Love conceals itself deep in the gaps of longing, between finding and losing … and finding again.
It’s been years since she’s seen him.
She recalls the day she saw him last, before he went away to sea. She remembers the haggard lines that chisel his face, and the quick light touch he places on her lips. She reaches out her hand to draw him close to her and finds only emptiness in her hand.
She tries to hold back the sobs as she races after the ship. Her hand trembles as she waves goodbye.
“Come back safely,” she shouts over the roar of the waves lapping against the shore. “I love you.”
It’s been years since she’s seen him.
One day, as she brushes their daughter’s hair (she was born while he is away at sea) a messenger comes through the door. She feels her heart clench inside her at the sheet of paper the man carries.
“Tarrlok,” she whispers, a note of pleading in her voice. She rises to her feet, glaring at the messenger. She can’t bear the thought of bad news.
“I am sorry, Madam,” The messenger – a nonbender – says to her, and the look in his eyes is sad.
She glares at him as she snatches the telegram from his hand as her daughter watches anxiously.
“Mama, is Daddy okay?” she hears her little girl ask her.
At first, she can’t hear her little girl’s question. A roaring in her ears in the only thing she can hear.
Why didn’t he let me return his bending to him before he left to go to sea? she frets to herself. I could have prevented all of this!
Tears fill her eyes as she mulls over the thought. She knows it would have been no avail though. She screams, out of anger and frustration, as a memory rises unbidden before her eyes. Despite her cajoling and her constant arguments for his bending being returned, Tarrlok would parry every one and restate his opinion that he was perfectly fine with his life as a nonbender now – it gave him new insights on life in general and suited perfectly for his career as a councilman, since like her he is another bridge between the benders and nonbenders on the council.
“Mama, is Daddy okay?” her daughter inquiries again, her voice thick with apprehension.
Korra throws the telegram to the floor angrily as if it’s a viper-owl and then scoops up her daughter into her arms, her face wet with tears,
“It’s okay, Arrluk,” she whispers as her daughter begins to cry as well. “It’s okay… everything is going to be okay.”
She refuses to look at the paper lying on the floor, staring up at her like a venomous snake, unable to believe its words: Councilman Tarrlok’s ship STOP lost at sea STOP and potentially shipwrecked STOP the council says that there are no survivors STOP but will continue to search
It’s been years since she’s seen him
Korra tries to continue life as always, attending to her Avatar duties and raising and training her daughter in the arts of her element, water, but her loss haunts her soul. Many nights, she lies awake, sobs filling her throat. She often imagines him lying beside her only to wake up to a bed empty of his presence.
Seeing happy couples, such as her friend Asami Sato and her husband, Mako, of the Fire Ferrets only makes her grief lonelier. She often hears Arrluk crying in bed sometimes, which makes her heart sink – her little girl will never get to know the wonderful man she grew to love in spite of his scars and his tortured past.
Occasionally, she decides to escape the burdens of her Avatar duties and the issues plaguing Republic City and takes Arrluk with her to the beach. She wasn’t sure most of the time why she insists on doing this with her daughter.
A great wave fell, and it fell upon all of her. She is now adrift in the world, a lost soul floating on the raft of the broken remnants of her heart.
She stares into the sea, as if gazing at it can will her love back to her. Her lip trembles once again as she struggles not to cry, instead she focusses on Arrluk playing happily in the sand, but her heart clenches as she notices that Arrluk is drawing a heart on the golden sands.
She raises her eyes to the skies, seeing his face in the midst of the designs of the clouds scudding across the sky. She smiles, imagining that his blue eyes are looking at her as she pulls her shawl closer to her. The wind is beginning to pick up, lashing the waves against the shoreline. Arrluk gasps as the waves lap up against her drawing of her heart, erasing it.
She hurries up next to Korra, her eyes wide with fright, her dress twisted as the wind plays with it.
“Mama, we should go home now before the storm gets any worse!” Arrluk shouts at her, but Korra doesn’t hear her, instead she watches the sea roar, in her mind’s eye seeing a ship dancing on the waves before it sinks below the surface.
