CH 6 | THE FINALE
The air was electric and exciting for everyone in the studio. Katara's face was now set in an eternal blush and even after having been comfortable for most of the taping, she now felt the tremble in her hands returning. Real feelings—not just the fun and excitement that she'd resigned herself to—but feelings of anticipation and nervous impatience stirred her stomach like a hot pot.
"The Final Round concerns what's between us. Question 1: It's a rainy day. How do you like to pass the time while we're stuck indoors?"
"Oooo! Rainy days are all about pajamas and a warm fire and guilty pleasure RomComs. We'd have hot cocoa and maybe I'd eat some marshmallows off you…" Contestant 3 concluded sultrily. Katara grinned politely, but the answer seemed mostly surficial to her.
Contestant 5's answer however, made her mouth dry with surprise and amazement. "Why would we be inside? You're a Water Bender. You love the rain. I'm sure we'd be out there bending a bubble around ourselves and dancing around in your element."
Katara ignored the cue card The Boulder was preparing to hand to her. To the roar of the crowd she responded, "My answer was exactly the same as 5's."
"Question 2: What's end game for you? Who is your perfect person?"
"I don't really believe there is one perfect person. I appreciate the time I get to spend with others, and if we move on, I try to be grateful for the time I got to have with you." Said Contestant 3.
"Someone very wise once told me that finding love is like flying a kite. The two parts that you must have is…well, the kite- and a kite string." Started Contestant 5. Where was he going with this?
"You spend your young life searching for yourself, figuring out which one you are. Kites are people with big ideas, big emotions. They are the ones that often help the relationship move forward, they bring the fun. But kites need to be anchored or else they get caught up in their own shenanigans and blow away in the wind. Kite strings are caring and steady. They bring their kite back down to earth when they start getting carried away with their nonsense…they're the rock in the relationship. But they also get caught up in their duties and responsibilities. They forget to have fun. They need a kite to pull them back up into the air, to remind them to laugh and play."
"So…I'm a kite. I'm a mess when left to my own devices. I come up with these ideas I think are amazing that turn out to be a total disaster when I don't have someone logical calling me out on my garbage. But I love to make people smile, help them dance and find joy. I need a kite string."
"That was…amazing." Was all Katara could say. She read her card with her heartbeat loud in her ears. "My perfect person is one who makes me laugh and reminds me to have fun. My end game isn't casual. I believe in true love and genuinely hope to find it someday."
"Last question." Katara swallowed hard. "We've shared a lot in only an hour. How do you feel about me?"
"I like you. I think we could have fun together!" Contestant 3 said brightly. "I don't think you're going to choose me." She added, laughing. The audience laughed too along with scattered claps and whoops.
Katara's voice trembled. "5?"
5's voice trembled too. Some of the crowd had stood, others were taking pictures on their phones. "You're a kite string" he said.
"I had already picked you when you called me Sweetie." She replied.
The live audience was deafening, and The Boulder had given up trying to mediate the ending of the show, instead attempted to acknowledge the beautiful runner-up, actress and model Ty Lee (and failing as the studio erupted into generalized empathetic chaos.) She smiled and waved, exiting the stage, seemingly unbothered.
Avatar Aang didn't wait to be announced before skirting the barrier and sweeping Katara off her feet and into a gentle but intense hug. Katara's throat was tight, and her chest felt heavy with emotion. Aang's face was deeply blushed with a wide crooked grin.
There was no crowd. There was no show. Basking in concentrated connection and the pure electricity of each other's touch, they were only storm eyes meeting ocean. When they kissed, it was water and air forming a hurricane deep within both their centers, swirling and drowning. She was warm and soft and instinctually wound her hand to the back of his neck, gentle hands of comfort. He was cool but fierce, propelling their kiss with firm hands that held her waist and pulled them into oblivion.
They surfaced, gasping and giggling. "Hi!" they said in unison.
"Will you go penguin sledding with me?" he asked in earnest.
Before Katara could answer, Toph was stomping back onto stage. "Stop, stop. Everyone Staaaaahhhp." She yelled, holding up her hands. "Boulder, give Katara my note!"
Aang let her slide down back to the ground gently as Katara unfolded the paper. "Pay up, Sugar Queen." Toph cackled, hand outstretched.
It read, "I picked you when you called me Sweetie."