to it. "You know that protesting is pointless, right? He hates us both, it's not a secret that we don't like each other, and he teamed us up for that reason."
This surprised her. "What? Why would he hate me? I mean, you're obvious, but I'm one of the best students in his class."
A slanted grin appeared on his face. "Exactly. You're smarter than he is, and not afraid to show it. This is his chance to get back at you for that."
Jinora sighed. "Oh for crying out loud."
-"You can scream and yell at him until your lungs give out, but let's just face it: we're stuck together."
She pinched the bridge of her nose. "And I suppose you find this real inconvenient, don't you? My grade will suffer from it, and no matter the outcome, yours gets a bump. All you have to do for it, is make nice with me for a month or so."
Kai made a 'fair enough'-face, and smiled. "I guess I do." He stuck his hands in his pockets, and walked away. "But Gyatso?" he said, turning around one more time. "Might wanna remember that I just saved you an hour of detention."
If he wanted to leave her fuming even more, he definitely succeeded. Jinora wasn't a vindictive person, and wasn't one for actively disliking people, but she'd gladly make an exception for Kai. That boy could push her buttons like no one else could, buttons she didn't even know she had.
In the two weeks it had been since their kiss, and even though it hadn't been that bad in school, he had been almost unbearable every time she went to the park. Unfortunately, since everyone there already knew what had happened, she couldn't hold their deal against him. On the plus side, since no one had made the connection with Jin outside of Kai, her secret was safe.
"I mean, what was he thinking?! Pairing me up with Kai Fong!" They were sitting at their family dinner, and Jinora now had the chance to blow off the first half of her steam by fuming over Tarrlok's decision to pair them up.
-"There isn't a lot you can do about it now, so you are going to have to make the best of it," Pema offered up.
Jinora sighed, knowing that was kind of true. "Well, he could help a lot by not being so smug about it, which he is being, as per freakin' usual."
-"Sounds more like you like him," Ikki teased, but the older sister definitely wasn't in the mood for that now.
"Shut up, Ikki, I'm being serious here. You know what he's like, this is going to hurt my grade. Badly."
Her father spoke up. "Jinora, I think you've made your point, no need to lash out at your sister. You're simply going to turn it into a high quality product like you always do, and motivate Kai to do the same. I trust you can do that?"
(Not exactly the response she was looking for.) "Sure," she replied, only half-meaning it.
After dinner, Jinora did a little bit more homework, but she really wanted to go to the skatepark right now. She badly needed to vent her frustration, preferably at something other than her family, so she decided to go for the tried and true way. Unfortunately, going to bed at nine o'clock would definitely raise a few eyebrows, so she did a little bit of everything (texting, reading, watching TV, homework, even tidying up,) before deciding that ten thirty would work.
Going through her routine of changing, sneaking out, and fetching her gear, was just that: so routine that it was easy.
When Jinora was coming up to the skate park, the sight that greeted her wasn't good. First of all, the familiar strum of rap music wasn't there. Second, there was a large crowd of people outside the fences. Third, and perhaps most pressingly, there were an awful lot flashing blue and red lights behind said crowd.
"Korra!" she yelled once Jinora spotted her friend. "What's going on?"
-"Some dumb fuck got caught with a bag of grass, he put up a fight, cop called in his buddies, the result is this."
Jinora elbowed her way forward, spotting at least half a dozen police cars. "Oh boy," she muttered to herself. "What do you think happens now?" she asked Korra once she made her way back again.
-"No idea," the older girl replied. "Worst case scenario: they level this place and build a mini-mall in its place. Best case scenario: they leave in an hour."
Jinora raised an unconvinced eyebrow, knowing what was going to come next. "And most likely scenario?"
Korra smiled. "They shut it down for three days, letting us know who's in charge, and then the world keeps on turning."
-"It's total bullshit," Bolin piped up, girlfriend on his arm. They met here at the park, Opal being a skater too. Cute couple, though they might be a little too eager with their PDA's in Jinora's humble opinion. "This is just Mako whipping his dick around, they wouldn't send six squad cars for one guy with weed in his pocket."
Both Korra and Jinora chuckled. "Your brother has enough brass in his pocket to get this kind of attention?" the younger girl asked
-"His nose is so far up Chief Beifong's ass, he can tell you what she had for dinner yesterday," he scoffed, and they all laughed, though Opal playfully nudged him in the shoulder. "At least one of you is ambitious."
He turned to his girlfriend. "Looks like you drew the short straw then."
-"You're the cute one though," she smirked, pressing a quick kiss on his lips, that would have turned (unfortunately) into a full-blown make-out session in the street, had Korra not intervened.
-"Knock it off guys, we've got kids here."
They broke away from their round of tonsil hockey, both of them a slight blush on their faces. "Now what?" Jinora asked, more to break the awkward silence than anything else.
-"Well," Korra started, rubbing her chin. "Every cop in a ten block radius is right here. Bet you guys ten bucks the North Point Mall is completely devoid of security?"
Jinora (or, more likely, Jin,) smiled. "Let's go," she said, taking off in the general direction of the Mall. The others soon followed, and it turned into something of a race. (Korra won, she has the strongest legs.) She also knew a way in that didn't require breaking any windows: the emergency exit that led to the first floor of the parking garage could be opened from the outside.
The North Point Mall was known at the park as a skater's paradise: rails (which were actually benches), perfectly smooth, marble floors, nice and warm inside, and the cherry on the cake: a spiral stairwell with walls on the outside of the stairs. Riding one floor down in a perfect 180 degree turn was sort of a dream to most, as it was A) ridiculously difficult and B) properly risky, because security at the Mall was strict, even after closing time.