The wind whips her shawl away from her face and she hurries to bring it close to her cheek. Arrluk stops short next to her and she grabs her daughter’s hand. Arrluk drags her away from the shore, but Korra resists her, shoving her elegant shoes into the ground.
She turns back to face the sea, her eyes narrowing in rage that such a beautiful creation would dare to take her sweet away from her, but soon gives up the fight. She lets out a small whimper before placing two fingers on her lips and then extending her fingers out towards the sea in a gesture of love.
“If I could, I would – I’ll go with you where ever you will go, my sweet,” she whispers, her voice lost in the gales of the wind.
“Mama!” Arrluk shouts again, pulling at her skirts. “Come on, we need to leave now before the storm gets worse!”
Korra picks up her skirts, nodding briskly at Arrluk, and takes her daughter’s hand, leading them away from the sea.
It’s been years since she’s seen him
Arrluk is now a year older than when she had first taken her to beach at the age of five. Her six-year-old is a delight and every day serves to remind her of her lost love. Arrluk shares her father’s capacity for brutal honesty and has his bright blue eyes, which sparkle with excitement. She is eager to learn and takes quickly to schooling, whether in waterbending or learning to read and write. She is ambitious to become a member of the council someday, like her father is.
Korra is adamant that he is still a member of the council, and even though her mentor, Tenzin, tried to refute her on the fact that he is dead but she refuses to listen and still keeps his place on the council ready for him should he one day return.
Now that Arrluk is in school and doing well there, Korra has more time for reflection. She often wanders the golden shores of Republic City’s beach, her eyes seeking out the ships leaving port and heading for sea.
Within her heart, she is aware of an irrational wish. She hopes against hope that if she waits on the golden sands, watching the ships going sailing, she might one day come across her true love again.
Her bonnet shades her face on her daily treks down to the beach. For once, making this journey doesn’t cause her sorrow or make her heart hurt anymore, she only has happy memories.
She feels the sea spray fall like mist against her face, leaving her in a liminal world between the memories of the past – where he takes her to the shore one time to explain his love of the sea to her – and the frigid reality of the present.
Another memory comes to life for her – where he takes her to the shore again – and she giggles at the sensations the recollection gives her. In this memory, he takes her to the shore but instead of talking about his love of the sea, he picks up her and twirls her around and around and around until she is dizzy. Once the world stops spinning, she is aware of his lips pressing themselves against her own. She gazes into his eyes before her own closes and she returns the kiss, her mouth sinking deeply into his.
Korra comes awake, pulling her shawl around her as she feels the cold seep into her skin.
He is gone, she tries to tell herself. He is gone. But no matter how much the words echo through her mind, she doesn’t believe them. Or, even want to try to believe them.
It’s been years since she’s seen him
It’s been nearly seven years – eight years since that day he set sail – since she’s seen him. Arrluk is now seven and only knows her father through the tales she tells of him. Tales of his courage and integrity and his selflessness in leading his city via the work of the council and his task force.
Korra sighs, putting on heavy petticoats and wrapping herself up in a shawl to take another walk down to the golden sands of the beach. She glances at Arrluk and smiles, watching her daughter scribble over her homework from school. Arrluk is used to her mother’s excursions and doesn’t even glance up as the door softly closes behind Korra as she leaves.
Korra silently strolls along the golden shore, her eyes focussing on the ships, admiring the billowy sails on the ones coming in to the dock. She squints her eyes, trying to allow her to be able to see the grey figure disembarking from the ships better. After a moment, she pulls her bonnet over her face in an attempt to hide her tears.
There is a touch on her shoulder and she hears a man’s voice – which sounds dimly familiar to her, but she can’t place it for the life of her – say,
Uncertain of this stranger and who could be addressing her in such a familiar tone, she whirls, knocking his hand off her shoulder indignantly.
“Korra,” the man murmurs again. She glances up at him, vaguely realising that he is wearing a hood, and she wonders why. Her curiosity instigates, and she moves to push the hood back, but the man intercepts her before she can, placing his lips on hers almost impulsively, hungrily, as if he knows her.
