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A Country That Lives Within Us

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I laid staring at my bedroom ceiling, alternately throwing an arm over my eyes dramatically, and huffing loudly with equal amounts of dramatics. Johannes crooned Tower through my headphones, and I tried with everything I had not to drop into a wailing childish fit.

-Where are you going, Kamilah?
- The Avatar concert! Remember? I bought tickets months ago? Its all I've been talking about? ...the metal band? Oh come on Ma, I know this rings some kind of bell...
- dear I'm afraid I have to forbid you from leaving the temple tonight.

I had stood flabbergasted for a moment when I realized she wasn't fucking with me.

-Wh--of course I'm going...I can't miss this, Ma...
- Kamilah, I've asked a thousand times if I've asked once. 'Ma' is not my name and it is not my title, and I am not your mother. You may be my ward, but you are to call me Mistress or Mother like everyone else.

Despite my best efforts, angry tears had started to leak from the corners of my eyes.

-Mistress, but I've been waiting for this for months! Why are you doing this?
-Not that its your place to question me, but the Heads will be otherwise engaged tonight and will not be available to help if something should happen to you.
-W-wh...what could possibly happen? I'll only be gone for a few hours.
-Kamilah, the answer is no.

I knew it was childish to storm off to my bedroom and slam the door, but here I was, two hours later.

Ma never did anything without a good reason, and I knew deep down that she hadn't forbade it just to be cruel. The woman was hard and cold like iron sometimes, but she didn't have a cruel bone in her body.

I growled at the empty air when I realized that sulking wasn't making me feel better, and I ran a nail over the lines of the tattoo on my thigh. It was warm enough to wear shorts and I'd been planning on showing Tim after the show if they stuck around to talk to everyone out by their bus before heading out.

Everyone told me it was silly to get a ram's head - I wasn't an Aires, nor was I chosen by Khnum, but they didn't understand how his music had touched me. How it had breathed into the most closed off and secret corners of my soul, of my consciousness. I'd fallen head over heels the first time I saw him play - the passion, the drive, it was everything I could imagine wanting in another human being.

The least I could do in return was give a piece of myself to him, and it thrilled me every time I caught a glimpse of the design under the bridge of his guitar, knowing that we shared something now, even if he didn't know.

After a couple more frustrated huffs and some grumbling, I rose slowly and shuffled to my closet.

"At least you look good," I said to my reflection, who stared back with a straight line mouth. "And now we go sweat it all off."

I pulled my Avatar t shirt off over my head, and neatly folded it, holding it to my heart for a moment and whispering to Jonas and Tim and Henrik and John and Johannes how sorry I was that I was missing them play. I placed it in my drawer and fished out my workout clothes, trading my cutoffs for leggings, and my lacey bralette for a neon yellow sports bra. After several minutes of trying to wrangle my electric blue hair into something like a submissive ponytail, I stuffed my feet into tennis shoes and shut my door behind me.

Aurora caught up with me in the hall just as I was about to push my earbuds back into my ears and touched me on the shoulder, surprise coloring her features.

"What are you still doing here? I thought you had that thing tonight"

I didn't want to talk about 'that thing' anymore, it only bummed me out.

"Ma said I couldn't go out."

"Why not? Are you grounded?"

"I am not grounded," I grumbled, trying to keep my stoic frown in place, but failing at her comical grin. She had a little gap between her front teeth that only made her natural flower child aura more convincing. Honestly, it was no wonder Geb had chosen her, she practically had daisies growing in her hair.

"She just said that they're all unavailable tonight, so if something went wrong -- and I'd again like to voice that that is bullshit -- they wouldn't be able to help. But I've been training my ass off, and getting bumped around a little in a mosh pit isn't something I'm even remotely worried about..."

She paused and looked at me, her grin fading as her big green eyes seemed to get somehow wider. She almost looked like a bushbaby.

"Wh--...all five of them are going somewhere?"

I shrugged, "That's what it sounded like. Look pêche, I need to blow off some steam, so I'll catch you later okay?"

