Immediately after Eowyn left I started feeling the effects of my angry reaction. I knew she would forgive me - she might even feel it was her fault - but my kids, they were a different matter.
Zuko, who I'd never noticed having a particularly strong connection with Eowyn, was the first to test me. In the month following Eowyn leaving, I was called by the elementary school a number of times because Zuko wasn't in school like he ought to be.
They usually found him outside on the playground. He would hide when recess ended and wait for everyone to go back inside and then just sit around it seems.
"Why are you doing this Zuko?" I asked as I picked him up for the fifth time in as many days. I used my best parent voice but he said nothing and stared out the window of the car. "Zuko?" I prompted again.
"I don't know." he muttered.
"Ah well, you're grounded until you figure out why." I said as we drove up to the house.
I'm not sure he ever really figured out why but he did stop cutting classes so by the time his birthday rolled around, he was finally ungrounded and permitted to invite a couple friends over for the party.
Just because he was ungrounded though didn't mean he was off the hook entirely. He spent much of the summer hanging around the house and doing odd chores but he didn't seem to mind much. He seemed happiest when he had something to do that kept him away from the family - I think he enjoyed his solitude.
"Dad..." he approached quietly one night while I was preparing a lesson plan for the following week of school. "Do you think....I'd like to move up to the attic..."
"The attic?" I asked surprised. I'd know, of course, that it was crowded in the old nursery with Suki, Sokka and Zuko but there wasn't any other room to be had at this point. "It's completely unfinished."
"I know but I could help and it's just..." he paused, considering his answer carefully.
"Yeah - it's crowded in your room." I conceded. "Sure, um, I think we can make it work though it may take a few months of work."
Together - and with some contractors - we turned the space in the attic into a bedroom for Zuko. Although the stairs led directly into his living space and he didn't have a door he could close, he seemed grateful for his small sanctuary. As a reward for all the hard work he'd put in to help, I also got him a drum set to complete the room.
Shortly after the room was completed, I noticed Suki going up there a lot and I wondered if she was missing her big brother being her roommate or was making a pest of herself.
"Can I play Zuko?" Suki asked, after watching him play for several minutes.
"You're too young Suk." he said, but he gave her a smile. "But you can hang out if you're quiet."
"How can I be too young to bang sticks on a drum?" she asked with a pout. After another minute, she stomped past where I was watching and down the stairs.
Zuko looked up at me and frowned. "I didn't mean to upset her..."
"I know Zuko." I said. "I'll go talk to her." I left him to his music and went to seek Suki out.
I looked around for her but after awhile figured she didn't want to be found right then. On my way back inside I saw Azula sitting in the garden and started towards her. I stopped when I heard her talking. "I can't seem to crack this Mom." she was saying, I assume she was communing with Tes. "The machine works but it's all so random...only it can't be random because it's a machine and had to be programed..."
"Talking to Mom again?" Katara asked, I hadn't even seen her approach from my vantage point. "Do you really think she's going to answer? Even if she could, it's not like she's a math genius..."
Azula didn't reply. She continued writing in her notebook furiously and ignored Katara.
"Seriously Azula...what good does it do to sit out here doing that?" Katara asked, not even stopping her training.
"I..." Azula stopped and considered her words. She never continued what she was saying, she just got up and made her way to the shed where the source of all her confusion was.
"She's gone Azula! For a genius, I would think you'd realize that!" Katara called after her. Azula didn't acknowledge her.
"Katara!" I said, making my presence known. I wasn't pleased with the tone in Katara's voice or the way she seemed to be egging on Azula.
"Oh!" Katara jumped at my voice and nearly got a whack in the head with the training dummy for her inattention. She put out a hand to stop the swing of the dummy and turned toward me. I think she knew I'd heard enough because she looked appropriately sorry. "She just...she never cried...sometimes I wonder if..."
"Everyone deals with things in their own way Katara. Stop trying to get something out of her she doesn't want to give." I said and Katara nodded.
"I'm sorry Dad." she said, looking at her feet.
Suki came out of the house as I was going in and I considered stopping her to have that chat but she walked straight over to Katara, who had resumed her practice. "Can you show me how to do that?" Suki asked, watching Katara with rapt attention.
"When you're older I will." Katara said. "But right now you're too little."
"I am not! I'm almost eight years old!" she protested but Katara just scoffed, further upsetting Suki.
"Hey Suki!" I called out to her but she stomped off toward the shed where she was hoping to find Azula - and maybe someone who would let her do something.