Korra’s eyes widen as his lips alight on hers but she shrugs inwardly and allows the man to kiss her. She can ferret out who he is and why he is acting so presumptuously with her later. Without thinking, she pulls the man closer to her to kiss him more deeply, only just noticing the streaks of grey that are visible throughout his long hair. The wind lifts off his hood and she steps back, her eyes disbelieving as she catches sight of what she’s never expects to see again: long brown hair, worn in three ponytails.
Three ponytails! she exclaims to herself, reaching out to wrap her fingers around them. Her hand trembles as she looks into the man’s eyes. She sees herself reflected in them as he stares back at her, hunger in his very expression, but she is aware of an insatiable longing in his expression as well.
The man reaches out to take her hands in his large ones again, a beautiful smile gracing his disfigured features,
“Korra… it’s me,” the man declares, gazing at her as if he’s afraid she’s made of the sand she stands upon and will vanish without a word if he doesn’t speak.
Korra stares at him, her blue eyes large with disbelief that is coursing through her still. She wants nothing more than to believe his words. She looks deep into those blue eyes of his – they are so intense, which makes her memories return in a flood – and strokes his long hair, decorated with streaks of grey, a fact that makes him even more handsome to her, she realises and at once she just knows.
He is alive! My Tarrlok is alive! she rejoices inwardly,
“It is you!” She hears her own voice declare as the distance between their faces closes and their lips join together in a long, satisfying kiss. Tarrlok’s arms circle around her chest and he lifts her into the air, making the memories of the past and the reality of the present collide again as he twirls her around and around and around as she laughs joyfully.
He is alive. He is home. My Tarrlok has returned to me! her heart sings.
The scuffle of shoes breaks the long-lost lovers apart as Arrluk races up to them. The seven-year-old girl’s eyes widen at the sight of her mother kissing a person who is a stranger to her. She stops next to Korra and curls her hand protectively in Korra’s, glaring at Tarrlok.
Tarrlok slowly smiles at her, recognising the dark-haired beauty as the daughter Korra was pregnant with the day he departed Republic City, but Arrluk merely scowls at him. Korra briefly exchanges a smile with him, a subtle indication that confirms his thought processes: she has his scowl.
Tarrlok kneels to the sand, his eyes seeking that of the little girl’s. Above his head, he hears Korra murmur,
“Arrluk, this is your father.” Korra mussitates as she holds his gaze again, feeling as if she could drown in his eyes forever. And now forever is open to her and she can’t wait to experience it all again with him, her one true love. “This is the man I love and whose stories I tell you about. He is here, dearest. He returned to me and to both of us!”
Tarrlok extends his unscarred arm to the girl. Arrluk gives her mother a look brimming with uncertainty and shyness as Korra nudges her towards him.
Tarrlok looks at this small treasure he and Korra have created. His heart burns with sorrow that he has missed so much of his life with them. He recalls a memory from eight years ago. As he waves goodbye to Korra, who races along after the ship, he says to his shipmates that he knows, somewhere, beyond the sea, somewhere, she is waiting for him.
He thinks back to a few moments ago, when he caught sight of a figure on the beach. In his heart, he knows it was Korra and he knows she would forgive him for kissing her so brashly. His memories after washing ashore and with no means to contact Korra sent him into a depression. He remembers that those days feel as if he was adrift on a raft – which he is – floating on the remnants of his broken heart.
He is able to return home after braving many dangers and nearly losing his life several times, but Korra is his beacon of hope at the end of it all. He is surprised to see their daughter, but then Korra is always his main concern and always will be.
Arrluk glances at him bashfully and then intertwines her fingers within his,
“Hi, Daddy,” she greets him. “Mama tells me lots of stories about you.”
“Hello, my little Arrluk,” he murmurs, enfolding her within his arms as she nestles her head against his shoulders. “I can’t wait to learn more about you, my sweet.”
“Mama loves you so much,” Arrluk says into his hair as he rises to his feet, seeing Korra gazing at him intensely. He crosses over to her, placing his free arm that is not holding Arrluk around her, drawing her into his personal space. He feels Korra wrap her arms around his chest and lay her head on his chest as he bends his head to place a light kiss on her hair.
“I love you, my sweet,” Korra murmurs, snuggling closer to him. “I love you so, so, so much.”