She nodded, seemingly lost in thought now. From the outside, she seemed plain, and wallflower-ish. She was milk-white and peppered with little reddish freckles all over, up to the roots of her rust-colored hair that she was now absently twirling around her index finger. She never wore makeup, and it was just as well. I'd tried to put lipstick on her once and found that her simple natural beauty was muted by it and the red lacquer seemed out of place and almost garish on her.

"Whats going on in your head, Bean?" I asked quietly, a little disturbed by how hard she seemed to be thinking about the Heads being unreachable, the hair-twirling and lip biting now betraying her worry. When she first came to the Temple, she tried to keep up with all my nicknames for her - abbreviations of her own given name and cute little monikers that to me just suited her, but now she just answered when I called her anything.

"Mmm? Oh, I thought you were going to work out. Never mind. Can I come with you?" I raised my darkened eyebrows at her.

"You want to train with me? But I'm a fire..."

She chewed more at the inside of her lip until I put both hands on her face, bringing her wandering attention back to me. "Yes or no, Ro, you have three seconds before my ass is off down those stairs."

"Okay no I definitely don't want to train with you, I'm not even dressed for it! I have some reading to do though, and..." she shrugged, her cheeks starting to go a little pink. A huge clap of thunder rocked the building, the second of this present storm, and she jumped with fright, making me realize that this beautiful little mouse of a girl, an earth through and through, was afraid of the thunder.

She never really came all the way out of her shell enough to talk about her outside life, not even with me. All I knew was that her family weren't happy about what she was - not that she even had a choice. Our gods and goddesses chose us at birth, and I'd always disliked Ro's family, though I knew nothing about them, just from the sheer unfairness of it.

"Are you afraid of the storm?" I asked quietly, pressing a hand to her cheek and feeling a deep affection, like I was her big sister. She gave a tiny nod after a moment, and looked down at her shoes.

"Come on then, " I said, turning for the steps down to the underground training area.

The temple, our home, looked quiet and unassuming from the outside, tucked back away from the bustle of the city. There weren't gaudy statues or glyphs covering the eves. There were no banners welcoming worshipers to join in some cryptic pseudo-intellectual circle jerk to draw their attention away from the fucked up shit happening in the world while sleazy preachers lined their pockets. For all intents and purposes, no one knew what we were, and we were perfectly happy to keep it that way.

Aurora descended the steps behind me, and I was surprised to find all the lights off when I wrenched open the heavy wooden door at the bottom.


No answer.

"Huh...just you and me I guess, Ro, everyone else is off having a bangin' Friday night," I mumbled, feeling for the light switch and cursing when I couldn't find it. I finally gave up and swirled my wrist, bringing forth a tiny ball of flame, just enough to illuminate the darkness and help me find what I sought.

"Ah, much better." The fluorescent lights switched on one at a time in a long line down the length of the gym.

I breathed in the silence and solitude, grateful that I was alone enough to really vent some of my frustration, and a broad smile crossed my face as a tiny squeak followed another clap of thunder, more muffled now that we were underground.

"And you know what? Maybe I can't go see the boys tonight, but I can certainly bring them here..." I trotted off to the cabinet in the corner, plugging my phone into the stereo system and cranking the volume up to an almost abusive level.

At least she won't hear the thunder anymore.

Aurora had already pushed earplugs in and climbed up on top of a pile of mats, losing herself in her studies. She was teaching herself hieroglyphs, and proceeding much quicker than the rest of us. Channeling her elemental powers came a little harder for her, but she hit the books like a fiend to compensate, and as a result she was wittier and smarter than the lot of us when her near-crippling shyness let her show it.

My Queen of Blades playlist had all my favorite Avatar songs, and as Glory to our King closed, the hauntingly beautiful opening chords of Raven Wine hummed through the air. I closed my eyes and centered within myself, committing to mind what I felt and what I wanted to work through, asking Sekhmet to purify with fire the anger and frustration that was gripping my heart.