Now however, that was different. With the police tied up at the park, the four made their way inside quietly, where they found the mall completely deserted.
In the back of her mind, Jinora knew that she was trespassing here, but it was doing no harm, right? As long as they didn't damage anything, nobody would ever know they were here. On top of that, Jin knew it was probably going to be good fun, and that she could score some serious points if she actually managed to make that spiral-staircase-turn.
-"You're not actually thinking about making the turn, are you?" Korra asked,
"Of course I am," Jinora cheerfully responded. "I'm never going to get another opportunity like this, so it's now or never."
Korra scoffed. "With how sharp you've been over the past week, I'm surprised you made it here, let alone that you can make it past one of the most awesome moves in Republic City."
Both Opal and Bolin nodded in unison, knowing full well that Korra was right on that one.
Jinora knew it was a bad idea, but after having royally fulminated over Kai during dinner, her mood had calmed significantly. "I can do this, I know I can." She kicked her board under her arm, pacing towards a stairwell. "Get ready to film this!" Jinora yelled back.
-"Or get ready to call an ambulance..." Opal muttered.
"I heard that!"
There was a hint of doubt, like Jinora was telling Jin it was a bad idea. (Of course, Jin couldn't really give a damn.) It was promising to be a mighty difficult, timing the jump, catching the centrifugal force with her knees, and leveling herself again in time for the landing one floor below.
The little wheelchair ramp was perfect for catching some extra speed, and Jinora was doing everything short of calculating the exact numbers of the physics involved in this little stunt. Bolin and Opal were one floor down getting ready to film it, and Korra was probably preparing some form of superior smugness.
With one deep breath, Jinora cast the metaphorical die. (Though if she screwed this up, she would probably die of shame, if not from her injuries.) The wheelchair ramp did its work, and at just the right speed, she kicked off. Pretty much as soon as she had her board airborne, she grabbed it, hunkering down as far as she could to give the laws of physics maximum advantage.
Jinora went in facing down, and the angle at which her wheels hit the wall wasn't perfect, but it cancelled out, pushing her perfectly along the wall. The sensation of letting physics take over was extremely weird, as turning on such a narrow circle normally wasn't possible.
Coming off the wall again was actually the trickiest part, as she had to rapidly turn her board from fully vertical to fully horizontal, and it was only with a hefty scoop of luck that she managed to stay on her board.
She rolled past Korra, whose expression was absolutely priceless, and it put a smile on Jinora's face. Perfectly content with herself, she kicked up her board and put it under her arm, right in front of the older girl. "Humble pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner," she smirked.
-"Holy shit..." Korra muttered, unable to make anything else of it.
In reality, Jinora's hands were shaking from the rush of adrenaline, but she had to hide that little fact to shut Korra up, which worked very well. Opal and Bolin came rushing to them as well, gushing over Jinora making the turn.
Riding both the high and her skateboard, the night was huge fun. A few more people showed up to the mall later on, apparently having the same idea Korra did. Not that it mattered so much, there was space enough for all of them to skate, even showing off to each other. Opal was fairly eager to show the film of Jinora completing the half-spiral, and everyone was equally impressed.
All in all, it was a brilliant evening, reminding Jinora of the reason she was doing this in the first place: blowing off steam. Towards the end, she felt lighter, her carefree spirit returning.
But that all changed in an instant: there was a sharp noise, and all the fluorescent lights flicked on, not just the low emergency lighting and residual lights from the shops; this was the main lighting of the hallways.
-"Police!" someone shouted, and this was their cue.
"Time to go," Jinora jovially said, and made for their exit on the first floor, Korra, Bolin, and Opal hot on her heels. Since they already had a big head start, it wasn't easy to get away from them, but the police wasn't giving up that easily. They had the parking garage covered with another unit, though didn't know exactly where to go in. This gave Jinora and her friends the advantage, over the one they already had of being on wheels instead of on foot.
They all made it down the car ramp (two successful 180 degree turns in one night, that's got to be some kind of record), but there was a police car waiting for them at the bottom. Fortunately, they hadn't parked very sharp, and they all made it past the car.
-"Stop, police!" Jinora heard someone yell, and it had her worried. That voice... it was definitely familiar.
She was being chased by her own aunt Lin.
It was a good thing Jinora had her hoodie on to make her more unrecognizable, but there was a problem. It was her favorite, faded orange with a blue-grey arrow running from the tip of the hood all the way down her back. That was very recognizable.
She'd definitely had to bluff her way out of that.
Fortunately, getting away from the cops was easy on their boards, especially with the downhill ramps, and soon, they were out of reach. But Jinora knew that she'd have to get home and into her bed quickly, before Lin would call Pema and ask her whether or not her oldest daughter was actually in her bed.
She quickly excused herself, and made for her way back home, but this presented her with a problem: if she'd go by the watershed shack, it would mean a massive detour, and if she didn't she would risk having to take her board and helmet with her, into her house, and hope that her mother wouldn't find it.
Jinora decided on the latter, and luck turned out to be on her side: the lights were off, and while sneaking back into her room while carrying a skateboard was tricky, she managed to do it without making noise.
Still, the worrywart in her still wasn't entirely at ease. What if Lin had gotten a clear look at her and told her mother? What if her mother didn't believe Jinora? What if it was all a ruse, and Pema already knew the full truth?
Jinora sighed, and decided to worry about it again in the morning.
|Who We Are|
|First Base • Espresso and Blackmail • The North Point Mall • Do or Do Not • Groundwork • Shattered Like Glass|
|Hospital Run • Skeletons • Straight-A Students • Falling • Family Weekend (Part 1) • (Part 2) • (Part 3)|
|Now What? • Stargazing • Officially a Big Girl • Second Base|
For the collective works of the author, go here.