"Can I help you do....whatever it is you're doing?" Suki asked Azula hopefully.
Azula smirked. "Yeah right kid." she said. "What help could you be to me?"
"I don't know...I could write something down for you. I get really good marks in handwriting..." Suki suggested, but her face had fallen. "Can I at least watch?"
Azula rolled her eyes. "Sure...just stay out of the way."
"What are you doing anyway?" Suki asked, getting closer to the time machine.
"I said stay out of the way!" Azula snapped. "And you wouldn't understand - you're too young."
"I am NOT too young!" Suki yelled before she threw open the shed door and ran past me into the house.
"What's her deal?" Azula asked sticking her head out of the shed for a second. She didn't wait for a response before letting the door clang closed.
I followed Suki and saw her slumped at the table, staring at her notepad. I knew she'd finished her homework when she'd gotten home that afternoon. "Suki?"
She gave me a withering look I vaguely remember being on the receiving end of from Katara and Azula once upon a time. "I don't wanna talk about it." she muttered and went back to scribbling in her notepad.
I wished desperately for Tes to be my side right then and speak "girl" for me. I knew well enough to back off, for now. In time she'd be ready to talk I hoped.
By the next day, Suki seemed to be in better spirits and I decided to wait it out and see if the mood returned or if it was just a bad night. Every afternoon when they got home, Suki and Sokka would go upstairs to do their homework. It was a house rule that homework had to be done before any other activity and they knew - as a teacher - I would hold them to that rule.
All the kids also had a small list of chores to keep the house from being a disaster but I wasn't as particular about WHEN those got done as long as they did. Sokka, on the other hand, couldn't let some things sit. If it was Azula's turn to take out the trash and she hadn't yet - he usually got to it first. I don't think he was an overly neat person exactly - if his room was any indication - he just was particular about some things.
After homework and chores - the kids were all mostly free to pursue their own interests. Katara had her martial arts and her job. Azula had the time machine, it still made me anxious but so far she hadn't shown any indication of going through it - merely studying it. Zuko had his music and computer games; he spent much of his time alone in the attic but he kept his grades up so I didn't push the matter. Sokka seemed to have inherited some chess playing skills from Tes because he could gave me a real chess challenge - something Tes had done on more than one occasion.
Several quiet weeks had passed since that troubled night with Suki. I'm not sure if she'd embraced her youth or was merely biding her time but she didn't stomp around the house or complain as much. It was hamburger night when part deux of the night played out.
I heard the stomping and a few shouts now and then as well as closed doors. She finally found her way to the kitchen and stood beside me for several minutes, not saying anything. I was dying to ask her if she wanted to talk about something but I could tell she was considering things by the way she chewed on her lower lip.
"Why won't anyone let me doooo anything?" she asked finally, the words bursting forth in a frenzy, as if they'd been bottled up for months under high pressure.
I put down the knife and turned toward her. "You can help me cook." I said.
"Really?!" she asked, happiness filling her face at the prospect of doing something grown up.
"Sure. Grab a chair and I'll set you up." I said, already pulling out some hamburger meat she could shape and some vegetables she could prepare. None of it involved knifes or the oven but she felt like she was helping and was grown up so she enjoyed herself.
In fact, she couldn't stop telling Sokka about it after dinner while they played a round of chess. Her mind wasn't in the game at all because he had her in check quickly. "Come on Suk, pay attention!" he argued.
I'm not sure how or when it happened but Suki struck up a friendship with Rose - one of the more colorful characters in Barnacle Bay. Rose's mother - and every female before - was rumored to be a sort of gypsy and Rose had opted to adopt the notion in the way she dressed and lived as well.
I knew Rose well enough from town that I wasn't concerned about the friendship. Considering how much friction there seemed to be between Suki and her siblings about her being "too young" or "too little" to do things - I was happy she had a friend - though I would have much preferred it was someone closer to her own age. Still, Rose and Suki would spend hours in the living room (always in our house) and Rose would tell her all sorts of stories from her family history, going all the way back to the 14th and 15th centuries! Sometimes I sat in and listened because Rose could weave quite a tale and I enjoyed seeing Suki so engaged.
"Daddy, do you think all the stories Rose tells are true? About princes and castles and the gypsies?" Suki asked me. She was sitting on her bed looking dreamy eyed as she thought about it all.
"I think a lot of it has truth to it." I said.
"I wish I could live back then...it sounds fascinating." she said.
