A new start, again. Usually people were more than happy when they could start over, but Floor wasn’t most people. One of a kind, that’s the least that could be said about the teenager. Long brown hair and a beautiful smile, impressive tattoos and muscles – those where just a few of Floor’s characteristics. The old Floor anyway. Today, she got a new start, so it was time to re-invent herself. She’d already gotten rid of the necklace she’d worn for years and put on the leather jacket she had bought earlier that day. The young woman that smiled back at her from the mirror looked confident and strong. A girl that knew what she wanted and was not to be messed with. Someone who seemed ready for the real world, someone Floor wanted to switch places with.
Floor could only wish she was as confident and ready as the woman in the mirror. The truth was that she was scared, just like she was with every new start – but this was different. She was not only scared of the failure she might face, there also was the unknown, the pressure to succeed, and her biggest fear waiting around every corner. The upcoming year would be a long one, and if she didn’t manage to grow a spine, it would be even longer.
Growing a spine started with doing the one thing she’d been postponing all day. There was no way around it, she had to decorate her room if she didn’t want to sleep on the ground that night. Her muscles already started aching at the thought of dragging her furniture into her room. Several boxes were waiting for her downstairs, filled with memories of other parts of the city. Republic City had been her home for nearly 19 years, almost her entire life, but it didn’t feel like that at all.
Every time she and her parents moved –or ‘made a new start’, as she called it– they just moved to another part of Republic City. A city so big that every time they moved, it felt like moving to another part of the world. The people were different, the houses were different, even the air smelled differently.
Eventually, it took Floor almost half an hour to get everything to her room. By now, she’d put together her interior so many times she knew how to do it by heart, and it wasn’t long before the room was ready to be decorated. A smile crawled on Floor’s lips as she opened the first box. It was the heaviest box and she knew exactly what was in there, yet it always made her happy to see the contents. Rocks of all sizes and colors from all the different places she’d been, like pieces of a puzzle. If one would put the rocks in the right order and knew the memories attached to them, they got the entire story of her life. A life that was never destined to be normal.
Carefully, Floor placed the rocks on the windowsill and watched them collect the warmth of the last rays of sun before moving on to the next box. One by one pieces of element-neutral clothes found their spot in the closet and pictures were placed on her nightstand. The leather bracelet that Floor found at the bottom of the box was a nice surprise. She’d been sure she’d lost it, but now it was safely placed around her wrist again. For almost 3 years they had been separated and Floor promised herself to never go so long without her lucky bracelet again.
The first item in the next box was also a surprise. The red piece of fabric was unfamiliar to her, but as soon as she pulled it out, she immediately recognized it. The symbol of the Fire Nation smiled at her as she held the flag in front of her. Floor wasn’t sure yet if it was a smile to mock her or to welcome her, but it definitely managed to make her uneasy. A little note was attached to the flag and she sighed as she recognized her father’s handwriting.
Floor dropped the flag on her bed and avoided the empty boxes on her way out. The stairway cracked as she ran downstairs, announcing her arrival to her parents already.
‘Where are you going?’ her mother asked as Floor walked straight towards the door.
‘Out, exploring the streets.’
‘Floor, be careful.’
Floor turned around as she heard the softness of her mother’s voice. A small smile was forced on her lips, but her mother’s eyes spoke the truth. She was serious, she was worried, and she had every right to be. She was right, Floor had to be careful not to lose herself.
The air outside was still warm, so it was no surprise that the streets weren’t empty yet. Talking, laughing, drinking – everything people do on a typical beautiful evening. Of course there also were playing kids whose laughter echoed between the houses, but a knot tied itself tightly around Floor’s stomach when she saw them. They were playing with fire. Literally.
‘Hey, hey! You should be careful with that!’ the two kids looked at Floor at the sound of her voice. The fire they’d been shooting from their limbs disappeared along with their laughter. ‘Fire is dangerous, you shouldn’t play with it.’
‘You don’t know what you’re talking about!’ one of the kids shouted back defiantly. ‘We’re benders, we know what we are doing!’
‘Yeah! You’re just jealous!’
Their shouts were followed by laughter again as they went on with their game. The kids ignored Floor and her advice, as if she wasn’t really there and nothing had happened. They had no idea of how wrong they were. They were young, they had no idea of the power of the element they were playing with. Even Floor, who was at least 10 years older than them, wasn’t familiar yet with its power.
With a sigh, Floor opened her hand and watched a flame grow in her hand. It warmed her face for a second, warmed the blood that ran through her veins. Then she closed her hand again. These kids had no idea what they were talking about.