Riches to Rags

Chapter 20

The second helping of bacon tastes even better, and is served with a glass of chilled juice. I stuff it into my face with very little grace, and given that Korra is doing the exact same I feel quite at ease in doing so. I’ve eaten at the best, most luxurious restaurants in town, and yet none of them could even compare to this.

Once I’ve eaten, I put my plate on the table and wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. “Thanks, that was amazing,” I say, and it’s maybe it’s because I’m on a high from such good food, but I’m almost giddy when Korra winks in reply.

Korra steps off the sofa and picks up our plates, then heads into the kitchen whilst whistling to herself. I feel suddenly guilty, since she’s cooked and is now cleaning up, too. So, I stand up and peer around the door frame, immediately surprised at the size of the kitchen. It’s not as big as the bathroom – that would be quite a feat after all; there’s a large dual-oven at one side, surrounded by silver-blue cupboards, each adorned with post it notes and little sketches. In the centre of the room there’s a free standing set of kitchen units, each topped with a dark grey marble surface.

Korra is stood on the other side of the room at the sink, rinsing off each plate and putting it in the dish washer beneath.

“Need a hand?” I ask, and she turns to face me.

“No, I’m good. Everything just goes in here anyway,” she says, turning back around to close the dishwasher door. She then stands up and heads towards me, patting her hands together as though they’re dusty. I find myself focusing on them, almost studying them in intricate detail.

“You okay?” she asks, and I realise I’m practically blocking the kitchen door, gawping at her. I quickly move out of the way, apologising under my breath and returning to my side of the sofa.

Korra sits on the other side, casually plodding her feet to the centre of the sofa and resting her arm off one side. I hug my knees to the chest, keeping as much distance as possible between us, and holding the blankets from last night close.

“Cold?” Korra asks.

“Not really,” I mumble, feeling suddenly quite awkward and not really understanding why. I’m staring at her feet now. She’s wearing pink socks, and one of them has a hole in the big toe. It starts to wiggle, and I raise my glance to see Korra half-smirking at me, a curious expression on her face.

I cough loudly and look away, quickly changing the subject, “So… are you going to tell me the rest?”

There’s a moment of silence, and I return my gaze to Korra. She looks distant all of a sudden, and her eyes seem darker. I think I can understand why – there’s surely things she doesn’t want to talk about, doesn’t even want to remember.

“You can skip the nasty parts if you want,” I offer, “I’m just really curious as to how you got here… from… well, you know.”

Korra sighs, presumably in relief, then smiles at me, “Thanks. Yeah… maybe one day I’ll tell you the uncut version, who knows?”

I wait, patiently, for Korra to continue her tale.

“I got through the first winter. I don’t know how, but I did. Sometimes I’d use the shelter, but others I’d find an unlocked car, or an empty house. I stole stuff, but only what I needed. Blankets to keep warm. Cash to buy food.”

I find myself relaxing as Korra speaks, there’s something about her voice that just… puts me at ease. Before I know it my feet are resting, stretched out on the sofa just like hers. It’s much more comfortable this way.

“I spent the next year after that doing pretty much the same. Surviving. The biggest difference was Priscilla - she had me help out in the kitchen a lot, and I’d even bunk at her place sometimes; have a nice wash and a good meal. I learnt to trust her, you know? We became pretty good friends. But I always felt like I was putting her out, encroaching. That I couldn’t pay her back.”

I’m sure Korra knows that I’m feeling exactly the same way, right now. Maybe that’s why she’s telling me this part; making it clear that she understands. It’s kind of sweet. And I’m acutely aware that the tips of our toes are touching, ever so slightly.

“The second winter was soon on its way, and I couldn’t expect Prisc to help. It wouldn’t seem right, you know? So I figured I’d get by just like I had the year before. One day I was looking for a car to bunk in, and the mother of all snowstorms hit. Shit, I couldn’t even see…”

I don’t know if it’s because she’s lost in her own story or not, but Korra’s toe is wiggling again, this time brushing against mine. It’s such a small thing, yet it reminds me what human contact feels like; warm, like I’m a little less alone in the world.

“So… did the same thing happen to you as me?” I ask, taking advantage of the pause in conversation.

“No. I mean, it would have, I could feel myself blacking out whilst banging on a damn car door, trying to force it open with my fists somehow. And then someone grabs my coat, and I’m about to turn and punch them, but it’s Prisc,” Korra pauses to chuckle, “I’ve never seen her looking that pissed off, and she’s yelling at me but I can’t hear a word she’s saying cos of the storm. Next thing I know she’s dragging me to her place…”

Korra pauses to swing her feet off the sofa, lean across the table and pour us both a fresh juice. I’m a little sad that I’ve lost her toe in the process, but I don’t have to mourn the loss for long because Korra bounces back into her original position, which somehow ends up with her entire foot pressed against mine. At the touch, I feel something a whole lot more interesting than warmth and human comfort; it’s more like a damned jolt buzzing through my spine.

I clutch my blankets a little tighter as Korra continues her tale, wondering to myself if she even notices the contact… and perhaps, daring to hope that she does.

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