I smiled. "Yes it does. Come on - bath time!" I hurried her off to the bath and then tucked her into bed afterward.
I hadn't spoken to Eowyn much since that night she'd left. I'd called her and apologized for my anger and we'd seemed to be mended but still, she stayed in Bridgeport and I stayed on Barnacle Bay. It wasn't until my mom passed a couple years later that we saw each other again.
It was awkward at first but within ten minutes of her being in the house, all was right with the family again. We'd both apologized again - in person this time - and laughed it off.
She stayed with us through the funeral and was talking about returning to Bridgeport when I mentioned that we had a lot of big birthdays coming around. "Well I don't think I can make it back in the fall - I have a lot of work lined up..." she said.
"We could do a big party - for everyone at once!" Sokka suggested. Zuko was the only one who didn't have a birthday coming up - even if he did he wouldn't be interested in a big party.
So we got cakes for everyone and put them all out in a row for Katara, Azula, Sokka and Suki.
Suki - now a genuine preteen - was ecstatic. I could just imagine all the "grown up" plans running through her mind now that people couldn't tell her she was too young or too little.
Azula - contrary to her normal nature - indulged her and let her ramble on and on about the things she wanted to do and try including, but not limited to, the piano, the drums, the guitar, Katara's martial arts dummy...the list went on and on.
During the party, Suki eyed the shed. She hadn't mentioned the time machine to Azula because of Azula's attachment to the machine. But she was very curious about it and took her first opportunity to slip away from the crowd.
Suki approached the time machine carefully, as if afraid that it would jump out and bite her if given half a chance. She hesitated for a moment before pushing the first button. She had no idea what the "right" combination was but from what she'd seen of Azula's work - neither did Azula.
After punching in a random series of numbers, the doors hissed open - showing a welcome bluish purple field of...well of something. Azula had called it the time-stream before. She reached out her hand and pierced the glowing bubble curiously. "I wonder what's on the other side..." she muttered to herself.
She considered her options only for a moment before sticking her whole arm through and then pulling it back again. She stared at her hand and grinned. Unlike Azula, who never seemed to go through the portal, all Suki wanted to do was step through...and that's what she did.
She was barely inside the machine when she heard the noise from behind her. She turned...or spun...or something. Movement was like tumbling freely through space here. She could sort of make out the voices and faces of her family from the other side and they looked panicked. 'Maybe I should go back' she thought to herself.
Then she felt a gentle tugging from the other direction, she gave herself to the current of the time stream.
"This is not my fault!" Azula shrieked. "I had no idea she was even in here!"
"But you're the one who has been messing with this thing for the last six years!" Zuko pointed out, he was just as load as Azula.
"That's right Azula- surely you can tell us where...or when...she is!" Katara shouted to be heard over them
The bickering between them continued on for several minutes. Sokka was silent for awhile and finally spoke up, having to shout to be heard over all the fighting. "We have to tell Dad...."
One would have thought he suggested killing the family pet considering all the looks of shock and anger he received in response.
"Are you daft?! We can't tell Dad this...do you seriously want to tell Dad that his youngest daughter is lost in time?" Katara shrieked at him.
"We have to tell Dad!" Sokka reasserted. "We just....he's gonna notice anyway..."
"Tell Dad what?" I asked, having come in at the tail end of the argument. I'd heard the noises from outside the shed.
They all spun towards me looking equally nervous and sorry for something. Before I could prompt them again, they all started speaking at once - most of them looking at Azula as they explained that Suki had gone into the time machine. And that the time machine had shorted out and was broken, perhaps for good.
"So where is she?" I asked Azula - my resident expert on the machine.
"I don't know." Azula said quietly.
"Azula...." I cautioned, sure she was trying to evade some trouble.
"I swear! I don't know!" She snapped. "Besides - the more important question is WHEN is she..."
Suki, like Azula, bonks herself on the head a lot lol
Birthday AHHHHH! lol
See Azula isn't always evil!
Okay so she is a lot though...
Zuko's attic room
Sokka and Suki's room (the old nursery)
What has been seen, cannot be UNSEEN
She decided to do her HW on the front step...I have no idea why
In story Azula never went though but of course she did in game...
Must not have gone so well
Plotting her revenge? hehe
Zuko discovered a star, he named it Tes Alpha
So during one of Azula's trips through time, it seems she turned Principal Taffity into Neurosurgeon Taffity...
Oh the things they age into lol