One thing Floor absolutely hated about moving were the neighbors. No, she didn’t hate the neighbors themselves – she hated how her parents acted around them. They always wore those way too friendly smiles and today, they had woken her up to do the same. Floor could have sworn she felt her bed shaking when her father threw open the door of her room. Her sleep was brutally interrupted, but she was anything but awake. And definitely not in the mood to meet new neighbors. Luckily she wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
Across from Floor sat a couple that seemed to be around the same age as her own parents. Their children, two girls of about 18 and 16, seemed just as uninterested as her. The only good thing about this. She wasn’t interrogated, or forced into awkward conversations where she had to pretend she cared. She just had to sip her tea and nod every now and then. The girls in front of her did exactly the same – when they weren’t staring at her arms, that was. Floor knew the tattoos were eye catchers, but the continuous staring of the youngest girl was getting uncomfortable.
At first, Floor had just stared back. The girl seemed small for her age. She had an admittedly cute smile and piercing blue eyes, but it was her sister that caught Floor’s attention. Her name was Charlotte, if she remembered it right –‘Charlie for friends’. Her hair was as red as fire, the freckles on her face just a shade lighter. Everything about the girl seemed to yell ‘FIRE NATION’ and Floor decided she had to be what the perfect firebender looked like. A beautiful smile underneath flame-filled eyes and a skin that seemed to be on fire.
After a few minutes, Floor realized she was now the one who was staring, and Charlotte had noticed too. The girl just smiled before looking down and taking a sip of her tea. Meeting the neighbors had never been this awkward before. Floor just wanted to disappear.
‘Eh, mom?’ Charlotte carefully asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence between the three girls. ‘Is it okay if Merel and I show Floor around? I’m sure she wants to see the area.’
‘Oh, that’s a wonderful idea. Yes, of course you can go but-’
‘Yes, mom, we’ll be careful.’
Charlotte stood and her sister followed after finishing her tea. Floor decided to just leave her drink, she wasn’t interested in burning her tongue on the hot beverage. Outside, it was a lot warmer than it had been inside. It almost felt as if they got slapped in the face by the heat as they closed the door behind them.
‘Thank god you got us out of there!’ Merel said as she high fived her sister.
Charlotte also held up her hand for Floor, but she didn’t return the gesture. She just stared at the redhead’s palm, at the tattooed flame that almost seemed real. There was only one explanation for that kind of tattoo.
‘You’re a fire bender.’
‘Correction,’ Charlotte smiled ‘I’m a firebending master. Now are you going to high five me or not?’
Eventually Floor returned the gesture and she was surprised when their hands touched. Charlotte’s skin was so warm, as if the girl herself was a living flame.
‘You seem surprised, never seen a fire bender before?’ Charlotte asked.
‘I have, just not someone who seemed so proud to announce they are a fire bender, or a master in your case.’
‘It’s not my fault that a group of idiots had a stupid idea. I didn’t attack the Earth Kingdom, nor did my parents. So yes, I am proud to be a fire bender.’
Charlotte’s words were followed by a demonstration of her power. Floor had never seen such a powerful flame as the one that was shot into the air right in front of her. With a few simple movements of her hands Charlotte changed the directions of the flame. From one powerful line of fire it changed into an elegant swirl that settled around Floor’s body. Not once did the fire touch her, but its heat was intimidating enough. Floor felt unable to breathe, the warmth of the fire around her made her feel claustrophobic. Images of destroying fire flashed in front of her eyes, and then it was over. The heat disappeared with the flames as Charlotte lowered her hands.
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.’
‘You have to teach me,’ Floor breathed. ‘You have to teach me how to do that.’
‘The swirl? It’s not that hard, even Merel can do it with her water.’
‘Hey, I taught you that!’ the younger sister said indignantly.
‘No, you have to teach me how to bend fire,’ Floor interrupted the oncoming sibling fight.
‘You… do know that’s impossible, right?’ Charlotte carefully asked. ‘You’re either born a bender or not. I cannot teach you to bend.’
Floor simply answered with creating a small flame in her hand. The fire was insecure and weak, a perfect reflection of how Floor felt.
‘I am a bender,’ Floor said. ‘But I’m not trained. I need to be trained, that’s why we moved here. My parents left everything behind so I could learn how to bend fire. I want you to teach me.’
Charlotte looked at her with confusion written all over her face, but Floor was sure. Charlotte was around her own age, she was good and for some reason Floor trusted her. Maybe it was because of the swirl that was so powerful and elegant at the same time. Dangerous, yet protecting her against everything else. Maybe it was Charlotte’s smile or the fact that this girl was basically made of fire. Floor was certain. It had to be Charlotte.
‘Alright,’ the redhead eventually sighed. ‘I’ll do it, I’ll try to train you. But I can’t promise anything, you’ll be my first student.’
‘You won’t regret it.’
Floor smiled as the words left her mouth, but her heart was racing in her chest. She would do her best for Charlotte, but she also feared that she herself was going to regret this the most.